Every year the World Series of Poker is held in Las Vegas – the world championship of the game. It’s a game with, seemingly, a large element of chance attached. The players can, after all, only play with the cards they’re given.
In the long term, the law of averages dictates that luck will be pretty evenly distributed amongst the players. You would therefore expect that the outcome of tournaments to fluctuate widely depending on the varying fortunes of those taking part. That’s not what happens. Although results do vary, the same good players perform consistently well, irrespective of the cards they’re dealt. And it’s the same in life.
It’s all too easy to complain about the cards you’ve been dealt and use that as an excuse for failure. The top players accept the cards they’re given – there’s nothing you can do about that –and then work out how best to use them to get the results they’re after. Even when people are dealt great cards, it’s all too easy to waste them.
At the risk of boring anyone not interested in football, it does provide us with an excellent example, showing why the ‘cards’ you’re dealt in life are less important than how they are used.
There can be few footballers dealt a better hand than George Best. Most experts agree that he was one of the most naturally gifted players of all time. And yet by the age of 26, when he should have been at his best, he virtually disappeared from the game, as did his opportunity to become the richest and most successful player of his generation. Few have achieved so little with so much.
At the same time as Best was ending his career, Kevin Keegan was just starting his. He was too small, too thin, and by his own admission, lacked great natural footballing ability. It would have been all too easy for him to give in to the hand he’d been dealt and accept that he would never be a top player because he didn’t have Best’s ability. But through hard work and determination he rose to become captain of his country and to win practically every honour in the game, making a not inconsiderable fortune for himself in the process.
Hard work and determination are not the only ways to overcome a terrible hand. For the moment, I’m going to stick with my football analogy…
A player who few would place in the ‘gifted’ category is Vinnie Jones. In fact, few would place him in their pub first team if footballing skill were the sole criteria! And yet he consistently played in the top division, represented his country and made a lot of money in the process. There are literally thousands of ‘Vinnie Joneses’ out there, but few get to play professionally at all. Certainly hard work and determination played a part, but so did a commitment to playing the game on his own terms.
If Jones had tried to play the game like George Best, he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. What he had to do was establish his strengths and play to them. He concentrated on what he could do, not what he couldn’t. Occasionally that may have meant bending some of the rules, but that’s what ordinary players have to do sometimes to stay in the game.
Jones was to prove that what he achieved in football was no fluke. He later used the same flare for playing his hand to the maximum in a completely separate field – one to which he would seem equally illsuited. ‘Vinnie Jones the footballer’ became ‘Vinnie Jones the Hollywood film star’. Just as he didn’t try to emulate Best on the football field, he didn’t try to emulate Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ian McKellen or even Tom Cruise on screen. But he did play the hand he had been dealt to great effect.
It doesn’t take a massive leap of logic to see that there’s a message here for anyone aiming for a business or personal goal. You may not have been dealt the hand of a George Best, or a Lionel Messi but that is no barrier to success. Learn to play your hand well, and you can usually beat most of those dealt a better one.
The key to success is accepting your hand (you won’t get another one!) and adapting to it where necessary. Certainly it may involve hard work, and you may have to make the rules work for you, rather than the other way round. But the end result when you achieve it will be all the more rewarding.
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