Monday, October 20, 2014

Judo as preparation for life at a start-up

Sometimes people suggest I wasted that 10,000 hours I spent in judo classes and tournaments, since what has that go to do with what I do now. Fourteen years is a lot of your life to devote to something, especially something as frivolous as a sport, even more especially one where you stand to make no money and often get treated like dirt by the powers-that-be. Was it worth it?

I've given it some thought and came to the conclusion that yes, yes it is. What I've learned from judo has benefited me as an entrepreneur, as a student, in relationships and even cleaning my house. How so, you ask?

In case you are new to this blog, you might not know that my day job is running a group of technology companies. One of these is 7 Generation Games, adventure games that teach math.

Like any start-up, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and it occurred to me lately that is one of the things I learned from judo - persistence.

I started competing when I was 12 years old and won the world championships 14 years later.  Here are some lessons I learned that still help me today.

  1. Hard work pays off. I trained twice a day, sometimes three times, for years on end. If I look at the big difference between me and my competition, it's that I worked more hours and harder. 
  2. It matters what you do in the hours you put in. I was never one to back down from randori, no matter how big, skillful or tough the opponent. As my college track coach told me, "Champions always do more." The same is true in the office. I start my day with a list of what needs to get done. The most important tasks get done first. (In fact, in the middle of this list, I remembered something I needed to do for work, went and did it. Okay, I'm back.)
  3. You have to be in it for the long haul. There were tournaments I didn't win, injuries. There are always going to be setbacks. You have to learn from them and keep working even harder.
  4. Learn from your mistakes. Bruce Toups, who was Director of Development back when I competed, said to me, "After you won our first gold medal, I went back and watched every video I could find of you competing. I saw matches that you lost, but I never saw you lose the same way twice." There's a tendency to try to forget about things that went wrong. Resist it.
  5. Select people who are good at their job. Your coach and teammates don't have to be your best friends. They just have to be people who can help you to reach your goals.
  6. Character matters. Everything else is secondary. Even though your coach doesn't  have to be your best friend, he can't be a sociopath either. 
  7. There is more than one way to win. People often stay at a dojo where  they are miserable because they are convinced that only that coach, those teammates can help them win gold medals. It's not true. Even if that coach is the only really good coach in the country (doubtful), guess what, there are other countries in the world. You always have options.
Tune in next time for how what I learned from judo helped me clean my house.


Alexak said...

Hi Dr. Annamarie,
I am 12 years old.My name is alexa. Just to let you know im not asking for anything. i just wanted to let you know that ronda has helped me through so much. I had eating disorders and speach impediments. Ronda helped me through. I watch all her fights and i am a true loyal fan. Even if she loses [ even tho she won't ] i will still be a loyal fan. She also inspired me to fight! I box and want to start judo. I commented on Rondas instagram post and she answered me! I just wanted to let you know how much she has helped me. I enjoy reading your blog and wish your family happy days !
Love Alexa

Dr. AnnMaria said...


That is very good to hear. I hope your training is going well.