Success, American Beauty, The American Dream, Poker

What is success? For me it used to be making $5,000-$8,000 a month at poker after graduation from UNLV in 2014 when I transitioned from part-time to full-time. It also was gaining attention or affection from whatever girl I was romanticizing about. What I realized, is that throughout my life, I’ve tried to objectify everything I’ve ever strived for. I was so caught up in results or my own thoughts of what I should have, or need to accomplish in order to feel successful or happy, that I lost joy in the individual process of achieving or failing. With an objective mentality inner success becomes ungraspable. Once one goal is achieved another will soon be created. When another is failed, it has the capacity to become a source of self-destruction. Success can’t be measured in terms of our results, but through the joy we project when we soldier onwards.  The more we compare our success to the success of others, or the success we think we need to have in the  many realms of our lives, we spark the scarcity flint.

As soon as I saw this prompt the following quote from American Beauty immediately came to my mind:

“In order to be successful, one must project an image of success.” -Real Estate King


So00 real estate king, are you successful based on your ‘personal sales record’, or because ‘your firm is the Rolls Royce’, in Carolyn’s eyes? What I truly detest about his comment is that he thinks success can be attained externally through what one projects. He doesn’t mention anything about the projector; and how to create the film of our dreams. Instead of guiding Carolyn into believing that results don’t define success, and telling her the different relationships he’s made with clients, the lessons he’s learned from his failures, and how it allowed him to wholeheartedly enjoy the process, he only projected his internal dependency on results or perfectionism. Can’t say sucking on a married woman’s neck at a drive through in front of her husband is the image of success either.

I recently ate Korean BBQ with my close friend Alex. Alex, now 27, after trying a bunch of different things in school and finally graduating at age 26, a true Van Wilder, inevitably found his niche in real-estate. What he told me about his experiences that truly inspired me, is that so many people were extremely grateful for his services to them. They showed their appreciation by giving him gift cards, thank you letters, and phone calls from old clients referring new ones. Their appreciation of his devotion in helping them find that imperfectly perfect mansion helped improve his.

I never asked how he was able to build such a strong connection with his clients, but I didn’t need to. Whenever I contact him we don’t talk as much as we used to because he’s always working and unless meeting up the conversations are very short. He’s been working a minimum of 50-60 hours a week and does showings on Saturdays. He tells me about a lot of the features of the houses he gets to show. The image of success, is his internal gratitude for what he does and what he projects outwards, and I can measure this by the enthusiasm talking about his job.

“I help them find their homes, at the end of the day they have an awesome new home that they love because of me, and I’m grateful for that. Its awesome!” -Alex

In American beauty, a major theme is that the tip of the glacier doesn’t reveal the masses underneath the water. The two main families in the show, Lester’s and Ricky’s, have beautifully decorated homes, neat and tidy lawns, and an abundance of masks to hide the internal disconnection. Although both families eat at the same table and share meals, they are off elsewhere in their minds whether speaking, listening, or doing nothing. As depicted by their constant bickering, they seek to vent or project more problems of a lack of success to their fellow family members instead of gently listening. They’re devoid of imagination or compassion, and strictly in service of their egos. The ego must succeed in order to survive!

Ricky’s dad, a military colonel, who successfully served our country, served his countrymen by calling them gay and sending their flowered efforts away. Yeah, if I were the colonel, and I constantly abused my son, I wouldn’t be able to stand the smiles of two extremely happy lovers as well. In his ego, he certainly succeeded in convincing Ricky that they were worthy of causing both of them to “puke their fucking guts outs”. They seemed like normal businessman until he discovered that their business was love. They had suits and ties like any straight-edge-cookie-cutting business man who definitely can’t succeed in loving another man. In an objective world defined in the bible, which of course, only has one interpretation, a business-man must successfully love a business-woman? Right? Don’t want one of them fighting for me in my platoon!! Its against the law of the military! -___-


Although he didn’t realize it, his son was a successful drug dealer. He could sell an ounce of oregano for $2000 to the father of the daughter he successfully managed to make love to. Ricky is my favorite character in the movie. Because of my own abusive father from an early age, I truly admire how he successfully prevented his constant abuse to perpetuate elsewhere. According to Angela “she heard that he got locked up in a mental institution,” but as beautifully shown in this movie, a lot of fact turns out to be fiction. Ricky was the receiver of his abuse, but perceived it as reason to find beauty in the simplicity of things. The beauty of a grocery bag spiraling and twirling like a dancer in the wind waiting for its partner, or a dead pigeon, patiently waiting to be decomposed.

Colonel: Where’s your wife?
Lester: Probably out fucking that dorkey real-estate king ass-hole, and I don’t care.
Colonel: Your wife is out having sex with another man and you don’t care?
Lester: Yeah, our marriage is just a show. A commercial for how normal we are, when we’re anything but.

Colonel’s homophobic futility exercises didn’t give him the muscle necessary to thwart his inner feelings of love for men. It also was the icing on the glacier that brought this fine military colonel to serve his countryman with a bullet in the head. Successful American service from a successful American colonel. What it did succeed in doing, though, was finalize Lester’s growth. In death Lester found gratitude for all in his life that he lost. He accepted it and appreciated his past instead of resenting the fact he no longer existed. At the end of the day holding on to anger likely isn’t in the recipe of success.


I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars. (gunshot) And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. (gunshot) Or my grandmother’s hands and the way her skin seemed like paper. (distant gunshot) And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand-new Firebird. And Janie. And Janie. And Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry: you will someday. -Lester Burnham 

It’s been 7 months since the end of my poker career. What was extremely lucrative for the last 5-6 years of my life has come to an end. I think about what a lot of my friends have told me over the years. I was what is known as a “bum hunter”. No, I didn’t hunt bums like Patrick Bateman did. A bum hunter looks for massive fish, unskilled poker players, and avoids playing with more skilled poker players and other pros. The very idea of bum hunting is objectifying who you can and cannot play with. More or less looking for the easiest money possible without having to work for it. My friend Gerald once said that fish and whales are non-renewable resources and that solid regulars or nitty (conservative/tight) regulars are renewable. I always looked for the easy money instead of patiently observing my opponents, their tendencies, and learning how to beat them.

By nature, poker is two things: extremely predatory and an amazing depiction of the American dream. Start with very little money, play 40-50 hours of poker each week just like any other job, move up to higher stakes, win a big tournament, and get rich quick. The media doesn’t depict the true nature of “grinding.” For every person the media shows winning a bracelet or WPT title, there are several people on extremely unhealthy sleep schedules, typically clocking in at 9-10 PM, sitting uncomfortably in a poker chair until 5-6 AM, and in the event there’s a massive fish who hasn’t gone broke yet extending the session into the morning or early afternoon. It doesn’t show all the people stealing money from their investors, going into “make-up” (poker debt required to be won back, not paid back if lost), and how big of a struggle for internal survival poker can be. It doesn’t show the opportunity cost of a heavy resume gap and the inability for a lot of poker players to transition into something else because they don’t feel they could find another job that provides the same life-style.

Parts of this describe the last 5 years of my life, and although true, for so many people I’m friends with, and so many other professionals, it doesn’t have to be this way. My close poker friends told me over and over again that I needed to learn how to beat other regulars, and not to be dependent on the prime unhealthy hours of poker in order to succeed. My search for the easy way out led to my demise, lack of sleep, wasted college years, and has helped me finally wake up to what I was doing wrong throughout my career.

I feel that by nature, poker isn’t bad. Its an extremely competitive sport which allows people to use imperfect information and a basic knowledge of global poker tendencies to make the best decision available. Poker also provides an availability of total freedom if you’re available to it and not too heavily absorbed by your ego. Poker players don’t have a boss, we can plan our own schedules as we see fit, travel if we want, and we can take time off if its plausible. For me, poker was never really the problem. It was my lack of responsibility outside of poker that would financially sabotage my bankroll and prevent it from growing. It was my debilitating attitude which limited me in terms of the games I THOUGHT I could beat, and also forced me to under appreciate how much money I was actually making. My mindset diluted my success.

Poker players earn, lose, and spend money so easily that they likely don’t even realize how much money they’re making. I weighed my own success as a poker player in terms of how much money I made, instead of enjoying the extremely liberating lifestyle it gave me and process of constantly evaluating my previous hands from my sessions and gaining a deeper understanding of the game. No matter how good at poker you get you’re always a student of the game and should be doing extra work studying the game off the table to constantly improve.

Imagine a vast ocean. In this ocean there are very few sharks and an abundance of beautiful and delicious fish. Years ago all the fish wanted to be like the sharks because they were sick of being eaten constantly. The fish decided to hit the gym, read books, join training sites, and do everything in their power to cease being fish. Over time they evolved into barracudas. Any fish that remained that hadn’t already been eaten by the sharks would be eaten by the barracudas. All that are left now are the sharks and barracudas and there isn’t enough available food. They are forced to devour each other. Poker is Darwinism at its finest. I now feel that the state of poker has evolved past me and that I could only be a small winner in most 2/5 games, and that its just not worth it anymore like it used to be.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the 9th best poker player in the world if you’re playing with the other 8 that are better than you.”

2016 was an extremely difficult year in my life. What was such an integral part of my life and my dream since I was 12 years old watching Chris Moneymaker win the main event on TV is now over. I never got to fully see what I could accomplish in poker due to my life leaks outside of poker. What I’ve learned though, is that that’s totally fine.  I realize that there are so many amazing people I wouldn’t have met had I never played poker. My analytical capacity has exponentiated because of poker. I never would have been able to hang out with Michael Phelps for a few hours if I never played poker. Poker is an extremely unique environment where people from all sorts of cultures and socioeconomic back grounds come together. A pizza boy and a hot shot lawyer can play. A college student and a 21-gold-medal-olympian can hang out. I truly am grateful for my experiences as a poker player, and most importantly have learned not to try to measure my success. Now that poker is over what Im most grateful for are the friends, the freedom, and all the credit card roulette wins and losses over food! What I’ve learned is that when you’re not trying to build your tower high, but having fun in the process is when the tower becomes the highest. You succeed.

via Daily Prompt: Successful


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