Lee Davy sits down with the German megastar, Fedor Holz, to talk about his views on happiness, his new business project Primed Mind, and much more.
I am sitting in Coffee #1 with friends when I tell them I have to make a sharp exit.
“Where are you going?” Asked my mate.
“I have an interview.”
And it’s at this point where things get a little Twin Peaks when you are sharing oxygen with people from outside of the poker world. I tell him about this 23-year old wizard who managed to win over $20m playing poker in a matter of a few years, semi-retired, came back to earn a few million more, and is now spending his time providing a vehicle for people to find their creative genius.
“Why can’t you win win $20m?” Came the
Here is that little wizard talking about happiness, Primed Mind, and a whole lot more.
The last time we spoke you talked about going off to spend some time to think about how you were going to serve the world, what happened?
“On a personal level, I found a spot where I can be happy. It was pretty important to figure out how I wanted to continue with poker and I think I am very close to that solution, focusing on the spots where I think it’s great value to me as a human; the whole poker thing of meeting my friends and playing in good games.”
So the ‘value’ for you isn’t as much the games, but the community experience that surrounds the game?
“This is way more important to me now. It’s normal for poker players to be profit orientated because that’s the measurement of success, and so it took me some time and reflection to get to the point I am today. It’s way easier when you have been successful; I am not sure it is possible to reach these conclusions when you are in the grind. But today I am more focused on spending time with my friends, playing a competitive game and having fun.”
I recently finished reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and he poses the question: are we happier today than our hunter-gatherers of the past. What is your definition of happiness?
“I don’t have a per se definition. My personal perspective is we have a feeling we call happiness. It’s a strive towards progress. In the long term; it’s maybe contentment. Slightly like how Buddhism puts it – not perceiving negative and positive emotions, just being and perceiving things for what they are.
“I follow the feeling I have, and that feeling is natural for humans. We all perceive it different through the experiences we have in life: how we grew up and our interactions with people but the natural feeling will be pretty similar, and we all gravitate towards certain things. Happiness is pretty individual, and what makes me happy is the sum of all the experiences I have had these past few years. Today, it’s travelling, meeting new people, having great conversations, spending time with my friends.
“I feel like I’m in one of the most consistently happy states I’ve ever experienced. The whole setting is great and bonding with positive and bright people over the last few years is paying off.”
How important is financial security when it comes to happiness?
“Financial security is a lot about impact and freedom. Both having an ‘impact’ and being ‘free’ matter a lot to me and get me closer to that state of happiness.”
How do you intend to make an ‘impact’ and who will benefit?
“Looking back at poker, a big reason for my success was the passion that made me invest every free minute I had into trying to become a better player. That’s why I will focus on what I’m passionate about, and hopefully, that develops into having a positive Impact on people.
“I’ve always been passionate about experiencing creativity, whether it’s myself or other people and I want to create a setting to empower creative action in all forms. Seeing someone putting his or her heart into creating something – it fulfills me, and that’s why we founded our company Primed.”
Creativity is a passion of mine, how will Primed help me improve that area of my life?
“I see it as a long journey. We want to create and support products and companies that enhance our creativity in lots of different ways. With our first venture: Primed Mind we want to tackle the subject of mental strength and preparation. Together with Elliot Roe, a mindset coach who works with world-class athletes in all areas, we came up with a variety of 10-minute audio tapes to Prime you for specific situations. That ranges from preparation for everyday situations to our pro-section where we work together with top performers to deliver the best content to prepare for all type of sports mentally. That now includes fitness, poker, e-sports and MMA and we are always working on expanding it further.”
So you want to make an impact on the world by helping more people make their impact on the world by helping them cultivate their creativity and expression instead of being stuck on auto-pilot and following the rules of societal conditioning?
“Yes. I want to go away from believing that we always know everything better – more towards listening and giving people the freedom to make their own decisions. The most exciting things I’ve experienced are when there are no restrictions at all. I believe that taking that pressure away will empower their creative action.”
What were the restrictions that held you back?
“The way I grew up was not very compatible with the societal rules which made me suppress a lot of my natural behaviour. My way of learning and thinking has always been quite different which resulted in a lot of conflicts and led to me trying to adapt as good as possible. To answer your question, very little tolerance and a strict view of how things should be held me back a lot.”
To be clear, are you saying that there was a societal norm where you grew up, but you weren’t able to conform to that norm, which led to conflicts?
That must have been extremely tough for you?
“To be honest, I think the key is someone that cares for you. I didn’t have it too easy, but I had people around me that love me and spent a lot of energy having a positive Impact on my life.”
2017: The year of patience; explain?
“2016 was the year of changes for me, almost stopping poker entirely at the end of the year and focusing on our business. So I feel like being in a new area now and starting from the bottom again I have to remind myself that you don’t get anything without putting in the effort. That’s why 2017 I have to focus on what feels good and right and more important – be patient.”
You believe confidence is a skill, explain
“I believe that it is only how we perceive ourselves relative to others. If you are mentally strong you can change your perception of things – therefore I think you can train to become more confident.”
How do you envisage Primed helping people understand the power of perception?
“By combining the best resources in one place and making them accessible. I want to provide the content that helped me a lot throughout my journey becoming successful in my area.”
You are affiliated with Noetics and are working on Primed Mind – what are the values that are important to you when you give your money/time to a brand?
“Authenticity and creating value. The people, the product and the brand, have to transport the same message – and that message has to be a strong one. I like Noetics, because it’s authentic. There are a lot of things to improve, but they value quality and individuality which I think is great.”
What are the main learning points you have taken away from your interest in business this past 12-months?
“That execution is the key to progress. I constantly have to force myself and the people around me to leave our comfort zone and try out something new. Because whether you fail or you succeed, you’ll learn something new.”