Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just Breathe

"Sometimes ... if we try too hard, we sabotage our own success. The game/match is important - you want to win - however remaining in the process can be difficult if you feel that you are off. We can concentrate on our pre-shot routine until we look like someone on the dance floor looking at their feet and counting steps. That doesn't always work - especially if you're pissed off, aggravated, or frustrated already. Like most things in pool and in life, sometimes the most difficult situations have the easiest solutions. The best thing to do is to take a second to concentrate on your breathing. Bring the air in and out of your body and focus on nothing else. Usually when things aren't going the way we want them to, we are drawing in a lot of the environmental negatives. By drawing a breath - you can inhale the positive - and exhale the negative stuff right out of your system. Shallow breathing=Less oxygen & poor focus ... deep concentrated breathing = more oxygen, better thing - calmer nerves - stronger focus. The air is free - and always available for you to use to your advantage.

While you are shooting - it is a good idea to cue in your focus on the color of the cloth and the rails. Allow that color to absorb your thoughts and intensify your focus and concentration. Concentrate on each breath - and with each breath that color intensifies with your focus. One feeds the other. Cue your ears to listen to a sound that is positive - like the clicking of the balls contacting each other - the sound of the chalk brushing your tip - the sound of the tip contacting the cue ball - or the sound of the balls rolling into the pockets. Allow that sound to intensify the color of the cloth which intensifies with your breathing - which will intensify your focus. When you do this exercise, you are cueing in all of your senses. Your thoughts - just like the air, are being directed inward. You have complete and total control and authority to change what is going on inside your head. You can control that - but you cannot control anything that exists or that is going on around you. You can only adapt to your environment - or you can collapse within your environment. You always have the choice to direct, restrict, and narrow your focus and your energy to within your own mind.
At first, it might be difficult to achieve absolute clarity, but the more you practice this - the easier it becomes. Best of luck to you - hoping that you have a better time next time you are at the table!" ~ Blackjack's Random Thoughts, 11-07-2013.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Putting All of Your Heart Into It

"There was a time I stayed in the pool hall - day after day - night after night just shooting balls for hours and hours. I'd toss all of the balls on the table and shoot them all in using only center ball. I couldn't use draw. I couldn't use follow. Just center ball. After I did about 5-10 racks like that - I'd switch to using only follow - then to using only draw. After that, I'd play 14.1 for 2-3 hours. I'd put crazy restrictions on myself such as "5 rails or less" - whichmeans if my cue ball touched a rail more than 5 times in a single rack - I had to stop and start all over again - or - I would increase my difficulty by placing two shafts below the side pockets - restricting myself to using just half of the table. After that, I'd play the 9 ball ghost for the remainder of my practice - spotting the ghost 3 games on the wire in a race to 7. I'd play the ghost as many sets as it took to overcome, persevere, and experience my victory.

By structuring my practices with ever-increasing difficulty, I maximized my potential for learning. By placing restrictions on my cue ball movement - I tightened my focus and I maximized my control and accuracy with shot-making and playing position. By constantly fighting to dig myself out of a hole on a daily basis against the ghost - I became a fighter at the table. If someone was going to win a match against me - they'd have to go through hell to do it because I wasn't going to give it away peacefully. I wasn't just going through the motions - I training and preparing myself to compete.
It was a lot of hard work. It took up a lot of my time. It required patience, dedication, discipline, and persistence. None of it came easy to me because I didn't make it easy for me. Every single day was a challenge. Every single day I created the opportunity to become a better player than I was the day before. I was constantly inventing new, innovative, and creative ways to enhance my practice sessions to where they accurately mimicked the competitive environment. I prepared myself and pushed myself to edge physically - mentally - and emotionally every single day. That's what it took - so that's what I did. So if I wasn't easy on myself - don't you ever think for a second that I'm going to be easy on you. Ain't gonna happen." ~ Blackjack's Random Thoughts, 07-26-2008.

Look Around the Room ...

"Be very careful about the people you hang around - the people that you allow into your life - and the people that you allow into your social circle. In pool, and in life... your success or failure will accurately reflect the people that you have surrounded yourself with. Remember that.
I know a lot of players - and I am sure that you have people just like this at your pool hall - that have the ability to run rack after rack after rack, solving every layout and every little puzzle on the table with relative ease ... yet when it comes to the game of life, they seem unable to get anywhere. Away from the table, they're lost, ineffective, and their lives (for the most part) they were very unstable personally, professionally, and financially. They probably started out their lives motivated and with the best of intentions - but somehow they got lost along the way down at the pool hall. That's my nice way of saying that as a result of their lifestyle - their lives - their relationships - and their finances didn't amount to squat. Despite their flashes of brilliance at the pool table against mediocre players for laughable stakes - they had gotten absolutely nowhere.
As a pool player - no matter who you are - or - how good you shoot - nowhere is always a very bad place to be. It doesn't matter whether you're there permanently - or just on vacation - nowhere is a horrible place to visit - a awful place to end up -.and an even worse place to get stuck. If you're already there - or if you think that you might be there - the best thing to do is to immediately latch on to some good sense - or something or someone positive - move forward in a straight line at a fast pace and don't ever look back.
At the age of 23, I looked around the pool room and saw 25 examples of everything I didn't want to be in 25 years. Luckily, I learned early on that there is much more to life than being able to run balls on a pool table. Think about it.
My pool hall was no different than most pool halls ... and when I looked around the room - most of the guys I saw were in their mid-late 40's - they were gambling every single day - and amazingly ... they had absolutely nothing to show for it. Most of the time, they were asking me (or anybody else they could find) to borrow money as they chased the same fifty-dollar bill that they had chased the day before.
If any of them had jobs, they were crappy jobs - low or no responsibility - low paying, one step above entry level, dead end jobs. I would learn that in some cases, they actually sought out these crappy jobs to be able to continue on with whatever bad habits they had allowed into their lives. Absolutely everything in their lives was consumed by their habits, and their habits stunted their growth in life as well as their game. None of them were successful. None of them were rich. None of them were champions.They were all trapped on an endless hamster's wheel - chasing the illusion of a big pay day that would never come.
I made a conscious decision that I would do everything in my power to not end up like that some day. I immediately latched on to some good sense - I surrounded myself with smart, successful, positive people - and I moved forward in a straight line at a fast pace and I never looked back.
I strongly caution you against being consumed by the game of pool to the point where you sacrifice your education, your relationships, and your professional progress. I believe that anything that is good will enhance the quality of your life. If the game is causing problems in your life - then I believe that is your signal to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities. It is okay to have the game high on your list of priorities - but remember - life, family, friends, education, career ... they must come first. Those are the things that will sustain you when the balls start looking fuzzy." ~Blackjack's Random Thoughts, 12-08-2007, Mental Game Mastery.

Monday, September 22, 2014