Word of the Decade: Gratitude


It’s that time of year when we’re all supposed to be making New Year’s resolutions and looking forward. Instead, I find myself looking backward with gratitude at how far I have come and all of the people who have been there along the way.

TL, DR; I get stressed that I have not accomplished enough in a week. Then I look at what has happened this decade. Weeks add up. People are awesome.

In 2010, I was working as senior statistical consultant for the University of Southern California. One daughter was in graduate school. One was working as a bartender and doing mixed martial arts. A third was writing for ESPN and the fourth was in elementary school.

Although there have been MANY new products (and two whole new companies) over the decade, I find what I am most grateful for is the people, friends and colleagues both old and new.

There is my Minot Mafia of Evelyn, Vivian, Annette and Bruce (who is honorary since he moved home to Twin Buttes). There are the amazing educators at Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain who helped us pilot our very first games, gave us feedback, tolerated the many bugs and then implemented the finish games that came thousands of hours later.

Evelyn and I at the Twin Buttes Pow-wow

Fast forward to 2020. I’m president of 7 Generation Games, which didn’t exist in 2010. We’ve produced 12 math and social studies games under our 7 Generation Games label, another two in the Crossroads series that address decision-making for at-risk youth and we have two more in beta that should be out within two months, another three before the summer.

I’ve spent a year in Chile as part of Startup Chile, where we founded another company, Strong Mind Studios, which is marketing our bilingual games in Latin America.

I don’t teach at either USC or Pepperdine University any more, where I was adjunct for many years. Now, I teach one or two courses a year online for National University, mostly multivariate statistics in the Applied Engineering graduate program. The students are really impressive and I look forward to every new term.

My daughters have also made amazing leaps forward. One won two world titles, was in four movies, four TV series, made a pile of money and got married, acquiring two sons in the process. A second wrote a best-seller, won best media and entertainment pitch at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, had two more kids and is now our CEO. A third earned a masters and credential, now has tenure, a husband and a baby. The fourth graduated high school, won an academic scholarship for both high school and college, was on the soccer team that won the New England College championships three times and is about to graduate from college.

I’ve been in eight countries in this decade. I’ve now visited every state in the U.S., every province in Canada and every continent except Antartica.

Sunset in Mobridge, SD

If you follow this blog at all, or my other blog that’s mostly on statistics, you know that I work almost every day of my life and travel half of the time either presenting research at conferences or conducting teacher training. So, it’s been a very unusual time as I got home December 14 and I’m still here. In fact, I’m not traveling again until January 28 – a record for me.

I have 3 people’s worth of to-do list

  • I’ve been working on updating the code on AzTech: Meet the Maya so we can have a better version playable on Chromebooks (let me know if you want to check out the beta).
  • I want to greatly expand our teacher support website.
  • There is a version of Crossroads for younger players, age 9-13 we piloted that I want to get out of beta.
  • I’ve been working on an article for a while on the barriers to implementation of technology in urban and rural schools and I want to finally finish that and get it published.
  • I have an accepted conference paper to finish and several conference proposals to submit.
  • I have a report for a client for our statistical consulting side that’s due in January.
  • I’m doing to teacher training workshops for which I need to make sure I have all the materials ready.

…. and it goes on for another few pages of things that are NOT small like, revise and resubmit a grant, prepare for a course I’m teaching in March, learn to program better in JavaScript, improve my knowledge of PHP and SQL, revise 3 of our websites, improve my Spanish, both speaking and reading.

I was feeling as if I hadn’t made any progress this week and I realized, it’s only a #@^ing week!

(Maria has a policy against swearing on the 7 Generation Games blog). I was very discouraged that there is so much coding on Meet the Maya that I hadn’t done much in my other 20 pages of the to-do list. Then, I reminded myself that it’s only a !@#$ing week, three days of which were Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Years Eve and that I got the chance to see all of my children and grandchildren not once, but twice.

I also reminded myself that I received the AARP Purpose Prize Fellow award less than two months ago, recognizing our work in developing software for underserved youth, for a company that didn’t exist 7 years ago. I was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, published a couple more articles in academic journals … if I wrote it down, which I may very well do, everything that got accomplished in this decade probably would take 20 pages.

Advice from me to you: Brag on yourself

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an educator, a parent, an entrepreneur or some combination of the three. You probably DO get down on yourself about how you didn’t get through your to-do list by the end of the day, week or month. Take this advice from me,

  • Sit down this week and write out everything you’ve accomplished in the past 10 years.
  • Include your children’s accomplishments because you raised them and hurray for you. I’m sure you beat yourself up every time they had a problem and were heartbroken at their failures. so celebrate their successes, too!
  • Add to your list all of the good people you met in the past 10 years. You might want to make a note about something great about each one.
  • Finish off your list with all the good people you knew BEFORE the beginning of the decade and continue to be important in your life. You probably want to include at least two good things about each one because these people have been there with you through thick and thin.

Now that you have it, keep that list, on your phone or computer. When you get depressed, feel unloved, unlucky or unproductive, pull it out and peruse it. Feel better now? I thought so.

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