Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Professor Badass: Math, Start-up Life and Ass-whippings

I was at a conference last week to give a talk on "Diversity in the Tech Industry" and received a text message this morning from a former student.

"Everyone loved, loved, loved your crazy hyper-intelligent self. I am so proud to have been a student of Professor Badass."

Interestingly, this was a former doctoral student who took a class from me on Advanced Quantitative Data Analysis.

This lead me to a podcast I have been thinking about. I know that the games my company makes are really good, and yet not as many people know about us as I would like.


 Since we don't have the funds to advertise during half-time at the Super Bowl, I was considering other means of getting information out about our company. The question is, what would the podcast be about, what would we call it and what would be the format.

Ronda called today and when I brought this up, she said right away,

"That's what you should call it ! Professor Badass! It could be on math and ass whippings. You could talk about the math part and at the end we could discuss who most deserved an ass whipping this week! Let's do it!"

I am giving this some serious thought. I'll explain why in a few posts, if I get some free time. In short, I think there are a whole lot of parents out there who love their kids and would do anything to help them out in life, but they are not into the making cupcakes for the PTA meeting. Maybe we could do a podcast aimed at them.

There are also people interested in succeeding in business, maybe starting a company, but they don't summer in the Hamptons next door to Buffy and Biff (or whatever the yuppie names are these days). In fact, they don't even know what the Hamptons are.

The Hamptons are a where, not a what, by the way.

In fact, I think that could be the topic of one of the podcasts: Things pretentious assholes know.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

What I Learned About Relationships from Judo

Last time, I wrote about what I learned about business from judo and how the 10,000 plus hours I spent on the mat were not wasted.

Tonight, I wanted to get in the subject of what I learned about relationships from judo.

It can be summed up as,

"There sure are a lot of douche bags out there."

Since that would make a really short post, though, I will elaborate.

  1. You can only know someone is your friend when they have nothing to gain from you. Having had a good measure of success as a competitor and then a daughter who had a successful run as well, there were people who were very friendly to me for years on end, so I mistook them for friends. When the time came that I was of no use to them, I never heard from them again. I have taken this lesson into business, and though there are people I have worked with for many years and I appreciate them as clients or colleagues, I do not mistake them for friends.
  2. Judge people not only by how they treat you but by how they treat other people. Hayward Nishioka gave me this advice years ago, and he was right. If someone is an ass to their students, their interns or the receptionist, they will be an ass to you as soon as you aren't in a position to benefit them or aren't around to keep an eye on them. Find someone else to work with.
  3. Hire for character. Everything else is secondary.  Bruce Toups, another judo guy and a successful businessman, gave me this advice. Whether it is a coach or a software developer, if you can't trust someone with your wallet on the table in your office or to pitch to your most important customer, don't hire that person. If your teammates are the type that will go tell your weaknesses to other people because they are jealous you're winning, it doesn't matter if they are the same weight as you and a good match in practice. Go elsewhere.
  4. You don't have to be best friends to work together. I've had teammates and coaches that I wouldn't want to hang out with, just because we had no common interests outside of judo and very different views on life. If you think women should stay home and raise the children and it's a man's job to work, you have every right to your opinion. I'm happy to work out with you and help you train for whatever tournament as long as you do the same for me. Just don't expect me to show up at your home bible study after practice.
  5. Don't trust people who have sketchy friends.  Jim Pedro, Sr. had a saying, "If you lie down with the dogs you get up with fleas." I know people who seem like good guys who hang around with some of the most dishonest dirt bags I have ever met. I don't know why they do it, but I have never trusted those people very far. So far, nothing has ever made me regret that decision.
  6. Appreciate your real friends. Over the past few years, I've headed out to Kansas City twice to visit Steve and Becky Scott, up to Sioux City to see Karen Mackey. Lanny Clark just sent me a text that he'd be in Las Vegas for Ronda's next fight. Now that I realize how rare true friends really are, I try to keep in touch with the ones I have. I may not have quantity but I have quality and for that I am truly grateful.
True story: When Ronda was 11 and had just started judo, I was coaching players at the high school nationals. I ran into Jim Pedro, Sr. and I wanted to ask him some advice about coaching, since I had heard his son was doing well and even at 11 I could tell, Ronda had potential. I started out by saying,

"Mr. Pedro, I'm sure you don't remember me ...."

He interrupted and said,

"Of course I remember you. You're AnnMaria Burns. You won the world championships. That's the thing about judo. You meet people and you know them your whole life. I hate half of those assholes."

Truth. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Judo as preparation for life at a start-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Who Else is Going to Ronda's After- After Party ?

So, you might wonder, just who else is going to Ronda's after-after party?

Marina Shafir told me today that she is coming, and so did Gene Lebell.