Building A Working Pension

This article in the WSJ reminded me that, most of us, are going to be working for a very long time.  So the goal is to optimize, rather than remove, work.

What to do?  Since I left traditional employment in 2000, I’ve been focusing on:

  • Building a career that supports how I like to live.
  • Work for, and with, people I admire.
  • Protect my competitive position.

I need a career that’s true to who I am.  That’s why I left financial services — I didn’t share my mentors’ passion for it.


When I consult on finances, most people believe that they are limited by two things:

  • Revenue: money in
  • Capital: current wealth

You can spend a lifetime waiting to have enough.  

I’m very similar to my inner circle.  Each day, I am focused on one long-term goal… How can I set my life up to train more.  It dominates the strategic planning of my life.  Here’s an article by Chrissie on the subject. Perhaps my “enough” is figuring out how much exercise is enough!  I’m working on that, too.

What I really, really like to do is explore.  Amundsen, Fiennes, Messner and Shackleton — their travels excite me.  My triathlon life is a socially acceptable way for me to satisfy this deep enjoyment of being outside.  That’s my basic motivation.  Create freedom to explore the natural world.  

Run new trails, climb new passes, explore new terrain.

A long way of saying, start with the end in mind.


What limits me?

  • Spending: driven by my choices
  • Productivity: the speed that I can deliver value

I choose to build my family, I choose to live in Boulder, I choose to travel internationally… my spending is under my control but unlikely to reduce.  So I focus on my productivity.


This week’s photo is my coaching workstation: Apple LED Cinema Display; MacBook; Fujitsu high speed scanner; and HP all-in-one — $2,750 worth of hardware that saves me hours every single week.  

When I’m building training plans for my crew, I have six weeks showing on the Apple Display; one of my templates live beside it; and a google doc of the athlete’s year visible on my MacBook.  I have all my plans, workouts and data entered into TrainingPeaks and can build a personalized Ironman training program faster than that the people that designed the software.  If you are a coach and don’t understand what I just wrote then you have a major competitive issue that you should address.  There will be highly organized competition coming in the next few years.  

To have the life I want to lead, I must be world class in the delivery of my world class knowledge.  That’s the source of productivity and what, ultimately, provides the freedom, and serenity, that I desire.  When I read Ferriss, I can be fooled into creating a model where I outsource “Coach Gordo.”  Sounds great but totally lacks authenticity for the people that I want in my life.  I want to work for world class people.  Leverage comes from becoming world class in delivery of what I have to offer.  


The Money

This is where Ferriss is spot on.  Classic financial advice is to calculate the capital required to generate your income and save towards that target.  Saving is good advice.  Waiting to start living your life until you have a million bucks in the bank is horrible advice.

What’s the level of value that you can deliver?  My coaching peers charge 3-8x my rates for a similar service.  Price is a competitive advantage for me.  Where do you stack up with your peers? Remember that you want long term stability.  Be ruthlessly honest with yourself.  

If you lack the ability to efficiently create value then your competition will have an edge over you.  Value added, productivity, pricing dynamics — these, and other attributes, create what Warren Buffett calls “moats and castles.”  You don’t need to be IBM to have a competitive position.  Each of us, as individuals, has a position in all areas of our life.  If your position is weak then fix it.  

Once you’ve reached your financial goals — focus on living — don’t get trapped thinking that you need ever increasing revenue, and capital, to be happy.  

Figure out what’s required to live, sort it and get living.

Choose Wisely.

Athletic Confidence

I rode around the Big Island last week and had a chance to run through my thoughts about the nature of sport.  Specifically, I was exploring why cheating gets us excited.  A few years from now the scandals of 2011 will fade but the challenge of living in a world with different cultures will remain.

When I find myself getting stressed about life, I ask myself, “What do I want from this situation?”  The bottom line with regard to elite sport is entertainment.  The emotional conflict starts to arise when I mix my goals from participating with my goals from observing.  As an observer of sport, more and more, I feel like we’ve been punked.

However, feeling like I’ve been stiffed doesn’t do a whole lot other than spoil an otherwise excellent day!  To sort through the underlying emotional cause of my ‘disappointment’, I consider the advice, “when you think someone has deceived you, ask yourself what you desired from them.”

There were a lot of life lessons that I took from my elite athletic career.  Two that stand out are:

  • Work and persistence will make you better than you ever thought possible.
  • Teach yourself how much is enough and how to say no.

Those two lines capture much of what’s required for a life with meaning.  If you add the Golden Rule then you have a straightforward code for self-improvement.  

That’s all well and good but cheating still irks me.  The only effective antidote is coming back to my lessons and staying focused on the life I want to lead.

As an advisor, I would add two additional points:

  • Trust your own experience.
  • Question reality.

The last dozen years in triathlon have taught me that the only information in which you can have full confidence is your own.  Even then, be cautious as methodology, devices and error will have an impact on results.

When you see others performing at a level that defies your personal reality, enjoy the performance but be true to your own situation.  

Performance that falls far from the mean is typically due to chance (genetics) or outside influences.  For this reason, base your approach on what you know is effective for you. 

Fill your peer group with friends that reinforce the life you want to lead.  Our character trends to a similar level of our inner circle.

Worry isn’t work (and work is far more important than worry).