Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ante up and Go "All In!"

Why a poker face is not nearly as important as what you’ve got left at the end of your bluff...

Remember when you were a kid and the sky was the limit?  You only had to wish or imagine what your future would be…and you were young enough to believe it was as simple as going and getting it.  You hadn’t hit any real obstacles yet… and life was fairly simple.  A lifetime in front of you seemed much like one continuous fast pass, with only a short wait in line before the next thrill ride.

As time goes on, you begin to set limits and consider the climb before taking your first step.  Maybe it’s a missed try-out for sports, a hill that popped your tire instead of the planned epic jump…or it’s the first girl or boy you liked, who didn’t like you back.  Early disappointments and bruised egos start to shape and shorten your runway and adjust your ultimate goals.

Your frame of mind has everything to do with your potential and when you limit your dreams, you create an invisible safety net…a stopping point, where you’re unwilling or afraid to go further or step forward across new bridges of opportunity and risk. 

I’ve been guilty of casting that invisible net in my own life as well as that of my three sons.  I have had the best of intentions, trying to shield my kids from being hurt or disappointed.

And despite those good intentions, I realize I’ve also passed on my fear of failure and inadvertently caused them to pull back when they should lean forward.  Like a game of poker, you bluff, you raise the stakes, sometimes you fold…but you always have to show your cards at the end of the game.

The game is a delicate balance of starts and stops, wins and losses.  And what if someone calls your bluff early?  What if you don’t get the card you’ve been waiting for?  If you fold, will you still be able to maintain a poker face and move on to the next hand?

It’s no secret that I have kicked my own game into high gear a little later in life than most…most recently, I finally edited and published a book I wrote nearly 20 years ago.  But my kids have been cheering on the sidelines all along and at some point, my fear of failure gave way to setting a better example for my boys.  I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but my poker face was transformed and I was suddenly “all in,” moving from a good bluff to deciding which cards I had left to play in my hand.

Now every new experience or challenge I take on is embraced with reckless abandon and relentless tenacity.  I think in terms of what’s possible and rarely settle in and consider the impossible.  It’s changed my view and line of sight.  I’m older, questionably wiser…and yet somehow more determined and deliberate, ignoring my ego and embracing my battle scars, hard fought and earned.

I changed my mind in the middle of this particular game.  I realize now that the greatest barriers we face in life are the self imposed shackles and constraints we put upon ourselves.  You can’t be afraid to try and you have to be willing to take a few bad hands along with the good to win the game.

And finally, and most importantly, as a player, your definition of “winning” should be self defined and not based upon the chips distributed around the table.  I’m “all in” and I expect my boys to pick up their hands, with endless possibilities and Aces…and a few wild cards just to make life interesting.

If you believe you’ve got a great hand, you need to up the ante…because you could cash out at any time.


(First written/published 6/29/15)

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