Freedom 2021


A big motivator in the finance world is the dream of earning “f-u money”.

The universal motivation for this goal is expressed in the Johnny Paycheck song, Take This Job and Shove It.

Trouble is, once you have a goal to tell people to Eff Off, you will never run out of targets for your ire.

You’ve created a habit that can’t be solved by money – and being consistently abrasive will drive good people from your life.


My friend, who changed my view on the UltraRich, demonstrated an alternative approach.

People think the benefit of wealth is f-u money. The benefit isn’t the ability to be rude with impunity. The benefit of financial independence is the opportunity to say no-thank-you to the ever-present drama around us

The goal, to opt out of BS, doesn’t require much money at all.

However, the first $125,000 I saved nudged me in a better direction, eventually, out of finance.

What my younger self found attractive (in wealth accumulation) was a pathway towards serenity. I feel very fortunate that I gave my younger self a chance to look around.

Serenity was found in nature, in connection and in exercise.

Do I want peace or drama?

Immunity and Disclosure

Closing Weekend 2021

A lesson I learned in Private Equity was:

Concession for concession

If I’m going to give something away then I should get something in return.


Because the public sector has different incentives than the private sector, it is possible for corporations to gain valuable concessions in exchange for not much in return.

Name an industry with corporate immunity for losses associated with their product.

The first one that usually comes to mind is guns. Here’s a link to a summary of the law – The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms.

In Colorado we have the Ski Safety Act (link to the law) that grants immunity to ski operators from the inherent risks of skiing. This act provides a huge incentive for resort operators to expand their Colorado operations. Colorado skiing is better because of this act, and I like to ski.


Backcountry Skiing

If you die in an avalanche in Colorado then the CAIC will do their very best to find out as much as possible about your death. They will publish their findings so the community can learn from the price you paid.

It’s a valuable public service, done on a limited budget ($1.6 million of public money in 2020). The accident reports give us a chance to make individual learning, collective. The reports also enable the public to make informed decisions about how they participate in backcountry skiing.

We have the accident investigation infrastructure, outside the resorts, and it doesn’t cost much. The $1.6 million of public money buys much more than accident investigation.


Investments in Public Safety

When I arrived in Boulder, the junction of North Broadway and Highway 36 was governed by a single stop sign. A cyclist turning left (on to to Hwy 36) needed to cross high speed traffic.

This intersection was the scene of fatal accidents and, eventually, the stop sign was replaced by a traffic light.

Before the light was put in, only the locals knew it was a dangerous location. The highway traffic comes around a corner and would catch unsuspecting cyclists while they tried to clip back into their pedals. I worked at a training camp where an out-of-state participant was killed at this intersection, when he turned back early from a group ride.

Colorado counties have the information they need to make informed investments in their road safety infrastructure.

With our in-bounds terrain, the counties and the public are largely skiing blind.


As a community, we’ve made a choice to accept the inherent risks of skiing.

I support this choice.

By taking personal responsibility for the risks of skiing, we save the ski operators tens of millions of dollars. A large multiple of the value of these savings is enjoyed by the owners of the resorts. The cost of better information would be a tiny fraction of gain in capital value

Improved disclosure, while preserving corporate immunity, would provide a positive incentive for the ski operators to improve their “dangerous intersections.”

Colorado can handle the truth


Here’s a link to the ski safety code – It is common sense stuff. The code fails to nudge skiers away from death and permanent injury.

From reading about fatal accidents, I learned some things I’ve passed to my kids:

  1. Trees kill
  2. Look where you want to go
  3. Hit things with your legs
  4. We don’t know why the rope is there
  5. Bar down

With better information, we can improve Colorado for those who follow us.

Let’s iterate towards better.

Developing Child Athletes

Watching their sister compete via Live Feed.

Our oldest (13 soon) started year round swim team at the end of last summer.


In Boulder, it’s not unusual for 8-10 year olds to be doing double workouts, and competing at a high level in multiple sports. We have some very well trained middle schoolers.

My approach is different => we want to leave room so performance will improve all the way from child to adult.

Leave the athlete somewhere to go => improve from 12 to 21 and beyond.

With a motivated kid, this means my role is holding back the pace of progression so the athlete has a better chance to reach their full potential and enjoy the benefits of lifelong exercise.


When To Go Year Round

When the kids were little, we didn’t specialize. Our younger kids still do a wide range of sport. The idea here is to develop a range of skills.

Racing is a skill.

While we didn’t ramp training load, all my kids have been racing fast since they were 5 yo. Summer swim league was the venue.

They love it and are building an invisible edge. Invisible to them but my lack of racing skills was obvious when I started competing as an adult…

  • Intensity tolerance
  • The ability to go way past reasonable, stay there, then go further

This spills into their endurance when it comes to learning capacity.

Summer swim league easily splits into three types of racing… where you’ll crush, about right, where you will be crushed (hopefully not too hard).

Early specialization has the field strength too strong, too early.


Parents

I’m a potted-plant parent and give very little feedback. It helps that I’m clueless when it comes to swimming really fast!

I make no effort to remember their times so I’m genuinely impressed every time they race.

You went so fast!

My main area of input is: (a) encouraging the kids to be nice to the new/slower/different people they come across; and (b) fielding off-the-wall questions about sex and human development. Our daughter is learning a lot (from being tossed in with older kids).

I also make sure we remember every athlete ends up back in the “real world” at the end of their career.


Boys & Men

We were fortunate to replace Uncle Andy with another male swim coach. Having male character models for my son does a lot for his motivation to attend.

JiuJitsu is coming back this week (male coaches) and his swim coach works part-time as a wilderness firefighter.

The cool factor matters to him, and me, when I think back to my own development.

What I Carry in the Backcountry

Three pounds that could make a difference

With the changing of the seasons, I like to remind myself what I’ve been carting around.



My “overnight” bag

  • Huge, thick trash bag
  • Shell overmitts
  • Two-person emergency bag
  • Three different ways to start a fire – I’ve used my stove to light a fire during an unexpected night out. My stove was the difference between a wet, miserable night and an interesting adventure.
  • Lifestraw
  • Length of cord

Add enough clothes/layers to keep me, and my son, alive in the emergency bag for the night. This usually isn’t more than a back up shell, ultralight down pants, spare jacket and some booties.



My first aid kit:

  • General, backcountry first aid kit – scissors and moleskin are a great way to make new friends…
  • Hot packs for hands and feet – essential for doing anything with kids, always carry in my pocket when I ski
  • Tourniquet with my belt as back up – insurance against having someone bleed out in front of me. I also carry in my car and under my bike saddle.
  • Field dressing and elastic bandage
  • Water purification tablets (back up to the LifeStraw)
  • Pulse oximeter (batteries separate as they corrode if left in the unit)
  • Selection of meds including antihistamine & high dose aspirins – I carry albuterol at the top of my pack

I don’t carry an epipen in Colorado but do carry one when I’m near the ocean. I have a jellyfish allergy that sent me to hospital a few years back.

When I’m on snow, add a high-quality metal shovel.



Knife matched to what I’m going to be doing and the local wildlife. I have a SOG Seal Pup mounted upside down on my left backpack strap, the sheath lets me carry a multitool.

Gloves on, hands out of pockets => family policy as long as my kids can remember. I like leather sailing gloves on rock and mixed terrain.

When I’ll be out of cellphone range add InReach satellite communicator – always tracking me with 10-minute pings when I’m alone. Carried in the top pocket of my pack & backed up with a lanyard and quickdraw.

The InReach is an easy way to send messages home, regardless of location. I took a course from a heart-attack survivor who called in an evac on his unit. Small price to pay for the comfort it gives my family.

Zipped, exterior pockets – I like to wear mountain bike shorts, year round, as the pockets are great for quick access to my phone, which I use for navigation and photos.

This is the gear for when I don’t expect to stay out.

Changing Everything

This picture releases wonderful feelings. I collect favorite pictures of people with whom I want to be effective.

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?


As a young man, I thought the answer was having a million-dollar net worth.

I was wrong, five-years living expenses was the key point, ~$125,000 in the mid-1990s.

For 15 years, everything beyond that point merely generated lifestyle inflation.


Later, as an elite athlete, I spent five years acting as if the answer was “winning Ironman Canada.”

I was wrong, the choice was switching from mountaineering to triathlon.

September 1998 was the moment of change, or perhaps leaving my house for a walk in the fall of 1993.


1986 => I made a choice to study finance over law or medicine. This was key, and I spent 15 years learning about money.

The lesson here might be to assume, coming out of high school, you are going to work your tail off for ~15 years in whatever field you choose for your major in college. You might not, of course, but it’s a fair assumption.


1999 => I made a choice to exit my marriage and leave Asia.

Career, friends, life structure and geographic location – all different in the space of 18 months. I was working remotely as a financial consultant and learning how to become a triathlon coach.

It’s tempting to tell myself that remote work in an exotic location was useful. It was fun but it didn’t transform me.

Here’s what I got right – incidentally, it paraphrases advice given to me by a happily married woman after my divorce.

Marry someone who lives in a way, and comes from a background, you’d like to emulate.

My marriage contains different reflections of the same principle. The principle is how I choose friends, advisers and coaches.


Field of study, relationships, where I live, how I spend my time… all traditional areas for change.

The birth of our second kid was another key inflection point.

Fathers think our lives are changing with the birth of our first child, and they do, but they don’t REALLY change until the second one arrives and we’re faced with a choice in how we will support our wives and marriages.

My choice was to drop racing to free up time, and energy. It was a big change but it didn’t “change everything.” Roll forward a decade and my life feels similar to how I lived as an athlete, just less training volume and more housework!


For 30 years, I thought powerful changes could only be driven by major adjustments in my external life => Winning, Work, Wife, Wealth and Geographic Location.

Then the Pandemic arrived.

Very interesting!

The hard lockdown of Spring 2020 had me running home school, without tutors and with a lack of experience.

For the first time in my adult life, I was locked into a two-block radius of my home.

Most my discretionary time disappeared in a flash.

Eventually, I made a choice to do whatever was required so I could train before my kids woke up – my choice grew out of a decision to wake up before my kids.

Waking up before my kids was good, but I found I was simply scrolling Instagram and drinking coffee. Certainly, better than drinking beer in the evening (and scrolling) but it didn’t change my life.

The second step, exercising every morning before my kids wake up, proved transformative => self, spouse and kids => one year later we are all in a better place from the cascading impact of one choice. Through my writing the benefits of this change flow into the world.

I wanted to pass the observation along.

Why?

Because my ego taunts that I’m trapped in a never ending Groundhog Day of cleaning toilets, meal prep, dishes and laundry!

It’s easy to talk myself into a mild depression about the grind of fatherhood.

Not true!

Positive, significant, transformation remains possible…

…and I know there’s a lot to be achieved with my internal experience.

Quick Hits

I’m working on a post about Anxiety but it feels a bit preachy.

While it marinates in my sub-conscious, I’m going to blow out my notes folder.


I get my second vaccine shot tomorrow. The first had a very positive impact on my vibe.

J&J’s in the news for a 1-in-a-million risk of severe blood clotting. No doubt, we will get saturation coverage for the next couple days.

I’ll let the experts comment on the data. I want to share how I deal with risk.


The last two columns

  • Who should take a one-in-a-million risk?
  • What are my alternatives to what scares me?
  • What is the risk of a bad outcome from not taking this risk – ie what’s the risk from not choosing?
  • What are the real risks in my life that I’m taking, unawares?

The final point is a big one for me. It feels like I am reading about a male, aged 16-25, dying every week in Boulder County (pop. 326,000). Lots of car accidents.

Humans take a lot of risky shots, and avoid many sensible risks.

How am I fooling myself?

Most everything I pay attention to is a distraction from my main task of teaching my kids.


My daughter had a fabulous swim meet this past weekend. She then got home and proceeded to diva-it-up with regard to housework and making her lunch.

I get it, she was tired from racing like a maniac.

However, when she started to push back on anything other than lying down and staring at a screen… I was triggerrrrrrrrred!

Hey! You can be coming home from Olympic Trials. I don’t care. You’re still doing the vacuuming.

Here’s my philosophy… Training, and racing, are a treat. You need to earn the right for both. You earn the right by meeting your obligations to your family and your future self.

Collectively, this is a major failure with how we treat the beautiful, rich and speedy => not going to happen with my minor children, at least in my house.


Have you every caught yourself saying…

I don’t want to be that way.

I do, a lot. It was the source of the $100 challenge I gave my kids if they catch me yelling.

Well, underlying that thought is a habit of giving control to people and events outside of myself.

Of saying internally… “you’re making me be this way”

Of ignoring the true source of the way I am.

My choices, my habits and the incentives I give myself.


We’re moving off the State’s COVID dial this week. We don’t have a clear explanation of how we will move towards normal.

Here’s the chart I follow locally (risk)…


Via Boulder County COVID data – hospitalizations

And Nationally (ruin)…


Via washingtonpost.com

Our state budget is in great shape. I expected the opposite.

It is a tough time to be fiscally conservative.

Government is setting a lot of preferences in my city, state and country. I don’t mind, per se. I’m no better than government with regard to the future and I’m insulated from the impact of the downside.

I’m not writing about COVID restrictions – we’ve done a good job compared to the rest of the world => based on… what we knew at the time, and the constraints of how we set up our society.

What catches my eye is the massive amount of capital being allocated by all levels of government.

Always well-intentioned, often inefficient and an incentive for re-election, rather than long-term value.

The consequence of easy money is wasted funds and lower initiative.


I read an excellent book on Colorado Snow. It’s called Hunting Powder. Fun to read.

The author writes about being involved in close calls, body recoveries and making conservative choices in avalanche terrain.

This gives me an opening to remind you… when your downside is death, especially when you have kids, the conservative choice is to not take the risk.

Even if you don’t have kids… Gary, Henry, Andy and all the others we’ve lost to accidental death.

Every death resonates far beyond its immediate circle.

I feel the death of remote folks, every single day.

Stay.

It’s good for the collective and your future self will thank you.

Property 2021

My favorite real estate can’t be bought – Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area

Our local property market has popped 30% since the start of the pandemic.

I did not see that coming.

Here’s a key insight => my lack of foresight had no impact on my family => our success does not rely on directional bets.

We establish a good enough portfolio then focus on: (a) keeping our cost of living in line with our cash flow, (b) shared experiences and (c) staying the course.


A recent John Mauldin note reminded me of two components of real estate.

Shelter – a place to sleep, ideally in a great public school district (links to my post on supporting public education)

Investment – the potential for reliable cash flow and long term capital gain

To those I would add:

Signaling – an example from my own life. Before my wife was “my wife,” I bought a townhouse in Boulder. It showed her, I was committed to Boulder. It showed her family, I had the funds to take care of their sister/daughter.

Asthetics – worth between “a lot” and “nothing” depending on my stage of life. As I age, increasingly appreciated. I was 50 before I could relate to the concept of a $1,000,000 view.

Community – In my early 30s, I found myself in Christchurch, NZ. The community was an excellent fit for the life I wanted to live (sharing outdoor activities with friends, elite triathlon). The South Island of New Zealand has always felt “right” to me. On the other side of the equator, was Boulder, Colorado. There I found love and decided to establish my family.

I didn’t need to own real estate for love, community or family. some qualities work best when inverted.

Location inverted => The principle here might be don’t invest anywhere your spouse won’t live.

Asthetics inverted => Absent financial duress, locations you can buy cheap tend to stay cheap.

You can extend to secondary markets.

My family loves Vail.

Rather than buying a 40 yo condo for close to a decade’s worth of core living expenses… we allocated 2% of the capital and joined a world-class ski club.

My annual family ski budget, including club and rental housing, is about the same as what the old condo would cost to own. The principle => don’t capitalize luxury expenditure.

I made this decision because I’m not confident about my life 10 years from now – when I’ll be an empty nester.

In making a decision to “not buy” I have maintained: (a) a cheap option to change my mind in the future, (b) I’m still debt free, and (c) my capital is available to be used elsewhere.

About elsewhere… I am very confident that my children are going to be grateful that I kept the family invested in the Boulder real estate market. Hedge the risk your family will be priced out of the place your kids grew up.

Of course, this assumes you are living in a place you don’t want to leave. It’s not just your spouse you should pay attention to…


The above components can work against each other.

For example, signaling vs return on investment. I’ll give an example…


Trophy house was 55 bags of leaves. Current house 5 bags. Little things have a big emotional impact on me. I love low hassle ownership.

After we married, I bought a very large house, not far off the size of a small school. The bills, and constant yard work, took the fun out of ownership. Being a big shot turned out differently than I expected.

This experience nudged me into a principle, apply the minimum capital to achieve the goal and pay attention to the cost of ownership (money, emotion, time).

And that’s really the point I wanted to make.

In a hot market

  • Consider the need you are seeking to fill
  • Pay attention to the cost in time, emotion and ownership
  • Remember that capital is precious and leverage can trap you in situations where a renter can easily exit
  • If your time horizon is less than a decade then rent

All of this is easier to see when you’ve been through a few recessions. At the start of 2009, I promised myself to never opt-in to avoidable financial stress.

The tough part is building the capital and credit capacity to be able to buy.

Whatever you were seeking to achieve, you achieved it BEFORE you purchased.

Hope this helps.

Connection


Paul’s tweet gave me a nudge to dig a little deeper.


My relationship with my kids started before they were born.

It started with how I approach my marriage:

The “no secrets” policy can be inconvenient but it has big benefits.

#1 => it makes it difficult for creeps to enter my life.

#2 => it’s an effective technique to lower stress and anxiety – especially when combined with daily movement in nature.

This openness applies in all areas – phone, email, opinions.

Sitting in a car with a kid – we all do it.

Sitting in a car with a kid, and a culture of openness… that’s different.


Sharing a meal with a 4 yo at Boulder’s Walnut Cafe – “Dad, sorry to break it to you… you need to try a little harder.”

So there is the culture my kids were born into – openness and a willingness to hear uncomfortable truths.

Then, before there was much to talk about… we went on short 1-on-1 trips. I started this around the time of our oldest’s 3rd birthday.

There wasn’t a master strategy. I simply wanted to give my wife some relief. Later, I wanted to offer her a chance to get to know our younger kids (our oldest has had a strong personality from the get go).

The trips worked. Not just for kids, by the way – we do Couples Retreats and, as a young man in London, train trips with the partners were GOLD.

I like to connect in my best environment. Do you know yours? Mine is mountain forests.


Hauling a 4 yo up Colorado’s Independence Pass – iPad, pillow, water bottle, lunch box, favorite blanket

Some other forums that work:

  • Walking together
  • Driving home in the dark, after exercise
  • Somewhere disconnected – we did a five-day trip without screens/phones
  • Looking at a campfire
  • Floating on water

Phone in airplane mode, turn off the music, expect nothing to happen.

The moments of connection are a tiny piece of the actual time I spend with my family.

I need to be there, and I need to be open to whatever happens.


Wanting to lead from a position of integrity is a motivator. I’ve been setting up the teen years since our oldest turned 8.

It’s helped me make positive changes with regard to my relationship with alcohol, social media, email, bedside phones and anger.

The phrase, “you will need to decide what sort of life you want to lead” is far more powerful when my kids don’t need me to explain my choices in words.

The process of positive change isn’t a whole lot of fun but coaching a winning team is deeply satisfying.

Everybody wants to play for a winning team!


Parenting June 2013

The View From 52

This was the 4th take – I was trying to smile but, I guess, the pack was a touch heavy – Call me, “happy on the inside”

After a year of COVID-training, I’m in good overall shape. As a high-performance athlete, it would be time to ‘sharpen’ and race a bit. 

At 52, I chuckle at the thought of spending my summer tired and moody… while chasing external validation.

I’ve had enough winning in my life.

Instead, I’ve been asking…

What aspect of fitness might I miss at 60?

Stamina – capacity to tag along on outdoor trips with my grown kids

Strength – but go deeper and be specific!

  • Overhead capacity
  • On, and up from, the floor capacity
  • Eccentric load tolerance (downhill and soft surface loading)

Agility – the ability to move skillfully under light loads, and balance under heavy loads

Sex Drive – it’s more than sex, it’s overall hormonal status for recovery, mood and life experience

Looking at the above, none of what matters is easily measured.

That’s athletically.

It’s gets even more obvious when I step into my “real” life.


#1/. We overweight metrics that are easily measured

#2/. We combine these metrics with our most salient memories

#3/. Our most salient memories are the joys of youth and the recent past

Beauty, pace, VO2, VAM, race placing, net asset statement, followers, likes, segment timing… hang around long enough and all will decline.

What I’m trying to say…

The stuff I can measure doesn’t have much to do with where a wise person would take himself.

+++

A question I asked my 40-something wife, “Where do you want to be five years after menopause?”

I asked the question to create mental space between (a) the memories of the past and (b) the actions required for a desired future.

Each of us will have a question that helps us make the split and see more clearly.

+++

For me?

Older is going to be about three things.

Patience, always patience – In March, I caught myself yelling at my Alpha Tween. Not the best way to enter the teen years! So I made an offer, “$100 to any kid that catches me yelling.” Haven’t had to pay out so far.

Small incentives can have large outcomes.

Cultivate the kindest girls/women in my life – The last year has had a strong bias towards up-skilling my son so he can hang with me, in any terrain, in any month, in the mountains. We’re there – all that remains is load shifting from my backpack to his.

The next 12 months my focus will shift to our youngest and continuing to have fun with my spouse, who’s been talking about Rim-To-Rim at the Grand Canyon. I’ve started negotiating for Rim-To-River.

Keep on keeping on – Radical change isn’t required.

Take time to enjoy 2021.

Adventure Novelty Exploring


Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Ticked the box on my first post-pandemic adventure this past weekend, a little earlier than expected (my second shot is mid-April).

Snow camping.

Why snow camping?

The #1 forward-looking reason is regret minimization.

There’s been a lot of accidental death around me.

The best way to deal with my son’s love of adventure is to teach him everything I know about the outdoors. It’s a fun project and fits my view that “skilled is better than safe.”



What do you remember about your life before COVID?

My main memory is spending a lot of money, time and effort for a life that felt pretty similar to the last 12 months.

The feel, inside me, is very consistent.

My baseline satisfaction is resilient to setbacks, and doesn’t move much with luxury.

Time in nature (with family), writing and teaching are three things that move the needle for me.

So the question I asked myself is “how best to allocate my time and effort going forward?”

Bring back the experiences, and people, that I missed.

Adventure, novelty & exploring => the best experiences of the last 12 months had this in common => so I’ll be aiming for a quick fix every six weeks.

Quick trips, back to my normal life quickly… because I’ve learned that more isn’t better.

I bought myself a monster pack (105L), which lets me carry everything for my partners and removes any temptation for me to pick-up-the-pace on my team.



With people – same game plan.

Who did I miss?

Write a list of the people I didn’t see during the pandemic then do whatever-it-takes to have a quick visit with them.

Spend time, and effort, on connection.


I’ll end with a fun story from the overnight trip.

We started at 6am on Easter Sunday.

By noon, we had skied, skinned and set up camp. Both our feet were shot but there was eight hours until darkness!

What to do?

Hey buddy, let’s go on a water hunt.


First Attempt, nothing

It’s still deep up there

Second Attempt, under a bridge – in a couple weeks there will be water RAGING through here

Just like a pioneer, amigo. Keep digging!

Hey, do you hear water?!

Jackpot when he kicked through the final ice layer.

My son got a huge kick out of using a shovel “for something real.”

Staring at a screen during homeschool… not real.

Nature, water, snow, cold, wind, mountain lion tracks… real.

Let’s bring back the real.


Enjoy 2021