Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Want a sneak peek into my day?

I have four daughters, I run a computer game company, I teach statistics and I teach judo. It is not often that all of these worlds come together, but lately they have.

I was looking at a photo that Hans Gutknecht had taken of two of my daughters at practice.

It got me to thinking about our latest game, Forgotten Trail. To win the game, crossing thousands of miles, to learn math and to succeed in sports all take perseverance. One thing people need to learn is to keep going even when they can't even remember a time they weren't tired, sore and wanting to give up.

I thought it would be good to have points in the game when the player gets advice from characters they meet, everyone from a great-aunt to an older sibling. I was talking about this with the amazing Justin Flores, our talented artist and he immediately had the concept of an older sister encouraging an exhausted younger one to go on.

The scene takes place at the top of a hill when the character sees how much further there still is to go.
Justin is working on this now. By tomorrow night, you should be able to see the finished product, with the photo and game scene together.

If you back us on Kickstarter, for $100 or more, you'll even get your very own autographed copy.

Okay, back to making games. Working late tonight because I have to knock off early tomorrow evening to go to a movie.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What I Learned Lately

I'm not much of a stop and smell the roses type of person. The fact that this is the second time today that I stopped to write a blog post should tell you that.

The first one, on the 7 Generation Games Road Trip is here.

That is in addition to working on improving the css and HTML for the game in the morning, having multiple disputes with my sometimes better half on the desirability of using the DOM vs canvas for formatting and when I get home I'm going to work on the game again.

I was going to use five words to talk about the secrets to success and happiness. Then, when the conference organizers told me that I only had 15 minutes, I cut it down to three words.

Having had five hours of driving to contemplate, though, I have come to an agreement with Sigmund Freud (well, not in person, he's dead), who said that a man needs two things to be happy; to love and to work.

I am also not much a "bloom where you are planted" type.  In fact, I have written here before about being the exact opposite of that.

If there is one way I can definitively state I have matured in the past twenty years, it is learning that there is seldom one "right way". What is right for me may not be right for you, whether it is in business or life.

As soon as I finish my steak here at the Black Bear Diner, I'm heading out of Tejon Pass and back to what passes as civilization on the yuppie westside, where the biggest problems people moan about are slow internet and slower traffic.

Between all of the people I met this week and the pictures on Facebook from the pow-wow this weekend, it is abundantly clear that a good life for a lot of people is in a town of 1,200 people. I find it interesting that wherever I go people have things to celebrate in their lives - it may be the agricultural museum or the Grand Entry.

Tejon Pass has beautiful sunsets over the mountains and lots of shopping outlets. One of those is awesome and the other is at least useful.

Wherever you live, though, you need something useful to do and someone you look forward to coming home to when you are done doing it.

You have both of those, and you are doing well, no matter where you are.

Want to be even smarter? Back the Forgotten Trail on Kickstarter. Get some cool rewards and check out the photobombs. See what you're missing -- click here. We can't promise you lasting happiness but at least you'll be smart and having fun.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Persevere: The Second Most Important Lesson

No matter who you are or what you do, there are going to be problems.

Just like a hero keeps fighting one second longer than a coward, a successful person is one who keeps working just a little longer than the one who fails.

When I started my first company, I worried about making enough money to take care of my children. Now, the children are grown and doing well, the company is bigger and I have employees who count on me. I worry about making enough money  to cover the payroll so people who work for 7 Generation Games can have secure jobs.

When I was younger, it was hard to stay up late, skip parties and make a lot of other sacrifices so I could both make the U.S. Judo Team and do well enough in school to get into college, graduate from college and get graduate degrees.

Sometimes, when I get introduced at an event and they list out everything I've accomplished it sounds pretty impressive.
  • 1st American to win the world judo championships
  • Raised four children
  • Won U.S. Open, Panamerican Games, Austrian Open
  • Graduated from college at age 19
  • Ran varsity track in college
  • Earned MBA
  • Earned PhD
  • Co-authored a book
  • Co-founded company  that went from nothing to a million in business in less than two years
  • Published several articles in scientific journals
  • Started a video gaming company
  • Wrote grants funded for tens of millions of dollars
When you're in the middle of it, though, it's not impressive. Often, it's just tiring. You can't remember the quadratic formula. The baby throws up on your dress right before the interview. You studied and studied and you still did poorly on the test. You trained really hard and still lost to someone who was just a tiny bit better than you.

I know that yesterday I said that "Never stop learning" was the key to financial success. The other key to success in anything, though, is perseverance. Don't give up.

That doesn't mean you never change. If you don't succeed in school, maybe you need tutoring, to take different classes or quit smoking pot before you do your homework (don't pretend like no one in the world does that). If you aren't winning in your sport, maybe you need to find a different coach or get up in the morning and run to be in better condition.

At the end of the day - there's another day. That's how time works. You get up and try again tomorrow and tomorrow. Those tomorrows add up to a degree, a book contract, a company.


*As evidence of perseverance, I wrote this post with three grandchildren and a dog making noise around me.

= ==  Speaking of persevering ===

We have a Kickstarter campaign going on and would really, really super appreciate your support. Please do one of two things (or both)

Back us on Kickstarter at any amount. You can get some cool rewards, like autographed posters, t-shirts, custom artwork and our newest game we are working on Forgotten Trail

Tweet, post, email, share or send out via carrier pigeon our link to everyone you know

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On empowerment: Two more things

As I mentioned last time, I am signed up to give a keynote address on empowerment at the Livingston Young Women's conference which is completely sold out.

No pressure, there. Especially not since I just recently learned that the talk WAS on empowering the next generation.

Never one to back down from a challenge, though, I boiled it down to five words.

Forgive. Learn. Love. Grow. Persevere.

Since the last post was on forgiving yourself and others (including your parents) for not being perfect, I wanted to ramble on this time about learning and growing.

I am 56 years old. I have traveled to every continent except for Australia, lived in Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, California, Canada, Alaska, Mississippi, Japan, Pakistan, North Dakota, Colorado and probably several other places I have forgotten.

Never once have I met anyone who said,

"You know, I wish I was more ignorant."


"The real mistake I made in life was learning too much."


"I wish I hadn't gotten so much education."

(PAYING too much for your education is a subject for a different day, or a financial aid workshop.)

If I could only give you one piece of advice to be financially successful, it would be this:


Don't ever, ever ask, "When I am ever going to use this?"

When I was in college in the 1970s, I took computer programming classes because they were required. No one in my classes thought we'd use it. Computers were super-expensive and took up an entire room. I took a statistics class just because it sounded interesting and fit in my schedule. My husband took a programming class offered by the computer club at his university just because it sounded like fun.

We have both made careers writing software and for much of mine it has been statistical analysis.

I studied Japanese in college and when I applied to study abroad in Japan, I was accepted in part because I was one of only two applicants who had any Japanese language and there were two open spots!

Nothing drives me crazier than when someone who works for me objects to doing a task because, "I don't know how to do that."

I want to shout at them (okay, I admit it, sometimes I DO shout at them) FIGURE IT OUT!  None of us that know how to do whatever it is shot out of the womb knowing that. We figured it out.

There isn't a point when it becomes okay to stop learning. Sometimes people will apply for a job and I really want to hire them because they are such nice people but they don't have the skills for what I need done because they got comfortable in a job years ago and quit learning. No one needs VCR repairmen any more. No one needs 8-track tape installers. Do you even know what an 8-track tape is? No? My point exactly!

Read. Get a library card and check out books. Go on youtube and watch videos that teach you how to program, bake cakes, whatever. Go to the Khan Academy website. There is a lot more on the Internet than pictures of cats and Beyonce. Search it out.

Read your textbooks and pay attention in class. For the love of God, you're already there!  Puh-lease don't tell me you aren't studying because that teacher is mean or doesn't like you or you hate her. Guess what, kiddo, whether you get an A or an F, that teacher still gets paid.


There is a difference between being educated and mature. As someone who spent many years as a well-educated, immature brat, I can guarantee this.

What does it mean to be a grown-up? If I ever grow up all the way, I'll let you know. As of now, though, I think every woman as she matures should learn to do a few things better than when she was in middle school. Here is my list, and feel free to add your own.

  1. Take responsibility for your own actions. No one made you drink that beer, slap the person in the seat in front of you or keep you from doing your homework. Unless someone came to your house and tied you up, there was SOME way you could have gotten that homework done, gotten home from that party, got to the job interview.
  2. Consider perspectives other than your own. Maybe the reason your mother, teacher, coach or boss wants you to do something is not because they are evil and want to ruin your life. Maybe they think that staying home on Friday night and studying or practicing soccer would be better for you than hanging out with the cutest person in the 11th grade. I know that is hard to imagine. Maybe that boss is not thinking of you at all but rather of the fact that the store where you work is busiest on Fridays, that's when they make the most money and there really need to be seven people working.
  3. Learn to give up what you want now for what you want most. First of all, figure out what you want most, whether it is a world championships, PhD, singing career, a college degree or to start a company. When you have the chance to go to a party, watch Vampire Diaries or sleep until noon, don't do it and do something in pursuit of your goal instead.
I'll have more to say tomorrow but since I uncharacteristically was up at 9 am this morning, I'd say the thing most in support of my goals is getting a good night's sleep.


Want to get even smarter? Check out 7 Generation Games!

On Friday, you can back us on Kickstarter. I know you can hardly wait.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Things: My Talk on Empowerment

A wiser person than me when asked to speak at a conference would find out the topic before agreeing.

What happened was Father Mike said I should be the keynote speaker at this conference in Livingston and he told the organizers that. I don't know what their excuse was but I went through years of Catholic school so when the priest says something, I pretty much agree out of habit. Add to that the fact that Father Mike both baptized Julia and confirmed her and it gives you some idea how long we have known each other.

Turns out that it is not on careers in STEM, starting a business, writing software or judo. Nope. They want me to talk about

Empowering the Next Generation of Women

 In fifteen minutes, give 500 young women the keys to empowerment.


After spending a great deal of time thinking about it while I walked home from the beach, I can summarize my talk in five words, not in any particular order.

Forgive. Learn. Love. Grow. Persevere.

Because I have actual work to do, I'll explain one word a day for the next five days and then I'm off to Livingston on Friday morning with my talk all done. Yay, multi-tasking.


Forgiveness is the key to lots of things and the first person you need to forgive is yourself. People use the term "math phobia" but no one is afraid of numbers jumping off the page and chasing them through the halls.
People aren't really running in fear from marauding bands of algebra tests.

They're really afraid of failing, of looking dumb, of not living up to the expectations they and their families have for them of being a success in school.

You're afraid because you look back and cringe thinking of how stupid you felt when you forgot your lines in the school play - so you give up acting.

You can't believe that you went out with that jerk for six months after he cheated on you and then HE broke up with you. You're done with men. Or you're sticking with Faithful Joe even though he drools on his shirt and hasn't had a job since his paper route in the fifth grade.

If you could just forgive yourself for the mistakes that you made, life would not be so scary. I'm not saying that you should not take failure seriously. If you got an F on a test or completely blew your college entrance exams because you didn't study enough, learn from it. Don't go on about how I'm so dumb. Just face up to the mistake you made.

When you catch yourself going over all the mistakes and failures in your past, stop, and repeat this phrase, "Look how far you have come and you'll go even farther yet."

Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Congratulations. You're human.

Forgive other people, too. That doesn't mean you are going to be a door mat and let people walk all over you. What it does mean is that you aren't going to waste on them the brain cells that you could use for becoming awesome. Forgive, but don't forget.

There are people who have cheated me in business, who have lied to me and done other bad things. I don't work with them, I don't associate with them any more. I also don't bother to try to get revenge or to force them to change to suit me. They have enough punishment. Tomorrow morning, when they wake up, they'll have to be them while I continue on my way to awesomeness.

As for revenge - success is the best revenge. Life is better for you and with no extra effort on your part, it often makes those people who have treated you badly feel furious or belittled because they're that kind of people.

========= Want to get even smarter ? =========

Play Fish Lake and Spirit Lake.  They're like push-ups for your brain.

Available on Mac and Windows. Written and designed by yours truly

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Your Relationship Bank Account

In his classes for new employees, Dr. Erich Longie emphasizes,
Think of your relationships on the job as a bank account.
Every time you do something positive, whether it is help out a co-worker, make a sale or solve a problem, that's a deposit. Each time you miss work, come in late or screw up in some way, it's a withdrawal.

Why does Bob get fired for missing work three days in a month, while Mary just gets called into the boss's office and asked to start coming in earlier to make up the time missed?

Because Bob's "relationship bank account" is overdrawn. He has only worked at that job for a month, he's already missed three days and because he is new, he has taken time away from other tasks as people train him. Hot tip here - when you're new to any kind of relationship, be on your best behavior because you have zero deposits.

I knew a scientist who had, decades earlier, developed a product that was making the company over $50 million a year. He was actually a hard-working guy, but you better believe that he could come and go as he pleased and turn in his expense account report six months late - because his deposits in that "company relationship" bank account were so huge it was never, ever going to be overdrawn.


There are people who have been my friends for 20, 30 or even 40 years and their "deposits" are pretty huge. I am supremely lucky.

Let me just give you a couple of examples. We did a Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago. It was not for a huge amount of money but it was important because showing that we could get hundreds of people to back us on Kickstarter gave us major points in a small business competition we had entered (in fact, we ended up getting the award).  Near the end of the three weeks it was looking as if we might not make the goal of $20,000.

THREE different friends called me up and said, "I'll give you my credit card. Charge as much as you need."

It's not just about money. I'm super fortunate to have friends and family who I can count on, often without being asked.

I can't begin to count the number of days Gary Butts showed up at practice with his three daughters after working a 12-hour shift patrolling the streets and took fall after fall from Ronda as she was learning new throws. Or the number of times he covered practices I was supposed to run because I had to be out of town for some contract that was paying my bills.

From the time Ronda was a white belt, we have been traveling down to San Diego, sleeping on Jake Flores' couch and training with him and his sons at their judo club. There's also the time Jake drove across Los Angeles in rush hour in the rain for a house call when Maria had pneumonia.  (If you don't live in LA you probably don't appreciate how much of a pain in the ass that was.) So, even though I had SWORN I would never be on another board for the rest of my life, when Jake needed a chair of the board for his medical non-profit, I did it for two years.

Lanny and Laura Clark have had Ronda stay at their house when she was training in northern California, bought her a $100 swimsuit in Puerto Rico (there is a story behind that we will tease Lanny about forever) and shared enough bottles of wine with me to keep a small vineyard in business.

My niece, Samantha, showed up at our house with her mad photoshop skills and helped for two days straight with our company hackathon just because she could and knew we needed help.

I could give you 20 other examples from all of them, and that is my exact point.

In all of their cases, and with my other long-term friends, they can forget to come to a practice, fall asleep and miss a party, need me to come pick their child up from the airport and forget to tell me until the flight is landing, and it is okay. It's not that those things are not an inconvenience, but some people have such huge balances in their account with me that they will never be overdrawn.

So .... that's the nice way to put it. The other way to look at relationships is if you are a user. Are you always trying to get something from your "friends"? If every time you talk to someone you are asking a favor, you might want to check yourself.

If you have 'friends' whose accounts are permanently overdrawn, follow the lead of Bank of America and close 'em out.
Want to be even smarter? Play 7 Generation Games! Like push-ups, but for your brain.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why 135 is a good number

For some people, success is like farts - they are bothered if it is from anyone other than themselves.

I'm old enough to have long since given up hope of convincing ignorant people through reasoned argument.

However, since I'm taking a ten minute break from improving my PHP reporting scripts, I'll give you my take on the whole Ronda should fight at 145 pounds/ in the men's division/ wrestle a gorilla or whatever stupid idea someone has.

No. Ronda should not go up in weight.  Why should she?

Because she used to compete at a higher weight 7 years ago in the Olympics?

Anyone who says this clearly does not know the difference between judo competition and the UFC.

In judo, you weigh in the morning of the event and fight several matches over the course of what can be a 14 hour day or more. You have to hit that weight several times a year, often for three or four weekends in a row. 

In the UFC, you weigh in more than 24 hours before the match. You fight one match that lasts at most 25 minutes. You have to hit the weight at most three or four times a year and always at least two months apart.

If you cannot compare the two and understand that given the difference, the lightest weight a person could make would be substantially lower in the second situation, then you have never competed in a sport with weight divisions.

She needs to prove that she is not afraid of anyone.

She has won Olympic and world medals in judo, and world title belts in two different promotions in mixed martial arts. She has set a record for fastest win in a title defense and long before this she won the finals of the junior world judo championships in 4 seconds. No matter who she beats and what she does, it will not be enough for some people.

After I won the world championships, Steve Seck, one of my teammates and a member of the Olympic team gave me sound advice, when I was criticized for deciding to pursue a Ph.D. rather than an Olympic medal.

Fight when you feel it is right for you, and when it isn't, then stop. It doesn't matter what anyone else says. Those same people who are criticizing you now, saying, "Yes, you won the world championships, but could you win the Olympics?" If you went out and won the Olympics, they would be saying, "Yeah, but could you do it again?"

She does not need to prove anything to you. She's never even met you. There are people who cannot stand that Ronda is successful and want to see her fail. They don't care if she gets beaten by a man, a person twice her size or a bear. They just cannot stand that someone else is successful and they are not.

Tomorrow morning, Ronda will wake up and she'll be herself and those people will be them. That's karma.

It's the fight the fans want to see. It is her responsibility to make it happen.

That is two different points, but I'll address both. Lots of fans either don't care if Ronda goes up in weight or would rather she fought whoever their own particular favorite fighter is. There are very anti-steroid people who think anyone who fails a drug test should be out for life.

It sounds nice to say give the customers what they want. I'm reminded of Dilbert's response when the pointy-haired both said that to him.

What our customers want is better products for free.

I really want to know why it is ONLY Ronda's responsibility to make it happen.

I do a lot of work in North Dakota where schools sometimes play football with eight players on a team, because they don't have enough players to make a full 11-man team.

Let's say we have a team blowing away all of the other teams. Those players then go on to be on a Division I championship team.

Another team (let's say it was suspended for cheating a few years ago and then dropped out of Division I when they started random out of competition drug testing), is now the Division III champion. They come up and say the other team should drop three of their players and play 8 men against their 11. Are those 8 men afraid of going against the 11-man team? Hey, they played 8-man football in high school, they should do it now.

I don't believe in special rules for special people.

Here is what really pisses me off. Seriously, if you want to fight someone who has a world title, you establish yourself as a contender and fight them. You make the same weight. You subject yourself to random out-of-competition drug testing. You are under the same rules as everyone else.

 You don't ask people to make up a special division just for you. You don't ask out of your contract the same week the organization announces out of competition testing, go to compete in a promotion that doesn't have the same budget for drug testing and then come in through the back door. You don't claim that making the weight for a title fight will kill you but five pounds more you'll be the picture of health.

You don't say that everyone else in the world has to make weight, but not me. It would be too hard for me.

This whole thing is stupid.

I'm going back to my day job which is making games that make you smarter.

You can click here to get one for yourself for fun, gift one to a friend - or just a stupid person who really needs it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Day of Gratitude

I was thinking today about all of the things I have to be grateful for. Even though it is a cold, rainy day in Santa Monica, it is not snowing (sorry, friends and family to the north!).

My daughter defended her world title yesterday in record time and came out unscathed.

We had many family members come to watch the fight and visit with us afterward. My extended family gets along well enough to come visit, a luxury many people do not have.

Old friends came out to see Ronda win this weekend, guys like Lanny Clark, Jerry Hays, Steve Seck , Blinky Elizalde, Jake Flores and Gary Butts who I have known through so many years and times good and bad, you cannot even imagine.

My lovely daughters all support one another. We have no "family drama" and I am well aware that is a statement many people cannot make.

I have work that I'm excited to do and judo students I'm excited to teach. This week, I will be getting back to both of them.

=======My Day Job ======

7 Generation Games - like push-ups for your brain

=====My Book ======

Winning on the Ground - it's about judo and armbars and stuff