If you’ve read any of my books you know I often talk about how important it is to suck less in key moments. This idea is frequently mentioned by clients and readers as something that has been incredibly helpful, both for dealing with tough situations and for sustaining confidence, so I wanted to highlight it this month.
The advice is quite simple. When you are in a tough place, whether it’s a drawdown/downswing, lacking discipline, feeling desperate, having the urge to gamble, or feeling paralyzed and unable to make the right decision – basically any situation when you’re at your worst and feel miles away from your best – it’s in those moments when you need to find a way to suck less. When your C-game is more likely, pushing yourself to suck less is the key to moving your inchworm forward.
Trying to suck less immediately removes the burden of trying to be at your best. When you are not where you want to be, the strain of knowing how far off you are and wanting so desperately to just get back to your “best” actually makes the journey back there harder and longer. Sucking less removes the expectation of being at your best and gets you focused on how to be just a little bit better, taking the first step on the road to getting back to your best.
When the chips are down and you are struggling, things can feel pretty dark. You can feel stuck and unsure how you’re going to get out of it. But something as simple as just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is enough to give you a boost. Too often traders, poker players and golfers give up control in these moments and hope it’ll work out.
Sucking less in these key moments is how you’ll find a way out. It’s a step you can always take that can move you forward, no matter how bad things get. Here are some ideas on how to go about it.
1. Define C-Game
Just because you have the idea to suck less doesn’t mean you automatically do it. While neither the idea or the application of sucking less is that complicated, to consistently do it well requires some prep work. First off, you need to make sure you have a clearly defined C-game, otherwise you won’t be able to recognize in real-time when to turn this strategy on. If you haven’t completed an A-to-C-game analysis, now is the time to do it.
Hindsight makes it really easy to know what you should have done differently, or avoided, or not done at all. But in the moments when your emotions are intense it is easy to get stuck in the repetitive cycle of the same bad behaviors, poor execution, or terrible decisions that characterize your C-game. That’s what is most likely to occur and when you know what you are up against you can prepare yourself to make different choices. It’s not a complicated task but it’s essential to taking the next step and devising a strategy to give you a chance of making progress.
2. Devise a Strategy
After you’ve defined your C-game, come up with a strategy to suck less in practical terms, and make sure to give yourself room to test and learn what ultimately will work best. Too often clients think they know what is going to work in these situations, and get frustrated, anxious, and down on themselves when it doesn’t work out. Until you know what works, you’re in the process of testing and learning.
For example, if you close out trades prematurely, sucking less might be holding on for 2, 5, or 30 minutes longer, whatever makes sense. Maybe you take 50% of the trade out and leave 50% in to manage your risk. The point is to scale it down to something you can actually do. Maybe you struggle with the discipline to do proper warm-up or cool-down around your poker sessions. You know you need to but can’t make yourself sit down and do it consistently, resulting in too many times when you skip your warm-up because you slept late, or avoid your cool-down after a big winning or losing session. So sucking less for you is doing both for just a few minutes.
The key is to specifically outline what you can do in that moment that is progressing you forward. It may be such a small step that it feels pathetic. That’s fine. Sucking less is not after perfection, it’s just after progress.
Importantly, if you are in a place where you are prone to gambling or desperation, make sure you protect yourself. The concept of sucking less can be risky when trying to improve upon such severe issues. Attempting to make even small C-game improvements could still be incredibly costly and might mean that you’re quitting far earlier and before you’re really tested. I talk about this in more detail in The Mental Game of Poker and The Mental Game of Trading.
3. Build Strength Around Your Weakness
Many of us don’t like to admit we have weaknesses, which is bullshit. Just because you have areas of weakness doesn’t mean you don’t also have areas of strength. Having a C-game does not negate the fact that you still have a B-game and A-game. And, as your C-game improves, your strengths improve as well. Sucking less allows you to build capacity to move forward. But it does take work.
Much like going to the gym, you want to start with what’s manageable and build on it over time. If you are new to weightlifting, you can’t expect to go in and lift 200 lbs. You start small, building strength and endurance over time while incrementally adding more weight.
As an example, if you are prone to tilt, that’s where you are mentally weak. If you are truly embracing your capacity in that moment, then you try to be a little better about not succumbing to your anger or catching it earlier before it becomes too intense. Repetitively making that effort over time is how you make permanent progress and build strength to sustain you going forward. It’s not always easy (unfortunately, it’s rarely easy) but it’s where real change happens.
Lastly, if you are struggling to even suck less, it means the issues or flaws that are causing your C-game in the first place are more intense that you realize and you have to go back to the Mental Hand History to ensure you are going after the right flaws.
Small steps matter. Your ability to be at your best is linked to how strong you are when you’re weak. Being stronger, or sucking less, in critical moments can be transformational over time. And, if you are willing to share, I’d love to hear more about where you are trying to suck less. Click here to answer.