Monday, September 17, 2018

Supporting Judo by Making It Okay to Quit, Part 2

When I was in my teens and twenties, I realized there would be a day when I couldn’t compete any more and I expected that none of the rest of my life could possibly be as good as my competitive years. Other people competed to a much later age than I did but my knee was hanging together by a thread. I finally had a total knee replacement when I was 51 and my doctor said I could not put it off any longer.

So, I was done with competition after several knee surgeries, with many more in my future, after three national championships, three US Open gold medals, one world championships and some other stuff (as Lanny Clark would affectionately say, “you’re the bitch who would consider winning the Panamerican Games as some other stuff you did”).

Contrary to my expectations, life without judo was fine most of the time. I married a man I loved, had two more kids, got a Ph.D., had a good career, a few good careers, actually, but that’s another post. I taught judo here and there - class at the college where I was a professor, a class at the local YMCA, a clinic at one of my friends’ clubs.

When we moved back to Los Angeles after my husband died, I married another good husband, had another baby, started a business, taught at a few different clubs, some of them for several years each. I held several offices in state and national organizations. I spent A LOT of time on the mat and on the road with Ronda helping her develop into a great judo player.

Unlike some of my friends to whom judo is like a religion - some even jokingly refer to going to judo tournaments on the weekend as “attending church” - I’ve kind of dropped in and out of judo my whole life.

Currently, I’m splitting my time between the US where I run a company that makes educational games (you should check one out) and Chile where I’ve just opened a company that makes educational games.
 Cajon del Maipo, Chile

I know plenty of people for who Judo is their exercise, their social life, their family time and their community volunteer efforts all in one. I’m not one of them. 

I could write a lot of posts - and I have - about all of the benefits I have gotten from judo and trying to give other kids those benefits is why I’ve taught fro so many years in so many different cities and states throughout my life.

Even holding all of those volunteer positions taught me a lot. I think I’m a much better manager thanks to the practice I got running things as a volunteer. ( I got to screw up some for free and now I make fewer mistakes with our investors' money.)

If you are one of those people that judo is your whole life and you’re happy with that, then I’m happy for you.

For some people, they have an abusive coach, unfair treatment by officials, a club full of cliques or other negative experiences and quit judo.

Most people quit judo to do something else, and that’s okay

Cerro de los condores, Chile

For me, though , and I think most people, it’s a matter of opportunity cost. In the last few years I’ve gone hiking in the Atacama desert, climbed a mountain and had condors fly within a few feet of me, gone horseback riding in Belize with a Maya guide as flocks of parrots flew overhead. You get the idea.
Sully's Hill, North Dakota

Doing research in Belize, on a pyramid for Meet the Maya

Then, there is also the writing software and making one educational game after another , publishing scientific articles. Of course, that’s not just me. I know some people who were really good judo players and are now really good physicians or scientists.

I make games that teach math, in Spanish and English
I bring all of this up because I often hear people brag about having been doing judo for 30 or 40 years straight as if that somehow makes them better than other people. Not really the best idea if you want to get those former judo players who are the scientists or the business owners to give money to judo and bring their kids to learn judo if they get the attitude you think they are “quitters” and just not as good or tough as you.

One thing I’ve found in business is you’ll have more success if you honestly respect your customers, and potential customers.

I wonder if we treated quitting judo more like no longer playing for your college basketball team and less like no longer being a member of a church if we’d see more former judo players referring their friends and family.

I wonder , do many judo clubs have reunions? I’ve heard of one or two but it seems to be really rare.

To be honest , I probably wouldn’t go because I’d be in Santiago or Albuquerque or Grand Forks or somewhere when it happened but I still think it’s a good idea.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It’s Okay for Kids to Quit Judo

Paradoxically, one of the reasons we may have fewer people doing judo is that we make them feel like such losers and traitors when they quit. A second reason, that perhaps has not been discussed enough, is our devaluation of recreational players, but that’s a post for another day.

I was listening to the first cut of the More Than Ordinary podcast where my daughter, Julia, was giving advice to her niece on middle school. She said something like,

“You should do sports. I did judo when I was little and then I quit but it really helped me in soccer because I had some athletic skills.”

Some of what she said ended up on the cutting room floor, but that's not the point.

Julia is in Texas right now for a soccer game with her university team.

Julia practiced judo for 7 years, from age 4 to 11. During that time, her sister Ronda was on two Olympic teams and won several national and international championships. Everyone but my husband and I thought we should force Julia to stay in judo. I made her continue practicing and competing for a year after she said she wanted to quit and play soccer because a) I think you don’t simply quit something because you are having a bad week or so and b) I was hoping she’d change her mind.

She didn’t change her mind and for the past 7 years, through middle school, high school and college, she has played soccer.

At the same age, many of her friends were forced to continue judo because,

 “In the ( insert family name here) family, we don’t quit things. My kids are staying in judo until they get their black belts.”

Some of those kids will go on and put their own kids in judo classes but others NEVER will. Instead of looking back on their judo experience as a net positive, like Julia does, they tell me about all of the things they didn’t get to do because of judo, from hanging out with their friends to trying other sports.

Now, some of those things, it might be just as well they didn’t get to do - I’ve seen some of those friends. On the other hand, they were forced to do a sport that is physically hard and even harder if you are not that good at it. Yes, there are lessons to be learned from judo but not too many that can’t also be learned from running track or being in the band.

As for me, I’m not doing much judo these days, I’m going hiking a lot and opening a new office of 7 Generation Games in Santiago, Chile.  So, you’ll just have to wait for my next post to hear why I think it is okay if adults quit judo.

While you're waiting, check out Making Camp Premium. You can get it for just $1.99. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Just who the fuck do I think I am ?

I may as well start with the swearing in the title because there is going to be  a lot of it in this post.

Recently, a friend of mine overheard a few people talking about my attitude. What terrible thing did I do? I said that I wasn't going to participate in  a bunch of pitch competitions and hackathons coming up because I could make more money doing work on the contracts I already have, so it wasn't worth my time.

One of the haters fumed,

"Just who the fuck does AnnMaria think she is?"

Another awful thing I had done, according to them,  was turn down three opportunities to speak at events. The fact is, I'm running a company, hiring people, meeting with customers, reviewing contracts, and yes, speaking at a lot of events. Hater number 2, chimed in with,

"Can you believe it? She said she gets asked to speak at 2 or 3 events a week? If people are still asking her to talk at her age, she should be grateful! Seriously, who does she think she is?"

My friend was appalled, but when I heard about this, and more, I found it highly amusing. First of all, I haven't met any of these people more than a couple of times and hadn't thought about them for a combined total of 30 minutes in my life. Second, everything they were complaining that I had said was true and in response to questions I had been asked. If you don't want me to give you a true answer, don't ask me. It's not like I'm on Reddit or on a street corner with a sign that says "Ask me anything."

The thing that makes it worth discussing, to me, is the apparent confusion between entitlement, gratitude and appreciation.

For example, if you are putting on a hackathon or a conference, if you run a start-up accelerator or anything else that is very hard work, I can appreciate that, defined by Webster as "to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of".  Good for you, not spending all your money on cheap hookers and expensive whiskey. 

If someone is GRATEFUL on the other hand, they are "appreciative of benefits received".  Let me be clear, if I see your conference/ hackathon / accelerator / coffee-hair salon- ad agency or whatever it is as having exactly jackshit in terms of benefits to me, then, again, according to Webster,  I don't need to be grateful for it.

Yes, it's good you're not wasting your life, but if you want gratitude, to quote a friend of mine,

 "Call your mama, she probably still loves you."

I get offers all of the time from people who want me to fly to East Nowhere and think I should be grateful they are offering to let me attend the Lemon Festival for free, "and we can't afford to pay your plane fare but we'll put you up in a Motel 6".

You're not entitled to other people's time

 Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges 
Yes, I do get invited to speak at a lot of events. Sometimes, I'm grateful, because I know I will learn a lot, or it's in a lovely place I want to go or I expect to spend time with fascinating people, or all of the above. 

However, every two weeks, I need to make a payroll so that our artists, developers and administrators at 7 Generation Games keep coming to work. That means that I need to consider the schools and customers who are giving us money first, reaching them and providing services to them.

That's not the point, though. Even if I am not doing anything productive, if I'm just laying in bed drinking coffee and reading a book, that's perfectly fine.  You're not entitled to other people's time. 

I am, however, entitled to my own opinion and preferences. I'll be sixty next week. I've worked full-time for 45 years and taught judo as a volunteer for 47 years. I think I've done my fair share of contributing to society.  If you don't agree, oh well. If you get angry because you think I'm not appreciative enough of your event / program/ whatever to participate, oh well.

One thing I have learned for damn sure after all of these years is that time is not infinite. I have to make decisions and set priorities, and they will be my priorities, not yours, because I'll have to live with the consequences.

Here's why I think I really piss some people off

I have a sense of my own value and what I have earned,  defined as "to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered".  So, if you want me to come to your event, I'm not staying in a motel without heat and having ramen for breakfast because I don't want to do that any more and I have options to work with other people who don't expect me to do that.

I know that I am very good at a lot of things - software design, statistics, programming - and people will pay me well to do those things because there is a value to them, so I don't feel bad at all about refusing to do things that pay less. 

This, however, is the one thing that I think really, really makes people angry, and I find that very funny because I think it is one of the major keys to a happier life:

I refuse to be defined by other people's expectations.


Maybe you think I should not be doing another start-up in a new country at sixty years old. Maybe you think I should stay home and learn to knit. Maybe you think I should be grateful for the opportunity to spend 60 hours completing an application for $4,000 in funding that I may or may not get depending on some unpublished criteria. Maybe you think I should be more modest, quieter, less loud and proud about any accomplishments. You're entitled to your opinion. Just don't be surprised when I completely ignore it, because I've got shit to do.

Want to hear opinions from our entire family? 

For $2.99 you can get 72 pages selected from our years-long family group text.

Click here to get your ebook

Friday, August 10, 2018

The thing about moving is you bring yourself with you

Therapists have a name for it, "Going geographic".

That is, the tendency of some people to change locations to solve their problems.

The problem is, wherever you go, you take yourself with you.

and, as my friend Steve Scott, adds,

Sometimes that's the worst guy to bring.

I'll be honest. I moved half-way around the world, learned a new language and I'm still doing pretty much the same thing. Or, as I can hear my other friend (yes, I have more than one), Dr. Jake Flores saying,

"What? You mean you didn't turn into an entirely different person?"

Way too much of my day still involves answering email and, despite that, I still have thousands of unread emails, and that's not spam but people that I think I should get back to.

I still spend way more time than I would like in meetings and much less time than I'd like on coding and data analysis.

My best times are hiking in the woods and hanging out with my family, and I spend far less time doing either than I would like. A wise psychologist once told me,

The only time changing places solves your problems is when your problems are because of that place

So, if you are unemployed because you live in a town of 120 people with no jobs, then moving might solve your problem. If you are unemployed because you drink too much, miss work, have a fourth-grade reading level, can't get up early enough to get to work on time and fight with your coworkers, no matter where you go, you'll probably end up unemployed.

People don't change all at once, but "going geographic" has caused a change in trajectory for me 

 Looking back, I can see that I've changed in 4 ways as a result of living in Chile.

1. I take Saturdays off - I realize most people take Saturday AND Sunday off, but I never have. I'm often asked how I get so much done and one answer is I work 7 days a week, 9 or 10 hours a day.  When Ronda was visiting she asked me what I'd do if I retired. I told her that I had no idea because all I do is work. So, I've started taking a day off once a week. What do I do? Usually, I go hiking for an hour or two. When my children and grandchildren were here, I hung out with them and did stuff like go to the playground.
In the Santiago metro station
It's still weird to me to wake up and have nothing scheduled for that day, other than, say, meeting a friend for coffee. I've actually kept to my Saturday off schedule for over a month. When Dennis comes to visit, I'm planning on taking a couple of extra days off one week.  This is a big change for me.

2. I'm 5% less likely to tell people to fuck off, an impact of Chilean culture. People here don't get upset if there is no non-fat soy milk for their latte or if someone cuts them off in traffic or they have to wait an hour for an answer until someone gets back from lunch. In the U.S., it's common to hear people say,

"But I have a RIGHT to be upset if I come in three days in a row and they don't have the product advertised on the sign."

You may have the right but you also have the choice. Chileans choose not to be easily bothered. Maybe Bob is a terrible manager, but if you don't work with Bob, you don't really have to tell him that. Being more willing to let things ride can be a good thing, until it isn't. As I said, I'm only 5% more likely to let things go. If you are interested in the opinions Maria and I have on our travels and life in the window seat, you can read our Startup Diaries blog.

3. I appreciate every day things more now. I like good coffee and central heating, both of which are hard to find in Chile. I miss having my own office. I can read and write very well with relatively effort, in English. I never appreciated that before having to do business in Spanish. I miss libraries and bookstores that are full of books I can read easily. Oh my God, I miss living some place that doesn't have winter! Santiago isn't Sioux Falls or Fargo by any means but it has actual winter where it gets below 50 degrees for weeks on end. I hadn't lived somewhere with winter for 21 years and I don't intend to do it again after this. I didn't realize how much of a drag it was on me until the last two days when it was finally in the 70s. Ronda has been talking to me about building a tiny house for retirement. I was intrigued by the idea but now I know for sure that if it's anywhere that has winter, I'm out. Maybe a tiny summer house.

4. Really starting to re-evaluate the time I spend on things I don't want to do. I've been saying for 30 years I want to do more research. Yet, no matter whether I'm in Santa Monica or Santiago, my time gets eaten up by answering a thousand emails a week, meetings, presentations. Yes, I know that our games are helping students learn. I know that our teacher resources are a godsend for many teachers. However, I've been working 45 years. I started working full-time when I was 15 and I'll be 60 next week. I've taught judo as a volunteer for almost as long. I've given so many guest lectures and conference presentations and seminars that I've totally lost track. So, I've decided that if I want to take an hour off and go walk in the park, that's fine. I'm starting to evaluate my success based on the number of times I say, "No" to opportunities that would take up my time.

Like this blog? Help a sister out by downloading Making Camp: Premium . It's under two bucks, fun and educational! What's not to like? You can play it on your iPad, Android device or on the web on your computer. For kids and kids at heart.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Don’t turn a bad five minutes into a bad day

Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Albert Bandura. He is the most famous living psychologist and for good reason . If you’ve ever talked about a sports or entertainment figure being a bad role model, you’re referring to Bandura, whether you know it or not.

He said that the happiest people have “an absence of self-ruminative thoughts”. Unhappy people, on the other hand, are constantly thinking over and over of how they look, that the guy at the coffee shop called the person in front of them ‘sir’ but just said to them,’here you go, guys’.

If you’re more the podcast type, you can hear Eva and I discuss mango popsicles and the secrets to happiness on the More Than Ordinary podcast. We’re back with a new co-host.

Somehow, I gradually slipped into the habit of being really bad about this. I would have a meeting where I completely disagreed with some policy and be mad all day about it. I’d be walking through the park and instead of noticing all of the really beautiful and interesting sights, I'd be ruminating about how unfair it was that my travel expenses did not get approved because I did not keep my boarding pass to show I actually went (really, dude?).

Solve two problems at once. Quit thinking and do something

I read something on instagram (yes, really) that snapped me out of it. I can't remember if it was Louis Velasquez or Alejandro Peraza, they both post a lot of interesting stuff, anyway, (whichever) he said,

Don't turn a bad five minutes into a bad day

I realized that's what I was doing. I would get notified we received a grant, we'd have a new game published in the app store and Google Play, we'd have another school district adopt our games and I'd be thinking all day about that expense reimbursement that got declined instead of doing the happy dance because business was going so great.

Here's what else I realized, I was ruminating about those things that made me unhappy instead of doing something about them.

Do you feel as if someone is continually dismissing your ideas and treating you as if you are a moron because you are a woman/ young/ black/ Hispanic / whatever ? Don't work with that person any more. Seriously. There are billions of people on this planet. Don't work with people who ruin your day every day. That's just silly. Find a new lawyer/ accountant/ agent. (Note to gossip-mongers: This is just an example. I like my lawyer and accountant fine and I don't have an agent.)

Decide and move on

There are two decisions you can make. One is that this behavior is unacceptable and you need to take action to stop it. Then, you do. Many times, I've found the paperwork  required to get funds for a grant or contract, whether for judo or my business, takes so much time that if I just did consulting work and billed for those hours, I'd come out ahead financially and could spend the money however I wanted. If you are continually mad about how your time is being wasted, stop and think about it in terms of how you could address that.

The second decision you can make is that it is not worth getting too upset about. Some family member I was talking to on the phone cut me off and said, "I have to go", like they had more important things to do than talk to me. Maybe they did. Honestly, I just called to check in to let them know I was thinking about them and, mission accomplished, so on with my day.




Sunday, July 15, 2018

Yes, You DO Have Time for It

There are several things in my life I don’t feel as if I have enough time to do:
  • Learning more about programming
  • Improving my Spanish
  • Hiking
  • Strategic planning for our company rather than putting out the latest fire
  • Teaching judo
  • Keeping up with people - answering email, returning phone calls, just checking in
  • Data analysis and research

I’ll bet you have your own list. There might be some times, temporarily, when you have to put everything else on hold, but be careful of letting it become your lifestyle.

My guess is, if you are reading this blog, you and I may have a little bit in common. Speaking for myself, one of the tendencies I have is to go all in. That can be good. It led to a world championships, a Ph.D., a published book, a few companies founded. That can also be a bad thing.

I’m not one of those people who hate on Facebook. In fact, my friends’ list is regularly curated so I only see what I want, which is how my friends and family are doing and people who post interesting (to me) stuff. I admire those people who manage to always have time for their family and hobbies while simultaneously holding down a job that supports said families and hobbies .

However, I’m not talking about those people, I’m talking about me and the last few months have been simultaneously a disaster and an amazing success. The success part is that we hit a lot of deadlines with very good results for our company. I pitched at 3 Ed Tech events, including 2 in Spanish, which takes me seven times as long to write and practice because it’s my second language.

Me, at my day job

 I  did three presentations in Spanish, two live and one streamed to over 7,000 people. One of those live presentations was hosted by a ‘district’ seven hours south of Santiago, where I also visited two schools and discussed our latest games. I could go on, but you get the idea.

No greater success than seeing kids' interest in our games

Have you ever been like that? You have so much going on with your job or your sport that you exclude everything else?

Well, stop it. Like so many things else in life, my base in judo is helpful here. I won a whole bunch of gold medals while going to college, going to graduate school and working full time as an engineer. I also had a baby/ toddler the last two years. So, I know from personal experience you don’t have to spend 100% of your time on one goal to be a success. Maybe you do TEMPORARILY, like the two months leave I took from my job to compete and train in Europe and focus on my training in the US. However, if that two months turns into six,  you might want to start questioning how temporary this is.

So, what’s my answer? Well, you are reading it. Those deadlines I had to meet were really important but one thing I have finally managed to understand is that not everything is equally important. Event at U.S. Embassy with 20 very knowledgeable people on education in Chile - extremely important and can’t be put off.  Someone want to meet with me and talk about using our software in our schools on Monday - if they called me Friday afternoon, I DON’T have to spend all weekend preparing for it. In fact, if they are the kind of person who thinks I should jump at the opportunity to meet them at the last minute, maybe I don’t want to work with them.

(Proof I take my own advice, I'm back to doing the More Than Ordinary podcast with a new co-host)

Here’s a key point ... you’re making yourself crazy

Most likely, if I tell that Head of School, “Could we meet the next week instead? Here are three times that work for me, are you available any of those?”  They will be perfectly willing to meet with me later. They just threw out the first time that was available. (Go back and read my other post on not giving it more attention than it deserves.)

Now that I’ve gotten through the immutable deadlines, that’s what I’m doing. Because I’m me, it would be easy to get back into the same rat race of waking up, taking 10 minutes to shower, dress and dash out the door, a frantic day of meetings, then more work until I fall into bed, drink a glass of wine while reading my email and go to sleep exhausted.

What I have decided NOT to do is go back to this schedule by trying to do everything every day.

What I have been doing is started working on a couple of items on my list every day. In the morning, I just work on learning more Spanish or programming , sometimes both. That’s what I do the first hour that I’m up. More, if it’s a weekend . I started going to bed earlier,getting up an hour earlier and doing what I most wanted to catch up on first.

I turned the international plan back on for my phone and I’ve started calling a couple off people a day just to catch up.

One of those calls was to James Wall who mentioned the JudoCon in Kansas City, November 2nd and 3rd. I had thought of presenting at that and concluded I could not spend an extra week or so in the U.S. Again, it occurred to me, hey, if the people I am working with can’t accept that I’m going to be gone a few extra days, perhaps those aren’t the right people to be working with. I mean, it’s not as if I’m a slacker.

So, yeah, I’ll be in Kansas City in November, head home to southern Cal in time to vote and then, most likely, head back to Chile after doing my civic duty.

There’s your answer then - make the time. Start work an hour later. Take a vacation . The people around you most likely will be totally fine with that. If not, find new people .

AzTech: The Story Begins - Mr. Gonzalez history class loses an average of 2 students per year. What happens to them?  Find the answer while learning fractions, statistics and Latin American history .

If you play on an iPad, leave us a review on the app store. However you play, feel free to send me your comments/ suggestions at annmaria.demars at

Friday, July 13, 2018

I Need to Take My Own Advice, Or Stupid Things I Do and Maybe You Do, Too

Like Alice in Wonderland, I often give myself good advice but very seldom follow it. I've decided to get back to blogging and make this into a series: advice of my own I should take. Who says you can only make resolutions on New Year's? No one asked me about those rules.

I've decided to make July resolutions that will lead to me being happier, and you, too, if you follow along.

Don't give it more attention than it deserves.

I stole this line from Gary Butts and it's very good advice. Do you ever catch yourself worrying about something over and over? There was a misspelled word on my slide in that presentation. That person corrected me in a meeting and,  in fact, their correction was wrong, how disrespectful!

I left my keys in the office and had to go back for them. Is that an early sign of Alzheimer's?  I am getting old, after all.

The fact is that even things that seem SUPER-IMPORTANT at the time really aren't that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things. I like Facebook for seeing what kids I knew when they were in judo are doing now. That kid who was just devastated not to win the junior nationals at age11 and beat herself/ himself up about it is now a speech pathologist, married, with two kids and just bought a house. Really, was it that important that you got caught by a foot sweep?

I know I am a big hypocrite because I was always upset when I lost. Even today, if a sale to a school district doesn't go through or we don't get a grant funded or an investor decides to take a pass on us, I feel like a big failure. It's silly, I know, but I'm working on it.

At the end of the day - there's another day, because that's how time works.

There's a really big world out there
I've always been kind of like this my whole life, blowing things out of proportion. I think it comes from wanting to do everything perfectly, which sounds good on the surface but no one is perfect and trying to be is the key to always feeling like a failure.

When I look at people I know who are usually happy, they all have this in common
... they don't get upset by things that aren't all that important. For example, I went to pay the notary -everything in Chile requires a notary and you have to pay in cash ( - if you are interested in my life in Chile, check out the Start-up Diaries over on the 7 Generation Games site) and she said my 20,000 peso bill was fake. I tried to give her another and she said that was fake, too. If you don't have the Chilean peso exchange rate memorized it's about 20,000 pesos = $67.  I was pretty pissed off.  I had gotten that money from the ATM at the bank and you'd think that wouldn't give you fake money.

I thought of some of the happiest people I know, and channeled my inner Alice, asking:

"Is $68 really going to cause you to go bankrupt? Is it worth ruining your day over?"

The answer was,


I went to Santa Lucia Park, ate fresh strawberries I bought from a fruit stand on the street and wrote this blog sitting next to this giant piece of pre-Columbian art

Here are my next four or five posts in this series, coming up  (I say four  or five because I'll probably end up putting a couple together....
  1. Your success in life and value as a human being are not decided on just one day (no, not even if it's the world championships or Olympics - maybe especially not then, since you must have done a hell of a lot to get to that point. )
  2. Don't talk about other people. In fact, don't even think gossip about other people
  3. You decide how happy you are
  4. The secret to happiness: The absence of self-ruminative thoughts. 
  5. Yes, you do so have time for it (see, that's why I'm back to writing this blog).
  6. The other secret to  happiness: Focus on the good
  7. Yet another secret to happiness: You don't need to be perfect and you don't have to know everything (yes, really)
Like this blog? Help a sister out by playing AzTech: The Story Begins . It's free!
You can play it on your iPad or on the web on your computer.

Email  and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Everybody should have a "What If" bag

This weekend, I was debating whether I should rent a car and head out to Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile. There were a lot of  "What If's" that ran through my mind.

  • What if I get in an accident? My car insurance doesn't apply in Chile.
  • What if I don't know where I'm going and get lost?
  • What if they don't understand me at the rental car office? My Spanish could be better.
  • What if I get tired and don't want to drive back?
  • What if I don't find anywhere to park the car near my apartment?
  • What if  don't have anyone wants to go with me?
  • What if I don't  drive as well? I haven't driven a car in 4 months.
  • What if I don't get enough work done and fall behind schedule? 

Since you are reading this, you may have guessed I did not die in a fiery crash. Also, I went to Valparaiso.  It looked like this:

I also went to Viña del Mar, which I liked better, it looked like this:

And I stopped to go for a hike twice on the way there, it looked like this:

And this:

Here is a secret to life that I am passing on to you- have a "what if" bag.  I was at the Arnold Classic in March when Ronda got inducted into the sports hall of fame and one of the many bits of swag they gave out was a string back pack.

When Ronda was here, she forgot many things (if you know her, this does not surprise you at at all), including a small bag for - I don't know, for small things.

My What If Bag

These two comprise my "What if" bag.  What if I DO go and what if I DO decide I want to stay in Viña del Mar over night?

Have a "What if I DO" bag. Throw in a toothbrush, a change of clothes and a phone charger. There's really not much you need.

When I checked into the hotel - which I had booked on my travelocity app when stopped at a light two blocks away  - the desk clerk asked,

"Is this really all you have for luggage?"

I told him,

"Yes. I wasn't sure if I was coming, but now here I am."

We both laughed and the bell hop insisted on carrying my "What If" bag to my room.


What if you wanted children to learn math, history and English all at the same time?  Making Camp Bilingual will teach you about Ojibwe history and culture, refresh your math skills, increase your vocabulary and improve your Spanish. All for $1.99. How could you NOT check it out?


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Miracle Kim, Chile's Boxing Marvel: And you thought you were tough

Chilean Boxing’s Small Miracle

Next time you think you’re a bad ass, ask yourself if you’d compete in a gym that doesn’t have heat. It was 50 degrees outside but it was a damp night and felt a lot colder. I asked the photographer from the local TV station why they didn’t turn the heat on and she said,

“This is a poor area. The gym doesn’t have heat.”

Oh, by the way, there are 14 matches and the last one is Miracle Kim Sandoval, the one I came to see.

I was in Concepcion this month at a conference on women defying stereotypes. Since I’m president of a company that makes applications to teach math and English, I was mostly interested in the talks by women in technology, science and entrepreneurship. However, there was a 16-year-old speaker, Kim Sandoval, who is the women’s boxing champion of Chile and a silver medalist in the South American championships.

It turned out that Ronda was one of her role models in getting into combat sports, and Kim lives in Santiago, so of course we had to have lunch when Ronda was in town last week.

Kim La Pequena Maravilla Sandoval , or as Ronda nicknamed her “Miracle Kim” because she’s a small miracle is super popular in her community. How popular?

When she was the headliner at an event in a local gym that went past midnight in one of the worst urban neighborhoods in Chile  every single person stays, despite the lack of heat.

Kim’s mom, Jacquelyn, has organized this event. The family has very little money and from what I overheard, they get very little backing from the boxing federation. When I asked someone in the crowd why that was, he shrugged and said they don’t like her mother because she advocates for Kim, speaks out when she feels the athletes are not getting adequate support, and that old guys running the sport don’t like a woman that speaks up. Boy, did that sound familiar!

The event was a bit of a small miracle in itself. I’ve seen amateur boxing matches in Los Angeles and North Dakota. You know how it is, you go watch things your friends’ kids or in or that your friends are coaching. Payback for the many friends I have dragged to judo tournaments. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d say the level of boxing overall was similar to what I’d seen in tournaments in the U.S. As with any event, some boxers were noticeably better than others. Nobody was seriously injured and a lot of young boxers got experience.  Except for the lack of heat and the lights going out at one point, and staying out until, I presume someone found a circuit breaker, it was a good event. Organized and well-run. It seemed to be put on by the people in the community with just about zero official support except for a couple of referees and a couple of police officers there for security .

I could totally relate to Kim’s mom’s realization that her daughter needed something, in this case more competition, and just creating it out of thin air.

Still, this kid is only 16 years old, her opponent is 28 and teaches boxing. 2 hours before her fight, in a freezing gym, Kim is hanging around the one, tiny  propane camp heater someone brought, and talking with her friends. She goes over to encourage a friend who lost his match.

At first, I’m not sure if she is not taking this fight seriously enough or if she is doing the exactly right thing. Like I always told Ronda, you see these people warming up all day at judo tournaments and their first fight isn’t for 6 hours. By the time it comes up, they are exhausted. The smart thing is to relax an start getting ready 30-45 minutes before you come up.

Sure enough, 45 minutes before her fight, Kim heads to the locker room. When she comes out, for her match, it is clear who the fan favorite is. I’ve never seen her box.

Well, I know very little about boxing but 3 rounds later, it’s clear who the winner is. After tearing into her opponent and winning a unanimous decision, Miracle Kim insists that Jacquelyn join her in the ring and the whole crowd joins her in singing her mom happy birthday.

Mark my word, watch this kid. She’s coming for you, training there in your fancy gym with that pansy ass shit like heat and lights that work.

If you'd like to see some video from her fight, scroll down


When I’m not at boxing matches, I’m making games.

Check out Aztech: The Story Begins .

Random fact: We made this bilingual game to teach math in classrooms where kids might speak English or Spanish but about 10% of people say they play it to improve their Spanish. Play it on the web or download it for your iPad from the App Store.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Why I have no intention of being nicer

Imagine this situation:

A guy, lets call him Bob, is doing business with someone and they make a mistake that costs him significant money or inconvenience. They incorrectly charge his debt card by a huge amount making his bank account overdrawn, the travel office in his company forgets to book his ticket so he's standing at the airport counter with no seat to that conference in Paris because the flight is sold out. The person who made the mistake says they are sorry, but there is nothing they can do to correct the problem. After all, what can they do?

Should Bob:

A. Accept their apology. The person is sorry. Everyone makes mistakes.
B. Say, "Fuck that. I am not paying for your mistake. Your company is going to fix this."
C. 'Ask nicely' is not an option because he already tried that and we are back to A or B

Or, try this one.

Bob, who is apparently having a really bad day, is standing in line in a dark theater waiting to go see the latest blockbuster. The guy in line behind him starts rubbing up against him, clearly excited to see him, if you know what I mean, and I am sure you do. Bob turns around and says, "Hey!" Pervert Pete says, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you'd be into it."

Should Bob:
A. Accept his apology. After all, some people would be into it. An honest mistake.
B. Say, "What the fuck? Do that again and I'll punch you in your fucking face!"
C. 'Tell him firmly but politely' is not an option because he already tried that. Choose again.

Do you have your answers ready? If you wouldn't mind, I'd really appreciate it if you post in the comments if your FIRST response was A, B or C. You can do it anonymously, if you want. All comments are moderated, so they won't show up right away.

Now here is the second part and this takes more honesty than most people have, seriously. 

Think about if the situations involved Mary Lou instead of Bob. Would you have had the same response? Most people would say yes but virtually all research says no, you wouldn't. Here is a discussion of one study finding "men's anger works for them but women's anger works against them'". There are literally hundreds of such studies. If you are interested in finding more, I trust you have access to a search engine since you are reading this.

I have never aspired to be a nice woman. 

I have tried to be a good person, a fair person, a kind person but nice has never been on my list. I'll tell you why ...

Nice women get screwed over.

Recently, I was in a similar situation as Bob and I said, 

Fuck that! I'm not accepting your apology. You need to do something.
The situation was resolved and later I was told that I should have handled it nicely. I disagree. Initially, the suggestion was maybe it wasn't a big deal, like I could get to the conference a day late and so what if I missed meetings with customers.

Women get that a lot when they object to being mistreated.

"What's the big deal?"

I have seen this happen over and over. Whether it is a promotion, an upgrade to first class, the opportunity to speak at an event or an executive who sends you a picture of his dick, 

Yes, I understand you being unhappy, but you could be nicer.

Let me make this clear:

I am NOT "unhappy", I am fucking pissed and I have every right in the world to be.

Really the only reason I refuse to be nicer is that I strongly believe in being the change you want to see in the world and modeling that for my children and grandchildren. Very often, it is suggested to women, but not men, that they should overlook mistreatment, from sexual harassment to abysmal service, and, particularly, they should overlook unfair treatment in favor of men.

When I was a kid, my mom told me a story about how a girl in her high school class got the most votes for class president but the nun who was running the election announced that the boy who got the second-most votes would be president because it would help him get into college and that girl didn't need to be class president. My mom said no one spoke up because, "What good would it do?"

In my life, it has been suggested to me that I give up raises, promotions, offices to a man who 'needed it more' for either his family or his ego. It has been suggested that I should let bygones be bygones with people who have been blatantly dishonest in deals because "we need to get along" or "you don't want to get a bad reputation."

In short, throughout my pretty long life, over and over, I have seen "Be nice" said to girls as code for "Let me take advantage of you."

I'm not fucking having it.

And neither should you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Answers to Random Questions on My Life

I've gotten asked the same questions a lot lately so I thought I'd answer several of them while waiting for my flight.

You're living in Chile, the country?

Why do people ask me that so often? Is there some city - like Chile, Nebraska - of which I was previously unaware? Yes, I'm in Santiago. You can read about my adventures on the 7 Generation Games blog, including doing business in my second language.

Why weren't you at Wrestlemania?

I missed watching Ronda's Wrestlemania debut live because I was at a software conference (SAS Global Forum) that had asked me to speak months in advance. Dennis got a WWE pass that let us watch it on the computer, so I did that and skipped most of the opening session of the conference.

You can watch the video of me talking about non-traditional career paths here, and boy has mine been non-traditional!

I did skip this conference once, when Ronda qualified for her first Olympic Trials as a teenager. I was co-presenter on a paper but my co-author volunteered to give the paper so I didn't need to attend.

 A few people asked me if I had considered skipping it this time but that's not my style. If I say I'll do something, I don't mean, "Unless a better offer comes along." Also, let's be honest, if I flew back to the U.S. from Santiago every time Ronda did something amazing, I'd be pretty broke pretty fast. I already came back for 2 days to see her get inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame and get her sixth-degree black belt last month.

If I'd gone to New Orleans, I would have never met this bear

What happened to the parenting book?

I did the first crack at it and Maria did the rest.  It's free, for a limited time, and should be out in a week or two. Follow that link and read it carefully or you may end up with a picture of dirt instead and then don't say I didn't warn you. Maria has been crazy busy, flying to Trinidad, repping the family support at Wrestlemania in New Orleans, getting our Strong Body Strong Mind campaign going and so the book has been taking a while longer.

Starting a new company in a new country in a new language sounds crazy, do you really like that?

When I told my sister I had gotten selected for Start-up Chile she said,

"If you're happy, then I'm happy for you, but leaving my house, moving to the other side of the world, starting all over again in a new language sounds like my definition of hell."

A woman I met at the conference, who is from Rumania commented that people who relocate have a different attitude toward change. I think that must be so, because I am finding life pretty good. More of my time than I'd like has been taken up with organizational and legal stuff - incorporating the company, interviewing, writing contracts - and all of it being in a second language has taken me twice as long. Overall, though, life is good, and I even managed to knock out a good bit of code for our next game while sitting in the airport.

Have you done any judo in Chile?

Nope. Honestly, many days have been me getting up to go to my first meeting then answering a few emails before rushing to the next meeting and finally getting time to eat "breakfast" around 5 o'clock. Just when things were starting to settle down a little, I caught a plane to Denver. Okay, now my flight to Panama is boarding.

So, until next time, check out AzTech: The Story Begins because believe me, being bilingual has a lot to recommend it. You can play in English and learn math and history if that is more your line.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thoughts on the Arnold Sports Festival

I wrote this on the flight back to Santiago from Columbus 2 weeks ago and I'm just now getting around to posting it! You can follow on my crazy life and how "I'm learning a gang of shit" in Chile on our 7 Generation Games blog.

I just came back from 3 days at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio.

It was certainly a whirlwind trip - 13 hours to fly from Santiago, meeting up with my old friend, Steve Scott to go watch the power lifting and throwing the caber.

 I met up with my lovely daughter, Ronda and her husband for lunch, attended a fundraiser for the After-School All-stars , was promoted to seventh-degree black belt along with Ronda getting her sixth-degree black belt, attended the International Sports Hall of Fame to see Bas Rutten, Ronda, Drs. Jan and Terry Todd and Phil Keoghan get inducted.

 That was a touching event. All of those inducted had been pioneers in getting mainstream acceptance for their respective sports and then gone on to have impressive careers after competition. Think of the 44-year-old guy in the bar talking about scoring the winning touchdown in the high school state championships. Now, imagine the complete opposite of that guy and you have the inductees.

 It was particularly cool to see Jan Todd get an award because she’s older than me (yes, such a thing is possible) and women lifting weights was just not something respectable married women did. When she said,

 “I’m proud to have been a small part of young girls like Ronda Rousey not having to grow up wondering if it’s okay to be strong” 

- if I was the crying type of person I would have cried, but I’m not, so I didn’t, but the thought was there.

 There were 200,000 people at the event, and I heard there is a similar event in Las Vegas as well as several regional ones. There were a lot of top-level weight lifters and professional body builders (I didn’t even know that was a thing) .

There weren’t 200,000 Olympic contenders, though. Most of the people were interested in being somewhat physically fit, probably worked out at something, whether it was lifting weights or fencing. They participate in events like throwing the caber for fun.

 It left me wondering why we don’t have more focus on getting mentally fit. 

Yes, we have events like the academic decathlon, but I don’t see much of the mind equivalent to the person who works out once or twice a week. 


Maria hates my “push-ups for your brain” analogy, but we make games that are like that. Doing push-ups alone won’t make you an athlete, but they will help, and you can do them almost anywhere and for a long time or just 30 seconds. The more often you do push-ups, the stronger you will get, and that strength will help you in the other physical activities you decide to do.

I've been talking with some friends about doing a Strong Minds/ Strong Bodies campaign to encourage people to get and stay smarter as well as stronger.

It's on my list of 1,000,000 things to do. However, like this blog post, I DO eventually get to them.

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.