Writing and Publishing

My writing brought this woman to me – the highest ROI of my life

I’ve been publishing for 20 years and wanted to pass along what I’ve learned.

Giving away good information for free is effective marketing, and good karma. It works best if you start by going to where the clients are and always write to your target audience. Only engage those who bring out the best in you.

Related, there is huge option value in creating a higher personal profile, but beware the costs (links to Tim’s blog on fame). The higher profile part of my life worked best when I was tucked away in a small town in the Southern Hemisphere.

Once I realized I had much more success than I needed, my reasons for continuing to publish changed:

Catharsis – if an idea stays with me for a long time then the easiest way to clear my head is to tell the whole world about it. It’s my version of Crocodile Dundee’s Just Tell Wally (link is YouTube clip from the movie).

If publishing doesn’t do the trick then it’s a sign my values aren’t aligned with my life situation. I’ve made two big changes using this test (leaving finance and elite competition). Taking the time to “think-write-publish” is as a reality check on how I’m living.

When my tone turns negative, it’s a sign I’m not living right. It has nothing to do with the subject of my writing.

Legacy & Mortality – Leaving lessons for my kids’ future selves gives comfort. Each of us learns a lot as we move through life. I’m grateful to the writers who came before.


Publishing started around 1999.

Before 1999, I wrote.

35 years and counting.

My published material generated, and led me towards, money. As a young man, it also forced me to get-my-story-straight about who I was and what I believed worked.

My unpublished material generated wealth, connection and greatly improved the quality of my life.

Worth repeating – my most useful stuff has an audience of one, maybe two.

Writing is the quickest way to flush out my blindspots (COVID, the future, how I’ll feel next Tuesday). I need constant reminders of where I’m clueless.

It is also how I identify where I have the capacity for good judgement (fitness, finances, family).

If you’ve had success in any area then your mind will try to fool you into thinking you have been successful in every area. I’m told this is an occupational hazard for great surgeons in the mountains, or markets. It certainly applies to me whenever I stray outside my core competencies. Talking to a surgeon about medicine for example… 😉

Writing is my system to counteract this feature of human misjudgment (link to Munger’s famous talk).

While I forget most of what I write (Catharsis is real), I have access to a valuable record of what I was thinking at each key decision point in my life. I spent this past week reviewing budgets and financial projections from the last decade.

With searchable email you have the same thing. Make it even better by writing a one-pager before key decisions, or simply jot down ten thoughts to start each week. 500 thoughts a year. You will see patterns, you’ll learn about yourself.

My older material teaches me to be cautious with personal memories. My memories change over time and are magically back-fitted to actual events. The principles of a decision are much more sticky in my mind.

What you’re looking for is principles that work and remembering how often reality surprises us.


The act of writing is a step, on a journey of daily action, that creates incremental improvement.

Writing isn’t magical but the continuous compounding of small daily actions will appear to be.

Winter Season Review

Homeboy chilling after a three-hour tour

I want to offer you the best lessons from my winter.

#1 winter lesson right here

This is the first winter, out of the last five, where I haven’t been ill or injured.

It’s not because of the pandemic.

It is because I resisted the urge to ramp training load until something broke.

Do you know the warning signs of doom?

  • Sugar craving
  • Hungry all the time
  • Need for double naps
  • Coffee has no impact
  • Inflamed gums (I’m in big trouble once I get this far)

Back in January, I started doing a bit of “real” training. It didn’t seem like much. I added a bit of tempo.

The session is simple, 2×20 minutes climbing on skins/skis, do it Tuesday/Thursday => 80 minutes of tempo, per week.

I’d feel high all day. For the rest of the winter, I had to remember Iñaki’s advice and resist the urge to add more.

I also had to add an extra 45 minutes of sleep, every single night, to recover (from what seemed like a tiny increase to my weekly load).

If you were injured, despite the pandemic (!), then you need to train yourself to follow Iñaki’s advice.

This habit, of increasing to the breaking point, may be applying more broadly in your life.


…and my son learned how to alpine tour

The BEST thing about amateur athletics is:

If you can learn a lesson, when the stakes are low, then you just might be able to apply it somewhere useful. 😉

  • Humility, Patience, Fortitude => how I raced
  • Consistency => no zeros => apply it to Project “Life”
  • Equanimity => focus on the controllable, leave the rest

Making time to share nature, together

Back in September, I wrote about seeking options during the Pandemic. I planned to swap 95% of my ski budget for a new vehicle, while removing COVID’s ability to screw up my ski season.

Worked out well, I traded-in three vehicles, reduced the target specification, bought my wife a new car and ended up with a 4Runner for myself.

By holding myself back, my financial outcome was better. Not surprising – I’m good with finance.

The surprising part was my ski season.

I will end March with 97 ski sessions and I never hit peak traffic, in the dark, with three kids in the car, during a blizzard…


…and our youngest is linking her turns in the black bumps

Let’s bring it together.

No injury, no illness, ~100 sessions on snow, 2 new cars, family is improving their skills…

…no net financial cost

…no peak-period driving

…during a pandemic

Take time to notice good judgement.

When Horror Pays A Visit

How I spent last Monday

As you undoubtedly saw, ten of my neighbors were murdered last Monday.

The shooting happened at the supermarket where I purchase my pancake mix.

The crime scene is about as close to home as close to home can be.


How do you deal with something like that?

#1 => Keep living, a very British solution to terror.

#2 => With our oldest, we spent the last week repeating simple phrases (Boulder is safe) and answering her questions with simple answers (don’t answer the door, call 911).

#3 => Keep the dialogue open and the answers simple.


What about my internal life? What kind of questions arise when horror makes a visit?

One of the victims, Kevin Mahoney, reminded me of my future self. His daughter shared a tribute, which was a reminder to live so my kids remember me with beautiful thoughts.

While avoidance is an effective coping strategy, any one of us might end up dead for no good reason.

In my senior year at McGill University, 14 women were murdered at another college in Montreal. Canadians made changes that reduced the frequency, and lethality, of their mass shooting events. The Montreal shooting happened seven months after Columbine.

It sounds like Kevin got a chance to say what he wanted to say to his daughter. I’d want my kids to know that a senseless death doesn’t imply a senseless life.

Don’t focus on my death, I want you to live your best life.

+++

What to do?

Big picture, nothing to do with guns, but everything to do with how to act in society…

Ghost the sociopaths.

If I think you are the sort of person who might hurt me, or if this is a situation with a stranger who might have a .357 magnum under his seat, then seek an exit, quietly.

I drive mellow because cars can be dangerous weapons.

I extend my driving habits to all situations.


My first thought, when I heard about Officer Eric Talley’s death, was gratitude that I live in a place where people are willing to walk into gunfire to protect their community. Selfless valor did not happen in Montreal and additional women died as a result.

When it comes to death (and it will come to death for all of us)… saving others is as good as it gets.

I want to thank Eric Talley’s family for supporting his choice to be a police officer.


When my daughter asked me what I thought, I advised her that it’s better to be effective than right. Specifically, my adult life has been about moving towards better.

Seek better.


To my wife, I pointed out that we inherit our opinions from our parents, then our opinions are reinforced by our peers and, as adults, our opinions are strengthened year-after-year by confirmation bias.

What does this mean in practice?

Don’t engage opinion – it’s just an opinion and didn’t belong to the owner to begin with!

Because it is near impossible to change an adult’s opinion, the wise work with children.


If you want to change reality then start with agreement.

We might decide it is a good idea to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Similar to being in favor of “tax simplification,” I have never met a person who took the other side.

I also note the success of Colorado’s marijuana lobby – they used a simple slogan “treat it like alcohol”. A simple slogan that reached beyond the issue.

Like alcohol, cars kill a lot of people. Cars, alcohol and cigarettes – we’ve been able to move towards better on many issues.

Making my life completely safe isn’t available to me. What I get to choose is where I focus and what I do. Lifetime risk of death is a useful way to reset your emotional state. Daily movement, more veggies, don’t speed and don’t smoke. Click the link to see why.

With violence, address it in myself, so I don’t enhance it in my son.

Remembering Gary


Gary died this week, killed in an avalanche. The link is the best write-up I’ve found so far.

CAIC will do a report on the death and you’ll be able to find it here. The initial report makes it appear that consequential terrain is a key component of the accident. I can picture a spring snow slab laying across a 45-degree, damp rock slab.

I’ll let the experts tell you more about the accident. I suspect the report will publish early next week.

Like Andy, Gary’s death will expand far beyond his immediate circle. Their deaths are a reminder how much we impact people far beyond our day-to-day experience.

The world loves people who are kind to strangers.


When I decided to figure out Vail Mountain, Gary was the first person to be kind to me. I used to drop by his shop and try to learn something. He was ALWAYS generous with his time and experience. He had a nice way of steering me into making safer choices.

So there’s a lesson => set your life up so you have time to share your unique knowledge and experience.

Gary was never too busy to share the best parts of his life. From the first time I walked into his shop, he had time for me.


The men dying this ski season are coming from the best-of-the-best in American Ski Mountaineering. They are making reasonable decisions. I haven’t read one report where I was shaking my head and thinking, “how could they do that?”

Another lesson => when the best are dying – the rest of us should pay attention to what is implied about the nature of the game being played. I wrote the same thing last year after a wet snow avy killed a skier near Crested Butte.

When your friends are dying, doing what you do, pay attention.

Look deeply into the need you are seeking to fill. There’s almost certainly a lower consequence way to have a life with meaning.


Finally, my Dropbox is filled with PDFs of Gary’s best writing (the Denali 2019 stuff is great). Gary took the time to share his successes, mistakes and adventures. Skiing the Messner Couloir in Alaska is a fun read.

The lesson, for me, is to keep writing – even when I’m feeling a little flat.


The picture at the top is the first sunrise after Gary died.

Like everyone we lost over the last 12 months, we never know when we are starting our last year.

Enjoy 2021.

Problems vs Things


The moms who interact with our family (pediatricians, teachers, coaches and tutors) notice our kids have a different attitude towards work.

Recently, my wife was asked “How do you do it?”

She gave an excellent answer explaining it’s a mixture of leading by example, high standards and routine.

To gain useful insight for you, I took her answer and flipped it.

  • What’s different about my household?
  • How does my approach vary from what’s used by excellent parents in my community?

For 25 years, I have acted on this belief…

Only rarely will the biggest problem in my life coincide with what I need to be doing.

Problems, toxic relationships, habits of self-harm – intractable issues and people.

Let them go.

Stalkers, trolls and neurotics – I ghost without seeking to prove I am right, without seeking to justify my actions, without seeking to turn their community against them.

COVID and things I do not control – eliminate their ability to cause further harm.

This saves energy and frees my mind.


That extra energy…

That lack of distraction…

…is the difference between success and failure.


I have another quirk.

I enjoy inconveniencing myself to do what I think is right.

Now, the sensation inside of me is not enjoyment. In fact, I spend a lot of time feeling pissed off.

However, I’ve been around long enough to know there is a hidden payoff in every repeated action. Perhaps, I’m hooked on being true to myself. Frankly, I don’t know the cause. I do know it’s useful.

I believe both of the above are trainable. They’ve played a key part in my successes.

Let’s rephrase… if you’re prone to fixating on your problems then you need to let that stuff go. Letting go is what’s going to help you get past the distractions that prevent you from consistently moving your life forward.


I’ll end with an observation on 360-degree fatherhood. It’s how I choose friends, mentors and coaches.

Spend time sharing positive experiences with exemplars, while they sustain their good habits.

Me to my spouse. My spouse to me.

Me to my kids. My kids to me.

Let the best of others rub off on you.

Own Use Control Acquire Build

For some, the building (of assets) is the best part of the process.

Last Thursday, I mentioned that my son and I were talking about real estate assets.

My son, like most folks, has a bias towards ownership. This runs deep – the only relationship he sees with assets is own vs want.

Now, as any yachtsman will tell you, when it comes to assets… the person getting the greatest benefit isn’t always the person paying the bills.

Two questions that are fundamental to how you organize your affairs:

  • Who gets the benefit of the asset(s)?
  • Who gets the benefit of your time?

Back to Thursday’s strawberries, a proxy for cash flow

From Thursday’s example…

  • The direct benefit of the renal property goes to the tenant.
  • The cash flow goes towards my cost of living.
  • Not having to earn that cash flow, gives me time to spend educating my kids.

The person, or entity, that owns the rental property doesn’t matter as much as you’d think.

What matters is who uses, who controls and who gets the benefit of… the asset.

The mismatch, between ownership and benefit, is a key source of friction within family systems. To mitigate, each generation should have an opportunity to create and affirm their own values.

Short version: we each agree to pay our own way.

The mismatch is also why our political class does a poor job of picking winners, setting preferences and allocating resources.

Incentives matter.


So, are you a balance sheet builder? Are you someone who enjoys using assets? Do you seek power through the ability to control budgets? Does giving to others bring you happiness? Do you love the thrill of the deal, or is it more about the novelty of a new purchase?

As a young person, these questions can be difficult to answer. Even when you think you’ve answered them… you might think differently later.

Here’s something I’ve noticed about myself. The more I notice others, the more I need to step back, relax and recharge. When I’m getting enough time to recharge then the noise of the world flows by.

Remember time and you will make fewer mistakes.

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.