Don't Go On Tilt - by the Nightshade Fairy
This is the third article where we are analyzing advice from Mike Caro, the "Mad Genius of Poker." Last time we looked at the undesirable Get Even For the Night approach of winning business skirmishes but reducing the profit of our long-term goals. Caro says that by not trying to get even for a particular poker session or a setback in real life, you free yourself to move ahead to seek gains when and where they happen. Consistently make the best decisions, accept losses and setbacks, and keep moving ahead. Moving ahead and getting even are two very different concepts with conflicting results to your poker (and career) bankroll.
So let's move ahead.
Have you ever been in the situation where your day began arguing with your partner, and when you got to work you were really nasty to a coworker who had made an honest minor mistake? You usually aren't so harsh to your coworkers, but you were still angry with your partner for the stupid quarrel. Oops. You're called in to the human resources department because of the blow-up with the coworker. Now it's on your work record.
Or maybe you go into work when you're very ill with a cold because you don't want to burn a sick day. Your brain is numb from cold medicine and you can't concentrate. You mess up a client's on-line record and try to correct the error. Your fix causes another error. You fix that error. By now you're so frustrated and numb from your cold and the constant fixing, you accidentally click the wrong link and a client gets an automated email about some grievous error in the way they paid their account. Client complains to the owner of the company, and you find that your job is the designated sacrifice to appease the disgruntled client.
How to avoid this? Here comes some obvious advice.
Advice # 3 - Never Make Anything Worse. At the poker table, we call this "going on tilt" and playing poorly after a "bad beat." Poker players, steamed that they lost a big pot, recklessly play several hands that they wouldn't dream of playing when their emotions are in check, and continue the downward spiral in their bankroll.
Consider the situation where a poker player sits down at a game expecting to lose $500 at the most. A string of Bad Luck sinks him over $1000, and he continues to play and rack up another $150 in losses because he's numb...losing the additional $150 doesn't feel worse than losing the $1000. The $150 doesn't matter because he's miserable or angry; he concentrates less and plays terribly.
There are times where each of us played on when we were exhausted, angry, heartbroken from romance, exasperated, filled with self-pity or apathy, or were just too physically ill to make good decisions. Or we just wouldn't learn and repeated the same dumb mistakes. And we made things worse. Before we look at how to keep from making things worse in our career and at the poker table, let's look at a real life example.
Once upon a time, the two owners of a "Big Firm" IT placement company successfully built their business by buying small placement firms, forcing the small firm owners to retire, and taking over the small firm's clients. Flushed with success, cash, and hubris, Big Firm decided to depart from their successful process and opened their own Y2K software conversion division.
Bad Decision number one was that the Big Firm departed from what they did well.
Big Firm assigned a couple of their loyal minions to set up the preliminaries for the Y2K division. Since these loyal minions were inexperienced in how to do this, some mistakes were made with initial cash projections, staffing levels, and determining exactly how to convert all of that pesky legacy code into 4-digit-year purity.
Bad Decision number two was not using experienced business division setter-uppers and getting realistic project estimates. They Made Things Worse.
Big Firm then hired one of their friends as the general manager for the Y2K division. This friend was a senior sales person, not a manager, but at least the owners of Big Firm and their sales friend could talk about their golf game during status meetings.
Bad Decision number three was not using an experienced Operations Manager to run the Y2K division. Having a lowly project manager to handle the day-to-day activities would have been a better decision, and would have saved on paying an executive-level superlative salary. But the only project managers around were not golf buddies with the Big Firm owners, so this third decision Made Things Worse by repeating the mistake of hiring the wrong person for the job.
How did this story end? Big Firm closed the Y2K division months before the calendar changed from 1999 to 2000. By not making the best decisions every time, Big Firm Made Things Worse to the point that they couldn't win their share of the poker pot for the Y2K cash cow.
One of the best ways to keep from going on tilt and Making Things Worse is to gauge your physical and emotional levels after receiving bad news, quarreling with your partner, or other intense situations. These are not the times to transfer your misery to coworkers or sensitive client accounts. If you're at the poker table, tell the dealer that you're sitting out a few hands, then walk away from the table and get the tilt out of your system. Do the same thing at the workplace. Don't let your anger dig you deeper. Don't repeat bad decisions.
Caro states that in poker, many lifelong losing players would be lifelong winning players if they simply didn't Make Things Worse. Losing that little extra because you're on tilt may not matter now, but it will matter tomorrow. So Caro and Nightshade agree; don't go on tilt and Make Things Worse.
Next time we'll talk more about hubris, the attitude that keeps on losing.
Mike Caro's web site and the inspiration for this article is at http://www.poker1.com.