How I broke through my toughest plateau

Tin Man

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
A few years ago I was facing a heartbreaking fact. I was as good at pool as I was ever going to get.

I had done my best and given everything I could. I had come a long ways and achieved a lot, but I hadn't seen any improvement in a few years and the game seemed to be getting harder, not easier. It didn't even feel like I was trying to improve anymore, it felt like I was grasping to duplicate prior performances that were achieved when I was younger, fresher, and bubbling with enthusiasm.

How could I get better? I had a family, a job, and no time or money to travel around and play pro tournaments or big gambling matches which seemed the way all the other players got there. No, it was the end of the road. I would either have to quit pool and move on to another chapter in my life, or resign myself to being a big fish in a small pond and just playing the same weekly tournaments again and again, winning against local players until the new generation passed me by and I sat silently on the sidelines with self loathing for abandoning my commitment to personal development.

Yes, I was in full on victim mode. Circumstances were what was stopping me from getting better. If only I could have the same opportunity as the full time players. If only I was more talented. If only I lived in a pool community with more top talent and pool action.

One day, and I still remember it clearly, I was at work and a question popped into my head. Suppose a rich old man who loved pool and took interest in my potential as a pool player made me a ridiculous offer. Suppose he told me he wanted to see what I was capable of as a pool player if I had unlimited resources. So he would pay me the same salary I was earning from my job, and any necessary expenses, to do whatever I needed to in order to become the best possible pool player I could be. And he would pay me this salary and fund my pursuit for two years. Then at the end of the two years, if I showed enough improvement, he'd bankroll me permanently into tournaments and help me make a run at the title. Suppose all of that happened and I could pursue pool without restraint. What would I do during those two years to take advantage of that opportunity?

It was an odd hypothetical question I posed to myself, but once I did it wasn't hard to start coming up with answers. I was amazed at how the ideas started to pour out of me:

-I would travel to at least one pro pool tournaments a month and test myself against the best
-I would get into gambling matches with strong players to build experience
-I would structure and organize my practice and be more formal about what I was doing and the progress I was making
-I would video record myself and break down every piece of my game and methodically build it stronger than ever
-I would watch more tape of top pros and study their every move, recreating some of their shots and techniques on my home table
-I would get a coach to help me plan my journey and hold me accountable
-I would work with a sports psychologist
-I would go to the gym and get into better physical shape
-I would practice my break with the break-rak an hour a day
-I would have written goals and review them daily
-I would journal about my matches and journey and reflect daily on my progress
-I would put together a more formal tournament schedule and strategize how to best use my time

See, a funny thing happened. I had been inactive because of my excuses for a while and had encountered a block that prevented me from seeing a path forward. But when I imagined a situation in which my excuses were removed it wasn't hard to see what that path might look like. And it was easy to brainstorm when I knew this was all fictional and I wouldn't actually have to act on any of this (because hey, I had my excuses).

But then the reality stared me in the face. The reality was this: That rich old man does not exist, and no one was going to walk through the door to pave the way for me. No, sir. Which leaves exactly one question. Am I going to give up, or do I just go ahead and do those things anyway?

If you know me you know my answer. It was game on. Of course the reality was still true that I had valid limitations on my resources. I couldn't do all of those things with full time capacity. But that didn't mean I had to do nothing. I'd do what I could. Period.

So I did something I learned from my corporate job when it comes to prioritizing operational changes. I added columns next to those items and rated them as follows: How much time would this item take? How much mental energy? How much money? And what type of lift do I think that would give to my pool game? Things that took a lot of time and money and wouldn't necessarily provide immediate results moved to lower priorities, and things that didn't take much time or money and showed a bigger return moved to the top as they had a better return on investment.

Then I took one long, deep breath, and I started.

The next year was one of the most incredible I've had in terms of pool progress. I was drilling, practicing my break, working out, and on down the list. While I didn't do all of these things to the full extent of my original vision, it was downright spooky how many of these things I was able to do in compared with the nothing I'd been doing when I had felt stuck before. Suddenly things started happening in my pool game. Shots that would've stopped me before started going in more frequently, and soon dependably. I found myself more motivated with the reawakened enthusiasm that had been lost before and I was playing better and better.

It didn't happen overnight, the progress wasn't linear, and there were setbacks when I'd lose steam as the other parts of my life would overwhelm me and knock me off the path like a tidal wave. But when this happened I'd pick myself up, dust myself off, and start going again like an ant.

Fast forward a few years and I'm playing the best pool of my life. I've had experiences in the last few years beyond anything I thought I could that day at work I'd thought I'd reached my limits. And the best part is I can still tell I'm improving and have more ideas on how I can make 2020 the best year of my pool career.

We all have different goals with pool, we are all at different levels and ages, and we all have different responsibilities and opportunities. For some people playing socially is fine, others are satisfied with their current level, and some just like to talk theory about the game and bang around some balls with a pal once in a while. There is room for everyone and I understand that. If you're getting what you want from the game then keep on keepin' on.

But. If there is a part of you that once dreamed of playing a high level that's been locked up inside of you for years, causing you pangs of grief every time you hear it cry out over the noise of your day to day life, just know this: The barrier that is blocking you from moving forward- it doesn't exist. There are things that can slow you down and may prevent you from keeping up with others who have more to put in, that much is true. But the biggest barrier is the one we build ourselves. And when we knock that down, while we can't achieve anything, we can achieve our personal best. And for me that is the only goal that means anything, and to me it means everything.
 

howlieboy9

Registered
Wow. Thank you for posting this. I am working tirelessly on my game and it feels good to hear a truly great player validate the idea of hard work and dedication for improvement. It feels like that is all it takes sometimes...just a god damn commitment to the work!

I only hit walls when I am not putting in the practice.

I am having a great amount of success in my local tournaments and local matchups but there is a long way to go for me. I still lose here and there and take it pretty hard. Especially in a match where I take a beating from another good player. I am currently in this weird purgatory of skill level where I can smash all the league players and casual tournament goers but GET smashed by any truly good players (675ish Fargo and up). This is my current barrier I have to try and break through...
 

logical

Part of the Conspiracy
Silver Member
In my fantasy it's a young woman, not an old man...but to each his own.

Congratulations on the year. I don't have the same ultimate goal..I am happy just to be able to beat any visitor to my home table who doesn't play regularly. It did remind me that I'm not taking advantage of having the home table and need to get some practice in.
 

8cree

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Thanks Tin Man, I needed that this morning... This actually applies to more than pool too!
 

Cornerman

Cue Author...Sometimes
Gold Member
Silver Member
How old is Tin Man? Well, he’s so old that the first time I saw him, he was in black and white. The girl he was walking around with was very pretty... and her little dog, too.

Freddie <~~~ Somwhere
 

bbb

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Great post Demetrius
Success comes from hard work and dedication
And having a plan
 

Rickhem

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Thanks Tin Man, I needed that this morning... This actually applies to more than pool too!

Great post Tin Man, and I agree with what 8cree says, that this applies to more than pool.....it actually applies to everything.

Thanks for posting!!!
 

asbani

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
A few years ago I was facing a heartbreaking fact. I was as good at pool as I was ever going to get.

I had done my best and given everything I could. I had come a long ways and achieved a lot, but I hadn't seen any improvement in a few years and the game seemed to be getting harder, not easier. It didn't even feel like I was trying to improve anymore, it felt like I was grasping to duplicate prior performances that were achieved when I was younger, fresher, and bubbling with enthusiasm.

How could I get better? I had a family, a job, and no time or money to travel around and play pro tournaments or big gambling matches which seemed the way all the other players got there. No, it was the end of the road. I would either have to quit pool and move on to another chapter in my life, or resign myself to being a big fish in a small pond and just playing the same weekly tournaments again and again, winning against local players until the new generation passed me by and I sat silently on the sidelines with self loathing for abandoning my commitment to personal development.

Yes, I was in full on victim mode. Circumstances were what was stopping me from getting better. If only I could have the same opportunity as the full time players. If only I was more talented. If only I lived in a pool community with more top talent and pool action.

One day, and I still remember it clearly, I was at work and a question popped into my head. Suppose a rich old man who loved pool and took interest in my potential as a pool player made me a ridiculous offer. Suppose he told me he wanted to see what I was capable of as a pool player if I had unlimited resources. So he would pay me the same salary I was earning from my job, and any necessary expenses, to do whatever I needed to in order to become the best possible pool player I could be. And he would pay me this salary and fund my pursuit for two years. Then at the end of the two years, if I showed enough improvement, he'd bankroll me permanently into tournaments and help me make a run at the title. Suppose all of that happened and I could pursue pool without restraint. What would I do during those two years to take advantage of that opportunity?

It was an odd hypothetical question I posed to myself, but once I did it wasn't hard to start coming up with answers. I was amazed at how the ideas started to pour out of me:

-I would travel to at least one pro pool tournaments a month and test myself against the best
-I would get into gambling matches with strong players to build experience
-I would structure and organize my practice and be more formal about what I was doing and the progress I was making
-I would video record myself and break down every piece of my game and methodically build it stronger than ever
-I would watch more tape of top pros and study their every move, recreating some of their shots and techniques on my home table
-I would get a coach to help me plan my journey and hold me accountable
-I would work with a sports psychologist
-I would go to the gym and get into better physical shape
-I would practice my break with the break-rak an hour a day
-I would have written goals and review them daily
-I would journal about my matches and journey and reflect daily on my progress
-I would put together a more formal tournament schedule and strategize how to best use my time

See, a funny thing happened. I had been inactive because of my excuses for a while and had encountered a block that prevented me from seeing a path forward. But when I imagined a situation in which my excuses were removed it wasn't hard to see what that path might look like. And it was easy to brainstorm when I knew this was all fictional and I wouldn't actually have to act on any of this (because hey, I had my excuses).

But then the reality stared me in the face. The reality was this: That rich old man does not exist, and no one was going to walk through the door to pave the way for me. No, sir. Which leaves exactly one question. Am I going to give up, or do I just go ahead and do those things anyway?

If you know me you know my answer. It was game on. Of course the reality was still true that I had valid limitations on my resources. I couldn't do all of those things with full time capacity. But that didn't mean I had to do nothing. I'd do what I could. Period.

So I did something I learned from my corporate job when it comes to prioritizing operational changes. I added columns next to those items and rated them as follows: How much time would this item take? How much mental energy? How much money? And what type of lift do I think that would give to my pool game? Things that took a lot of time and money and wouldn't necessarily provide immediate results moved to lower priorities, and things that didn't take much time or money and showed a bigger return moved to the top as they had a better return on investment.

Then I took one long, deep breath, and I started.

The next year was one of the most incredible I've had in terms of pool progress. I was drilling, practicing my break, working out, and on down the list. While I didn't do all of these things to the full extent of my original vision, it was downright spooky how many of these things I was able to do in compared with the nothing I'd been doing when I had felt stuck before. Suddenly things started happening in my pool game. Shots that would've stopped me before started going in more frequently, and soon dependably. I found myself more motivated with the reawakened enthusiasm that had been lost before and I was playing better and better.

It didn't happen overnight, the progress wasn't linear, and there were setbacks when I'd lose steam as the other parts of my life would overwhelm me and knock me off the path like a tidal wave. But when this happened I'd pick myself up, dust myself off, and start going again like an ant.

Fast forward a few years and I'm playing the best pool of my life. I've had experiences in the last few years beyond anything I thought I could that day at work I'd thought I'd reached my limits. And the best part is I can still tell I'm improving and have more ideas on how I can make 2020 the best year of my pool career.

We all have different goals with pool, we are all at different levels and ages, and we all have different responsibilities and opportunities. For some people playing socially is fine, others are satisfied with their current level, and some just like to talk theory about the game and bang around some balls with a pal once in a while. There is room for everyone and I understand that. If you're getting what you want from the game then keep on keepin' on.

But. If there is a part of you that once dreamed of playing a high level that's been locked up inside of you for years, causing you pangs of grief every time you hear it cry out over the noise of your day to day life, just know this: The barrier that is blocking you from moving forward- it doesn't exist. There are things that can slow you down and may prevent you from keeping up with others who have more to put in, that much is true. But the biggest barrier is the one we build ourselves. And when we knock that down, while we can't achieve anything, we can achieve our personal best. And for me that is the only goal that means anything, and to me it means everything.


Not to knockout your story but I knew from the get-go the answer, I knew what you were going to say even though you explained them in detail but to progress in pool the answer is very simple.

Play more, practice more, them pros practice 10 hours a day! Get this in your head, and trust me, the time they stop practicing 10 hrs a day, they will go down a level within a year or two.

I remember a pro player by the name of George SanSouci "RIP", he was so good in the game in the years between 1998 to 2001, he pocketed balls very cleanly, he played incredible positional patterns, the guy was really talented.

However, in the year of 2004 I saw a video of him and he looked like a B player and I asked what happened to him, then I found out that he picked up another hubby "Fishing" and was not practicing as much pool.

In other words, you practice more, you get better, then you keep on practicing, 7hrs or 10hrs a day, unless you have a gambling match or a tournament to go to.

This is what pro's do, it is very very simple, give me a salary and let me practice 10hrs a day "Everyday", then fly me to tournaments, you will see me play at pro speed where breaks will then be the decider of the matchups <--- this is another story.

Ill give you another example, if you take SVB who is an incredible player, and let him do other hubbies for a year with zero practice, he'll lose a level or two.

Wanna be as good as pros? Practice 7 to 10hrs a day, everyday.
 

jrctherake

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Tin Man:

I don't know how you are able to juggle the pool, work and family responsibilities without at least one of them taking a back seat.

I couldn't do it so, I quit pool a few decades ago and didn't pick a cue up again until I was retired.

I'm not saying everyone should quit pool...lol...not in the least. However, I am saying that most understand that they can't commit that much energy, time or even money to pool without something else in their life suffering a loss.

For those that can, my hat is off to you.

Thanks for the read. It was very inspirational.

Jeff
 

S.Vaskovskyi

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Not to knockout your story but I knew from the get-go the answer, I knew what you were going to say even though you explained them in detail but to progress in pool the answer is very simple.

Play more, practice more, them pros practice 10 hours a day! Get this in your head, and trust me, the time they stop practicing 10 hrs a day, they will go down a level within a year or two.

I remember a pro player by the name of George SanSouci "RIP", he was so good in the game in the years between 1998 to 2001, he pocketed balls very cleanly, he played incredible positional patterns, the guy was really talented.

However, in the year of 2004 I saw a video of him and he looked like a B player and I asked what happened to him, then I found out that he picked up another hubby "Fishing" and was not practicing as much pool.

In other words, you practice more, you get better, then you keep on practicing, 7hrs or 10hrs a day, unless you have a gambling match or a tournament to go to.

This is what pro's do, it is very very simple, give me a salary and let me practice 10hrs a day "Everyday", then fly me to tournaments, you will see me play at pro speed where breaks will then be the decider of the matchups <--- this is another story.

Ill give you another example, if you take SVB who is an incredible player, and let him do other hubbies for a year with zero practice, he'll lose a level or two.

Wanna be as good as pros? Practice 7 to 10hrs a day, everyday.

One wants to believe it is just so simple but in reality there are enough examples of the players who manage to play at a pretty high speed practising as much as 3-4-5 times a week, each practice session a few hours and I don't know if they ever practiced 7-10 hours a day.
Do you want the examples? There are plenty of them. Do you want to know how many hours a day the young gun from Poland Wiktor Zielinski is practicing? Have you ever heard about Pareto principle?
 

Black-Balled

He Rides the Skies
Silver Member
One wants to believe it is just so simple but in reality there are enough examples of the players who manage to play at a pretty high speed practising as much as 3-4-5 times a week, each practice session a few hours and I don't know if they ever practiced 7-10 hours a day.
Do you want the examples? There are plenty of them. Do you want to know how many hours a day the young gun from Poland Wiktor Zielinski is practicing? Have you ever heard about Pareto principle?

Pareto principle is coomonly known as the 80/20 rule. It is a
(Theory?) observation that 80% of occurrences are the result of 20% of the influences. I guess that it would apply to pool in a way...but a 20% difference at the top level is huge.

The interwebs phrase it: 20% of exercises and habits have 80% of the impact.

Whoever wrote the internet did pretty goodly
 
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Tin Man

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
practice

Thank you all for the replies.

Not to knockout your story but I knew from the get-go the answer, I knew what you were going to say even though you explained them in detail but to progress in pool the answer is very simple.

Play more, practice more, them pros practice 10 hours a day! Get this in your head, and trust me, the time they stop practicing 10 hrs a day, they will go down a level within a year or two...

...Wanna be as good as pros? Practice 7 to 10hrs a day, everyday.


Asbani, you are correct of course that if you want to be as good as the pros you have to put in tremendous hours in competition and work extremely hard on your game.
And you're also correct that most of us already knew that.

My main point was addressing the situation that impacts 99% of the players on this forum. They know pool requires a ton of table time and they don't have that amount of time and energy to put in. So they have a choice:

1. I can't put in enough to be pro/perfect/#1 so I'm not going to bother
2. I'll do the best I can with what I have to put in

Many of us are perfectionists and have traits like all or nothing thinking. We grew up thinking "I'll do anything it takes to reach the top", and once our choices prohibited us from investing as much time and energy as needed we lacked a different vision for our pool journey. If we can't see how the effort we put in gets us to where we want to go we get discouraged and defeated. A good test of this is if we have ridiculously high standards that we hold professionals to but we excuse our own selves from those standards as if to say "Those don't apply to ME because I'm not a full time player, but if I was, well, then I'd play 12 hours a day and bust the world, but since I can't do that I'll just do nothing..."

So my post was actually about fighting back against this mentality, and against the excuses we make to ourselves about how we just can't. It's about shifting our goal from perfection ("I'll do anything it takes to get to the top") to doing our personal best ("Here's what I have to put in, let's find out how much I can extract from it").

I'm not impressed when people have ridiculously high standards of others. I'm not impressed when they have ridiculously high standards of themselves that paralyze them into defeat and inaction. I'm impressed when people have ridiculously high standards of themselves that they come short of every day but continue on trying because it's a heck of a lot better than the alternative...
 
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jrctherake

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
One wants to believe it is just so simple but in reality there are enough examples of the players who manage to play at a pretty high speed practising as much as 3-4-5 times a week, each practice session a few hours and I don't know if they ever practiced 7-10 hours a day.
Do you want the examples? There are plenty of them. Do you want to know how many hours a day the young gun from Poland Wiktor Zielinski is practicing? Have you ever heard about Pareto principle?

I agree 100%.

There is a saying about being great and practice:

One can't practice their way to great.

Not sure who coined that....but I tend to believe the same.

If we could practice our way to being great, hell, most of us basement players would be killlers.

Jeff
 

strmanglr scott

All about Focus
Silver Member
Lol, you awoke your "natural talent".

Let's see, hard work, good practice, grew your knowledge, all backed up by passion, a burning desire to be great. Yep, that boy has great "natural talent".

Great post Demetrius. There are no shortcuts to greatness and there is no magical gift that takes you there.
 

sjm

Sweating it at Derby City
Silver Member
Great post. Far more about life than pool.

Every one of us ends up with regrets about opportunities lost. For so many pursuits in our lives foregone, we wonder why? When the answer is that other things were far more important, we understand. When the answer is that we could have and should have done more, we have regrets. As you note, sometimes the barriers to chasing our dreams are imagined.

Hence, your decision to prioritize reaching your highest level as a pool player is ambitious, admirable, and will be ultimately satisfying. No matter how it all works out, you'll have no regrets down the road about not having given it a shot.

Wishing you continued success.
 
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