I love poker, but I’m not especially good at it. In Las Vegas, I’d be just getting comfortable in my chair when disaster would strike.
I love poker for the mental battle more than the thin chance that I’ll be luckiest or smartest player. I love the personal interaction, the nuance and the “I double-dog dare you” excitement of a successful bluff, and I used to think I was a pretty good judge of who the bluffers at the table were going to be, until Euan sat down. He was a disheveled, frail-looking Englishman with an education in theoretical physics, of all things, and he had a resigned, almost fearful persona that made reluctance and timidity seem pit bull aggressive by comparison.
Everybody at the table figured Euan would be the first man to walk away, broke, that evening, and we were mentally dividing up his chips before the first card was dealt.
The first rounds of betting were brisk and the pot was growing as six hungry sharks encircled Euan. Then his turn came, and he looked down at his hands, pushed his remaining chips toward the center of the table, and stammered: “I’m all in.”
One by one, we accepted the challenge, shoving out stacks toward the center, the pot growing like a volcano building toward an eruption with devastating power. Had we taken a vote at that moment, the unanimous decision would have been that Euan was a goner.
Each of us, in turn, displayed our hands: a pair here, a two pair there, one player even offered three tens. Euan showed three queens, and when the last communal card was flipped, he had four.
Euan’s hand was not a guaranteed winner – there were plenty of ways he could have lost. Instead, he neatly fileted the circling sharks and headed for the door with a pocketful of cash.
Poker night had lasted less than 20 minutes.
Why would a meek, hesitant man take such a risk? “Probabilities were a factor,” Euan told me later, “but in the end, you just need to believe.”
At work, we see things that need to be done, but don’t step forward. We find better solutions, but figure that it must have already been tried. We turn our backs on customers or colleagues because we’re busy, or tired, or feel unappreciated.
Think back to your first days on the job, before you started letting a negative ‘reality’ crush your spirit. Remember the enthusiasm and the possibilities you saw. You got more done, then, and you were happier, too.
If we put our yesterdays behind us and approached every day like it was our first day at work, we can rekindle that ‘new job’ joy and optimism. We could go all-in, every day, and we could win, every day.
Like Euan says, “In the end, you just need to believe.”
Scott H. Lewis is managing director for the CIS region of Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. His new book. The Backward Thought Leader, will be published in December. An American, he has lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for more than a decade.