The Epoque of the samurai is long gone. Their warrior mentality and philosophy can be a powerful tool to overcome modern life challenges and achieve mastery in surprising areas like professional poker.
Breathe in. Breathe out. You can die today.
What a cheerful warm-up exercise to start your poker session, right? Wait, what?? 🤔
Ok, let me explain. The root of all frustration in life and in poker is simple. It’s a combination of expectations about the outcomes and a nice dose of arrogance that we control a much bigger part of a situation than we actually do.
Actually, frustration happens all the time. We are frustrated by our relationships, by our profession, by Mark Zuckerberg’s haircut (gosh, he has to fix that!), etc.
But is there a hidden treasure in that frustration? And of course, where is the samurai in the picture? (psst, it’s hidden in a very strange place)
Here is the thing:
Tilting is the manifested frustration generated from the gap between your expectations and reality.
It’s obvious and we both know that. It kills your A-game and it s*cks. 😤
After numerous conversations with professional poker players from all around the globe, I realized something interesting. There is a lot in common between playing professional poker and being a warrior in the broad sense of the word. The parallels are numerou. Starting from having an opponent and being in a battle (a mental one but it is no less challenging than a physical one). Then choose and adapt the right strategy and skills, and last but not least — dominate in the mental arena of the game.
While we know that there are many poker schools, coaches, and tools for strategy and skills, I believe that what gives an edge to pro poker players is the level of their inner game — their mindset.
As a passionate Mindset Designer, I know that the eastern warrior culture has a lot to say about strong mentality. Above all, the legendary samurai were famous for their fascinating code of ethics called Bushido and also for their mental training. They had many philosophical concepts and their ideology was influenced by Zen Buddhism and Confucianism. What made them so extraordinary?
It was a combination of preparation, intent, and letting go.
Let’s take a closer look together at one of their most intriguing inner game practices. I believe it can be useful to you to maintain your A-game.
This is “dying before going into battle” practice.
It allowed a warrior to enter each combat with no fear of death. He did this by simply taking himself through a meditation to experience and fully accept the possibility of dying on the battlefield prior to the battle itself.
Here are a few reasons why this mental exercise is so powerful:
- Helps the samurai to create a mental picture of the worst-case scenario, prepare himself for it, and thus eliminates anxiety and fear
- Allows him to fully give himself to his mission without concern for survival
- Removes the illusion that he could control the outcome of the battle and clears his mind
- When he accepts that defeat is a plausible outcome, he becomes deeply relaxed and he is able to engage fully in the battle without any distraction
How can you include this samurai mental exercise in your poker routine:
- Grab a piece of paper or open a note on your computer.
- Write down the worst situations that can happen during this upcoming poker session. To lose a huge amount of money. Or every single hand that day. To have all your accounts blocked, etc. Imagine such a devastating situation that can even cause you to quit the game forever. Stretch your mind — the worst situations you come up with, the better. Think about all the extremely bad possibilities and write them down.
- Take a good look at the list and read it out loud if you want.
- Now take a deep breath and observe your thoughts and inner state. Turn on your inner vision and activate your awareness.
- With every breath you take slowly develop that inner peace with every negative outcome from the list — try to see yourself in those awful situations and remain neutral, just observe, be present, work on your deep acceptance, realize deeply that your mind and spirit are stronger and you can overcome even the worse things in life. See yourself in a place beyond the judgment of what is fair/unfair and right/wrong. Embrace all the outcomes and accept that defeat and loss are plausible outcomes too.
- Reach the neutral point where you are no longer emotionally attached to the outcomes from your session. Take your time and observe your inner state and emotions until you reach that point. It feels like a deep state of peace and calmness and even a subtle feeling of enjoyment and inner lightness. The only indicator that you have reached that point is your self-awareness, so remain alerted and observe.
Life turns out the way it does. So as your poker game.
What limits you from playing your A-game is the resistance to accept that. I know it’s hard to acknowledge that we are not in full control of the reality and the outcomes but if we can quieten our ego and tame our mind, we will unlock the next level of mastery and high achievements in our poker game and in life.
Just give a try to that samurai mentality practice and see if it works for you. My bet is that if you practice it, you will soon start dominating over your opponents like never before because you will dominate over your mind first and foremost. And I’m “all in” on my bet. 😎
From making dozens of mindset coaching sessions with people who are trying to improve their mindset, I know one thing for sure — it’s extremely rare to see someone making consistent efforts to elevate his inner mental game and working on strengthening his mentality. But it is that inner work that no one sees that makes the whole difference.
Do you want to have a competitive advantage? Do that inner work.
The samurai is considered as an archetype of the inner hero that we all have. Moreover, we all enter into our own battles and we can either approach them as just regular events or we can add a flavor of epicness and deeper meaning. After all, we can all choose to live our lives from a more profound place in our minds and souls and I believe this will enhance our life experience and make it more intriguing and meaningful.
Maybe the battlefield is inside of our minds, and no elsewhere . We have to win against our own self as the great Sun Tzu reminds us…
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” — Sun Tzu
Now go meet your next opponent and bring with you the unshakeable inner peace that comes from realizing that defeat is a plausible outcome, samurai.
Breathe in. Breathe out. You can die today.
Sincerely yours, Karina — Mindset Designer and a part-time warrior ⚔️
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