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What “The Gambler” song can teach us about freelancing and consulting

Rolling Stone just came out with its list of the 25 greatest country songs of all time. Number 20 is “The Gambler,” performed by Kenny Rogers.

I hadn’t thought about the song in years. But now I remember that I used to be intrigued by the lesson because back when I was younger and hearing the song all the time, I couldn’t figure out what the lesson is.

Yes, “You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”But what frustrated me as a kid was how do you know all these things? The song didn’t seem to give a clue.

Now that I’m an adult, I see two more lessons that we need in life, especially as freelancers and consultants.

First, you can’t see the other guy’s cards so remember, they may be bluffing. If I believed everything I read or heard on the internet, I’d be believing that everyone else is so incredibly successful. Furthermore, if in reality they aren’t, they are justified in claiming tremendous success because that’s how the law of attraction and positive thinking work. If you say it with conviction, you are setting it in motion to manifest so you aren’t lying, you are just ahead of time.

And then there are ways to state the truth so it seems much better than it is. I especially enjoy people who brag that they quadrupled their income in a single year. That may be a fact, but let’s not forget that it’s much easier to quadruple your income when it was $1,000 the previous year than when you’re working from $100,000. Claims of extravagant success may be based on a seriously low base figure. If you earn $100 one year and $200 the next, you’re still poor.

Second life lesson: You can only play your own cards. If you hold a pair of deuces and the other guy has a royal flush, you don’t play the game the same as he does unless you can pull off a heck of a bluff.

I suggest being in touch with what is going on in your own business and acting accordingly. If work is coming in slower than you wish, if you are getting a lot of pricing pushback, if you find yourself working with less than ideal clients, just maybe you should acknowledge what is happening and come to terms with how to deal with your business at this time.

Current circumstances are not your destiny. Life changes. Things can turn around. Success may be just around the corner.

But to stubbornly pass up or intentionally overprice yourself out of the moderate paying, somewhat good projects you can land because you compare yourself to an industry superstar who charges an astronomical hourly rate (and has a client roster and list of accomplishments we can only dream of) and who only accepts the perfect client is unrealistic.

Sometimes we have to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt; we can’t play someone else’s cards. But the next hand may be better so let’s play the one we now hold as well as we can.

Back to The Gambler.

As I get older, I think I’ve figured out how The Gambler pins down the answers he needs. There are two components. One is intuition and the other is experience.

The longer we work at our profession, the more comfortable we are in trusting our intuition. With time, experience hones our skills and amps up our intuition so it serves us more effectively.

“In his final words I found an ace that I could keep,” sings Rogers. May we all keep our aces as we develop in our profession. Originally posted 6-16-14

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