Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Secret to Success Came from Judo but It Could Have Come from Bobsledding

It's been a while since I posted here because I've been getting settled in Chile. If you didn't know I was in Santiago setting up what we fondly refer to as 7 Generation Games South, then clearly you don't follow closely enough on social media.

You can find THIRTEEN 7 Generation Games Social Media accounts here and several of the personal accounts of our founders here. It's almost as if we are encouraging you to stalk us but

A. No, we're not into stalking, and
B. There is no B.

Santiago Art Museum

However, you are welcome to follow any of our accounts in a friendly, non-creepy stalker-ish way and then you will know things like the I am in Santiago working on getting our bilingual games into the Latin American market and meeting all kinds of crazy challenges. For example, today I was practicing giving the pitch for our start-up in Spanish. Afterwards, the person I was practicing with asked me (in Spanish, so I was rather proud of myself that I understood it all) :

"You were a world champion, your daughter is getting inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, your other daughter is a CEO, you'll turn 60 years old in Santiago working on your start-up. You have a Ph.D. What is the key to success?"

I asked her,

"Success in what? In sports? In education? Parenting? Business?"

She said,

"Anything. You pick."

I thought about it for a while and I finally said.

Perseverance. I think not giving up is the key. For example, today was not my day. I was working on something for two hours and the whole thing got wiped out and I had to start over. Just a lot of things went wrong. Everyone got on my nerves. I missed a meeting because another meeting ran late. I didn't get back to several people because I was recreating the site that got deleted.
We've been working on this company for a long time and the first few years were just making the games and getting them not to break, making sure that kids were actually learning. That took THREE YEARS of development, fundraising, testing and data analysis. Now it's been another year and a half of trying to get people to notice our games, download them, try them out and we're just now set to hit 10,000 users.

At a computer? You can play Forgotten Trail and maybe be our 10,000th user!

Why Forgotten Trail? This does relate to my point. Mid-way through the game, when a main character, Angie, gets discouraged, Ronda comes running up the hill, sits down and gives her a heart-to-heart talk. Angie says,

But it's just so hard to walk all the way across the country. I just want to give up.

Ronda tells her,

Where did you start from? At the bottom of this hill? No? North Dakota? Well, look how far you have come. You don't expect to run one 100-yard dash and win the Olympics, do you?
Ronda, as a game character

This gets to my point which by now you think I don't have, oh ye of little faith.

It took me 14 years from when I started judo to when I won the world championships.

There were a lot of naysayers during that time. A lot of setbacks.  I was ranked number one in the U.S. when I got pregnant and Eve went to the world championships instead of me. Two years later, I had knee surgery three weeks before the world trials. I still won - and yes, of course it hurt, really badly.

Plenty of people who were not as successful at judo, business, education or parenting worked very hard but they didn't do it as consistently. When they had a day like today, they said, "Screw it!" and took the rest of the day off instead of doubling down to fix what needed to be done. They worked really hard 80% of the days and that 20% they didn't feel like it, they slacked off.

It's like winter in North Dakota, most people think they can handle it if they come for a few days, even if it's 20 below. They don't realize that it isn't how cold it gets in North Dakota that drives people crazy (although that's pretty bad) , it's how LONG it goes on.

The secret to success is getting up every day and starting with the same enthusiasm, no matter how things went the day before, and doing that day after day after day.

Have a game on us! Making Camp runs in iPad, Android, Chromebook and any computer with a browser. Learn about Ojibwe history, outfit your wigwam and brush up on your math skills.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Four things I wish I'd told my children before I peaced out

I'm heading to Santiago, Chile on Friday morning, as part of Startup Chile. Although I will be back in the United States a couple of times in the next 7 months, I doubt I'll be back in California and, the way our lives are, I doubt I'll see my daughters much, if at all.

Last week, I met up with Ronda before she headed to Colombia and I knew I'd probably see her only for a few hours over the next several months, when she's getting inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, and then I need to get back to Chile and she needs to get back to wherever the hell she's head off next (as if the lady heading to Santiago has any room to talk).

 I felt like I should have had some more profound things to say than,

"I love you and don't forget your passport."

Later in the week, I had brunch with my daughter, Jennifer, and her family and she commented,

"Do you realize that this will probably be the longest I have been apart from you since I was born?"

Jenn went to Santa Monica College, then to San Francisco State University, which is a short plane ride away, then went to graduate school at USC and then to work in Los Angeles.

Jenn's Baby is just as cool as she is

That REALLY made me feel like I should have some profound advice, but we were kind of busy between the mimosas and chocolate covered strawberries and checking out the duck pond.

So, a little belated, here are some things I want my daughters to remember.

1. Good people snowball. I met a really good guy, Fidel Rodriguez, when he asked me to speak at a youth conference he organizes. He introduced me to Hector Verdugo, at Homeboy Industries, where they do wonderful work helping people move from gangs to college and jobs. When the staff from Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation Project were in town, he invited them to visit their project. It reminded me of a lecture I attended by Sidney Harman where he talked about being friends with an attorney in his neighborhood just because he was such a good person. That attorney introduced him to a young minister - Dr. Martin Luther King. Make an effort to spend time with good people.

2. Don't live your life to impress other people and you'll be a lot happier. Jennifer is the least well-known of my daughters, so much so that many people think I only have three children.  She is a good mother, a good teacher, a good wife and does pretty much what she wants. I am 100% certain that Jenn doesn't care at all whether you even know she exists.

3. After the first unthinkable challenge you overcome, the next one is easier.  Maria quit a safe journalism job to co-found 7 Generation Games . I went to Japan for my junior year of college, speaking little Japanese and knowing no one. Now, that I'm heading to Chile, I look back and think "If 18-year-old me could handle Tokyo, I'm sure I can succeed in Santiago with all of the resources and knowledge I have now." Julia is planning to study in Costa Rica over the summer. All of these choices are on the right path, wherever it happens to lead.

Whether it is changing careers or changing countries, take that leap of faith! You'll have a bigger, better, more fearless life and you won't regret it.

Mayan jungle
Support my day job! Get AzTech: Meet the Maya Get it for your iPad, in the app store
4. Everyone falls. It's getting up that matters. I used to think that judo saying, "Fall down seven times, get up eight" was stupid. I was wrong. Ronda has had some hard falls in the last couple of years. She picked herself up, decided what would make her happy and went forward with it. (Oh, if you are thinking of posting some comment about "Oh, are you proud of how she swears, and does X, Y and Z"  Go fuck yourself. I am damn proud of her. She's not perfect but neither are you and too bad that your mother doesn't love you as much.) We all make mistakes. You probably don't talk to anyone else as much as you talk to yourself in your own head, so don't beat yourself up (verbally) when you make a mistake.

Have to get back to work and packing. Help a sister out and check out one of our games. You can even get Making Camp for free.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Parenting Answers on Quora (What's a Quora?)

I haven't been blogging a lot lately because life has been incredibly busy. I've also been spending a lot of time on Quora, so much so that within about a year 500,000 people have read my answers.

What's a Quora?  It's a question and answer site. Mostly I answer questions about parenting, teaching and judo because I consider myself to know a bit about these topics. Just in case you are not on Quora, here are a few of my answers on parenting.


Wow, I wish I had secrets. The best advice anyone ever gave me was “Ask yourself if you are dong this for yourself or for your kid. If you can honestly answer you are doing it for your kid, you won’t go wrong.”
The second best advice came from a coach who said, “AnnMaria, I’m 53 years old. I don’t need a 15-year-old friend.”
I have gone through some hardships in my life - juvenile hall, foster care, divorce, the death of my husband. After you’ve been beaten, had someone take you to court and try to get custody of your child and had the person you love most die, there isn’t much people can threaten you with. As a result, I really don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about my parenting or what the neighbors or relatives thought when I let Jenn drop out of high school at 16 and go to community college or let Julia go to boarding school at 14 or let Ronda move across the country to train for judo or let Maria start school a year early.
Often, I hear parents give lip service to how important their kids are but then they put up with an awful coach or won’t switch their child’s school because they care what the other adults will think about them.
I think education is important and it is one thing you can give your child that will help them their whole lives, so I made sacrifices to give them the best possible education, from working 2 or 3 jobs to pay for NYU to moving to Minot so Ronda could get speech therapy.
I believe in that Greek ideal of a sound mind in a sound body and tried to get all of my children involved with sports, although they weren’t all equally on board with that, none of them entered adulthood obese or unhealthy.
Ever wished you could learn math without tears?  How do you compute a median? How do you say that in Spanish ? Aztech Games teaches statistics and Latin American history.  In the app store, for your iPad.


What are some good parenting tips you can give me (a teen who is looking forward to being a parent) that I can use in the future?

Never hit your child unless you’d hit an adult under the same circumstances. I have four children and I have hit them a total of 4 times (one of them twice and one of them never). I hit one for running into the street so she would never do that again. I hit one when she was trying to wash her little sister’s hair with bleach. She didn’t know any better but she never tried that again.
Experiences  > stuff. I spent a lot of money on private schools and training camps for my children, but none of them had a new car until they made enough money to buy their own.
Do parents ever look at their teen/adult child and just stop to appreciate that they raised an amazing person and brought them into the world? Like, "That's my child. Look how great they turned out". 

Yes. Just about every day. I tell my children whenever they get down on themselves, “Just because you’re not perfect, doesn’t mean you’re not great.” They are great.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

4 Tips to Avoid Travel Disasters (clearly, some of you need this)

Since I travel a lot, to a wide variety of places, I see many travel disasters happen to other people, disasters which could have easily been prevented. Most of them don't happen to me any more because they happened once. Here are four tips which, if followed, can erase 80% of your problems both huge (my computer was stolen) and small (I couldn't brush my teeth this morning):

  1. Have at least two pieces of government ID. For an extra $30 (when renewing by mail) you can get a passport card when you get your passport. I always have at least my drivers license and passport card. That way, if I lose one, I can always use the other as ID to get on a plane to get home. They accept the passport card for travel in the U.S. , Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It cannot be used for international air travel. I presume that means you can get into the Caribbean or Mexico by cruise ship with a passport card, or drive to Canada or Mexico.
  2. Anything you absolutely must have, never let go. This includes my computer, phone, ID , money and credit cards. While I have to let my computer and phone go through security, I have my ID and cards in my hand when I go through the scanner. I mean, literally, never let go of it. I never check my phone , computer or contacts.
  3. Bring a small overnight bag. Think you are smart because everything is in your carry on? Think again. Overhead storage is full and now you need to check it and your flight is late so you are spending the night in Minneapolis. So, you're in first class and you are sure they'll be room for your bag?  Guess what - the second leg of your flight is on a smaller plane and roller bags don't fit in the overhead. You'll have to check it but, gee, too bad, your bag didn't make it on the flight so you are meeting that client tomorrow morning wearing the same clothes you had on this morning. If I check a bag, my carry on is a bag small enough to fit under the seat next to my computer. It includes clean clothes for 1 day, charger for my phone and basic toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrush, contacts and deodorant. If I only have a carry on , I have a small cloth bag in it that I can throw my one-day stuff into in a few minutes if it turns out that I have to give up my carry on to baggage claim. 
  4. Realize that you can get your prescriptions filled almost anywhere in a pinch, that includes contacts, prescription medications. In Missouri, I realized I only had 5 days worth of contacts left and I was not going to be home for two weeks. I was able to get a trial pack for the next five days from a local optometrist, and my optometrist's office emailed me the prescription so I could get another three months' supply in Missouri. What if you can't get hold of your physician? There have been occasions when I was coaching and an athlete forgot or ran out of a prescription, we were out of town and could not reach their doctor. In that case, if you go to a local pharmacy with the empty bottle with your prescription they will usually give you a few days' supply if it's something you absolutely must have, like anti-convulsants. I'm pretty sure they will not do this for controlled substance like pain pills, for reasons that should be obvious.

When I'm not traveling, and sometimes even when I am, I'm working on making educational games.  Head over to the app store and check out Aztech: Meet the Maya - learn history and math, improve your Spanish (or English)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Benefits of the 100 Things Challenge

Why would I want to reduce the amount of stuff I own? Well, there is the obvious cost of shipping it, and I find that most people don't really start getting rid of a substantial proportion of their stuff until they have to pay to move it. As the billions of dollars spent on storage units shows, many people don't get rid of stuff even if they have nowhere to put it.

Even if we do discard a third of our random stuff when we move, irrational creatures that we are, we promptly start replacing it.

Why do we do that? As I said in my first post on this topic, because we've bought into the idea that "excess equals success".  It's the old idea of "He who dies with the most toys wins" - which I have always thought was stupid. Hey, if you're dead and I'm not, I'm pretty sure that I won. Think about it as if you are judging a judo match. One person is dead but has a much more expensive judo gi. Who do you think won? Well, I'm pretty sure it's not the dead guy.

The advantages of having less stuff

The more stuff you have, the harder it is to find what you really want in the clutter of the things you don't need or even use. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack, or one specific needle in a needle stack.

Reducing what I own to 100 things (or so) has made me focus on:
  • What are the things that make a difference in my life, like glasses? Just identifying the things that make a real difference makes me grateful, for example, that I live in a time when my vision can be corrected well enough to let me do almost anything. I have a phone that I can carry around and call anyone, anywhere in the world. That's pretty amazing. I think I'll keep that.
  • What are the things I don't care about that much, that are just in the way? Thinking that I can only take 100 things made it easy to get rid of a few dozen right off the bat. "Well, if I can only take one pair of dress shoes, it isn't going to be these!" 
  • What are the things I like best? If I can only end up taking 7 or 8 shirts with me and wearing each one four times a month, you'd better believe those are going to be shirts that are comfortable. I'll bet most people have some clothes that don't fit that well, either because you gained/ lost weight or they never fit in the first place because they were a gift or bought when you were drunk or high (oh, no, I didn't mean you would do that, I meant some other people).
Here is a kind of ironic fact - initially, having fewer things may mean I go shopping. I realized that I have a lot of clothes that once belonged to one of my children (because I do hate to shop) and, for example, I may not have 5 pairs of pants that fit perfectly and are not well-worn but, hey, I have 15 pairs of pants so why buy any more. 

Reducing the amount of stuff you own makes you evaluate what matters to you. Am I going to bring a judo gi to Chile? I expect most of my time to be spent working on 7 Generation Games, creating games for the Latin American market. I know many people in their sixties and seventies who are still practicing, studying and teaching judo, and good for them. However, just like people who were good basketball, soccer or football players in their twenties, many judo players give it up and go on to focus on their careers and families.  Right now, I'm thinking that I probably won't be doing judo in Chile because I don't expect to have much free time.

It's funny how focusing on your stuff can cause you to focus on your other choices in life as well.

Heading out to Missouri in a few hours, then to North Dakota. If you want to meet up to talk about judo, reducing the clutter in your life, video games or just drink beer (or coffee if it's early), give me a holler.

Monday, December 25, 2017

More on my 100 things challenge

I know, I know, it's the Christmas season and the post-Christmas sales and we're all supposed to be buying as much stuff as possible, but, as I said in my last post, I'm heading in the opposite direction.

Since I am going to be working for months in Chile AND I've been trying for what seems like forever to cut down the amount of stuff in my life, I'm trying the 100 things challenge and trying to get by with only 100 items.

I've already used up 6, all related to being able to see - contacts, glasses, sunglasses. So, what else is a must have?

7. Laptop, including charger and adapters.

8.  iPhone including ONE charger.

9.  iPad. It uses the same charger as the iPhone so I'm not bringing a second. I plan to load at least 100 books on it before I leave. Maria says that is cheating but a) it will probably be hard to find technical books written in English in Chile and b) she can make her own list. Someone who still has boxes stored at my house has no room to give me advice.

10.  One 32 or 64 GB flash drive.   I'll bet there are 20 of these, at least, in the house. It's ridiculous.

11. One microphone/ headset . I'm not including that as part of the computer because I don't REALLY need it for the computer to work and if I start not counting computer peripherals things could snowball really fast.

12. One week's worth of underwear. Another blog I read on this challenge said she counted all of her underwear as a group, but Maria said if she were me she'd take 20 pairs to minimize the times she had to do laundry. It probably says something about me that I didn't get to underwear until I had accounted for all of my computer stuff.

13. One week's worth of socks. I must have at least 40 pairs of socks, so narrowing it down to 7 or 8 is going to be a change. I already threw 3 pairs into the give-away bag today.

14. Running shoes, which are also the shoes I wear to work almost every day. I have 3 pairs of these, so I'll have to pick one.

15. Dress shoes for those times when I have to wear a dress or a skirt.

So far, just starting this list has helped me fill up a bag of stuff to get rid of. There is some book about getting rid of clutter that says you should look at each object in your house or office and ask if it brings you joy. There have been plenty of people and experiences who brought me joy, but I don't believe there has ever been a THING that brought me joy, although I hear there are sex toys for that.

No, for me, the more practical question is it worth shipping 5,600 miles? I think we don't ask ourselves this question often enough:

Why do we have this stuff?

If you're wondering if there is any benefit in this 100 thing challenge, the answer is yes. For that, read my next post.

While you're waiting for our bilingual game from Startup Chile, head over to the app store and check out Aztech: Meet the Maya - learn history and math, improve your Spanish (or English)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Startup Chile and my 100 Things Challenge

If you didn't catch it on my Facebook Live / Instagram Live you might not know our company, 7 Generation Games, was selected for Startup Chile! So, I will be heading to Santiago in a few weeks to work on developing a game for the Latin American market.

If you just read this blog and don't know me personally, you might not know that I am sort of an "anti-hoarder" and am constantly going through our house throwing or giving away clothes that don't fit anyone, books no one reads and electronics no one uses.

Living in a one-bedroom apartment in Chile will give me the perfect opportunity to winnow down everything I use to less than 200 things.

If you're not familiar with the 100 things challenge. It's a pretty simple idea: .

  1. "Excess does not equal success".
  2. Reduce everything you use to 100 things.
Now, this isn't a hard and fast rule that you MUST have a magical number of 100 things and everyone who does it is free to make up their own rules. For example, one person counted underwear as a group, as one item and a phone and its charger as a single item.  The originator of this challenge, David Michael Bruno, limited his 100 things to "personal items" since he is married and has kids, it's probably a lot easier to implement this for yourself than insist everyone in your household do it. 

I can see how these rules can allow you to really cheat, though. I must have at least 40 pairs of socks and there are at least a dozen iPhone chargers in this house. So, I decided on these rules, but I may revise this before I go.

  1. Any item I need counts as one item as a group. For example, I wear disposable contacts and can't see without those. My 6-month supply of contacts is 1 thing. 
  2. Since I planned to do my laundry weekly, I counted a week's worth of socks as 1 item, a week's worth of underwear as a second item. Anything beyond that gets counted separately.
  3. A pair of something is one thing. A pair of shoes, a pair of socks, a two-piece swimsuit. 
  4. If something is useless without a thing, then it counts as part of that thing. For example, a computer and charger are one thing. A microphone is a separate thing.
  5. Any gifts or purchases will have to replace something I get rid of.

So, I'm starting today to winnow through my things and see what I absolutely have to have and what I don't need at all.  I'm going to start with my list of things I absolutely must have. Once I get past 25, I think there might be some things I will switch off the list but these are things I use every day.

  1. Contact lenses
  2. Reading glasses  -  I am taking 2. I'm counting these as one thing because I really will be unable to work if I don't have them, and these are prone to breaking and being lost. Currently I have at least 5 pairs in the house, so I'll leave the other 3 here.
  3. Prescription glasses - for when I'm not wearing contacts
  4. Sunglasses - two pairs, one because my optometrist says I really need to wear sunglasses to reduce my chance of cataract surgery and the second because I got 3 pairs for Christmas and could not choose. Besides, I like sunglasses

So .... my first six things all have to do with being able to see, but it brings home to me how fortunate I am to live in the time and place I do. The funny thing is that when I was competing in judo, without correction, my vision would have actually qualified me to compete as visually impaired, if there had been such a classification back then. Because I could not afford contacts, I actually trained and competed  "visually impaired" for my first seven years in the sport, including winning a national championship and the U.S. Open. Once I got contacts and could actually see the scoreboard, the time and my coach, it was pretty helpful. 

I expect to learn a lot from this 100 things challenge, including thinking about  what I value and why. So, 94 things left. Suggestions welcome. I'll let you know how it goes.

To see what other things made the cut, read this post.

Want to know if I'm seeing any benefits from the 100 things challenge? Well, as a matter of fact ...

While you're waiting for our bilingual game from Startup Chile, head over to the app store and check out Aztech: Meet the Maya - learn history and math, improve your Spanish (or English)