Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Perfect is the enemy of getting shit done

"Perfect is the enemy of getting shit done."

Karen Mackey made that comment this week and I told her that I was totally stealing that line. I see too many people, whether in judo, school or their career that are less successful than they could be because they make way too many excuses not to work that SOUND good.
  • I would work out but there is nobody my size.
  • I'd apply for jobs but retailers prefer that you do it in person.
  • I would work out but there is no judo class on Wednesdays.
  • I would do the extra credit work but I'm not sure what the teacher wants me to do.
It SOUNDS like you aren't working out, studying or working because you would prefer to do it a better way, but the reality is you aren't getting shit done.

Last night, I was on the mat in Sioux City, Iowa with over 40 people. White belts worked out with brown belts. We tried to pair everyone up by size but when that wasn't always possible, larger people worked out with smaller people. We did turnover drills, escapes, matwork combinations and transition drills. I'm sure it wasn't a perfect workout, but everyone got in a practice where everyone worked on specific skills.

A couple of weeks ago, at Gompers Middle School, the judo room was closed for the day due to smoke exposure - there had been a fire in an adjacent building and the school decided to not allow practice inside. So, we practiced outside in the soccer field. We did conditioning exercises. We did gripfighting drills . We used bungee cords and did uchi komis. We did uchikomi drills. Was it a perfect practice? No, but we got in drills and got in a tiny bit better shape.

So, yeah, the next time you say you are going to work out or apply for a job or study but you are holding off for the perfect conditions, just know that it may sound to you like you are going to do something even better but to me it sounds exactly like you aren't doing shit.

 When I'm not ranting about life, I make awesome video games that teach math and history and are fun to play. You should check them out. Some of them are even free. Whether you have a Mac, Windows, iPad or android, we've got you covered.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Retiring from Sports: How Not To End Up a Thirty-Five-Year-Old Intern

I know some unhappy people who were pretty successful judo players (which I'd define as winning multiple medals at the international level).

In fact, when I look at the "also-rans", the people who almost made the Olympic or world team, the people who went to the Olympics and went out the first round, generally did better subsequently than the winners. Pure speculation on my part here, but maybe those people who were number two or three in the country realized that they needed a fallback plan and so focused on their academics or building a career during their competitive years.

It's not a complete separation. There are some people like Dr. James Wooley (who was on two Olympic teams), Senator Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell (who was on the 1964 Olympic team) and, I'd like to think, me, who have had athletic success and went on to have successful careers and seem to be relatively happy. There is also Dr. Gerda Winkelbauer , an M.D. and world judo champion from Austria. I believe Olympic gold medalist Sue Williams has a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

The key is really simple: Work on your Plan B while you are still competing

 It was 1978 and I was at the collegiate national championships. After I had won and we were waiting for the medal ceremony, I was up in the stands with my textbooks, studying because we had finals when I got back. Several feet away was another guy studying for exams. That's why my friend introduced me to James Wooley, because she found it hilarious that we were studying at the national JUDO championships. I found it odd that we were the only two who had brought backpacks full of books. I mean, it was the COLLEGE championships, no?

 The same year I first won the U.S. Open, I started my MBA program. The reason this was a good thing was because I got used to being the person who didn't know anything, whose job was to grade 85 of the same essay exam. Not only did I learn how to read a balance sheet, design a database system and write a business plan, I also learned to not be such a prima donna jerk (admittedly, that last part took longer).

 While I was training, for the world championships, I was working as an engineer at General


When I'm not rambling on about judo and other sports, I'm making games. Please check them out. You can learn math, social studies, build your vocabulary.  Here are some free games and demos for you just because I am so nice.


Dynamics, learning a lot about manufacturing and programming. So, when I retired from competition at 26, I had an MBA, a full-time job and several years of post-graduate experience.

You don't have to have a law degree or an M.D. When you retire. Steve Seck was successful as both a wrestler and judo player. He reasoned that teaching physical education was one area where both of those accomplishments would be valued. He got his degree in Physical Education while competing. Right after retirement, he earned a teaching credential and masters degree and he's done quite well.

 I tell kids all of the time,

 "Have a plan for competition! In the middle of the match is not the time to figure out what you want to do."

 The same is true of life. Have a plan WHILE you are competing and work on it.

I was extremely fortunate that when I was training at Tenri Dojo in Los Angeles there were several people who had been nationally ranked competitors, and  who were 5 or 10 years older than me. It was right in front of my face that their later success had very little to do with their success on the mat and everything to do with their preparation for life after judo.

Oh, and get some credentials. I get resumes from people that include what tournaments they have won, what teams they are on and I just shake my head. If you're applying for a job, you might put "4th degree judo black belt, 2004 Olympic team member" and, unless the job has something to do with armbarring people, that's it.

Get a degree. Get certified as an EMT or a real estate broker or something. Work a summer internship. Get a job in your field and start building your professional network.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why People Don't Retire from Sports: A Cynical View

I'm about to say what some people might consider a mean thing, so if your feelings are easily hurt, read no further.

Recently, someone asked me why a certain person in their thirties was still heavily involved in judo. She said,

What's the point of spending all of that time doing something with no probability of paying any money that takes time away from your career?

My answer was that for many people who were elite athletes in judo, they miss being the center of attention, they miss being 'special'. They miss coaches, managers, officials treating them with respect, recognizing them, catering to them. Oh,you want water, let me go get that for you. They miss traveling on someone else's dime.

I have had a lot of people in their twenties work for me in entry level positions as well as a few teen interns. I like to think we're not jerks at our company, but the youngest people are generally those who know the least, have the least experience and because of that, get paid the least. They have the last choice of shifts to work because the other people were here first.  They generally aren't traveling on business because they don't know our business very well yet and schools want someone who can come in, install software, answer their questions and provide some staff training.

It's true in most sports and particularly true in a minor sport like judo, when an elite athlete retires, he or she goes from the top of the heap to the bottom of the totem pole.

When you come back from winning medals in Europe, Asia and South America and a boss asks you sarcastically if you were too busy to get a report in on time, it is hard to bite back,

"Don't you know who I am? Don't you know what I've done?"

Truthfully, your boss probably doesn't give a fuck what you've done in sports.
He or she just needs those figures to tell whether sales are going up or down, the graphic layout of the annual report or whatever else the company executives are focused on.

It's hard to go from somebody to nobody. It's hard to go from feeling like an expert to feeling like a complete novice.

So, sometimes people stay LONG after they should have retired. I remember when I was competing calling an athlete arrogant and our youngest U.S. Team member said,

"How can that guy be arrogant? I've never seen him win!"

That's when I realized he had been competing for several years after his peak and it was true, he hadn't won in a long time. What else could he do, though? He was in his mid-thirties and had never had a real job. So, he just kept working at temporary jobs and going to judo tournaments. 

Sometimes what happens with those same people when they are too injury-ridden and old to keep competing is that they continue the same pattern but

When I'm not teaching judo, I'm making games. Please check them out. You can learn math, social studies, build your vocabulary.  Here are some free games and demos for you just because I am so nice.

 as a coach. They get a job where they can get by and then all of their energy, passion and talent is put into judo where they can be a big shot.

In America, judo is a sport where you can reach a fairly high level with a modest level of talent. Don't bother arguing with me because the numbers are against you. There are millions of people in this country who swim, play basketball, football or soccer. To get to the top of that group, whether as an athlete, a coach or an administrator takes more effort and talent than to be a top judo player in the U.S. It's harder to be number 3 out of the maybe 300 people in your division who compete than to be number 3 out of 30,000. In some divisions, I'd question whether we could really find 300 people in the country who actually compete.

So, you have put out moderate effort and gotten to be on the podium, call yourself a national medalist or even national champion, maybe gotten to represent the United States in international competition. To get that same level of recognition in business, in academics, you're going to have to work really hard for a long time. You have to start at the bottom and you may be 10 years younger than your non-athlete colleagues. Not only do people not look up to you, but you are a thirty-five-year-old intern. Is it any wonder people want to stay in judo for life?

Yes. I still teach judo. In fact, I'm teaching this afternoon. However, it's not the center of my life it once was because I retired and went on to other things.

How to NOT be that thirty-five-year-old intern? That's my next blog post.