Bahman Zarghami is a mindset and high performance coach, and has been working with poker players and other business professionals for over seven years, helping them deal with specific challenges surrounding high-sensitivity, ADD, and high intelligence.
A refugee at the age of 2, Bahman grew up in Holland and dealt with homelessness, poverty and mental health issues from an early age. Through his early years he was challenged with high-sensitivity, ADD and worked through other misdiagnosed mental health conditions. After working as an inner-city youth counselor, he began working for a youth center for highly-intelligent high school dropouts. Surrounded by the best professionals in the country, he studied and learned everything he could about the challenges that high intelligence people face. Eventually he started CoachBahman.com and began coaching and guiding poker players and other professionals through common issues stemming from high intelligence, high-sensitivity and high performance.
If you want to know what exactly “high-sensitivity” means, check out Coach Bahmans video on the topic here: High Sensitivity
It was a great pleasure to be able to sit down virtually with Coach Bahman and talk in depth about his incredible life story, his passion for coaching, and his thoughts on the specific issues that many poker players face when dealing with high intelligence challenges.
Q: Where else can we start but at the beginning? You were an immigrant from Iran at a young age, where did you grow up and what was your life like as a child/young adult?
Coach Bahman: Yes, I was born in Ahvaz, a city in the southwest of Iran. When I was two years old, the Islamic Revolution was happening, and our lives were in danger. During this time my Grandfather was murdered and our family received several death threats. Eventually we fled the country overnight and eventually made our way to the eastern border of Holland, about 15 minutes from Germany. I spent the first 10 years of my life there. Unfortunately my father was an alcoholic and had severe PTSD from the war, and my mother had severe depression. During this time I was a very highly sensitive and emotional kid. I would crawl under tables and build small forts for myself and just hide there for the entire day. I didn’t really get into trouble back then, I was too busy processing my emotions to get in trouble. The school system misdiagnosed me a ton, and mostly didn’t know what to do with me. I had a ton of potential but wasn’t living up to it. This is a really common symptom of people with high intelligence, you have the ability to accomplish great things but you don’t know how to achieve your full potential and that’s obviously very frustrating. You and
your environment expect a lot from you and not being able to live up to it has impacted me to this day.
Q: Can you please talk a bit about your journey as a young man, specifically starting in your late teens and early 20’s? You didn’t go in any sort of a traditional route it seems, you didn’t get a degree and were homeless at one point? What was life like for you as a young man?
Coach Bahman: I was very angry, confused and depressed as a young adult. My parents divorced at 13 and I went to live with my mother. When I was 16 my mom kicked me out of the house during one of her bipolar episodes, leaving me homeless. I stayed in a homeless shelter for a couple months, it was a strange time in my life and I don’t remember too much from back then. After floating in and out of homelessness, working and getting fired from too many jobs to count, I eventually started playing poker on Ultimate Bet at the age of 20, playing 50NL and working my way up the stakes. Everyone was horrendous back then, so with the help of my good friend Zdravko Duvnjak (high stakes poker pro) I started to improve quickly. However, everything once again went south when Ultimate Bet dissolved and my entire bankroll (almost $4,000) vanished. I woke up one day to 80 cents in my bank account, and had no idea what to do. Thankfully my friend and brother Zdravko was there for me and helped me get back on my feet. He gave me some money, coached me in poker, and even paid for my apartment rent. Then the bad run ended when I met my fiancée, who truly was the missing piece in my life. She was able to start helping me through some of the many issues I dealt with as a child and teen, and I slowly started to work through it all.
Q: I saw something on your website in the About Me section that says that ‘your performance is in your own hands, and that you are the master of your universe’. What was your mindset and outlook on life as a young adult? What did you want to become?
Coach Bahman: Even when I was homeless, I wasn’t focused on getting out of it or changing my situation, I was simply delusional. I thought I’d be great, exceptional at something. I didn’t know what it was, but I always had a
deep rooted feeling that I would be truly great at something. People were going to respect me, I’d be in circles and communities that I wanted to be in, and everyone would see me as a successful guy. Even though you could call it misguided and delusional at the time, this self belief helped me keep my sanity during those tough years of family issues and homelessness. Eventually my reality ended up being much better than I could ever dream of. But you have to truly believe it first.
Q: How did you land on being a professional mindset coach? With no degree, was it your life experience and self education that propelled you into this job?
Coach Bahman: After flirting with many different jobs including party promotions, and DJing/Rapping, I landed in a job as a youth counselor. I quickly fell in love with this work, helping the kids, and it started to provide a real purpose and direction to my life. I worked as hard as I could, studying and reading, earning different certificates and degrees, and learned as much as I could about it. Eventually, I worked my way up to being a full time city youth counselor. From there I went to work for Feniks Talent, a center for highly- intelligent school dropouts, founded by world-renowned intellectual giftedness specialist Tijl Koenderink. These are the smartest people in the world when it comes to dealing with high intelligence, and they saw something in me and gave me a chance. This made me believe in myself much more, and helped with a lot of the stress and self doubt that I was dealing with. I worked with them for a year and a half before starting my own coaching business.
Q: So you went straight from working with and learning from these incredible people to starting your own company? How did CoachBahman.com become a reality?
Coach Bahman: While working at Feniks Talent, I helped a lot of people who were working through various diagnoses, ranging from high intelligence, autism and ADD. My friend Zdravko pointed out that a lot of poker players have similar traits, and there really wasn’t someone out there at the time who was helping specifically poker players learn how to deal with these traits. There was performance and mindset coaching available, but there was nothing out there helping poker players deal with specific high sensitivity, high intelligence issues. One month later, CoachBahman.com was born. I started coaching poker players, including Nikita Luther, and all of these blessings and opportunities started coming out of nowhere. After taking control of my life by cutting out bad food, lack of exercise and living to a higher standard, after taking control of my purpose by focusing on helping others rather than my own achievements, only then did the blessings start coming my way. I stopped playing the victim card, and instead used my past to help others with similar issues. The key to happiness is truly helping other people.
Q: What’s your coaching method, and what process do you typically use with new clients?
Coach Bahman: There are 5 steps to high performance that I use as a model to help new clients who have high sensitivity, high intelligence or ADD. The first step is awareness, knowing the questions before you search for the answer. The second is clarity, or having a clear vision of where you are, where you want to go, and what it’ll take to get there. The third step creates organization and structure in your life to keep you accountable and create an optimal environment. The fourth is growth, setting long term progress goals. The final step we go through is spirituality, or making sure that you are working for something bigger than just yourself. I treat every client differently, and help them find and model their own goals and desires in this initial assessment.
Q: You work a lot with professionals in many walks of life, but your past probably helps you understand a bit more about the psychology of poker specifically. Are there any common issues that poker players specifically tend to struggle with?
Coach Bahman: It really depends on what stakes they are playing. 50NL to 500NL players will tend to have different goals, different limiting beliefs and different issues than the high stakes players playing 5kNL, 10kNL and upwards. Low to Mid stakes players are focused on getting to the top. They have a clear cut goal, and they aren’t there quite yet. With these players I try to help them find their destination. What is your ideal “there,” what are you trying to accomplish and achieve? A big issue with high intelligence people is that they tend to lack structure. They usually don’t do too well in the education system because of this, and these problems can leak into poker as well. You’ll see poker players play for 18 hours a day, sleep for 4 and then do it all over again the next day. For these players we need to find and pinpoint a clear cut destination, and then create a game plan to start working towards achieving it.
Poker players who’ve already reached the high stakes scene tend to need more help with existential issues such as “what is my purpose, and what do I want?” Expectations of fulfillment and purpose haven’t been shown in their success, even though they’ve reached the top of the poker world. These players are more focused on what drove them to this success and this path, sometimes stemming from early childhood memories. Usually their issues come from running away from something, not from running towards poker. For these players the financial problems have disappeared, and now the deep self-work can begin.
Q: What are some mental qualities that successful poker players have?
Coach Bahman: They have the ability to self-reflect, they are brutally honest with themselves, they have a good social circle or network of strong poker players, and most good poker players are also very spiritual. Instead of thinking just about themselves and their own monetary gain, they focus on giving back to the world, making a difference, and leaving a positive impact on those around them. They plan out their long term goals, asking themselves “what do I want in 5 years, 10 years, 40 years from now?” They might not have the answers but these are the concepts that they actively think about. Great poker players are also proficient in other areas of life outside of poker. Whether it’s business ventures, golf, Jiu Jitsu, chess, kickboxing, or whatever, they learn other valuable skills outside of the narrow skillset surrounding poker. Poker by itself will not give your life meaning, it’s only one aspect of who you are. Trying new things will also help you reignite any lost passion you may have for poker, it’s incredibly motivating to learn new skills, and this discipline will carry over into your poker career.
Q: I’m sure becoming an entrepreneur yourself gives you experience and knowledge that can help others who are struggling to build a business, launch their poker career, etc. If you had to give a word of advice to anyone who is just starting to play poker, build a business or in other ways make money for themselves, what would it be?
Coach Bahman: First off, you have to do some deep soul searching and figure out why you are on this path. Are you running towards poker/business, or are you running away from something else? In life, the thing that you are running away from always seems to pop back up eventually and carry over into other aspects of your life. Whether it’s commitment issues, fear of failure, etc, you’ll usually end up running into it no matter how hard you try to avoid it. True happiness is never found in running away from something. If we can come to an understanding of what it is that we are actually running away from, we can start to see it for what it is. Is it authority, family, expectations, fear of missing out? What is my deep rooted motivation for setting out on this path and doing this every single day?
It’s also important to find out whether you are motivated by external or internal things, because the external motivators like money, fame, girls or success never seem to last that long. At the end of the day you have to decide what kind of person you want to become. What habits do you want to have, what values and morals do you want to have, and do you actually have to chase down this illusion of freedom to become that person, or can you become that person starting right now? We always seem to think there is something in or way, stopping us from becoming who we want to be. Do you need a business to become this person? Do you need poker to become this person? Usually when we say we want to be as successful as someone, we are actually chasing an identity, not the external things like money and fame that surround it. There is nothing holding you back from living like this person right now, and you may find that if you live like this long enough internally, the external things will eventually follow.