I learned to approach racing like a game of billiards. If you bash the ball too hard, you get nowhere. As you handle the cue properly, you drive with more finesse.
Juan Manuel Fangio
People will use chess as a reference to life, something I myself do every once in a while. But when I think about it, life is not that much like chess. You’re not always able to sit around and quietly consider your strategies while taking time between each move. Life is more like billiards, were you have to deal with a cluster of disorganized balls, where you can play by using force yet actually win with control and finesse.
As I have mentioned before, my grandfather owned a couple of bars and restaurants, so I spent part of my formative years in pool houses among other “colorful” spots. I probably learned to rack up a set by the same age most kids learned to rack up building blocks, but I digress. Ironically it was in these same places that I also learned about chess, because both games are more about strategy and reading your opponent than people realize.
So here is a short list of all the ways Billiard is like life:
1. Where you look is where the ball will go.
Never lose focus of your objective. Every action you take should be an action to get you closer; every step should be about moving forward and setting up.
2. Having talent is good, but practice makes you great.
Way too many people think that natural talent will give them an edge in life. They are wrong. It’s practice what will give you an edge. When you practice enough, your actions and your moves become second nature. At that time, you don’t have to think of your shots any more.
3. Never show-off how good you are; till you have to show how good you are.
Never brag about your skill or show how good you really are at something simply for vanity. But when you actually have to put your skills to the test, don’t hold back.
4. Don’t use more power than you can control.
You can tell who’s an inexperience player, as they will try to smash the balls in the hopes that if they miss, another will go down the pocket. Using more force than is needed will usually put you in a worse position than you started.
5. Play to set up, until you can play to win.
Positioning is everything. Don’t play for the shot you have. It’s more important to set up in the right place, making your following shots easier, and your opponent’s shots harder. The best offense is actually a good defense. The easiest way to win is to not let the other guy shoot.
6. Think while standing, not while shooting.
When it’s time to think, think. When it’s time to take action, take action. Hesitation and self-doubt during your actions is the easiest way to fail.
7. When it means everything, play as if it means nothing.
Sprezzatura, that’s all I have to say about that.