The Lighthouse – A Nautical Lesson in Humility for Us All

Sometimes even the mightiest must move

There is a famous story, often co-opted by speech writers, which describes an encounter between a large naval ship and what appears to be another vessel on a collision course. It usually goes something like this:

Released by the Chief of Naval Operations, the following is a transcript of the radio conversation between the British and the Irish off the coast of Kerry in October, 1995.

Irish: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
English: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Irish: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
English: This is the Captain of a British Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Irish: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
English: This is the aircraft carrier HMS Brittania, the second largest ship in the British fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that’s one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Irish: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

Though it almost certainly never happened, this nautical parable is a lesson in humility, a warning to those who might think themselves too important to yield or too stubborn to budge that there are immovable objects and irrepressible forces in the world. It is a reminder that we are human and vulnerable and ultimately fragile, no matter how much we try to believe otherwise.

Poker’s graveyard is full of “breakout” players

I have been playing poker professionally for 16 years and in that time, I have watched players come and go, many of whom were far better card-smiths than I have ever been. I have witnessed precipitous ascents and calamitous falls. I have seen the waxy wings of many of my contemporaries melt.

Having ambition is a good thing but having ambition which o’erleaps itself is lethal.

The best poker professionals are not always the best poker players. Understanding variance and deploying the appropriate risk management and wealth creation strategies is probably the most vital skill if you are going to have longevity in the poker world. Having ambition is a good thing but having ambition which o’erleaps itself is lethal.

Buoyed by early success, talented young players can feel immune to the swings. Believing themselves to be special, they risk too much, only to be swallowed up by the brute mathematical reality of variance. Poker’s graveyard is full of “breakout” players.

On the shoulders of giants

In the same way that poker rewards aggression and patience, two qualities which are rare in the same person, so too does poker reward confidence and humility. Players who stand the test of time normally execute with conviction but also possess a deep-seated insecurity and restlessness. They know how to play well in the current paradigm, but they also understand that they must move with the times and be willing to adopt new strategies.

the more you know, the more you realize how much there is that you don’t know

In the very best players, this quality often manifests itself as a paranoid belief that everyone else is getting better and they must keep up. Poker is a vastly complicated game and the more you know, the more you realize how much there is that you don’t know.

Every poker generation thinks that it has mastered the game but the reality is every poker generation is standing on the shoulders of giants and it is upon its own shoulders that others will one day stand. So be humble out there and remember that diverting your course by just 15 degrees can avoid a collision.

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