Everything Will Be Revealed

One of my favorite sayings and one of my wife’s least favorite sayings in our lives is “everything will be revealed.”

This highlights one of our key differences that makes our relationship work so well.

On my side of the coin there are those that don’t ask enough questions.  We prepare ourselves as best we can as we forge into the unknown, because we know when we get there everything will be revealed.  If we happen to lack something that we could have easily packed if we had asked the right questions, we quickly adopt our next favorite motto: “Learn to do without.”

To us it is almost worth not asking the questions in the first place.

On the other side of that coin there are those that ask a lot of questions. They don’t want any surprises. Even when the course you are taking will not change upon knowing the answer these type of people ask anyway. They just need to know.

There is a really happy middle ground that we pull each other into. I could definitely benefit from asking a few more questions and communicating my intentions. She could probably benefit from living on the edge a little, and not having all of her questions answered.

It is one of the many reasons our relationship works so well. We are the ying and yang for each other when I believe everything will be revealed. 

Lessons Learned from a Jiu Jitsu Competition

Victory Grappling Championships was held on Sunday, December 2nd in Parkville, MO.  The St. Joseph Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club hosts the event. This was my fourth competition.

In all of my competitions up until this one, I’ve won my first match.

In the Gi division, I only had one other competitor in my division.  When this happens, they have a best of three matches.  I lost my first match.  This wasn’t what I was used to.

However, I wasn’t drained, as he trapped me in a fierce triangle in which I had to tap out.

As I stood waiting to face this same opponent again, I decided that I was not going to get trapped in the same place. I thought about the mental game. He was confident, as he just beat me.  He probably didn’t know that I was making plans on beating him the next match.

The second match started similarly, but I was able to avoid his trap this time. Indeed, I eventually passed his guard for a few points.  Soon, my brown belt teammate Morgan was able to sit in my corner and feed me instruction.  This was more help than I can describe.  Having someone there giving you something to do while you are completely drained is priceless.

Morgan provided focus, something that distracted me from my utter exhaustion. These small goals and missions kept me busy doing things that put my opponent on the defensive. Time was on my side.  It eventually ran out while I was up 3-0.  I forced a third match.

Between the second and third match is when I let the mental game defeat me.  I could not concentrate on anything besides how completely spent of energy I was. My forearms were concrete. I could barely hold on to my water bottle.

Instead, I should have been presenting myself as not spent (which is what he was doing), and focusing on how my opponent is just as tired as I am, and I will be facing just as drained a competitor.  My plan should have not changed from before.

I let the mental game beat me, and inevitably, I lost the match.  It is one I should not have lost.

There was a long time before the No-Gi division would start, so I had a lot of time to recover some strength and energy.

My first roll was against someone I underestimated.  I looked at him and thought immediately that I could beat the guy.  As soon as the match began and we locked up, I believed it even more, as I was the stronger of the two.

I learned a valuable lesson.  Never, ever, underestimate your opponents. Until time runs out or they have submitted, you roll with them as you would roll with the fiercest competitor.

He led me to believe I was controlling the match, and let me in for a take down.  His guillotine was too effective for me to evade, and I had to tap out.

Now, in the third place bracket, I had to win two matches for third.  My next match was against the same guy I had already rolled with three times during the Gi division.  However, he gave me an edge by giving me way too much information between rounds. He told me he had never practiced No-Gi.  Everything else we talked about was inconsequential, because I had made up my mind I was going to beat him in No-Gi.

Lesson learned: during small talk between rounds, never talk about your weaknesses.

To really help matters, both my teammates were finished and at match side. Again, I can’t begin to describe how helpful this was.

During the match, I got several take downs, controlled the back and got my hooks in, took mount, and racked up a total of 14 points.  I observed something from the last match I had with him to this match, which was how important mentally it is to get the first points. Especially when you are drained, coming back from a deficit can be a mental mountain to climb and you find yourself defending more than being aggressive.

It seemed all the wind in his sails had vanished. The win felt good

By the third match in No-Gi, it really had started to sink in how little I knew of jiu-jitsu, and how that was the same with all of the white belts around me. We’re all out here learning and gaining more and more experience.  Even with the wins, I attribute it much to my instruction on the side lines.

I’m like a remote control car with a slowly draining battery. They control me from the sidelines with each instruction they yell, but have to compromise now and again because of that low battery.  Its responding, just not as fast and as quick as you’d like.

I faced a monster of a guy on my third match. Although I had him in height, his arms were as big as my legs. Keeping my head up (something Morgan kept yelling), I was able to defend his guillotine attacks, which would have crushed me quickly.

With the first take down, my confidence increased dramatically.  “Get your hook in!  Get your seat belt on!  Look for that choke!”  Every instruction provided focus and attention.  What’s next? What’s next?

Surprising him with my non-dominant left, I snuck my arm in for a solid choke and a submission.  Never had a bronze medal felt so good.

The six matches gave me a lot to think and mull over.  I’m so appreciative of my teammates, both the ones in the gym that roll with me week to week, and the ones that were mat side, competing along side me.  Without them, I am nothing.




Mathematical Scavenger Hunt

Every Fall semester a colleague and myself develop a mathematical scavenger hunt for several competing high schools that come to visit our campus. This year, we chose the story “Ready Player One” as a theme with a final puzzle modeled from The Magical Labyrinth, a 2009 award winning game that involves a hidden maze of walls.

First, our students were provided instructions to go retrieve several numbers from campus. This year they had to visit and retrieve numbers from the following sites:

  • Ben Franklin statue on the south side of the Law School Building had b1=2 birds, b2=13 vest buttons, and b3=8 fastened vest buttons.
  • The Vietnam Memorial just southeast of Morgan Hall had r1 = 5, r2 = 2, and r3 = 0 names that began with the letter “R” in the first column, second column, and third column of the plaque, respectively.
  • The four walls that were around Carole Chapel on campus had varying number of bricks along the tops of them. These were B1 = 13, B2 = 5, B3 = 12, and B4 = 17, respectively.

Each of the several schools were directed to a Registration Page, created by the esteemed Dr. Mechtly in CIS.  Once they registered and typed in a registration passcode, they were advanced to the Tomb of Horrors.

Tomb of Horrors

Here students were given that the area of the region below is 62 and that they needed to solve for x using the numbers they found for b1, b2, and b3.  It also helps to know that the angles a are both the same.


Once x was solved for and correctly entered, the team was awarded the Copper Key. The top five teams were awarded a physical replica of the Copper Key from the movie.  They were then taken to Zork.


Here students were trying to find a specific Pythagorean triplet. The most famous triplet is (3,4,5). These triplets satisfy the equation 3^2+4^2=5^2 and can be represented as side lengths of right triangles.

Beginning with the three numbers 33, 44, and 55, students were instructed to add or subtract the numbers they found for r1, r2, and r3 from or to these numbers in some way (not necessarily in that order) to create a Pythagorean triplet.  For example, you could subtract r3 from 33, add r1 to 44, and subtract r2 from 55 as a possible check (but this wouldn’t work).

Once you find the Pythagorean triplet (x,y,z) in order so that x<y<z, then you were to use the values a = -2, b = -1, and c = 3 that were given in the Zork room and enter the linear combination ax+by+cz correctly to receive the Jade Key and advance to the Syrinx room!


In Syrinx, your goal was to find the number of bricks on the invisible wall near Carole Chapel.  You had already found B1, B2, B3, and B4, and now your goal was to find B5.

On the Syrinx page, you were given that the average number of bricks on all 5 walls was 22. This information was enough to obtain B5.

Upon correctly entering this into the Syrinx room webpage, students were awarded the Crystal Key and taken to the Final Puzzle room.

Final Puzzle

The answers students obtained on the previous three rooms gave them coordinates to the three hidden walls that were missing.


This is how you can check your answers. Your answers should all contain only two digits, one even and one odd. Using the first digit as the x coordinate and the second digit as the y coordinate, remove the walls from the above map that are missing! This will help you get a path to the final maze.

The last step was to use a large table of pass phrases that would be used to whisper to the Gatekeeper who was guarding the final puzzle.

  • Using the intersection of the numbers found at Ben Franklin and the Vietnam Memorial would provide you with a specific color.
  • Using the intersection of the numbers found at Ben Franklin and the Carole Chapel provided you with a specific animal/pet.
  • Using the intersection of the numbers found at the Vietnam Memorial and Carole Chapel provided you with a specific sound.

This lead students to whisper “The Yellow Pot-Bellied Pig Rings a Bell” to the Gatekeeper, who let them enter the final puzzle pictured at the top of this post. Using the game piece that had action figures from the movie (Parzival, Art3mis, and Aech) along with a magnet on the bottom that held a metal ball underneath the surface, they had to traverse the life sized game board to the top right corner without letting the metal ball hit a hidden wall beneath and fall down.

If they solved all their problems correctly and used the correct path, they were then given an Easter Egg with candy and a password they entered into the final web page that would give them a time stamp on when they completed the race.

The top five teams were announced during an award ceremony.

The Process

Putting something together like this takes months of preparation, and a few late nights leading up to game day.  It is a fun and rewarding process putting such a scavenger hunt together and seeing the satisfaction on the faces of students as they solve the final puzzle and complete the scavenger hunt.

It is a lot of work, however, so I’m fine with the wait in between.

Questions from Tim: Part III

In Questions from Tim, Part 1 and Questions from Tim, Part II, I answered the following questions:

  • What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
  • In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
  • What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

In Part III, I will address

  • If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
  • What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
  • What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?

I think putting this poster of outer space with the caption “Don’t take stuff so seriously, remember… You are here” with an arrow pointing at nothing you can see with any clarity.  We should have a constant reminder of how insignificant we are in this universe.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

When I measure out my coffee in the morning I take extra care in getting my coffee beans to be exactly 42 grams. There is really no reason for doing so, as I could probably not tell the difference between a Chemex pot of coffee made with anything in the 40-44 gram region when brewing coffee using the same amount of water.

Since I’m waiting for the water to get to a specific temperature anyway, I’ll sometimes take single individual beans out in order to hit 42 grams. There are times when I even switch out big beans with little or vice versa once I get within hundredths of a gram.  It is ridiculous, I know.

I also love trying things that I read about that are good for me, but sound awful. As an example, I may get in the shower and decide on a whim to just stand under the shower and turn it on cold turkey! It is quite a shock to the system, and is not really that pleasant. But I read that it is good for you somewhere so I do it from time to time just for that reason alone.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

If you forget everything you learned in college you’ll still be OK if you can learn and pick up a few decent habits.

  • Learn how to become ultra organized and efficient. Don’t ever believe you are organized enough and have nothing more to learn on how to be any more organized. You can be organized even more.
  • Never stop reading.
  • Write, write, and write some more. This can be done in the form of a journal, blog, etc. or a combination of any.
  • Seek novelty.
  • Do not be afraid to take charge and lead how you believe is best. On the same note, don’t be afraid to fail. Embrace the failure and learn from it.

Honestly, if you can get the first bullet point down, you will be set for life. Everything else will follow accordingly.

While taking a class again through Washburn, I was shocked at the idea that people could not get an A. If you have the ability to organize your day so that you attend class, have time outside class set aside for reading and working on the material – and then the follow through to actually use that time for what you set it aside for – you can achieve anything. 

Ignore the idea that your career should be in something you love to do. This is not necessarily true, as if you make your career out of something you love you will most likely lose the love.  Instead, find a career of something at which you are good at or would like to be really good at.  Save your passions for your free time!

Embrace The Suck: What Jiu-Jitsu, Learning Guitar, And Exam IFM Has Taught Me About Life

“Wow! I suck.”

This statement is both thought and uttered often. Those with a growth mindset, who understand what it takes to continuously improve, embrace the idea. The moment that we think or believe “Wow! I’m awesome,” is when we stop improving. Our mindset becomes fixed, and we lose all forward momentum.

Exam IFM: Investment and Financial Markets, is one of many exams given by the Society of Actuaries that provide a path to becoming an Associate in the Society of Actuaries (ASA).  I’m taking this on November 20th and in the final stretch of my intense study.

Finishing a third mock exam through Coaching Actuaries, I found out I had did a little worse than the first two. This could potentially be defeating. However, I understood that the first mock exam was at an easier level, the second at a level higher, and the third even higher still. They keep increasing the difficulty, which makes it seem that you’re making no progress.

Jiu-Jitsu is very similar. Although the classes and the technique we learn is not getting any more difficult, each of my teammates are getting better and better at their technique, and stronger and stronger with each class.  When you roll with these teammates and they roll with you, it can really seem like we’re not getting any better.  The truth is we’re all getting better incrementally.

Embrace the suck.

What I mean by that is to embrace the illusion of your suckiness, because you are getting better.

In early August I began learning how to play the guitar using Justin Guitar. It has been going well. Earlier last week, however, was the lesson on the F chord. It felt like I had just picked up the guitar for the first time.

I embraced the suck, and persisted in getting my fingers in the right place. After several days, I’m still nowhere near being able to play the full F chord with the bass string. I’m playing the simpler version with 5 strings which is challenge enough.

What usually happens when I learn something new with the guitar each day, is that I learn about at least two things that I need to learn and practice.  To get a little mathematical now, that means that if we take that bare minimum value of only learning two new things that we don’t know each time we learn one new thing, then the amount of “things” we know that we don’t know will always be one greater than the amount of “things” we do know.

This, too, can be defeating. It can be even more defeating when we try and think about all the things that we don’t even know we don’t know.  Oh, my!

The same is true in jiu-jitsu. Each time I learn and begin practicing a technique, I learn about a few others that I will need to practice in the future. It never ends.

Embrace the suck.

In this case, I mean the illusion that you suck even more than you did previously since the quantity that you know you don’t know increases faster than the quantity that you do know.

Life in general is a series of these moments. Wow! We all really suck. You can let it stop you in your tracks, or you can embrace it and let it propel you to the next level.

I say we all embrace the suck, and level up.