What used to be my formal living room is now my billiards room. Full-sized pool table, a couple of bar tables with high chairs (Husker logos included), sound, TV. One room of my two-story “man cave.” Sometimes when I need to stop thinking about something, I run half a dozen or more racks of Rotation (shoot the balls in order, 1-15). It’s sort of like golf indoors, which is thought to be one of the origins of pool anyway. My conscious mind is focused on setting up the shot I’m taking, getting the angle just right, but planning to leave the cue ball to set up the next shot. While I’m otherwise occupied, sometimes my subconscious provides me with ideas. During one session, it came to me that this process of shotmaking, taking a shot while planning for the next one, is one of the biggest differences between an “adult” and an adolescent, or even a “young” adult. It takes some years of experience not only to think about what you need to do in the “now” to be successful but also consider how today’s actions set up what happens next.
Parents and other advisors of young people attempt to help them plan ahead. It does take experience to see the ramifications of a choice or action, and even then the variables can be so numerous, so unforeseen, that it isn’t possible to consider them all. But, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” My father used to tell me that wisdom was being able to learn from the mistakes of others. Of course, my stubborn streak is a mile wide, so I’m a REALLY good source of experience….
The starting shot in any pool game is the Break. From one end of the table, the first player uses the cue ball to scatter the rack of fifteen numbered balls, sort of a “Big Bang.” If something goes in a pocket, the Break shooter may continue. Whatever game is played begins from there with each shooter trying to pocket some or all of the balls on the table. It takes practice, skill, and planning to be good at it. I’ve seen amateur shooters who could make the cue ball dance. Watching professionals, as in any sport, is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, the game of Life is much more complicated and risky.
We start playing the game before we even know what we’re doing. The balls that represent the possibilities of our lives are scattered around the table after the Break, and the other shooters might run most of them off before we even get a shot, are tall enough to reach the table, or know how to play. Fatalists complain “Life sucks; then you die.” I don’t think I’ve ever met a teenager who didn’t go through a depression like that one time or another. Too pessimistic for me. Many other quotations from successful people are better. Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One” (a hockey player), said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Again, think about what that doesn’t say—You’ll make lots more of the shots you take if you know what the hell you’re doing! Think he practiced? Had a coach? Played in a few games? Took chances? Got experience?
When it’s your turn at the table, be ready for your shot. I don’t care if it’s your chance at a scholarship, the college of your dreams, the job you think you’ve always wanted, the girl/guy who seems waaaay out of your league. Be prepared. Think about what will be possible, where you’ll be after you make that shot—or what you’ll do if you don’t! Line it up. Go for it. Then be ready for the next one. Maybe the next Break will be yours. Even a bad Break can lead to good shots later on if you’re ready for them.