In the dimensions of business and sport, we are often met with situations that need to be dealt with rationality, practicality and, sometimes, maybe with a little bit of emotionality. The head versus heart argument may have many flag bearers barraging for the cause of the head. But, when it comes to job satisfaction, it is the heart that rules.
I have recently been under a lot of implications owing to my decision to let go of snooker in the UK circuit. Many critics and well-wishers believed it was not a wise decision. Having to discontinue only snooker in England meant I could come back to India and focus on both my interests—billiards and snooker—and represent the country in all major tournaments. This also meant that I no longer have to be away from my family for extended periods. You could perhaps compare my predicament with a senior executive’s who must either choose an offer to lead a company in another country, or stay back and pursue his or her desire for an own venture.
Both situations have their own set of merits—one that will uphold the cause of ambition and drive and the other that will speak of passion. While one would argue that ambition, drive and passion are all necessary interplays in a professional’s life, the importance of their relevance would depend on one’s own mind space and stage in the career.
I decided to let go of the snooker tour spot in the UK because my goals are rather well defined—my prerogative today is to do what makes me happy. Having received accolades and won championships across platforms in both billiards and snooker, I no longer have the pressure of adding more trophies to the cabinet, but a desire to evolve as a human being with sport acting as the medium. I believe as individuals, we can be proficient in more than one area and I definitely want to continue to prove that to myself by specializing in both billiards and snooker.
Two worlds, one shot
Pursuing snooker and billiards simultaneously poses various kinds of challenges. It is primarily about scheduling and clash of dates of tournaments. Much like an account manager estimating his time on two diverse projects, I am often torn between the two formats and have to prioritize my participation. In 2012, after qualifying through four rigorous rounds of the International Championship in snooker in the UK, I was faced with the dilemma of choosing between that event and the World Billiards Championship, which were around the same dates. I would have been able to play both had the organizers (of both events) agreed to move my dates by a single day (which was all that was needed).
But compelled to choose one, I followed my gut feeling and went ahead with the more prestigious World Billiards Championship. The odds were stacked against me because I had been playing many months of snooker and barely had a month to transition back to billiards. But the decision proved worthwhile as I went on to win the championship. A year later, I decided to give snooker a full-blooded shot and sacrificed the coveted billiards event. While my choice paid dividends again, I wasn’t entirely happy playing only snooker.
Back in the 2006 Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar, the Indian federation had passed a rule that entitled a player to participate in only one sport—billiards or snooker. It was an extremely tough choice to make. I went with my inner voice and opted for billiards and won my maiden Asian Games gold for India. This year, in a span of 45 days, I participated in the World 6-Red Snooker Championship as well as the World Team Billiards Championship. I won the world titles in both, taking my overall world title tally to 10 (the highest by any Indian sportsperson). Had I continued in English snooker this season, I would have missed out on the two latest additions to my world title tally.
But, the biggest challenge I face is that no one is in my position of specializing in both sports at the international level and, therefore, it has been extremely difficult to make one understand the challenges faced when opting to pursue both formats simultaneously. From technique, strategy, stance, cueing action, approach, mindset, etc., I need to make constant changes and adaptations to fare well in both snooker and billiards.
The climb
In sport, as in business, it takes many years of experience before one finds one’s niche. The idea is to keep trying out various things till you find your calling. I realized a few years ago that my calling came from pursuing and excelling in both snooker and billiards. Most well-wishers and critics asked me to make a choice, but my heart would not. When asked about dabbling in pool, I had extreme clarity on it and refused to leave billiards and snooker. If you examine the career paths of many top chefs in the world, you would see that they have worked with various kinds of cuisines and courses before finally specializing in something that is closest to their hearts.
Much like in the corporate scenario, in sport too there is always a climb—striving to get better. It may not necessarily be one to the top from a worldly perspective, but one that has more to do with internal progress. Having won 10 world championships and many more international and national tournaments, my journey now is of a different kind. My definition of success has changed over the years and the quest has become more for excellence and inner growth than anything else.
Sport gives one an opportunity to test his limits, potential, patience and several other facets. Achieving a number is a lot easier than honing certain life skills to an exceptional level. My goals have changed. From every practice session and tournament, personal mastery is my greatest reward.
When to call for change
As a cueist and individual, I have rarely been let down by my instincts. As you gain more experience in business or sport, your crises get solved rather quickly and mostly, accurately. I am very open to feedback and opinions of my close ones. Whether it is about choosing between billiards and snooker in the 2006 Asian Games or joining the English snooker circuit in 2012 or leaving the same in 2014, I consulted and brainstormed with my family when posed with big professional choices.
Think about what makes you happy and go with that because it is only happiness that comes from the process that can deliver any sort of success. If it does not make you happy, pursue something else