Fifty Fifty

When I catch myself feeling entitled to anything, I remind myself of a favorite quote:

Why spend your life gathering possessions so that you can be treated like an invalid?

It takes deep self-confidence to resist the trap of replacing self-love with being served by others, or gathering possessions. The West is known as a consumer society, with endless association between ownership and happiness via the media. On the other hand, having lived in Asia, relying on cheap labor for personal happiness (or corporate profits) can be equally dangerous.

Simplicity and self-sufficiency work for me. However, managing a house with three young kids, I’ve found myself relying more and more on outside assistance to create space in my life. I tell myself that it is a temporary situation; time will tell if that is true.


Many couples have a desire for relationships to be 50:50, right down the middle, a true partnership… I would recommend caution with elevating fairness in a relationship, it’s going to be there without making it a stated goal. 

Far better, is to have a goal of supporting your family members to achieve their own definition of personal happiness. This avoids common pitfalls of ensuring fairness.

#1 is counting – if you’re seeking to ensure 50:50 living then you need to keep score, a lot. Rather than splitting things down the middle, we seek to create a routine and let each of us specialize in what is required to run the family. Routine and specialization. This eliminates frequent negotiation and counting – both add little value and drain productivity.

#2 is control – if I’m going to keep track of everything you do (to ensure fairness) then I’m going to have to keep an eye on you! Another waste of time and you’re setting yourself up for disaster if kids arrive. When children arrive, you’re likely to find that your optimal solution is to reduce the time that you’re together. 

For example, the fatigue I feel from our four year old is not reduced when my wife and I spend time with her together. In fact, it is increased (!) because I’m watching fatigue flow into my wife.

In a healthy relationship much of what your partner does will be hidden from view. So an equitable relationship implies both parties constantly doing (what appears to be) more than their fair share. 

I remind myself that if things appear balanced then I need to do more. 

If things appear comfortable then I need to do WAY more!


Not Normal

Whatever your thoughts on Lance, you’d have to be quite a hater to miss the fact that he has a great sense of humor. An example from Tyler’s book being his use of “not normal” to describe the performances of his competition. 

One of the sad things about losing confidence in a situation is the filter that it places over the actions, and performances, of individuals. Lance says “not normal.” My favorite observation is “improved nutrition.”

Since reading Tyler’s book, I’ve been chuckling to myself as a lot of “not normal” incidents come back to me. It can take take an established pro years to get their nutrition “just right.” It’s healthier to laugh than to get bitter or angry!

In private, I’m often asked to name names when the topic of doping comes up. I’m very reluctant to do so. Across many years of hanging with triathletes and cyclists, I’ve only had two buddies admit to doping (but plenty that point the finger, usually at foreigners). That said, I have a good strategic mind and have been putting the pieces together.

What does a very sad situation in cycling tell us about the structure of a corrupt society? What’s “not normal” in triathlon, or any sport we love? Jot a few names down beside each of these bullets then connect the dots…

  • Athletes that test positive
  • Athletes that trained with teams that had a culture of doping
  • Athletes based close to centers of doping
  • Performances that defy human physiology
  • Cheat on their significant others and break business contracts
  • Cut courses
  • Lie about their backgrounds
  • Doctors and coaches with criminal convictions
  • Sudden, and large, performance jumps when previously well trained
  • Train abroad, far away from doping controls

For the group above, expand to include:

  • Closest training partners
  • Spouses and significant others
  • Athletes that dominated the people you think cheated

I don’t name names because the list above includes most my friends, some of my coaches and myself. The tough thing about losing confidence is my entire reality of elite sport crumbles. For my wife, Vino’s (of Astana) positive was her vomit moment. My vomit moments have hit far closer to home.

For the exercise physiology alone, at what level should we pitch our definition of normal? Pre-EPO (80s)? Pre-anabolics (70s)? Pre-amphetamines (60s)? Cyclists were blood doping at the 1984 Olympics, why wouldn’t triathletes? It’s too complicated so I opt out.

Tyler’s book gives a clear example of what happens when everybody loses confidence in their peers – you can’t have a good day without people thinking you’re a cheat. Corruption sucks the enjoyment out of life.

This brings me to the central truth about personal ethics… …if you are straight then you are the only person that will ever know. Do your work, stand back and be satisfied with your best. 

It is difficult, and unhealthy, to go through life thinking that everyone’s screwing you. Far easier to trust folks and avoid corrupt societies. This isn’t about a teenager’s “right” to be an elite athlete – we will each have to make the call in our own lives – at work, with friends, in our marriages and with our kids.

Most people choose to remain silent.

Lexi At Four

Last year I posted my daughter’s birthday card. Here’s what I’m telling her this year…

Happy Birthday Sweetie,

At four you are full of energy and untamed.

I hope you keep your excitement as you grow up. When I find myself tired, and spending time with you, I remind myself that enthusiasm is a special quality. Keep your passion for living!

Remember to breathe when you feel anger or hate. Take two breaths and fill your body with love. Love is like a seed – water that seed and you will grow into a beautiful person.

You are a very special girl and we love you very much.

Be gentle with the world.




I hope you’re able to make time to love someone this coming week.


Portfolio Theory

One of the challenges with managing investments is filtering opportuites that present themselves. To make decision making easier, I’ve created a series of filters. I’ll share them and explain a little about each.

Thinking through your own filters can help you avoid mistakes. The deals that end up sucking time, for little return, nearly always fall outside these parameters.

Simple – if something is complicated to manage, or understand, then I don’t bother. This means that I “miss out” on emerging industries and don’t look at technology investments. I acknowledge that the only way I would make money via complexity would be luck, so I skip.

Low cost to hold – holding costly investments hurts, and can force you to sell at poor times.

Focused on long term capital gain – a long horizon reduces the urge to try to make a quick buck by buying things that are cheap. I ask myself, “Where is this investment likely to be in 25 years?”

Liquid in event of capital being required – I’m careful with putting capital into a situation where I might not be able to get it out (at any price).

Tax effective – part of the reason I like residential property is the ability to write off the value of the house against current income. There is a segment of my portfolio that I never expect to sell and the capital gain will “reset” on my death.

If it won’t make a difference then wait – I’m often tempted to make small investments and tinker. History tells me that it’s better to wait and invest only when the fundamentals are extremely compelling.

For advisors that recommend that you to deviate from your principals, consider their financial incentives.


Conspiracy Theories

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about financial karma. In my athletic life, I have been watching another example of karma – the exposure of an entire generation of athletic fraud. It’s a classic human drama and extremely painful to the millions that placed their happiness in the hands of sporting heroes.

When I lived in Asia, the staff at the office used to find my tendency to think the best of people to be quaint, and extremely naive. Despite chuckling at me, it was seen as a positive quality by my boss and peers.

The meltdown in cycling got me thinking about the different conspiracies I’ve experienced in my life:

  • Sexual Abuse of Children and Minors
  • Infidentily
  • Fraudulent Transfer
  • Larceny
  • Perjury
  • False Academic Credentials
  • Athletic Fraud (doping, course cutting)
  • Wilful Misrepresentation

That’s a pretty big list for simple guy from Vancouver.

As you’re pulling down the cycling posters on your garage wall, know that I feel your pain. I came to a similar conclusion about my own sport (triathlon) years ago. It really sucked for a couple weeks but I came out of it. You’ll come out of it.

Despite experiencing a laundry list of conspiracies, I continue to believe that trusting people is the best policy. However, I have certain rules of thumb that I apply in personal and business dealings.

First up, people generally focus on the financial risks of fraud. The true suffering is emotional and the true cost is lost time. So my tips are designed to minimize wasted time and limit the suffering when life disappoints.

There’s never just one cockroach – fraud runs in patterns, over time and in peer groups.

Force yourself to take references and listen to what people are telling you. People never want to give bad news, especially to strangers.

Check resumes – criminal and credit checks are far cheaper than what a crooked relationship will cost you. I’ve come across a surprising number of successful people that fake their credentials.

Follow the money – if you have concerns then audit the cash. A clear audit policy is a very positive incentive to the key people in your life.

Use the “death” penalty – remember that people rarely act alone, when you come across a serious violation of your personal ethics then clear out the entire group of peers. In business this can mean firing the entire management team. In my personal life, it’s more common to remove yourself from the peer group.

The points may sound draconian. To the above, I’d add forgiveness. Forgive people when things don’t work out – holding a grudge extends your suffering and costs you additional time, that you will never get back.

When you’re in the midst of the fraud, write everything down. We do a poor job of remembering when stressed. I started a habit of writing “file notes” when I was 20 years old and they have proven highly valuable.

While people change, the personality traits that cause people to make a habit of the easy way are tough to overcome. One of the reasons I write things down is because I’m always tempted to bring people back into my life after a few years have passed. Forgiveness is different than having someone in your inner circle.

In the uncertain world of human relationships, remember that past decisions are the most reliable indicator of future choices.

Be your own hero.