They say that practice makes perfect, and I'm inclined to agree. Not just any practice, but perfect practice. So what makes practice perfect?
For most of January I was in the zone. My attention was divided among many things: playing solid poker, improving my physical condition, recovering my musical abilities, and recording my rambling thoughts. But for each activity that I engaged in, my attention was focused completely on the task at hand. I carefully thought through my opponent's range for every hand of poker. I kept my mind present and active while I exercised at Taekwon-Do and yoga. And I really practiced guitar and bass. What do I mean by "really" practiced?
There was a time when I was rather good at playing guitar. I got that way by staying home "sick" from school and practicing eight hours a day. The quantity of practice was helpful, but more important was the quality. It was solitary and solemn. My fingers bled. I loved it.
For two weeks I practiced the first 13 seconds of the guitar solo in the outro of November Rain. I spent the following two weeks practicing the next 13 seconds. I had been playing guitar for only five months, but by the end of the sixth month I was a completely different player.
This January, when I set out to reclaim my musical skills, I did my best to replicate the mindset of my early guitar practice. I didn't practice eight hours a day; I do have to make a living. But when I did practice, I was focused on nothing but the practice itself. Perhaps this focus spilled over into my poker play. Or was it the other way around? Truth be told, I have no idea (and I don't really care).
The thing about the zone is that most people eventually fall out of it. If you don't, then it's no longer the zone, it's enlightenment. But that's another conversation entirely. Suffice it to say, I have not attained enlightenment. So naturally I fell out of the zone and felt lost and unfocused for about six weeks. But for the past week I've been flirting with the zone again.
At first I didn't want to think too hard about it. Sometimes when you look too closely you can't see things clearly anymore. But then I thought about what I had been doing differently of late. And the only thing that occurred to me was that I had been practicing guitar again. The way that I used to. And this time I'm pretty sure that's what rubbed off on my poker game, not the other way around. But I can't say for certain. After all, the season has changed, so maybe it's simply time to wake up a little.