Two minutes after we got back to the car (parked in pic below), my son started asking “what’s next?”
It was a reminder:
The world will take as much as you are willing to give (and more than I am capable of sustaining).
Which is related to “you gotta make choices” (because I can’t do everything).
And, a reminder that the enjoyment of achieving rarely lasts for long.
Life is a relative game and meaning is about process.
Relentless positivity is a trait that defined my early 30s.
Somewhere between 2001 and 2021, it’s gone astray.
I’ve been contrasting my life then, and now, to generate ideas.
Ideas about how to shift a persistent dissatisfaction that’s been stalking me and impacting my family.
Money: inflation-adjusted, my cash burn is up 6x in the last 20 years.
Family net worth is up more than that. So technically, I’m more secure. I don’t feel that way.
What I do feel, when periodic dissatisfaction comes, is my life experience is not worth what I pay for it.
A friend summed it up well, “the money just goes.”
Put another way, for every $1 I spend on something useful, another $5 goes out the door.
Flip back 20 years and I was living on a 1/10th of my current cash burn. This points towards a couple things:
More spending is unlikely to be the answer, to anything.
Financial security has a significant state-of-mind component.
My current life feels overpriced, and satisfaction is inelastic to spending increases.
I can’t spend my way out of these feelings!
Time: I am 20 years older, with more requests on my time.
This is really interesting to me. As I age, my concerns for financial security could be coming from a sense of my own mortality. Hopefully, a theme of the next 20 years will be making peace with that reality.
An entertaining part of the my life 20 years ago was how much time I spent completely blown out from low heart rate exploring.
Exhaustion, absent external demands, feels quite serene (see pic above).
Exhaustion, with noise and relentless external demands, is awful. I gave up exhaustion, as a coping strategy, when I lived with preschoolers.
I may have swung the pendulum too far away from getting tired.
Get Outside: I’m guessing there’s a “cabin fever” effect on my positivity-to-dissatisfaction ratio.
The last 17 months is the most time I’ve spent indoors in the last two decades. I think cabin fever will doom work-from-home for many.
Turns out, there’s a lot of emotional utility from getting outside my house.
Do what solves the problem.
Our youngest is outstanding at this approach.
Be kind, don’t sweat the rules and do what solves the problem.
On the summit before most folks hit the parking lot.
With young kids, I would train before any family event. I’m a whole lot more tolerant (of anything) after 45-90 minutes of cardio.
Eventually, I decided to train each morning before my kids wake-up.
I set my life up so my family sees the best part of me.
With the kids older, and with varied appetites for adventure, we placed a camping trip before a family vacation.
It was two nights out in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This included a monster hiking day, for my son and me.
Tire out the high-maintenance family members then…
…my wife and daughter rolled into town. The following day, we did a moderate hike.
A trip within a trip. Worked well.
The week away from home – my longest trip since the end of 2019 – reminded me:
Life can simplify when the kids grow up. With little ones, I remember the insane amount of gear we used to carry when we left the house => pack and plays, strollers, separate food, clothes, helpers… it was a major operation, and exhausting.
Ten years on, my son and I were able to do a week away with backpacks, a duffel bag, coolers and a carry-on. This seemed impossible five years ago.
This feeds into a reminder that life will change in ways I can’t anticipate.
Looking from the outside, My life has changed radically.
Internally, I’m following a similar path => teaching and exploring nature.
I got here by understanding my deeper motivations.
Two key components of my family strategy:
1/. A willingness to compromise and no races. Instead, a focus on being able to move outside with family. Personal events have changed to quick trips with a little adventure.
2/. Patiently, and relentlessly, up-skilling my family. I did a lot of “slow hiking with preschoolers” to get to the point where my 10 year old son could enjoy a 28-mile circuit bagging high peaks. Same deal with our 8 year old, she’s good for ~7 mile routes in the High Rockies.
I resist the urge to “up it” with my kids. They are a profoundly good influence on my aging body and personality.
Again and again, life has shown that, over 5 to 10 year time horizons, we can have a HUGE impact on our life experience.
Keep it simple, one positive step per day.
But I need to beware.
A hazard of enjoying myself, in any environment, is the temptation to make a capital commitment, with ongoing costs of ownership.
I must remember => owning an asset doesn’t improve my enjoyment, especially as I’m a person who dislikes admin.
My wife asked me to share ideas about our marriage.
I’m better in writing, so I figured I’d leave this for my kids, and you.
16 years – it went by in a flash.
My inability to feel duration, can make me a little sad. I have a hunch that soon I’ll be an old guy wondering what just happened!
Acknowledging the reality of the fleeting nature of time… it is useful at helping me stay focused.
No time to waste.
VP Pence took heat for his rules of marriage. To me, they were OBVIOUS and reflect how I act.
I met my wife at the pool. As a result, I don’t train with attractive, athletic females (other than her – she’s very attractive).
I don’t consume alcohol with females, or anybody else.
I don’t find myself 1-on-1 with females, especially other people’s spouses.
The above is a simple risk mitigation strategy. Applied across domains, over 50+ years, it works.
I keep myself away from situations where a poor decision results in ruin.
I pointed this out with regard to Andy’s accident and it applies everywhere. The decision is best made before you have to make a decision.
How do you stack up?
So many have conflicts over money.
Since the late-1990s, I’ve paid the living expenses of everyone (male/female) who’s lived with me. By the time, our youngest graduates high school the bill will be over $6 million.
My favorite wife-quote about family finances is when she said to me, “What do you know about money?”
I just smiled.
I know how to make it, when to stop reaching for it, and what’s more important than money.
My financial knowledge has enabled our family to live a good life AND I have been able to educate my kids.
Most parents want to see their kids grow up. I made a choice to go one step further. I’m educating our children in how I see the world. These lessons will endure into the next century.
Invert => how much of your family’s financial wealth from 1950 do you have right now?
My ancestors legacy is good ideas, memories of what didn’t work, a debt-free education and a life-changing introduction to my first boss in finance.
To finance our life, I need one good idea per decade. The rest of the time I avoid mistakes, and manage spending.
It takes a lot of effort to avoid mistakes. I write this blog to help my kids identify their inevitable mistakes.
Mistakes are effective teachers, I “manage” by:
letting things go wrong
letting other people be wrong
surfacing, considering and fixing my own mistakes
Across 50-100 year time horizons, wealth habits add up. A simple annuity calculation (laid out many times in previous blogs) will show that my choice to avoid financial conflict will end up “costing” my heirs millions.
The human capital I am building will more than cover this amount.
Ruin Not Experienced (divorce, substance abuse, spending, investment)
There is deep, multigenerational wisdom when we act with long time horizons. In my current life, I try to be the parent I’d like my grandkids to experience.
What are the choices that caused your family tree to lose capital, lose members and lose productivity?
Be as open as possible about errors, they tend to repeat.
Two years ago, my son decided to hold up his finger and yell, “BOOGER!”
Yes, there was a nasty one hanging there!
As I sorted his booger, I decided to fire every staff member in my life.
An unimpeachable moral authority stemming from out-working everyone around me
Relentless attention to detail (in myself) – no days off, no exceptions
A schedule that enables me to follow up on the above, especially when it’s inconvenient
Before talking to others… How do I measure up?
Confidence comes from knowing you can outwork your competition over long time horizons. My kids are very confident, with good reason.
Tough to beat.
Let’s talk about staff.
We got through the highest stress period of our marriage (babies and preschoolers) because I had the courage to make a poor financial decision. I spent money so we could maintain some sort of life between the two of us.
Our recent trip to Death Valley let me price opting out (of living in the real world).
160 student contact days ($50)
Leaves 205 non-student contact days ($200)
365 overnights ($50)
Multiply that out, gross it up for payroll taxes => $80,000 per annum and I can watch someone else deal with my kids boogers… 😉
I’m sure many professional people cut that number in half when calculating the exit cost from an unhappy marriage, or when feeling overwhelmed (as we all do) with a young family.
But is that winning? Before blowing up a marriage, look two generations out, consider your unborn grandkids.
I don’t serve anyone by having my family see me opt out.
Queen Elizabeth comes to mind. Still grinding!
The goal of life is not to opt out of the obligations of citizenship, or be worshipped for position. To build a successful organization, requires a long term commitment to service.
Even then, there’s going to be scandals, setbacks, challenges and very good reasons to quit.
Keep moving forward and be comfortable with what you control (your actions).
Goodness, in action, inoculates one from the options of others.
Finding => Be the person you want to marry => you’ll have a positive influence on everyone around you and, when things don’t work out, you’ll be well placed to keep moving towards better.
Retaining => Be clear about your minimums => cleaning, sex, financial contributions, social engagements => table everything you hear your friends complaining about.
Optimizing => Take care of yourself => knowing it is better being married to an athletic spouse… I need to be an athletic spouse.
Being Effective => Do not manage from the couch => If you don’t care enough to stand up then let it go.
Willful Blindness Is The Seed of Bitterness => Be clear about what you don’t want => very few people want to be left alone and, even the kindest partner, is likely to grow bitter when the “division of inconvenience” is out of whack.
Knowing actions matter, I watch => in myself, and everyone around me…
What is done first?
Ruthlessly honest inventory of time allocation. Do not fool myself by saying something is important, when I allocate little time to it.
What am I doing when I am willing to inconvenience myself? My core values live here.
Is there something small I can do, daily, to support the people who are essential to me? Have I asked?
I try to stay humble by remembering how each chapter of my family’s story will end.
Iterate towards better. Document, then share what works.
Often, when sharing my experiences verbally, the listener thinks I am:
talking about their life
giving them advice
suggesting they are wrong
Any one of these is enough for a conversation to go sideways.
Better to blog!
There are a couple areas of life I know well.
I know these areas well because I have been able to live the lessons of the largest mistakes that have been made around me. This is my superpower.
So, I guess, when sharing my opinion on sensitive topics, it would be best to preface my observations with…
You could do that, you would certainly be justified. In fact, my family tried that a few times. However, for us, that course of action ended in a multigenerational disaster.
My mom died last year, so she won’t mind me sharing a family anecdote to illustrate my point.
Many years ago, I visited mom in Vancouver (our hometown). On the visit, she said she wanted to introduce me to a friend. I agreed and we headed off…
…to the courthouse!
Her friend was a security guard at the courthouse.
I didn’t get served with a summons but the introduction was a little weird. The guard was polite and we exchanged small chat before heading on our way.
Over the 1990s, mom had whittled down her peer group to a security guard at the courthouse. Social isolation did not have a positive impact on her mental health.
Her mental health descent was a biggie.
I have a childhood memory of mom being the cover story on Vancouver Magazine. It was a time when she was busy, engaged, productive and socially connected. One of the most successful businesswomen in town. Beautiful, happy and a very good mother to me.
FWIW, I look at the Free Britney movement and think we should give that family space. Many elements of that story fit pieces of my family history.
In a war, disagreement or divorce… at some point, someone has to stop fighting, regardless of the facts.
A few years after her Cover Story, mom’s life started to fall apart. In the process, she got into a habit of not letting go, of anything.
Mom sued everyone possible, for as long as possible, and achieved nothing but negative consequences for all parties.
I inverted and applied this lesson, the lesson of watching what happens when we don’t stop fighting, as the guiding principle of my adult life.
My adult life truly started when I stopped engaging the toxic personalities in my life and… used money to avoid BS, the highest utility spending I know!
One example, I bought the contents of my home when I got divorced. I’d purchased everything in the first place, and paid off my spouse’s debts when we were married. So it seemed silly (to me) that I had to purchase everything again.
But I’d learned the lesson.
…and the check was small relative to the BS that would have resulted.
When you are thinking about using money for revenge… …better to use it for a clean exit, that moves you towards your long-term goals.
By the way, I could tell you all kinds of stories about “what was done to me” during my divorce.
My former spouse could do exactly the same.
We’d both be right.
Our stories would be true, and some would appear diametrically opposed.
Rather than arguing truth…
Sit back, pause and consider…
What’s best for the youngest members of the family?
What actions should I take with their interests in mind?
Ironically, in my divorce, I was the youngest person involved.
I took great care of my future self.
This isn’t always the case.
Kids bear all the pain from family conflict and receive none of the benefits.
Do you want to hear what was done to me? Actually, no. That wouldn’t be helping you, or the youngest members of your family.
What’s the outcome you want 10 years from now? Get to work on that.