What can a poet teach us about Poker?
I got a book from a friend a few weeks ago. The Book of Disquiet is about Bernardo Soares, a Lisbon book keeper recording impressions and feelings he doesn’t intend to publish. Anyone who attempts to kickstart a big project, will sooner or later realise that hope and expectations walk hand in hand. The first is driving, the second might be crippling when making dreams compete with achievements.
It is widely agreed that being result oriented is a major barrier to evolution and development, yet everybody is.
Pessoa died in the mid 30s. Today, he is considered one of Portugal’s most significant writers. The Book of Disquiet’s Soares is thought to be close to Pessoa’s personality. He spends most of his time alone and lives through decades of unpublished writings advocating surprising ideas like cooking meals without eating them, buying books but not reading them or loving travel documentation but staying at home - as if the hope for achievements was enough.
It all revolves around the idea of a sort of aimless ambition and prolificness making Soares a writer with no other book to show but his soul. The goal seems to experience and document everything life has to offer in every possible way - a task too ambitious to leave any room for any other objective but, at the same time, making him appear lazy for others since he has nothing to show off with.
The Book of Disquiet is entertaining, celebrates many aspects of life but it’s also tough and desperately sad most of the time, a bit like a Poker tournament :-p
From the outside, Soares is seen as one of those who hope for nothing giving a lot of input into experiences and expectations while hoping life will ask nothing in return. He is timid, never wants to be the spotlight, yet ends up being the protagonist of one of the greatest Portuguese writings ever. The book is put together with plenty of short texts vaguely narrating a coherent-ish tale strewn with incomplete thoughts. It reminded me a lot of advancing in an MTT, proceeding hand after hand, doing your best to find your optimal game at every stage and regardless of whatever shit the game is going to be throwing at you.
Given Soares’ ability to totally disregard the uncertainty of the outcome of his act of carefully collecting all these ideas in exquisite writing, he teaches us the lesson that excellence is a consequence of dedication, not the achievement of a set goal. Achieving goals brings success but success is worth nothing without excellence since it often is the result of a combination of work with other factors such as timing, luck, opportunities...
Success can be the result of some sort of coincidences. That's never the case for excellence.
The book exists as an unfinished piece of work carrying and communicating the author’s general unhappiness. It feels like he never intended to finish it, just trying to collect as many experiences or thoughts as possible while gradually realising he could never experience it all - yet never giving up on documenting and extracting all he could regardless of whether and how he would be done one day.
Not being result oriented clearly kept plenty of distracting thoughts about fame and convenience away from him and ended up producing the best result.