Is it Time to Run the Table?

I need to sink the Five and bank the Cue ball down toward the lower left pocket.

Confidence is the one of the most important strengths we can have. Knowing that you can do something before you start does more than set expectations, it helps you to complete the task. You can take my word for that or you can look it up. If you look it up, be prepared to find more people trying to sell you confidence building potions and mental workout programs than evidence. That’s why you should just trust me, I’m not selling anything. I will give you an example though.

Do you think that I could make the shot shown at the right? The game is 9-Ball. That’s the next ball in rotation but the question isn’t really whether or not I can make that shot, it’s whether or not I can make the next five shots. Can I run the table? If I can’t, I will probably lose the game. Any number of things can go wrong between trying to sink the ❺ and putting this game in the win column, but I think it’s worth the risk.

I like this risk because it’s totally within my control. I am capable of making this shot and leaving the ball in position to make the next shot, and so on and so on. It’s up to me. Luck isn’t involved. Other people aren’t involved. The movement of markets, the trends of industry and global economic pressures are not at work here. It’s me, that pool table, my understanding of physics, geometry and what happens when I hit that white ball. The risks are that I’ve overestimated my ability or that I’m over-confident, cocky or stupid.

I’m not stupid.

I don’t think I’m over-confident; I think I’m just-enough-confident. Confidence is required when taking a risk like this because being scared or nervous will affect my ability. I know that I can sink those balls and win this game. Besides, it’s a computer-based game of pool running on my iPhone. What’s the worst that can happen?

Actually, the worst that can happen is that I’ll start over analyzing my willingness to take risks and that will cause me to start altering my behavior in other areas of life.

Risk taking is something that we do all the time. Every decision we make involves risk. Do we go to college or pursue a trade? Which trade? Which major? Which college? I knew a lot of people when I was in school that had a plan, but very few were convinced that they could run the table with that plan. Still, they made the attempt. I know others who finished their education according to plan, but did not pursue the career they originally considered.

This was caused by a car trying to merge across a few lanes of traffic in front of that truck.

Those are big, potentially life changing decisions. We understand their importance and most of us prepare to make those choices. On the other hand, we make, or fail to make, lots of little decisions on a daily basis. Can I pass these cars and get around that truck before the exit? Can I merge in front of that school bus? Judging by my daily commute, these are decisions with which many people actively struggle.

In the early ‘80s, my route to work included an intersection where I would have to join a main road at about a 30° angle. There was a stop sign on my road. One day, I came up behind a guy at that stop sign. He looked left and pulled out. I pulled forward, cranked my head around and looked left and judged that I could slide in in front of the car that was coming. I pulled out only to rear-end the guy ahead of me. He had had second thoughts about whether he had enough room and decided to stop.

I learned a lesson about driving that day, and one about risk taking. Not all people have the same appetite for risk. I also learned that people are often nicer than you expect them to be. The guy that I hit felt that he was partially responsible for the accident and suggested that we both just tend to our own damage. One of my coworkers suggested that he probably had drugs in his car, but I’m going with the thought that he was a nice guy.

Getting back to those long-term risks, my college experience was a small series of bad decisions that, when combined, led to a pretty good result. It’s way too much to go into today, or even in a single blog post, but it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell, just so you know.

A game of pool isn’t the best analogy for life, but it’s good for a few of life’s challenging moments. Life gives us a lot of those moments. Life keeps putting the balls back on the table, changing the game, changing the opponents and raising or lowering the stakes. It’s OK though. Based on my experience at this life thing, there are times I play it safe and times when I think I can run the table. How about you?

By the way, I did run the table to win that game.

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49 thoughts on “Is it Time to Run the Table?

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  1. My husband did the exact same thing you did – rear ended a car that had started rolling only to stop a couple of feet ahead when the driver realized she couldn’t merge into traffic. My husband had also been looking left, planning to merge into traffic right behind her. Like you, both drivers realized they were at fault and decided to resolve the issue with the insurance companies being involved. Sometimes it does work out that way. I’m glad no one was injured in your accident or ours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to be much more a risk taker, now, not so much. Now, I don’t even like to turn left, lol! I squint my eyes shut when The Mister does it, across a six-lane road. Then I tell him, “I’m so proud!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Over-analyzing is a killer. Just do it! On the other hand, I cannot stand when people don’t drive like me. Just go–none of this ‘on second thought’ stuff! Hey, congrats on winning the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful discussion about risk. I have always been amazed by those who are risk adverse. I had to tone my tolerance for risk when it came time to invest. I was growth a go go the whole way and I had to get serious about preservation after retiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, Audrey, when were you riding with my mother? It took quite a few attempts to get the screen shots for five balls in a row. I thought I was going to have to settle for three. Thanks for the confidence and the ongoing support for this blog.


  5. Great story Dan.
    We all asses risk differently and tolerance for risk is not the same for everyone. My pet peeve is with people who tend to dramatize or see things worst then they are and use that excuse to do nothing. We call it : “overestimating the improbable:
    people tend to overestimate the likelihood of catastrophic events or serious events occurring, especially those that receive heavy media coverage
    example: people being scared to fly after 9/11, when car accidents are far more common than plane crashes” Sometimes it can refer to smaller things like refusing to take the metro (subway). Let’s not forget that the choice to do nothing is still a decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your last sentence is the most important. I’ve run into this a lot in business and in groups that I belong to. It also goes under the name “we’ve always done it this way” and it really can be frustrating and limiting. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an excellent post that makes me think. I was already in a philosophical mood when I started so it seemed like fate to read. You are absolutely right: life is a series of scenarios that lead to a life. When reflecting, you can view them negatively and agonize, which impacts your future choices, or regard them as necessary learning opportunities. I have been struggling with this mind shift for a while, but it is so much more beneficial to your future self to choose the latter mindset, so thanks to your post and other developments that have brought this way of thinking to the front of my consciousness, i choose learning opportunities over mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely the right choice. We learn from failed attempts and if we try again, we have abetter chance of success. The trick, I guess, is not to fail so significantly that you can’t try again.


  7. I’ve learnt more from my experience than what I’ve learnt from my parents because they both died very early. I was just 14 then. My confidence and self-esteem was crushed over and over by the wrong decisions I took due to lack of experience. Somewhere down the line I realized I was not willing to take risks, I was scared to take decisions and be responsible for the consequences. However, through many biographies of great people I realized that you have to be strong, take risks, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and be responsible for your actions. I am still scared at times, but I never let my fear grow bigger than my belief.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations for overcoming such a significant challenge Sharukh. I think that would make anyone fearful. Everything that I’ve seen you branch into, in terms of your writing, has been something that you have done well. I’m glad to know that your confidence extends beyond that. Thanks for this comment.


  8. Another good post, Dan. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I immediately thought of the Twilight Zone episode “A Game of Pool” with Jonathan Winters and Jack Klugman. It’s one of my favorites — partly because I find pool an interesting game, but mostly because it’s really about what you’re talking about here: taking risks and finding out what you’re willing to sacrifice to reach a goal. If you haven’t seen it recently, I’d recommend a rewatch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that episode Paul (I know, there’s a surprise) I struggled with this post because I don’t normally venture too close to inspirational stuff. I actually recorded those screen shots last December, and I was planning for this to be an upbeat inspirational New Year’s post. The original title was “A Game of Pool” but when I saw that episode during the Marathon, I decided to change it. I also struggled with trying not to co-opt that message. I’ve always focused on Winters’ other message, that you also have to take time and live. I remember (I won’t get it right) his line at the end about “it not being a simple game” with Klugman’s character and that’s that’s why he responded the way he did. That episode was pure gold and perhaps the best casting decision in the whole series, although I think Burgess Meredith staring in The Obsolete Man might be the best. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite casting decision on TZ — simply because the show was so cast, week after week. It’s one of the things that fans tend to overlook, but picking the right actor is half the battle, and Winters was a counterintuitive choice that proved to indeed be the right choice for this episode. As for Meredith … the guy was operating on a whole different level. Amazing performer, and yes, ideal in “The Obsolete Man.”

        Liked by 1 person

          1. No doubt. George T. Clemens, who was TZ’s cinematographer, once said of the series: “Everything has to be just right. We shoot 15,000 to 20,000 feet an episode to get 1,800 feet of what we want.” THAT’S the guy you want working for you. He’s got talented AND dedication. He’s part of the reason we’re still talking about TZ 55 years after it debuted.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Speaking as a pool player —- you can’t take yourself too seriously . No one runs the table every time . That doesn’t imply bad decisions ; maybe bad breaks , a bad day ; maybe the table is screwy . Gotta maintain a sense of humor and move along .:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d put “sense of humor” right up there, maybe a touch ahead of confidence Dan. I’ve played enough pool to know that you rarely run the table (well, it’s rare for me). Sometimes though, you get that layout and you know that “perhaps” you can pull it off. It took a long time for me to get 5 screen shots in a row, and that’s on a computer game :)

      Thanks for your support over here, I really do appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Confidence is everything. Okay, maybe not literally but it sure makes such a big difference in life. I see it in my son, whom I try to teach quiet confidence, I see it in the successful people I work with. I am a huge risk taker, but haven’t always had big amounts of confidence, not until later in life. Kind of strange, isn’t it? Being a risk taker, but not always possessing huge confidence. Never thought of it that way. Sure, you’re talking about a game here, but there is a great point in it. Had fun pondering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Taking risks without confidence” does seem strange, but I guess it’s not all that uncommon. Maybe that’s how we build confidence. It is fun to ponder. Thanks for the comment.


  11. This is great Dan. I get it totally. Isn’t if funny how each of us has a different level of such confidence? And where does it truly come from? Genetics? Environment? Past life experience? Me, I am beginning to recognize a pattern of self sabotage that has been with me since I was a child. Example: I am p,aying a game of Jacks (you know it-bouncy ball, metal pieces on the floor, sequential rescuing the jacks..) with my siblings. I am rocjing it, winning! The moment I recognize I am going to win, my finger slips, I miss the much needed jack and go on to lose the game. It has happened to me over and over again. And I have no idea why. Am I afraid to win? This is one reason I am completing my novel, good, bad or ugly and why I keep on no matter what. I have so many 90% finished art projects and story ideas….your post is marvelous. I would like to hear that college story too..😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Jacks is one of those games that should come down to your skill. Then again, maybe one of your siblings can manipulate gravity, you never know. The college stories are coming, but a little here and there.


  12. Or, put another way: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

    I like this for bunches of reasons, including that some of my greatest inspirations are small green creatures (Kermit the Frog, etc.). In this context, I note the absence of the word “risk” from the statement. For them, there’s no overall risk, for “not doing” leaves them in the same situation they started in.

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained?

    Maybe freedom IS another word for nothing left to lose!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Not sure if it’s true for everyone but I won’t hesitate to take an important risk for something with significance, while I will run the same idea in my head for smaller things. I like your narrative about the car incident because it shows the direct effect of risk-taking decisions that can change a lot in a split second. Like you I would have thought that the other driver was a good person. It’s better to see the world that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for adding to the side of seeing the world with a little optimism. It’s interesting that you will mull over smaller risks while moving quickly on more significant ones. That may be the case for a lot of decisions I’ve made, but I think it was influenced by deadlines more than confidence.


  14. This is such a valuable lesson, and I’ve heard it time and time again: if you do it with confidence, you can do anything you put your mind to. Taking risks is hard though, especially when it comes to those big life decisions, and yet everyone who’s achieved wonderful things took risks at some point, so I guess there’s no way around them.

    Oh and well done on wining that game of pool (is that the same as 9-ball? I have to admit I have no idea). I have zero spatial awareness and I’m always in awe of people who can play pool or snooker because I am just so bad. It’s a great game for the confidence analogy though, because those who are good at pool always seem to approach the table full of confidence. There must be something in it, that if you approach the table fearfully or already primed for defeat you won’t be able to make the ball go where you want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Celine. 9-Ball is a variety of pool or billiards or a bunch of other names. There are many different games and the rules seem to vary by location and opponents. Whatever the game though, once you start playing, you’re in charge of your success. Your opponent may be better than you, and you may well lose (I’m not that good in real life) but you have the same chance, more or less. I think if you enter into any process with too much fear or concern, it’s going to affect your chances of success.


  15. I like your use of a game of pool to make your points about confidence. And what you say is so true. I’m successful in areas where I feel competent — public speaking, writing, chewing gum — and much less so when I’m insecure — swimming in deep water, technical climbing, new technology.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dan, I read this post the other day and felt that I had read it before. So I took a rapid scan of your posts to see if you posted it here once but I didn’t see it. Then I remembered it must have been at the BFF on Facebook.
    Anyway, I like the pool game analogy for confidence and risk-taking. I had my confidence take off once when I attended a project commencement and met some very senior engineers. I was to conduct earth resistivity test and advice on the lightning protection specifications. But, man, the big engineers were also interested in the project and they wanted to see how I do the test. I thought they would crucify me, maybe engage me in some verbal acerbity I would not be able to handle. They were many and some of them have been in the field since before I was born.
    For some time I just wished I hadn’t rushed to bid for the project.
    But when I began to do the test (after taking in a deep breath and telling myself: “Whatever”) they were quiet. They didn’t interrupt me. And I was absolutely technical in my explanation. Later, I realized from the questions they were asking me that some of them had never done such a test. My confidence returned.

    But about risks, just as you say, everything is a risk. Even eating. I was once told a story in a class of a guy who choked to death on a grain of rice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peter. You’re correct, I asked for advice in the group back when I thought this was going to be an easy post to write. Then, five months later, I had just about given up on the idea. I started Draft #3 and I like how it turned out. Thanks for the comment and for adding to this post. I love the examples others have added here. Choking on a grain of rice? that’s harsh.


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