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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » Obsession, Compulsions, and the Pursuit of Excellence - a Landmark Post

   
Author Topic: Obsession, Compulsions, and the Pursuit of Excellence - a Landmark Post
Kwea
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I have wanted to start this topic for a while now, but I wasn't sure how much of this I wanted to share here. I am still a little unsure, but it's not like this is anything to be ashamed of, or worried about from a professional standpoint, and I am interested in what people here think about this topic.

I play pool. I am pretty good at it, and at one time I played about the semi-pro level, meaning that I played people who made a living at it on a regular basis, and did fairly well against them. I gave beginning lessons at a pool hall, and private lessons to lower level players who wanted to improve their fundamentals. I usually placed in the money at most of the pool tournaments I played in, and quite often I won them outright.

But this topic isn't just about pool. Pool is what I know, and what I most often relate to because it is, or was at least, my area of excellence. It is about trying to be the best at anything, in a measurable sense. Not just "the best you can be", but actually reaching a pro, or near pro, level at a sport or profession.


It's funny how much effort, time, and money it takes to try and get there. But worse than the money it takes is the amount of concentration, dedication, and practice it takes.

When I played regularly I played 6-7 days a week, at least 3-4 hours a day. I am not one of those players who could play 5 times a month then go win a competition, I always had to be playing. Which was fine at the time, as I had sucky jobs, no relationships, and loved playing pool. All I had going for me often was this game, this pastime. All my friends were pool friends, for the most part, and even the women I dated were pool players. When I dated, which was rarely.

I have a history of becoming obsessed with pastimes. I LOVE music, and when I was learning flute, my first (and best) instrument, I literally walked around with my flute attached to my lips as I walked around the house for hours at a time. I became first chair flute in a nationally ranked music program in MI, and my senior year I learned literally 7 new instruments in beginning band. Half my day my senior year was spent in the band room.

I took up swimming, but after some interpersonal stuff between a coach and me, and several of the players, I quit swimming, which I was quite good at, and started playing tennis. I sucked, but I loved it. I started playing daily, for 4-5 hours a day. I liked a girl who played for the womens team, and we became close. We would go out to the community college and play under the lights until 10-11 pm, then go home. On the weekends my friends and I played for 3-4 hours, went and ate, then played more. Sometimes for 12-14 hours a day.

I never got good, but I did improve, and I loved it.


But when I moved suddenly to MA, up in the hill towns, I let both my music and tennis go. It was actually almost physically painful to do so, and I swear I almost had physical withdrawal pains from it. I got moody, had trouble sleeping, and basically because very depressed. Not just because of giving up my habits, although I am sure that is part of it. I wanted to stop doing anything that reminded me of MI, and so I forced myself to stop doing the things I loved. Talk about stupid....

I began playing pool as a way to kill time between classes at the local college. Soon I was working at the campus center, and playing almost daily. I was horrible, and my hand eye coordination was horrible as well, but I loved the head to head competition. I came in 4th college wide the very first time I played in a tournament, and became hooked.

In order to actually be good at pool, or I imagine at any competitive sport or game, you have to have the ability to focus on minute details for long periods of time. I struggled with this, as pool for me was a social thing. I loved meeting new people and playing them, but the parts of your brain that deal with speech and those that deal with spacial relations are opposites in many ways. If you are talking, you are basically getting in your own way.

About 2001 I read a small book about the mental game that changed the way I practiced, and made me easily 3 times a better player. It was written by someone with an actual background in psychology....he had written textbooks on psychology that the Ivy League schools used....and he explained a lot of things that I had wondered about for years, off and on. It was about the mental aspects of the game, and it explained why a lot of the "common knowledge" about the mental game of pool was utter bullcrap. [Big Grin]

I began playing at a semi-pro level, winning hundreds (and a few times thousands) of dollars. I went undefeated 32 matches in a row in my pool league, and had the highest level of difficulties in opponents in New England during those matches. I won head to head matches against people who had been house pros for years, and despite my aversion to the seedier aspects of pool I began to dominate almost everyone I could play locally. Not everyone, but most of the players who would play me.

The best players all wanted to play for money, something I usually avoided. Too many bad situations, involving God knows who's cash and interests always accompanied those type of matches so I didn't like playing for money heads up. It wasn;t the pressure....I would pay $125 to enter a tournament, pand end up playing those same players for as much as $3500, and beat them fairly often. Not all the time, but enough to feel like I was always in the game. The more I played the more I won, which made me tougher and tougher to play against.

But I rarely played head to head for cash, and that limited some of my matches too. I didn't like that because I had seen too many friends end up hating each other over $100 bets. I had seen too many dirtbags get pissy over losing cash, and I wanted nothing to do with that side of the game. I once beat a guy out of $500, then afterwards I found out he sold drugs for a living. I donated the cash to a local charity, but it still felt dirty. The worst part was he paid up right away, and wanted to play me more and more the more I beat him. I had to make excuses NOT to play him. But a part of me wanted to, because it was easy money.


Eventually, I hit a wall. I stopped improving.

I am sure a lot of you are familiar with the "point of diminishing returns". It's an economic law, and the simplified explanation of it, at least as it applies to physical pursuits, is that the better you become at a game or sport the harder it is to move to the next level of proficiency. A beginner can spend 2 hours practicing a shot and see a huge improvement in his game, particularly in his odds of making that particular shot. After 4 hours of shooting it, over a few days even, he might see his chance of making that shot go from 30% to 70%. However, to go from 70% to 80, it takes just as much time as it too to go from 30% to 70%.

It takes 3 times the effort to move from 90% to 95% than it does to move from 30% to 90%. It takes an equal amount of effort to move from 95% to 96%..... No joke. But at that level, you HAVE to be 95% or more on most common shots. Hundreds of shots. No joke.

We are talking 6 hours of practice a day, minimum, 5-6 days a week. Practice....not play. 6 hours of focused, non-social drills. Banks, long shots, cuts, reverse banks, caroms, combo's, safety plays, spot shots, multi rail kick shots, spin banks, and position play. To start.

At this time I was spending at least 30 hours a week playing. Often times more than that. About 1/3 of that was practice time, where I would work on specific shots or situations. Probably 1/3 of it was devoted to casual playing with friends. And the other 1/3 was serious shooting against high caliber players. As high as I could get to play without betting my paycheck, anyways.


I was good, far better than most people, but I couldn't seem to break into the next level of consistency. To be honest, I had hoped one day that pool/billards would become an Olympic sport, and that I would play well enough to try out for the team. Barring that, I always wanted to come up with the cash to enter the US Open, and play in it. I didn't expect to make the Olympic team, or win the US Open, but I wanted to be good enough that I could make a try for it. After all, once you get to a certain level you CAN run a table, and anything can happen if you get hot.


I stayed at that level, or close to it, for 2 years. I never got any better, and after a while I got worse. I started to get pissed off, and I had trouble focusing.

Then I met my wife, and it was all over. [Big Grin]

Within 3 weeks of starting to dat her, my game fell apart. Not so bad that other people could tell, but I could. I wasn't worried though.....I still played well enough for league, and I had fun. And I knew that Jenni wasn't just another date.

She even joined my pool team, and got a friend of hers to join, and we had a blast. But I still was expecting myself to play at a high level, and I couldn't. I still played 20 hours a week, but I rarely practiced, and a lot of my play was social.


It's amazing how much effort it took to get where I was, and how easily I lost it all once something else became my priority.


I took almost 5 years off, only playing occasionally with friends. Then about a year and a half ago I took it back up, and joined a team down here in Ocala. Despite being really rusty, I played well enough to go undefeated in both 8-ball and 9-ball, although not in both at the same session. [Big Grin]

But once I was in school, I played more. I used it as a relief valve to let off steam. I found myself beginning to do things I swore I wouldn't even do again. Losing my temper, getting down on myself, and playing more than once or twice a week.

Now, a year later, I am playing 3-4 times a week, almost 20 hours a weeks again. I am not very good by my standards, probably a level 3 (B-) player. (level 1 are beginners, level 2 are fair league players, level 3 are good league players, and 4 and 5's are semi pro and pro level players. They can also be called A-E players, with A's being basically pro level).


And I want to play more, and become better.

lol


I wonder how many players/athletes are borderline personalities with compulsive tendencies. I have a hard time NOT playing at times, and if I miss a day at the pool hall I feel almost guilty.

Yet I also feel guilty for wanting to do this all over again. For spending the money on it when I am not working, for wanting to play in tournaments when I should be studying, for not spending more time with my wife, who wants little to nothing to do with pool here in FL. (Smoking in public is legal here, when it wasn't in MA, and she HATES that).

Part of it is that the only people I knew here in Ocala used to be the people who worked for me. We knew no one here in town when we moved, and right now we only know some of our neighbors. Part of it is that Jenni doesn't even want to go out and do anything because smoking in public is legal here. She doesn't have any problem wiht pool, or me playing it, but she doesn't even want to do it herself, and I can't blame her. It's MY obsession, not hers. [Big Grin]

I got to know pool players because we did something in common, and now many of my friends here are people I play pool with these days.


But part of it is an obsession. Not a bad one, and not something out of control. But where does a fascination with something end and an obsession with it begin? I know dozens of people who play league on 3-4 nights a week. I play on one.....but I also play non-league at least 2 other times a week, sometimes more.

To succeed at something at a pro or semi-pro level, you almost HAVE to be obsessed. The amount of time, effort, and focus needed to succeed at that level demands it. But at what point does it stop being constructive?

Where is YOUR point of diminishing return, where the amount of effort and desire is so great for even an incremental improvement that it ceases to become worth the effort?


I remember playing so much City of Heroes that I became the 12th player anywhere to reach level 40. I met a guy who played during the day, just like I did, and we played every day for about 3-4 hours before I went to work. Then I would come home and play again, for 6 hours almost every night. I had just gotten a computer, and I found the game to be fascinating.

We made it to level 40 so fast that the game developers raised the level cap on the entire game to 50, and in game they mentioned that they did it because of our group, mentioning 4 of our players by character names. Turns out the guy I was palying with daily was a game developer for a competing project, and he and the rest of the gang were playing for 2-4 hours a day as part of their JOB, for heaven's sake. No WONDER they knew all the tricks, and had the time to play.

How did I? LOL

I realized I was spending too much time on it, and quit. But quitting was hard. I mean that I felt jittery, and hated not playing for weeks.

I play a lot of games now, but I don't go nuts over them. Even though sometimes I really, really feel an urge to. [Big Grin]


So I wonder how much of this is social, how much is a desire to win, and how much of it is my compulsion to play......

=================================================


Disclaimer: I play a lot, but not like I did, and I never will. But this topic facinates me for personal reasons, and for professional ones as well. Addictive personality disorders allow people to become addicted to a lot of things that you would never guess.......games, video games, food, and other, usually very specific activities. I wonder how much I have in common with those people a lot, and I think it's more than I would like to admit, although fortunately not so much that I have anything like the problems those people often do.

I have a cousin who is autistic, and he gets into grooves with specific topics. He becomes obsessed with them, and it's amazing the amount of effort and focus he puts into these obscure things. Yet they matter VERY much to him, so he has to try and balance his obsessions with the rest of his life, and sometimes he struggles with it.


At times, I can relate, I think. [Big Grin]

[ February 15, 2010, 04:11 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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Darth_Mauve
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I believe that there are social evolutionary traits that while being evolutionary dangers on the individual level, allow for racial growth. Much like some pine trees only release their seeds after a fire, I believe that OCD behavior has helped the human race continue. Most early scientific discoveries that lifted man from being hunter-gatherer limited societies to cities full of flourishing and conquering nature with their excess and tools, are due to the OCD behavior of a few individuals.

The guy who first thought to measure the seasons when the rest of the tribe was running around chasing mammoths was OCD.

The gal who measured how much tin and how much copper should be mixed to make bronze, while the rest of the tribe was pounding out flint was probably OCD.

The master craftsman who pounded out a sword blade 2000 times on each edge to make the greatest swords was definitely OCD.

So using your compulsion to improve your pool game is not a waste or a danger. Using it on your music might be better for society in general, but enjoying the hand dealt is good.

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TomDavidson
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I have almost the opposite problem: when I notice that I am becoming obsessed with any one thing, I immediately lose all interest in it.
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The White Whale
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This type of focused compulsion can be good from time to time. I tend to do it in waves. Last spring, I really got into birdwatching. It took me a few weeks to get familiar with the common birds, and from then on I listened and watched birds everywhere I went. I walked around with my binoculars for awhile. I listed to CDs of birdsong while I washed dishes. I read several books and watched several documentaries. I learned a hell of a lot about the local birds during that time, but as soon as the spring migration season ended, I lost interest. I then got obsessed with clouds, but that's another story.

I do, however, feel another wave of bird-obsession coming on with the end of this winter. [Big Grin] Maybe I have seasonal obsession disorder (SOD) [Wink] .

And thanks for the landmark, btw.

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Kwea
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I am not trying to compare myself completely to Olympic athletes, as what I do is a pale shadow of what they do, but the fact is that a lot of people are not capable of training that way for anything. Think about spending years, maybe even decades, training for 6-8 hours a day for a single event. How many things we take for granted do they have to sacrifice for it?


It's not normal, by definition. In a non-athlete it would most certainly be considered not healthy, maybe even dangerous.


Tom, when I am DONE with something, for whatever reason, I leave it that way. Completely.


That's part of the problem I am having right now. I tried to play pool half way, socially, but it just isn't working for me. I keep trying shots I know, but can't execute any more, and it frustrates me. So I get mad, which makes me play worse. So I start practicing, and trying to focus.....and the next thing I know I've played 5 times that week. [Big Grin]

[ February 08, 2010, 11:42 AM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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Alcon
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This doesn't just apply to sports, but to just about everything. I'm the same way you are - but with computer programming. I go nuts if I don't have a programming project. Or if I have to go a while with out working on my projects. I feel guilty as all hell and start wanting nothing more than to sit down and work on the project.

It's almost worse when I am working on the project. The list of things to do on it gets longer and longer the more I work on it. I come up with more and more ideas for things I could do to it. And I get more and more stressed out the more that list gets longer. The more I work on it the longer it gets. But I don't want to stop working, because when I sit back and see what I've accomplished - nothing feels better.

It's bad though. I program computers for my job. It isn't the same as my projects. I'm not in control of the project. I don't get to choose what I write. I have to write someone else's dream - not my own. But it's still programming. I still spend forty hours a week sitting in front of a computer writing code.

Then I go home and I want nothing more than to sit right back down in front of that computer and work on my own projects. I mean, I'll want to spend time with Shelly, of course. But I also desperately want to go right back to work. She'll want to go out on the weekend. As in anywhere out of the house. And I'll have to force myself. Force myself to do something that isn't just sitting down in front of the computer to work on my projects.

She works on the weekend, and as soon as I drop her off I race back home to plug myself right back in. I often forget to do chores because there was some problem in the program I couldn't solve and I just couldn't get up until I did. I'll have to drag myself back away from the screen to go pick her up.

It is an obsession in every single sense of the word. It is an addiction. The only difference between this addiction and the more harmful ones is that this addiction could make me "successful" in the eyes of our society.

I'm really glad I found Shelly. She balances my obsessive personality. With out her I don't doubt I'd be spending every minute of every day in front of the computer screen. But it definitely places a strain on our relationship - at least for me.

I recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. It's an examination of what makes people successful. Really successful. What makes them outliers in society. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Joy, Warren Buffet. It turns out it's a wide, wide range of things. And not all of them things that are in a person's control. But one of those things is practice. Not just a little practice - a lot of practice. Consistently the level of practice required to create an outlier at something is at least 10,000 hours. It takes about 10 years of practicing 20 - 40 hours a week to acquire that much practice at something. So all outliers are obsessive in this way. If you're interested in this sort of thing, Outliers is a great read and extraordinarily illuminating.

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Kwea
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I have seen that book, but not read it yet, so I will have to check it out.
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SoaPiNuReYe
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See, people like you make me jealous. I wish I could devote that much time to something and watch myself improve at it, but I guess my problem is that I enjoy doing nothing a lot and as a result I just rely on my natural ability to get by without ever honing it into something better or useful. You're the type of person that gets ahead in life because of their drive to better themselves. Imagine a scientist searching for a cure for aids or cancer with that kind of drive, not that there aren't any. My dad's the same way. In college it was ping pong lol, and now its his job.
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Kwea
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It's weird though. I love to read, and to play pool, but I have trouble spending any amount of real time on other things. I swear I am almost ADD.

I really think I might have an issue with that, actually. I self medicate with sleep deprivation.....I only sleep about 5 hours a night....so I don't have the nervous energy or the jitters, and so my mind will slow down a little bit. When I get too much sleep I actually talk even faster, and skip around from subject to subject like a hummingbird.


It's not fun for me, or for whomever I am talking to. [Big Grin]


I've learned to manage fairly well, but it worries me sometimes. I don't think it is normal for people to act this way, all or nothing almost all of the time. Most people seems to find a happy medium.


I am lucky. I read well enough to make up for all the time I slack off, and smart enough to process information and extrapolate well, so I test very well most of the time. Not everyone can do that the way I do.


But that doesn't mean that I don't wish I could slow down and focus on things sometimes. I have learned to force myself to do it somewhat, but it is always (and probably always will be for me) a constant struggle.

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theresa51282
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I can absolutely relate to this post. I am the same way. I can't do hobbies halfway. When I do get commited to a hobby I feel the need to work at it unitl I'm the best. I did competitive debate in college. I am sure I put in more time than 99% of other debaters and it was a fairly time intensive activity to begin with. I read everything I could get my hands on and would practice every spare minute. I also tend to have friends mostly that are involved with my obsession of the moment.

Since having a daughter, I have really tried to not pick up an obsessive habit. I know I can't do competitive activities without them taking up way too much of my time or the flip side is I don't enjoy doing them. Its the competitive aspect that drives me. I don't get obsessed with pasttimes that don't have measurable winners and losers at the moment because I really want to focus on being a great mom while my daugher is young.

I don't really consider it a negative personality trait. I think it is something a lot of really successful people have. I too have watched olympic profiles and thought that I would likely have been the sort of person who couuld spend 8 hours a day training and not feel like it was a burden. However, knowing this about myself, I make sure I don't let it develop into bad addictions. Its one of the reasons I don't gamble. I know I could get obsessed and addicted way to easily.

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Kwea
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Yeah, and that is one of the reasons I don't like to gamble while playing pool. If I am going to gamble, I like to do it on things I have at least a little control over, so you would think that pool would be perfect for this. Compared to cards, or most other things, at least there is a large element of skill involved.

I'll play some of the older guys $5 one-pocket, but I count that as paying for lessons. I mean, 10 years ago people were paying me $25 an hour for lessons. If I play Jimmy, who is borderline pro level at one-pocket, for 3 hours and he wins $15 dollars, that's cheaper than paying for the time. [Big Grin]


But I KNOW I could get in over my head playing head to head for cash, so I refuse to do it. I won't say I never have, or never will, but not compared to most players, and really not this time around. I don't have any disposable income, and I refuse to be playing for money I don't really have.


There IS a HUGE rush when you win a large amount of cash though. The best I have ever done was $3,600 in 2 days. I won $360 of it playing Keno (the first and ONLY time I ever payed it, lol), so I figured I'd let it roll. I won 3 tournaments, including one for $1,800, one for $1,200, and the last for about $200. The rest I won head to head.


I used part of that to pay off a car, and eventually lost the rest of it playing in expensive matches and tournaments over the next 6 months. [Big Grin]

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T_Smith
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Like soapinureye, I too am jealous. I remember seeing your pool cue when we meet, by the way- one of those mental images that always spring to mind when I play pool; quite beautiful. Whenever I try to start up a new hobby, it generally takes me a LOT of effort to move to the next step, and when I don't it bugs me.

Thanks for sharing, Kwea. Good to read about you and your experiences, as always. [Smile]

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BlackBlade
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That was a very interesting read Kwea. I enjoy knowing that much more about you.

T_Smith: Hey it's nice to see you around again!

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T_Smith
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Heya BlackBlade,

Good to pop in again. Probably will do so more often.

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Kwea
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Yeah....that cue was stolen. [Frown]


I have a new one now, not as nice but it plays good. Good enough for now, anyways. [Big Grin]

My mental image of that day? Lots of juggling, fencing, and the look on my parents face when they saw it all.

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Kwea
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Well, talking about this and putting it down in words seems to have helped a little bit. I have been playing decent, but haven't been running tables lately. Just messing up simple things, mostly.

Well, since I wrote this I began practicing a bit more. Not playing more, but being smart about it and running some of my old drills. While I am no where near what I used to be, I am playing a little better.

It helps that there is new cloth on the tables, as the owner recovered his tables. With the new cloth I am drawing the ball 1.5 to 2 table lengths again, something I haven't been able to do in years.

I came in 3rd in a local tourny, losing to the number one and two seeds by a hair. As I should, really....they are both better than I am. But I played well enough to win, just got a couple of bad rolls. [Big Grin]

Then I played a money player, one who is working on his game. He was taking it fairly serious, with his headphones in and trying to focus. I played better than he expected, and better than I had a right to expect to be honest. Not great, but pretty good. [Big Grin] I beat him 22 to 17 over all, although had money been on the line I am sure he would have found another gear. [Big Grin]

Still, not bad at all. There is a league called the Masters that involves playing heads up games of 8-ball and 9-ball with other good players. No handicaps, no spots, just heads up play between 3 people once a week. If I am going to stay playing in the league which is still a decision I have to make before next session, I think I am switching over to the Masters league.

They use the same format as the U.S. Amateur, which means each match is a race to 8, and each match is a combination of 8-ball and 9-ball. If you win the flip, you get to either pick which game is played first, or decide who breaks first. You play 5 games of 8-ball and 8 games of 9-ball, and the first person to 8 games won combined wins the match. It is possible to go all out and win just playing 9-ball first, but if you choose to play 8-ball first it means you HAVE to play at least a few games of 9-ball.

You can have up to 5 people on your team, with 3 people playing each week.

This sounds MUCH more exciting and interesting than regular league play to me. I am tired of sandbaggers who try to ruin the league for everyone. When I play them I make sure they know they are sandbaggers, then I whip them hard, but a lot of players, even higher level players, can't manage that. They let the spot get into their heads, and give the match away. Usually because they try and run everything out all the time.


I played some pros a few weeks back, and they were much better than I was.....but they didn't try and run out most of the time. They played me tight, and left me hard shots with no real payoff. I made some shots, but couldn't finish out the racks.....as they intended. [Big Grin]

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Tatiana
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This was a great landmark! I've gotten obsessed with things a lot in my life too. I went through a dinosaur phase in my 20s when I was reading every book I could find about dinosaurs, and buying all these scale models, and so on.

I read compulsively in general, reading everything by one author I find I like, or reading tons on the same subject, or whatever.

I got into knitting for a while and learned hundreds of knit stitch patterns, made scarves, sweaters, hats, an so on for everyone, then got over it.

For a while I'll be obsessed with making my house look good, cleaning and decorating and so on, buying stuff for it, particularly dishes but also blankets, furniture, pictures, kitchen gadgets, etc. Then I get completely over that and my house looks a wreck for 5 years, then I'll suddenly get the fever again and go nuts, etc.

Music I go through times like that with as well. Sometimes playing guitar or piano and singing, other times just listening compulsively to bands I like. It drives me nuts that so many people my age still listen to the same 500 songs from high school and college that they liked way back then and I can't bear to have something like classic rock playing in the background because I'm not able to shut it out and not hear it. There are some stores I just don't go in because the music they play annoys me too badly. I once had a job in a building that played Muzak all the time and nearly went mad. I would wake up in the morning with the realization that schmaltzy music had been playing in my mind all night.

Then for years I'll listen to no music whatsoever, and only put on NPR on the car radio when I drive.

For a while I was painting a whole lot, and buying art supplies.

Another time I was totally into water skiing for several years, and spent my time looking at and trying out various expensive skis.

Gearing up, in general, is a whole lot of fun, and at various times I've geared up for camping (though rarely done any actual camping), gardening (ditto), and other hobbies.

Running, yoga, exercise in general (cross training) have been obsessions at various times.

Cooking! I love to buy cookbooks and read them and mark recipes that sound good that I'd like to make. I actually do cook quite a bit now, and love to try new things and learn new techniques.

Animals in general and cats in particular I love. I bought huge medical books about cats and read them straight through.

I read the American Heritage Dictionary all the time for a while. It's actually a fun read, and I'd stay up all night reading it, at times. The regional notes are the greatest. =)

Computers were an obsession for me like in the late 70s early 80s. There was a time when I would stay up all night working on programs, but I burned out on computers and now I only program the industrial type (called PLCs), and other industrial controllers for work.

I decided to learn to sew once and made a great Hawaiian shirt that I wore for years but used up my sewing obsession quickly and moved on.

Astronomy: I have several telescopes and spent many hours watching the sky at night but got over that because it's too darn cold out there or else hot and buggy or whatever. Still love reading about astronomy but my skyviewing is limited now to occasional eclipses or comets or other fun rare sky events.

Building things in general is something I always find fun, even after doing it for years as an engineer. I got my son a cool skyrail toy for making marble roller-coasters but he had little interest and I ended up building the thing and having the time of my life doing it. I love models and so on, particularly if they do something cool and not just sit there. I built a handmade electric motor with hand-wound coils once, etc.

Some of these passions last for years and others drop quickly as my interest may suddenly dissipate. It's been like that all my life. I enjoy it as I think it makes life more fun and interesting. And I don't worry about dropping things along the way and not following through. Sometimes I pick them back up and sometimes not but it's all good. I think lifelong learning including sharpening skills is a good thing, as long as it doesn't interfere with relationships and job and so on.

I totally concur about gambling. I saw some friends lose more money than they could afford one night on a penny-ante game, and it stuck with me for life. They kept doubling the pot to win back all they'd lost and losing more until it went way beyond wise and a lot of feelings got hurt. I realized from that and from reading Dostoyevsky's novel The Gambler that I could easily become a compulsive gambler if I ever really won anything and so I just choose never to gamble (except on the stock market or whatever... non-zero-sum games ... and never put at risk more than I can afford to lose).

I think if I were you I might try to branch out and find what other interests might grab you for a while besides pool. You've already gone down that road farther than you're willing to go again, so it might be fun to try something new, mightn't it?

Learn how to control that anger, by the way. =) It's totally doable. That's my latest new thing is mind training and meditation, as described in the TED talk by the French Biochemist and Buddhist monk Mathieu Ricard. I want to see how far I can go toward being a kinder better person. One thing I've learned so far is how to be in complete control of my anger and other emotions. I mean, I'm not perfect at it yet but it's getting easier all the time with practice.

Good luck with whatever you get obsessed about next and be sure and post to tell us all about it. I love hearing about other people's interests and passions too.

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Kwea
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Yeah, a lot of the anger is self-directed, but I am not really mad at pool, or myself. I sometimes go into matches thinking that I "should" win, but any time you go into a match thinking about that rather than playing you are treading on dangerous ground.


Pool tells YOU how good you actually are in competition. It doesn't even listen when you tel IT how good you think you are before a match. LOL


I sold my main pool cue today. I kept a few others...then playing $5 8-ball after a tourney I won some guys cue. LOL


Even when I win I can't win. [Big Grin]

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Kwea
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I found a great cue a few months ago, about a $700 cue considering it had a high tech shaft that lowers deflection. Trust me, it works....about 80% of the pros use a low deflection shaft these days.

I paid $300 for it, and won $275 in a tournament the same day it came in. In the past 3 months I've won about $1000, all heads up in tourneys. If I play for anything outside of them, it's cheap, and only with guys I can learn something from.

But I have been spending more and more of my off time playing, and while in some ways I am playing better, I am getting frustrated again.

I am playing too good to play against medium low players, but not good enough to hang with the big dogs. [Frown]

To top it off I am in a slump now. I played twice last weekend, and played hands down the worst pool I've played in years. It was embarrassing, it really was, and not just because I played badly. I started to lose my temper again, something that hasn't been a problem in years. I didn't do anything stupid, but I was so angry at one point that I almost blew up at myself.

It's funny......I'd never even consider getting mad at a friend for missing a shot, but I get so down on myself, particularly when I am tired or worn out, that is stops being fun sometimes.


Sleep deprivation (because of the weird shifts I was working, not because of anything pool related) sure makes an impact on both your game and on your attitude.

I think it's time to take some time off. [Frown]

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