In the early part of the year I was doing my Leadership portion of ChoiceCenter, a course on Emotional Intelligence and I set three specific goals for that 3 month period. One of those goals was poker related, getting back in the top 15 of the GPI and quickly after completing the course I jumped to #1 and held that spot for about 19 weeks!

During leadership, you do what’s called a “PSP” which stands for “Personal Strategic Plan.” You set out a 3 month goal, and then write out a weekly plan on how to accomplish it. My poker PSP included poker study. I watched a lot of videos on, about 2-4 hours weekly. On top of that, I scheduled poker discussion sessions with friends I respect. Lastly, I watched some training videos on poker. You never get to a point in this game where you stop learning. I wasn’t really playing poker, but I was definitely doing “the work.”

For me, the leadership part of the course was by far the most valuable. The first weekend is called Discovery. That weekend is basically about discovering what holds you back from being as successful as you can be. The next weekend is called Breakthrough, and it’s about essentially “Breaking through” those walls and learning tools to help you accomplish goals that you will set in leadership.

In leadership, you work on your personal goals and are held accountable by coaches and a team dedicated to helping you achieve those goals. You also learn the value of making a difference in the world via a legacy project. My team raised $280,000 in a week for St. Jude’s children’s hospital, one of the top rated charities in the country. A whopping 86% of the money raised goes to the cause which is unheard of with most charities, as a vast majority of funds raised go into marketing and administrative fees. St. Jude’s has loads of volunteers and the hospital does work that changes the world, and they don’t do it for personal profit. They share their findings with the world so that more people with life threatening diseases can find hope.

My experience at ChoiceCenter was awesome and the results I’ve been able to create in my life as a result have been a fulfillment of things I could only dream of. Not just talking about the Player of the Year Awards in poker either. I’m physically the strongest I’ve ever been, easily in the best shape of my life. My relationships with friends and family are stronger and deeper than they ever have been. I have a clear vision for my life and the world. I get that I can make a difference for people, and I also see it as a life worth living. Making a difference. We all can in our own way.

I personally know over 100 people, many of them poker players, who have attended the course. Of all those people, I don’t know of a single graduate (someone who completed the 100 day journey) who had a bad experience and wouldn’t recommend it to their friends and family. I do know exactly 4 people who attended the first weekend, decided they weren’t open to it, didn’t like it, didn’t get it, and decided not to come back for the second weekend. Hey, it’s not for everybody.

From my experience I would guesstimate that about 3-5% of people that attend Discovery decide that it’s not for them. A class earlier this year had 107 people start the class, and by the end of the weekend 3 dropped out, while the other 104 continued on.

I know there are some people in the poker world that are very skeptical about the workshops at ChoiceCenter. I don’t take it personal, and I can speak from personal experience when I say that I believe in the work they do there and have seen results in my life, and in other peoples lives who have attended. The only naysayers I know of that attended, are people who essentially watched the first 10 minutes of a movie and decided that the movie sucked. They are entitled to their opinion, of course, but if I were going to see a movie and get a recommendation from someone, them actually seeing the entire movie would kind of be a prerequisite for me, but that’s just me.

The bulk of the naysayers are people who haven’t attended the course. They either read random postings from people they don’t know personally on the internet that claim to have had a bad experience, or they connect ChoiceCenter to similar programs from the early 80′s.

It’s been over a year now since I completed the course, and since then I have volunteered some of my time to coaching others so that they too can achieve their dreams. I’ve also attended a few signature courses, one course in particular called Masters is something I use in my daily life. It’s especially useful at the poker table after taking a bad beat or making a bad play.

The course is taught by Dr. Jorge Haddock, former dean of George Mason University. He is a brilliant man and that three day course was extremely powerful for me, especially in terms of my poker game. The course, like all ChoiceCenter weekends, is experiential learning, but this course in particular was more intellectually stimulating for me.

I also did a weekend Mens Retreat out in the woods, and for anyone who knows me, they know I’m NOT an outdoorsy guy at all! That was a real stretch for me to say the least, but in the end I enjoyed the weekend, made some good friends along the way, and also bonded more deeply with already existing friends, several of whom are poker players as well. I also realized that I’m just not “that guy” and I’m OK with that. My dad and my brother are both what you might call “manly men.” They can build a house from scratch. Me? Not so much!

As a kid growing up I was the shortest in my class, while my brother was already 6 ft tall by the 6th grade! That certainly caused some insecurities, being the shortest kid in your class will do that. I had a distorted sense of what it meant to be a man. My definition of a “real man” today looks more like this:


Those are the characteristics I identify as ones possessed by “real men.” A far cry from what society often sells us:


I’m a work in progress just like everyone else, but my vision is clear. I want to live my life possessing the characteristics of what I think a real man should be. I’m going to slip, that much you can bet on, but I’m committed to always righting the ship, course correcting, and getting back on track.

Often when I’m attacked, or feel as though someone is being condescending towards me, that little boy, the one that was the shortest in his class will punch back with fierce and fiery arrogance! I’m aware of that tendency I’ve had throughout my life, and just because I did work at ChoiceCenter doesn’t mean that disappears. I’ll always have that in me, but the difference is now I have both the self awareness and the tools to deal with it like… a real man.