Three people with exceptionally risky careers.
This episode is all about risk. I sat down with Gavin Griffin (professional poker player), Mike (police officer), and Park (veteran) to hear about the type of risk their careers entail, and how they manage life amid that risk. Each of their stories reminded me to see the individual behind the badge, the fatigues, and the controlled emotions at the table.
Also, this episode does bring up some mature themes; see the bottom of this post for more information.
Gavin said that his parents were not that happy when he first told them he was dropping out of school to play and deal poker for a living. Oh, and he was also needing to move back home. But when he won his first World Series of Poker event, his mom acknowledged that she could tell this poker thing required a lot of skill, that she was starting to understand what he was doing.
He’s been playing for about 14 years by now, has won several large tournaments, and now plays a type of poker I had not heard about before. He also has a family, and it was obvious how important having family is to him. In fact, the way he manages home life is pretty awesome, and it’s something I adopted for my own crew after he and I talked.
Mike is a cop, but this isn’t his first job; it’s his fifth career. His past career involved a safe desk job, but he wanted more. Mike wanted to make a more direct impact on his community. His friend was a police officer, and so Mike was intrigued. After a ride-along, he was hooked and signed up for the police academy the next day.
I asked him if he ever regrets being a police officer- especially in today’s society- and his response was profound. He said that his job “is to help people on the worst days of their lives… that hasn’t changed” even with the tension that surrounds policing these days. So, even on days when his shift has been eventful, he’s hoping the rest of the day is smooth, and he has just 15 minutes left at work… if he hears a call on the radio, he’s on the move.
Park is a veteran who served in Afghanistan. He told me his story of surviving an explosion and the recovery that followed. Though his foot is “basically useless” after the floor of his vehicle crushed the bones throughout his heel, he shared with me an inspiring perspective. “What guy my age can say he’s retired and spends time with family?” he shared. But that’s not to say that the harsh reality of injury during military service isn’t real. To some extent, time is measured in medication to cope with the pain. Once an active skate boarder, Park now finds other passions.
One struggle he highlighted was the need to understand combat veterans who have seen and experienced things that are not commonplace in civilian life. He said that the typical “thank you for your service” comes from a good place, but the disconnect that people who have not served often feel becomes a real barrier. He didn’t know specifically what he would like to hear people say instead (or do instead of just putting yellow ribbons on their cars), but he shared some suggestions. One idea was watching Taking Fire by Discovery, a rare and accurate peek into the line of fire via helmet cam footage. Park said that was a good place to start.
Episode note on mature content:
This episode includes first-hand stories that touch on mature themes and violence due to the nature of the careers involved. The following concepts are mentioned but not explicitly described in this episode: firearms, heroin overdose, sexual abuse, shooting at a human, shooting a dog, combat warfare, an explosion, and amputation.