5 Lessons Poker Taught Me

By Erin Lydon, Managing Director | Poker Power

Poker Power’s Managing Director, Erin Lydon celebrates Women’s Equality Day with a personal essay about the lessons she’s learned from the felt.

“As I reflect on the last 25 years as a woman of Wall Street, an equal pay champion, start-up leader, and most importantly, mother of young women, I am in awe of the female collective for continuing to strive to do better, to do more. But our work is not done.

When I began my career in a male-dominated field, I knew there would be challenges, but just how many, I could never imagine nor how ill-prepared I was to face them. Now, returning from speaking at the AWS Leadership Summit, where I was a part of a larger discussion, engaged with powerful women in tech running game-changing businesses, I can see my work coming full circle.  There are still limited seats, and many where women deserve to be sitting. I learned that my seat wouldn’t always be waiting for me, that more often than not, I’d have to bring my own chair. Within the last few years, I learned a game that has changed the way I problem solve and make decisions, giving me the confidence to sit at some of the most prominent tables.

I wasn’t always a poker player, but once I learned the core principles, I was amazed at how seamlessly the strategies translated into my working and personal life. Here are five valuable lessons poker taught me.

Plan Your Moment

If meditation teaches you to calm your mind, poker teaches you how to restrain it. Like in business, poker enforces the notion that timing truly is everything and it’s important to know how and when to make your move. Take calculated risks when the odds are in your favor and know when to walk away when your hand or the situation isn’t serving you.

Relationship Building

Creating strategic relationships can transform your environment. So much of poker relies on your ability to understand how to read others; their emotional cues, tells, frustrations, and propensity for withholding information. When you learn how to read others and anticipate their moves, you can better understand the possible outcomes of your decision-making. Empathy, a skill that’s highly valued in interpersonal relationships, is something more and more employers look for in candidates, and it can be nurtured by mindful engagement. 

Celebrating Accomplishments

A winning hand feels great and celebrating is half the fun. Accomplishments, big or small, deserve recognition and praise – for yourself and others. Celebrating the wins and learning from the losses builds character and insight for the next endeavor. Women who support other women’s success create thriving, inclusive cultures. Amplify innovative ideas and always give credit where it’s due.

Practice Makes Power

In poker, the bets you make are your voice, and speaking up takes practice. When your gut tells you to share that next great idea, go for it! So often we think about it, but don’t articulate it in front of others. Embrace the moment, push through your trepidation, and use the opportunity to play big. Just like in poker, it’s not about the outcome as much as it’s about having the courage and conviction to make the best move in the moment. Soon, your confidence increases, your voice grows steadier, and you’ll worry less about the risk of losing or making a misstep.

Bet on Yourself

Great reward is often preceded by great risk, but when it comes to you and your success, there’s nothing more important. Whether you’re negotiating a raise, staying firm on the price of a home, or acquiring a new business contract, evaluate the strength of your hand, analyze your options and put yourself in the most advantageous position. To put it into poker jargon, when you negotiate, strive to sit ‘on the button’ and not ‘under-the-gun.’ Thoughtful evaluation, understanding the big picture and prioritizing your loss vs. gain, will help you move forward with confidence and competence.

Today, on Women’s Equality Day, I’m challenging each and every one of you to use your voice, be confident in your decisions, take big risks, and go all-in…at the poker table and in life.”

This blog originally ran on the Poker Power website.

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