My Own Worst Enemy

My Own Worst Enemy

Hiking in Red Rock Canyon

A bold claim, but here it is. Happiness lies in ones ability to forgo immediate gratification. The satisfaction from chasing temporary pleasure only lasts as long as the excitement of the stimulation. To find lasting fulfillment we must do something, achieve something. That sense of satisfaction we feel when we reflect on our proudest accomplishments is the happiness we know we’ve earned.

The hard part is that it’s counter intuitive. Working less is what we all would like to do, right? Wrong. We must work, and struggle, fail, struggle, and then finally succeed. When I play poker, it’s often not the wins that gives me a sense of satisfaction; it’s knowing I played my best. When I play bad and win, I’m still mad at myself. When I play good and lose, I’m content.

If we don’t deserve it, there’s no enjoyment.

Still don’t believe me? Think of the mountain climber whose goal is to summit Mt. Everest. Sure he could just take a helicopter, but that would be missing the point. The goal is not to be on top of the mountain. Is to get there and enjoy the clamber.


Un’affermazione audace, ma eccola qua. La felicità consiste nella capacità di rinunciare alla gratificazione immediata. La soddisfazione nell’inseguire un piacere temporaneo dura solo fintanto che permane l’eccitazione dello stimolo. Per trovare un appagamento duraturo dobbiamo costruire qualcosa, avere successo in qualcosa. Quel senso di realizzazione che si prova nel riflettere sui conseguimenti di cui siamo più orgogliosi è una felicità che sappiamo di esserci guadagnati.

La cosa difficile è che è contro intuitivo. Lavorare di meno è quello che tutti vorremmo fare, giusto? Sbagliato. Dobbiamo lavorare e combattere; fallire, lottare, e poi alla fine riuscire. Spesso, quando gioco a poker non sono le vittorie a darmi soddisfazione; è il sapere che ho giocato al mio meglio. Quando gioco male e vinco, me la prendo con me stesso. Quando gioco bene e perdo, sono comunque soddisfatto.

Se non ce la guadagniamo, non c’è divertimento nella vittoria.

Pensa all’alpinista che ha come obiettivo la vetta dell’Everest. Certo potrebbe prendere un elicottero, ma che senso avrebbe? L’obiettivo non è quello di essere in cima alla montagna. È di arrivarci e di godersi l’arrampicata.

Red Roack Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon, NV – Photography by Ambra Torelli

Join the Discussion, Send Over Your Thoughts!

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  • Just a Kiwi September 23, 2013 11:05 am

    Like your blog Alec. But to me the idea of achieving long term
    happiness is an illusion. You can never obtain it as life oscillates like a
    pendulum, back and forth between the pain and pleasure. You can never hope to
    hold the pendulum at one side of the spectrum. You can have that pendulum be
    more on the pleasure side for longer but it will always swing back as happiness
    is an emotion. You cannot constantly be thinking of your proudest achievements
    to sustain your feeling of happiness but you can return to that feeling when
    you choose to remember it.. but it is still temporary.

    How anyone achieves happiness is subjective…its almost hedonism
    where one seeks one’s own +EV in terms of what gives yourself the most pleasure
    or reduces the –EV (Pain). Alec, you may find it in your proudest
    accomplishments. Others may find it in being virtuous and putting others first
    above their own wants and desires. Some try to reject all conventional desires
    for wealth, power, sex, and fame- instead lead a simple life free from all
    possessions (Buddhist philosophy). Some find it in being a father or a mother.
    There are many things and many ways that can give you that feeling of
    happiness, but it is an illusion to think you can obtain it because it is a
    temporary emotion that always swings back at some stage.

    • Alec Torelli September 23, 2013 3:06 pm


      Thanks a lot for being a reader, even more for taking the time to share your thoughts. This is great stuff. I agree about the pendulum analogy. It's true. One of my favorite speakers, Dennis Prager once said, that "he doesn't want his happiness level to be a 10 one day, and a 4 the next day, but he aims to just have a steady 8." Of course you'll succumb to the natural swings in life that pull you away, but I guess my point was more of an overall philosophy to have which keeps one mostly content. It's easy to be happy in the good times, and natural to feel upset in the bad. It's in the middle that counts, and ones outlook is often the difference between someone who is constantly bitter and unappreciative and those who just walk around whistling all day.
      I really enjoy the stimulating convo though. Feel free to share more in the future.


      • Just a Kiwi September 24, 2013 5:54 am


        If your overall philosophy is to try be more content most of
        the time I still think the way people achieve that is subjective.

        For instance, let’s say for Sir Edmund Hilary (because he is
        a kiwi :p) the climb is the most enjoyable as his goal was “to get there and
        enjoy the clamber”. I am no climber but I would enjoy a ride in a helicopter to
        the top as my goal would be to see the amazing views and stand on one of the
        highest points in the world. What would make me happy would not make Sir Edmund
        Hilary happy and vice versa.

        Would you prefer to grind at poker 60 hours a week for years
        to make 1 million dollars? Or would you prefer the instant gratification of
        someone buying you a lotto ticket (freeroll) and you end up winning 1 million
        off it?

        Even though you may not ‘deserve’ the winning lotto ticket,
        you would be hard pressed to say there was no enjoyment in winning.

        Love for instance isn’t an achievement but is something that
        just happens.. yet for a lot of people (including myself) it can be source of the
        majority of our happiness. For me, Love is what can makes the middle swing more
        to that 8 mark.

        • Alec Torelli September 24, 2013 5:03 pm

          All good points.

          You and Sir Edmund might get equal enjoyment out of the same task because you prioritize them differently. However if you applied that philosophy to everything you do in life (taking a shortcut), you'd never feel any gratification or worth for anything you do.
          For the poker, I'd take the lotto ticket, simply because I have enough satisfaction in this industry already. But clearly some hard work is needed to achieve some reward. If you've ever read "The Fountainhead", one would end up like Peter Keating and resent themselves.

          Lastly, with love. I agree sometimes you get lucky and it strikes. But to keep it alive for 50 years takes work, lots of work, and isn't it that satisfaction from knowing you built something lasting together that is much more meaningful than a lot of "immediate gratifications" that lasted one night?

  • lukipoker November 24, 2013 10:12 pm

    Alec: I am enjoying reading your posts. While I covet your poker skills, I admire your focus on keeping your life well rounded with your writing and other outside endeavors which I now see include hiking (I thoroughly enjoy hiking Red Rock Canyon when I am in Vegas). I, too, enjoy writing and recently wrote a touching short story entitled "A Stranger at the Poker Table" which I'd be happy to share with you. Thanks for sharing your world with us. You are living da dream. Best of luck!

    • Alec Torelli November 25, 2013 4:52 pm

      Hey Luki: Thanks for taking the time to write, and appreciate the kind words. I'd love to check out the story. Please send it to [email protected], as well as any other suggestions or things you'd like to see more of.
      Good to have you have as a reader.

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