Monday, March 31, 2014

Seriously, just who do you think you are?

Warning, this blog contains language and opinions that might disturb you if you are easily offended. And I don't give a shit.

 My children think their late father was perfect, but that was not always the case. Back when we were just co-workers, I was an industrial engineer assigned to the area where he was manager to look into some scheduling problems. It turned out that the production line had been shut down because we ran out of a particular solvent. The solvent had a short shelf life so they didn't order too much at once or it would go bad and be tossed out. I asked him what it costs. He said it must be expensive because this wasn't the first time it had happened. He sent someone to find out - apparently no one had asked this question before - and it turned out they were shutting the factory down to keep from ordering too much of something that cost $9 a gallon. I started laughing and Ron went off on the guy, yelled at him, told him he was going to be fired - this was a little milquetoast type of guy and he left the office in tears. After he left, I turned to Ron and said,
Mr. Rousey, that was wrong. It wasn't that man's fault that not enough was ordered or the line was shut down. You had no right to treat him like that.
He said to me,
Who are you to tell me what to do? I run this plant and you're just a little piss ant engineer.
I said,
That doesn't make any difference. I'm right.
If that was all of the story, then I would have had one fewer husband and at least two fewer children. We continued the tour of the plant I had come for and as we walked through one area, we ran across the same man again, he looked like he wanted to bolt and run. Ron went up to him and apologized and that impressed me, because it takes some integrity to admit when you are wrong, but it would have been better if he hadn't done it in the first place.

I tell this story because it has three points.
  1. It is not okay to treat people badly just because you can.
  2. Even a generally good person screws up on occasion
  3. When you screw up you make it better by apologizing, even if you can't undo the harm completely.
Lately, I have seen too many people acting as if they have the right to be rude and disrespectful. They're never disrespectful and rude to ME. One reason is because I would either laugh in their faces or tell them to go fuck themselves. No, they are rude to people's assistants, housekeepers, waiters, desk clerks - people, like that man in the factory, who aren't making much money, aren't in a position to really stand up for themselves either because they need the job or they just aren't the type to speak up.

Let me talk to you people for a minute - just who the fuck do you think you are and where do you get off acting like that? Do you think because you make more money it's okay to speak condescendingly to someone, to be rude and insulting? What gives you that right? Because you work so hard and everyone ought to kowtow to you? Do you know who works hard? That single mom who works two minimum wage jobs and takes the bus an hour each way works hard and then she comes home and feeds her kids and cleans her house. She doesn't need to put up with your shit.

And most of you people DON'T work all that fucking hard. You're in the position you're in because you won the sperm and ovum lottery - you were born into a family with money, education, who just happened to be in the United States, and so you got all kinds of rights and privileges to start out with.

Then, there are the people who are with someone with money or a position of power. I'm not talking about two people who started out with nothing and built it up together. I'm talking about Bob's trophy wife half his age that he dumped that first woman for. If Bob makes $10,000,000 a year, you have maids, a nanny. Basically your job description is "I fuck Bob", so maybe you realize that and treat the gardener like dirt to feel better about yourself. Stop it!

Athletes - yes, you do train hard to be at the top of your game and many of you take a lot of hits, literally, for it. It's hard and the odds of making it are tiny. You know what else is hard - being in the military or in law enforcement getting your ass shot at for very little money, working in the mines getting black lung disease. In short, you are blessed if you are a successful athlete and you ought to remember that every day.

Then there is the entourage. It is only because I am trying to follow my own advice about treating people respectfully that I don't show up with a brick one day and start hitting you people. If you're at an event, in a location, because you are somebody's friend and start acting like an ass to the people working there, seriously who the fuck do you think you are? At least Ms. Trophy Wife fulfills some kind of purpose - "I fuck Bob and support the economy through my Gucci and Tiffany purchases". What does the entourage do? You kiss Bob's ass. Where were all of you "friends" when Bob was working his way up with the first Mrs. Bob, anyway, before he became the owner of Bob's Real Estate Dynasty or Heavyweight Champion of the Bobs ?

I don't care if you are the owner of a software giant or the woman who came into work this morning and cleaned my hotel room in the middle of a blizzard - all work has dignity and all people deserve to be treated with respect - unless maybe they really, really piss me off, and a few of you are getting there ...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Be the match: Seeking marrow donor

This was forwarded to me, originally from Naomi Osugi, from Nanka Judo

 I have some bad news but hopefully this will turn out to be a wonderful miraculous event that all of us can enjoy being a part of. You may have already heard since news travels fast but I just found out yesterday from Yone himself that he was given a devastating medical diagnosis of MDS. Still learning about that but it's the same diagnosis Robin Roberts of Good Morning America has and she was able to find a donor match bone marrow of her older sister and is doing much better. If there is no match then it's 8 months or so to live so it's pretty fatal.

 Yone had pneumonia and while being treated for that his Dr found that he has MDS. It's a blood cancer disease and the only thing that will save him is to find a bone marrow match. Being that he is Japanese, the chances of a match are really scarce. His kids are half Japanese so less chance for a match. I contacted an organization called Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M) based here in Downtown LA. Debbie and I are going through training to volunteer since we are too old to be possible donors.

 They are looking for Asians preferably Japanese (found better chances of being a match) between the ages of 18 to 44. Those between 18-44 to see if they are possible donors is free of charge. It is a really simple procedure of just filling out confidential forms and taking a q-tip swab of inner cheek. For anyone older than 44 up to the age of 60 can submit also but it will cost them about $100. The funding pays for the targeted age group of 18-44 but not for the one's older because it's less likely they would be a match to anyone.

 I spoke to my brother Kenji already and he is helping spread the word. Debbie and I would like to come to the next Nanka tournament and have a table for taking applications to be a donor at the next Nanka tournament, and we are being trained to take the sample swabs and complete the process too. Debbie said contact you because you know everybody and have the resources to get the information out there. If you can help us get the news out and attached is the link for those who want to apply to be a donor if they want to do this online:

If they are not a match to Yoshisada Yonezuka, at the very least they may be helping someone else by being a donor match.

Perfect parenting is overrated

Over twenty years ago, when my children were about ages 8, 5 and 4, I wrote a chapter called, "Handling the triple threat: How to hold a job, raise a family and still be sane by graduation"

I could not find the book. My sister probably has it. She has taken it upon herself to be the family librarian and obtain a copy of everything any of us has published. She drew the line at Maria, though, because she has hundreds, maybe thousands, of articles in press.

One of my main points in the chapter was from Sandra Scarr, author of Mother Care, Other Care and much more famous for her research on black children adopted by white families. She wrote about her personal experience being an extraordinarily productive author, professor, researcher and a mother. One of her points was

Don't try to compensate by making organic, home-made baby food. Buy the kind in the store for 39 cents. Both are equally likely to end up spit up on the cat, and you can use the time you save reading your child a book and relaxing.

There is no doubt that my granddaughters are brilliant. Emilia turned two years old last month. When the surprise birthday party for her sister was breaking up, she was very sad because she did not want the party to end. Aunt Ronda explained that she had to go and work so she could make money to buy things, like a monkey. Emilia asked,

You have a monkey? Can I touch it?

This is NOT the typical conversation at 24 months. And no, Ronda does not have a monkey. She was trying to leave with the minimal amount of tears (but not the minimal amount of lies, apparently).

So, yes, the children are brilliant and maybe that has to do with Maria devoting most of her waking hours to them. Perhaps that is supposed to make me feel guilty because I did not do that, in which case it is a failure.

One of our earliest home videos was of my using the remote control to turn the TV off to try to get two-year-old Jennifer to quit watching Inspector Gadget. I swear, that child tried her hardest to watch TV eight hours a day. I probably let her watch it two or three hours a day while I got work done.

She grew up to get a minor in film studies and major in history at San Francisco State, followed by a masters at USC and now she is the kind of history teacher you hope your child will have.

When my children were young, their father was ill and I suddenly had to make both incomes for our two-income family. After teaching at the university all day, I would come home and work as a consultant. I told all of them,

Unless there is blood on the floor, don't any of you talk to me after 10 p.m.
My desk was downstairs and their bedrooms upstairs. I chased them back upstairs many a time and I felt zero guilt.
They turned out fine.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I love Manny Gamburyan and Hayastan

This photo is terribly blurry because I took it in the one minute break between rounds. All of these guys are professional fighters - Karo Parisyan, Manny Gamburyan, Roman Mitichyan (whose last name I always get wrong and Ronda always teases me about), Ara, Sevak, Armen (whose name I probably spelled wrong, too.)

We took the students from Gompers Middle School to practice at Hayastan today.  Even though he has a fight coming up in May, Manny agreed to teach a class for the kids for half an hour before his own practice.

Karo has a fight coming up, too, but he and all of the other guys took a minute to pose with our kids for a photo before getting back to work.

I've known most of these guys since THEY were in middle school and trust me, no matter what you might hear in some media or what mistakes they might make in their lives (as Karo and I discussed today, no one is perfect), these are some of the people with the best hearts you would ever meet.

THANK YOU for opening your school to our children from Gompers today. I'm not usually the most sweetness and light type of person, but these guys are so good, I would cry - if I ever did that, which I don't actually, but still, you get my point.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fear of Success

A comment on a recent post (Somebody Else's Dream) by Zack asked

Dr De Mars, what is a person to do when their dreams are not geographically compatible with their family's needs (not wants or desires, but needs)? Also, if I understood you correctly in the "Breaking Ground" video, many people don't achieve in life out of fear. Is it fear of failure or fear of success?

I answered the first part of the question yesterday, on postponing success, so I thought I'd answer the second part today.

Fear of failure is a normal thing, whether it is failing in sports or in business. You will be embarrassed. People who have invested time and money in you will be let down. Your plans that hinged on success -  hiring more people, going to the Olympics - will be destroyed or at least delayed.

No one wants to fail.

What about fear of success? 

I have actually seen a lot of that and while the term is often associated with women, I've certainly seen a lot of evidence in men as well.

Why would people be afraid of success? Three reasons I can think of.

1. Fear of change

If you are training three days a week at Bob's gym with your best buddies, Fred, Joe and Celeste, that is fun and comfortable for you. You like Bob. You have a nice apartment. Fred, Joe and Celeste are fun to go have a beer after practice with. If you win the national championships, you might have to travel as a member of your national team. You may be expected to move to the national training center. You may really need to switch coaches because Bob is more of a local guy.

The same is true in business. You may be comfortable as an engineer, programmer, sales representative. You know your job. You get along with your boss and your coworkers. Yeah, more money would be nice, but you'd have to meet a bunch of new people, maybe move to a new city, learn new skills and maybe you wouldn't be good at it ….

which leads to the second big and very related reason

2. Fear of the unknown

Some changes are scarier than others. Many times, I've moved across country to a new job. Before I moved, I knew where I was moving and where I would be working. I've known a few people who wanted to work for Boeing or wanted to live in San Diego. They packed up, drove to whatever city it was and lived out of their cars until they got a job, then got an apartment. I cannot imagine doing that.

I see this with a lot of athletes. Even after they are past their prime, have had numerous injuries and their performance is stagnant or declining, they keep competing. They drop from the number one ranked player to 12, to 15. It's all they know.

I once knew an extremely talented judo player who was ranked number one in his country for a decade, except for two years. Those two just happened to be Olympic years. I really think his problem was that his whole goal in life was to win the Olympics  - and it's possible that he could have done it if he had buckled down and trained consistently - but what then? He had no goals after that and his whole life had been centered around training for the Olympics. If he won, he'd have to find another goal, go to college, pursue a career. Actually, I've known several judo players who sabotaged themselves for this reason, he was just the most extreme.

The same happens with work. People are afraid to go out and take a new job, start a company because they don't know if they will like the work, the people, the new city. They'll have to find new everything - housing, dentist, grocery store. They won't know where stuff is or how to sign up for the health plan. They just don't know what it will be like.

Better to stay put.

3. Fear of Being Unpopular

This fear is not unfounded. When you win, earn a Ph.D., sign a huge book deal, get a promotion, found a successful company, some people are just jealous.

In both sports and business, I have had this exact conversation with talented young men (both happened to be men), who had the option to leave for a better judo club in one case, and a better job in the other. Both said the exact same words in explaining why they turned down the opportunity.

I've heard how people here talk about people that leave or move away, and I don't want them talking about me like that.

In both cases, I responded,

Are you fucking kidding me? What the hell do you care what people you are almost never going to see again are saying about you?

You would think that your real friends would be happy for you, and usually they are. However, even in that case, you may drift apart. I remember meeting up with some old friends shortly after I finished my Ph.D. and them telling me that I just wasn't the same. They were right. I wasn't. In the intervening ten years, I had gotten four degrees, published scientific articles, learned a few computer languages, lived in  Japan for a year.  Yeah, it was fun to get together and go out and party for a night, but I had no interest in doing that every night.

On the other hand, many of the people I met professionally were pompous jerks who missed the fact that their higher education was only partly due to their intellect and largely due to not having to work because Daddy had left them a huge trust fund.

Years ago, I read a quote that was something like this (I couldn't find the exact one again)

An adult male lion can kill almost any animal in the jungle. A lion won't accept any place but number one and will fight any other male in his territory, and drive him out or be driven from the pride.
 Wolves spend their lives as part of a pack, where every wolf has a place. Wolf packs are also effective at hunting.
The lion is the king of the jungle, but being a lion is lonely. Most of us choose to be a lion or a wolf. Choose wisely.
Oh yeah, I wrote a book on mat work. You should buy it and write nice things about me on Amazon.

I also make computer games where you learn math, learn Native American history and shoot stuff, You can get your very own for $9.99

Postponing Success

A comment on a recent post (Somebody Else's Dream) by Zack asked

Dr De Mars, what is a person to do when their dreams are not geographically compatible with their family's needs (not wants or desires, but needs)? Also, if I understood you correctly in the "Breaking Ground" video, many people don't achieve in life out of fear. Is it fear of failure or fear of success?

Both good questions. So good, in fact, that I decided to make those the subject of my next two posts.

My answer to the first one is that in many cases you can wait until your dreams are compatible with your family's needs. For many years, I wanted to start a company to make computer games to teach kids math. However, a startup is risky and I had four children. Two of them went to expensive private universities and one went to the Olympics twice. None of that is compatible with a risky venture that may not pay a salary for years.

After my three older daughters were adults, I started 7 Generation Games and an added bonus is in the intervening 20 years, technology advanced to the point that the game is far more amazing than the text-based Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy type games available when I could have started if I didn't have four children.

======= Learn Math. Save Humanity =========

If you want to see the game for yourself, click here and plop down $9.99
You can give the game as a gift to a child, teacher or school. All you need is an email address.


At some point, I got the idea it would be good to write a book about judo with Jim Pedro, Sr.
It took over two years from the time we started talking about it until the book was finished, and another four months after that before it was published. There were a lot of times when I got frustrated that life interfered and I had not written as much as I would have liked that month. Jim would just say,

"So, what? We're not on a schedule. We'll get it done later."

Of course, then we signed a contract with Black Belt and were on a schedule, but that's another story. You can buy the book on Amazon if you'd like. (Tangent:  I thought a lot of people owned a Nook but we have 21 reviews on Amazon and 0 on Barnes and Noble, even though it's available for the Nook. and also 0 in the Black Belt Magazine store, even though they published it!)

When I was in graduate school, I had to choose between some judo tournaments and studying for exams. No, I didn't do what you think. I quit judo for over a year and finished my MBA because when I went in to my wonderful advisor to ask what I should do he said to me,

Do they have these tournaments every year? They do? Well, then, why don't you finish your course work this year and go win them the next time?

And I did.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Being a World Judo Champion Prepared Me to Run a Start-up

Running a start-up requires ignoring the large majority of people who tell you that you can't do something. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience with that.

Here are some of the reasons I heard that I could never win a national (much less world) judo championships.
  1. Are you crazy? You live in a small town in Illinois. There isn't an elite club within 300 miles of you!
  2. You need to compete internationally to get experience. Your family can't afford to fly you to Europe for tournaments any more than they could send you to the moon.
  3. You're a woman. Japanese university teams only have men (that was back then) and there is no way they are going to let a woman train with the men's team.
  4. Your knee is missing cartilage and ligaments. You can't even do half the throws.
  5. You have a bad attitude and the referees don't like you. You are never going to win a decision.
  6. You learned judo from someone who got a black belt after a few years stationed in Japan in the military. You don't really have very good technique.
  7. You need to train full-time to be competitive internationally. Your competition trains full-time and has government funding.
All of those are valid arguments, except for the fact that I moved out of Illinois and went to college. I was able to use my scholarship funds to train for a year in Japan at Waseda University. Turns out that you don't have to bloom where you're planted. I asked if I could train with the men's team at Waseda University and even though they thought it was pretty crazy, they let me. Thankfully, Bruce Toups and Frank Fullerton funded my travel to Europe to compete out of their own pockets because they thought I had a chance to bring a gold medal home to the United States.

Because my knee was badly injured, and there was no such thing as knee reconstruction back then, I had to compensate by getting very, very good at matwork. Because I assumed I would never win a decision and that my opponent would have better technique than me, I learned to attack right off the grip to get the first score, attack continuously to never give my opponent the opportunity to attack. I also learned very, very well techniques that would end the match in a manner that left no question who won, chokes, pins and especially arm bars. (Hint to the referee: The woman without the broken arm should be awarded the win.) There are 24 hours in a day and if you work for 8 and sleep for 8 it still gives you 8 hours a day to train.

All of the reasons I couldn't do it were true - several years, I missed even competing in the national championships because I was pregnant, in graduate school or just didn't have the money to travel.

 I also won the national championships three times and won a world championships, despite all of the reasons that I couldn't do it.

They were right, here is an example of my bad technique in the finals of the world championships. I didn't score an ippon. I didn't even score a koka.
However, what I did do was take her to the mat, and here is what happened next.

Even if the referees don't like you, they tend to give the decision to the person on top.

My answer to all of those critics way back when was,

SOMEONE is going to win the world championships. Why not me?

Now I'm running an educational gaming start-up and hearing again all of the reasons I cannot succeed:
  1. Good developers are really expensive and hard to find at any price.
  2. You have no background in game design.
  3. Investors are looking for people who are twenty-something, not fifty-something.
  4. You have no experience in game programming.
  5. It's hard to sell to school districts.
  6. The educational game market is crowded.
  7. Everyone is making tablet games and we are mostly focused on games that run on Windows and Mac
After years of doing things people told I couldn't do in judo, I'm not  easily dissuaded. Frankly, some of these arguments are just stupid. No one has experience in anything until they do it, and then they do.

Good developers are expensive and hard to find, but I've been programming for years, so, I just switched to programming for games. An array, do loop, function and all of that is the same whether you are creating applications for tracking inventory or movements in a game. A lot of the money people get from investors goes to paying for development and marketing. We just do the development ourselves and cut out the middle man. I offered our CMO equity in return for taking a cut in pay to come work for us. Yes, it is hard to sell to school districts, but you know what, they are buying games, textbooks, curriculum.  If I can make a game that kids want to play and demonstrate that their math skills are better, teachers and parents will want to buy it from me.

SOMEONE is going to make the next breakthrough in educational technology. Why not me?

Buy Spirit Lake - the only game Mom will let you play on a school night

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Which belt would you wear?

I was packing to go to Sioux City, Iowa on Friday and I had limited space in my suitcase. So much that I could only fit in one belt. I have two belts, a ragged black one and a red and white one. Often people ask me to bring  the red and white belt because it is rare that anyone sees a woman who is a sixth-degree black belt or higher.

I thought about which one to take for a minute and I realized that I have been a black belt for over 36 years. My belt looks like this from years of use in practice. I made my black belt this way. The red and white belt was just something a bunch of old men voted to give me.

I packed the black one.

It was a great clinic today. Thank you to everyone who came.  It also raised money to send some students from Sioux City, IA to judo tournaments.

Tomorrow, I'm speaking to students at the Sioux City schools and then heading home.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Learning to win at life

For a great many years, I thought those people who talked about sports as "it not being important to so much to win as to take part" were a bunch of losers.

I wanted to win.  I wanted to win so badly that I trained three times a day, whether I was sick or tired or hungry. I had several knee operations. I dislocated six people's arms my last year of competition, every one of them on purpose. (Should have tapped.) At the time, it was the most important thing in the world to me.

Winning is awesome and I highly recommend it.

HOWEVER …. I was wrong.

If you want to win on the world stage, at the time, you need to believe that winning is the most important thing in the world.

If you don't want to be a loser the rest of your life, you need to forget that attitude and move on.

 I realized today while out hiking at Malibu Creek that winning the world championships was the greatest thing in my life until the next great thing came along. I earned a Ph.D., had three more children, married two more times, taught statistics, coached judo, published a book, started three companies.

All of those things were great. I truly believe that being a good parent is far more important than winning gold medals. The games I am working on now for 7 Generation Games have much more potential to change kids' lives than watching me win some silly medal. I don't even know where that medal is now. I think Ronda lost it.

The biggest thing I learned from judo I could have learned just as well if I had never competed at all and it is really simple but SO important -

  • If you keep at something and don't give up, you get better.
  • No one is very good at the beginning, and that's okay
  • No one is perfect, ever, and that's okay, too
  • No matter what your disadvantages physically, economically, socially, you can overcome almost all of them if you work hard enough

You might think that is really common sense, but as my grandmother used to say, if it was really common, you'd think you'd see more of it.

I can't tell you how often I used to tell myself if I got a math problem wrong, or less than the highest grade in the class on a test or my program didn't run the first time,

"God, I'm so stupid. I can't do this. I'm just not good at math/ school/ programming."

Gradually, I realized, though, that I never had that attitude in judo. When my o uchi gari didn't work, I did it again. In fact, I drilled throws, turnovers, pins and arm bars hundreds of times a week. Very, very seldom did I hit anything perfectly. Somehow, though, I learned to focus on what I needed to get better instead of telling myself I sucked. Constantly, this ran through my mind,

"Stop the opponent from moving first. Get your legs across their body, push with your foot above their knee, get your hooks in. Cut off the escape route. Lock the arm on your body. Lean back. Turn towards their hips. Throw yourself back. Keep your head tucked."

In other words, I learned to replace that constant refrain of judging how well or poorly I was doing with  focusing on the next step to get better.

There is a really key point here. Notice, I didn't tell myself I was a special snowflake and Jesus and Mommy love me just the way I am. No, I went from focusing on how I wasn't good enough to focusing on how to get better and doing it. It turns out, that if you look at life that way, not only do you become happier, but also more successful.

Yay, I win at life!