As Stubborn as a Mule

Today was day three of my frustrating struggle with shots 23 through 28.  Until today I had been logging an average success rate between 50 and 60% on most of these shots, seemingly unable to make any improvement regardless of the effort exerted.  The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the shots were possible, as demonstrated by my occasional serendipitous success.  Certainly, the amount of variation that I had from shot to shot was completely unacceptable.  I continued to struggle during my practice session today, and finally ended the session with a success rate around 55-60%.  Again.  Arrrgggghhh! 

I unscrewed my cue and put it away.  I sat in disgust to cool off a little before heading home to write a blog post about my third consecutive day with little progress.  As I sat, I thought back to Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code.  I thought about the characteristics common to most athletes who attain world class status:  drive, determination, an intense focus as they continue to push themselves to the very edge of their comfort zone, not afraid to fail, breaking down actions into tiny discrete steps, learning from their mistakes, making minor corrections, and continuing to drill and drill and drill at the edge of their capabilities until performance improves, then putting the pieces back together and moving performance to another level.  I said to myself as I’ve said many times before, “Hey, if they can do it, so can I!”  Yes, I’m stubborn.  Was I planning to go home with today’s track record in tow?  Hell No!

I yanked my cue out of the case and screwed in back together.  I reaffixed the tiny adhesive dots back on the table surface and set up shot 23.  I didn’t care how long it took, I wasn’t going home tonight until I had at least figured out this one shot.  I made my first attempt but didn’t like where the cue ball landed.  “OK, on the next attempt, maybe a little more spin, a little less power, a slight elevation to the cue, and a little more draw…..”  Nope.  “OK, this time….”  Over the next 150 shots, I continued to experiment with different variables until I found a combination that, for me, almost always sent the cue ball down the correct line.  Stopping on the target is, of course, another matter all together.  I was finally able to achieve an 80% success rate for shot 23, and decided to move on to shot 24.  About 100 shots later, I had also achieved 80% on shot 24.

I had had enough.  My left shoulder ached, my back and right side hurt, and my shooting arm was sore. I never thought that a pool workout could actually make me feel like I’ve been to the gym.  How many shots had I taken today?  800?  1,000?  No matter.  I’m very happy to have conquered these two shots.  I guess I’ll take some Motrin, get some rest, and strive to get back to the table again tomorrow to see if I’ve retained the improvements from today.


7 responses to “As Stubborn as a Mule

  1. This would be so much more interesting if you provided a diagram (or at least a brief explanation) of the shots you’re practicing. 8a and 8b just doesn’t cut it…

  2. next time, check your body and the way your body moves in relation to the shot you want to make/are making.
    You can do that slow/fast.

    Pay attention to the muscles, check each one every time, like, do the shot and focus on the hand, next shot focus on the arm and then what is the shoulder doing and then the back then the legs.
    Then check the other hand arm etc…

    This will allow you to identify what your body is doing in relation to the shot and if you do this slowly you should improve faster.
    You basically become aware what your doing in space and in relation to the ball and the shot your making

    The idea is after you done that, you should have after a while a bigger margin for the shot.


    • Rob, your advice is very valid and valuable. I’ve also found in my practice sessions that slowing things down and THINKING (intense focus and reflection) has lead to quantum leaps in my improvement. Thanks for the comments!

      • Your welcome.
        Good luck in your quest.

        I am aiming to make the national tour in golf here.
        at age 46 and currently a 9 handicap,
        people just tells me it cant be done.


  3. I like Rob’s advice, and would add a little to it. Make sure when you’re doing this that you aren’t causing your body to do anything a certain way, only observing what your body is doing. And be reflective for a moment after every shot to remember the feelings that result in success vs those that don’t.

    Keep it up, dude, your drive and discipline are contagious.

  4. one day you’ll write a post titled “i kick like a mule” instead of “as stubborn as a mule”. 😀

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