Mental toughness is tough…but necessary

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“Headlines, in a way, are what mislead you because bad news is a headline, and gradual improvement is not.” – Bill Gates

The first quote I try to keep in mind as much as possible, especially when it comes to social media.  Everyone has an opinion on everything, and a very large majority of these people aren’t very open minded to someone else’s differing opinion.  How are we supposed to grow as people, as a society, if we can’t remain open minded, if we can’t empathize?

It all goes back to ego.  Everyone has an ego, but the most successful people know how to “control” their ego, for lack of a better word.  Poker is a prime example.  You get 10 people, mostly guys, sitting at a table with money in front of them, a deck of cards, and everyone trying to outsmart and out-level each other.  Prime situation for an ego & testosterone war.  It’s hard to become successful in poker if you can’t tame your ego.  This might mean moving down in stakes or not taking as many shots at higher stakes if you’re not playing well, being able to discuss hands and situations with peers and have an open-minded discussion about different ways a certain hand could have been played, and being able to not make every hero call (tough call) just because you want to look good for your friends or in front of the table, because you’ll probably be wrong most of the time.  It’s just one of the many, many mental aspects to a highly intellectual game.

Having the right mindset goes further than poker, or any other competitive field.  I’ve been able to keep a positive attitude (overall) about this disease I’ve been given.  It’s been 20 months since I was originally diagnosed, and it’s been quite a journey.  There have been so many ups and downs, and it hasn’t been easy, though I’ve probably had it easier than a lot of people.

I just finished up with part 3 of my surgery, having my stoma taken down, rerouting my digestive system to be more like a normal person.  The only difference is I don’t have a large intestine; I have a reservoir that takes the place of my rectum, and that reservoir is in the shape of a J (hence the name j-pouch).  It’s taken some getting used to over the past 2 weeks since the surgery.  I’ve had some moments where I second guessed everything.  But I’ve kept looking at the bigger picture.  In poker, a good player keeps in mind that everything is about the long term, not the short term.  That concept is applicable to life.  You may not have your dream job now, but if you keep working hard, you’ll give yourself a chance to get there.  You may take a loss investing in yourself or a business now, but with dedication, you’re putting yourself in a position to succeed.

As far as poker, the summer has been fairly up and down.  I didn’t make any noise during the WSOP Circuit in New Orleans, nor did I do much good when I was with my dad in Vegas for a week, but those are small sample sizes.  It’s important to view the bigger picture and realize that I’m a winning player, even though I may not have done well in those much smaller time frames.  Long term.

I was able to do some traveling this summer before my final surgery.  Laura and I went to Destin and enjoyed the beach, which was relaxing, thanks to my nanny letting us have their rented condo for their final 2 days.  I went to Las Vegas with my dad for a week.  It was great getting back out there, seeing old friends, seeing the beautiful scenery.  I love the general atmosphere out there and out west in general.  Laura and I also spent a couple days in Chicago, which is an absolutely huge city.  I feel like if New Orleans was downtown Chicago, and the suburbs stretched out just as far, Baton Rouge would be a suburb, even though it’s an hour or so drive away.  It was hard for me to wrap my mind around that.  Easily the biggest city I’ve been to.

I’m unsure what direction I want to take this blog now that I’ve had my takedown surgery.  I’m hoping things go well and it’ll be my last surgery, but that’s to be determined.  I want to do as much as I can to raise awareness for IBD.  Too many people are suffering, and not enough people take notice.  IBD is more than a stomach ache or a stomach virus.  So much more.  It hinders your immune system, makes your joints feel arthritic.  The medicines can cause weight-gain, acne, low bone density, rashes.  Those are the mild side effects.  But people put up with these side effects because when you find a medicine that gives you relief, you stick with it.  But it shouldn’t be like that.  If you know someone who has IBD, talk with them.  Give them a shoulder to lean on, an ear for them to vent to.  It’s such an isolating disease because not many people around you truly know what you’re going through.  Some people think you’re lazy, you don’t want to go to work, you are anti-social, when in reality, you’re just fucking tired.  You’re tired from bringing the groceries in.  You’re tired from straining in the bathroom.  You’re tired of going to the bathroom.  You’re anxious about being in public and knowing where the bathrooms are.  It’s really hard to put everything into words, but I would never, ever, ever wish this disease upon anyone.  Ever.

Before the first surgery (October 2013)
After the first surgery (October 2013) Cool tan line, bro.

It’s been a long road over the past 20 months, but it’s just the beginning of a long journey.  I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym, getting in shape, putting some weight back on, playing basketball, and just living my life.  Sure I’ll still have to be aware of where bathrooms are, but it’s not nearly as bad as what it used to be.  I’ve had the best surgeon I could have asked for, along with a couple of the best nurses, who answer all of my questions, whether it’s after 5pm or on the weekend when they’re off.

Right now, I’m focused on enjoying my life as much as possible.  These last 20 months have opened my eyes up to so much, and I’ve realized how short life really can be, especially with people my age having a much, much tougher time with IBD.  So everyday when I wake up, I think of what I can do to better myself and better those around me.  It’s a great habit, something we could all look at doing.  Because we can all improve.  It doesn’t have to be noticeable.  Like the quote from Bill Gates above, gradual improvement won’t make headlines.  Hard work isn’t considered “sexy” (unless you’re Scarlett Johansson, Kate Upton, Mila Kunis, etc. obv), but when the hard work is done, that end result will be sexier than someone taking shortcuts.

Speaking of sexy…

Before 3rd surgery (August, 2014) Check out those new specs.
After 3rd surgery (August 2014)

My weight fluctuated quite a bit over the course of the past 20 months.  I was about 160 lbs going into the first surgery.  My low point was February/March of this year (2014), when I was down to 128 lbs.  I was back up to 145 lbs going into the 3rd surgery, and I was 143 lbs at the doctor’s office this past Wednesday.  Looking forward to getting back all of that muscle I lost!

Never be afraid to fail. Failure is only a stepping stone to improvement. Never be overconfident because that will block your improvement.” – Tony Jaa

The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others. – John Locke

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One thought on “Mental toughness is tough…but necessary

  1. Kristy

    As always, your writing speaks volumes about your character, and your perspective on life is incredibly refreshing. Glad to hear things are finally looking up for you physically and that you haven’t looked down mentally. Get it! 🙂

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