Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

To speak or not to speak, that is the question.

Back in the day when I played competitive billiards I had an excellent mentor, he was highly experienced, a champion and has forgotten more about billiards and the mental aspects of winning and losing than I will ever learn, but what I did learn from him has served me well in all aspects of my life.

Let me share with you one of his gems of advice: He explained to me that there are only so many shots, postures and position plays one can learn, once you’ve mastered the technical aspects of the game that’s only 25% of the game, the rest is played in the mind of the players. He further explained that when I find myself equally or even out matched in a game to be very careful with anything I say – ‘No matter what you’re feeling, thinking or what you may believe, do not speak it’.

That was confusing. Why did it matter with regard to what I said? He told me that the mind is a funny place and all players, no matter their level feel a bit of nervousness and insecurity, what opponents look for, to get the edge, is even more nervousness and insecurity in their opponent. From this short lesson I learned that we all look for security, a safety blanket, if you will, even the best do it whether they ever admit it or not.

I remember when I beat my first champion player, I was nervous out of my mind, but thanks to the advice of my mentor I didn’t show it in my mannerisms and I especially didn’t speak it. I approached him calmly, shook his hand firmly and played my game the best I could and won. It was perhaps the first time I didn’t wear my fears and insecurities on my shoulders, didn’t speak them and played my game.

A few weeks later I played another champion in the final round of a larger tournament, I was winning 7 to 2 in a race to 9. Perhaps I felt overconfident at 5 games ahead and allowed a few powerful words slip from my mouth just before breaking the next rack. I quite honestly and regretfully said to this experienced champion that I hadn’t expected to beat him. Why in the world did I say that? Was it just an excited, impulsive ADD moment? Yes, it probably was and like many of my ADD moments, it was disastrous! No balls went in on my break and I never got back to the table, my words had somehow sparked this champion, gave him the fuel he needed to gather himself and play to his full capability. I never got back to the table and lost 9 to 7!

There were several lessons I learned by the end of that match, but perhaps the most important was that I spoke my anxiety out loud and like blood in the water, the shark approached and devoured me. It wasn’t an opening in the game he needed, to defeat me, he had already had a couple of those; it was in the mental aspect of our game where I was beating him until I spoke. I spoke aloud my anxiety and it was all he needed, the chink in my armor.

Trust me, it took far more experiences like what I shared with you above until I finally learned to hold my tongue and frankly, I am still not a pro at it. However, I want to get to another point in my mentor’s lesson to me about speaking my anxiety, insecurities and fears. Sometimes it is important to talk about those thoughts, feelings and emotions with a trusted friend, coach or mentor, but it is very important to take care about what we say, not only to our opponents in life, but also to ourselves. To ourselves? I asked him. Yes, indeed to ourselves, the power words have upon others pales in comparison to the power they have over ourselves.

That’s when I first started to learn about negative reinforcement. He explained that what we consistently say to ourselves is the most important factor between winning and losing, succeeding and failing, living a fulfilling life or living in mediocrity. That revelation helped change my life and put me on a higher road to overcoming my most difficult opponent: myself. It would still be many, many years before I was finally diagnosed with ADD, but I was already on the road to recovery thanks to my mentor’s insights in winning at billiards.

Today I wrote about my experiences with billiards at the request of a reader. I enjoy traveling back in time to the days of lore and playing pool. If you would like to read more about what I learned from my mentor in billiards and how I came about finding a mentor in the first place, please read my book “One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir” I think you will enjoy reading about the lessons I learned. I truly believe that sports are excellent for young children and teens with ADHD, especially if coached by a great mentor who’s willing to share his insights and teach the young the mental aspects of the games they play, because more often than not, those lessons serve us well in everyday life.


JP (Judy) September 21, 2009 at 11:40 am

Remembering those “seeds” that other people in our lives planted inside of our minds and hearts is special. To me it’s evidence that we are not islands; we’re all interconnected in this world. I was listening to one of Dr. Ratey’s interview podcasts last night, talking about the 4 theaters of the brain. Even the tiniest experience we have and each word spoken to us contributes to the values we develop and helps form the constructs we use to guide us through our lives. I know our brains are in constant flux but there are some memories that are pretty much “truths” for us. Thanks for sharing one of those that, for you, became embedded!!

For me, I was significantly shaped by something a religion professor taught me in college. The Hebrew word, “timshel” is translated to mean “thou mayest” and I’ve clung on to that with a passion all these years. “Thou mayest” represents free will to me. We have been given the capacity to use our talents, our gifts, and our lives as we see fit. We know we’ll make mistakes because that’s what we do, as human beings. We can learn and move forward in our journey or – not; if we use our free will to live in mediocrity, as you mentioned, we’ll never know the joy that can accompany the “journey.” I’m not going on a deep philosophical jag! I just wanted to give another example of how others can have a meaningful influence on our lives.

Again Bryan, thanks for writing another thought-provoking blog!

Katy B. "Miss K" September 21, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Very interesting. I had a sort of similar learning experience when I was very small. I remember it vividly because the revelation in the moment was SO huge to me. I was eight, and driving in the car with my mother and her friend. They were talking and there was something I REALLYREALLYREALLY had to tell my mom RIGHT NOW!!! Of course it wasn’t actually that important but I sure thought it was…as I always did…as I followed her around the house talking her head off everyday…

So I’m sitting there while they’re talking going MOMMOMMOMMOMMOMMOMMOMMOMMOM!

And she turned to me and said, honey, we are having a conversation right now and you are going to have to wait to tell me, okay? You don’t have to say everything that pops into your head, out loud, all the time.

Bryan, this blew my mind. The concept had never occurred to me. And this realization. Made me feel…powerful. Realizing that I could CHOOSE or not chose to speak…what power! A few minutes later when she turned to me and said “thank you for waiting your turn, what did you want to tell us” (god bless her for having the patience to articulate that instead of being annoyed with me)…I just sat there and smiled and said “nothing!”. HAHAHA…I still talk way too much, am a total Chatty Kathy, and often interrupt people precisely because I am excited about what they are saying…but that lesson has stuck with me, that feeling of power, and it does indeed help me sometimes to remember it, in those moments when I feel like I’m gonna explode if I don’t speak. It helps me redirect my mind so that even if I am still off on a tangent, that tangent isn’t necessarily coming outta my mouth.

So in any case…more truth brother, good stuff, thanks.

And thank you for plugging my blog, I really appreciate it…I was so exasperated with myself that day that I wrote that post but in the end all I could do was laugh…my boyfriend was cracking up too. He loves my ridiculous, spontaneous, and yes, forgetful brain…

Jackie September 27, 2009 at 9:35 am

Hi ! ,

I tried to “subscribe” but got a no win circle.
Feed burner is not accepting and google wants to transfer me, but I was not there…. Is this me and my ADHD? or a …..?

But I’m really glad to have found your site! Jackie

Bryan September 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Sorry Jackie! Feedburner link is fixed :)

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