Billiards

Somebody made a mistake!  Something went wrong!  It happens more or less frequently in our lives.  What do we do about it?  What, if, we get out of mistake?

There are childish mistakes, monumental mistakes, mistake of will or might.  Mistakes are part of our lives maybe even more than success and we keep them alive more and longer.  And if they are such a big part of our experiential suitcase, maybe we should try to classify them?  Or more, should we strive to learn something?

Let’s imagine a billiards/snooker scene in a world championship or in a pub with friends.  A game both easy and difficult played by professionals and amateurs alike.  In billiards it often happens that despite training and mastery the ball simply doesn’t want to land in the rightful pocket.

The billiard player first analyzes the entire situation on the green table.  He tries to recollect the positioning of balls prior to the strike.  How were they facing each other and the pocket?  Was the pool cue well covered in chalk?  Were the position and speed of the pool cue appropriate?  Was his concentration complete?  Or was somebody coughing during the strike?

The list of questions may go on, but the quality and objectivity of answers are paramount.  Given the probable standard quality of the pool table and balls, I can estimate that in most cases the player “blames” the cue of “incompetence”.  And I can also bet that the next strike will consider the results of analyzing past mistakes.  What is the most remarkable is the fact that the adjustment will be proportionate with the mistake: his cue will not hit too hard for a small error.  Something many of us fail to do – relate the strength of the reaction to the size of the mistake.  And so we may have disproportionate reactions that do not correctly resolve the error.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the world’s problems fail to be resolved due to inappropriate reactions: wars, ecological or humanitarian disasters, financial turmoil or just the never-ending political quarrels.

In contrast we shouldn’t be amazed of the well-contained and effective calm of billiards champions when making their next move.  This calm includes all the stages of evaluation, analysis, learning and applying the lessons of experience gained from mistakes.  And the cue will definitely have the angle and speed always adjusted to obtain the precise landing of the ball in the desired pocket.

 “Make mistakes!  Go on!  Next time however try to be better at making mistakes.” 

Samuel Beckett