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Bad Mutha!

Oh Reykjavik, what started out as a seemingly disastrous early morning AirBnB fail, turned into a tournament that I will remember for a long time. Recently, I have attended a couple of golf training programs through Vision54. Thanks to their tutelage and perspective, I am starting to focus on process more than results in all of my competitive endeavors. I’d like to think of the Iceland tournament as a turning point for me bridge wise in this regard, as I started to keep a journal highlighting my successes and points upon which to improve.

For me, the failures have always been easier to identify. They stand out. They hurt. You want feedback, real feedback, about your bridge game, ask your partner. Give him or her permission to really tell you what they think. It’s not for everybody.

As someone that is able to afford playing with professional bridge players, who themselves are not perfect, it’s easy to think that you are on their level. Of course, you could make a better bid or play then them from time to time, but have you ever fully appreciated the thinking that went into that play or bid in the first place?

Well, Vision54 has given me a framework with which to focus on a lifelong learning process with the game of bridge. By seeing bridge as a metaphor for life, there is an incredible opportunity for insight if one is willing.

Take for example, the journaling process that I started this past week in Reykjavik. Instead of blaming myself, having suit combinations floating around in my brain for hours, I decided to write down what I was thinking. Per Vision’s instructions, I started by writing down three things that I did well in that day’s play. None of them seemed earth shattering or reeking of expertise. But it was a start. I gave myself a small pat on the back.

Next, name one thing that you want to improve upon. Now this was much easier. Suddenly, the improvement process became much more holistic and integrated. I was taking ownership. Where are my blindspots? I wanted to know. How can I get better?

This thinking has also been highly influenced by Josh Waitzkin’s book, The Art of Learning. The concept he uses for this, is “investing in loss”. Investing in loss means putting yourself in the ring against the toughest competitors that you can find and getting your nose bashed in. Sometimes, it’s your partner that’s doing the bashing, really it’s you. If you did not want to be good at bridge, you would not give a shit. If you did not want to win you would believe him when your partner says, “it doesn’t matter”.

When I first got to Iceland, I joined some friends as they were finishing up dinner. One of them asked, what’s next for me. Frankly, I said I did not know how much I would continue playing bridge. It’s fun but expensive, grueling. Maybe it’s time for the next chapter.

I’d like to think that by adopting an incremental theory of intelligence mindset, that this new chapter is being written. Maybe I will never be a world champion, don’t bet against me, but I am developing a mindset of welcoming failure. Bring it on, because in that willingness comes an incredible freedom.

You cannot play bridge if you are not willing to make mistakes, it’s simply impossible, and I have been doing just that. It’s a pretty shitty position in which to exist. You get to the point where you really can’t take a finesse or you take when the card in dummy was high already when you played to the last trick. Sure, I would have liked to have learned bridge when I was younger, go through the junior program and be a savant. But even that thinking needs to be questioned.

Is it really true? As long as I keep believing that, I am going to hold myself back subconsciously. Every time I bemoan my stupidity for missing an inference on a bridgewinners problem, or at the table, I miss a learning opportunity.

Seth Godin, founder of altMBA, has a great expression, “Is this going to be on the test?”

He describes it as the last thing a good teacher wants to hear. Same holds true for bridge, it’s not about memorizing the best system; rather, it’s about using logic, to take all of your tricks and rip out the opponent's hearts in the process.

Welcome to my Gym!

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