Quitting can do a body good

I got a follow from Annie Duke on Thursday, and discovered that a former poker pro and cognitive psychologist had liked an essay I wrote that mentioned her most recent book.

It was just before 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, and I was preparing for a remote therapy session when I got unreasonably excited by a Twitter alert.

Annie Duke had followed me.

Annie Duke is a former professional poker player. In 2004, she won a gold bracelet, which is the prize given to someone who wins one of the events at the annual World Series of Poker. Gold bracelets aren’t necessarily a benchmark for pros so much as a career achievement. You win one, you’re a certified bad ass.

I like poker, I don’t currently have a game and I don’t read about it nearly as much as I used to. However, I do read Annie Duke’s books. She’s written a couple of them now, and while poker is part of those books, they’re really about decision-making:

They’re both excellent. In “Thinking in Bets,” Annie Duke illustrates how the best way to evaluate a decision is not simply by observing the result of a decision, but by focusing on the circumstances and options that were available at the time of the decision. Was there a better option available that could have reasonably been chosen? Or was the decision that was made the most reasonable option given what was known at the time of the decision? In this way, “Thinking in Bets” provides what I think is the absolute best framework for evaluating the decision-making of sports coaches and executives.

Annie Duke’s most recent book is “Quit” is just as good. It was published in October 2022, the same year that she finished her PhD in cognitive psychology — after leaving her graduate program 30 years earlier because, you know, she was a poker bad-ass among other things. “Quit” explains that we have a tendency to hold on too long. Some of this is cultural and some of this is our own neurological circuitry. Quitting, by definition, is change and we tend to resist that.

I loved both her books, which is why I got a charge when I saw she’d followed me on Twitter.

Maybe she follows me because she’s one of those accounts like Taye Diggs who follows everybody.

I clicked on her profile. Nope. She’s got more than 900,000 followers, and she’s following just over 1,000 people. I’m telling you, I felt so darn special.

Then I wondered how she might have gotten connected to me. “Quit” starts with the worst play in Seattle sports history: The Super Bowl interception against the Patriots. And yes, Annie Duke, argues that the decision to pass on that play was the most reasonable option, which I agree with by the way. I just think they should have called a different pass play.

But nope. That wasn’t it, either.

Hey, that’s me! Holy shit! It’s a column I wrote for Seattle Magazine, which was published in the January/February issue and posted online earlier this week. It’s about quitting, and while it starts with my reluctance to give up alcohol, I do work my way to Duke’s book as well.

My reluctance to quit also caused me to stay at jobs that were having a profoundly negative impact on my health and well-being, and in a twisted way it made it harder for me to make that decision to get sober. I somehow thought if I were just more disciplined, a little bit smarter, I’d learn to manage my alcohol consumption, which flies in the face of most if not all we know about alcoholism.

I never thought about it this way, though. At least not until I read Annie Duke’s book Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away.

Here’s links to the other stuff from this week:

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