Work Harder 

Work Harder 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The magic is in the work says Nick Wealthall.

I’ve developed this habit of watching NBA games to usher me to sleep on a nightly basis. The games are on very late at night, so it fits perfectly with my adult sleep pattern which is a car crash (and not just any car crash; we’re talking multi car pile-up, culminating in an oil tanker explosion). If, starting at aged eighteen, I’d gone to bed two hours earlier every single night, I’m pretty sure that the extra time, energy and quality of life would have produced a best selling novel and the cure for a couple of forms of cancer. But hey… what can you do?

I was jolted more fully awake by a former NBA coach who was commentating on a really good team. He explained the reason why.

“What people don’t realize is that the magic is in the work”.

He went onto explain that viewers see spectacular dunks, three-point rainbow shots dropping in and flawless no-look passing and are in awe. But they should really be amazed by the work it takes to get to those things into a competitive match.

Tattoo this onto your DNA - which is totally scientifically possible; Google has an app for it - ‘The magic is in the work.’

A lazy interview question is “If you could go back and talk to your eighteen-year-old self, what advice would you give them?” (Its right up there with my favourite cod interview question of “Who would you most like to punch in the face?’”, which if you’re asking, and you did, thanks, flip-flops between George Osborne, John Terry and Cheryl Fernanzdez-Cole-Tweedy-Aloud-Vermicelli).

If I had the opportunity, however, I’d tell my eighteen-year-old self three important things that would guide him to success. 

1. Stop being upset over the break up with ?Michaela, she wasn’t right for you, you’ll ?end up with better and you need to ?learn that a great rack isn’t everything? – it’s at most 40% of what’s important ?in a life partner. 
2. Stop following football, it will only bring ?you pain and anxiety. Even when it ?doesn’t, you’ll be worried about when ?the pain and anxiety will return. And ?finally, you guessed it… 
3. The magic is in the work.

My problem when I was young is that I was a slacker. I slacked off. In fact that’s probably an understatement - most of the time I was never ‘on’, so think less intermittent productivity and more cobwebs blowing across my life.

I blame the system, of course. I figured out at a very young age at school that if I did well in tests and exams then I could pretty much do nothing the rest of the time. I learned that the ‘magic’ was in cramming like crazy for a few days before an exam and then mastering the art of regurgitating that knowledge under pressure.

It’s a system that teaches you every wrong lesson for life, because the magic really is in the work. The way you achieve excellence in anything is by applying repetition to improve, or as they call it at the gym, putting in the reps (What? I can bench-press a buffalo, I just do it in my own time). When you see a boxer win a world title with one knockout punch, you don’t see the endless early mornings and road runs, the hours in the gym, the time away from family and friends and the sacrifice of normal life. You wow at that single punch, but really the magic is in the work they put in to get there.

Poker constantly gives players the feeling that it’s an easy game because the rules are so quick to learn and because anyone can have success in one session or tournament. However, getting really good at the game requires work and to reach the top level it takes a lot of work. Improvement is possible for everyone but unless you’re analyzing hands, experimenting, soaking up coaching, sharing knowledge with players better than you, analyzing more hands and so on, you won’t reach the top level or have sustained success.

The best coach I ever had constantly told me to “Work hard – play better”. If I ever complained about how I was running or my results it was always the same. “Work hard – play better”. His lifetime cash game winnings are in the millions and he loves working on his game. What an odd coincidence!

Next time you bump into a professional player that’s had success over time, ask him how many hours he puts into improving his game, especially when he was coming up through the ranks. It won’t take you long to find that there’s no mystery in who gets to the top. Recently crowned world champion Martin Jacobson said he studied for five hundred hours before the final table, running countless simulations. Five hundred. Ninth place finisher Mark Newhouse didn’t play or study a single hand before the final. Coincidence? Don’t you believe it.

The problem with all this is that no one likes hard work, and quite right too – hard work sucks. The trick is to discover that what I’m calling ‘work’ isn’t work at all for people who end up excelling – it’s a joy. We work best when we’re passionate about what we’re doing and love the process, not the outcome. If you play poker and want to succeed at it and be the person whose always behind the big stack of chips or big pile of cash you have to love studying hands you’ve played to find better lines and use them next time. You have to love the day-to-day playing, analyzing and learning that makes a poker player great.

Oh and one last thing. Michaela Ransom, you were the bloody definition of hard work. If you’re reading this, I was totally about to dump you before you dumped me and the only reason I didn’t is that I actually care about other people’s feelings. Anyway, thanks! You did me a hell of a favour and I’ve never looked back. I can barely remember your name or the exact words you used when you crushed my soul …hardly at all… and almost never when I’m alone at night. Where are you now? You’re nowhere (probably) and here I am with my own column with my picture on it and everything. You missed your ticket on the gravy train, Michaela Ransom, and it left the station without you on it, so… suffer.

Tags: Nick Wealthall, strategy