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All things Apple Awards

Who is Apple Awards, what do we do and how can we help you honor and recognize achievement and loyalty to your organization and the people closest to you?

Be the "Someone". Volunteer!

Be the "Someone". Volunteer!

 

Each year, late in February, one of the world’s largest ski events, “The American Birkebeiner®”,  takes place in Hayward, WI. An event of this magnitude would never happen if it were not for its volunteers. This race, for most a ski through the woods, requires an insane number (2,500) of volunteers each year to pull it off. The population of Hayward is hardly 2,500. So, how do they do it? I’m not sure. But here are some reasons why they do it.

There are health benefits to volunteering.

I know from my experience that after you volunteer for something, you simply feel better. Serving others, without being paid, is an amazing feeling. Do it and you will understand. Volunteer opportunities often get us up, out of our chair and moving, and that is always good for the body and mind.

Networking opportunities everywhere.

Volunteering almost always involves working with or for other people. When you volunteer side by side with someone, you can develop a kindred spirit with these people. Just the act of serving with someone can create a bond and a relationship that can bridge cultural, religious or political divides. I have experienced this.

“Warning!” It can be habit forming.

This is why some people resist raising their hand and volunteering. The thinking goes like this, “If I do it, I most likely will want to do it again, and who has the time? I think I will just give them $10 and let someone else do it”.

It is good to have boundaries and yes, there are times when it is wise to let someone else do it. But if you find that you are never that “someone else” it may be time to examine your life and think about what and who you are living for.  You may be surprised what you find.

I love to volunteer, but have to admit that it has been some 30 years since I have volunteered for the Birkie. This year I will be that “somebody else”. I look forward to the experience of feeling a kindred spirit with 2,500 other people from Hayward all over the world that come to help out. I know there are spots still open for this year’s Birkie for those who are interested. Is there a similar event or organization near you that could use some help? Consider volunteering, even if  only for the health and networking benefit it will bring your way.



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Your Name

Your Name

Did you know that the future of your next event could depend on your recognition products and the name they bear?  What you give and how you present it is very important!

There is a reason why many events give every participant a t-shirt. And no, it’s not because you need more t-shirts. You’re given a t-shirt in the hope you will wear it, and by wearing it you are helping to promote the event name for the future. T-shirts are one way, a good way, but not the only way.

At Apple Awards we provide recognition products for the American Birkebeiner®, the largest ski race in North America and  second in the world. The organizers of this race are professionals who know the value of promoting their name to all 13,000 participants. Each one goes home from this event with multiple items that are personalized with their name. In the past couple of years they have gone through a major branding overhaul to create easily recognizable and trademarked images, colors and logos. They have done a masterful job of placing these images on every medal, pin, plaque, shirt, race bib, or gift that goes home with a participant.  These items are displayed in homes and offices all over the world. They are conversation starters and reminders for the participants. They are key elements of branding and name recognition for future events.

Even non athletic events give tokens, like the brass medallion with its raven icon from my altMBA course this fall.  It’s sitting on my desk as a daily reminder of my participation, and at times a conversation starter with visitors.

Here at Apple Awards we’ve had a paradigm shift as we think about why and how we produce  recognition products. It has expanded our purpose from just being producers of awards, to being marketers, helping to promote future events.

If you run an event, big or small, have you thought about the importance of sending something home with each participant, something that boldly display’s your events name on it? Let us help you work on the future success of that event with our wide variety of personalized recognition products. It’s all about your name.

 

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Keep Growing - Start with a Mindset

Keep Growing - Start with a Mindset

If you’re not moving forward or growing, you may be standing still or even moving backwards. What does this mean? I probably don’t have to explain to you what growth looks like. It is a condition of the mind, it is intuitive to life and anyone knows if they are growing or not. The hard part is admitting lack of growth and doing something about it. Choosing to grow is a  choice, like exercising or eating healthy.

Reality is that the world, and the way we do things, is changing faster and faster.  Keeping up with the pace can be really hard. Since I contend that a growth and service mindset is essential to relevance in today’s marketplace, I had to consider the “keeping up” factor before I went into business. Here’s how that looked for me.

Both award businesses I bought were at a point where they were experiencing years of declining sales. A small business naturally loses a few customers every year due to attrition. Customers die, they retire and move on to other employment. But the key to a healthy business is whether it can consistently replace those customers lost to attrition with new customers.

Don’t misunderstand, both of my businesses still had many good loyal customers. Their products, for the most part, were good. The service they provided was good and relevant. Those were the reasons I bought them. Both businesses, in my opinion, were declining because their owners were either unable or unwilling, for various reasons, to keep up with the changing structures and technologies in today's business world. These were growth problems.

Just to clarify, growth is not always about making things bigger. Sometimes it’s a requirement just to keep things the same. For example, a business may be in a geographic area or a competitive market where there are only so many customers, and this is okay. But growing is still  necessary to address natural attrition and keep the customer base large enough for the business to remain viable.

Even when I was working for someone, growth was no less important. I knew if I didn’t grow I could become irrelevant and easily replaceable. The best book I have ever read regarding this is Linchpin by Seth Godin.

This brings me back to purpose, if you have a purpose for doing what you do, I believe you will naturally want to learn and grow to satisfy that purpose.  Your purpose could be as simple as providing for your family, or as difficult as providing clean drinking water for people that don’t have any. Both purposes changes the world for the better, today and tomorrow.

What to do? Are you continuing to grow, learning through curiosity and taking risks? Do you need some inspiration? Check out this video  How ya gonna Live? Answer these questions, and the world will thank you!

 

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How to Find Your Purpose

How to Find Your Purpose

Back in 2002 Rick Warren wrote a book called the Purpose Driven Life. What I believe Rick was trying to show us in this book is that life just goes better when we live it with purpose. Our true  purpose in this life is not always something that is obvious to us. As a result of our own choices or choices made by those in authority around us, we can find ourselves in circumstances or an environment that makes our purpose easy to miss. So, how can we find our purpose?

Early on in my adult life, I remember thinking that “doing” made all the difference in living a life of purpose. To some extent it was true. What I missed was, the “doing” is only part of the formula for finding purpose. It is the second part.

First, Be Still.

Quickly, I learned that the only way I could feel good about what I was doing was if I first quieted myself enough to reflect and listen to what I needed to do. Being still - this was a really hard thing for me to do, and as I write this, I am realizing it still is, to some extent.

I believe there are two primary ways to quiet yourself and work through questions regarding life,  through meditation or prayer. Myself, I choose prayer because to me prayer is a conversation with my creator, the author of life.

Secondly, Act!

So, I guess what I am recommending is, learn to be still and reflect before action, but don’t forget you must also act. Through regular attention to both prayer and action I believe your true purpose in this life will be revealed.

A Caution

When you are still there will be competing voices for your attention, good and evil. One will tell you that you are worthy and one will try to tell you are worthless. The truth is that you are the first and if you don’t see that you may need some help. It’s ok, we all need help!

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Growth and Purpose: Is Your Ship Sinking?

Growth and Purpose: Is Your Ship Sinking?

I believe the key to any successful life or business is a purpose (service) and a growth mindset. One without the other rarely impresses me.

One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to admire the creativity of business enterprises, big and small. Everyone from the airline we fly to the restaurants we eat at, the resort we stay at and the shops we visit. The longer we’re engaged with them the more we see their uniqueness and personality or lack thereof, come out. The same holds true for the people we meet. It doesn't take long to notice if the motivating factor for their life or enterprise is service or self. Soon, it becomes evident if the person or enterprise is growing, coasting or is declining.

Let me define a couple terms:

Purpose

Without a servant heart and attitude there is very little purpose beyond $money$ in what and why we do what we do. When things get hard and money is scarce the dream can easily die.

Growth

The saying goes “if you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still or moving backwards.”

The natural illustrations are everywhere on this. Stop pedaling your bike and coast, eventually you stop and tip, the ride is over. The plane you’re on stops fueling the engines, and it starts to glide.  We all know what happens next.

True to the pattern, the minute I quit investing in my personal or career growth, the decline is soon to follow.  First things will flatten out and I will glide on the momentum I previously had, then the downward trajectory will follow.

Is Your Ship Sinking?

I am convinced that this is a law of nature and no person or business is above it.  Whether it is my business, job, relationships or my spiritual walk, I must take time to think about the why (purpose) and how (growth) regarding what I am doing.

How about you? Take an inventory and ask yourself if you are growing, coasting or falling? If this causes you alarm or concern regarding your life or enterprise, take heart! Awareness and thinking about it is a big, first step. I’m going to be sharing some of my own thoughts on these important issues in the next few posts. Join me as I explore how to right the ship before it goes under and sinks.

 

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Recognizing Participation

Recognizing Participation

What would it take to change your mind? A compelling argument, or do you need indisputable facts? Let’s look at an issue that’s been debated as long as there have been contests and winners and losers.

I actually believe in giving participation trophies. I don’t  just believe this because I am an awards provider. I think it actually makes good sense. I believe participation is a big deal.

Some believe that we should only award the best, the competition’s winners.  If we award the participant we are sending the wrong message - that everyone is a winner just for showing up.

But, isn't this true in much of life? Isn’t it the showing up and participating that counts? No one, not even the youngest of children, when handed a second place or a participation trophy after losing a contest, thinks they won the contest. But they can still feel proud and appreciated by the event’s planners for showing up and making it a contest. Think about it.  If only the best team shows up, there is no contest.

I believe a well thought out awards plan, even one including participation trophies, can serve multiple purposes.

  1. It recognizes great skill and achievement for the champions
  2. It thanks and shows everyone appreciation for participating and making it a contest.
  3. It sends everyone home with a token or a gift, a reminder that they participated in that event so they remember it and want to come back. (This is how great event planners market their events. They send everyone home with something that has the event’s name on it.)

 

In February, one of the biggest single events that we provide awards for, The American Birkebeiner®, sends everyone, all 10,000 participants, home with a participation trophy - a medal or year pin signifying that they finished the the Birkie for the first or the 45th time. This is one of the reasons, I believe, that it is one of the greatest events on snow and it sells out every year!

Participation matters!





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"the dip"

"the dip"

I learned about the dip during my enrollment in the altMBA. “The dip” is a term coined by Seth Godin the creator of this course. The dip is not something new and is definitely something that 100% of us (depending on how old you are)  have faced literally 100’s of times in our life. The dip is that moment when something gets so hard that you feel like quitting.

Seth wrote a book called “the dip” (yes, all lower case). Under the book title on the cover reads the words A LITTLE BOOK THAT TEACHES YOU WHEN TO QUIT (AND WHEN TO STICK).  

Wait a minute, is he implying that there are times when it is actually okay to quit when it gets hard? I was always told that “quitters never win, and winners never... " Could it be that at times the best strategy for winning is actually quitting?

Here is the gist of this little book, and you don’t even have to pay me for the two hours it took me to read it. Yes, this is free gift, a late Christmas gift from Seth and I. Use it wisely and by all means share it.

Quitting, as a short term strategy, just because you're in a dip, is a bad idea. 

"Never quit something with great long term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment"  

Seth Godin

Quitting as a long term strategy, for good reasons, can be an excellent idea. 

 

 

 

                                                       The Dip

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What Do We Really Want?

What Do We Really Want?

When it comes to the point where customers look only at price and stuff like “free shipping” when  choosing whether to do business with my company, something is not right.

As a small business owner in today's marketplace this is a daily tension for me. How far can I go in discounting our products or services to match our competitors, and still feel like we can afford to offer what we we really want to give - great service and satisfaction? How far?

I hate finding myself in that spot, that place where I have cut my margins so low that if anything goes wrong and I make it right, I may lose money. On my part, fundamentally great service has a cost attached to it, but I still want to feel good about standing behind my work.

It is at this point that I have to remind myself that I can always find ways to earn back the money, but the trust - that is much more difficult to earn back.  When customers lose trust, it can infect a business like a virus.

The struggle is to convince myself and my customers that my product may be worth a little more, because the plan is to be around, for them, for the long haul.




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What's It For?

What's It For?

Design is important and a well designed product or gift can quickly and decisively communicate your message. However, if you are giving a gift to show someone how much you appreciate their contribution to your life,  organization or team but fail to communicate specifically how you feel in words, your well intended efforts could be lost.

Sometimes you can get lucky and just the act of giving a gift is enough, but when you take the time to communicate a feeling, a vision, the value you see in that person in words along with the gift, it can take an ordinary gift and turn it into extraordinary. In fact, the “what's it for?” is likely the most important question to ask when trying to show appreciation.  

The most meaningful, long lasting gifts, I believe, have a compelling “what’s it for?”.

For example, what is the difference between a $50 gift  and a $150 gift when both are exactly the same object? The difference in the $150 gift might be that it includes a part of you. You invested the time and mental resources to think of something to say. You took the time and energy to take the product to someone who could transform that object into a unique expression. It is the very same $50 object, yet the extra $100 investment represents a valuable, personal message of appreciation.

Are you able to clearly and quickly identify the purpose of what and why you give, whether in the marketplace, your community or at home? If not, I believe it is worth taking the time to think and get a clear “what’s it for” in mind. Doing this could lead to enhanced relationships, more purpose and greater creative energy in your life.







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A Better Story

A Better Story

Seth Godin’s altMBA is all about inspiring leaders, changemakers, decision makers and action takers. More from Dennis about this recent online experience...

“Changemaking isn’t about clearly outlining the rational benefit of your point of view. Changemaking happens when people fall in love with a different version of the future.”

When I hear statements like this I think that I have to have a story that will convince everyone of my different version of the future. This is not a realistic goal - all we have to do is take a look at the political world and we know that convincing others is not easy. No matter how great our product, our service, our story, someone else out there is going to be able to match or better it.

But each of us has a unique story. Often it is a simple result of our prior experience in life, who we know, where we studied, worked or what team we belonged to. The key to a good story, a better story, is making it our story - our believable, true, one of a kind story that others will benefit from.

I am convinced that every successful product or service starts with a great story. What is your story? Is it true, believable and of benefit to others?

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Call to Action

Call to Action

Dennis shares insights from Seth Godin's altMBA...

During the altMBA course there was one consistent requirement for each project and that was action. After all the brainstorming, reading, and group discussions we were not done until we took action and shipped our work.

How often in our daily life whether at work or at home do we talk a big story, invest large amounts of time researching and dreaming, only to not take action in the end? I know I do this.  I would assume that you probably do also.

Action makes all the difference, even if we get it wrong sometimes. What keeps you from acting? Is uncertainty holding you back?. If life is not turning out the way you had hoped, it may be because you are choosing not to take action more than you choose to act.

I love the saying, “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.”  I’m sure it was said by a coach. Regardless, both winning and learning come about from action.

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Knowing Who You Are

Knowing Who You Are

Critical thinking, putting yourself in another person’s shoes, is an important element in Seth Godin’s altMBA. Dennis applies this attitude as he examines his business strategies…

As a business owner have you ever wondered why people who buy from your competitors are right in doing so?

When I was asked to consider this during one of my altMBA projects I not only learned who we were as a business but I learned more about who we are not. This was really hard to do. I figuratively had to  put on different pairs of lenses and look at my business from differing world views. It exhausted me, trying to think of how we could appeal to all these different kinds of potential customers,...

Until someone told me I didn’t have to.

Attempting to “be everything to everyone” can actually hurt your business more than it can help. People trust businesses that have a niche, something they can be an authority on. Knowing who you’re not is just as important as knowing who you are.

When you know who you’re not, it frees you to send people to others.

When you know who you’re not, you may even send customers to a competitor when you know they may be better served there. This humble (but smart) act will actually build trust between you and the customer you send. It may even build trust with the other business owner when the customer tells who sent them.

As a business owner, do you know who you are? In life, do you know who you are? How can critical thinking help you decide?

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Rational Behavior? Hmm...

Rational Behavior? Hmm...

Rational behavior? Maybe it’s not so rational… Not being afraid to think differently is a primary focus of Seth Godin’s altMBA. Dennis of Apple Awards shares encouragement for today’s niche markets.

How often do we strive to be everything to everyone instead of being just the right person for a few people? You might think the rational approach, when identifying the target market for your work, would be to throw out as broad a net as possible and see what you get.

Twenty years ago that approach was probably a good strategy especially if you lived  in a small rural market like we do. But times have changed and the connected society has grown so rapidly that this approach is no longer necessary.

It has never been easier to find people like us, on the fringes, the smallest viable market - people that are looking for that special art or service that we so generously want to share with the world.

I am not saying that it's easy, I am just suggesting that there has never been a time as good as now to launch a niche business or organization. It still requires us to take a long term view and never quit learning. It still requires a daily routine of showing up and shipping your work. I’m just saying, the rational approach is not what it used to be.

 

Find your niche. Don’t be afraid.

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Being a Generous Team Member

Being a Generous Team Member

The value of teamwork is a prime lesson in Seth Godin’s altMBA. Dennis was able to have teamwork experiences with several different teams during the course. His takeaway...

 

Can you imagine a team where everyone participated with a spirit of generosity?

What might those team members look like? This is what I think:

  • They would show up every day not because of what they get but what they can give.
  • They would share honest critical feedback with kindness and compassion.
  • They would accept feedback and instruction with humility and grace.
  • They would celebrate others talent and good fortune.
  • When things go well, they would have eyes to see all those that made it possible
  • They make the effort to see others for who they really are.
  • They would be brave enough to be seen for who they really are.
  • They might risk looking stupid to think outside the box and share new ideas.
  • They work hard and do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Can you imagine...

 

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Bigger or Better?

In Seth Godin’s altMBA Dennis learned a decision making process that is helpful in examining the options of “bigger or better”.

The project in front of me was to walk through, step by step, a current decision that I was about to make. I was to write out the method I used to make this decision -  should I purchase a certain new business or not?

First, I needed to frame the decision, to draw a box and identify all the options and their potential implications. I needed to take into consideration sunken cost, emotional ties, all the change agents present and how my decision would affect others.

The whole written process was longer than I want this post to be, but I will share this part of it.

I knew I needed to finish something that I had already started with Apple Awards and Sport Plaques. I knew these businesses had a lot of unmet upside potential . But, the allure of “new” was so tempting, especially since the “new” business fit so many of my criteria..  It was closely related to what I already do. It was portable and something that could be moved to my current location in Wisconsin.

However, when I identified all the time it would take to develop the undeveloped parts of the new business, that is when the clarity appeared and the allure of new faded. The unmet potential of my current businesses would take time and energy to develop. I knew we did not have the capacity to add something new. So, the decision was made for better (in current businesses) not bigger (adding something new).

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When Not Deciding Is a Decision

More from Dennis Smith’s experience with Seth Godin’s altMBA...

Have you ever taken a moment to examine all the unmade decisions in your life? Where are the moments when instead of choosing to make a decision, you chose to do nothing? Doing nothing might be a good choice, but it’s still a choice, one that ought to be examined.

Here are some things I ask myself.

Do I not have enough information?

Iis there something like fear that is keeping me from deciding?

Or could it be an inner resistance?

Deciding doesn’t sound like much fun so I will just ignore it and hope it goes away. This is one of my favorite techniques. I read a good book that exposed this approach to making decisions, “The WAR of ART” by Steven Pressfield. I can only assume since he felt compelled to write a book about resistance that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

What kind of “decisions” do you make by not deciding? What do you think about “inner resistance” to making decisions?



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Change Agent

Change Agent

Although his writing often gets stuck on the editor’s desk for a while before making it to his blog, Dennis continues to make good progress sharing what he’s learned in Seth Godin’s alt MBA.

 

What is a change agent?

She just broke up with you, you lost your apartment lease, you just lost your job, you just got a new job offer, a new competitor opened up across the street, or my favorite, “the salesperson called up and said it was the last one left!” These are change agents, things that cause us to react. It is really important to identify these agents that are attached to a decision because they can often cause us to panic and hurry our decision, thus opening up the potential for a sup-par move. Think about some recent decisions you have made. Can you identify any change agents attached? Did they help or hinder your ability to make a good decision? Change agents are neither good or bad, they are just  life's realities.

As the header suggests, people can be change agents, also for good or for bad. Go change your world for good!





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A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I’m reminded of a Facebook video that has recently gone viral. It’s about a man who wakes up one day and is thrilled to be alive, thrilled to find that he has a wife and a family, amazed that he has a real job to be going to and a car to get him there. It goes on pointing out all the things we could take for granted on a daily basis.

 At Apple Awards we are thankful to God for the blessings of a wonderful, committed staff, a safe, modern facility to house our work, customers who make our work worthwhile and continually inspire and amaze us with their stories.

Part of what we love to do through the culture of recognition is to encourage others to see the blessings that we experience every day.  Through recognizing qualities like perseverance, courage, faithfulness, selflessness, and commitment, we want to help individuals have the strength and motivation to go forward and influence their world for good.

It is our hope that this Thanksgiving will be a day of awareness, of gratitude and of joy for all who celebrate it. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us, to all of you.

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You Decide!

You Decide!

Dennis shares some of his thoughts about surrounding ourselves with people who help us make good decisions.(From Seth Godin’s altMBA online course.)


The “what for?” regarding good decisions….

The first step toward making any good decision should be asking “who’s it for?” and “what’s it for?”. If you cannot clearly identify the answers to these two questions, you need to do more homework. Asking yourself these two questions and answering honestly can bring a lot of clarity to any situation.

These are hard questions to answer alone though, because we love to deceive ourselves. If we answer these important questions alone, there is no one there to ask the second two most important questions, “who is this really for?” and “what is this really for?”.  My human nature often causes me to avoid people who care enough to ask these difficult to hear questions. I am tempted to go for advice to people who have a similar narrative to mine.

Do you think this is a good strategy? Why or why not? Think about the people you go to when confronted with a big decision, are they the type of people that care enough to challenge your thinking on a particular decision?  Or are they people who are afraid to ask you tough questions because they might hurt your feelings?

It comes down to this, we all have a choice who we surround ourselves with.  You decide!



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How Do I Decide? What if I'm Wrong?

How Do I Decide? What if I'm Wrong?

Dennis Smith of Apple Awards continues sharing thoughts from his recent altMBA experience. 

I don’t remember being taught in school how to make decisions. Every day we have to make a huge number of decisions. But how many of us intentionally think, deep and hard, about making good decisions? When we make a good decisions, do they always have good outcomes?

Before the altMBA workshop, I never considered that a decision with a poor outcome could be looked upon as a good decision.

An example of this is the game of poker. Good poker players know the odds, keep track of the cards played and make bets accordingly. Even when the odds are in their favor, there is an element of chance that plays into the equation. So, a good poker player can lose the hand but still consider their choice to stay in or be hit a “good” choice.

Let me emphasize the word “good”. The poker player is not just relying on luck or chance. He has done due diligence to understand the game and the odds in any given decision. Once in a while a “poor” player gets lucky and wins too, but that’s all that is behind it - LUCK. (That would be me when it comes to poker…)

This is where the rubber meets the road.  We are players in many different situations requiring decisions. When we lose three hands in a row, knowing we have been making good decisions, do we quit or stay in the game? How do I decide?. How do you decide?



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