Closing Out Corona

Considering there’s a pandemic rolling – ski season has been a lot of fun. Grateful to get outside!

We’re not vaccinated but it’s clear we are on a glide path to exit the pandemic.

March 13, 2020 is the day we pulled out kids out of school and battened down the hatches for a few weeks.

March 13, 2021, we’re going to bake a cake and eat ice cream.


Things that surprised me:

1/. We sure didn’t pull together as a nation. We did pull together as Coloradans. I really appreciate the school, city, county and state leadership (thank you to my civic-minded friends who read my stuff). Our system worked.

2/. Being scared of Amazon packages.

3/. Shopping for shotguns (last April) when young men were roaming our neighborhood trying to get into occupied houses in broad daylight.

5/. How well simple actions work. A truism for health is “focus on reducing smoking.” Before the pandemic, I was skeptical of the role of basic hygiene. No more. This has been my healthiest 12 months since before I had kids (2008) – all due to masks, hand washing and social distancing.

6/. No financial impact – in a year where my net earned income went to zero.

7/. The power of routine. It was a HUGE pain to get ourselves into a series of useful habits. Now they run on autopilot. Big gains happen during crisis management.

8/. I kinda knew this final one from investing… take pain early. Hit yourself very hard when the setback comes. Human systems adapt very quickly to pain. I always underestimate human resilience. This was a key Federal mistake both now, and with 9/11. Politicians have an incentive to avoid pain => pain works to drive change.


Takeaways:

  1. Embrace my difficulties.
  2. Be seen to support measures that benefit the collective.
  3. Take pain early and have faith you’ll adapt.
  4. Routine and discipline are a source of deep comfort in turbulent times.
  5. Simple actions work. Stay focused on core competencies.

Ditch the habit of staying tuned to the next-big-crisis.

We still have work to do – particularly with regard to equal justice under law.

Enjoy 2021

A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence

This was a great read

My favorite bit was his advice to stop talking about the trolley problem, just slam on the brakes.

Also liked his advice that we shouldn’t expect machines to be able to solve problems, say ethics, that we can’t solve ourselves.

Fairly quick read and the book gets better as it progresses.

Amazon Link Here

Let It Ride


My son has a side-gig shoveling snow.

Side-gig money is his to spend in any way he wants (and he wants a jumbo Baby Yoda).

His surplus money goes into a bag. “Money in the bag” is real to him.

Other forms, less so.

My son’s outlook is very common and, if not addressed, will cost him a lot of wealth (directly) and time (indirectly).


Last Tuesday, he had a cunning plan to help me “get rich” – the scheme was a simple one. Sell everything I own and realize all the gains.

I left the fact that I don’t truly own anything for another lesson.

Instead, I started by pointing out that there are a lot of rich folks in town who don’t have time to ski with their kids.

Time, son. I want you to remember time.


I want you to remember time.

His scheme gave me the opportunity to teach him three things about money:

1/. We’re not going to sell the rental property…

Income, from rent, is a useful type of money – I used the example that the property he wanted to sell covers the cost of his food.

Cash flow buys strawberries.


Cash flow buys food

2/. Selling costs money

When you sell you need to pay taxes on the gain.

Taxation was taught to him from a young age. Whenever I eat something off his plate, “I’m taxing you.”

If you don’t sell then you can pay taxes later. Pay later is better.

He was on-board so far.

  • Cash flow is food
  • Pay later is better

3/. What are we going to do with the money if we sell?

When you sell, you need to figure out what to do with the money.

The rental property is a great asset and I have no ideas for something better.

I lost him here. I think he wanted to see a _really_ big bag of money.

Opportunity cost and alternative use of funds… fairly advanced for a kid, or anyone for that matter.


How might you get this bag of money to work for you?

  • Cash Flow
  • Deferred Taxes
  • Opportunity Cost
  • Alternative Investments

Good enough is good enough.

Once you get that bag of money working for you…

Let it ride.

Leadership Approach

I like to help people do difficult things.

It takes three things to bring out my inner teenager:

  • Seek to manage me from a chair
  • Tell me to do something you don’t do yourself
  • Don’t follow up

When I’m tired, the trifecta is guaranteed to generate an inner “whatever.”

So, if your family starts acting like they’re 15 then you might need to adjust your approach.

Worth repeating – if the world appears to be blowing you off then it is not you, it is your approach.


Thinking way back, my best coaches were effective with all kinds of kids.

Why?

Because they started small and inverted the three points from above.

  • Lead from your feet
  • Be the brand
  • Follow up

On the far side of my athletic career, the habits of daily exercise and improved nutrition are what endure.

They are foundational => exercise and nutrition set a ceiling on the work we can perform.

How might one pass these along?

Let’s talk about leadership style, in action.


Be The Brand

Our kids are programmed to follow what they see us do.

Not just kids => me too.

I am programmed to follow my prior choices.

Peers, media, advertising, books, students, teachers…

My environment is constantly nudging my habit energy.

My habit energy watches my choices.


After swim lessons, they come home and are greeted by a meal. Rewards are very habit forming – particularly, when appetite is high. This is the time to imprint nutrition.

I make it easy for my kids to make good decisions…

…and if I’m not willing to take action then I keep my mouth shut.

…because we create friction when we favor words, over actions.

Worth repeating… when I’m too tired to improve the situation by positive action… I leave.


The next generation of leadership right there. You better believe nobody in my house wants to be out-trained by an 8 year old. When she finds an area where she can outperform, it will be highly habit forming. Choose Wisely!

Foundational habits and positive addictions.

Know the areas where it’s worth making an effort.

Start with the person in the mirror.

Real Talk

Paywall link

I use our local paper to discuss scenarios with my kids.

What I do is print out an article and wait until one of my kids asks me about it.

Like the conversations about death, I keep it simple.


Speed Kills – he’d have missed the truck if he’d been going less than 90 mph.

Another mantra I like is “keep it under 80.” A State Trooper let a friend off with a warning, and that phrase. We’ve never forgotten it.


We talked about the couple that was killed (the dead driver was my age).

My son figured out how the tragedy will cascade outward for the survivors.


Here’s what I want you to remember…

You will be in a car when something stupid is going on. I want you to speak up and save your friend.

My kids had a “his life is over” response to the news that he was going to be charged.

No, I don’t think his life is over. He’s going to need to make amends but he’s still going to be a young man when he gets out of prison.

Part of that discussion, from my end, is to avoid one of my kids harming themselves in the aftermath of an inevitable setback.

My style of parenting is “we can deal with it” and I want my family to bring their bad news to me.

My family is prone to catastrophizing. It takes mental training to avoid the leap to a worst-case scenario. I’ve been working with my son on this since he’s been three. Highly empathetic individuals have the ability to feel tragedy, very quickly.

The other part was to stimulate a discussion about what “making amends” might look like.

Well, two people lost their lives. How might the driver be able to save two lives?

Maybe he can save other kids from making the same mistakes?

How might he do that?


This is real.

This will happen.

What is your plan?


An outstanding video about high consequence, low frequency situations. In some lines of work, you don’t have the opportunity to opt-out of your risk of ruin.

We also had two fatalities at our local ski hill – separate events, tree strikes, 48 hours apart. So there’s been plenty of opportunity to talk about the role of speed in accidental death.

I’ve spent a lifetime reinforcing a habit of slowing down when I feel unsure.

  • Let’s.
  • Just.
  • Think.
  • About.
  • This.

Build habits, and systems, to slow your decision making.

Vibe Check

Savage Kitty and her rainbow skis

At the end of the last year, I marked my calendar for a vibe check on February 14th.

As we rolled into Feb, the mess of The Other Guy’s administration was still playing out. So I pushed things to March 1st.


How you doing?

I’m really proud of my family. Lots of personal growth for us.


Current best guess is I’ll get my first shot of the vaccine before Easter. Our governor shuffled the eligibility and, as a 50+, I’m going to get green lighted before they declare open season to the entire population.

That’s one year after we battened down the hatches. We’ve scheduled a COVID birthday party for March 13th. Cake will be served.

American life-science tech is absolutely amazing. Getting back to a somewhat normal life this summer will be a payoff for relocating myself to the USA.

Take time to notice good judgement.


Who were the least reliable sources of information over the last year?

I’m always fine-dining my filters. Now would be a good time to dial some folks down, and others up.

Our bad sources of information are obvious. Let them go.


What generates feelings of gratitude?

This surprised me.

I get more benefit from good science fiction than the legacy media.

Over the pandemic I read Dune (1-8), Three-Body Problem (1-3) and Foundation (1-7). Science fiction generates feeling of gratitude in me – gratitude for my routine life, gratitude for my wonderful marriage and gratitude for the opportunity to educate my kids.

An unexpected bonus, from venturing outside my typical reading genres.


What areas of your life uncovered blindspots?

I do a little public service work in our local community.

It can be frustrating because I’m not very good at interacting with groups of live people! Zoom was a blessing – especially as my default is submitting written comments, in the chat.

I stick with it because people respect tell me I’m helpful, despite my limitations.

Get involved.

If you don’t step up then someone else will, and they might be clueless.

You can see this effect in the major US cities where a large chunk of the smartest parents have opted out of the public school system, and their school boards appear to be losing their minds.

Second, and third, order effects.


What’s on your must-keep list?

I’m reading No Rules Rules about Netflix’s corporate culture. I’m reinterpreting for ideas about leading multigenerational families.

One of their rules for employees is you need to be on the must-keep list to stick around. Good enough is not good enough.

  • What habits are holding me back from excellence? Still anger management.
  • What’s on my pandemic must-keep list? Pick one thing. I’ll go with “challenging strength training 2x per week.” It’s the one thing, where its absence, will make a big difference when I’m 60.
  • What are you doing when you feel serene? Spending time with my wife – she has a heavenly vibe that calms my soul.

1,000 days from now, the pandemic will have faded from collective memory.

If you feel like you lost a year then be sure to keep the lessons.

Enjoy 2021.

A Conversation Worth Having


Iñaki shared Andy’s longform post on getting older. I thought I’d add an additional case study.

Andy’s conversation is worth having with yourself, usually as part of your annual review.

  • What am I doing?
  • Why am I doing it?
  • Where is “what I am doing” likely to take me?


Two things about aging:

  • I know very little about what the future holds
  • Without thought, and effort, I will default to the recent past

These points are an essential part of the typical aging process, and human decision making!


What is the typical aging process?

Aging athletes keep defaulting to the approach of their younger selves and get caught in a cycle of injury.

Performance follows a step-down process => material downward shifts happen as a result of injury.

This is easier to see as a coach than an athlete. I have your data!

The way it will feel inside an athlete is “I can’t train as hard anymore.” True, but what’s really happening is your consistency is shot, and you’re losing strength, every_single_time you get hurt.

Only the most successful, and fortunate, athletes are able to watch their performance trickle away gradually.

There is a lot of gain from chucking away the habits, and choices, that can lead to a sudden downward shifts.

At 52, I can still do plenty of training.

The best middle-aged athletes might not be racing…

😉



Personal thoughts…

While I don’t know what the future holds, I do know I deeply enjoyed being a camp counsellor and coach. I also know I can have a profoundly positive impact on my kids, and my community.

I also know my drive for external validation, and the chase for relative performance, started to wane in my mid-40s. That made it easier to see, that training like I was 28-35, was likely to take me somewhere I didn’t want to go.

Combine all of the above…

Continual pre-habilitation so I can do cool stuff for as long as possible.

Our youngest turns 16 around the time I hit 60 – the transition to being an empty-nester will be another journey.

For now, I’ll keep tossing plate and enjoying the outdoors with them.

The pursuit of being a better version of myself has no sell-by date.

Successful aging is a continual process of pre-habilitation for an injury you hope to never have.

Carefree

Carefree, not careless => a capacity to look past flaws and focus on the relationship.

The pandemic hasn’t been all about cleaning toilets and chasing hairballs. It’s also been an opportunity to spend a lot of time with my kids.

I’ve learned a lot, especially from our youngest.


I’m a mission-oriented person – I’m most happy when I’m following the rules, ticking away towards an objective. The fact that other folks see the world differently can seem like a flaw in their approach.

How might these people see the world?

Through the eyes of connection and harmony.


This has implications for relationships and leadership style.

I’ll share a couple errors of mine that repeated until a desire to be more effective with my kids got me past them.

Don’t expect a carefree person to be the “bad cop” in any situation.

If there’s difficult news to be delivered, a negative consequence to be administered or even a negotiation to be had… assign the mission-oriented person.

That part was fairly easy to figure out. In any relationship, one party will be better able to handle conflict than the other.

Where I spun my wheels was trying to up-skill my partner to be more like me. A waste of both our time and unlikely to provide any improvement to the marriage.

Further, your partner may be a great listener while you waste both of your time trying to up-skill them in a manner they have no intention of following!

This is best illustrated by dropping our youngest off at a COVID-playdate. We pull up, and my daughter tells me:

Don’t worry Daddy, we’re always super safe and stay outside. Love you, bye!

She hops out of the car, walks over to her friend, waves and wanders right into the house.

She told me exactly what I wanted to hear, then did exactly what she wanted. My son and I looked at each other, shrugged and headed off on our hike.


So, not only is “teaching” a kind person (to be a hardass) a waste of your time. Be sure you leave them an exit.

Be willing to drop the point.

First, because it probably doesn’t matter. The point is never the point, with a relationship-based person. Feelings are the point.

Second, because if you’re going to see a truly nice person totally blow their stack then it’s going to be when you’ve cornered them.

If you need to come back to it then consider an indirect approach…

  • Do you remember that thing?
  • How’d that make you feel?
  • I was a little bit sad when…

Set the standard and love your ladies.

Groundhog Day

Arapahoe Basin, Gully #4. “Dude, I’ve been dropping steeps since I was nine…”

I love asking questions. Here’s one from last week…

What’s wrong with being a househusband?

This question started a conversation about how great a job I was doing. The recognition was appreciated, but wasn’t the point.

That’s interesting, because when I said something similar, that you were having a great pandemic, you sniffed and said, “you mean I’m a better housewife.”

Well, actually, yes… 🙂

What was more interesting was my wife didn’t have ANY memory of the instant reaction she had. Her non-memory got me wondering how often my biases, and values, bubble up and leave no trace.

You might have a hidden bias against what’s required to run a good house. Call it the Virginia Slims effect, heavily reinforced by our collective culture and 50+ years of media/advertising.

If you think the internal dialogue is tough as a woman, try it as a guy.


Same gully, different aspect. Plenty of room between those rocks!

So the real point of the conversation wasn’t to congratulate ourselves for being domestic Gods and Goddesses…

The point was to create an opening to share ideas about coping with the grind of meals, laundry, dishes and cleaning that makes up family living.


You Gotta Do Something => I’ve had all kinds of jobs from “important” to “menial.”

COVID took my menial though the roof.

  • All jobs have admin/low value moments associated with them.
  • All jobs are better than having nothing to do.

Our minds might tell us that buying a white Porsche and focusing on our nails & hair will make us happy. More pleasurable than cleaning toilets, certainly, but I’m not sure leisure is “the answer”.

Meaningful work, not too much, well rested while I do it.

So, what are you going to do? And… What does winning look like to you?

You gotta do something.


You don’t have to enjoy it => My wife looked at me with in horror when I spoke the truth…

Honey, I absolutely hate dealing with the endless BS. However, I’ve decided, I’m going to continue regardless of how I feel.

It’s taken me decades to notice… that quote applies to every_single_thing I work on!

When there is a feeling that follows me everywhere… changing my situation might not be the answer.


It’s Temporary => Ten years of babies & preschoolers left no trace in my memory. I have to scroll back in my photos to see what actually happened.

Whatever you’re dealing with, do what needs to be done and schedule little sessions that perk you up.

In my case, it’s worth overcoming inertia to get my morning training, time with my wife and a chance to teach in nature.

Make time for meaning, while you manage the menial.


In each of the important jobs I held, I was replaceable.

Husband, Father, Leader => Give extra effort to the areas where you are hardest to replace.

Knowing “this is my job to do” makes it easier to endure.


Finally, something from watching my kids. There’s a part of me that wants my family to enjoy doing menial tasks. It stems from my desire for constant pleasure from every task life throws at me.

This is a completely unreasonable expectation, but it’s there. Seeing it, let’s me smile and shake my head when I catch myself in the pattern.

Meaningful work, can feel meaningless at times.

You are not alone in your feelings.

Best pandemic ever.


Teaching others in nature – always perks me up. Across my year of COVID, I’ve done a good job of scheduling events to look forward to. Find the win!

Alchemy by Rory Sutherland


Changing gears from finance this week.

This is a really fun read. Rory’s style made me realize how much I missed both the UK and my pals in advertising. I loved my time in London and he brought back many good memories.

One of the most useful things about folks-like-Rory is they focus on what works. Rory’s book is packed with entertaining examples of things that work, but aren’t logical.

The more linear your thinking, the more you’ll benefit from this book. I needed to be reminded of the lessons inside.

Also – pay close attention to the layout of the hard cover version, especially his use of headers/font/footnotes/icons. The presentation is best in class.


Source – county level data

In personal news…

Boulder County is one of the least infected places in the state. The college kids came back and our positives have continued to decline. It’s winter, most aren’t wearing masks in the neighborhood and… nothing, go figure.

COVID defies prediction.


Source – state level data

Our school district is looking to get the middle/high schoolers back to 4-days a week (from 2) after March Break. So starting March 29th. Schools open for students, luxury.

Personally, I think we should be opening up a little quicker but support the delay to give more time to get the most vulnerable a chance to get vaccinated.

Based on my peer group, there is some connected-party vaccination happening in priority to our at-risk population. It’s the most simple way to explain the disconnect between doses into our community and the continued waitlist for the 70+ population.

I was happy to read about teachers getting vaccinated direct from their school district.


My wife learned to uphill so we could spend more time together. Appreciated!

A bump in my training load (my first “real” training since September), means my 3:45am wake up has proven unsustainable.

With my daughter’s evening swim practices, I was having to double-nap (most days) to make it through the week.

I shifted to 4:30am starting last Saturday, luxury.


Such. A. Great. Kid.

As this publishes, I will be heading to Arapahoe Basin to see if the Steep Gullies will go. Our first venture into hike-back terrain, we brought our skins.

Hopefully, you get a chance to be outside this week.

Enjoy 2021.