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…