Mid April: I was down 3.2L INR (net) in Poker. I was up 40K mid January. So 3.6L down from peak. In 3 months.

Now I am up ~5.2L in 1 month. Positive 3L for the year. Have I become a dramatically better poker player in a month’s time? How much of my fall was due to luck / variance? How much of my bounce comes from skill?

I have done the same job for the last few years. In my head, at least. I was HOP, now I have the fancy title of VP. Have I really learnt anything new in the last year and contributed dramatically more, or was I rewarded for staying put, for being in the right place at the right time?

How do we know if we are really good at what we do? How do we not mistake luck for skill? How do we know if we are making better decisions than we did before?

The hedonic treadmill is real. The joy of a pay rise lasts for a maximum of 3 days. After that you have the feeling that you should have got more. The previous year’s ambition turns into today’s standard.

I was talking to a friend who works in a tier 1 global startup. He told me that being a public company VP is a good achievement, but my financial outcome has been the same as a first time PM who joined FANG a few years ago.

Am I playing at the highest level? Should I be satisfied? Or should I strive for more?

I was hanging out with another friend. He told me that he became much more humble in life when he found out that his brother-in-law makes 2/3 million a year because he has found some offline arbitrage opportunity, whereas this amount is the best possible outcome for my friend as an early hire at his startup.

I have played poker with amazing players in the last few years, including someone who was #1 in online tournament poker in India. But winning no longer makes me happy. Even if I go on a heater and win a few lakhs, it does not change my net worth. When I lose, I feel like shit though. I ask if I really belong here. Who likes to lose anyway? I used to crush everyone in Fifa. Then I deleted Fifa because I had 3 consecutive losing sessions. Just 3. It is all that took.

Poker is a crazy zero-sum endeavour. It is just a bunch of friends sitting down with each other to take each other’s money. If you asked someone if they would give you 70K (monthly rent of a 3bhk), they would of course say no. But they would 4bet jam with 27o just for the meme. Seeing people make such sub-optimal decisions is crazy.

The early hires want to be founders. The VC backed founder wants to be a bootstrapper. Burnt out exec wants a sabbatical. The world wants the PM to become a ‘craftsman’.

There is no end to it, but everyone is in pursuit of some end point where they will have the feeling that they have done it.

Update: I lost 3L in 3 sessions. So I have given up all the gains for this year.