Author Archives: Aditya Ravi Shankar

Projection as a Mirror – How to eliminate anger, jealousy and resentment from your life

Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud talked about the concept of projection and the shadow self – All of us tend to project or see in others, qualities that we ourselves possess.

The things we admire and respect most in others are usually our own strengths. Sometimes these are strengths that we don’t even realize we have, or qualities that we have that aren’t developed fully. When we see these qualities we sometimes say things like “He is so amazing. I wish I could be like him”. What we don’t realize is that we have within ourselves the same ability or potential for it, otherwise we wouldn’t even notice it in the other person. Excitement, happiness, or admiration are usually signs that our subconscious mind realizes that we can learn a lot from this person and develop our abilities.

Similarly what we dislike the most about others are usually our own weaknesses. Often these are weaknesses that we are afraid to admit to ourselves or don’t even realize we have. We tend to get angry and resentful at others when we see these qualities. Sometimes the person we project them on may not even have the qualities we attribute to them. For example, a selfish person believes that any person he talks to is selfish too. Often the anger we express at this person is usually resentment at ourselves (sometimes without our being aware of it).

Whenever we are exposed to qualities that remind our subconscious mind of our own, it usually pushes buttons and triggers strong emotions. Any time we feel strong emotions like anger, it is usually a sign that projection is at work.

When I first learned about projection, it was through a simple exercise. Take some time to try it out.

Think about any person (it can be more than one) that you really admire and write down five qualities that you like the most about them.
Now think about someone you really dislike, and write down five qualities that you hate the most about them.
Done? Now take a look at these qualities carefully.
I’d like you to open your mind and consider the possibility, that these good qualities are your own strengths that you have not yet developed fully, and the bad ones are your own weaknesses that you deny or still haven’t admitted to yourself. Even if it seems a little hard to accept, take some time to think about what it would mean if it were true.
I found the results of the exercise incredibly enlightening. I decided to modify it slightly and apply the concept to my own personal growth.

Since then, anytime I find strong emotions being triggered, I try to figure out what strength or weakness of my own I am projecting. For example, if I get angry at someone for being pushy, I consider the possibility that I can be pushy and subconsciously resent it about myself. If I admire someone for being extremely talented at something, I realize that I too have the potential to be that good if I give myself time and learn from that person.

The best thing about the exercise is once you become aware of the quality and acknowledge it, you no longer have to do anything else. Just becoming aware of it helps it auto correct.

Over the last few years, I spent time for introspection after any argument to try and discover why it happened and what it taught me about myself. I learned to be grateful for people who pushed my buttons because they helped me to learn more about myself and help me grow. I realized that as I discovered these buttons and became aware of them, they stopped becoming buttons and no longer affected me. I found myself getting angry less often and stayed calm and happy more of the time.

This one idea has helped me in my personal and emotional development more than anything else I know. If you find that you have a lot of anger and resentment and would like to bring more peace and happiness into your life, I believe you should give this a shot. It may change your life.

One Handed Pushups and HIIT – A faster and more effective workout

Some time ago, I combined the pull up challenge and the push up challenge to create an exhausting full body workout. I got some great results, and was happy to be able to do 22 continuous good form pull ups. The only problem was that after three months, my body had adapted to the exercises and I was no longer seeing progress. Also, the idea of making tennis part of my “work out” meant it became more of a chore than something I enjoyed. I started dragging my feet getting to the gym because I had hit a plateau and the workout had got boring.

Naked WarriorA few days ago I read a book called the The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline. The book has the tag line – “Master the Secrets of The Super-Strong Using Body weight Exercises Only”. Pavel has a few ideas in his book that I found extremely interesting.

The first idea was that it is better to do a couple of reps short of failure and just train the body to get used to the new movement. Once the body gets used to the new motion, the ability to do reps increase without needing to reach muscle failure. The reason I agree with this principle is because this was how I learned to do my first pull up, and of course how the push up and pull up challenges work.

The other idea I found interesting was that we only need two body weight exercises to get a complete full body workout – the one-arm push up and the one-leg squat.

I decided that the one-arm push ups sounded like fun and re-started the hundred push up challenge using one handed push ups. The first day I completed the exercise I realized something important. The one arm push up is not just an arm exercise. It tightens every muscle from the arm and shoulder, going diagonally across the back to the opposite leg. It will also engage your core to maintain balance and keep straight.

I discovered how much it engaged my back muscles when I was bed-ridden the next two days. Word of advice – If you plan to do regular push ups, pull ups and then one armed push ups in the same day, it might be a good idea to have a quick back stretch routine between each set of exercises (at least until you get used to it). I learned the hard way that I had been neglecting my lower back in my previous workout. However my back is a lot stronger now.

Apart from one armed push ups, I also restarted both push up and pull up challenges. This time, the push ups are much slower, 4 second, perfect form push ups. The pull ups are also slow, with my arms as far apart as possible. Both are significantly harder, which is why I had to start both of them from week one.

The last modification was to change the cardio segment of the workout to HIIT running. The treadmill at our gym has a setting for interval training, and you can select both the time and the maximum speed. I was amazed at how exhausting a 20 minute run with a high upper interval can be. The first day was brutal. After one week, I was able to do it easily, at which point I increased the max speed by one and it became exhausting all over again.

So this is my new modified workout for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

1. 100 Push-up challenge: Slow, perfect form, 4 second push ups
2. 20 Pull-up challenge: Slow, perfect form pull-ups with arms as wide apart as possible
3. 100 Push-up challenge with one armed push-ups: Currently on an inclined bar. Will change to doing it on the ground once I complete the challenge on an incline
4. 20 Minute HIIT running: Am pushing the upper limit up by 1 every week which makes it very difficult for my body to adapt.

Now that the tennis is out of my workout routine, I only play tennis when I feel like playing so I can enjoy it. And since the workout is stretching my limits again, it has become fun too.

Aiming without Aiming Part II – How I really aim a billiards shot

My article on Aiming without Aiming has been one of the most read articles on this site. It received a lot of mixed reactions. The people who liked the article were those who found the concept interesting and tried it, or veterans who already used this principle without realizing it.

A lot of people however missed the point the article was trying to make.

Aiming without aiming isn’t the magical solution to pool mastery. A person who has never played pool before won’t start playing like a professional by trying to trust his subconscious mind after reading the article. Any player will need to learn to shoot using a basic technique like the ghost ball system and build a sufficiently large “shot memory” that his subconscious mind can use (by practicing and playing hundreds of shots). After that, learning to let go of conscious control and trusting the subconscious mind also takes a fair amount of time (working on inner game and learning to let go of outcome).

Take the example of driving with subconscious competence – A driver who has been driving for several years may be able to reach his destination on automatic pilot without paying attention to the steering wheel or where he needs to turn. He might even be able to multitask – eating or talking on the phone while driving. However a beginner trying to do the same thing will end up driving into the first large object nearby. A beginner needs some driving lessons and a fair amount of driving experience before he or she can start “driving without driving”.

So the fact is, when I am “Aiming without Aiming”, its not that I don’t aim; I just no longer have to consciously think about the steps involved in aiming because I have drilled the steps into my head over a period of time.

During practice today, I started paying attention to these steps. I did everything in slow motion and stopped at significant points so I could note what I really do when I aim my shots.

Here is what I do broken down as best as I could describe it. (While this system works great for close shots, I use a slightly more complex aiming system for long distance cut shots.)

Ghost Ball Aiming System

Ghost Ball Aiming Method

1. Mentally draw a line from the pocket to the object ball and see the path the object ball needs to take.

2. Extend the line past the object ball and imagine where the cue-ball needs to hit the object ball (using the ghost ball system). Draw a line from the cue ball center to the ghost ball center.

3. Align both my feet and the cue along the line of the ball and then go down on the shot. Ideally, if I am lined up correctly I don’t even have to adjust my aim any further. I should be able to make the shot most of the time.

4. Look at both the pocket and the shot image (the cue ball and object ball). After years of shot memory built in, I usually get a gut feel that tells me whether or not I am going to make the shot. If my aim/alignment is off, I will get a feeling that I am going to miss, in which case I usually stand up and realign myself until I feel confident that the shot will go in. Once I am lined up correctly, I usually get a “YES” signal that tells me the shot will go in. This is an intuition/gut thing that takes time to develop after making a lot of shots.

5. Shoot the ball using a good stroke with a smooth follow through. Watch the ball roll into the pocket and the cue ball stop for the next shot. In case the shot is slightly off, make a mental note and calibrate future shots accordingly. If your stroke isn’t perfectly straight yet you might find it useful to practice the bottle drill.

The idea is, over time these five steps become so automatic that you don’t even have to think about them and can focus on the other aspects of the game such as learning cue ball position control.

Hopefully this explanation will make it easier for people to understand what I meant in the first article on aiming without aiming.

If you enjoyed this article, continue on to the next article in this series, Aiming without Aiming Part III – A System for making Long Cut Shots.

You might also enjoy one of my most popular articles – Learn how to play pool well in under 30 minutes.


P.S. I recently discovered a better aiming system that works well even for making long distance cut shots effortlessly.
If you are having trouble with the ghost ball system or are uncomfortable of long cut shots, then give the parallel line aiming system a try.

P.P.S. If people are interested, I can share a series of drills that I use to teach complete beginners how to aim and shoot subconsciously. I taught a friend some basics just a few days ago and she made some amazing cut shots during a game about fifteen minutes after going through the drills. Its no substitute for years of practice, but these basics should give any beginner a jump start and have them playing very confidently in less than 30 minutes.

Putting it all together – creating my ideal workout

Over the last year, I have followed different workouts including cross-fit8 Minute Fitness Workouts, long distance running, the push-up challenge and the pull-up challenge.

I put together some of these routines into a reasonably exhausting 7 day workout that seems to work well for me.

It isn’t a perfect workout, but it is a full body routine that has given me fast and visible results in the past two months. I know this routine can definitely improve over time. I’d love to hear feedback and suggestions from people with more experience.

My Workout Plan

Monday
1. Week 6 of 100 Push-up challenge: 45, 55, 35,30, max (at least 55) push-ups
2. Week 6 of 20 Pull-up challenge: 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 12 pull-ups
3. One hour of Tennis lessons

Tuesday
1. 20 Minutes on Elliptical
2. 2K on Rowing Machine
3. 8 Minute Abs workout (from 8 Minute Fitness)
4. 8 Minute Buns workout (from 8 Minute Fitness)
5. Leg workout on machine

Wednesday
1. Week 6 of 100 Push-up Challenge: 22, 22, 30, 30, 24, 24, 18, 18, max (at least 58) push-ups
2. Week 6 of 20 Pull-up challenge: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 pull-ups
3. One hour of Tennis lessons

Thursday
1. 20 Minutes on Elliptical or 3K on treadmill
2. 2K on Rowing Machine
3. 8 Minute Abs workout
4. 8 Minute Buns workout
5. Leg workout on machine

Friday
1. Week 6 of 100 Push-up Challenge: 26, 26, 33, 33, 26, 26, 22, 22, max (at least 60) push-ups
2. Week 6 of 20 Pull-up challenge: 15, 13, 12, 10, max pull-ups
3. One hour of Tennis lessons

Saturday
1. 20 Minutes on Elliptical or 3K on treadmill
2. 2K on Rowing Machine
3. 8 Minute Abs workout
4. 8 Minute Buns workout
5. Leg workout on machine

Sunday – Setting new limits
1. Max Push-ups
2. Max Pull-ups
3. 3K on treadmill – newer/faster speed
4. 2K on Rowing Machine
5. Random new exercise that I read about and want to try

I am still trying to figure out the perfect diet to go with this workout. I am strongly influenced by Tim Ferris’s crazy diet, but find it hard to maintain since I don’t cook myself. Would love suggestions from anyone who has a convenient solution.

And as usual, the standard disclaimer for people who find this routine intimidating. I didn’t start with this workout. A few months ago, I was struggling to do my first pull-up.

The next fitness challenge – Twenty continuous pull-ups

After the hundred push-up challenge and then going from 0 to 5 pull-ups, my next goal is the Twenty pull-ups challenge.

Why pull-ups? They develop the arms, shoulders and back and help create that V shaped body that everyone likes. I prefer workouts that use body weight and exercise multiple muscle groups instead of isolating single areas using weights. Like push-ups, pull-ups are also easy to do with minimum equipment. After my initial success with cross-fit and pull-ups, I knew I had to incorporate pull-ups into my routine.

The twenty pull-ups site follows a similar layout to the hundred push-ups site. It has a customizable, progressive plan that takes you from 1-2 pull-ups to being able to do 20 continuous pull-ups within 6 weeks. For those of you who can barely do one pull-up, the site even includes two additional training weeks that have you trying half pull-ups.

Most people won’t have as much of a challenge getting through the first five pull-ups as I did, but if you do, reading about my initial pull-up journey may help. Personally I found it more useful to do assisted pull-ups with weights when starting out with my first few pull-ups. I could barely do even one pull-up when I started out.

For people who would like to be able to do pull-ups at home, I’d recommend buying a good pull up bar like the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar. It is very easy to assemble, attach and remove from a doorway. Having something like this at home means you can do a quick pull-up anytime you want instead of having to plan and schedule a workout at the gym.

I am on week 3 of the pull-up challenge right now, and did 26 pull-ups in five sets yesterday. My workout on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays has now become doing 150+ push-ups for the push-up challenge, about 20+ pull-ups for the pull-up challenge and then finally running on the treadmill for a couple of miles. I still can’t believe I am able do all of this. 6 months ago, I could barely do 1 pull-up, and even the prospect of starting the hundred push-up challenge was scary.

Its amazing how easily stuff seems to happen once you decide to just get started by taking small incremental steps to achieve big goals.

UPDATE: I enjoyed the final week of both the push-ups and pull-ups challenge so much that I incorporated them into my daily workout routine. It is a reasonably hard-core workout that is focussed towards getting fast results while being sustainable and is an ideal way to get toned and in shape without needing too much gym equipment.

UPDATE 2: I successfully completed the twenty pull-up challenge by doing 21 continuous pull-ups today. I will continue to keep Week 6 of the pull-up challenge in my weekly workout

Pullups and Pushups – A simple crossfit workout with amazing results

A lot of my friends have been on the whole Cross Fit band wagon. While I liked the idea, I found a lot of the exercises difficult to do without a gym, weights, and some experience with these exercises. I stayed away from it for a long time though I occasionally went to the site to check out the workout of the day.

One day I discovered an exercise they called “Cindy”; complete as many rounds possible in 20 minutes
i) 5 pull-ups
ii) 10 push-ups
iii) 15 squats

It seemed like a simple workout without any complicated routines that I didn’t understand.
The only problem? I couldn’t do even 1 pull-up.

I decided that this was something I wanted to work on. It took me almost a month before I could do one un-assisted pull up.

For the first week, I used to jump up on the pull-up bar, and slowly come down, so I at-least did the second half of the pull-up. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. I still couldn’t do a full pull-up (without jumping to build momentum, which didn’t really count).

The next week, I tried a different approach. I started doing assisted pull-ups with 6 or 7 plates. I used the assisted pull-ups to do my five reps and complete the Cindy workout. The pull-ups were still brutal, the squats a little easier. The push-ups, especially after the hundred push-ups challenge were the easiest part of the workout.

For almost an entire month, all I did every day was a one mile run and then Cindy. No other workout. Either the hundred push-up challenge, Cindy or running. After a few days, one plate came off, then another.

One month after I began, I was able to do 5 pull-up sets with just one plate. This is when I realized that I didn’t need the plate any more except as a mental crutch. The last plate came off.

Being able to do 5 quick unassisted pull-ups changed everything for me. I could be doing any other exercise, and for a quick break I would do 5 pull-ups and then get back to whatever I was doing. Soon I was doing 20-25 pull-ups every day in sets of 5. Today I can do 10 rounds of Cindy effortlessly.

Since I started this exercise, my upper body, arms and shoulder feel amazing. Include a run and squats, and I get a pretty good workout for all the large muscles in my body.

The visible results have got me a lot of positive comments and feedback from friends and family. Everyone notices that “I must work out” and “I look really lean and trim”.

The best thing about this workout is I need very little equipment, and it finishes so quickly it hardly feels like effort. No more 1 hour of cardio, no more heavy weights and complicated exercises.

And the results speak for themselves.

For people who would like to be able to do pull-ups at home, I’d recommend buying a good pull up bar like the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar. It is very easy to assemble, attach and remove from a doorway. Having something like this at home means you can do a quick pull-up anytime you want instead of having to plan and schedule a workout at the gym.

PS: Now that I can do 5 pull-ups without any problem, my next goal is the twenty pull-ups challenge.

PPS: After the pull-up challenge, I integrated pushups, pull-ups and squats into my new daily workout

My Skydiving Experience – Learn to face your fears by jumping out of a plane

eWe are born with only two fears – heights and loud noises. These are wired into our brains and go back to ancient caveman times. A time when there was a danger of us being eaten by predators or falling off cliffs.

Any other fears we have, we “learn” over time. They seem real, but they are only in our heads. Sometimes facing the real fears can help us put the not so real ones into perspective.

Anyway, some time ago I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, 3 miles in the air…

How did it start? This coworker of mine says he went skydiving last weekend, and of course now I am interested. I call up my buddy Andrew and say “Hey, I want to go skydiving. Interested?”. The next thing we know, we’re both signed up for jumping the same weekend. I hate heights, have never really enjoyed roller coasters and in NO way is this a good idea.

So the weekend arrives and we show up at the airfield all ready to go. We watch the training video, and the whole thing still doesn’t seem too scary. We get on the plane, all pumped up and excited – “We are going skydiving!!”. Then the plane goes up in the air, and we’re still going – “Yes!!! We are going to do this!!” and looking all bored.

Then the display in my hand reads 14,000 feet, the hatch opens up and the cold air starts rushing in…

And that is when the reality of what we are about to do hits me. “Oops!!”…

So I’m standing at the door, looking three miles down and trying to figure out where the landing spot is. I can feel the cold air rushing at me at an incredible speed. The sound of the air and the airplane engines is drowning everything else out. At this height, the landing field is the size of a postage stamp and I have absolutely no idea where it is.

I am scared out of my mind. I am not sure I want to do this any more.

My mind is racing and going .. “Oh crap!! There is no way that… AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!”.

Suddenly I am no longer on the plane and am dropping downwards at 200 miles per hour!! My evil instructor jumped off before I had time to get scared properly.

 

So there I am, flying straight down. And guess what? Gravity does work.

When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.
Leonardo Da Vinci

The funny thing is, the jump wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The scariest part of the skydive was the few seconds before I actually jumped out of the plane. The anticipation of the jump is worse than the jump itself.

Once you jump off, there is nothing more to really worry about. Its like the mind goes “Ah well. There is nothing we can do any more. So might as well enjoy the ride”.

The period of free fall during the skydive is the best part. All your natural instincts still telling you to stay alert since it is hardwired into your head. But your brain stops all silly chatter and starts watching and enjoying what is happening. It is the most peaceful you can ever be while still feeling an adrenaline rush. Scared, excited, and calm, all at the same time.

For those of you who hate roller coaster rides because of that weird feeling in your stomach? Great news. You don’t feel anything when skydiving.

I have gone skydiving a couple more times since then and taken a lot of my friends along with me. I recommend that everyone try skydiving at least once in their life. Even if you aren’t the kind of person who would normally consider it (I know I wasn’t).

Why? There is something about consciously facing one of your primal fears head-on that just frees you from inside. I would call it almost a spiritual experience. After facing this fear, all other fears fall into perspective.

Any time I feel scared, I tell myself “Hah! This is nothing. I jumped out of a plane” and suddenly the fear seems almost trivial and silly in comparison.

Since then, when doing something that scares me, I can ignore my fear as if it were a just a back ground alarm beeping in my head and nothing more. I do feel the fear, but I can do what I want to do anyway. I recognize the fear but no longer feel controlled by it.

It is like I have been set free from all my fears. And this is what I want everyone else to experience.

If you are considering skydiving, but are not sure about it, leave a comment about what is holding you back. Maybe one of the readers or I can convince you to take the plunge

So why do you play pool? The power of motivation

Pleasures of Small MotionsI recently read the book Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards by Bob Fancher. In the very first few chapters he talks about our motivation behind playing pool – Some people play because they like to win, others because they like to hang out with their friends and have a little fun. However one particular group of people, doesn’t care about winning and losing, or about socializing. They play because they LOVE the game.

These are the people who don’t even need another person to play with and are happy shooting by themselves. They enjoy drills and practice because they appreciate the beauty in each shot and the practice is a pleasure in itself. During games, they admire a good shot played by an opponent and cheer them on instead of hoping that the other person misses. All they care about is learning and improving and enjoying the game.

The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.
Martina Navratilova

It is impossible to motivate yourself to practice drills by yourself if you don’t love billiards and all you care about is winning. Practice becomes a painful chore that you have to finish before you can reach your wins. How can you learn and enjoy the game itself if you have to wait till the end of the game to decide whether or not you are allowed to be happy?

However when the beauty of the game itself motivates you, you can enjoy even watching a good shot. You realize that a single game means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and your motivation becomes to enjoy each moment and each shot. You can enjoy shooting well, and be happy whether you win or lose.

Recently I had started caring too much about winning and was extra hard on myself whenever I lost. After a recent losing streak, I started getting sick of pool and stopped wanting to even play. Reading this book made me remember why I started playing pool in the first place. How I used to spend hours at the table by myself just shooting. How much I loved playing “that perfect shot” and watching the ball slowly roll into the pocket.

I’ve realized it doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. Anytime an opponent makes an unbelievable shot, I usually ask them to teach me the shot after the game. Each time I see or learn something new, I have to go try it myself. Suddenly each game is no longer a win/lose situation but an opportunity to learn, improve and enjoy the game of billiards again.

Since then, I’ve started enjoying pool again. I’ve also got a whole lot better.

Having a bad night? Why bad nights are good for you

There is a tendency in all of us to desire to be our best selves all the time. We hate it when we are not doing as well as we know we can. “I am a little off today – I am usually much better”.

I love nights when I am confident and feel like I can do anything – “the good nights”. These are the nights that I am completely in the present moment and not inside my head. I am “in the zone”; doing things better than I have ever done before.

But not every night is like this. All of us also have nights when nothing seems to be going right. You can either call these nights “bad nights” and hate them, or call them “learning nights” and use them to grow.

All of us also have nights when nothing seems to be going right. You can either call these nights “bad nights” and hate them, or call them “learning nights” and use them to grow.

A few days ago I had a really “off night”. A night when I was missing even straight in shots. Where I was second guessing everything I did. Where I didn’t have the confidence to run more than two balls, even with ball in hand.

I never realized how important these nights are and how much they help improve my game…

I love nights when I am in dead stroke. Every shot seems so effortless and I am aiming without aiming. I don’t have to care about position play – If I can see the ball, I know I will make the shot. I don’t care whether I have three balls in front of me or seven. All I need is a turn at the table. I know that I can run all of them. On nights like this, I win lots of games by intimidation alone. Opponents start over thinking after watching me shoot and end up choking just because they know that if they miss, it might be their last chance on the table.

Next come the nights when I am not in “dead stroke” but I am still in stroke. I still have to think about position play because I don’t have the same confidence to make any shot. I have to think about what I am going to play before each shot, plan the english, wait till my mind is settled and make it. However I can reasonably execute anything that I decide I want to. Days like these are when I have to consciously remember to play one ball at a time and not rush it by thinking too far ahead. I have to concentrate on each shot or I might miss it.

This is how it was last night. I was winning several games, but the amount of concentration it took was almost exhausting, and I had to stop after a few games and take a break. Its definitely not as easy as being in dead stroke, but I can still do it. If I never had a night like this, I would never be able to build the stamina to concentrate for several games, one shot at a time, while being out of stroke. If I ever had an important match and was not in “dead stroke”, I would end up losing because I wasn’t prepared for it.

But the most important nights are the ones when I am completely out of stroke. Where every cut shot seems to miss the pocket by a few inches and even the straight in shots rattle out.

But the most important nights are the ones when I am completely out of stroke. Where every cut shot seems to miss the pocket by a few inches and even the straight in shots rattle out. Where I have to stop thinking about position because just making a ball seems like a miracle. Its as if I just started playing pool for the first time. As if I am not the same person who gets “rackless night” patches and can run tables. These nights usually happen when I am really exhausted from a long day or have a lot on my mind.

I had a night like this a few days ago. I had no confidence in my ability to make more than one shot with ball in hand. I just could not make cut shots. My opponent was on the hill because I kept missing shots and giving him the turn with a reasonably easy leave.

This is when I realized that I could either cry about not being in stroke and blame the entire situation on fate, or I could use all the knowledge I had, consciously focus on playing with a good stroke and play within my abilities.

I started shooting one or two balls and then playing strong safeties. There were times when I thought to myself, “if I had been in stroke, I could have easily run all five of these balls, yet I’m playing a safety”. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and focused on playing the perfect safety. I think my opponent gave me at least 10 ball in hands during that time. I won all the remaining games and the match without ever being able to run more than two balls at a time.

So why do I like these bad nights?

Nights when I am out of stroke force me to improve my game consciously so I can play better on the nights that I am not playing with subconscious competence. I was forced to learn by observing flaws in my own game, asking people for help and looking for good reference material. I did things like making a checklist of things to focus on for a good pool stroke. I discovered and started practicing the bottle drill to improve my stroke.

The mark of great sportsmen is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are at their worst.
Martina Navratilova

The thing I discovered is that as you learn to push yourself on these “off nights”, your off nights start getting better and better. With each “bad night”, you get closer and closer to playing like your best self.

Use the nights you are your best self to inspire you. Use the nights you are not playing well to improve, by discovering your weaknesses and working on them. Aspire to be your best self, and work towards it consciously every day. That way, every day you are working towards becoming the best that you can be.

You also start winning on your bad days.

One shot at a time – How outcome independence and being in the now can change your game

Sometimes one little concept can be the missing piece in your game.

Pleasures of Small Motions

I recently read the book Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards by Bob Fancher.  In the very first few chapters he talks about the motivation behind playing pool –  Some people play because they like to win,  others because they like to hang out with their friends and have a little fun.  However one particular group of people, doesn’t care about winning and losing, or about socializing. They play because they LOVE the game.  These are the people who don’t even need another person to play with and are happy shooting by themselves. These are the people who  enjoy drills and practice because they can appreciate the beauty in each shot, and the practice is a pleasure in itself.  During games, they admire a good shot played by an opponent and cheer them on instead of  hoping that the other person misses.  All they care about is learning and improving and enjoying the game.

However one particular group of people, doesn’t care about winning and losing, or about socializing. They play because they LOVE the game.  These are the people who don’t even need another person to play with and are happy shooting by themselves. These are the people who  enjoy drills and practice because they can appreciate the beauty in each shot, and the practice is a pleasure in itself.

Reading the book made me remember why I started playing pool in the first place. Since then, I’ve started enjoying pool a lot more. I’ve also got a whole lot better.  I’ve realized I don’t care whether I win or lose. Anytime an opponent makes an unbelievable shot, I usually ask them to teach me the shot after the game.  Each time I see or learn something new, I have to go try it myself. Suddenly each game  is no longer a win/lose situation but an opportunity to learn, improve and enjoy the game of billiards.

The Power of NowAnother profound book that has helped change my life is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  For a book that has nothing to do with pool, it is amazing how much the ideas from this book have helped improve my game.

The book talks about being in the present moment instead of the past or the future; about doing things for the pleasure of doing them, and not for the result. The path to enlightenment is very simple – Do one thing at a time.  Don’t think about why you started the task. Don’t think about what will happen once you complete the task. When doing the task, focus on only the task and nothing else.

The path to enlightenment is very simple – Do one thing at a time.  Don’t think about why you started the task. Don’t think about what will happen once you complete the task. When doing the task, focus on only the task and nothing else.

Eckhart Tolle convinced me that even washing dishes can be a path to enlightenment, as long as I focus on the task and learn to enjoy it  instead of considering it a chore. A couple of months after I read the book, I had this amazing experience of happiness, joy and peace. This is one book I would recommend to anyone who is not happy and satisfied with their life and wants to learn to live at peace with himself.

Putting these two books together, I discovered the missing piece in my pool game – The art of running a table isn’t just about planning ahead. It is also focusing on one shot at a time and taking pleasure in each shot.  Shooting the shot because we enjoy it, and not as if it were a painful thing that we have to get over with before we can get to the end of the match.

The fact is, even when we have a whole table to run, once we decide what order to run the balls in we have only one shot in front of us at a time. Nothing else. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. It doesn’t matter what the race is. It doesn’t matter if this is a tournament or a fun match.  It doesn’t matter how many more balls we need to make. All we have right now, is that one shot.

I try to focus on that one shot as if it were the last shot I have to play.

I look at the ball I have to make and where I am shooting.  I relax and let the subconscious mind do the aiming for me as I get down on the shot. I shoot with a straight stroke and smooth follow through. I watch as the cue hits the ball and listen to the sound of the cue ball strike the object ball. I stay down on the shot and watch as the object ball slowly rolls into the pocket and the cue ball moves towards where I intended. And then I slowly get up to see what I have to face next.  Once I make the shot, I can focus on the next shot. If I miss, it won’t matter anyway.

With so much amazing stuff going on, why would I even want to be thinking about the next shot or the previous shot? It would be like sitting at a movie theater and day dreaming about the movie sequel instead of watching the movie right in front of me. Why would I do that and ruin the amazing movie I have in front of me right now?

With so much amazing stuff going on, why would I even want to be thinking about the next shot or the previous shot? It would be like sitting at a movie theater and day dreaming about the movie sequel instead of watching the movie right in front of me. Why would I do that and ruin the amazing movie I have in front of me right now?

Over the last few weeks, especially since I started working on the bottle drill to improve my pool stroke, I have been running 6-7 balls effortlessly. And each of the times I ran a table, there was one thing in common – I was only thinking about one shot at a time.

Each of the times I ran a table, there was one thing in common – I was only thinking about one shot at a time.