Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Being Hyper-competitive is a mixed blessing

Few things are an unmixed blessing.

I’m a hyper-competitive person. That has helped me in many ways my whole life but it’s also cost me in ways I am just now coming to realize. I have beaten a lot of people who had superior technical skills because I trained harder and was willing to put up with more pain both in practice and in a match.

After seeing a demonstration at a clinic of a  technique that the coach said,

“This will be so painful, your opponent will turn over to avoid it,”

I went up to him and said,

“I’m sure that will work with a lot of people. For me, and for the people who really want to win, they won’t move to a position that’s a disadvantage for them. They’ll endure it and make you pay for it later. Those are the people you really need to figure out a way to beat.”

Being hyper-competitive has helped me in business, too.

I learned from sports that you don’t win long-term by cheating but rather by working harder and learning more than the competition. I’ve applied that to my career as well. That’s one reason I have four degrees. I always find time to learn new programming languages, new technologies, read up on the latest marketing trends, even if it’s only a few hours a week. I put in my hours on the job, travel more miles than our competition. My former teammates from judo know this because I only see them every year or so.

What could possibly be wrong with being hyper-competitive?

It took me a long time to learn this - if you are hyper-competitive, you look at almost everyone and everything through the lens of "Will this help me win or not?"

 I have far fewer friends in judo than most people who have been in the sport for almost 50 years. Whether it was for a spot on a team or as a member of a board promoting policies that I really believed would help grow the sport, I looked at most people as competitors or “team mates”. Competitors keep you from winning and team mates help you win. I never had a single friend who was in my division. There was one gold medal and I wanted it.

Now, there is nothing wrong with looking at a person as someone who helps you win, since it can go both ways. It’s the same as looking at someone as a customer. I get their money but they get software that helps them or their children learn and do better in school. They don’t have to fight about doing homework to learn fractions. The same with a team mate. I get a good work out, the other person gets a good work out and we both leave the gym better.

The point I missed is that I ONLY looked at most people as helping me win or keeping me from winning. If I met someone who knew a lot about teaching counters or organizing a tournament I tried to learn everything possible that would help me win. To be fair, I would make sure they got paid or show up at their next event or whatever I could do to pay them back. Hyper-competitive doesn’t mean you have to be a selfish jerk.

What I realized, sometimes years later, was that a lot of those people had qualities and life histories that were far more fascinating than just judo or business. Some of them had careers in special forces in the military (hello, Roy Hash) or had been doing stunts for decades (Gene Lebell) or where working in civil rights law (Karen Mackey).

I think it might be necessary when you are competing to only focus on winning if you really want to be number one. Some people are there for the experience and that is fine, but that was not me.


That line about “In the Olympics, the important thing is not to win but taking part”

I never believed that for a minute. 


Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed almost every minute of judo practice. I even liked the cross-training in running and weightlifting - except sprints. I hated sprints and I hated getting up in the morning to run them twice as much because morning was involved. Still, the important thing to me was winning.

When I was done competing, I had put so many other things on hold, I just switched from competing in judo to competing in my doctoral program, in my career.

If I hadn’t been so busy trying to be the smartest person in the room with the most degrees, most publications and highest salary, I probably would have made more friends in graduate school and early in my career, too.

Gradually, eventually, I learned that not everything was a competition. This may seem like I am a slow learner but I am writing this because I know plenty of people who are still competing every minute and need to hear this. They’re trying to be the one with the most money, most awards and frankly, it’s just silly.

You can have friends who are not fans or potential customers. They can just be interesting people who know things you don’t or who make you laugh until you fall out of your chair or who help the community in ways you admire . 

People can be customers or colleagues and still have  interesting lives outside of your business.

 I was going to go swimming in the hotel pool instead of walking in the game preserve because we all know that swimming is the best exercise.

I still work really hard. Recently, I’d been working so much that I forgot not what day or month it was but what season it was. I was driving through North Dakota and I thought, “That corn is really high for this time of year.” 

That’s when I realized that it was not late spring but early summer.

Going from a world championship run to a Ph.D. and starting businesses is kind a logical progression because if you don't know, academia is SUPER-competitive, especially the kind of grant-funded work I do.  Getting investor funds is a real marathon.

Here is something I learned, as my grandmother would say, "más tarde que nunca" or "better late than never".

Competition can be an important thing in your life without being the ONLY thing

HEY! Support my day job! Get Spirit Lake from the Microsoft Store for your computer. It's fun and you'll get smarter!

Monday, August 12, 2019

I may not be at judo today, but I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned

I said over a month ago that there were three reasons that I am not as involved in judo as I once was and it is very fitting that it's taken me this long to get around to the third one.

There are people in judo I really think the world of their knowledge not just of sports but of life. Yet, despite the best of intentions to make it to judo practice or to tournaments, it seldom happens.

I haven't been doing much judo lately because I've being doing other things

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn't it? Often, when someone disappears from our judo, jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts or other club we wonder what we did wrong, how we could have kept that student. Sometimes, we look at it as a failure on that student's part. If they only had more discipline, were more motivated to be in good physical condition, they'd still be coming to practice.

Over the years, I've seen a good number of students get into ivy league universities, medical school, dental school or clinical psychology graduate programs. Some students went out and started their own businesses.

If it wasn't for Facebook, I wouldn't ever see or hear of them again, and vice versa.

As for me, I haven't been at judo because I've been making games and building a company. In the past couple of years, I have been in Chile, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and Belize, for research and for marketing. I've been in so many states I've lost track. 

Just because your team is out of sight, doesn't mean you're out of mind

I can't speak for all of those former students, but purely for myself and my children, I would say experiences at judo have been super impactful on my life.

One thing I learned from judo is that failure is never permanent and neither is success.

Our company has had a lot of successes, gotten a fair amount of funding and produced twelve games (check them out, they are educational and cool) .

We've had a good month overall, but today I learned that we hadn't gotten two proposals funded. I've never gotten turned down twice in the same day before, and this comes on the tail of having lost out on a contract last month.

Why am I telling you this? Don't I want you to think I am totally amazing all the time so you will invest in my company or download our games to make you smarter?

I'm telling you because that's another thing I learned from judo.

You never grow by being the big fish in a small pond

When I was a kid, I won almost all the tournaments all the time. I was the toughest green belt girl in the Midwest. Then, I went to the senior nationals for the first time and lost. I came in third. I went to the collegiate nationals for the first time and came in second.  Soon, I was winning the nationals, so I went to Europe - and lost and came in third in the British Open and Tournoi d'Orleans. Soon (although it never seemed soon enough), I was winning tournaments in Europe, Asia and South America.

There are people who I'm sure had more talent than me, but they stayed in that comfort zone and they are still undefeated in Duluth, Minnesota.

The contracts we missed out on were bigger, more of a risk for us. We came close, though. Although Maria pointed out today that close doesn't pay the bills, I did learn from judo that if you are close and you keep working, you'll get there.

I may not be at judo today, but I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned

Like kids? Sponsor a kid, a classroom or a whole school, starting at under $2 (for Making Camp Bilingual for one student) to $500 for all of our games for a whole school - because we match your gift 50 cents for every dollar.

Give back to school with 7 Generation Games

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Let the young people run judo

I said there were three reasons I am not involved in judo as much as I used to be - and here is the second one ...

We need to let young people run judo

First of all, I can't do nearly as much as I did 30 years ago. I have nowhere near the strength or speed. Yes, I have plenty of knowledge, but, especially for a lot of throwing techniques, you need SPEED to show how it should really be. You need to be able to BEND to get low enough to show how a throw should be done. I cannot do that nearly to the extent I did when I was young and neither can any of those other older instructors - they just don't admit it.

Years ago, I went to Valley Judo to watch a practice. Sus Kono is the head instructor there. He had Ross Nakamura, who was probably 16 years old, run the warm-ups. Then, he had Jason Uno, who was in his twenties or so, teach seoi nage. Then he had Ross give his take on seoi nage.  Giorgio Gazzani, who was around 18, ran the randori session.

At the end of the practice,  I said to Sus,
"That was great, but some time, I want to come back and see you teach."
He smiled and said,
"You just did."
Valley Judo Institute has grown amazingly since that day and I am not surprised.

We need to put younger people in front of the room

It always seems such a waste to me when I go to a club where I see six or eight young black belts and one (old) person is doing all of the teaching. How are these young people ever going to learn to run a practice, teach a class if we don't let them?

When we put together the instructors for Judo Con, we made a deliberate effort to have most of the sessions led by people under age 50. In part it is to give them practice in being leaders. Also, though, it's because I, and the other people who put this event together, really want to see and hear different ideas.

There's an old saying that,

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. 

I'm not saying an old dog can't learn new tricks, but heck, all the young dogs HAVE is new tricks (new to them, anyway).

People my age had our chance at running the judo organizations, running judo programs. Eventually, we should step aside and let the younger people give it a shot. Maybe they'll do a better job than us. I hope they do.

Think about this now, the people who say,

"I'm going to do judo until I die." 

To whose benefit? I didn't quit judo. I just agreed to start teaching again, once a week, in the fall.  I'm not saying you have to bury your judo gi in the back yard. However, there is that whole mutual benefit and welfare thing. Maybe it is to the mutual benefit if you step back and let other people step forward. You had your turn.

 Let the younger people give it a shot.

Maybe at first they won't be as good as you. They'll learn. Eventually, hopefully they'll be better.

Check out AzTech: Meet the Maya for your iPad .

Learn math, history and English

or play in Spanish!

This is my day job

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mean people: One-third of the reason I'm not around judo much any more

Every now and then, I run into people from judo who say,

"Hey, we never see you around any more? Why is that? What happened to you?"

I wrote this years ago for a project on the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, and our Country Manager for Strong Mind Studios, our company in Chile, came across it recently. (If you read Spanish, check it out.)

Nothing happened to me. I do run a practice or a clinic now and then, but it is true I am not nearly involved as much as I used to be.

There are actually three reasons I'm not around judo these days. One is that I choose to be more selective about the people I am around. My lovely daughter, Ronda, made this comment about earning quite a bit of money.

There are really only two things money can buy you that really matter to me.

One is the freedom to choose how you spend your time and the other is the freedom to choose who you spend it with."

While money may expand that freedom, I think most of us have more of those freedoms than we take advantage of. I've decided to make better choices. The post below gives one of the three reasons I'm not around judo organizations in particular.

By the way, if I haven't seen you lately, I may think that you, personally, are awesome. There are two other reasons I'm not around judo much lately, so, hopefully, I'll get a chance to post about those soon.

How do you say, "Mean People Suck in Dakota?"

Native Americans are noted for their generosity. People give feasts, presents, time and attention to one another. Once you become a board member, you will be giving of your time and talents to the community. Good for you! That is why you were elected or appointed. There is a reason it is called public service. I am going to assume that you are doing a fine, even an outstanding job. Unfortunately, I have seen people like you get burned out and discouraged by mean people. You can learn what to do through experience, your own or other people’s. Try to learn through other people’s experience whenever you can. It is less painful.

As a board member and consultant to boards, on and off reservations, I have had my experience with generosity, and with its opposite — meanness.
Most of us think of the common definition of “mean” as small-minded or not treating people decently. There is an older, related definition, though — stingy or selfish. You will come to learn as board member that your children are correct.

Mean people really do suck.

Avoid Mean People

For some people, no amount you give will ever be enough. For example, I had someone send me an email on Christmas — demanding an answer. His question wasn’t an emergency. He just wanted me to drop whatever I was doing on Christmas with my family and answer him because he wanted me to do it. What did I do? I made Christmas cookies with my daughters. (Well, actually they made them, but I ate them so that counts as a family activity, right?)

This person will probably speak out against me at the next board meeting and say that I am unresponsive. That’s okay. If people you serve as a board member don’t believe you should be able to have any time to yourself, not even on Christmas, then those people lack generosity and are probably not the type of people you want to associate with.

Other people demand 100% agreement. You can vote on the same side as them 99 times out of 100, but that 100th time, when you vote with the opposition, they are outraged and the next thing you know, they are trying to get you recalled.

Decisions about Mean People

 Sometimes mean people can sound almost reasonable. (Imagine this said in the most whiny voice possible … )

“I called you because you are on the board. People like you are supposed to be providing a public service. If you did not want to help people out why did you run for the board instead of letting somebody who is really committed have that seat?”

Notice the person doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that it is 11 p.m. on Saturday night.

You are on a board to serve your community but you don’t owe any one person or even the whole community your entire life. If this was a regular job, you would have holidays off, sick days and not be expected to work 24–7 . If you can, simply do the best you can and don’t give these people another thought. Turn off your cell phone after 10 p.m. and go back to baking Christmas cookies. Odds are, the majority of the people you serve appreciate your efforts and appreciate how generous you are with your time, and they, in return, are not overly selfish in their demands.

If you are in an organization or on a board that consists of mostly mean people, consider quitting and going somewhere else. Maybe that sounds like quitting — well, it is quitting, I just used that word, didn’t I? In the book, “Business as a game” one of the best chapters has the title, “Never play with a stacked deck.”

One way mean people take advantage of others is by playing on those very ethics, the generosity that motivates you to give of yourself, the perseverance that makes you unwilling to give up. If you find yourself the minority in a group of mean people, there is no win for you. They will keep demanding more and more from you than is reasonable to expect you to give. As Erich always says in his ethics courses, you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.

Walk away. Left behind you will be a whole group of takers, each trying to get the others to do more for ME, to please ME, to agree with ME. Can that group ever succeed? No.

Does this mean that you are letting down people in the community who you could help? No, again. Someone with your willingness to give of yourself for the good of the community will be welcome many places. Find one of them and leave the mean people behind.

When I gave a very frustrated young man this advice, he protested,

“But, Dr. De Mars, that way, won’t the mean people win? And won’t I lose?”

I asked him,

“Do you really think so? What exactly do they win? What exactly do you lose?”
Think about it.

In case you were wondering, I was at Spirit Lake making Spirit Lake: The Game, where players learn how to solve multiplication, division and geometry through word problems set in the context of a stories based on the history and culture of the Dakota people. Save your tribe from attacks and a spreading epidemic by solving math problems while escaping rabid wolves and hunting buffalo.

You can get it in the Windows store for under  ten bucks.

You can download and play the demo version for free.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Getting ready for your first competitions

Someone asked me on Instagram my advice on how to be ready for her first competition and since it is a good question, I thought I'd post my suggestions here.

Get in better physical condition

We're not talking the Olympics here and since you are just starting to compete, I'm going to assume that you could improve your conditioning a bit. In this, I find the old saying to be true:
"The best is the enemy of the good. "
People say they can't work out because they can't get to a gym, don't have a partner, blah blah blah. Here is my suggestion for anyone who wants to be a little bit better. This is IN ADDITION TO GOING TO JUDO PRACTICE AS MANY DAYS A WEEK AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.
  1.  Every morning, first thing when you get up, do 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups. If you can't do 10, just do as many as you can. Do it EVERY DAY. It will take you 30 seconds.
  2. After a week, make it 12 push-ups and sit-ups. If you didn't start at 10, just add 1 to what you were doing.
  3. Add 2 more every week until you get to 50, then just keep doing 50 every day. The point is to be stronger than you were, not the world push-up champion. You will find you get faster at doing them so eventually it will take you a couple of minutes to knock out your 50 push-ups.
  4. Run. Get out and run around the block. If you live in the country, run to your mailbox or wherever is about a quarter mile. Do that every day for a week. Next week, do it twice without stopping. Keep increasing until you get to a mile. Now, do that every day and just try to get faster each time. Set a stopwatch when you take off and check it when you get back.
  5. If you live somewhere it is not safe to run outside, do jumping jacks or jump rope for two minutes without stopping instead. Next week, make it four minutes. Keep it up until you are going for 10 minutes straight. Do that every day.

The three reasons why I recommend this

First, a lot of people in this country can't do 15 push-ups, much less 50. Most people can't run a mile without stopping. If you have this level of conditioning, you are going to be more fit than most new, recreational players. If you lose, it won't be because your arms got tired or you were winded.

Second, there are zero excuses not to do these exercises. You don't need a gym or any equipment. You don't need a ride anywhere. Because of that, if every day you get up and do them, you are telling yourself that you are serious about winning and improving.

Third, setting a goal and accomplishing it will make you more confident. When you go out to compete, along with training in judo, which your opponent did as well, you have the added benefit of knowing that you actually went above and beyond. You'll know that you are stronger and in better condition than you were a few months ago. You'll have thought about this competition daily, when you didn't want to run or do those push-ups but you did anyway, so you'll be less freaked out when that day comes.
Independence Rock in Wyoming

The way to get anywhere is to start

I'm in North Dakota right now. We drove almost 2,000 miles through several states to get here. Sure, it would have been faster if we drove and there may have been a more optimal time of year or a better route. The point is, we got here and the way we got here is that we left our house and just started driving. Eventually, we arrived.

So .... start.  Now.

Support my day job! Buy AzTech: Meet the Maya. Have fun while learning math! Get it for your iPad for only $1.99

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Is mall walking still lame if you do it in Australia?

When I was young, I was training three times a day - judo, running and weightlifting. Occasionally, I would run indoors at the University of Minnesota field house around the baseball field. There weren’t many female athletes back then, so I got a lot of stares. Most days, though, I ran outdoors, below-zero weather or no.

At the time, my parents were living in Illinois and in the winter they went mall-walking for exercise. An hour or two before the stores were open for business, while the employees were getting ready for the day, the doors would open for senior citizens and people with disabilities to walk through the mall, including the stores, to get their daily exercise. I was never going to be that lame.

Today, I went mall-walking and it wasn’t even an accident. I planned it.

 Oh, the humiliation of it all!

If it returns a little coolness level at all, yesterday, I went to a wildlife sanctuary and fed wallabies and a pandemelon which is an animal I did not know existed until yesterday, and which spell-check refuses to recognize.  I went yesterday because I knew today was supposed to be cold and rainy. I decided I could go to Phillips Island when it was warm and sunny and go walking in the mall today for exercise.

Speaking of which, I read a book by a European author who said,

“Americans call walking hiking because it sounds so much cooler and more athletic. I am a hiker, now, I am no longer a walker!”

So, yeah, I actually went walking around the wildlife sanctuary and then the mall and today I am mall hiking.

My point, and I semi-have one, is that as we get older, the same type of exercise might not be appropriate. I have had my thumb and my knee replaced in the last decade. For those people who say,

“I’m 80 years old and I still do judo.“

Well, good for you.

I feel no need to pretend I’m 25 any more or that I don’t have a job that requires me to spend 8-10 hours a day at a desk.

If I did judo today the way I did forty years ago, I would definitely break off several pieces of myself.  I don’t get up and do 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups first thing every morning. On an ambitious day, I might do 25 but I’m just as likely to say, “Oh, fuck it” and take a shower.

(To be clear, I take showers on days I do push-ups and sit-ups, too. I’m not stinky. I just take them after.)

I know Dave Roman just recorded a podcast on adult judo students. His main point was that you need to treat them differently, and that is true.

You need to treat yourself differently as you get older as well.  Most of those people who are still on the mat past 60 are doing a lot of standing around and a little bit of teaching. I think that is perfectly okay. In fact, I think it could benefit judo a lot if more people let the younger black belts teach and went mall-walking instead, even if that is in Australia. That,  however, is the topic of another post.

Just so you know that my life is not completely boring, check out Math: The Universal Language Lakota - AR - an augmented reality app that teaches multiplication in Lakota and English. 

How many augmented reality apps can you play on your phone that can say that? Also, it's free. Check it out.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Who pretends to hate successful people? (and why I seldom ask Ronda for anything)

Credit where credit is due, I owe this epiphany to two people - comedian Kevin Hart, whose autobiography, I can't make this up, I highly recommend , and two-time judo Olympian, Pat Burris.

AnnMaria in judo gi

I was a teenager and had just won the U.S. Open. It was the second time I had made it to the finals and my first gold medal at an international event. I'd also won the junior nationals, senior nationals and collegiate nationals that same year.  It was a good year.

Pat said to me,

"About now, people you have never met are going to start trying to pick fights with you and you are going to have to learn to ignore them."

I thought he was nuts. Why would someone I didn't know want to start trouble with me? That didn't make sense. Still, I listened to Pat because  he was OLD - like, he would be 30 in a few years so he obviously knew stuff.

He told me that random guys would get in his face and try to start shit with him (not wise, if you know Pat). He eventually realized that people were doing it to get attention. He explained it to me like this,

"If you are on the podium, on the Olympic team, the best player in the country, people at tournaments are looking at YOU. So, anyone who is around you gets attention. Random Joe from East Nowhere Dojo starts a fight with you and you kick his ass and people don't know who that guy is but they think he must be somebody because the best judo player in the country is fighting with him."

Random fact: Judo used to be a much bigger deal in this country, but I digress, even more than usual.

As I said in my last post, Ronda gets this 1,000 times over.

What does this have to do with haters, Kevin Hart, or Ronda?

In his book, he writes about everything he had to do to learn to be a comedian, about  driving for hours to New York City after working selling shoes all day, sitting in clubs to listen and learn.  After he had made it, he had lots of "friends" and relatives who wanted to add his name to their TV shows or other project they wanted to pitch.

The part that stopped me is where he talked about how THEY were trying to profit off of HIS work without doing any of it.

My husband has cautioned me against ever reading anything anyone says about Ronda on the Internet.

You see, we know her. We know that she is incredibly hard-working, intelligent, talented, kind, honest and generous. She has her faults, as does anyone, but her good qualities vastly outweigh those.

Why do random people who have never met her pick any error she ever made and bring it up over and over instead of her myriad of successes? Why do people take quotes out of context and make her out to be less of a good person?

Very few of these haters are actually haters. They are just like the people Pat Burris and Kevin Hart pointed out. They are trying to use her hard work, fame and name to get attention for themselves. Every time someone uses her name in a headline about how she isn't or doesn't or shouldn't be X they are hoping for clicks on it so they can benefit off of her years of hard work building a name for herself through actual accomplishments.

I don't want to be that person, which is why it's very seldom that I or any of the family ask Ronda for anything, even for charity (although this auction for Gompers Judo is an exception) and if you look at our company website she only comes up when it is something particularly relevant.

Last six blog posts from 7 Generation Games website

7 Generation Games blogs this week

For many people who post diatribes against someone successful, on the Internet or in print, they don't believe a word of it,  it is all about using THEIR hard work in developing a following, THEIR accomplishments that draw people's attention to get some measure of recognition for YOU when all you have actually done is throw mud. (Not you, the reader, of course , because you are a person of exquisite taste and education reading this blog.)

The other day, I asked Ronda how she dealt with it  She knows who she is, what she has done and what motivates he haters of successful people. She said,

"Mom, you always say that success is the best revenge. Personally, I think apathy is the best revenge and I never think about those people AT ALL. "

You can get our Family Textbook (of our family group text) here for $2.99 It's hilarifying