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Inspired by Shannon Shorr and Antonio Esfandiari, Lee Davy takes a look at how the very best poker players in the business seem to have an uncanny knack of believing that anything is possible.

Think about these statements for a moment.

  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m not strong enough
  • I’m not beautiful enough
  • I’m not rich enough
  • I will never be a success
  • I am a failure
  • I can’t do this
  • I don’t know how to do this

Do you recognise yourself in any of these statements? If you don’t, the chances are, you are a very good poker player.

When I first moved into the poker community I was taken aback by the sheer audacity of some of the statements I heard pour out of the mouths of some of the poker players. The confidence of it all bordered on arrogance. At first it didn’t sit well with me. I rank as an old codger in the poker industry, and I took the high levels of confidence as some sort of disrespect against the world.

Reality is a projection of your thoughts or the things you habitually think about – Stephen Richards.

After a while I started to understand one of the critical components of a great poker player. It was the need to have the power to dispel limiting beliefs. This was why the younger players were all so confident. They knew that in order to be a success they had to believe they were already a success.

When you think about it, the work needed to overcome limiting beliefs is ever-present in the game of poker. I don’t care if you are Daniel Colman. You are going to lose more hands than you win, you will lose more tournaments than you win, and so you had better get used to losing.

Learning to lose well is something that our parents, and schoolteachers try to teach us as we grow up. I don’t know about you guys, but I found it very difficult to become a good loser. I felt more aligned with the ‘must win at all costs’ attitude, and that served me well for most of my life.

But poker is different.

To take that kind of attitude into the poker community is like a disease. It will quickly consume you. You will rot. Everybody will bury you, but there will be no funeral. As you pass away, people will just continue to play the next hand.

If we believe in magic, we’ll live a magical life. If we believe our life is defined by narrow limits, we’ve suddenly made those beliefs real – Anthony Robbins.

The very best poker players take this power to dispel limiting beliefs outside of the game. This is why so many poker players love to travel and experience so many new things.

The thought of being stuck in the middle of a desert sandstorm, with no money, and 70,000 semi-naked strangers, scares the living hell out of me. Yet, for Antonio Esfandiari, and his team of around 60 poker friends, Burning Man has become the single most important experience of his life.

“I can confidently say that this year’s Burning Man is the overall number one experience I have ever had.” – said Antonio Esfandiari in his BLUFF Europe article.

The Global Poker Index (GPI) ranked Shannon Shorr #7 in the Player of the Decade rankings. Shorr is another poker player who has managed to develop the ability to overcome self-limiting beliefs. Just like Esfandiari, it’s not just at the poker table that Shorr uses these abilities.

A few months ago, Shorr and his two friends, climbed to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He arrived in Tanzania, after 22-hours of travelling, and his luggage didn’t arrive behind him. When your luggage is full of your hiking equipment, and you are about to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world that will induce quite a number of limiting beliefs.

Not for Shorr.

He knew what needed to be done. He got his head set straight and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed until he couldn’t climb no more.

“The conditions were well below freezing, and we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes for the majority of the trip. It was around this point that I experienced the best high of my life.” Said Shorr in his personal blog.

Both Esfandiari and Shorr having the most complete experiences in their lives, and both of them came away from the poker table. Yet it was at the poker table where the inspiration, and inclination to overcome their limiting beliefs was born. Without poker one wonders if there would have been experiences like Burning Man or Mount Kilimanjaro?

This rather annoying habit of self-destructive thinking is created as we grow. Fortunately, we can change; we do change, and like the butterfly, when the metamorphosis is complete, it’s beautiful.

So next time you are unceremoniously dumped out of a tournament after a one outer hits the river, practice some gratitude. It’s the stuff that erodes into self-defeating beliefs. It’s the magic that creates the power to believe that you can do anything you want.

And you can.

You just need to believe it.

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