Sunday Summary 6 March 2022

Training Protocols

Decision Making

When looking at a land war in Europe, I felt it was useful to review the lessons from COVID

  • The folly of prediction
  • The future being unknowable
  • The cognitive cost of rushing (with the crowd) when fearful
  • Human systems, like markets, tend to swing past optimal
  • There is likely to be an on-going crisis for the rest of my life
  • Live my life, do my work, deal with the future when it arrives


Wealth & Money

Facts and Feelings

I have a version of this post in my drafts, yesterday’s blog gave me a better example.

If you get my stuff via email then you may have noticed a type-o yesterday. I wrote I hadn’t been away from my house for a week since 2000.

I corrected the error on my site, after repeating it on Twitter.

Here’s the error…

In my head, “a couple years ago” is linked to the year 2000.

I have no idea why this linkage exists but it “feels like the truth”.

My wife has something similar. Often, she feels like she’s just finished high school.

We anchor on the salient, not the truth.

Anyhow, my point isn’t about the fleeting nature of time.

What’s more useful is catching myself when irrational opinions, and clearly false views, feel right.

I marvel at my capacity for self-deception!

It is unlikely I can eliminate my “false feelings” but I can build systems, and habits, so I don’t screw up my life by acting on them.

Write important stuff down is something I’ve been doing since 1990. The value of a “note to file” was drilled into me when I started working in Private Equity.

gMail archive, and searching What’s App, to uncover what was agreed… defuse many situations before they can spiral, and let me see the facts before getting emotionally engaged in arguing about truth.

Better to have my documentation-habit deemed strange than have to deal with unforced errors.

Know your path to ruin => this one is a bit more subtle.

When I’ve made large, unnecessary errors, I have followed a two step path…

  • I am absolutely certain
  • I am fed up and ready to do something extreme about it

Certainty, fed up, drastic measures being required… politicians love to tap into that pattern.

I have learned not to make ANY decisions when I’m feeling certain.

Stop all decisions, chill out and spend time on something else.

If I can’t trust my feelings to get the year right, then I’m really cautious when they’re telling me I should take rapid, drastic action.


The capacity to see beauty

I was going to take a break from posting but this topic gives me an opening to share something useful with you.

So here goes.


First, I know next to nothing about crypto.

Fortunately, my life has been set up to take into account that I am clueless about many things!

I think we can start by agreeing that crypto is volatile.

So I’d suggest you start by thinking deeply about how you, your significant other, your family and your coworkers tolerate volatility.

I don’t need to think deeply. My family abhors volatility. They get nervous about stuff we don’t own.

Personally, I tolerate volatility but tend to sell early. By way of example, I am absolutely certain that I would have sold Amazon 20+ years ago. Grateful I didn’t short it.

So, regardless of the fundamentals, I’m not a good fit for the asset.

About those fundamentals, I can’t see them.

I could learn about crypto but, while learning about an asset class that isn’t a good fit, I am not working on something else.

Let’s repeat that… while thinking about one thing, I am not thinking about another thing.

The opportunity cost of mis-directed thought.

Say I get there – I’m comfortable with the asset class, and I’ve gotten myself and my investment committee past the volatility issue.

Will it make a difference?

Buying, not buying, selling, not selling. Being right will not make a difference in my life.

The opportunity cost of incorrect focus. Big one.

Shades of green

If asset classes don’t make a difference then what does?

I was thinking about this on my run this morning. So let’s start with that… dropping fat, maintaining a stable weight, daily movement in nature, improved strength… big difference!

Since shifting my primary focus away from money, my body has had the opportunity to do a lot of cool stuff.

Trying to get more, of what I don’t need, can prevent me from getting something useful.

A flower

Leaving => I wrote about considering if an asset is a good fit for an owner. What about life?

Leaving makes a difference.. every single time I realize I have different values than my peers, I exit => patiently, quietly, doing a good job on the way out.

I need to watch this tendency. Making a habit of leaving is not going to take me where I’d like to go. Stay where I belong.

Building => Don’t look for easy money, build something.

I helped a friend build a business. Unfortunately, he lied to me and stole money from the investors. Interestingly, when the dust settled, that didn’t make a huge difference. If someone isn’t trustworthy then it’s better to know, as soon as possible. In the end, I learned a lot and walked away with 25-years living expenses.

Learning, while building capital => made a difference, up to a point of rapidly diminishing returns.

A reminder of my first kiss with my wife

As you age, I recommend you transition your focus from money to relationships. Because…

Family => marrying well, raising my children to be exceptionally kind and athletic… makes a huge difference, much more than spending the last ten years building wealth would have done.

Having the courage to change, so my kids’ values are a better fit with my own.

My smiling, lovable savages. You have my eyes…

We tend to over-value what we see.

We see crypto rocketing and we think it must be a good idea. It might be. Like I said, I know nothing about it.

But what we don’t see is often more important.

Thinking about that on my run… the decision “to not” has helped in ways I will never see.

Errors not made.

Not smoking, not using scheduled drugs, not taking sleeping pills, not giving into anger, not quitting…

1/. Will this make a difference?

2/. Will “not this” make a difference?

A useful filter on where to focus, and what to avoid.

Teaching Kids To Smoke

Growing up, I spent ten idyllic summers at a YMCA camp on Howe Sound.

When I worked my way up to Senior Staff, I learned part of the camp’s Oral History => prior to the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking, the camp used to sell cigarettes in its Tuck Shop.

My boss at the time, told me it went further.

We used to teach kids to smoke.

Keep in mind the camp was run by the Young Men’s Christian Association – these were good people, trying to help a wide range of kids.

The story reminds me to keep my eyes open for obvious harms, accepted by everybody.

Current practice can be completely clueless.

Vaping “it will shift people from smoking” is an obvious example. A handful of entrepreneurs hooked a generation of young people before anyone noticed.

Less obvious is the introduction of electronics, and social media, into the lives of our children. My kids have been staring at screens since preschool. COVID institutionalized screens into the daily lives of our children.

Here’s what I’ve told our oldest, now in Middle School.

  • You don’t want to spend your life doing sexy dances for strange boys and men (TicToc) => who’s on the other side of the screen?
  • There’s no such thing as digital privacy – it does not exist
  • You will need to make a choice => do I want to get stuff done, or stare at screens (IG, Snap, Among Us)
  • Your mother and I saw what it was doing to us and stopped
  • Exercise makes you happy – I point this out after every good workout

Similar to conversations I expect to be having on sex, drugs and alcohol… I had to get my own life in order before I attempted to teach my kids.

Who am I really trying to impress? Following a path of external approval creates a never ending cycle of “more” (likes, followers, stuff, money, food, victories). Where is “more” going to take me?

Fastest way to boost health and self-confidence?

  • Positive Action => a habit of daily exercise
  • Via Negativa => ax the Social Media

Right now, your mother and I are making smart choices for you. Soon, it will be up to you.

Choose Wisely.

Little update on my 2021 tech initiative.

  • January saw me cut my screen time in half. Pretty impressive from a single workflow change and deleting two phone apps.
  • My eyesight improved.
  • Less eMail/Twitter is far easier than less “news”.

Look Past The Landing

Too many mothers have lost sons on the Flatirons. This morning we took our son to the accident site.

Friday, after my accident review, I was pretty p’d off with Andy.

Saturday, when I wrote about wanting to blame someone… it was because I spent the night before blaming Andy.

By Sunday, I was able to shift my focus to something useful. I asked…

How’d this happen?

Let’s start with that question.

The goes way back to something call the Turkey Problem.

The turkey is good every single day until just before Thanksgiving… then it gets chopped.

Most gamblers have something in common, early positive feedback with risk.

Andy had a lifetime of strongly positive feedback (aside from two knee surgeries, a broken ankle and waking up at the base of a tree with a separated shoulder). He saw his injuries as a cost of doing business and handled them with grace.

Andy was in fantastic shape, looked really good and enjoyed the outdoors. Andy’s life worked for Andy. I respected his right to live the way he wanted. In many ways, he was an ideal brother-in-law.

Like all of us, his attitude was influenced by feedback on his choices.

Lots of positive feedback.

A key difference between me and many around me… I’m OK with providing direct, negative feedback.

Something I tell my kids, people can get away with a lot of bad choices on snow. It’s a forgiving medium. I say this when we see people doing silly stuff in avalanche terrain. For all the wacky stuff we see… very few folks actually die.

Rock is much less forgiving and it’s RIGHT THERE in Boulder.

Walking out my door, I can see multiple accident sites by spinning my head 180-degrees. On foot, I can get to Andy’s accident site in half an hour.

My kids are going to have opportunity, and access, to the mountains.

So, as a parent, I need to look deeper.

I need to look to the root causes of faulty thinking.

What else does it take?


To kill yourself you need peers who think unacceptable risks are acceptable.

This summer Andy (briefly) fell out with my wife when I forced her to choose between: (a) allowing our daughter to ride technical mountain biking terrain with him, and (b) following my wishes.

My wife never told her favorite person in the world it was my decision behind the scene. I’d spent enough time with Andy to be very uncomfortable with his definition of reasonable, especially for a kid.

I am smiling right now thinking about kid-Andy.

The vision I have in my head… he’s on a Big Wheel, sending a huge ramp with a massive smile on his face.

Hair flowing behind him, full of joy.

It’s a good way to remember him.


I absolutely respected Andy’s ability to make his own choices. It was his risk evangelism that bothered me, to the point of stepping in.

Andy would be happy he didn’t take anyone with him. I know he truly didn’t see the risks he was taking as unreasonable.

Andy would want me to apologize to the college kids (who gave CPR to a dead man) and first responders (who cleaned up his bloody accident scene).

Andy didn’t think past his landing – a lesson I’ve been teaching my son since we started skiing extreme terrain.

A teaching I pass to you right now => Think Past Your Landing

14th out of 731 athletes on the segment that killed him. “Cat Food” is deeply missed. The day he died was his second fastest time up the Flatirons Freeway. The app on Andy’s broken phone tells us, “Take 2:31 off to earn the crown.” There are some games you don’t want to play.

This year, Andy decided to add climbing to his routine.

Eight weeks after setting his speed record on the Second Flatiron, he fell and died.

Locked down due to COVID, then driving past the Flatirons on the way to work… I understand why he wanted to climb.

Heck, I want to climb too! 🙂

But I don’t.

Tribe => I choose mine wisely. One of my kids is hysterically risk adverse – I love her for it and I need her in my life.

Turkey => I read about disasters constantly. 14er Disasters, SAR Biographies, Mountaineering Biographies (3rd link is a book that contains a story about a teenaged fatality on the Flatirons).

Same deal in finance and investing – I read about ruin. I write about ruin. I search for, and teach about, ruin!

I rarely watch video but, before each winter season, I watch clips of skiers being caught in avalanches. The goal is to scare myself and make a remote possibility seem more salient.

It’s a bit like watching Shark Week before a beach vacation.

These techniques work.

Like I said at the start, I reviewed the accident site.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to see up there. Andy climbed to a spot that was above his skill level and fell.

However, as a parent, there is a lot to consider.

How can we create an environment where our kids have the capacity to avoid needless death, while enjoying a life with meaning?

This morning, I started with my son.

At the base of Flatirons, I described Andy’s last climb (start to finish) and told him, “Andy did not need to die.”

Then we hiked up to the accident site while brainstorming factors that led to Andy’s death.

  • No partner
  • No rope
  • No traction
  • Unaware of conditions above him
  • Climbed past his bail out points
  • Lack of skill to down climb his route
  • Moving fast in consequential terrain

As we walked back down the trail, I planted a seed.

I’d really like you to join me at my 75th Birthday. We’ll hit the buffet then smash some bumps together.

We have so much left to do.

Give yourself a reason to look past the landing.

So much left to do.

Expert Knowledge and Unforced Errors

A favorite picture from one of my first daddy-daughter trips, July 2011, just after my son was born. I took our oldest out of the country (!) so my wife could get to know her new baby.

Howard Marks’ latest had a couple of gems:

You may have to be an expert in a field in order to be able to figure out who the true experts are.

True expertise is scarce and limited in scope.

So great and always relevant to decision making.

How to use these insights?

First, ask the experts, who they rate.

It’s a bit like asking your doctor, “what would you do?” rather than, “what do you recommend?”

In finance, Buffett/Munger come up a lot. Both these guys have written a lot of material over the years. How much of it have you read? I am better off re-reading the best-of-the-best.

In your field, you’ll likely have people you rate. Outside of your field… you will be tempted to follow the advice of the same people. This will create the opportunity for unforced errors.

Quick story on that type of error. Last year I went to a conference on complexity and risk. It took a couple hours to realize that I was WAY out of my league quantitatively. Once I realized I was clueless, I grasped the implication of my cluelessness… there was NO WAY I wanted to be on the other side of a trade with these guys.

Further, I had no basis to evaluate the truth, or otherwise, of what they were telling me. By the way, there is a very profitable industry (financial gatekeepers) built on ignoring this reality.

I went to the conference to learn how-to-do but came away with a clear idea about areas where I should not venture.

That was 98% of the discussion. The other 2% of the discussion diverged into my wheelhouse. As soon as the panel strayed into my area it was clear they had no idea what they were talking about. They had forgotten Howard’s advice that true expertise is limited in scope.

The humility to limit the scope of our confidence is near impossible to remember over time.

  • Ask the experts who they rate
  • Stay in the wheelhouse of core competency

Howard ends by encouraging the reader to have…

the humility to recognize when my opinion doesn’t count.

So good, so true!

You can clearly see our collective “need to know” in children. My kids hate it when I tell them I don’t know, or I won’t play-the-game of guessing outcome.

Telling them my opinion doesn’t count creates a lot of cognitive dissonance in their minds. It does not compute.

In my job, errors can be large, time consuming and expensive to exit. As a result, I am always trying not to predict and to point out the limits of my knowledge. Makes me reliable, but a bit boring!

How to use this point.

Make a list of the key areas where you are likely to make a mistake, screw up or hurt someone.

These areas will repeat for decades, trust me, and are where you need to develop the humility to recognize your opinion doesn’t count. Here are mine:

  • Every situation that requires empathy, rather than execution
  • Every situation where I might make a quick verbal reaction in a group

Zoom meetings work great for me. The little bit of friction, to unmute my microphone, cuts my error rate substantially.

Separate from my empathy-deficit, which is balanced by my wife, I have other biases (medicine, science, memory, action over reflection) => these are addressed by remembering to involve other people in my decision making process.

To sum up, the issue isn’t having holes in our abilities.

The issue is letting pride blind us to our biases and not creating systems/teams to reduce our unforced errors, and re-learn from our past mistakes.

Corona Diary 6 May 2020

2020-05-05 13.54.37

New thing => lockdown jiu-jitsu in the front yard!

Daddy G’s School of Self-Defense will roll through the summer, with support from our neighborhood black belt.

The pieces are coming together for our summer Basic Week.

I want our quality of life to be independent of the county’s ability to lock us down, again.


Boulder County announced they were going to let us join the safer-at-home order on Saturday. Phase One opening for Boulder starts this weekend. Tweens, teens and adults must wear masks in stores and wherever social distancing isn’t possible.

At the State level, positives continue at >400 per day. Against this background, the testing positivity rate is trending down and the folks in the hospital with COVID-19 are well down.

Colorado didn’t see the sharp drop in positives that other geographies have experienced. We are far more loose than Hong Kong, a place where I have friends and family.

Cinco de Mayo Taco Tuesday was fun.

2020-05-05 17.59.26-1


I’ve been around world-class practitioners for 30+ years.

  1. I pay attention to people with experience doing. Practitioners, ideally with multiple successful outcomes. The best people rarely come across as smooth. I am biased towards smoothness in presentation.
  2. I pay attention to advice within the practitioner’s domain. For example, Taleb on risk (defer to him) vs Taleb on nutrition (defer to my experience). When we have a positive opinion of someone there is massive cognitive pressure to agree “with everything.” Therefore, I publicly state, often, it is OK to disagree.
  3. I need to remember blindspots and past errors. I have a rich history of these things! Unfortunately, I am hardwired to attribute my mistakes to others. However, what is really happening… my process fails and I repeat a past error.
  4. Decision making needs to be driven by a process that slows me down and makes my errors visible. Every important decision I make is run past 2-5 people. Emotionally, I am looking for approval => another unfortunate hardwiring! At my best, I am open to reasons to avoid taking action.

My life is more sensitive to the impact of a poor decision than another good one.

Something I learned from Charlie Munger, each change is an opportunity for error to enter the system.

Can you explain your decision making process to a child?

It’s a good test of the system.



Related to creating a system to reduce bias…

I apply effort to remind myself that people, who disagree with me, aren’t stupid.

My mind likes to downplay, denigrate and disregard my adversaries, both real and imagined.

When a “bozo” makes a good point, I share with my wife.

Similar to parenting => better outcomes by seeking to increase positive vs negative interactions (inside your head)…

It takes effort to find the good in all people.

Marriage Material

I blew up my first marriage in a year.

If you asked me about it then, not only would I have blamed my ex-spouse, I would have blamed the entire concept of marriage.

Roll forward a couple decades (!) and here’s a lesson that I’m seeking to pass along to my kids.

Sibling bickering is exhausting, painful and universal.

Rather than focusing on “fixing” my kids – who seem healthy, loving and normal – I use conflict as an opportunity to teach.

I wait for the energy to go out of the situation.

Hey, I want to teach you a Jedi mind trick.

When you are upset…

Watch your mind.


It is going to fix on something outside…

…Bella’s voice

…Axel’s question

…Lexi’s tone

…my face


Your mind is going to trick you into thinking that the problem is out there.

Not helpful.

Because you can’t do anything “out there.”


What you can do is pause and ask, “What do I want?”

And you’re going to find something to helpful to do.


Simple, not easy.

Long Term Healthy

Yet another friend convinces a doctor to give her a procedure so she can continue to do what’s causing her pain…

…reminds me of a realization – prescribing is less fun when I see my role in hurting the health and home life of my clients.


Avoid Athletic Ruin

Missing one day of cardio makes me serious, two days off and I’m quiet, three days off and I’m sullen…

Ruin, in an athletic sense, is dealing with the implications of not being able to exercise.

If that rings true then what follows might help.


Given my lifetime of extreme exercise, bike crashes and running injuries, a radiologist could find a lot of things “wrong” with my body.

Knowing that I’m a walking insurance reimbursement opportunity – I stay away from those that profit from unnecessary treatment.

When I pay attention to what follows, my body works great.


Before paying someone to cut, inject or irradiate you…

Rest – addicts seek extreme friends to reassure themselves that an unreasonable lifestyle is sustainable – sometimes I’m the seeker, sometimes I’m the friend.

Lifestyle Modification – winning isn’t important, racing isn’t important – ask a broken down athlete what they miss and you’ll hear a similar story, I wish I could simply get out the door without pain. It’s worth a lot of compromise to maintain my ability to get out the door.

Pre-Habilitation – why not try a world-class rehab program BEFORE you opt for surgery. For non-acute injuries, rest as if you had a procedure then give your best effort to strengthen your body and increase your range of motion.

My demographic takes pride in doing what-it-takes for athletic success. If you want a true challenge then do the above and deal with the internal dialogue that results!


Risk seeking friends – this is wider than athletics.

My past choices have shown that I have the capacity for bad judgement.

  • Elevate my heart rate.
  • Introduce group dynamics and social proof.
  • Surround myself with charismatic risk seekers.

…and you have the recipe for a good time! 😉

It’s also a perfect storm to spin myself into fatigue, injury and depression.

Remember who gets to deal with the wreckage.

Strategies for Good Times

Here are three areas where I fool myself.

Consider Ruin – I’ve done a good job of addressing the risks identified three years ago. So good that, when I asked myself the question, “What can wipe me out?” I quickly answered, “You’re set amigo.” That’s a top-of-the-market sentiment if I ever heard one.

Having mitigated the hazards of leverage, unemployment, litigation, fraud, risk-seeking peers and insolvency… my main risks are health and accidental death.

Do you know your own?

Stay Variable – I was listening to out-of-state visitors rave about the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

They’re right.

Where they go wrong is assuming that buying a condo will enable them to lock in the emotions of beautiful spring day.

I’m just like them.

We’re all just like them.

Good times give us access to additional finance/capital. We often use this money to capitalize luxuries and time.

Stay variable, stay invested and resist the urge to lock in family overheads.

Rebalance Time – the best deals I’ve done have been where I traded money-for-time.

It takes vigilance to carve time to become world-class at things that interest me. Mastery makes me happy.

Social media, marriage, long-term friendships, work/non-work, self/family – I don’t advocate being in balance – I do advocate making an honest assessment and asking myself if I’m OK with where my time allocation will take my life.