Thursday, December 27, 2007

Am I better because of poker? Part 2: Career

In this look at how poker has impacted my life, I’ll be covering the following topics:

- Finances
- Career
- Health
- Marriage
- Friendship

Welcome to Part 2: Career

I’m typing this at work at 2:00 in the afternoon. I guess that gives a little indication as to my priorities. I kid, I kid. I’m usually pretty busy during working hours – but the week between Christmas and New Years Eve is notoriously slow.

Truth be told, while I wholeheartedly acknowledge my corporate drone-ism – I actually like my job. On some days, I even love it. I work in marketing and I lead a team of smart, funny, and hard-working people. Venture outside my little fiefdom, however, and the office if filled with every The Office stereotype you can think of. It’s when I have to deal with people not on my team that I want to either punch them in the throat or drink myself into oblivion under my desk. But I digress….back to my career….

I’ve traveled a pretty golden road on my career path to date (barring a few potholes that I fell right into). The path to my current situation started out when I volunteered with Microsoft to get free hours of Internet access (this was back in the days when you paid for Internet access by the hour). The volunteer gig led to a part-time gig, which led to multiple full-time gigs where I got to do interesting things and meet interesting people. The good times, however, did not last and after a couple years of very fruitful freelance contracting, I was without a source of income.

A few months of unemployed self-loathing and afternoon matinees led to a job in my industry, and after 6 months there, contacts there led me to my current employer.

I’ve held 6 different jobs here, each more interesting than the one before. At one point, I was a golden child here. I was encouraged to get my M.B.A. so I could take on more senior level positions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an undergrad degree. I dropped out of college a few months in, and started working full-time (the Microsoft money was too appealing). However, the program I wanted to attend said they would potentially accept students without undergrads as long as they had 7 years work experience, scored high on the GMATs and had good reference letters – luckily for me, I was able to pull off all 3 (even luckier that my 98th percentile in the Verbal section made up for a piss-poor Quantitative section. Thank God poker isn’t ALL math, or I’d be screwed). I was accepted and began my 18-month quest to get an M.B.A.

I wish I could say I was proud of my accomplishment – and in many ways I am. I know I worked hard, and learned a lot. But this was an “Executive M.B.A.” program – and some of the people in my class were complete and utter idiots. Knowing they ended up with the same degree that I have kind of tarnishes the whole deal. I’ve never held higher education in the same esteem that other people have. But at the end of the day, if a piece of paper reassures other people that I have the knowledge that I know I have, than so be it. The best part of the whole experience was seeing how proud my Dad was on graduation day. That pretty much made up for the 18 months of torture.

While I was in the M.B.A. program I was playing poker online. It was for small stakes, and not all that often (working full-time, plus school every other Fri-Sun didn’t leave a lot of free time). I graduated in 2005, and it was after that that Banky and I started playing more frequently, both online and live.

It wasn’t until early 2006 that poker became an everyday topic of conversation in our house. And it’s really been over the last year that I think it’s impacted my working life – and the impact is thus:

I’ve become apathetic.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way. In many ways, the apathy has been good. In the past, I was extremely emotionally invested in my work. I carried everything home. If work went well, I was happy, chipper, and fun to be around. If I dealt with an asshole, or my boss stole my idea, or if results weren’t as good as I hoped, I’d be devastated. Tears were not uncommon. I would spend evenings ranting to Banky, and being frustrated that he couldn’t understand. I’m sure I was not the most pleasant person to be around. Now, things just don’t bother me the way they used to.

However, apathy can also be bad. I still care about what I do, so perhaps apathy isn’t the right word – but I just don’t care as much as I used to. I feel like I’ve put work in it’s proper place….as a means to an end (the end being a lifestyle that I want). I no longer aspire to a bigger, better, career. I just want to be intellectually stimulated and work with fun, interesting people. I could care less about promotions, and hierarchy, and office politics.

I’m sure my attitude change has been noticed, because I’m not longer on the fast-track that I once was. But I’m not willing to sacrifice my time the way I was before. I leave work at work. Some other chumps can take their Blackberry’s with them on vacation. I don’t even check mine after office hours.

It’s hard to pinpoint that yes, this change in attitude is entirely because of poker – but I have to think that playing, thinking, and talking about poker so much has to have had an effect.

Playing poker has taught me how to deal with bad beats. I don’t get fazed by them any more. Work is full of bad beats! Dealing with an douche, having your boss take your name off a presentation and present it as her own, losing a great employee to another dept. The old me would spent days steaming – but now I’m mad for a few minutes (or a couple hours, if it’s something really bad) but then I shake it off. Just like at the poker table.

Sometimes, in poker, you do your best and you still lose. It’s the same at work. Sometimes you are smarter, better, more qualified than your co-worker, but they still get promoted. It’s like watching a fish catch hand after hand. There’s nothing you can do but play your best game – in poker, and in life.

When I reflect on where my career is now – I have to say that as far as progression, I’m no better off than I was before poker since I've been in the same role since 2004. But because of poker, I’m happier where I am than I would have been without it.

I’m not sure where that nets me out. I still have some thinking to do on this one.


BamBam said...

P/T = net plus 2 (at least)

1) Happy Dad.
2) Saw a Happy Dad and felt great.

All the rest is gravy.

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