Time To Think

When my kids are lit up in the house, I have trouble hearing – thinking is impossible.

Recently, I presented ideas on how to manage a small consulting practice – the talk was about the ‘business of coaching’ and it centered on tips for managing one’s self. A key concept from the talk was to “choose one good idea and do it on Monday.” While I hope the audience was able to find something useful in the talk, I bet that the implementation rate was less than 10%. 

In my life, when I want to think strategically, I remove everything. In my 30s, my job required extensive travel so air travel was my chance to pause, and think. With kids, and a reduced travel schedule, I have to be strict with myself to create unstructured time.

In our marriage, we schedule couple’s retreats to give ourselves time to pause and think about the family’s direction. In my personal life, my cycling (alone, relaxed pace, no music, no phone) gives me blocks of undisturbed time. In Colorado, I ride low-traffic rural routes so I don’t need to be alert to traffic all the time.

To create the space to think in 2012, I did the following:

  • Reduced my consulting workload by 80%
  • Hired the equivalent of two full-time domestic employees
  • Halved the time I spent training
  • Doubled the time my daughter spent at school

This enabled me to see the areas of greatest value-addition for my family:

  • Quadruple the time I spent with my kids
  • Help maintain my wife’s sanity
  • Write 100 articles – writing is the only way we can live beyond our deaths
  • Triple my days spent visiting with key family

The above are big wins for my family, but fall outside of typical Boulder success metrics:

  • family finances
  • personal beauty
  • athletic glory
  • consumption tweeted or posted to Facebook

I’ve been trained to make money and seek consumption – those habits are reinforced by everything around me. The only place I’m safe is riding my bike in the forest and, frankly, I’d like to upgrade my bike!

In 2008, we changed because I lost my job. This time, the family changed before a crisis arrived. Thinking back a year, I remember my wife commenting that we should wait until we “had” to move (somewhere between 5 years and never).

I had a hunch that the changes would take the family to a better place.

Time will tell.

Failure To Anticipate

One of my decision making games is to think about what I missed over the last year, and ten years.

Failure to Anticipate


Interest rates


Enjoy spending time with young kids


How much stress I was generating via noise and being focused on personal productivity rather than the larger goals of my family. Had this early in my career when I changed investment teams.


The breadth of corruption and complicity at the top of elite sport.

Not Feeding My Habit

I was thinking about calling this piece Take Back Your Mind but I didn’t notice that I’d lost control of mine until after I made certain changes. Even then, I have less emotional control than I think. Most of my inner life runs on autopilot.


The decision to avoid anonymous chat forums was relatively easy for me to make. The tone of the discussion was usually toxic and triggered negative emotions in me.


Listening to my internal chatter about Facebook was similar and I never liked the push nature of their email client. Why does a red number in a circle trigger such an urge to click through!


We like to think that we’re different but the click rates of sites like Facebook, People.Com, TMZ.com show us that drama is attractive. I tell myself that these sites don’t attract me but I’m more similar, than different, to my wife. The voyeur inside me isn’t that strong but I still have stories that I tell myself.


With the Internet, I tell myself that I have to stay plugged in because I need news for good decisions. It is essential to ‘stay informed’.


Another story I tell myself is that I have to connect via social networks to be successful in business and have friends.


Consider what you tell yourself.


What is the perceived payoff from constant connectivity?


Name one thing that would benefit your life, if you only had time.


I’ve been looking deeply at my Internet play book.


In October, I went the next step and paused triathlon sites as I was worn out by the willfully blind vs the hateful. In November, I added bicycling.com after Jens’ reasoned decision was one apologist too far for me. Three weeks later, I expanded to everything but The Onion. This leaves me getting my news via twitter trends and a daily news summary email. I’m

much better informed about Justin Beibler, which could be a good thing with two daughters…


When I’m tempted to plug in, I ask myself, what decisions do I need to make in 2013 and how best to stay informed?


Here they are:


What price to sell my old house – zillow

Leadville rent, buy or hotel – stay variable unless very compelling

Lex kindergarten early – either way likely ok

What preschool for Ax – google search and talk with my wife


None of the above has downside risk that could change my family’s life.


Move on hold until 48 – using short trips to sate the need to travel


Amazed at the amount of time on my hands by reducing my feeds. Just like when I stopped drinking.



Auto notify

Push messages esp email


While it is embarrassing to consider the amount of time I used to spend on nothing… I’m probably not alone.


Choose Wisely.


Need less sleep

Changed icon location and browser on iPhone


Making Good Calls

Five decisions that changed my life


Living in places of natural beauty


Consistent Saving


Do It, Do It Right or Don’t Bother


Partner with a kind woman who shares my sense of humor and creates a desire for self-improvement


Financial stability, personal achievement then children

Directed Focus

I had a business setback the other day that was my own fault. I put a property on the market, without double checking the existing lease terms. Two weeks after I listed the property for sale, the tenant moved out, without notice. Turns out they were on a month-to-month lease.

By the time, I fix the error, it will have cost me $2,400, a material sum. However, the pain that I’ve been feeling is completely out of whack with the dollar amount. It really hurts and I’ve been rehashing the issue over, and over, when I’m out riding my bike.

A mismatch between trigger points for pleasure, and pain, is something most of us share. You’ve probably experienced a similar thing. Something as small as a parking ticket, or unexpected utility bill, can set me off and I’m locked on an item appearing over, and over, in my mind.

To settle myself down, I ran through the changes in my portfolio that have happend over the last year. I’m very conservative with valuations and was able to find an unrealized gain worth 40-50x the loss I’d taken on my mistake. Focusing on that gain was an effective psychoogical antitdote. However, it’s unrealistic to expect that I’ll have a huge positive multiple for every negative thing that happens to me.

Turns out that I don’t need it – I’ve lost far, far greater sums and the pain side of the equation doesn’t scale linearly. Providing I maintain my core capital (URL), then there isn’t much of an increase at all. All financial loss (that I notice) feels about the same, regardless of magnitude.

So I try to…

Take all the pain at once

Protect myself from seeing pain that doesn’t matter

Lump my pain into a single dose and tell myself that it’s going to really, really suck

Under promise to everyone in my inner circle

This avoids an irrational cycle of regret, anger and sadness. 

Another useful technique has been to sit and look deeply into what went right over the last year. The arrival of my kids has been useful because I’ve been thinking about my family as a business and measuring our human capital.

So what went right?

Nobody died, or had a new major illess

We had a new arrival (Bella)

My son is absolutely fantastic – he’s so good that I’ve told my wife to remind me that I have given him a waiver from 2-4 years old

My daughter learned how to ride two wheels, started swim team and developed to the point where I respect her intelligence

My wife is fantastic

I had the opportunity to benchmark my life against multiple peers that have “everything” (and I mean everything)

No serious bike crashes

I rode the White Rim, Guanella Pass, Ironman Texas course and raced the Leadville Trail 100

I received an unexpected financial windfall

I have the ability to support my basic needs with multiple backup plans

I maintained freedom of location and occupation (with three kids in the house)

All of the above came to me in about two minutes, while sitting quietly one morning. Looking deeply, I realized that I would give everything I own, without thinking, to keep any one of the top five.

As all this poured into my awareness, I was struck by the fact that I completely missed much of the goodness of my life when I was an externally successful guy working in finance. The background noise of an executive lifestyle caused my automatic programming to override my ability to notice the goodness in my life.

This is very similar to my observation of the tranquility of my “good days” not being remembered (URL).

A very good return on investment from sitting down for ten minutes most mornings. 

The YTD investment has been about 40 hours of sitting quietly with a huge return on investment.


Secret Lives

This past year has been a tough one for confidence in my peers. Historically, I’ve had some form of ethical event about every five years. This year’s developments in cycling, and triathlon, have impacted me quite deeply.

My wife, thinks that I’ve been focusing on cycling but it’s the implications, from cycling and local ‘scandals’, that have been most difficult for me. What’s toughest for me is the second order effects, and implications, of discovering (yet again) secret lives.

However, it hasn’t been all bad. I’ve been able to kick another large chunk of my internet habit (online news).


If you read Charlie Munger then you’ll find excellent writing about the corrosive effects of creating incentives for people to lie. An individual tragedy happens from the rationalizations that we tell ourselves. Having a society that is filled with individuals with secret lives damages all of us. Similar to my approach to parenting, I prefer wide latitude for personal freedom with clear, and certain, punishments for crossing the line.

Secret lives come in many forms – drug use, alcoholism, theft, marital infidelity, disordered eating – I shared some tips on what to look for in two previous articles (URL and URL).

Coming out of the revelations in cycling, the best confession (for personal ethics) that I read was Floyd saying the he did it, it was fun and he’d probably do it again. Pretty much everybody else has fallen back on the “I had a dream” defense and/or “I was only following orders.” 

If you have a dream to sleep with my wife, or are told to steal from a business of mine, then I’d hope that you’d do yourself a favor and make a better choice.

Perhaps the Floyd approach is what they’re telling each other behind closed doors – it’s better in the long run.

In Boulder, I take comfort that the doping cheats have, to date, mostly left town. Our athletic society is highly intolerant of doping cheats. However, we’re surprisingly lax about other forms of cheating that have a much greater impact on families. I wonder if the doping-haters would be as venomous if they knew the breadth of the moral abiguity present in elite sport. Perhaps they’d share my 2012 crisis of confidence.

Reading the USADA report was interesting but I didn’t have the direct personal connection that’s shared by some of my pals. However, with the passage of time, the second-, and third-, degree connections became apparent to me. Laying those connections over my previous thoughts on triathlon, left me feeling sad.

Would helping you connect the dots increase, or decrease, suffering? I’m mulling that over. Suffice to say, the public only knows a faction on what’s happening.

Anyhow, I have come up with an idea to be part of the solution with respect to the top level of elite sport and I’ll share that idea in early 2013 over at Endurance Corner (URL).


I’m straight, don’t smoke weed and limit my tablet use to a iron and B-vitamins. Not withstanding my ability to fit in, and succeed, under the existing rules, I think we’re doing ourselves a tremendous disservice by forcing many of our peers to lie in order to maintain appearances.

If we’re not willing to come down hard on people then best to lean towards tolerance.




Don’t force people underground

Corrosive effect on how they view themselves and the world.

Sexual preference, eating disorders, recreational drug use

What we see in doping – tolerate or make it criminal – doping leads to insurance fraud, sporting fraud (bought races) and tax evasion. Small decisions gradual lead people down the path of becoming “full gangster”.

The first marital indiscretion leading, ultimately, to a web of lies, disease and pain for many people – it all traces back to the first error in judgement.

Link Conspiracy article

Intolerance corrodes society

Eating disorders – victims of abuse


Aiming For Elite Parenting

Monica and I tell our friends that we are former elite athletes that are seeking to become elite parents. Life with three young kids is simple (do no harm), but fatiguing. The constant noise has a big impact on me:

  • reduced creativity
  • increased fatigue
  • impaired hearing
  • reduced capacity to focus

Providing I get my exercise, and daily quiet time, it doesn’t seem to mess up my overall life experience. It does, however, have a productivity cost on my “external” life. I’m already thinking about what I’ll do with myself when our youngest goes into elementary school. I’ll need to start a fifth career!

As a writer, morning is most most creative time. Thing is… with a new baby in the house, 7-10am is a valuable parenting time for me to assist. Add some exercise, a meal, clearing urgent requests… and my work life has been significantly compressed. Productivity becomes key and I’m grateful that I reduced my consulting workload in advance of the birth of our third.

On our hard days, I joke to Monica that it is scientifically proven that we won’t remember much of this phase of our lives. Already, we both have zero recall of the first six months of our eldest daughter’s life – just a few photos remain!

If you are feeling overwhelmed by preschoolers then remember that this is a temporary phase and you’re unlikely to remember much. Hang onto your health, your marriage and your personal sanity.

Here’s a tip for those of you with multiple youngsters in the house: every other weekend, I take our most energetic kid away for the weekend. This lets me teach her and gives my wife a ‘break’ with ‘only’ two kids. When I started doing this, I would be wrecked afterwards. However, I’m getting used to the routine and my recovery times have shortened.

Coping with change is a personal strength but change is never easy. A coping mechanism that I’ve been using is seeking to optimize for what is best for the entire family, rather than myself. More about that next week.