Home School Update

Tabeguache Peak

Our district is aiming to phase back in-school learning.



The first step is the K-2 kids heading back, this morning.

We’re keeping our youngest online as we have two more, who will be home learning into October/November.

We feel comfortable with our district’s back to school plan. This is a change from how we felt in mid-August.


The university re-opening went as expected – positives blew up and they shifted back to remote learning last week (for at least 14 days). Many have criticized the university but I think they did an excellent job on campus. We learned a lot.

In Boulder, public health placed ~20 private residences, effectively, on house arrest due to the residents ignoring repeated public health orders to chill out with their partying. All 18-22 year old residents are restricted with their ability to gather.

We’re told most of the COVID transmission happened outside of the school environment, which I took as good news.

Throughout the pandemic, culturally, we let things “play out” before we get to actions that appear obvious at the start (masks, frat parties, social distancing, bars).

I remind myself, most populations will not agree to government regulation until they’ve experienced negative consequences from not being regulated. Our governor has done a decent job of working within this reality.

Despite thousands of young adults wandering around with COVID, we are not seeing much serious illness. You can look at the county data, including hospitalizations, here.


Above the clouds, Mt Shavano.

Monday Fun Day

Our district set Mondays as a non-student contact day so we’ve shifted our Home School Week to run from Tuesday to Saturday.

Saturday Catch-up Day => whenever one of our kids starts trippin’ about a deadline… we re-assure them, “Saturday is catch up day.”

Sunday/Monday, I’ve tried to get out and enjoy the outdoors. The pics in this piece were taken yesterday in the Collegiate Peaks.


Use It or Lose It

Our girls didn’t do much math August/September. I was surprised how fast they forgot what they learned over the summer.

Concepts learned quickly are forgotten just as fast, if not reinforced frequently.

That said, because Summer School left them ahead, they “forgot” themselves back to grade level. So not a big deal.

We restarted our math tutor for the girls this past Sunday. She’s posting assignments across the week (one page each of Tuesday=>Friday) and runs through the assignments on a zoom call at the end of the week.

Pandemic schooling is like bear market investing => any return over 0% makes me happy.

We are grateful to live in a district with dedicated, and flexible, teachers. As a result, we are doing a lot better than a 0% return!


The Collegiate Peaks have some looooooooong traverses!

Sports & Friends

Swimming is one of the few sports operating quasi-normally. We started our middle schooler on a year-round swim team. She’s swimming 5x per week, 1-2 hours per session. In September she swam two meets, one dual & one virtual.

Our other two swim 2-3x per week, lessons with each other, no outside kids.

A friend of the family built a climbing wall on the exterior of their house. Our youngest is part of a “climbing pod,” which struck me as a very Boulder thing.

Soccer, jujitsu, indoor climbing, hiphop dance and all the other stuff we’ve experimented with over the years… all on hold, at least for us.

Free is Better

A friend recommended Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss.

Somehow, searching my way to that title popped up Tim’s Blog on being famous. The blog has a Bill Murray quote about fame, “try being rich first.” The blog is an interesting read, by the way.

I’ve spent a lot of time with rich folks.

“Rich is better than famous?” – that didn’t feel right to me but, heck, Bill Murray knows more about both than me.

Here’s what I’d like to teach my kids… rich is a trap.

For yourself => the never-ending treadmill of personal spending and consumption => a trap of more.

For your family => if you’re lucky enough to see your way through the hoax then you’ll have to convince everyone around you to modify the lifestyle to which you’ve trained them (COVID, or any external crisis, can help).

Pretty risky, especially as there is a much more useful target to give yourself.

Free.

The downsides Tim writes about in his fame blog are infringements on personal freedom.

The fame upsides strike me as an external forms of recognition, a universal desire.

The thing is, once you target external validation, you’re trapped.

External validation is a need to be weaned, not watered.

Free is better.

Vision 2030

I spent yesterday wandering around bogs, scree and talus. Good times!

Something I do well is back-fit a future goal on top of my present reality. It helps me stay the course.


As you age, what’s it going to be like? I have coached some very special older folks, and paid attention. Here’s what I’m expecting.

  • More time but less energy — the energy “step down” from 45 onwards was a surprise — the fact that it was happening before I saw it, is something I remind myself as I head towards 60.
  • You are going to want to delay the inevitable physical decline — there is a lot of good news here — if you start building your physical reserve then you can push the decline WAY WAY out. I’ve been fortunate to watch athletes manage themselves from 60 to 70 and beyond.

The key recommendation for you, if you plan to live past 60 then start strength training now, just a little.

When I was a speedy young man, there was a controversy about strength training. As a coach, I’d be asked “where I stood on the topic.” Sitting here a couple decades down the track, it makes no sense that smart people argued passionately against strength training.

There is a guaranteed large future payoff when you create a strength reserve – against aging, against illness and against injury => aging, illness, injury => unless you’re taken out in an accident, these events are absolutely certain for your future self.

That’s the physical.


For the mental, I see two components:

  • Humility & Patience – a useful combination if one desires to be seen as a wise old man!
  • Kindness (towards the ugly) – consider it self-love for my future self 😉

I have a vision for what I’d like to be doing. My daily writing project during the first 20 weeks of COVID was a test run. It went well.

By the way, you can create a personal niche, while learning about favorite topics. The game plan: one classic book per week and choose the best idea inside. Cap yourself at ~450 words for a summary that includes three personal examples. Do that every week for two years. ~45,000 words across 100 good ideas.

A friend sent me Stray Reflections, which gave me the above idea and reminded me… don’t be put off by a lack of experience, rather, make a daily habit of doing what it takes.


How will I know I’ve succeeded? Well, success doesn’t matter.

Freedom matters. Not being owned matters. Personal safety matters. Being engaged in working towards mastery, matters.

I’ve done so much and it’s all in the past. None of my success has stuck with me. If you are a striver then I’m a voice from your future. What stands out in memory are my setbacks and errors. They motivate me to avoid repeating mistakes and iterate towards better. A feeling of moving towards better matters.

That said, via Stray Reflections, I came across an article that resonated. The author shared that success is what lasts beyond the grave.

Beyond the grave is a sentiment I felt strongly immediately after our third child was born. In 2012, I spent a month writing my kids a book. Now that they are older, I give my kids myself, rather than my work.

In sharing myself, I offer an ethical framework through which my kids can navigate the world.


Quick update on what happens when thousands of college kids arrive in your zip code.

Gap Year

The “back side” of Pikes Peak. Site of this week’s Outdoor Ed session.

I imagine that many people are feeling like 2020 is a bust.

Personally, I’m planning on another 50 weeks of my current situation.

What’s it going to take to get myself through another year of this?


If you’re struggling then your pain might have something to do with trying to get back to the way things were pre-COVID.

I catch myself playing this game a lot. Was I really all that happy in the past? It’s a version of my self-deception concerning how “stuff” will make me happy in the future.

Regardless of the past, here’s my plan to create a better present.


First, assume no improvement.

  • The government’s not coming to bail me out.
  • The citizenry will continue to do silly things.
  • Science will figure things out but the distribution of their gains will take time => due to the quirks of government, the silliness of fellow citizens and the logistical challenges of a global pandemic.

This sets my mental baseline so any improvement in the status quo represents upside, rather than continual disappointment.


Next, stop making my life more difficult => creating unnecessary challenges is a personal strength, unfortunately!

  • Don’t bother persuading people who don’t want to be persuaded => focus that energy inward.
  • Let go of pre-COVID standards of achievement. 0% improvement is an excellent benchmark in a global pandemic!
  • Focus on the core components of a life with meaning => Connection, Purpose, Recognition (CPR).
  • Write down the five people closest to you and perform CPR on them. Making this your purpose will create a mutually reinforcing circle of connection and recognition. It sounds hokey but it will work well enough to beat your 0% benchmark!

If you have kids in your house then chill out with home school => my focus on outdoor education serves this goal.

Thinking a little deeper, chilling out more generally => probably a good thing. Every single person with whom I interact is facing greatly increased personal stress and uncertainty.

Right now is a good time to remember that optimizing each aspect of your life will make you miserable, as well as creating misery for everyone around you.


What to do?

Well, as I tell my kids, that’s up to you.

Personally, I’m trying to keep my schedule simple and repeat the week. Structure and repetition creates “head space” to reduce frustration (self-imposed suffering) and the clarity to see that my situation is giving me what I need (purpose & connection).

Side Note: the teachers who send me a written schedule, with links, the night before each school day are saints!

Simplicity works because if I’m going to suffer pointless, self-induced frustration then it’s probably because I’m trying to “get something done here!!!” while my kids are asking for help with a random home school IT issue. I’ve noticed that these issues nearly always happen between 8am and 10:30am.

During those morning hours, it’s common for me to be interrupted every 3-7 minutes. To do anything in that slot requires multi-day notice and a personal individual reminder to my household just before I start.

Like me, you probably have sections of your day, or life, which fall apart, regularly.

Don’t fight it. Accept it. Work around it.


Early photo of my son. 😉

The last time I had my life ripped out from under me was 2008/2009.

It was a biggie: loss of employment and a 65% contraction in net worth.


A big shift from a little arrival => similar to home school, a lot of household capacity is soaked up in a flash.

As an added wrinkle, we had a baby arrive 17 days before my professional life started to unravel.

90 days was all it took to go from “set” to “screwed.” This happens all_the_time. What’s different about COVID is we all got whacked at the same time.

There was an initial period of shock which was followed by a combination of mourning my old life and feeling sorry for myself. Eventually, I got to work re-creating the life I wanted to live.

If you’re unsure then simplify and give yourself CPR => connection, purpose, recognition.


Children have a wonderful capacity to give us recognition, and love.

Don’t have kids? Teach students.

Don’t want to teach? Volunteer in an environment that makes you deeply grateful each time you leave (my choice was hospice).

The inner goodness that arises from serving others helps free us from our need for external validation.

Good luck with your gap year.

What’s Your Superpower

One of the best parts of trying to get really really good at anything, is the challenge of the process is going to provide you with an opportunity to learn about yourself.

I’ve spent the last 12-months getting strong.

It’s a good fit with staying at home.


Right here! Some of the best money I have ever spent, but only if I get my life structure right.

Grinding away with my basement squat rack, I realized that I was probably enjoying this piece of metal more than the average 50-something person.

Routine, ticking boxes on a written plan, predictability.

Invert the previous line and you have the perfect recipe to ruin my morning => surprises, running on feel and random shocks.

Armed with self knowledge, it’s up to me to communicate and create a system to keep myself productive => written plan and a policy that we are flexible (but slowly, later and most certainly not today!).

So whether it’s a training plan, a home school schedule, a list of household cleaning tasks, a project management assignment… I need it written down.

Once that happens, “the list” keeps calling out to me, and I get a nice shot of endorphins each time I tick a box.


To execute, I need to keep it very simple – wake up (same time), spin on my bike, do my strength plan => then roll into household chores and get the kids rolling with home school.

All my non-family, post-dawn, obligations need to be in my calendar and 100% visible to my spouse.


My wife’s wired a little differently, she’s a “logger.”

While she smiles at my lists, I know that inside her phone is an electronic note that documents every bit of exercise she’s done during COVID. As a young swimmer, she’d log every single workout.

So she gets her fix from writing down what she does.

I get it, watching my savings grow was a big motivator in my teens and 20s.

When things “work” for you, you are going to have something simple that keeps you going. Pay attention to that thing and ask…

What was the structure of my life like when I was most productive, most engaged?



The dumbbells, above, sat around for more than a decade (!) until I bought a third-party training plan that required me to use them. I still only use them when required by the plan.

It’s worth remembering that the goal, of the squat rack and the DBs, was not to use the equipment. I bought the gear because I wanted to get stronger. The loss of strength from my early, to late, 40s was something I missed.

I wasn’t able to address my goal until I got my process correct.

In my case, the difference between wishing for a strong body, and having one, was the nudge I get from a written training plan that costs me $4.14 a week.


While success accrues to the athlete, the plan is often the difference between success and failure.

Despite living this reality => a good enough plan, done first thing daily => I’m prone to…

  • worrying about the specifics of the plan
  • dreaming about additional (expensive) asset purchases
  • tweaking the edges of the protocol
  • doing too much

Avoid your personal kryptonite!


  • What’s the real goal here?
  • What’s it going to take to achieve that goal?
  • How do we get you to do what’s required?
  • How do we get you to say “no” to non-core?

This process applies to every single thing in my life.

Being requires doing.

Valuable Options


Record prices, driven by easy credit, in a time of impaired fundamentals. I see this phenomenon happening all around us.

In times of uncertainty, I like to focus on maintaining:

  • The ability to change my mind
  • The ability to cut my cost of living
  • The ability to reallocate my capital

Holding onto these options requires careful, continual effort. For example, it’s easy to join a “tribe” with fixed views, or publish blogs (!), thereby making it much more difficult to change my mind later.

I try to be careful with what I write, say and think. An interesting tip I came across this year about knowledge…

Be wary of using current knowledge as a belief system.

I first heard this advice via the son of a surgeon. When the son finished his surgical training, the father shared that half of what he learned in med-school proved to be incorrect over the years that followed.


With capital allocation…

When I buy, I lose the option to “buy later” and create switching costs if I want to change my mind.

  • The ability to decide later
  • The size of my switching costs
  • The liquidity of my position
  • The impact on my debt capacity

The future value of the above is difficult to estimate, therefore, our minds tend to latch on to the perceived value of an immediate purchase.

We always underestimate the value of options.


Caution with your allocations at cyclical highs…

At the end of last year, I wrote about real estate in Vanity Markets, the key thing I liked about renting was the ability to change my mind later. The option to change direction became much more valuable during COVID.

A real-world example, we’re going to change the way we approach ski season.

  • We are not changing because I think I know what will happen.
  • We are changing to remove (some of) COVID’s ability to screw up our lives.

I wrote off a lot of money this year due to the virus. More importantly, COVID has been a continual drain on my time and emotion.

Money, time, emotion => you can earn the money back.

The time and emotion are gone for good.


So… we made a decision to ski local.

The savings are material: ski club, driving, ski passes, lockers and seasonal rental => my budget is 5% of last season’s actuals.

Besides saving money “now”, I get the psychic benefit of looking forward to adding back a “better experience” once COVID settles down. I’ve been watching myself for many years and looking forward to an experience is a key part of my enjoyment.

The ability to painlessly change my mind arose because I didn’t buy previously. I stayed variable in my discretionary cost of living. I followed this rule of thumb… Never capitalize luxury spending.

Longer version of the same advice… until your retirement is fully funded, focus on income producing assets (not ramping up current consumption).


There are other benefits.

  • By “going local” I give myself an incentive to teach my kids to uphill ski and camp on snow.
  • Knowing that I am saving (a lot of) money in one part of my life, reduces financial stress across all other areas of my life.
  • I also have a way to fill weekday afternoons, which have been challenging during online school: Morning school, Dad ski, Evening school, Bed. Do that Tuesday/Thursday and I give myself a mental respite from trying to fill the Noon-4pm slot.


A quick update on online school. My zip code contains several thousand CU Students, and all the frats!

Our positives are trending up, again. From Saturday’s paper…


and they aren’t testing students who live off-campus

I’m living in the hottest “COVID zip code” in Colorado right now. That said, if you were going to infect a bunch of Coloradans… we’re a healthy cohort! 😉

Because we were cautious “opening up” our bubble, there isn’t much change for us. The main challenge is we are in Week 26 of Home School.

It can be tempting to toss money (and other people’s time) at my “problems.”

During the pandemic, tossing my kids into the private education channel could reduce my short-term pain – if the angel of COVID flies past their new school without creating an outbreak.

However, one thing I’ve learned from six months of home school – the academic demands are easily managed by a policy of a-little-bit-a-day. The real challenge lies in the emotional demands of being around kids all day!

Similar to the ski example, I frame home school as paying myself to figure it out. I did private school math a few years ago. It would cost me significant time, and emotion, to earn the money for the private channel.

I’ll end today with the two best things I have learned about problems:

#1 => My “problems” will NEVER disappear => my mind simply focuses on something else. It’s my focus, not my problems.

#2 => I had better accept that I’m going to be chipping away at stuff daily, for the duration. While I’m chipping away, keep in mind the true goal is “better problems.”

Figuring out how to enjoy spending time with my kids is a great problem to have.


48-hour storm rolled through the state. Good news for our firefighters.

Hiking with Ghosts

Missouri Mountain. Yesterday, we turned around at a short down climb that, from this angle, is hidden just behind the summit. My son went through the five stages of grief over the following four hours. While demonstrating there’s no shame in backing off, I took advantage of the opportunity to talk about a few things.

In the mid-90s, I spent a unique Christmas morning under a full moon on top of Mt Cook in New Zealand. My guide was a young man called David. On the descent, he rappelled off the end of our rope. A common accident, which had no consequences because the end of our rope was only a couple feet off the ground. The mountains got him several years later when he was killed by a Himalayan avalanche.

Roll forward a bit and I was flying into Denali. As I was landing, the rangers were dragging a body bag across the snowy runway. They flew a young man out on the plane that flew me in.

Later that trip, I was shuttling loads between camps. I was solo and approaching a higher risk area near 14K. There was a commercial group nearby and I asked to clip into their rope to get past a sketchy area. The guide said sorry, but no. He was blown off a high ridge a couple days later when his group was caught out in a storm. He’d unclipped to help a client.

My biggest ghost is the father of my dead friend, Stuart. I met him shortly after placing his young son’s casket in a hearse. The depth of his despair as been with me ever since. He gave me a hug, which felt like his soul was collapsing into my heart.

My ghosts are always with me in the mountains.

What do they say?


My ghosts remind me that it is impossible to see the number of lives that await us.

Since my friend died, I’ve had many lives: financier, elite athlete, father, husband, entrepreneur…

Stu lost his lives, his children’s lives and his grandchildren’s… not a fair trade.

The magnitude of his loss grows as I move through my own life and have the opportunity to share the world with my children.


Yesterday, I didn’t tell my son about “the Dad at the Funeral.” It remains a difficult story to discuss.

Instead, I gave him a soft hug while telling him that I’d like to keep hiking with him for the rest of my life and that means we’re going to have to turn around sometimes when I don’t feel right.

He asked what scares me and I told him, “losing you.”

COVID Training

An example of what we can do => Outdoor Ed with Mom and Dad.

Training for an event, or striving towards a specific goal, is straightforward. Select goal, seek expert advice, simply your life and execute, while paying attention to how you get in your own way.

But what if the events are cancelled? What if the whole concept of “an event” has been put on hold?

Three key principles I keep in mind…

1/ Remember why you started in the first place. What was your core motivation before you got wrapped up in seeking external success/validation? Remind yourself of your core values.

2/ What’s your personal superpower? Where do you have the capacity to build, and demonstrate, mastery? This helps you sustain motivation in challenging times.

3/ Where do you want to be in 5 or, even, 10 years time? I laugh at myself with this one because my answer is nearly always… “the same as today, just a little bit better.” This is despite _knowing_ my life undergoes big changes all the time.


What’s your definition of normal?

While kicking those ideas around, I also like to consider different benefits of an active lifestyle…

Physical Health // By mixing in some housework, I can rack up 12,500 steps a day and not leave my property. So I have this one covered.

Mental Health // For many of my athletic friends, this is the true driver of their program, even more so for my pals with family trees, or personal histories, of addiction. Here’s what works for me => split sessions AM/PM with a goal of never getting so tired you can’t make tomorrow’s split sessions.

Make the goal tomorrow, while having the energy to meet your non-training obligations today.

Long-term Functional Strength // If you’re under 40 then this might not be on your radar. Watching my grandmother age, then die, put it on mine. I maintain a large reserve of functional strength. Today, it’s useful in the mountains. In the future, I hope it will help me maintain independent living.

Vanity & Sexual Function // These goals can work together, or be opposed to each other. For example, a well-constructed anabolic phase, will build muscle, increase my energy and boost my naturally occurring recovery hormones. All good.

Where things can get derailed is disordered eating, chronic endurance and body-image goals that incentivize self-harm. In that case, you need to get your head straight (mental health) before you’ll be in a place to make progress in other areas.

My favorite quote here is from an elite running coach… “sometimes my role is to build the athlete’s confidence to the point where they can leave competitive sport.”

Every single time you make a change to support your health… write down your reasons.

Once you’re healthy, you’ll forget why you needed to make a change.


Indian Peaks Wilderness. My wife took the pic. As I have a policy to immediately get a tree between me and any moose, I was heading back into the forest!

My first COVID-season is wrapping up in September and I’m planning for (at least!) another six month block.

I spent my 20s, 30s and 40s focused exclusively on my own achievement. It’s a challenging habit to shake!

COVID blew up all my plans for personal achievement. To demonstrate leadership within my house, I’ve been focused on what’s best for the team.

Within that constraint, there’s fun to be had. I simply had to get creative and use my project management skills for something other than winning races, making money or doing deals.

This is where Principle #3 comes in. It’s not simply “what do I want to be doing” in five years.

It is… “With whom do I want to be living in five years?

Up-skill your team.

If you can’t plan your season then plan your life!

August Diary

My main goal in August was to carve out an extra 20 hours per week to increase my focus on my family.

Three changes made that happen: (a) remove social media from my phone; (b) remove a web browser from my phone; and (c) take a break from publishing.

It worked exactly as I expected.

What I didn’t expect was I spend a large chunk of my “freed time” driving around Colorado. We hit a number of wilderness areas and summited our 1st Family 14er. A “14er” is a peak over 14,000 feet.

Good times.


In the end, our local schools didn’t open up but our university did.


Positives across the state trended down for August.

Good news and, yet another, reminder of the unpredictability of the virus.

The improvement got me thinking that imperfect mitigation measures might create strong results.

Something I’ve seen => successful COVID mitigation measures leave people with risk-fatigue in the rest of their lives. I’ve seen an increased willingness for (non-COVID) risk-seeking behaviors.

Might be a bit like the limits of willpower reserves.


Home school re-started last week.

The first 72-hours was the worst block of time I can remember since I was living with toddlers. The kids didn’t mind but I really struggled.

I wrote this down. It’s worth reviewing if you find yourself frustrated with your household…

When you start to think your solution is your problem, you need to reset your thinking. The easiest way to do this is via positive actions and spoken words.

My actions were to stop making things worse and clean the house.

Better this week and I’ll leave it at that.



August was the closest I can come to a cyber vacation. My screen time was down more than 50%.

Didn’t miss the chatter and, yesterday, nuked my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Gone.

A question I asked myself, repeatedly, across the month…

Where do I want to be in five years?

August saw me reading more and exploring Colorado with my family.

A better use of time => iterate towards better.


The market is back at an all-time high.

Now is the time to write down your strategy for the next crash.

Mine hasn’t changed – I wasn’t able to fully execute my plan during the early COVID panic.

Wait and watch.

Fatherhood

Not sure where I picked up the tip but it stuck with me… always write like it will be your last interaction with someone.

This morning I asked my kids to cut their social circle in half for the month of August.

My son said he was already down to one friend. For one month, I asked him to limit himself to seeing his pal outside, on a bike, with a mask.

I said we’d know more after Labor Day.


What we don’t see => just like that, July is gone!

Today is the end of Week 20. I can remember when Bill G’s advice about a 6-10 week lockdown seemed so long that I doubted it was reasonable.

The speed of the summer passing is a reminder to take the initiative with creating the life I want to live.


“We’re going up there?!”

I got through most my summer essay topics. Saved a couple to get me going again in September.

I’d like to get the whole family camping in August. We will see if I can pull that off and get our oldest up a 14er.



Here’s a technique I use to motivate myself to give extra effort to my kids’ childhood.

Listen to people talk about the way they see the world.

When we’re under stress, and we’re all under stress right now, our deepest mental habits leak out. When it comes to deeply felt emotions, not much is deeper than negative childhood experiences.

So when you hear someone say things like: nobody likes me, I’m treated very unfairly…

…it is a reminder that our actions will endure long after we are gone.


Even if you only need the light for five minutes… there’s something exciting about waking up in the dark, putting on a lot of clothes and hiking with a headlamp.

What comes after => the death of our parents is one last time to own our lives.

Gordon Livingston has a great piece of advice, “set a date and put the baggage of your past behind you.”

Part of my kids’ kindergarten motto was “own it.” Never too late to start!

If you’re still having trouble then remember nobody is the villain in their own story. Each of us is trying to do our best, while being beset by the habits of a lifetime.

COVID is an opportunity to (re)set our children’s mental habits. They are spending a lot of time soaking up how we handle stress.

In our house, it’s been 100-weeks of Daddy-Time in the last 20 weeks.



The best decision I made for my COVID-kids was a little bit of school each day for the last 20 weeks.

A low bar, done first thing daily, gets results.


I’m not telling you what to do. I am sharing the choices I made.