From Inspired Startup
In poker and in business, it’s much easier than you think to go on tilt. The most dangerous thing about being on tilt is when you don’t realize you are on tilt. For those of you who don’t even know what tilt is – going on tilt in poker is an emotional state whereby you can no longer make good decisions. Most often than not, this occurs in poker when you are expected to win a hand and someone gets lucky to beat you for a big payday. It can also occur if you start winning quite a bit and you start thinking that you are unbeatable (not too dissimilar from Wall Street the past few years). If you can’t recognize when you are on tilt, you are bound to lose everything you have and seriously regret your decisions when you get your normal state of mind back. Recognizing when you are on tilt in poker and in business will not only save you dollars in the long-run, it will also keep you positive and sane when things aren’t working in your favor and keep you hungry and humble when things are working really well.
I don’t think I’m a strong enough to avoid going on tilt. I’ve found the best way to address the issue is to realize when you are in it and have a game plan for addressing it before it happens. Here are five things that I keep in mind:
1. Have a spotter. Someone who will call you out when you make poor or irrational decisions. For me, just having someone appeal to my sensibilities at the poker table or in business is good enough for me to quickly react and get back on track. Perhaps, that is your advisory board, a board member, or even a trusted friend. Who is your spotter? If you’re in Seattle, go to events like Twiistup and meet like-minded entrepreneurs (full disclosure: I’m an investor and big fan of Twiistup). Be connected, be in community, be a spotter for others.
2. When things are going badly and it seems the business can only get worse, get perspective quickly. Things tend to work in cycles and getting through the negative cycles gets you closer to the positive cycles. Things are never as bad as they seem, and you need to stay positive. Be confident, make adjustments if necessary.
3. Maintain a healthy dose of humility and hunger. You should always celebrate successes, but don’t get comfortable with success. There is always reason to be conscious of competitors you haven’t heard of, employees that are looking to leave, customers that are pushing for lower prices, etc. Having humility and hunger forces you to always be learning, innovating, striving for excellence.
4. Taking a break. When you recognize that you are on tilt, walking away will help you make better decisions. I’ve been in some long, arduous negotiations and sometimes it can make me go nuts and make poor decisions. Taking some time to re-evaluate and catch my breath have helped me see things more clearly.
5. Have fun. I don’t mean to be flippant, but poker is a game, and business in certain respects should be looked at as a game as well. I’ve seen it too many times that when things get tough, you stress out trying to get even only to dig yourself a bigger hole. In business, things get tough, you get reclusive, spend more time on the business, and get further into the weeds and not having fun. Even when things are tough and mentally draining, what are you doing today to get back into the game? How are you having fun each day? How are you turning it into a game rather than work?
Generally, I tend to err on the side of being more steady – not getting too high nor too low. I think it helps me stay sane and positive. I know of quite a few successful entrepreneurs that are not very steady and get very high and very low. No matter which personality you are, I think everyone has the propensity to go on tilt – how do you recognize it and how do you address it? Let me know in the comments below.