- To be in it for the long haul. Running a business is like coping with North Dakota weather. People come to the Great Plains and say, "I can survive when it's below zero." It's the fact that it doesn't get above freezing for MONTHS that wears them out. The same with training. I have seen lots of talented athletes fail because they did not have the discipline to train consistently. That doesn't mean you need to train equally hard every day or you never take a day off, but it does mean that you put in an uncomfortably high level of work, month after month. Year after year. Like judo, running a business means you have some times when you are winning everything in sight but a long time leading up to that when you are just banging away at practice and nobody knows who you are. Sometimes, you lose, you screw up, and you have to come back and work some more. You move into a higher level of competition (or a new market) and need to claw your way to the top all over again.
- Multi-tasking - since almost all of the years I was competing I had to be a full-time employee AND a mother of a small child or AND a full-time student. Now I'm doing software development, sales, data analysis and consulting on the side. I would tell Maria stories in the two-hour drive from San Diego to Los Angeles for weekend judo practices. I'd teach her new words. I'd read my textbooks in that long break between the preliminary matches and the finals and national and international events. I'd study manuals for new computer languages I was learning in airports waiting for a plane. To this day, I work in just about every setting. I'm typing this in my hotel and pretty soon, I'm going to head to Casper, WY and stop somewhere on the way to have lunch and to write a report to USDA.
- Never stop learning. No matter how much I won, I was attending training camps, visiting other clubs and working with my own coaches to constantly learn more. I'm currently taking an online course to improve my rusty PHP skills and I just spent all yesterday attending sessions at the Native American Education Conference. You never know so much that you can just stop getting better.
- To cope with being tired (see #2) and keep on going - running a startup now where I have to sometimes work until 2 am to get bugs out, and then get up at 7 to go install games at a school is still not a piece of cake. However, after driving from practice in Los Angeles to San Diego, getting home sore at 11 pm and getting up at 5:30 am to run sprints up hill, I can handle it.
- Not everyone has to believe in me - or, in the case of winning the world championships - almost no one has to believe in me. When I won, even my coaches were surprised. Some of my really good friends and family weren't surprised. Initially, I dismissed that as "But they didn't know that much about judo to know the odds I was facing." Not long ago, though, one of those people said, "No, but I knew YOU." When I started 7 Generation Games, it was the same way. Investors, accelerators, people in educational technology - all of the experts predicted we'd fail. I'm pleased to say we're still here when a lot of those people they predicted would succeed have faded into oblivion. It's still my family and closest friends who believed in me from the beginning and aren't surprised I succeeded.
- Learned about people - that a lot of people TALK a good game. I don't know if this is a good or bad lesson but it's true. Whether it's that they will help themseve, by showing up at practice when you need to train extra hard, or help you by funding travel to tournaments, you'll find a lot fewer people who put up than shut up. Whether it is people who promise to invest, purchase your product or tell their friends, you'll find far more SAY they'll do it than actually do. The last Kickstarter campaign we did, about four times as many people told me they backed us as actually did. For all of you people who did - I can't thank you enough, so thanks again.
It wasn't all roses and buttercups, though. The one place where I think judo HURT me was in never learning to ask for help. Judo is an individual sport. When you are on the mat, it's you and your opponent. Your coach isn't going to help you, nor your teammates, nor the referee.
My late husband, Ron, once told me he thought it was unfortunate that the popular sports for women (at the time) were all individual ones - track, swimming, gymnastics and ice skating. He said he felt like he learned from basketball to be part of a team, to rely on other people, even if they didn't have the same level or the same skills. He said he learned, literally, to be a team player.
Not only is judo an individual sport, but it's a combat sport. You are supposed to be tough, not asking anyone for help.
You can't run a business very well like that, though. If you are going to grow, you need employees and investors. You need advisors. You need customers and not just to give you money (though money is great) but also to give you feedback.
So, overall, judo has been great for me, but it has taken me a long time to unlearn that "asking for help is being whiny". It isn't. It's part of a successful business.
Speaking of which please help me out. We're bring out new games and you can help. Plus, you get cool stuff.
Click here to help or read more below.
And thank you.
From me, Maria Burns Ortiz and the rest of the 7 Generation Games Team
When you’re doing a Kickstarter, you’re constantly reaching out to everyone you know – friends, family, acquaintances, people you sat next to once at your second cousin’s wedding, your local bartender, your cousin’s neighbor’s best friend’s aunt. And we felt like we’d done that twice already over the last four years. But then we thought about it and realized that reach out every two years isn’t really that annoying. And plus, how much have our networks grown since then?
We’re realized that we are SUPER excited about our upcoming line of bilingual games – which can be played just in English or as a bilingual English/Spanish experience – and they’re something we would back if we weren’t making them, so we decided to give it a go.