A Family Web

One of the great things about having friends that are older than me is the ability to access their experience. The things that bring me satisfaction in my 20s, 30s and 40s are similar but not identical. I’m not great at predicting what I’ll value in ten years time and need to be cautious with major decisions.

I’ve never had strong attachment to geography, or possessions. Earlier this year, I created a plan to move my family from Colorado to California. I started with the numbers… primarily a budget and a real estate search. The numbers showed a significant increase in my cost of living. Given that I wasn’t cash flow positive at the time, I made the decision to downsize, then reassess.

As part of my review, I considered the people in my life. A common “problem” of old age is loneliness and constantly hopping around the world makes it tougher to establish roots. Given that we have three kids, a strategic goal for my 50s is to create a life where my kids will visit, at least occassionally.

So I drew a picture – I’ve generalized into categories for this article. My original chart started with the people who are important to me and the people with whom I spend a lot of time. It took me a couple of iterations to get to what you see below.


I’ll chat you through the key parts of the wheel:

Spouse – my wife is “me” both legally and practically. That’s how we’ve set up our marriage and how I manage my life. Full disclosure and unity exposes us to risk but greatly increases our likelihood of success. Also makes it easy for me to explain my relationship, “just assume we’re, effectively, the same person.”

Kids – I’ve changed my life to spend a ton of time with my kids. With preschoolers, and spouses, I’ve found that near daily involvement works best. That said, we schedule breaks from each other. It’s always tempting not to take a break.

Friends & Mentors – I ask myself, “Who are the people that I’d travel to visit?” Even for people in your hometown, this is a good test of how much you value the relationship. If you don’t care enough to travel then you probably don’t care. Most my friends are mentors, helping me improve an aspect of my life. 

Key Family – same test as Friends & Mentors – if I won’t travel then they aren’t key.

Secondary Family – even if people aren’t key to me, they might be key for educating my kids, important to my wife or essential for the overall strength of my family. It is worth making an effort to maintain a relationship with these people.

Career / Work / Education – how do I fully utilize my skills and create a life with meaning outside of my friends and family?

Family & Business Support – I run a number of functions within my family and work life. Who are the key people that help me achieve my family and business goals?

Succession Plan – Who replaces me if I die suddenly? In thinking about the sudden death role, I consider: acceptable to spouse and family; independence; known to spouse for a long time; family connections between generations; and alignment with family values. If I live a long life then it’s up to my wife and me to guide the education of our kids (an important legacy that we will leave behind).

Community – this is an area where most of my friends have deeper ties. I suspect that community roots will become more important as I age. My strongest community is virtual yet my older pals value their face-to-face community most highly.

Once I had all the names down on paper, I wrote everyone’s country and state beside their name. As an international man of mystery, it surprised me that 90% of my spokes were Colorado-based. Most of the out-of-state connections were likely to move over a ten-year time horizon. Further, many of my non-Boulder buddies tell me that they are likely to move within five years. 

I’ve made a similar chart for places (rather than people) in my hometown. I like my life to have a high walkability index with easy access to childcare, schools, groceries, coffee, restaurants, weight training and bike routes.

This was a surprisingly useful tool to explain my life to the key people in my web. Within a family, it is surprising how little we know about the other members.

In private, I asked myself if my actual time allocation matched my life’s priorities, and those of my family. I’m laying out my next 12 months and my chart helped me set priorities.

Take time to consider who’s truly important.