A CR member PM'd me today to ask my advice regarding some upcoming life decisions he faces. I gave him a fair but brief response with some perspective, but then I thought it might be helpful to expand on it and share it in the blog. He is about to graduate with a respected degree and is considering playing poker and traveling. He asked "how did/do you decide when to move on and when to push harder?
My succinct reply was..."As for your questions, there is no really easy answer. I am a firm believer that loving what you do is more important than doing what makes you money. I have on multiple occasions chosen a more humble less profitable path because I would be doing something I enjoy and find meaning in, rather than chase a higher paycheck or prestige. That isn't always an easy decision, especially when you have debt, expectations, and an investment in your education.
I know of several people in law school, business school and good jobs who quit those to play poker. But poker isn't for everyone. The swings are brutal and the lifestyle isn't for everyone.
The key is to apply yourself in whatever you do. Don't pursue poker because it is easier, pursue it because you love the game, its challenges and feel you can prosper. Many poker players realize they will only last for a while in the game, and look at it as a stepping stone to something else. This can also be a wise choice for many, if you plan accordingly and invest your winnings well."
Thinking about the subject more, for me, it comes down to passion. There are many paths one can take in life and each person has a different set of goals, wants and needs. Mine weren't always clear as a teen or young adult, but they started to coalesce in my 20's. I sensed that material and prestige were traps and not things I wanted to pursue. I preferred to try to find meaning and a humble value in what I did. I'm not saying I was an overly motivated or a particularly charitable person, but I identified that I wanted quality of interactions over quantity. I would rather have a few friends than a lot. I would rather focus on my wife and kids than some social network. I would rather keep my life simple, than have it become more grandiose and complex. Most of all, I wanted to discover areas of my life that I could be passionate about.
When I graduated from college, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had an International Relations degree with minors in Philosophy and Psychology. What do you do with that? I drove around the US with a couple friends for several weeks that summer visiting National Parks and various sites. I lived at home and volunteered at my old Middle School to see what teaching was like in a special alternative classroom setting. I took off for 9 months to travel around Africa with my best friend from my junior year exchange trip to Kenya. I went back to take classes to become a secondary social studies teacher. I helped start and develop a small business in my home town with my best friend from high school's father.
I knew the wealthy and conservative community I was living in was stifling me, so my then girlfriend and now wife and I moved across country on a whim to Portland, Oregon to begin a new life. It was a great decision, despite how unplanned it was. You can't always know where your decisions will lead you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take them. Life can't always be planned out. One decision leads to another. Each choice opens up new considerations. Encounter a roadblock, then find a new path around or blast your way through. When teaching opportunities didn't work out in Portland, I joined and grew a small African art gallery into a respected sculpture garden and gallery over 12 years. During the later years, I discovered poker and eventually ended up at CardRunners, helping grow it into the biggest training site out there. When that opportunity ended, I began Poker Curious to continue my interests in the poker world. Who knows where it will lead, but I'm already discussing mergers and the future of where it can take me.
I couldn't have planned my life. It just happened as I went along. Growing up I was always a procrastinator in everything I did. Only by fostering my passions did I learn to really apply myself starting in my later 30's. I work harder now than I ever have, not because I'm getting rich, but because I enjoy it. When I got married, I didn't fully understand what for better or for worse meant. Now as the years come and go, I begin to realize what that meant. I have to work hard to overcome my faults and hers. I always thought I would be a great father, but I find my impact is limited. In the end it comes down to your passion. If you follow your passion and fully apply yourself, it will work out for the best. Not always in the direction you planned, but in a direction you can live with. I can't tell you what career to pursue, but I will encourage you to pursue your passion and life will work itself out along the way.