It’s 11:40am on a beautiful Memorial Day and most of my friends are either sleeping in late, watching television, eating lunch, or otherwise enjoying the beautiful outdoors in sunny California. Me? I’m indoors, planning to hit a few hundred balls at a local pool room. Just me and four other certified pool nuts. Why am I here?
Despite the generally accepted belief to the contrary, no one is born with a natural talent for pool. THIS is where talent is actually “born.” Talent is born in a billiard club filled with the gentle clicking sound of balls being pocketed by a solitary player. Talent is born in a basement that you sneak in to late at night after your parents think you are in bed. Talent is born in a person with the single minded pursuit to master a skill no matter how difficult the challenge. It’s days like today that must be logged by anyone who wants to be a great player, and this is the part that most people don’t see. The blood…the sweat…the tears…the self-absorbed somewhat masochistic drive that we have have to push ourselves beyond our current abilities and raise the bar for ourselves. It doesn’t come easy. In the event that one of us pool nuts finally makes it to the big stage, someone will likely say, “Wow, what a natural talent!” But if it happens to be me, I will know the truth. I will know that it took me pocketing tens of thousands of balls, thousands of hours of focused practice, dozens of tournaments, and countless discussions with other pool nuts to acquire the knowledge and muscle memory necessary to elevate my game. Have I reached the top of the game yet? No, not by a long shot; therefore, I practice. I force myself to repeat troublesome shots dozens of times until they no longer give me trouble. I force myself to only shoot left handed in certain establishments to the point that everyone in the place thinks I’m left-handed. In bed at night I run racks in my head instead of counting sheep. Nobody said this journey would be easy; as a matter of fact, anything that’s free or comes easy in life is never fully appreciated. It would have been much easier for me to be a fan watching from the sidelines, enjoying the game vicariously through the experiences of others. Instead, I’m headed down a long hard road filled with sweat, tears, and an occasional spike of euphoria. Yes, I have chosen to take the road less traveled, but in the end, it will make all the difference.