Emotional Freedom

I’ve spent much of my adult life around mountaineers, off-shore sailors and ultraendurance athletes. These pursuits attract people seeking escape (most of us never truly realize from what).

For me, the serenity that I found through exercise has been extremely useful in transforming my internal life.

Seeing as most of us carry the pieces of the past with us, I though that I would write down a path towards emotional freedom.


At some stage in my adult life, I decided to take responsibility for myself.

After years of trying to heal specific issues in the past, I came to the belief that my odds of success were remote!

So I decided to release the past by not continuing its pain into the future (via my kids, spouse, pets and co-workers).

To make it easier for me to release those that hurt me, I remember that the pain they shared with me came from something before them.

As a parent, seeing others as kids can help create compassion for the pain they carry around and seek to share.

Repeat as necessary.


A Life’s Work

Last week, I was on retreat, cycling daily in the mountains. Getting outside my normal life, offers me an opportunity to reflect on three questions.

  1. What will be my life’s work?
  2. How did I do, today?
  3. Am I aligned?

As a young person, my first realizations were not-to-dos. I’m still best at telling myself what to avoid (excess booze, sloth, late afternoon naps, overeating, anger, holding my breath, fatigue). It is easier to see where I don’t want to take myself than to consider my purpose and what I want to leave behind.

Various lightning bolts from my past…

  • Not to be unhealthy (mid-20s)
  • Not to be inactive (late-20s)
  • Not to gain satisfaction from a lifetime of accumulation of wealth (early-30s)
  • Not to spend my life dragging boxes across a screen (early-40s)

Each realization struck me quickly, and powerfully. It was obvious that my current life didn’t fit. Following that realization, I would redirect myself.

When we think about “legacy”, most of us consider financial wealth. I’ve considered my family tree.

I’m the first-born of the first-born of the first-born – everyone upstream being quite young when they had kids. So I have been fortunate to watch, and learn about, many generations. In looking up my own family tree, there have been a few members that hit-it-big over the last century. Regardless of their financial success, nothing material passed more than two generations. When I die, everything in my family tree from the last 150 years will pass. This brings context to my question, how did I do today?

Being 40+ years older than my kids, they are an obvious target for having an impact or, at least, building a relationship so I might be able to have an impact. I ask myself, “what can I do that might prove useful to my great-grand kids?”

Have you considered what continues?

The Blink of an Eye

Last week was my seventh wedding anniversary and the guy in my wedding pictures is starting to look considerably younger than the man I see in the mirror each morning!

With the last seven years flying past, I cast my eye forward, seven years from now.

If I make it then where will I be?

  • 50 years old
  • Three kids (10,8,6)
  • Two cats (11, 11)

The cats and I will be getting up there but the kids will be young. My wife will be the age that I am right now, and I’ve assured her that it remains quite enjoyable to be 43!

The way I experience time isn’t balanced. Looking backwards, everything flew by. Thinking forward, I feel that plenty of time remains.

In three more “blinks” I’ll be 64, not far off my parents’ age.

Six “blinks” will take me to my grandparents’ age.

The speed that life passes me by is a strong motivator for kindness and making sure that I use each day wisely.

What To Keep

When I decided to move, I had a hunch that we wouldn’t change unless we removed our alternatives. While we made progress with streamlining ahead of the move, our two shipping containers worth of gear show that we didn’t change the way we lived.

Reducing the family’s available space by over 50% has resulted in automatic adjustments – there simply isn’t any space. To help us let go, we opted for a furnished rental. The idea was to break our attachment to our furnishings and not be reminded of the old place.

When I started this process, I was unsure what to keep. What helped was a decision to knock out 50%. I sorted everything and kept the best half of everything (suits, bike clothes, socks, underwear…). While I was doing that, I paid attention to:

  • what I wear
  • what I use 
  • what I eat

Between clothes, assets and ingredients, a list of 20 items covered the bulk of each category. 

For example with food… eggs, quinoa, coconut oil, lettuce, peppers, olives, olive oil, avocados, mixed nuts, salad dressing, wraps, turkey, coffee, soy milk, clif bars, INfinit, cucumbers, fruit salad, non-fat dairy // that covers most of my calories. Some of the items have their own ingredients but you get my drift. I can live off a simple list of items that I can easily remember. I spend ZERO energy thinking about the food I buy, prepare or eat. Find what works, make it a habit, repeat.

When I decided to simplify, I felt pain each time I had to let go of something. A tactic I used to soothe the pain was to give myself treats as I downsized. I bought a new Garmin out of the proceeds from selling two pick-up trucks worth of sports equipment. 

Another tactic was to tell myself that I could always add back something that I removed. That’s a trick that I learned when I made a decision to leave private equity in my early 30s. I’ve often told myself that the worst that will happen is I get my old life back. Perhaps with less money, or status, (!) but you’ll be able to get back there if you change slowly, with compassion.

I’ve been using the 50% tactic throughout my life. Earlier this year, I wrote about my desire to take a sabbatical. However, in looking deeply, I realized that getting away from everything wasn’t my true driver.

I looked at my life, specifically where I spend my time; as writer, father, husband, coach, athlete, competitor, business owner, gardener, home owner, garbage mover, driver, plant watering specialist, light bulb changer, cat poop scooper…

Similar to my clothes and athletic equipment, I was attached to where I was spending my time – I even enjoyed litterbox duty. However, I wanted to create space so I needed to free up time.

While not easy, the following changes are simple to execute:

A – reduce your stuff by 50%, wait two months, repeat

B – create a time log for your workweek and eliminate the bottom 50% of your hours when sorted on financial return – focus on your best opportunities and eliminate work situations that are an emotional drain

C – live in a place that is 50% smaller – gardening, trash, light bulbs, compost — even if you keep doing everything, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much time you save when everything is compressed

D – move to a location that reduces your weekly drive time by 50% – I moved 1.7 miles and added 100 hours (!) to my year

E – figure out three things you want to prioritize – get in the habit of saying no to everything else

F – wake up one hour earlier, don’t check email, spend 15 minutes of quiet time then do one household chore

So those are my six changes in the first six months of 2012. 

It’s not all about “less.” What I’m seeking to achieve is getting out in the world, more often, with the people I love.

The hardest part is the first step. 

Take one good idea and do it now.