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2020 Recap: Molly Bloom

In honour of International Women’s Day, it is only fitting we recap on one of Pendulum 2020’s powerhouse women, Molly Bloom. 

A story that many won’t believe, the voice behind Bestselling book and Academy Award nominated movie, Molly’s Game, Molly introduced herself to the audience, as many were unfamiliar with her. However she made an impression from the word go, entertaining them with the trials and tribulations of her life and the lessons she learnt along the way.

She began her presentation comparing herself to those in the audience. The 2’500 people in the crowd, saying they all had something in common. Whether you are a world renowned poker princess, CEO of a large multinational or a team leader working among the crowds, and although the details of their stories may differ, Bloom tells them that everybody in their life comes into hard times, makes mistakes, falls down and some have to reach deep inside and figure out how to overcome that and how to be better so we’re all very connected in this way. 

She realised that she was “never going to be the smartest and most talented person in the room”. A feeling which kept her up at night and which prompted her to make the decision at a very young age that she would just never stop trying, never quit and keep going at it until she caught up with her brothers, a superstar athlete and a Harvard graduated surgeon. 

The first place she applied this attitude was to her ski career, “I woke up early and went to training early. I left late. I learned how to play hurt. I learned how to suffer constructively and at 19 years old. I was ranked third overall in North America and at 21, I made it all the way to the Olympic qualifiers.”

The dogged attitude she had to work as hard as she could, to fully commit and focus on her goal was incredible and because of this she realised a person can make amazing achievements once they do this. However, following an accident on the slopes during this qualifier round, Bloom not only failed to make the Olympic team but broke her back. She commented, “it wasn’t because I didn’t show up and work hard. It was because I tripped on a stick and sometimes that happens in life.” Showing the Pendulum 2020 audience that although they try their best and do everything right sometimes, things just don’t work out. It’s nobody’s fault- life is unfair at times and what they do following these setbacks is what sets them apart. 

Coming back from this, Bloom recovered, saved and made the move from her home comforts in Colorado to the big and bright lights of LA. Through some fortunate acts of fate, she found herself working at the most exclusive underground poker game in LA, the table occupied by the most elite. She noticed this wasn’t a regular occurrence, ‘”Molly this isn’t an opportunity that a 23 year old kid from Loveland Colorado gets, this is an opportunity to have proximity to wealth, capital power and information”. This was a light bulb moment for Molly and had inspired her to learn every trick in the business. Learn the game inside out, learn about the player’s and their lives, learn what it takes to run an event of this calibre. For a 23 year old girl, to notice the opportunity that she was just given, for many others it wouldn’t have even registered. Inspiring the audience to take in their surroundings, be aware of the opportunities that arise for them, even the ones that don’t present themselves. The determination she had to take this opportunity, not only work for the game but to be the game. To take it over and run it how she saw it should be. On stage, she told the audience “but I also believe a lot in experiences and the way you can emotionally galvanize people to switch sides.” She followed that belief and set up on her own, and surely the A-listers occupying the table in her first game were now occupying her table. She used their emotions to do so. Learning about them, their likes/dislikes, their lives, their families. All of those who were at the table felt valued and when someone feels valued, they deliver.  

After a few great years controlling the LA poker scene, things fell apart. She was bullied out of her game however unlike some who may cut their losses and retreat, Bloom had different ideas. “I decided that not only was I not going to go away, but I was going to go bigger and I was going to build an empire and I was going to do this in New York City because I thought and still think there are a lot of gamblers on Wall Street”. She set her sights on bigger and better things and went after it. She knew her product, her target audience, and the best place to find them. She then worked in overdrive to make it happen. Hiring socialites to network on her behalf, doing deals with casino hosts, concierge’s in hotels and bartenders to make her new product better than it ever was in LA. “By the end of 2008, I had in fact built the biggest poker game in the world, populated by Wall Street Titans, Politicians and Sports Stars”.

With this success, Bloom found herself sacrificing herself in other ways, her family, her real friends and she instead turned to drug and alcohol abuse. The fear of being replaced or bullied out of her empire again was too much. Eventually, through a series of events her world came crashing down and she lost everything. Her wealthy income, her games, her control. On stage, she spoke and told the audience “I was raised up right, I was raised that when we fall down, we get back up. So I decided that’s what I was going to do. I got clean and sober”. 

To come from having everything, more money than she knew what to do with, control over the biggest underground poker game in the world, everything she worked so hard for and she let it spiral. She told the audience about the harsh realisations she had to face, the battle she had to go through to get clean and sober and struggle she had to rebuild her life from the very beginning. 

The idea behind this was Bloom’s resilience, she had done it once before when her ski career was cut short and she would have to do it again. A fundamental lesson to learn for those at Pendulum. Things may not always go to plan, but we must pick ourselves back up, re-strategise and go again. Nobody gains anything from failing and giving up.

“It took me about a year and a half to kind of put things back together, two years and I moved back to LA and gotten a job”. This rebuilding process is not easy, and not a quick fix. It takes time, consistency and patience for any of this to come to fruition, it is important not to give up in the process. 

Trouble continued to follow Bloom and upon her return to LA, the federal police called her for questioning, offering her freedom in return for the names of those who took a seat at her table. Black and white choice some might think, give them the information and she can remain free, however as she put it “this was my fault. I did this and I needed to stand for the consequences instead of taking down people who had shown up and supported me, who had paid my bills and who had families of their own”. She formed a relationship with these people, trusted them and respected them. They did the very same to her. They trusted and supported her. It was impossible to give them up in return for her freedom. This referenced the importance of trust for those in the audience. Your colleagues, teams, organisations all show varying levels of trust in each other but the important part is to share yours with them too, and deliver when this trust is sought. 

Following this, another rebranding campaign had to be undertaken. Bloom had to reinvent herself yet again. It took resilience, commitment and an inner strength to try and reinvent herself after such an epic fall from grace. She recalled the numerous road blocks she encountered, and how she had to “check her ego at the door”. No longer able to rely on her reputation, contacts or past performances. It took hard work and commitment before she made her next break, Molly’s Game. 

In Bloom’s words, “The thing that is going to make you or break you is in between your ears regardless if the odds are stacked for you or against, a good strong mindset would get you there every time and the cool thing is science. As of late it has told us that our brains are always changing, adapting and that we can influence that. We can all change the way our brains work. We can influence our behaviours and our attitudes by making conscious choices to adapt our mindsets and participating in various meditation and mindfulness exercises”.

She proceeded to end her presentation with key learnings from her story and how the audience can adapt her story to the various obstacles they meet in their own lives.

She left the audience with this statement,  if a positive mindset is the key to success and we can change our mindset, we can build our minds and make it more primed for success. What are you doing on a daily basis for your mind? If the answer is very little or nothing. I think you have a huge opportunity. I think we should be training the mind like an athlete trains your body, like a surgeon trains their hands as it is such an incredible performance tool. “The best thing that I have ever tried is to train the mind with meditation”.

The second lesson she wanted them to take away was character.

“When my life fell apart. I had to take a real hard look at who I was and how I portrayed myself in the world. It was because of this I could see a great picture that I had to make changes to then to make sure that I was constantly engaged in a character growth”. Opening the audience’s mind to how they are viewed in the world, in their workplace, in their families and society as a whole. Can we improve this image? What can we do to achieve this? 

“I started for the first time to have an inner confidence and inner self esteem that is not contingent or relying on what the world thinks of me. I know who I am and that to me is true”. The benefits of actively being the way we want to be viewed can instill a confidence that many have yet to experience. According to Bloom, that confidence is the most rewarding. 

The third lesson is action.

Everybody has to start somewhere it rarely feels good to start”. She didn’t know how poker worked, but she learnt. She didn’t know how to write a book, but she tried. Eventually, whatever we choose to do if we keep practicing and working, we will improve and become good. That attitude can be adapted to anything, whether people want to try something new in work, start their own business or develop a new hobby. “I didn’t know how to write a book but you know what I had to do, I had to start writing badly. Then over time I stopped sucking so bad and I could see where I was going. I took a hundred meetings to learn about Hollywood and to learn about pitching my story. Like I said people laughed me out of the room people and told me this will never happen, but by the time I got to Aaron Sorkin, I had told that story a hundred times. I knew it in my sleep. There is no replacement for action. It has to be part of your daily life, particularly and especially when we don’t feel like it”.

Bloom ended her presentation with the line, “If we are willing to train our minds, fill our character and take fearless action, I don’t really think anything or anyone stands in our way”. To a resounding applause she thanked Pendulum Summit for welcoming her to Ireland for her first time.  

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