Alec Torelli is a coach and digital entrepreneur, keynote speaker, professional poker player, and full-time traveler. He is one of the most successful high-stakes poker players in the world who has won millions playing live cash games and some of the biggest tournaments live and online. As a coach and entrepreneur, Torelli shares his knowledge and insight in regard to achieving lifestyle goals that matters.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Orange County, California. I lived a blessed childhood and had parents who loved me, were very supportive, and gave me a great education. To use a poker analogy, I feel strongly I was dealt a winning hand in life.
Participating in musical theatre in high school allowed me to connect with the artistic and creative side of myself and taught me that it was okay to act silly in front of others. If you can sing on stage in front of the girls you like and your friends when you’re 16, it gives you confidence. I believe I took that with me when it came time to take bolder risks, such as deciding to drop out of SMU to play poker professionally.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That I don’t have to achieve some arbitrary goals to feel worthy, that I’m good enough right now.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Listen to the numbers and ignore your gut instinct.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
In 2007 I was one of the biggest winners in poker, making over $1,000,000 in high stakes cash games and winning the biggest tournament in online poker history.
I let it go to my head, stopped studying, and the following year lost back most of what I won. I went from playing games with a $60,000 buy-in to a $1,000 buy-in and had to grind it back from the start. It was a devastating blow to lose such a fortune, and humiliating to move down from the big game to playing small limits.
Busting most of my bankroll taught me how bad I really wanted to succeed at poker. Most people give up when they hit brick walls, but I viewed it as a challenge and knew that if I could climb my way back to the top, I’d come out stronger, wiser, and wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. In short, setbacks are a great way to measure if you’re working toward something you truly love. If you want to give up, chances are you haven’t found that ‘thing’ yet.
I learned that having a strong work ethic is crucial for success, but also that it doesn’t feel like hard work when you love what you do. After a brief pause to clear my head, I was back on the grind again because I love the game and the journey more than I love being atop the mountain.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I show up every day, keep an open mind, have my two feet on the ground and learn from my mistakes.
What is your morning routine?
It depends on what country I’m in, but my morning routine typically involves waking up early, meditating for a half-hour, reading up on something I’m interested in learning, doing exercise of some kind, and then enjoying breakfast with my wife. I’ll then work until lunch.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Meditation has been a total game-changer. Being aware that I’m not my thoughts alone is worth the practice. It’s also helped me become more conscious of who I am as a person, why I behave a certain way or do something, and work through past trauma.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I focus on what’s truly important. If it’s not going to move the needle I either delegate or eliminate it. This has been a more recent development as I used to believe that occupying every second of free time with something to keep busy was the way to be more productive. Now, if I have 5-15 minutes, I’ll meditate instead to get clarity on what I should be doing.
Sometimes that involves rest. Then, when I do act, it’s deliberate and with intention. In this way, the quality of my work has improved dramatically as virtually all of my time is spent on my highest productivity items.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
I read this when I was 18 years old and just coming up in poker. The book resonated deeply with me because Ferriss’s goal wasn’t to die the richest man in the cemetery, but rather to live the best life. That involves controlling your time and being able to work where and when you want.
Aside from the practical strategies about outsourcing, becoming location independent, and running an online business, I realized that my ideal lifestyle cost a lot less than I had originally thought. From that point on, I was more focused on controlling how I spent my time and how I made my money rather than how much I made.
A second great read is Happier by Tal Ben Shahar. It’s written by a professor at Harvard who taught a course on the subject. It’s a great guide on how to live a meaningful life. Speaking of which, it’s about time I review it again!
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
‘Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
‘If you want to know if you’re on the right path, simply look at the people ten years ahead of you and ask yourself if you want to be like them.’ – Dennis Prager