Friday, November 29, 2019

My Life: Not on Instagram

I lead the opposite of an Instagram life.

That’s not to say it’s boring because it’s not. So far this year, I’ve been in five countries, nine states and I’ve lost track of the number of cities. I’m also not opposed to Instagram. I do have an account and I post on it most days. No, what I mean is that while most people are posting things to make their life look more interesting than it is, I often forget or don’t have time to post because I’m too busy doing interesting things.

Been so many places, I couldn't remember where this was at first.
California, in the mountains.

Where I’ve been lately

Since the last blog post, a dozen of us from Gompers Judo attended Judo Con - which was GREAT. There were judo instructors and coaches from all over the country learning everything from teaching judo to children with special needs to jump roping for conditioning in martial arts to character development in youth sports. Every one of the presenters was my favorite.

I’ve gotten back to teaching at Gompers regularly. Thanks a million for the judo gi donations. It’s hard to believe that Gompers Judo has been in existence ten years now. We've had gis donated a couple of times previously but over a decade, things wear out.

It’s looking like Judo Con will be on the East Coast next year so next on my agenda is raising money for a dozen plane tickets to get some kids there.

I’ve also gone to Washington, D.C. twice because I was selected as an AARP Purpose Prize Fellow - which was also amazing.

 It is for people who have led a “purpose driven life” and have a noteworthy “second act”.  Many award winners founded charities, like The Pink Fund which pays the non-medical bills for women who have cancer (what do you do if you can’t work for 3 months?) , Starting Right Now which provides homes, counseling and academic support for homeless youth. I founded 7 Generation Games, which is not a charity but has helped 20,000 kids get better at math and English.

Along with that, I’ve been a speaker at the South Dakota Indian Education Association conference, National Indian Education Association Conference ...

Minneapolis: National Indian Education Association
Language and Learning Conference in Merritt, British Columbia, where I also had the opportunity to attend a joint workout of the Nicola Valley Muay Thai , then head to Vancouver to participate in a self-defense workshop offered by Protect Our People.

I put up another More Than Ordinary podcast, this one with author, long-time judo coach and budding YouTube celebrity, Steve Scott.

So, I have literally been coast to coast, from Boston, where I had a couple of meetings on our new Crossroads games and also got to see Julia play in her final season of soccer.

In case you haven’t been keeping up ...

This spring I was in Melbourne, Australia for a week and I started out the beginning of the year in Santiago, Chile.

There have also been a couple of short trips to Mexico.

Oh, and I did a month-long road trip with my husband.
Driving through South Dakota

Two big things I learned this year

Just say, “Yes”. 

From going to Melbourne to the Nicola Valley to teaching summer school at Spirit Lake, I did a lot of things this year that were only tangentially related to what could be considered our "core business" at 7 Generation Games. I did not regret a single one of them.

I've learned that life is far less predictable than we'd like to believe. I often think back to the fact that my husband died when he was seven years younger than I am now.  I absolutely guarantee you that if you went back to any of the teachers I had in junior high and high school and told them I was doing life in prison now none of them would be surprised. But I'm not. Not yet, anyway.

This isn't to say that you should spend your days lying on the beach or scrolling through Twitter on your phone because, "Life is unpredictable, why bother?"

What I mean is that you should not get so laser focused that you lose sight of opportunities that might not come again. That's why I went to Chile, why I started 7 Generation Games, why I do a lot of things.

Some people worry about dying without a full bank account. I think a bigger worry should be about dying full of regrets. 

NOTHING is more important than associating with good people. Nothing. 

 Explaining one of her business decisions, Carly Fiorina said,

"Once you sell your soul, no one can buy it back for you."

People make this mistake in judo, in other martial arts or sports and in business. Because someone has money to invest or donate, is good at a sport, is a successful coach, their character flaws are overlooked. Sure, I wouldn't trust Bob alone with my teenage daughter or my wallet, yes he is physically abusive to athletes and overly controlling but look at ....

I'm not looking at jack shit.

If Bob isn't a good person, if he isn't honest, trustworthy, brave - cut him out of your life. This lesson took me too long to learn and I am never, never going to forget it. I don't care if Bob's judo is so great he could defeat the entire U.S. Marine Corps single-handed. It doesn't matter how much money Bob has. Please don't make me vomit by asking me to think of how much good could be done for the athletes/ children/ investors with Bob's money.

Good people attract other good people. Bad people repel them.

If I know Bob is a lying, cheating douchebag and I see you hanging out with Bob, I'm less likely to have anything to do with you. If I don't know you from a hole in the wall and I see you with Bob and your cousin over there is hanging out with Sally B. Goode, I'm going to go see what Sally and your cousin are up to. Even if I DO know you, if I know that Sally is always doing something to help people, save the whales or find a solution to world hunger, I'm STILL going to go check out what Sally and Cousin Lou are up to.

When I started my first company, many years ago, I reached out to Bruce Toups for advice. I was still a young puppy and he was a successful businessman. He told me,

"Hire for character first. Everything else is secondary."

Apply that to everyone around you, not just hiring. It will improve your life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Being Hyper-competitive is a mixed blessing

Few things are an unmixed blessing.

I’m a hyper-competitive person. That has helped me in many ways my whole life but it’s also cost me in ways I am just now coming to realize. I have beaten a lot of people who had superior technical skills because I trained harder and was willing to put up with more pain both in practice and in a match.

After seeing a demonstration at a clinic of a  technique that the coach said,

“This will be so painful, your opponent will turn over to avoid it,”

I went up to him and said,

“I’m sure that will work with a lot of people. For me, and for the people who really want to win, they won’t move to a position that’s a disadvantage for them. They’ll endure it and make you pay for it later. Those are the people you really need to figure out a way to beat.”

Being hyper-competitive has helped me in business, too.

I learned from sports that you don’t win long-term by cheating but rather by working harder and learning more than the competition. I’ve applied that to my career as well. That’s one reason I have four degrees. I always find time to learn new programming languages, new technologies, read up on the latest marketing trends, even if it’s only a few hours a week. I put in my hours on the job, travel more miles than our competition. My former teammates from judo know this because I only see them every year or so.

What could possibly be wrong with being hyper-competitive?

It took me a long time to learn this - if you are hyper-competitive, you look at almost everyone and everything through the lens of "Will this help me win or not?"

 I have far fewer friends in judo than most people who have been in the sport for almost 50 years. Whether it was for a spot on a team or as a member of a board promoting policies that I really believed would help grow the sport, I looked at most people as competitors or “team mates”. Competitors keep you from winning and team mates help you win. I never had a single friend who was in my division. There was one gold medal and I wanted it.

Now, there is nothing wrong with looking at a person as someone who helps you win, since it can go both ways. It’s the same as looking at someone as a customer. I get their money but they get software that helps them or their children learn and do better in school. They don’t have to fight about doing homework to learn fractions. The same with a team mate. I get a good work out, the other person gets a good work out and we both leave the gym better.

The point I missed is that I ONLY looked at most people as helping me win or keeping me from winning. If I met someone who knew a lot about teaching counters or organizing a tournament I tried to learn everything possible that would help me win. To be fair, I would make sure they got paid or show up at their next event or whatever I could do to pay them back. Hyper-competitive doesn’t mean you have to be a selfish jerk.

What I realized, sometimes years later, was that a lot of those people had qualities and life histories that were far more fascinating than just judo or business. Some of them had careers in special forces in the military (hello, Roy Hash) or had been doing stunts for decades (Gene Lebell) or where working in civil rights law (Karen Mackey).

I think it might be necessary when you are competing to only focus on winning if you really want to be number one. Some people are there for the experience and that is fine, but that was not me.


That line about “In the Olympics, the important thing is not to win but taking part”

I never believed that for a minute. 


Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed almost every minute of judo practice. I even liked the cross-training in running and weightlifting - except sprints. I hated sprints and I hated getting up in the morning to run them twice as much because morning was involved. Still, the important thing to me was winning.

When I was done competing, I had put so many other things on hold, I just switched from competing in judo to competing in my doctoral program, in my career.

If I hadn’t been so busy trying to be the smartest person in the room with the most degrees, most publications and highest salary, I probably would have made more friends in graduate school and early in my career, too.

Gradually, eventually, I learned that not everything was a competition. This may seem like I am a slow learner but I am writing this because I know plenty of people who are still competing every minute and need to hear this. They’re trying to be the one with the most money, most awards and frankly, it’s just silly.

You can have friends who are not fans or potential customers. They can just be interesting people who know things you don’t or who make you laugh until you fall out of your chair or who help the community in ways you admire . 

People can be customers or colleagues and still have  interesting lives outside of your business.

 I was going to go swimming in the hotel pool instead of walking in the game preserve because we all know that swimming is the best exercise.

I still work really hard. Recently, I’d been working so much that I forgot not what day or month it was but what season it was. I was driving through North Dakota and I thought, “That corn is really high for this time of year.” 

That’s when I realized that it was not late spring but early summer.

Going from a world championship run to a Ph.D. and starting businesses is kind a logical progression because if you don't know, academia is SUPER-competitive, especially the kind of grant-funded work I do.  Getting investor funds is a real marathon.

Here is something I learned, as my grandmother would say, "más tarde que nunca" or "better late than never".

Competition can be an important thing in your life without being the ONLY thing

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Monday, August 12, 2019

I may not be at judo today, but I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned

I said over a month ago that there were three reasons that I am not as involved in judo as I once was and it is very fitting that it's taken me this long to get around to the third one.

There are people in judo I really think the world of their knowledge not just of sports but of life. Yet, despite the best of intentions to make it to judo practice or to tournaments, it seldom happens.

I haven't been doing much judo lately because I've being doing other things

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn't it? Often, when someone disappears from our judo, jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts or other club we wonder what we did wrong, how we could have kept that student. Sometimes, we look at it as a failure on that student's part. If they only had more discipline, were more motivated to be in good physical condition, they'd still be coming to practice.

Over the years, I've seen a good number of students get into ivy league universities, medical school, dental school or clinical psychology graduate programs. Some students went out and started their own businesses.

If it wasn't for Facebook, I wouldn't ever see or hear of them again, and vice versa.

As for me, I haven't been at judo because I've been making games and building a company. In the past couple of years, I have been in Chile, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago and Belize, for research and for marketing. I've been in so many states I've lost track. 

Just because your team is out of sight, doesn't mean you're out of mind

I can't speak for all of those former students, but purely for myself and my children, I would say experiences at judo have been super impactful on my life.

One thing I learned from judo is that failure is never permanent and neither is success.

Our company has had a lot of successes, gotten a fair amount of funding and produced twelve games (check them out, they are educational and cool) .

We've had a good month overall, but today I learned that we hadn't gotten two proposals funded. I've never gotten turned down twice in the same day before, and this comes on the tail of having lost out on a contract last month.

Why am I telling you this? Don't I want you to think I am totally amazing all the time so you will invest in my company or download our games to make you smarter?

I'm telling you because that's another thing I learned from judo.

You never grow by being the big fish in a small pond

When I was a kid, I won almost all the tournaments all the time. I was the toughest green belt girl in the Midwest. Then, I went to the senior nationals for the first time and lost. I came in third. I went to the collegiate nationals for the first time and came in second.  Soon, I was winning the nationals, so I went to Europe - and lost and came in third in the British Open and Tournoi d'Orleans. Soon (although it never seemed soon enough), I was winning tournaments in Europe, Asia and South America.

There are people who I'm sure had more talent than me, but they stayed in that comfort zone and they are still undefeated in Duluth, Minnesota.

The contracts we missed out on were bigger, more of a risk for us. We came close, though. Although Maria pointed out today that close doesn't pay the bills, I did learn from judo that if you are close and you keep working, you'll get there.

I may not be at judo today, but I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Let the young people run judo

I said there were three reasons I am not involved in judo as much as I used to be - and here is the second one ...

We need to let young people run judo

First of all, I can't do nearly as much as I did 30 years ago. I have nowhere near the strength or speed. Yes, I have plenty of knowledge, but, especially for a lot of throwing techniques, you need SPEED to show how it should really be. You need to be able to BEND to get low enough to show how a throw should be done. I cannot do that nearly to the extent I did when I was young and neither can any of those other older instructors - they just don't admit it.

Years ago, I went to Valley Judo to watch a practice. Sus Kono is the head instructor there. He had Ross Nakamura, who was probably 16 years old, run the warm-ups. Then, he had Jason Uno, who was in his twenties or so, teach seoi nage. Then he had Ross give his take on seoi nage.  Giorgio Gazzani, who was around 18, ran the randori session.

At the end of the practice,  I said to Sus,
"That was great, but some time, I want to come back and see you teach."
He smiled and said,
"You just did."
Valley Judo Institute has grown amazingly since that day and I am not surprised.

We need to put younger people in front of the room

It always seems such a waste to me when I go to a club where I see six or eight young black belts and one (old) person is doing all of the teaching. How are these young people ever going to learn to run a practice, teach a class if we don't let them?

When we put together the instructors for Judo Con, we made a deliberate effort to have most of the sessions led by people under age 50. In part it is to give them practice in being leaders. Also, though, it's because I, and the other people who put this event together, really want to see and hear different ideas.

There's an old saying that,

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. 

I'm not saying an old dog can't learn new tricks, but heck, all the young dogs HAVE is new tricks (new to them, anyway).

People my age had our chance at running the judo organizations, running judo programs. Eventually, we should step aside and let the younger people give it a shot. Maybe they'll do a better job than us. I hope they do.

Think about this now, the people who say,

"I'm going to do judo until I die." 

To whose benefit? I didn't quit judo. I just agreed to start teaching again, once a week, in the fall.  I'm not saying you have to bury your judo gi in the back yard. However, there is that whole mutual benefit and welfare thing. Maybe it is to the mutual benefit if you step back and let other people step forward. You had your turn.

 Let the younger people give it a shot.

Maybe at first they won't be as good as you. They'll learn. Eventually, hopefully they'll be better.

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This is my day job

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mean people: One-third of the reason I'm not around judo much any more

Every now and then, I run into people from judo who say,

"Hey, we never see you around any more? Why is that? What happened to you?"

I wrote this years ago for a project on the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, and our Country Manager for Strong Mind Studios, our company in Chile, came across it recently. (If you read Spanish, check it out.)

Nothing happened to me. I do run a practice or a clinic now and then, but it is true I am not nearly involved as much as I used to be.

There are actually three reasons I'm not around judo these days. One is that I choose to be more selective about the people I am around. My lovely daughter, Ronda, made this comment about earning quite a bit of money.

There are really only two things money can buy you that really matter to me.

One is the freedom to choose how you spend your time and the other is the freedom to choose who you spend it with."

While money may expand that freedom, I think most of us have more of those freedoms than we take advantage of. I've decided to make better choices. The post below gives one of the three reasons I'm not around judo organizations in particular.

By the way, if I haven't seen you lately, I may think that you, personally, are awesome. There are two other reasons I'm not around judo much lately, so, hopefully, I'll get a chance to post about those soon.

How do you say, "Mean People Suck in Dakota?"

Native Americans are noted for their generosity. People give feasts, presents, time and attention to one another. Once you become a board member, you will be giving of your time and talents to the community. Good for you! That is why you were elected or appointed. There is a reason it is called public service. I am going to assume that you are doing a fine, even an outstanding job. Unfortunately, I have seen people like you get burned out and discouraged by mean people. You can learn what to do through experience, your own or other people’s. Try to learn through other people’s experience whenever you can. It is less painful.

As a board member and consultant to boards, on and off reservations, I have had my experience with generosity, and with its opposite — meanness.
Most of us think of the common definition of “mean” as small-minded or not treating people decently. There is an older, related definition, though — stingy or selfish. You will come to learn as board member that your children are correct.

Mean people really do suck.

Avoid Mean People

For some people, no amount you give will ever be enough. For example, I had someone send me an email on Christmas — demanding an answer. His question wasn’t an emergency. He just wanted me to drop whatever I was doing on Christmas with my family and answer him because he wanted me to do it. What did I do? I made Christmas cookies with my daughters. (Well, actually they made them, but I ate them so that counts as a family activity, right?)

This person will probably speak out against me at the next board meeting and say that I am unresponsive. That’s okay. If people you serve as a board member don’t believe you should be able to have any time to yourself, not even on Christmas, then those people lack generosity and are probably not the type of people you want to associate with.

Other people demand 100% agreement. You can vote on the same side as them 99 times out of 100, but that 100th time, when you vote with the opposition, they are outraged and the next thing you know, they are trying to get you recalled.

Decisions about Mean People

 Sometimes mean people can sound almost reasonable. (Imagine this said in the most whiny voice possible … )

“I called you because you are on the board. People like you are supposed to be providing a public service. If you did not want to help people out why did you run for the board instead of letting somebody who is really committed have that seat?”

Notice the person doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that it is 11 p.m. on Saturday night.

You are on a board to serve your community but you don’t owe any one person or even the whole community your entire life. If this was a regular job, you would have holidays off, sick days and not be expected to work 24–7 . If you can, simply do the best you can and don’t give these people another thought. Turn off your cell phone after 10 p.m. and go back to baking Christmas cookies. Odds are, the majority of the people you serve appreciate your efforts and appreciate how generous you are with your time, and they, in return, are not overly selfish in their demands.

If you are in an organization or on a board that consists of mostly mean people, consider quitting and going somewhere else. Maybe that sounds like quitting — well, it is quitting, I just used that word, didn’t I? In the book, “Business as a game” one of the best chapters has the title, “Never play with a stacked deck.”

One way mean people take advantage of others is by playing on those very ethics, the generosity that motivates you to give of yourself, the perseverance that makes you unwilling to give up. If you find yourself the minority in a group of mean people, there is no win for you. They will keep demanding more and more from you than is reasonable to expect you to give. As Erich always says in his ethics courses, you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.

Walk away. Left behind you will be a whole group of takers, each trying to get the others to do more for ME, to please ME, to agree with ME. Can that group ever succeed? No.

Does this mean that you are letting down people in the community who you could help? No, again. Someone with your willingness to give of yourself for the good of the community will be welcome many places. Find one of them and leave the mean people behind.

When I gave a very frustrated young man this advice, he protested,

“But, Dr. De Mars, that way, won’t the mean people win? And won’t I lose?”

I asked him,

“Do you really think so? What exactly do they win? What exactly do you lose?”
Think about it.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Getting ready for your first competitions

Someone asked me on Instagram my advice on how to be ready for her first competition and since it is a good question, I thought I'd post my suggestions here.

Get in better physical condition

We're not talking the Olympics here and since you are just starting to compete, I'm going to assume that you could improve your conditioning a bit. In this, I find the old saying to be true:
"The best is the enemy of the good. "
People say they can't work out because they can't get to a gym, don't have a partner, blah blah blah. Here is my suggestion for anyone who wants to be a little bit better. This is IN ADDITION TO GOING TO JUDO PRACTICE AS MANY DAYS A WEEK AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.
  1.  Every morning, first thing when you get up, do 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups. If you can't do 10, just do as many as you can. Do it EVERY DAY. It will take you 30 seconds.
  2. After a week, make it 12 push-ups and sit-ups. If you didn't start at 10, just add 1 to what you were doing.
  3. Add 2 more every week until you get to 50, then just keep doing 50 every day. The point is to be stronger than you were, not the world push-up champion. You will find you get faster at doing them so eventually it will take you a couple of minutes to knock out your 50 push-ups.
  4. Run. Get out and run around the block. If you live in the country, run to your mailbox or wherever is about a quarter mile. Do that every day for a week. Next week, do it twice without stopping. Keep increasing until you get to a mile. Now, do that every day and just try to get faster each time. Set a stopwatch when you take off and check it when you get back.
  5. If you live somewhere it is not safe to run outside, do jumping jacks or jump rope for two minutes without stopping instead. Next week, make it four minutes. Keep it up until you are going for 10 minutes straight. Do that every day.

The three reasons why I recommend this

First, a lot of people in this country can't do 15 push-ups, much less 50. Most people can't run a mile without stopping. If you have this level of conditioning, you are going to be more fit than most new, recreational players. If you lose, it won't be because your arms got tired or you were winded.

Second, there are zero excuses not to do these exercises. You don't need a gym or any equipment. You don't need a ride anywhere. Because of that, if every day you get up and do them, you are telling yourself that you are serious about winning and improving.

Third, setting a goal and accomplishing it will make you more confident. When you go out to compete, along with training in judo, which your opponent did as well, you have the added benefit of knowing that you actually went above and beyond. You'll know that you are stronger and in better condition than you were a few months ago. You'll have thought about this competition daily, when you didn't want to run or do those push-ups but you did anyway, so you'll be less freaked out when that day comes.
Independence Rock in Wyoming

The way to get anywhere is to start

I'm in North Dakota right now. We drove almost 2,000 miles through several states to get here. Sure, it would have been faster if we drove and there may have been a more optimal time of year or a better route. The point is, we got here and the way we got here is that we left our house and just started driving. Eventually, we arrived.

So .... start.  Now.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Is mall walking still lame if you do it in Australia?

When I was young, I was training three times a day - judo, running and weightlifting. Occasionally, I would run indoors at the University of Minnesota field house around the baseball field. There weren’t many female athletes back then, so I got a lot of stares. Most days, though, I ran outdoors, below-zero weather or no.

At the time, my parents were living in Illinois and in the winter they went mall-walking for exercise. An hour or two before the stores were open for business, while the employees were getting ready for the day, the doors would open for senior citizens and people with disabilities to walk through the mall, including the stores, to get their daily exercise. I was never going to be that lame.

Today, I went mall-walking and it wasn’t even an accident. I planned it.

 Oh, the humiliation of it all!

If it returns a little coolness level at all, yesterday, I went to a wildlife sanctuary and fed wallabies and a pandemelon which is an animal I did not know existed until yesterday, and which spell-check refuses to recognize.  I went yesterday because I knew today was supposed to be cold and rainy. I decided I could go to Phillips Island when it was warm and sunny and go walking in the mall today for exercise.

Speaking of which, I read a book by a European author who said,

“Americans call walking hiking because it sounds so much cooler and more athletic. I am a hiker, now, I am no longer a walker!”

So, yeah, I actually went walking around the wildlife sanctuary and then the mall and today I am mall hiking.

My point, and I semi-have one, is that as we get older, the same type of exercise might not be appropriate. I have had my thumb and my knee replaced in the last decade. For those people who say,

“I’m 80 years old and I still do judo.“

Well, good for you.

I feel no need to pretend I’m 25 any more or that I don’t have a job that requires me to spend 8-10 hours a day at a desk.

If I did judo today the way I did forty years ago, I would definitely break off several pieces of myself.  I don’t get up and do 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups first thing every morning. On an ambitious day, I might do 25 but I’m just as likely to say, “Oh, fuck it” and take a shower.

(To be clear, I take showers on days I do push-ups and sit-ups, too. I’m not stinky. I just take them after.)

I know Dave Roman just recorded a podcast on adult judo students. His main point was that you need to treat them differently, and that is true.

You need to treat yourself differently as you get older as well.  Most of those people who are still on the mat past 60 are doing a lot of standing around and a little bit of teaching. I think that is perfectly okay. In fact, I think it could benefit judo a lot if more people let the younger black belts teach and went mall-walking instead, even if that is in Australia. That,  however, is the topic of another post.

Just so you know that my life is not completely boring, check out Math: The Universal Language Lakota - AR - an augmented reality app that teaches multiplication in Lakota and English. 

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Who pretends to hate successful people? (and why I seldom ask Ronda for anything)

Credit where credit is due, I owe this epiphany to two people - comedian Kevin Hart, whose autobiography, I can't make this up, I highly recommend , and two-time judo Olympian, Pat Burris.

AnnMaria in judo gi

I was a teenager and had just won the U.S. Open. It was the second time I had made it to the finals and my first gold medal at an international event. I'd also won the junior nationals, senior nationals and collegiate nationals that same year.  It was a good year.

Pat said to me,

"About now, people you have never met are going to start trying to pick fights with you and you are going to have to learn to ignore them."

I thought he was nuts. Why would someone I didn't know want to start trouble with me? That didn't make sense. Still, I listened to Pat because  he was OLD - like, he would be 30 in a few years so he obviously knew stuff.

He told me that random guys would get in his face and try to start shit with him (not wise, if you know Pat). He eventually realized that people were doing it to get attention. He explained it to me like this,

"If you are on the podium, on the Olympic team, the best player in the country, people at tournaments are looking at YOU. So, anyone who is around you gets attention. Random Joe from East Nowhere Dojo starts a fight with you and you kick his ass and people don't know who that guy is but they think he must be somebody because the best judo player in the country is fighting with him."

Random fact: Judo used to be a much bigger deal in this country, but I digress, even more than usual.

As I said in my last post, Ronda gets this 1,000 times over.

What does this have to do with haters, Kevin Hart, or Ronda?

In his book, he writes about everything he had to do to learn to be a comedian, about  driving for hours to New York City after working selling shoes all day, sitting in clubs to listen and learn.  After he had made it, he had lots of "friends" and relatives who wanted to add his name to their TV shows or other project they wanted to pitch.

The part that stopped me is where he talked about how THEY were trying to profit off of HIS work without doing any of it.

My husband has cautioned me against ever reading anything anyone says about Ronda on the Internet.

You see, we know her. We know that she is incredibly hard-working, intelligent, talented, kind, honest and generous. She has her faults, as does anyone, but her good qualities vastly outweigh those.

Why do random people who have never met her pick any error she ever made and bring it up over and over instead of her myriad of successes? Why do people take quotes out of context and make her out to be less of a good person?

Very few of these haters are actually haters. They are just like the people Pat Burris and Kevin Hart pointed out. They are trying to use her hard work, fame and name to get attention for themselves. Every time someone uses her name in a headline about how she isn't or doesn't or shouldn't be X they are hoping for clicks on it so they can benefit off of her years of hard work building a name for herself through actual accomplishments.

I don't want to be that person, which is why it's very seldom that I or any of the family ask Ronda for anything, even for charity (although this auction for Gompers Judo is an exception) and if you look at our company website she only comes up when it is something particularly relevant.

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7 Generation Games blogs this week

For many people who post diatribes against someone successful, on the Internet or in print, they don't believe a word of it,  it is all about using THEIR hard work in developing a following, THEIR accomplishments that draw people's attention to get some measure of recognition for YOU when all you have actually done is throw mud. (Not you, the reader, of course , because you are a person of exquisite taste and education reading this blog.)

The other day, I asked Ronda how she dealt with it  She knows who she is, what she has done and what motivates he haters of successful people. She said,

"Mom, you always say that success is the best revenge. Personally, I think apathy is the best revenge and I never think about those people AT ALL. "

You can get our Family Textbook (of our family group text) here for $2.99 It's hilarifying

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Who hates strong women? A lot of people act like they do

For much of my life, I have had haters who I have never met. My daughter, Ronda, has the same thing, times one thousand.

Who hates strong women?

There are four types of people who either hate strong women, or pretend they do. Two of those particularly hate strong, successful women. The other two are poised to tear down anyone successful. They are equal opportunity haters.

Type 1: Women who gave in and gave up

Nice women who have played by all of the rules they've been told or imagined hate women who break those rules. These are the women who have bought into the belief that they have to fit into some kind of mold because they are women. They hate us because we show up their excuses for the bullshit these are. 

It's not specifically women who chose to be stay-at-home moms or "half of a couple" that I particularly have issues with. Some women that is what they wanted to do and we get along fine. That life choice doesn't appeal to me any more than being an architect or a classical cellist, but hey, you do you.

The women who hate on people like me are those who use their gender as an excuse, and deep down, they know it. 
  • "I can't have a career because it would be unfair to my children. I care about my family too much to do that."
  • "I'm not going to be one of those man-hating feminists competing against men."
  • "I was going to go to college / compete internationally / found a company /write a book - but then I got pregnant."
  • "The odds are stacked against women founding a company. The degree of sexual harassment is toxic. Men are 50 times as likely to receive investor funding." 
  • "I couldn't speak up in that meeting because the men wouldn't listen to me."
When someone like me or my daughters comes along, gets married, has children, wins medals, earns degrees, speaks our minds and writes books, they are FURIOUS.

Who do we think we are? 

Didn't we get the memo saying we can't do these things? What if the people who they have been telling for years that they owe them, or they deserve pity because of all these foregone opportunities start to wonder why if these women could do it, why couldn't they?

These are the same women who will be writing angry tweets and comments that I am 'not a woman-supporting woman'. They are the ones who  say I am blaming the victim when I say that when a man touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable you should tell him the first time that you don't like it and don't do it again and the second time tell him if he doesn't take his fucking hands off of you that you'll break his arm/ tell his wife/ sue him for every dollar he ever earned.  (Obviously, I'm not talking about rape or child abuse, which is a completely different and tragic thing, but rather the guy who stands too close, puts his arm around you etc. If you can't tell the difference, you are part of the problem.)

These are the women who whine that, "You don't understand what it is to need a job, " or "It's easy for you to say."

Then they see that I was this way when I was a widow with three young kids or that Ronda was like this when she was completely broke or that Maria had the same attitude when she was starting out as a journalist.

 If we need to speak up, demand the opportunity to train, call people on their bullshit when they say women have equal access to funding, appear on a hundred TV shows to get sufficient exposure, we'll do it. When these women DON'T do it, they've left it for us to do.

It's not that we enjoy being the designated bitch in the room nor that it is any easier for us but we choose to be bitches that get shit done instead of a do nothing bitch.

Types 2 & 3: People who feel threatened

Ronda has a good saying about those people, "I'm not going to diminish myself to make you feel bigger."

Generally speaking, people who are comfortable with their own talent and accomplishments have zero issues with anyone else's success. I was going to call this type, "men who feel threatened" because there are men who hold on to being a man as something that makes them superior.  There are men who, from the looks of them, couldn't beat up the average house cat, putting down female martial artists and athletes as, "She couldn't beat the 54th man on the roster."

I once got into an argument with my grandfather who insisted women couldn't have union jobs because they were too weak. I pointed out that he was over 60, I was 20 and could lift way more weight than him. I offered to go to the gym, lift weights and prove it. He just shook his head and insisted that I could not possibly be stronger than him because I was a woman.

Men who have little to feel proud about except some imagined male superiority hate strong women because they challenge the one thing these guys suppose they have going for them. It's the stereotypical guy in his mom's basement posting on the Internet that some woman is ugly or not talented when the truth is he doesn't even have dreams as good as her real life.

Weirdly, though, there are men (and women) who are plenty successful but they can't stand anyone being MORE successful than them, like life is a competition. So, even if they make $200,000 a year or are a world champion, they get angry because why is SHE making more money, why did SHE get that job? From my personal experience, it seems like women and people of color get more of this vitriol, maybe because they have had to overcome more obstacles so their success is even more of a threat. Still, these people seem to be equal opportunity haters in that they tear down anyone successful.

If we're honest, though, I think most of us feel a little envy from time to time. A while ago, I started making an effort when I hear of someone else's success to eliminate any thoughts on whether they had advantages I didn't or if I could have done that or anything else and just think, "Good for her!" or "I hope he is happy about that."

It actually makes me a slightly happier person than thinking about it any other way.

As for the fourth type, the pretend haters, they are a special case so that will have to wait until the next post.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Judo Advantage: The thinking person's judo book

I don't have time to read much these days that isn't technical books on things like PHP and I read The Judo Advantage because it was by my friend, Steve Scott. I would have had to come up with some excuse not to write a review if I hated it,  and I'm a really bad liar, so I'm relieved that I can honestly recommend it.

Who this book is for

I can think of four types of people who would like this book a lot.

First, coaches who have a more analytical approach to judo. I don't coach competitors any more, but when I did, this was totally me. When I saw everyone losing to a specific technique, say, sankaku jime, I would go home and work until I came up with a counter to it and my players wouldn't lose the same way again. I never could understand why other coaches didn't do this and their players lost the same way over and over.  This isn't to say the book is all discussion. I loved the section in Chapter 8 on using the head as a third arm and the section on combinations in Chapter 6.

Second, the competitor who has an intellectual approach to judo. That doesn't mean necessarily the player with the most education or highest IQ and it doesn't mean  that those competitors don't work out hard physically. Again, this was me when I was competing. I was always watching my own matches (once videotape became available), planning matches, analyzing why people won and lost. This doesn't mean I wasn't training my ass off, because I was, but the thinking about judo part and looking at it from every angle was yet one more tool to help me win. At the same time, I knew some highly educated people that just went into the dojo and did 1,000 uchikomis and ten rounds of randori and never got any smarter about why they were not able to throw their opponents.

Third, the older adult judo players - and by this I don't mean only senior citizens, but really, anyone who qualifies for masters divisions. These are people who have to show up at work on Monday and aren't doing the competitive circuit but they are interested in judo as an intellectual challenge as well as a physical one.There are a ton of people who love to talk about their ideas about judo. This book is for you, not only to give you more fodder for those discussions, but to enjoy when your friends aren't available and you still have judo on the brain.

If you are one of those people who talk about judo with your friends all the time - why person A is going to beat person B, what happened in the tournament last week and why the same team is going to win again - this is your book. 

So, am I saying  that this is "just a book for brainiacs"?  Well, no, I am saying, those people will LOVE The Judo Advantage.

The fourth group of people, though, are those who maybe don't read a lot of judo books, emphasis on the word "read" here and they probably aren't reading this blog. If that is you, though, mad props to you. If you are recommending this book to a friend who fits that description, my advice is to tell him or her to start in Chapter 3. That is when it gets really practical. Tell your friend to skip to the parts with lots of pictures. I don't mean this in a derogatory way but in dead seriousness. Those are the most pragmatic chapters of the book and the ones of most interest to people who don't care about theory but just want to win. Steve probably thinks you should read every chapter, but hey, if you buy the book, you can do whatever you want.

I liked this book a lot because, like Winning on the Ground (hey, I had to mention my own book on matwork here somewhere!) it's a book I wish I had both as a competitor and when I began coaching. I didn't live in an area where there were a lot of experienced coaches around when I started in Alton, Illinois.  Back then, I had a couple of judo books that I used for new ideas for techniques and to learn more outside of class. The Internet and youtube didn't exist back then!

So, Jimmy and I tried to write the book we wished we'd had when we were younger and it is pretty obvious from reading The Judo Advantage that Steve Scott did, too.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Wrestlemania is over. Now it's Judo Con and Back to Work!

It's 6 am in New York City and Wrestlemania finished several hours ago. My lovely daughter Ronda was the main event in a sold out stadium of something like 86,000 people.

It was fun except for the part where Ronda got bruised up a bit. The outcome may be scripted but the bruises, bumps and stitches are real.

People kept asking me questions about whether I was a big pro wrestling fan and whether I understood what a big deal Wrestlemania was and a lot of other questions that I had difficulty answering because I am a terrible liar due to lack of practice. Finally, Ronda got exasperated and said,

"My mom doesn't know a fucking thing about wrestling but she loves me, so she's here!"

Which was exactly the truth. Massive apologies to everyone who asked about Judo Con. I do love Ronda but every time I have to take off sets everything back for days.

So, now it's back to work. These games aren't going to make and sell themselves.

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Judo Con is November 8 and 9 in Riverside, CA. 

We'll send flyers out in the next few weeks. I was waiting for a few people to confirm whether they could present before making the flyers, and this trip to New York set me back a few days, as did a couple of weeks in North Dakota visiting schools and programs around the state, but that's another story.  We're aiming to have presentations from a dozen coaches/ instructors and I have ten confirmed so far.

A few of the confirmed presenters for Judo Con : Serge Boussyou, Kathy Hubble, James Wall, Ross Nakamura, Brian Money and Steve Scott. As always, the main focus will be on making judo clubs bigger and better - how to be a better instructor and how to get more students. We try to bring together a diverse group and not have just the same people giving you the same ideas you heard the last six times you went to a camp or clinic. Note that list has people from four states and two countries. There are a couple more people I need to reach out to in the next week or so as I get time.

Each day is a mix of about 3 hours on the mat and 3 hours on sessions like Marketing Your Judo School (you do NOT want to miss that one, trust me). There is a also a lunch round table and a couple of hours of directed coaching each day.

Because of the facility size, and because the intent is to have a lot of interaction, the registration is limited to 75, including the presenters.

I really do have a lot more to say about Judo Con, as well as Steve Scott's latest book, which is on my desk at home half-read, but I need to get a couple of hours' sleep before I get up and get caught up on work emails, proposals and two presentations I'm supposed to be giving at tech conferences in the next month.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The three kinds of coaches

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a visitor, Miracle Kim Sandoval, here for the past three weeks who is an elite boxer from Chile. I know nothing about boxing but I called around and got some recommendations and went to a few clubs. We would have gone to more, but as I said in the previous post, four hours a day to take someone to practice, wait for practice and come home is really more time than I can spare on a regular basis.

It’s only been possible to do that for three weeks because I’ve been able to work during the practices. Being able to work anywhere is like a super power of mine.

I run a company that makes educational games, like our cool augmented reality app for kids, Math: The Universal Language.

So, here is what I have learned

There are people who love the game, people who love the player and people who love money.

I took Kim to Hayastan MMA several times where the coach, Roman Karmazin is a former world boxing champion. I’d also like to point out that when I asked Gokor Chivichyan and Gene Lebell if they could formally invite Kim to the US to train to help in arranging her visa, they didn’t hesitate to do so. Good people.

When we first arrived, Roman Mitichyan (yes, weird they have the same name) interpreted for us and warned me that Coach Karmazin doesn’t speak much English, but I told him that was no problem, neither does Kim. Random fact, Roman Mitichyan his amazing - he speaks English, Spanish, Armenian and Russian, as well as acts and sells real estate.

Roman Karmazin loves boxing. He spent hours helping Kim improve her form and even invited her outside of class to the park to give her a conditioning workout.

There are some professional and aspiring professional fighters in the boxing program at Hayastan but there are also just people who really like boxing. Everyone was super nice and welcoming, even though most of them were easily  twice her size.

Our next stop was Wild Card Boxing. Ronda recommended them as a place she was sure no one would behave inappropriately toward Kim. Let’s face it, she is very young and very cute and in some clubs that can make you very vulnerable. I have no problem with smacking someone with a chair if it is warranted but I’d prefer not to have to do it.

The coach we met at Wild Card, Sammy, clearly loves boxers, as do most of the other people I met there, from Freddy Roach’s nice sister and all the other people at the front desk to every trainer I spoke with in the gym.

The first day, they had Kim jump rope and shadow box for about 20 minutes and once it was clear she was pretty good and serious, Sammy worked with her extensively for the rest of the time she was there. He talked about his own experience being an Olympian from a small country in Africa.

The next time we came, he started working with her immediately. The entire atmosphere was super-focused and professional. We were mostly there when the professionals practiced, just because it fit in with my schedule.

Our third gym, which will remain nameless, charged me $100 for an hour of training that was pretty much the same as Kim received anywhere else. Now, that may be the going rate but I would point out that the other gyms did NOT charge that because it is pretty clear Kim is not from a situation where it’s feasible to pay that kind of money. It may be because that was the only gym that knew me as “Ronda Rousey’s mom”. At Wild Card, I was just some random lady that walked in with a boxer from Chile and at Hayastan, I have known Gokor since he was a teenager and Gene since I was a teenager.

The other gym was also professional as far as the level of training, although less gritty than Wild Card. Someone commented that at Wild Card “you can smell the sweat” (you could prefer that or not, depending on your taste).

It would have been more convenient for me but I really can’t afford thousands of dollars a month for someone else’s kid’s training. I still need to finish putting Julia De Mars through college.

Both Ronda and Maria pointed out that there is no money in women’s boxing so the gym was most likely not interested in Kim as a potential money maker for them.

All three gyms told me the exact same thing about Kim - that she has a lot of talent, trains her heart out and has potential to qualify for the Olympics and maybe win a medal. Having had some experience with judo coaches, I would have been skeptical if it was only the third gym that said that. I’ve found for $100 an hour, coaches usually tell everyone their kid has talent.

 They all identified the same strengths and weaknesses and areas she needed to work on.

Kim liked all of the gyms a lot.

Roman is what you think of as a Russian Olympic athlete - very serious, hard-working but also very good.

Sammy is also very hard-working but he is more personal.

In the end, I told Kim that I think coaches are like boyfriends or girlfriends. While a minority are abusive or toxic, most coaches are good for certain people and not others. If Kim was my kid I might pay the $100 to save driving 2 hours, but probably not. I’d want someone more personally invested., but if I was really driving 80 hours a month, I might change my mind about that.

Here is the thing - there is no right answer here. My own coach, Jimmy Martin, told me straight out that he wanted me to win because it made him look better as a coach. That was fine. I wanted me to win, too. As long as we were aiming at the same goal, we didn’t have to be best friends. When I had my knee replaced , I didn’t give a damn whether the orthopedic surgeon gave a damn about me or not. For other people , a personal relationship with a coach is important.

I think this is probably true in every sport. Some people love judo, some people love judo players and some people are in it for the money (not so much in judo, but there are some.). You just need to find what works for you.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be doing judo in the US?

Whenever two American judo players get together it is required for them to discuss “what is wrong with judo” and contrast the support in the US with other countries.

Let me tell you a story about a young lady, Kim (The Small Miracle) Sandoval, who has been staying with me for the past three weeks. She is a boxer, from Chile. Despite having only turned 17 years old this week, she has had 24 fights already. She has won 21 of them. Her losses came from a woman who is 60 kilos (she’s 48), a woman who was in her 20s that she fought when she was 15 and in the finals of the South American championships.

So, she is young, she is talented and she is throwing everything she can into boxing. She even is on a modified home-school program so she can do well academically and train three times a day.

The support she receives from the Chilean government is - nothing.

She is in the U.S. because I bought her plane ticket and let her stay at my house. Although I am one to support people, I cannot spend four hours every day driving her to practice, waiting for her to practice and driving her back. I run a company that makes educational games, like our cool augmented reality app for kids, Math: The Universal Language.

I took her to three gyms here in Los Angeles and they all said the same thing, that she has a lot of talent, heart and physical ability. They all agreed that she has a good shot of making it to the Olympics.

Two out of the three clubs were willing to let her train at a very low cost, since she has no money to pay. One of the coaches went out of his way to meet her and give her extra training on his own time.

What she really needs is a sponsor to buy her a few plane tickets to come up here a few times a year and train. She could also really use some help getting to tournaments. She can’t even afford to go to boxing tournaments outside of Chile. (If you are going to ask why Ronda doesn’t fund her, just stop. If you are asking that question you obviously have no idea how much Ronda does to fund various charities and causes. It’s a lot.)

Despite her obvious work ethic and talent, no one was interested in helping her all that much.

Two of my daughters pointed out the obvious - there is no money in women’s boxing, so anyone who is helping her is just doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

Which brings me back to judo.

Most of us in judo in this country have parents who pay for us to attend tournaments. If you are very talented, there is usually someone in the country who will step up and pay for expenses your family can’t afford. For me, it was Frank Fullerton and Bruce Toups. Thank you.

Most successful competitors in judo in the U.S. have gotten support from individuals. Lynn Thursby is just one person who has been very influential in providing financial support. There are others but I’m not sure it would be okay with them to give their names, so I won’t.

Sadly, to me, most of those competitors seem to take it for granted. “Of course you should fund me. I am winning medals for this country. And the National Governing Body should fund me MORE.”

While the second part of that statement is probably true, the first is not. We, and I include myself in this, are all lucky to be doing judo in America where a sport that has minor participation and almost zero probability of making much money can still get sponsorships for our top athletes. It may not be as much as you would like and it may even not be as much as you deserve, but keep in mind that there are a lot of countries where no matter how good you are, you will get nothing .

I was nowhere near as nice a person as Kim when I was her age. I was dedicated, but not as dedicated as she is at that age. My mom was supportive but not as supportive as Kim’s mom is. To be fair to my mom, I was the middle of five kids, where Kim is the youngest of six, so it’s a bit easier for her mom.

Still, by the time I was her age, the Chicago Yudanshakai was paying my way to the national championships. Thank you.

Every now and then, I stop and am grateful for the opportunities I have been handed. Yes, I worked my ass off but so do other people around the world and they don’t all get the opportunities to train and compete that we do.

We are lucky.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Do what you can. Life lesson 1,012 learned from judo

World judo champions are a small club and I don’t fit in. Let's look at what some other world champions did post-competition

  • Mike Swain - owns a company that sells mats
  • Jimmy Pedro, Jr. - sells mats and runs a judo club
  • Kayla Harrison - competes in mixed martial arts
  • Yamashita - something judo with the IJF

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m so not in with the cool crowd that I have no idea who won medals or what most of them are doing. Travis Stevens got a silver in the Olympics (I think) and now does judo and jiu jitsu clinics. Some guy in Canada got a silver medal a while back, I only remember he was nice because - Canadian  - and I think he does something with their national sports program.

Then there is me. After the world championships I went off to get a Ph.D. , specializing in Applied Statistics and Psychometrics. I’ve founded four companies and spent most of my days writing software, meeting with investors and potential customers, writing budgets or writing up results of quasi-experimental designs for grant reports or academic journals.

It’s not that I don’t like judo or think it’s a good thing for people to do but I’m pretty busy. You don’t see Bill Gates out on the mat, now do you? (No, I’m not Bill Gates but I’d kind of like to be, except I’d like to not be a guy and keep my kids.)

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I’ve gone from doing judo every day and twice a day on weekends to once a week and now only a few times in the last year. 

Occasionally, I’ll wonder for a moment if I wasted all those years. Maybe I would have been better off taking more computer science courses, learning more about algorithms, practicing not telling people to go fuck themselves if they pissed me off (still not one of my better skills). Perhaps I really WOULD be running a business the size of Microsoft if I’d put my energy into that instead.

Oh, and don’t start with the “Look what great friendships you made.” I only like a few of you people and I haven’t even talked to you guys recently because I’ve been in Chile and my phone was stolen. (Yes, I owe a lot of phone calls to people now that I just got back.)

When I think about it for more than sixty seconds, though, I always realize that there is a great deal more I learned from judo than how to transition into an arm bar. 


Some of this came about because I did NOT have the advantages that “kids these days” swear they need of just doing judo full time. Since I was working full-time during my competitive years, there were a lot of times I couldn’t be at the best judo club, or sometimes any judo club. I learned to do what I could.

  • Can’t get to practice? Get up and run sprints in the morning before work.
  • Can’t get to practice? Lift weights at the gym near my house.
  • No one near my size/ age to train with? Ask the guys at the Naval Training Center to run matwork drills on them over and over.
  • No one really interested in training seriously at the club? Ask each person if they’d mind taking 25 falls for in a line so I can get in 200 throws.
  • Injured my knee and can’t do standing technique? Do dumb bell curls and exercise to build up my hands and arms for gripping and chokes. Do sit-ups. Do matwork drills.

I don’t remember anyone ever specifically teaching me this. I think I just figured it out through necessity of wanting to win and being in a lot of situations that were suboptimal for making that happen.


I’m writing this on a flight from Santiago to Panama City, after which I have to sprint to catch my connecting flight to Los Angeles. I’ll be spending 19 hours in planes and airports, none of which have wifi. What would be the optimal thing to be doing right now? Working on the new game we have under development for which my part is behind schedule. Unfortunately, the first thing I’d need to do is pull the changes from the other developers on the team, which I cannot do because of the whole no wifi thing.

So, what am I doing? Well, other than this blog post (seriously, it didn’t take me 19 hours), I’m writing up several lesson plans for the new teachers’ site we’re creating to go with our games. To do that, I’m playing the games that have an offline version, taking screen shots and writing the lesson plans, so when I do get back to Internet connection land, I can slap in some links and boom! have three or four ready to go with an hour .

Before I left, I downloaded two books on Wordpress and one on virtual worlds on my iPad and packed a book on game design (yes, an actual book on paper) so I can read up on some areas that will help with the various projects I’m working on.

What I learned from judo is not only that winning is a habit but also that WORKING TOWARDS winning is a habit. Even if conditions are far from the best you could hope for, there is always something you can do to be pushing forward towards your goal if you just cut the woe is me crap, find it and do it.