Don’t let your ego run your business

Considering how often I refer to poker when I write my blog posts I should maybe write a book about how the same skills are used to become a successful poker player as to become a successful entrepreneur. While waiting for me to start that project however, let me give you another very important (yet short) example that is strongly related.

Today at Twitter one of the very skilled entrepreneurs that I follow, Christian Rudolf  wrote:

Emotions, our biggest enemy, our biggest asset

That made me to finally write this blog post that has formed itself the last weeks in my mind. The headline basically says it all, especially combined with Christians quote.

In poker it is very easy to end up in a situation where your emotions are in control. This seldom leads to a good result. It might be that bad player to your left that once again was lucky against you in a huge pot, or that guy to your right that thinks he is the best player in the world and loudly announces it. You “know” that you are the best player, but you get so bad cards, and you are always so extremely unlucky. In this situation it is so easy to let your emotions take control, to make that stupid bluff just to show them that you cannot be that easily manipulated, or to call down that big bet because it would feel worse to be shown a stone cold bluff by your opponent than it actually feels to lose a massive pot.

Winning poker players know how important it is to always try to focus on playing the best poker they can, to always take the next hand and the next card as a brand new decision and to quickly forget the outcome of past hands. The same should be true for anyone in a managing position in a company, and even more important for someone running their own business (note that I make a difference here in learning from past mistakes and to be too results focused)

If you constantly ends up in situations where you are no longer thinking in a logic way then you are out on deep water. If you let your emotions take the decisions based on you being afraid of being wrong, or fail, then you are doing the same mistakes as a poker player on tilt, and that will lead to the same result for your business as for a poker player. Lost opportunities to make money, and sometimes even heavy losses!

Think back on your last business decisions. Did you take them based on analysis of previous results or a strong business case, or did you take them based on the fact that you had invested a lot of personal capital in this project’s success? Have you ever ended a discussion with one of your employees referring back to your senior title and overridden his or her suggestions because it would otherwise make you look bad? Is it more important for you to be “right” or to do things “your way” than the actual outcome of a project? Do you feel threatened when someone comes with criticism to your ideas, or are you even afraid of taking feedback on board?

If you are even remotely close to answer “yes” to any of the above questions, make sure to think through your next project and base it on knowledge and facts rather than your feelings. Even if you have never previously done these mistakes, next time you do something, make sure to think it through. We might all need a reminder every now and then to not base our decisions on easily manipulated emotions. You will soon find out that your results are better, and that folding a hand every now and then was not so bad after all…


  • Christian R

    20 August, 2012

    I think there is a book about poker and business, but I do not remember were I seen it…

    I think there is one thing that differs from business and poker. There is no such thing as just one poker game. POkergame is a long process, containing many games. Just as business. Business can last for many years. However, u can play a game and decide to leave, to stop and walk away. In business this is very difficult intthe short term

    Wich brings my to my point. Aside from being our best friend and wors enemy, feelings is also our strongest muscle. Feelings can keep your legs running for years, way beyond what your physical limits actually.

    And sometimes, to bring up this energy, u have to let your feelings decide…..

  • Per

    20 August, 2012

    Hi Christian and thanks for your comment.

    There must be a book, I think there are several similarities, but also, as you point out differences.

    I also agree about the walking away part when it comes to businesses. I think that when I mean similarities it is probably more in the mindset area, as well as how to judge risk properly for instance. I know how hard it is to leave behind your business that you have built up, and the process of selling my old business took a long time…

    In the end you cannot run your business well without feelings and passion (that was what ultimately led to me selling my former company, whenI no longer had the passion needed to keep doing a good job). Sometimes you will also have to trust your gut (also something I think a good poker player can take advantage of) and make decision based on these even though the logic would say it is stupid (like resigning from your job to start your own again in this economical situation, like I just did).

    However, what I think is a big mistake is to let your feelings, or maybe I should say “prestige” decide alone. I have seen it so often, both at poker tables, but also in business that it is more important to let your EGO win, than it is to do what is longterm the most profitable.


  • Joakim

    21 August, 2012

    Very true. I hope this post will be read by managers and that it will make them understand and learn from their mistakes.

    I know a couple of managers I’ve previously worked with that would be able to learn a lot from this post.


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