Night and Day

Yesterday afternoon, my wife commented that the difference in my personality from April to September is night-and-day. Success!

What changed? I’ve worked with hundreds of athletic parents and the conversation is nearly always about seeking to fit more in their lives. My answer has been a devotion to less. 

I touched on aspects of my changes back in July. Cutting social networks and sitting quietly for ten minutes a day are changes are available to everyone, immediately, and cost you ZERO net time. Frankly, when you factor in all the time we waste processing social clutter in our minds, you can put hundreds of hours into your year by dumping Facebook alone.

Most people won’t be able to pull off what follows – my friends in their 60s and 70s understand my choices more than my pals in their 20s. I’m not recommending this path – just sharing what was required for me to achieve peace of mind in a house packed with young children.

The month before, and after, my move were emotionally tough. However, three months in, the family prefers the smaller, more convenient location. We’re in a rental and have been discussing where we’d like to live after we sell our old place.

But the benefit of the move isn’t in the house, or the street. The move enabled me to change the way I live.

  • Three days a week, I jog a mile to my daughter’s school (she rides), we play a bit then I either walk home, or continue my run.
  • I can walk to meetings and social events in downtown Boulder – I try to arrive 15 minutes early so I can walk slowly and relax.
  • I take at least one kid for a walk every night.

So I’ve inserted eight walks per week of about 15 minutes duration. I’ve read about walking meditation and that’s not what I’m doing. The main benefit is being unplugged.

Unless I’m going to a business meeting, I walk without phone, watch or time pressure. Previously, I would drive everywhere because my day was crammed with things-I-had-to-get done. I now have less to do because:

  • I released myself from the self-imposed pressure to perform athletics a high level.
  • I accepted the possibility of a permanent reduction in my financial standard of living.

It is surprisingly difficult to train and work less. Looking deeply into my life, I saw my external successes as illusions. Still, it’s difficult to leave them behind.

The key illusions are my drive to do more and spend more time on generating external validation of my passions. Far better to do well and focus on repeating what gives satisfaction.

There is a disconnect between what I think will make me happy and what actually happens on the days when I am most peaceful. So across the summer I took notes on my good days and realized that life-is-better-when:

  • I’m fit
  • I write
  • I’m underscheduled
  • I spend time (individually) with my wife and kids
  • I have a cold room to sleep in and get the rest I need

In August, my wife asked me how much I spent per annum as an elite athlete – a deeply-satisfying period of my life with immense personal freedom. I thought about it and my core expenses were $50,000 per annum.

I compared my core expenses (me alone, not with three kids) to my net worth and earning capacity. I came to the conclusion that my good days were indicating that I’d be happier living in a trailer park (with great air conditioning) than beating myself up to provide for a life that has nothing to do with what makes me happy.

It’s about this time that I started talking about living in a double-wide and having a fulltime nanny. My wife never understood what that was about – now she knows.

Over the past year, I took a gamble that if I made myself happy, I would be able to transform myself into a world-class parent and husband. In becoming a better man, I would surround myself with love and that would compensate for the reduction in external living standards.

When life is good, ask why.