When and why I broke up with… gambling

Time for another post in my series of “when and why I broke up with…”. It’s a series that generally deals with habit interruption, which I consider to be a cornerstone of personal development. There are several posts already in this series, and you can check out: when and why I broke up with… linux, or when and why I broke up with… smoking.

Gambling is a very dangerous thing. I won’t call it an addiction, because I really don’t know if it’s an addiction. But it can be a very destructive habit.

Well, I wasn’t a big gambler. But still big enough to ask myself from time to time: will I ever quit? Back in my student times, I was quite a party-boy, and an easy to go fellow. I started to work from my first year as a student and soon become financially independent. I worked for the newly opened FM radios in Bucharest, in the 90’s. I did it for about 6-7 years, going from newbie, or trainee, to DJ, and having my own daily show. Having a lot of freedom and a strong social activity, I soon discovered, among other interesting entertainment activities, gambling…

No real casino was in Bucharest at that time, or at least no one I can afford to go to. But there were a lot of little game-houses, where you could play electronic poker. Those machines are pretty interesting. I knew enough programming at that time to know that inside there was an equivalent to the Z80 CPU, so not much of a processing power. Already had my first computer, which happened to be a Z80 implementation, with a BASIC compiler, so I knew a thing or two… I also knew that the software algorithm in those poker machines wasn’t really good. And I had a lot of free time and no drive for any real responsibility.

And this is how I started to gamble: having free time, going out often, being curious from a technological standpoint (can I beat the Z80 CPU?) and soon attracted by the actual money motivation. It’s important to say that the money was not my real motivation. Or at least not at the beginning. It become a negative motivation once I started to lose. To really lose.

Negative motivation it’s a drive to do something out of fear. This is why I call it negative motivation. When you are striving to get out of debt, or to recover from a failed relationship, you are being negatively motivated by fear. When you accept the fact that everything that happened it’s part of your life and part of your journey, the fear disappear. And with the fear are going also the bad decisions that you make, trying to get out of the situation. But, more on that, later.

Enough to say that, almost without noticing, I found myself that I was a regular gambler for about 2 or 3 years now. There were even game-houses in the campus that banned me, because, being stubborn and having enough money, I was having quite a reputation. I also got lucky several times and won significant amounts of money, but that was completely irrelevant in regard to the total amount of money that I spent. Back in time, I think I could buy one or two good cars with that money…

After my radio period, there was a total shift in my carrier, when I started to work for a software company, as a quality assurance officer. For several months, the habit went hidden, but out of nothing, one day I found myself again in front of the machine, playing my whole paycheck… After just one year in that company, I decided to become an entrepreneur and started my own company. I was 28 years old. The company was officially registered one year later, when I was 29.

In the first three years, I worked 16 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. It was really tough. And, one day after those three years, I just realized that I had no intention whatsoever to play again. I realized that in one evening, when I was out with some friends, saw some machines, and didn’t felt anything about it. Like those 4-5 years of almost daily gambling didn’t exist at all.

At that time I was just plain happy. Didn’t tried to explain anything, just enjoyed the situation. But, several years after, meaning several days ago ;-), I completely realized the mechanisms that made me a gambling person.

I mentioned before the fact that I had no drive for a real responsibility. This is very important. All my gambling took place in the period when i was not completely and totally responsible for my actions. I was a good professional, I was a successful student, but not entirely responsible, with my entire being.

My real responsibility arrived when I started my company. When, out of nothing, I found myself with no money, no clients, only ideas (and most of them futuristic at that time, and very difficult to actually implement them) and with only myself to get out of this. Boy, that hurt! That was the exact moment when I had the shift from my risk taking capacities.

When I was gambling, all that I’ve done, was to play with the risk. There wasn’t any serious risk involved. All that I could lose were some money. My self respect, my goals, my life, were not tied up with that. I had a carrier, some goals related to it, and an activity that I called life. In that activity, I haven’t yet took any serious risk. I was actually earning my life by talking out lout into a microphone for 7 years. Was that my whole person out there? Of course not. It was just a fake copy of me.

Gambling was the part of my life were I exercised with the risk. One of the things I learned so far about risk is that only by taking serious and well considered risks you can put yourself out of the comfort zone and be a complete human being. No real stuff is taking place in the comfort zone. There’s nothing there. The real life means challenging yourself, overcoming all the obstacles and continuously develop yourself into a better one. And you just can’t do that without taking any risk.

That was my gambling reason. In the real life I wasn’t responded to any challenge, preferring to live a comfortable life. But my risk taking capacities needed a way to express. And I finished by sand-boxing my risk taking capacities. Practicing them almost therapeutically. Gambling. And when I started to lose, the fear also pushed me harder.

This is also the reason I didn’t felt anything once I put my life on a different path, becoming more responsible. There wasn’t any need for a fake risk, where I could only lose some money, compared with the risk I faced with my company. And, in a very intriguing way, even though I take far more higher risks now than in my gambling adventures, there isn’t any real fear. Not at all. Even if I’m wrong on something, I don’t fear anything because I know where I was wrong, and immediately start things over. Did it already, several times. Like I already said, despite the failures and mistakes, if I would draw a line, the result would still be positive. Because I put myself totally in. I was, and still am, completely involved in my company. I tied up a lot of things to it: my self respect, my goals, my values. My income, and my family income, not to mention.

Well, that was for me. I know this isn’t a “work for all” example. There aren’t such examples in the world, every person is different. I can imagine that are persons that consider gambling a way of life. That can be a choice. As long as it’s totally and genuinely assumed, it will pay out. Somehow.

Gambling is only about making or losing money. Life it’s about making or losing yourself.

[tags]habit interruption, gambling, personal development, entrepreneurship[/tags]

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