In this week’s episode of Pokerography Lee Davy takes a second look at the Paul Arden treatise on creativity and excellence, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, and pulls another five rabbits out of the hat.
Welcome back to another installment of Paul Arden’s classic on how to be a creative thinker, brand, or company – It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be and how we can absorb his lessons into our poker game.
1# Accentuate the Positive; Eliminate The Negative
In the late 90s early 2000s, the path to a sponsorship deal with a major online poker room was to look good and win a few titles. The move away from television and into diverse digital products consumed via desktop, tablet, and mobile has changed all that.
If you want to pull a regular check from poker, then you need to learn that you are a brand. You are a walking, talking, billboard, and Paul Arden suggests you learn the one thing that’s right about your product, and sell the shit out of it.
Is it humour?
Is it the contrarian view?
Is it your ability to entertain?
Jaime Staples and Parker Talbot are prime examples. They have the capacity to captivate an audience through storytelling. They don’t profess to be the greatest poker players in the world, nor do they hold master classes in technical aspects of the game. They haven’t won anything of note, and I don’t want to see either of them wearing Cristiano Ronaldo‘s tight whites.
But they get in front of that microphone day in day out, and they tell the best goddam stories in poker.
On the other hand, avoid dishing the dirt on your competitors. Advancements in technology such as Twitch are pushing poker into a brave new world, but social media can be like a light sabre in the hands of a five-month-old child.
Avoid the urge to criticise your opponents on social media. Try your best not to rise to the bait and react to jibes with a mortar attack. You only serve to publicise the brand of the one you are throwing sticks and stones at. You may be gaining attention, but to what purpose does it serve?
2# The Person Who Doesn’t make Mistakes is Unlikely to Make Anything
One of the admirable qualities of the greatest poker players on the planet is their ability to weather the storm of defeat. There is no other game like it. Professional poker players have to learn to lose with a regularity unprecedented in the world of sport.
If you don’t like to lose, you are in the wrong game.
And how do you lose in poker?
Bad luck and making mistakes.
Bad luck is omnipresent. We can’t control bad luck; we can only react. Learn acceptance and how to clear the cobwebs and be emotionally stable enough to play the next hand. But we can all make mistakes.
There is a myriad of ways to make mistakes, but I like to boil it down to two simple parts: major gaffs created through ignorance, and sensible gaffs created by genius.
Paul Arden includes a quote from the theatre director, Joan Littlewood, in his short paragraph on this subject that has relevance:
“If we don’t get lost, we’ll never find a new route.”
If you always follow the same path to the river, it will be easy for your opponents to get there before you.
3# It’s Wrong to be Right
I think this chapter is the most illuminating in Arden’s treatise. It’s only two pages long but contains more wisdom than tomes of self-help books I have read.
Poker players are amongst some of the most confident I have observed. But with that confidence can come a smugness that will put you in the crosshairs of a high powered rifle ready to slam you off balance.
Paul Arden points out that experience can be quicksand when it comes to innovation and learning. Back in the day when Daniel Negreanu blogged about the old school not keeping up with the new wizards, this is what he was talking about.
Knowledge comes from the past, and the problem you are facing is right now in the present. Arden points out that knowledge is the opposite of originality, experience, and creativity.
Being an experienced rock will help you beat most of the competition, but if you want to reach for those shiny things in the sky, then you need more. You need creative plays that slap your opponent across the face while you are pinching their cheeks with both hands.
Arden says the need to be right is boring, close-minded, and arrogant.
He also says people who have this habit are dull and not worth talking to, and that doesn’t sound like a stable platform for a brand if you ask me.
4# It’s Right to be Wrong
I used to hear this loud buzzing WRONG! in my head each time I made a mistake during my early days as a young manager working in the rail industry. My boss was a pig of a man and my experience, skills, and confidence went backwards under his wing.
Then I met a man who encouraged me to be wrong. Each time I screwed up, as long as he could see I was trying to improve he would pat me on the back. He taught me that there is a difference between blindly screwing up because you couldn’t give two hoots, and attempting to take risks to advance your knowledge and the moves in your playbook.
It’s right to be wrong.
Being wrong often means you have the propensity to take risks, and you need that attitude if you are going to reach the final table with the same sort of busyness as Michael Phelps mops up gold medals. How do you know if your line works if you don’t bring it into play. It serves no purpose floating around in your head. The poker table is a terrible place for a mouthful of shoulds.
5# Don’t Be Afraid of Silly Ideas
Writers have writer’s block, and poker players have poker playing blocks. The mind goes blank, the playbook won’t open, and your emotions are running riot like a zoo without any doors.
How do you get unblocked?
Try something silly.
The more stupid things you try, the more inhibitions fall to the floor like clothes in a Jenny Craig retreat.
It is the seriousness of your situation that has you rooted to the spot. Poker is a hotbed of critical, analytical, logical thinking – but sometimes you need to shed those skins and put on your squeaky red nose and give it a few honks.
Serious professional poker players often look at those sponsored and laugh at their abilities. But the poker rooms are more interested in people who know how to have fun. They know they can relate more to their audience. Being silly and having silly ideas makes you relatable. It’s the very essence of being human. It’s light, fluffy, and releases tension like a clothesline losing its babies during a windy night in Kansas outside a farmhouse belonging to a young girl who likes to sing about rainbows.