Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are You Willing to Go Down the Stairs?

A friend of mine was a team mate of someone who won the world judo championships. He told me a story about when they were both in their teens. It went something like this:

We were pretty young back then, both in good shape, training every day. We both were lucky that we started out with good coaches and I think I can honestly say we were above average as far as technique went. We'd both won a lot of juniors and were starting to place in the senior national events. At this age, we were pretty closely matched.

Our judo club practiced in a room on the second floor. One day we were working out doing matwork and it was pretty even. We were rolling around, he was on top, then I was on top. We were really going at it and neither of us was willing to give up. We rolled off the mat and were still fighting in the hallway.I wasn't going to give up and neither was he. Finally, we got to the top of the stairs and he was still not willing to let go. I'm not crazy. We're going to go rolling down the stairs and it's going to hurt, maybe seriously, just to win one stupid round of newaza randori in the dojo. I tapped out. When I look back, I think that was the point where I realized there was a major difference between me and him. He was willing to go down the stairs and I wasn't.

Now, my friend, who did not win the world championships, is a successful, smart person who is a really good judo player and had a good measure of competitive success himself. As he said, he's not crazy.

So, am I saying that if you start fighting with people until you go rolling down a flight of stairs that you are going to be a world champion. It's not the specific event, in fact, if you went out and rolled down a flight of stairs today, I wouldn't be too impressed because I had to tell you about it. The point is that one person just had that attitude and the other didn't.

Ronda and I were interviewed for a TV show on MMA last week. One question the interviewer asked that I hear frequently is,

"What do you think one really important lesson you learned from judo that has helped you in life?"

I think I get asked this more often than Ronda because I am old so have presumably seen most of my life by now. I think one lesson I have learned is to be willing to go down the stairs. I started out with a safe job as an engineer and a huge aerospace company. I quit that to get a Ph.D. and become a professor. With a safe, full-time, tenure track position, I quit to start a business. After making a comfortable living doing program evaluations, statistical analysis and programming, I'm taking the risk and starting up a new technology company.  I'm involved in a highly technical field and trying to solve a very complex problem.

My niece asked me,

"Are you sure you'll be able to get this to work?"

I told her,

"No, we don't know how it will turn out. That's why we call it 'research'."

So, maybe I will completely fall on my face, I won't be able to solve the problem and I'll have to find something else to do.  I don't think so, but I don't know.

What I do know is that I am going to take the risk because that's what I learned from training to be world champion in judo - the willingness to go down the stairs, knowing full well that it might hurt like hell, but not being able to give up that chance to come out on top.


Anonymous said...

Its better than to dwell for the rest of ones life on "what if?"

Anonymous said...

Great story! I'm a dad of three kids in my early forties, an engineer and I train in judo. In regards to your career, how were you able to balance family life, work and taking career risks? My daily work routine starts early in the morning, so I can get off early to take my kids to their swim team practice four days out of the week. My free time is limited to tues evening and after 8 pm the rest of the days. I often come up with ideas such as going to part time law school (this is just one idea), but my planning hits roadblocks when I think or factor in that my kid's time and opportunities would be sacrificed.

When and where will the interview be published?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

The interview was for a TV show. I'm not sure when it will air. I'll ask Ronda. (I'm in Florida right now and she's home in LA).

As far as career risks, well the big risk I am taking now is largely possible because my three older daughters are all self-supporting and between my current business and my husband's income we can maintain our current lifestyle for the next year or so. If I can't make enough after a year, then I'll have to come up with a Plan B.

It's kind of like Tinkerbelle in Hook, it was the biggest wish I ever wished (almost) and it was for myself.

So, no, I did not take these kind of risks when my kids still needed college tuition bills, European training camps, etc. paid.

At this point, my worst case scenario is my youngest daughter my be bought somewhat less useless junk for a while if I don't make enough money in my new start-up within the year. On the other hand, if I do succeed, she'll be a quite spoiled college student.

Rainer Fischer said...

You know what's funny is that I DID fall down some stairs as a stuntman for a TV pilot back in the 70s. I was an extra but the stuntman for the pilot was injured and they asked me to take his place. After donning some padding under my jacket, they gave me instructions on how to fall down stairs. I said, "Thanks, but no thanks. I have my own judo way of doing this" The only problem was that there was a wall right at the bottom of the stairs. So from the top of the stairs, I did a front rolling breakfall and just before hitting the wall face on, I turned and bounced off the wall from my back. However, I still didn't make it as World champ. So no guarantees.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

That IS funny, though!

Unknown said...

love your article =( sadly im not willing to go downstairs..

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.