Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't Believe Everything They Say

This article is part of Volume 19 of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of the best writing on pool. The rest of the July edition of PoolSynergy is at PoolBum's site. The July theme is "Advice to older players who are taking up the game or coming back to it after a long hiatus."

So you are an older player picking up the game of pool billiards or coming back to the game after a longer hiatus. My first advice: don't believe everything they say. It might be a little strange thing to say from the get-go as more experienced players certainly know a lot more than you. However, it is my experience that it is very difficult to translate this knowledge into useful advice. In fact, it is difficult to separate the useful knowledge from harmful knowledge.

The advantage that you have acquired with age should be some amount of wisdom and knowledge. Let's be honest: most young people are a little bit naive. Most of them are not that cynical and they still believe all sorts of silly things. With age, you should have learned to be somewhat skeptical. Use this as your advantage.

I'm not saying that you should question everything. I'm saying that some of the advice that you will hear or read will be actively harmful for your development. Not because the person saying wants to harm you, but because the person has false beliefs. Or the beliefs apply to them but not universally.

They might think that some inconsequential nuance of their knowledge is the most important tidbit, but applied to your situation it might even be detrimental. For example, people have strong opinions of stroke technique. Now, most of those opinions are probably correct --to some extent anyhow--, but some might not be that relevant and too difficult to apply to your particular style.

It's impossible for me to debunk every false belief that might be circulating in the pool community. And certainly I don't claim to know it all either. Neither I'm saying that you should try to debunk everything everyone else is saying. But it is my feeling and belief that you will encounter some incorrect and strong beliefs that you just need to shrug off and ignore.

One particular belief I have in my mind is the confusion over talent versus practice. I think it's safe to say that most people believe that talent is at least as important as practice. "Some people just have it in them." Or something similar. I don't think the belief is incorrect as much as it is the wrong "question" in the first place. I think you should mostly just ignore whether you have enough talent. If you want to become better, you just have to practice. How good you become after you practice thousands of hours is a question that you can answer after the journey.

Obviously you shouldn't delude yourself either. If you start playing when you're 60, you're not going to be the next Shane Van Boening. But it is my feeling that a lot of players would enjoy the hobby a lot more if they took it as an intellectual journey too. To figure things out by oneself. You'll be surprised.


  1. Nice job and very solid advice. When I worked in a pool hall it always made me cringe when a player who "thought" he was a great player would try to instruct someone else. It's hard to describe the nonsense that was imparted as useful information. This was especially true when young men would "help" their dates. All I could do was mutter to myself: The blind leading the blind! Thanks for the post

  2. Very true! I know most people who offer free advice are trying to be helpful, but it does get annoying if they are too persistent; especially if their advice is incorrect! Nice post!