Elder, Mentor, Adviser

foxy_ladyMy youth, my 20s and my 30s were characterized by a lack of charm.

Fortunately, I had some habits that smoothed the waves I left in my wake!

What habits smooth relationships?

  • I’m on time
  • I do what’s asked of me
  • When I can’t do something I tell you
  • I express myself clearly

If we invert those points then we arrive at a list that will ensure you move away from success…

Chronically late, inability to complete simple tasks, no/slow replies and indirect communication.


About clear communication… it takes trust to have the courage to speak clearly and directly.

It also takes emotional depth to be able to receive honest feedback.

Two things that I’m working on here:

  • Be conscious of my effect on the world
  • Stop when I am triggered and search inwards, rather than attack outwards


I was chatting with a member of my family council about the best fiduciary we know.

What makes our friend outstanding?

It’s not his capacity to execute, his technical knowledge or his connections => all of these are excellent.

He has three characteristics that are rare to find in a highly competent individual:

  1. The ability to sit, listen and observe
  2. The capacity to entertain points of view that are outside his preference and training
  3. A willingness to inconvenience himself to do the right thing.


I’ll share with you that my idea of active listening is forcing my mouth shut while I struggle to hold a list of “to do” items in my head. When a gap appears in the conversation, these pour out of me.

Like me, you might be prone to the mistaken belief that you have to fix every thing you touch.

My friend, a world-class non-executive director, is effective by listening, considering alternatives and being open to small acts of assistance.

Beyond Positive Addiction

rainbowPopular culture is filled with inspirational stories about people leaving the darkness of negative habits by shifting towards a positive addiction.

If you make the change, and awaken the giant within, then you may find a huge source of energy.

With this burst of energy, you will start to attract people as well as “what you think you need.”

This isn’t wishy-washy philosophy. It’s how the world works – positive results flow from positive actions.

Consider a charismatic leader, especially those with a dark backstory, and note their ability to attract what they want.

Students, wealthy clients, groupies, money, notoriety… all of these flowed (on a small scale, thankfully) as I tapped into my positive addictions.

At this point, there is a trap waiting for us.

The trap is thinking that embracing a positive addiction is The Way.

A more accurate description is embracing a positive addiction can be an effective way to shift self-destructive habits.

But what next?

If we’re not careful then we might become a guru of positive addiction!

Which might work, until it doesn’t work.

When life starts to fray, our addiction will remind us that we run the risk of returning to our old life. It might say… you must continue along the path of positive addiction or you’ll slide back towards obesity, sloth and alcoholism!

After 20 years of better choices, I’m starting to realize that my fears don’t fit the facts.

What to do?

Continue the path of self-improvement by releasing the grip of my positive addictions:

  • Competition
  • Vanity
  • Greed
  • External Validation
  • Emotional Pain

Allow myself to consider the alternative of gently letting go of habits that don’t seem to be working any more.

When more ceases to work, consider trying less.

Becoming Mommy

Inbox HellWhen your inbox starts to look like this week’s picture, you might wonder if there’s a better way to serve your family.

Having made a shift away from the corporate world, I thought that I’d share what you can expect.

Manage Your Expectations – give yourself 1,000 days to get the hang of your new role. Today, my daughter calls me her Second Mommy but we didn’t always have that sort of relationship.

Don’t Expect A Thank You or a Favorable Performance Review – in the corporate world I loved tests, projects and feedback. They were objective measurements of how great I was doing. You won’t be getting any of that kind of feedback from your preschoolers. Measure success via hugs and I-love-you’s.

Learn To Support Your Spouse & Others – you’re going to need a lot of support. Get support by letting your helpers know that they are essential and appreciated.

Here are some lead ins…

  • Thank you for XXXX, you really made a difference.
  • I think you did a great job when XXXX.

If you are working parent then make a habit of using the above, frequently, with your spouse.

Schedule Your Self Care – the equivalent in the corporate world is “there’s always a good reason to skip a vacation.” If you struggled to unplug at the office then be wary of thinking that every action of your child is your domain. Schedule your self-care in your diary => I’m ruthless with sleep, exercise, date nights and alone time in silence.

Keep More Help Than You Think You Need – from six months BEFORE our first child was born, I have been pushing my spouse for additional childcare. She’s resisted me every step of the way. Even if you think you don’t need help, your spouse needs support. Childcare supports a healthy long-term marriage. This is an area where women can do a better job of supporting each other. It’s OK for a mother to ask for help with her children.

Engage Your Mind – I need to engage my intellect (in something other than preschooler conflict avoidance). My method is reading and the challenge of trying to write a world-class blog. What’s your strategy?

When I explain my life to people, they often say, “I could never do that.” Mainly because their children trigger anger and unresolved personal trauma. Own your fears and face your difficulties. Overcoming personal challenges is what creates a life with meaning.

Stick with it.

Don’t retaliate.

Too Kind Too Generous

ax_and_bellaHow do you deal with someone telling you that you’re too kind or too generous?

What if the person telling you is your inner voice?!

I wasn’t sure how to handle, so I went for a bike ride to consider my alternatives.

Riding along, I laughed when I realized that people never tell me that I’m too kind to them, only too kind to others.

A little later, I laughed again when I realized that I seem to have everyone fooled. My too-kind-too-generous strategy is solely in my self interest.

So, rather than get grumpy. A better reaction is to share that…

You are a good person.

Remember that my capacity to help another person isn’t limited to them. It’s how I treat you.


I looked a little deeper and considered the times where I felt that life was giving someone else too much of a good thing.

These feelings are related to the difficulty that I can have with other people’s success and happiness.

I realized my criticism was flowing from a fear that there wasn’t enough for me.


I’ll end with a song that my son learned when he was two-years old.

The song is called Magic Penny and this is my favorite part…

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any. 
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

My children are excellent teachers.

Wealth Habits – Aspirational Spending

bunny_gGrowing up the following fell somewhere between normal and aspirational:

  • Private education from Pre-K through Graduate School
  • Winter ski vacations
  • Summers spent at a waterfront cottage
  • International trips to tropical and European destinations
  • Two family cars, bought new, every five years
  • A walk-in closet filled with wonderful clothes and shoes
  • A garage packed with the finest sports equipment

Depending on where you live, you are signing up for $3,000,000 to $20,000,000 of aspirational spending.

…and you haven’t bought a bag of groceries!

Is there another way?

Save half of your after-tax income until you have ten years living expenses banked.

Then cut your living expenses and work part-time, so you can…

  • Spend thousands of hours with each of your kids before they graduate high school
  • Live where you don’t need to leave
  • Encourage your family to actively participate inside your community, and outside your demographic
  • Cultivate inexpensive passions (mine are reading, writing, forest walking and cycling)
  • Share simple, local experiences with your spouse (love, holding hands, serenity)

Time & health.

True wealth.

True luxury.

My Five Best Friends

mountain_axIf you ask me what being a father is like then I might share that it is often horrible.

However, if you ask me to describe my life then I would assure you that it is wonderful.

I might follow this realization by making an attribution error of…

  1. horrible = kids
  2. wonderful = myself

I don’t think that I’m the only one making this mistake.

What’s actually happening inside my head when I’m feeling “horrible?”

Horrible doesn’t happen until I’m stretched and decide to label my fatigue.

If I am rested then parenting is fatiguing. I become tired by the effort required to improve myself.

Perhaps, I am creating habits that make the not-horrible aspects of my life wonderful?

I’m not sure, we all love a good story and I might be fooling myself.

For the last five years, I have been working on:

  • De-escalation
  • Yield Whenever Possible
  • Not-response
  • Redirection
  • Say What You Want To Have Happen

Other than the last point, parenting hasn’t come naturally to me. Taking stock, I ask myself…

  • Which emotional states did I reinforce today?
  • How do the people that are close to me make me feel?
  • Who is creating these feelings?

Change and Couples

balloon_hatI was riding with a buddy and he shared…

I’ve been the same guy since she married me. I don’t understand why she keeps expecting me to change.

I had no idea about my pal’s marriage so I shared my opinion of our relationship…

Well, you’re a good guy and I’m grateful for everything that you’ve taught me.

Later, I realized that I’ve been on both sides of the conversation many times.

The thoughts, of the husband AND the wife, happen so often they are a habit of mine.

My habit isn’t useful.

Here’s what I’ve learned about personal change.

When I’m resisting a person that knows me well, it is because there is a conflict between (a) the truth of what they are saying; and (b) what I think will make me happy.

An example from my past was a belief that a life of constant exercise and extreme nutrition would make me happy. This was true, until it wasn’t. When it wasn’t true any more, somebody pointing out that my family might benefit from an engaged father, more than a top athlete, could have triggered resistance in me.

An even more simple example would be if my wife pointed out that eating Pad Thai and drinking beer, didn’t appear to make me happier than eating salad and drinking tea!

In the above two examples, I figured things out for myself but there must be other areas where I continue to fool myself.

I pay attention because there is no trigger without truth.


Now, the other side of the conversation.

Placing my personal happiness in another person’s capacity to change is foolish.

First, because what I think changes from moment-to-moment!

Second, because when I pay attention to what causes true happiness within me… it has nothing to do with “you changing”, and everything to do with my own choices.

Easy to say, tough to realize.

The way I figured out the above, was to make my desires real by playing “I’ll be happy when…

  • Write down everything that will make me happy (once and for all) 🙂
  • Compare my happy-list to what’s happening when I’m really happy
  • Realize that I am constantly fooling myself

Teach my folly.


An Easy $1,500

What is it about our cable bill that arouses such anger?

In my case, it’s paying money for someone to pump fear, anger and violence into my wife and children.

I’ve been working since 2008 to cut the cord. However, my wife made an excellent point that the kids programs are useful.

Seven years later, I came up with a strategy that will save me $1,500 over the next year.

Here’s what I did:

  • Buy a Roku box
  • Unplug my cable box, plug in my roku
  • Set up amazon direct and netflix
  • Netflix – we went for the two streaming plan so we can use an iPad as well as the Roku
  • Run the above in parallel with cable for a month to prove concept to my wife
  • Head down to Best Buy and get a basic cable modem
  • Call up my cable company to activate my owned-modem
  • Return all my hardware and change my account to broadband only

Time investment 90 minutes.

One year net savings $1,500.

If you are married to an athlete then make the shift in a non-Olympic year during the off-season of her favorite sport.

I play a long game!


Lessons From My Divorce

2015-03-31 10.04.40The speed that people bring hate to a divorcing couple is surprising. It comes quickly and unexpectedly.

Having been through a divorce, I want you to know that the hate isn’t useful.

Getting divorced sucks, for everyone.

It’s worth remembering that nobody is enjoying the process, not even your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.

Your wise friends, knowing that nobody is having fun, will help you remove hate from the situation.

They will do this by listening, without knowing the answer.

They will encourage you to settle your differences with compassion for each other, and the rest of the community.

As for the hate…

When I find myself hating, it is a sign that my own actions are inconsistent my values. Hate is a sign that I need to make a change within my own life.

As for the divorcee…

It’s going to take years for the dust to settle.

After 1,000 days or so, you’ll be able to start the process of understanding the small ways that you might have contributed just-a-little-bit to the divorce.

Once you can see an area for improvement, start there.

Gradual self-improvement will lead you to a wonderful life.

Mommy Fatigue

As a triathlon coach, I warned my athletes about the risks of dumb-ass fatigue. I would encourage them to get tired the right way and eliminate habits of pointless fatigue.

Recently, I was at my son’s school for community night. Given that it would be rude to say “dumb-ass” in a room filled with preschool parents, I needed to tailor my language for the audience.

The fatigue in mothers appears deeper than what I experience as a father.

Mommy fatigue reminds me of man flu, which is something that must be experienced to be believed.

I believe you and I wanted to help the community.

So I asked a question…

Do I perform better when I am exhausted?

I shared my experience…

The most fatiguing period of my adult life was spending 1,000 days constantly carrying around the problems of fatherhood. I thought about my problems 24/7 and it was exhausting.

I offered an antidote…

It was impossible for me to transcend my thought habits.

It has proven to be far easier to replace my habits with something useful.

When you find yourself fixated on your problems, pull out your Facebook feed and meditate on pictures that make you feel happy.

Close your eyes and breathe in that happiness.

When your problems reappear, close your eyes for a moment and breathe some happiness into them.

I shared my fatherhood goals…

I realized that aiming for perfection was making me miserable.

My kids don’t need perfection from me.

How should I define achievable success?

Don’t retaliate.

Stick with it.

Aim low, keep improving and we will end up better than we ever expected.