It simply isn’t possible to see both (a) what the future could be; and (b) the drag of accepting the way things are.
Over Thanksgiving my kids reminded me of this fact. They were amazing.
Earlier in the year, I told them that I was done spending time with all three. No “full family” trips.
I stuck to my guns. When it came to kids, I was 1s and 2s across the year. Much less refereeing between them.
But they missed hanging out with each other so they started a get-along campaign.
See Dad, we get along now.
Reminded me of another favorite lesson => to be sick of sickness is the only cure.
The part of me that likes to say “no” was a little sad at their improvement. Strange thing human nature!
I share the story as a holiday reminder that parents have a choice with regard to the status quo. It does take a lot of patience, skill and persistence to help everyone get along with each other.
While I can’t control the actions of others, as a parent, I can influence the incentive structure.
Even getting the incentives correct, change was slow and took many months, to become obvious.
Another thing that’s been frustrating is my lack of recovery. In my 50s, I simply do not bounce back from anything very well.
I’ve noticed that the days with “more” cardio are a whole lot easier for my mental health. So, with an eye towards “better”, I got myself an Oura ring to gain insight into resting HR, HRV and sleep quality.
This process was another reminder… Two things are necessary for progress: (a) make mistakes visible; and (b) have the courage to see, then address, uncomfortable truths.
You see, I bought the ring so it could tell me what I wanted to hear!
Unfortunately, the data has had other ideas. It’s early days, so I’ll skip the specifics until I’ve gone a full season.
Suffice to say, the message appears to be that my appetite is greater than my tolerance. The only way I’m going to fit in “more” is to go a whole lot easier (most of the time). This reminds me of an observation I shared with KP (when he was my age).
I used to do a lot more easy training than I remember.
He liked that quote so much, he hung it above his desk. As I near 53, I’m glad the memory came back to me.
Anybody over 50 who says “age is just a number” isn’t paying attention, or may be trying to sell you something. 🙂
A recurring theme across my fatherhood journey… remembering it is OK to be sensible.
Another observation, this one physiological, each time I give myself a novel anaerobic stimuli, it kicks my butt for at least a month.
The first month of something new kicks my butt. Being wrecked is obvious to me. Thereafter, the fatigue gets more subtle.
Mark Allen quote… just because you feel better, doesn’t mean you are better. At the time we were talking about over-reaching but it applies more broadly.
In other words, adaptations are continuing even when I can’t “feel” them.
The shirt pictured above is from the last time I was “fast” in a conventional sense, August 2012. We had a 3 year old, a baby and my wife was 8-months pregnant with our youngest.
Shortly thereafter, I decided to pause the racing. That one choice started a positive cascade of consequences that continue to benefit my family.
The “pausing” racing choice was a big one to make. I had a lot of my identity tied up in my relative performance.
I also had a mistaken belief that the process of race preparation was essential to look good. As I age, I’m bumping into the same fear.
Just like with my household, changing the incentives can lead to better.
Over the last six years, our discretionary budget has been simplified to vehicles, skiing and vacations.
Let’s start with vacations.
Most families with kids, place their vacations before considering Childcare and the size of their mortgage/rent payment. I recommend you reconsider your priorities. Earlier I explained why, I sold assets so the grown ups could maintain their health and relationship.
When I was living with a 4, 2 and 1 year old – my favorite kind of discretionary spending wasn’t a vacation, it was “more childcare”.
Always, more childcare.
To be a good investor, you need to know your opportunity cost.
Same deal for being a good spouse!
The Bora Bora vacation (above, still on my fridge) is the equivalent of 150 date nights.
When I was working through a decade of bedtime dramas… I priced my life in date nights (time with my wife, time without a kid melting down).
Date nights where someone else can put the little ones to sleep, and you can alternate the following morning with your spouse.
Alternate the routine so each spouse gets a slot where they are “off” from 5pm to 10am.
“Sweetie, I just need two nights a week where nobody is yelling at me.“
I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve a nervous system reset 2x per week.
Still want to head out of town? These were my rules for luxury spending:
make it “fridge-worthy” (re-live the vibe over-and-over)
book it way in advance (create anticipation)
take a lot of pictures
The trips were a good bang for the buck, we spread them out, got stuff done and had something to look forward to.
We found shorter trips were better – if we left for more than a few days, our Alpha Pup would try to take over the household!
We left the kids at home, in their normal routine – never risk the sleep schedule!
Take a look at your budget, are you making time to enjoy each other?
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.
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.
What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?
Well, if you’re a family then your “one thing” might be having your kids achieve the capacity for independent living. We achieved it, briefly, this past week.
Wake up, sort breakfast, clean up, do home school, snack then light housework.
The kids were occupied long enough for me to do a classic Colorado hike and get back for lunch. This is big because it frees us from needing our school district to open => to provide childcare.
The kids, working together, can educate and feed themselves.
What’s this worth? As much as 20 hours a week, every week, until a vaccine is deployed.
Spend time to get time => the process was 8 weeks, involved 3 tutors, ~$6,000 and a lot of project management from yours truly.
COVID is a binary life for me – I am either on my property, or in the backcountry.
Five days a week, I’m inside two square blocks.
This is not my first choice for the next 25-75 weeks!
The kids tested out of their next grade-level math, which gave them a confidence boost.
I don’t see how they will be able to mix into a higher grade’s math class but that’s a problem for the future.
For now, we’re basking in a job well done!
Knowing the kids are ahead makes me feel more relaxed about how the fall will play out. School districts across the US are delaying their re-openings.
The above provides me with a case study to share a high-performance mindset with you.
In personal planning => use time to create time => life is about time. If you are surrounded by people that think otherwise then you should change your situation!
It cost me eight-weeks of effort to free as many as 1,000 hours.
This is a highly valuable option => especially in terms of removing the fear, and horror, of a full academic year worth of online learning!
In performance => we need to think clearly to perform at our best => placing yourself in a position where you have the feeling that you have already won will calm your mind and enable your best to flow through.
Now, I certainly don’t feel that we’ve won against COVID (unforced errors aplenty at the Federal level) but it is clear our household is doing well => just need to keep myself out of the hospital.
I am chipping away at the crisis’ ability to disrupt my life and clawing back my ability to direct my own time, within the constraints of the reality of the virus (masks, social distancing, closures).
Spending years crafting a desired outcome is something I do better than most.
It’s not just inside my marriage where I seek to influence outcome – I’ve been building a mountaineering partner. Since my son was two years old, he’s loved going uphill.
The “up” has never been a problem. In those early days, it was the “down” where he’d flame out. Back then, I’d never take him further than I could carry him out. We used to negotiate when the shoulder rides would start.
We’re into another hiking season and I wanted to share some ideas about developing your kids.
Last season, I carried everything, all the time. When I tried to get him to help out, the joy of the hike drained out of him. This led to some heavy, heavy days.
Over the winter, I adapted my training program so I could tolerate the loads.
This year, we’re trying something new. To change our view on weight, I’m leading by example and carrying extra water to every summit.
Weight is a privilege. The picture above represents ~25 pounds of privilege. 😉
Seeing me carry, had the desired psychological outcome and he’s been asking me to carry “more.”
Two things are required to earn the right to carry:
Beat me to the summit
Don’t fall on the way down
The not falling is tougher than it sounds. Our mental cue is “walk like a boss” => wide stance, toes down the mountain, stand tall. It’s easy for a minute.
Less easy for an hour while discussing the finer points of the latest Clone Wars season or estimating Chewbacca’s age.
Dad, Chewie is in every movie, I can’t figure it out…
With lockdown, my full program has become visible to the kids. They noticed that I do a lot of strength training. Two (out of three) asked to join. So they’ve been doing some supplemental work to our hiking program.
I made light sandbags for them. We do burpees, short runs, clean & press, keg lifts… Because their bags are light, they can run circles around me (literally). They get a kick out of being “faster than Dad” and that keeps them coming back for more.
Our youngest (below) is working with an orange dry-bag I filled with clothes. It looks HUGE but doesn’t weigh much. My son had bag envy – his is filled with pea gravel.
Let everyone be strong is a lesson I learned from Scott Molina.
Be sure you let your kids be strong and find their win. It helps build their internal motivation to persist.
As for the program we are:
following a gradual, weekly progression
doing it locally before considering any travel
including a mixture of too easy, just right and challenging routes
inserting easy days so we bounce back
making sure we get consistent sleep
If you think the above sounds like the approach used by a gold-medal coach then you’d be right. It was taught it to me early in my triathlon career.
I special ordered a black mask from our oldest. Combined with blue-iridium sunglasses, a baseball hat and a hunting knife… we don’t have any problems getting folks to yield on the trail.
Foremost, because America need more people wearing masks. Be the change.
Secondly, because we might be on some crowded routes when the high mountains open up. Get sick later.
Finally, because it’s going to make life above tree-line seem a whole lot easier when we take them off.
Over multi-year time horizons, we have tremendous influence on the direction of our life.
My son is 9 and we can hike any route I want in the Rockies.
Be willing to inconvenience yourself (today) to help the people in your life become what you wish for them (tomorrow).
When I was training seriously, I’d start most seasons with 13-weeks where I would “stay put and roll the week.” Having a simple, basic week is a powerful tool for getting stuff done and avoids the cost of variation.
The cost of variation is the energy required to consider alternatives, to choose and to negotiate for “space” for ourselves.
When you are at the limit of your ability, patience or capacity to recover => eliminating unnecessary variation (and associated conflicts) can be a big help. I’ve brought a similar approach to my family.
I’ll use my son’s schedule as an example, here’s what he’s doing November to April:
Monday – school/soccer
Tuesday – school/water polo
Wednesday – choir/school/jiujitsu
Thursday – school/swim lesson
Friday – school/go to mountains
Saturday – ski group/movie night
Sunday – family ski/back home
Every-single-morning, he’s going to read for 20 minutes before doing anything. He is usually reading by 6:31am.
Despite everyone “knowing” the schedule, we write it out and place it on the kitchen counter. This lets everyone have a look and get comfortable with the plan.
There is variety between the days, but little variation between the weeks. For example, I don’t need to worry about what we are going to do on a rainy February weekend.
The bulk of my “life” fits into the time before my kids wake up, when they are at school and my “days off.” In the winter, many weeks, my wife handles the kids from end of school Thursday to Friday evening.
Bedtimes, my own included, are set so we can wake up and keep the week rolling. When we start to get run down bedtimes move earlier and earlier.
I give myself zero flexibility with my own wake-up time => “no excuses wake-up” eliminates energy spent on choice.
Some principles we use.
Sleep, school work and healthy eating is our highest priority. Create the habits and energy to outperform.
Kids don’t know what they want. Our minds are hardwired to complain about every single change and variation => just look inside! Absent a repeating schedule, you are certain to have endless negotiations. Exhausting, when you don’t have energy to spare.
My kids want: love, to demonstrate competence and acceptance => the schedule needs to provide everyone with a chance to meet their basic human needs.
Clear ownership of responsibilities. Who is doing what? The kids are hardwired to compete for your time. Lay out the mommy/daddy times, make it equitable. With our preschoolers, showing them their “mommy days” was very important to reduce conflict and let mom see she was doing enough.
Keep it rolling at grade level. I do not care about the relative performance of my kids. I am most interested in identifying holes. If you have a future Rhodes scholar in the house then it will become apparent in its own time. However, if you miss the fact that your little one doesn’t know how to read then it will severely damage self-confidence, their attitude toward education and their capacity to teach themselves.
My constraints are extremely useful as they keep me from over-doing-it. I have a track record of burying myself with fatigue.
My goal is to do what needs to be done, strengthen my marriage and have peace of mind => to know I am executing to the best of my ability, most days. I know what I want.
Because I witness my internal dialogue, I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings!
Meeting a reasonable basic week gives me an anchor and avoids the temptation to increase my expectations of myself.
Early in my fatherhood journey, I created an effective cover story => the need to generate cash for the family.
My cover story was a socially acceptable justification for being away from my family.
As additional kids arrived, and I watched my wife deal with the day-to-day, it became obvious that my avoidance strategy would not take my life where I wanted it to go.
I have a quirk => I “see” and “feel” the risk of future regret.
Due to my quirk, I will usually choose the path of least regret, regardless of short-term pain.
My thinking went like this… having been through one divorce, is my avoidance strategy moving my marriage towards where I would like it to go?
And this… you know, my friends tell me that parents have very little impact on their kids, even if that’s true… Do I want to spend the last twenty years of my life wondering if the kids would have had a better outcome with me around?
Once I re-framed, the choice was obvious.
Time to do a better job at home.
However, at that point, mourning for my past life set in.
It lasted for five years!
A key parenting principle:
if you show interest in something I enjoy then I will reward you with time and attention
In offering myself to my family, I seek to offer my best self:
We do it their way – their speed – their level of competence.
I don’t teach, coach or instruct. We simply spend time together.
We do the activity one-on-one.
My primary goal is to establish the link between:
fun – Dad – camping
fun – Dad – skiing
fun – Dad – biking
fun – Dad – hiking
No agenda with regard to pace, duration and difficulty. No agenda!
Keep the trip short. The pictures in this blog are from an 18-hour mid-week camping trip. As another example, our youngest has precious memories of skiing with me => initially, the skiing took less time than the driving!
Train before the training. The world gets a better version of me if I’ve done a workout first.
So if you’re feeling bummed, or avoiding life altogether, then get out of the house and start making the association between fun and what you like to do.
As I tell Axel in the backcountry…
It’s self-rescue or sit down and die.
By the way, if you look deeper then you will see the association of “fun” is really between you and your kid.