Today is my birthday. I'm thirty-one, which technically qualifies as thirty-"something". Do I feel like I'm getting older? Not so much. I mean, yes, the gap between the present moment and the day I was born is constantly expanding. But the sense of my own mortality, the crushing weight of time, the feeling that my accomplishments thus far are somehow insufficient... well, I left those back in my twenties.

I remember feeling so old when I turned twenty. I also felt like a failure because I was neither the centerfielder for the New York Mets, nor the lead guitarist in a hugely successful rock band. Perhaps I had set my expectations too high. As a kid, my favorite athlete was Dwight Gooden. He won the Rookie of the Year when he was 19, the Cy Young award when he was 20, and a World Championship when he was 21. There wasn't much room for improvement, but plenty of room for a precipitous fall. Metallica were in their late teens/early twenties when they recorded and released their first three albums. They were closer to thirty by the time they became ridiculously huge, but the root of their popularity was established early on.

This is hardly the only path to success (where ever that is). Jimmy Page was twenty-eight* when he started Led Zeppelin. Page Hamilton was thirty when he formed Helmet. So I'll borrow something from their book, and see what I can get done at this point in my life. Speaking of pages, Lillian Jackson Braun returned to being a successful mystery writer at seventy-three. Sure, she published three novels in her fifties, but her life demonstrates as well as anyone's that the potential to break through in a new field is not firmly limited by age.

I still set my long term goals on the absurdly high scale. Yes, I would like to play $2,000/4,000 online and at the Bellagio. And be the best player at the table. And that's probably the most easily attainable of my major goals. But there's a difference between goals and expectations. Expectations must exist in a range. Just like poker, outcomes in life are governed by skill and chance. A given effort can produce a range of results. Anyone who thinks that will alone can effect an outcome is either delusional or a wizard. And as much as I want to believe in magic... I'll stick to setting my goals high, putting forth my best effort, and watching the chips fall where they may.

* It turns out Page was twenty-four when he started Led Zeppelin. My bad.


  1. Actually Page was 24 when he started Zeppelin. Born January 9, 1944, first Zeppelin show (as the New Yardbirds) September 7, 1968 at the Gladsaxe Teen Club in Denmark.

  2. He also became a successful session musician teenager, so he's not a good choice to make my point. But if I use someone else, then the whole Page/Page deal goes out the window. And that's why I don't write more actual articles - research is a bitch. :)