Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Gambler’s Psychology for Life, Happiness, Success

You never count your money
when you’re sittin’ at the table,
there’ll be time enough for countin’
when the dealin’s done.
— Kenny Rogers, The Gambler (written by Don Schlitz)
Life offers up plenty of surprises, and the conversation that occurs between a gambler and a fellow traveller highlights the wisdom of an old-timer who learned the wisdom of life, supposedly, from his poker games.
The gambler picks that the traveller is down on his luck.  They travel aboard a train bound for nowhere, which is often the train on which gamblers end up.  The gambler’s there perchance.  His conversation with the traveller is his legacy, for a nip of whisky, a cigarette and a light.  The deal done, things get quiet, and the mood changes from frivolity to frankness.
The gambler knows what he knows about people who gamble by simply looking at their eyes.  Studies of body language make it possible to predict with some accuracy where others are at.  Body language, expression, and gestures are cues.  If we’re sufficiently interested in other people, motivated by actual love for them, God can give us the ability to see them.
As for the chorus of the song, here is what I believe the gambler is saying to us:
Know when to hold ‘em: retaining what we should keep, no matter the temptation to sell.  This is especially true about the spiritual things we’re to retain.  This is a spiritual matter.  Spiritual acquisitions of God are precious and priceless.
Know when to fold ‘em: giving away that which we should not keep.  Parts of our characters we need to let go of.  The rough edges God, by cruel experience, is burnishing off us.
Know when to walk away: when we’re behind before we get too far behind.  It takes a mature person to quit ventures trending to nowhere before things get dramatically worse.
Know when to run: when we’re ahead, we run, before we get behind.  Not being greedy, we get to run from that which could be a sweet temptation to stay when we shouldn’t.
When to Count Our Winnings
Only in clear sight of transition is it the right time to review what happened; what we walked away with.  We don’t count our chickens before they’ve hatched, because some might just be unfertilised eggs, suitable only for eating.  We don’t count our winnings at the table, because they’re not ours yet.  Only when we’ve run can we do such a thing.  This applies to all performance.  Do the performance mindfully, and when the performance is over, then conduct the review.
The secret to survival is knowing what to chase from what to leave alone.  Sometimes we’re winners, and sometimes we’re losers.  Nobody holds the aces on victory, just as nobody owns defeat.
It’s true that the gambler says, “the best thing you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”  To not have to experience death consciously is about the best way to do death, given that we all must experience such a morbid end.  And when the gambler, he rolled over, ready for that sleep, the song tells us he “broke even,” which is a gambler’s way of understanding he died.  In death we break even, for all we gained and lost in life is then put in a box.
Our circumstances in life are the cards we’re dealt; the way we play our hand speaks about our choices.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.
Postscript: whilst I deplore gambling for its addictive qualities that produce no end of personal and social problems, I couldn’t get past the incredible wisdom in this song, as a metaphor for applying wisdom to life.  Learn the wisdom, but please don’t gamble!

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