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by Phil Stott | May 03, 2018


Poker player with chips looking at cards

Career planning is one of those things that we here at Vault advise everyone to take seriously: if your ambition is to be a CEO or a doctor or an engineer, it's probably best to have a plan in place to achieve those goals—starting when you're in school. But, every once in a while, we come across an example that reminds us that life takes paths we can't control—sometimes our interests change, or the economy does, or we stumble into an opportunity that we simply can't pass up—and all those plans we had go out the window.

Take, for example, the case of Maria Konnikova. For most people, a PhD. in psychology, a regular column in the New Yorker, and a handful of bestselling bookswould represent the pinnacle of their long-term career planning. And, indeed, that seems to have been the case for Konnikova, who announced last year that her next book would be "about poker and the balance of skill and luck in life."

But then came the plot twist: in the course of researching the game of poker (largely by shadowing some of the best players in the world), Konnikova learned so much that she became good at the game. So good, in fact, that she started winning tournaments with prize pots of close to $100,000, and has pushed back the launch date of her book until 2019 so that she can concentrate on—yep—playing more poker.

Of course, the thing about a career in gambling (as opposed to taking a career gamble) is the strong chance that it doesn't pan out in the long term. But Konnikova is fortunate, in that she still has her existing career—and the book project—to fall back on. As she told Poker News:

"The great thing about books is you don't need to have an ending in mind," she said. "The book could work even if I ended up sucking as a poker player. 

"But, I hope I can do better than that. I hope my story can inspire people. I want them to think, 'I can do this, too.'" 

So, while I'm not advocating that you all abandon your career plans in favor of taking a shot at becoming a professional gambler, I do think that stories like Konnikova's serve as a reminder that life has the ability to disrupt even the best-laid plans—sometimes even after they've been largely fulfilled. And,  while there are both good and bad things that can happen along the way, it's important to leave yourself open to new opportunities wherever they may arise.

(Hat tip to Deadspin, where I originally came across this story.)