Wins, Pain, Anticipation and Endings

grumpy_catLast Sunday, I was puttering around the house waiting for my daughter to wake up from her nap and caught myself in a thought-trap. I was thinking:

Well, here’s another ride that I’ll be missing

Note the connection I was making between a small loss (missed ride) and my daughter.

Not Good.

A habit of creating frequent mental losses is guaranteed to make us miserable.


There are four areas I tweak to manage my mood.


Because bigger isn’t (much) better, spread ’em out.

  1. Each morning I wake up (win)
  2. Cup of coffee (win)
  3. Second cup of coffee, heck ya! (win)

Three wins before anyone is awake.

This morning, I tacked on a run. Four wins by 7AM.

Coffee, meals, workouts, articles, work assignments, chore completion => all of these make me happy, so I’ve made them smaller, and more frequent.



The opposite of winning isn’t losing. It’s pain.

  • A whining three-year old => pain
  • The cacophony of three overtired kids in my car => pain

painI have four tactics that I use with pain. I’ll give examples as a father but I use them everywhere (work, athletics, family).

Temporary – everything ends, maintain perspective

Meaning – my behavior is an example I set to prepare my children to care for my demented future self

Schedule Myself – every day has at least two slots for me – a slot might be as small as a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood – I free myself to serve others by acknowledging that I served myself already.

Wins – see my pain as another person’s win // I prefer to deal with kid insanity on my own, rather than with my spouse => makes me feel like a hero because I am enduring to spare another



  • Vacations
  • Bonuses
  • Performance reviews
  • Exams
  • Pitch meetings
  • Prospecting

The corporate world is filled with events where we can anticipate a win.

Anticipating a win feels good.

You can use this effectively within a marriage.

  • Step up to take a bunch of pain (send your spouse on vacation without the kids)
  • Sex dates
  • Date night
  • Couples retreats
  • Large purchases (works great even if you NEVER buy)

Remember that the win need not be large.

Anticipate small wins.

This is what makes Facebook such a powerful medium.



If you pay attention to your pain memories then you might find that the most painful are ones where peak pain happened at the end.

  • Sports (Packers, anyone?)
  • Divorces
  • Bankruptcies
  • Life, then Death

With parenting, I need to allow time to unwind after things go crazy.

Previously, I would be in a rush to get the kids to sleep so I could get to bed. When things didn’t go easily, which was often with my oldest, I would be ending every single day with peak pain. It was exhausting. My oldest grew up and that worked itself out.

However, our middle kid started having difficulty with his bedtime routine. Applying a little behavioral psychology, we shortened his nap, napped ourselves (when required), and made sure we had 90 minutes awake after putting him to sleep. It made the same situation, seem a lot less painful.

Move the pain away from the ending.

Ideally, take it early.


These tactics work well and you can find more info in Kahneman’s Thinking Fast & Slow

Maintaining Function and Independence

Here’s an effective way to use a few of the hours I saved you with my email tips. It takes less than half an hour a week.

The session takes 12 minutes and will help you maintain your ability to:

  • get out of a chair
  • recover from a fall
  • pull yourself up from the floor
  • cope with your carry on luggage

The above are HIGH on my priority list for maintaining independence and dignity as I age.

Alternate between a lower body exercises and an upper body exercise. Aim for 12 sets total – 6-15 reps per set – I take a minute per set including rest.

  • Lower
    • Squat
    • Leg Press
  • Upper
    • Pull up
    • Dip

Back and forth (upper/lower), rest as you need but if you need more than a minute then reduce weight.

You’ll probably need an assist on the pull-ups and the dips – there’s a machine (below) in most gyms that will help you get going.

Use a wide range of motion – better to go lighter, and slower, with a full range.


Goblet squat is great way to learn how to do the squat exercise. It’s a lot like sitting into, and getting up from, a chair.

The routine is simple but takes effort to do twice a week, every week, forever.

This routine is an effective way to reduce the speed that I will become frail. I’ve been doing some version of it since high school, over 30 years and counting!

When I travel, it can seem silly to pay drop-in fees for 12-20 minutes of exercise.

What gets the wallet out is understanding what I might lose if I take a bad fall late in life.

I also get really sore if I go more than a week without strength training.

So start light and have an expert teach you proper form.


As an alternative, here is the NY Times’ seven-minute workout.

The Second Stage of Aging

Barbie Movie NightMy post on The Middle-Aged Athlete was inspired by James Hillman’s book on The Force of Character – author discussing his book below.

The book has nuggets throughout that offer a insight into the experience of “getting old.” The central premise is aging will make us more of what we are. “What we are” being Hillman’s definition of character.

So I asked myself, “What are my central traits?” and, more usefully, “What traits work against the life I’d like to live?

If you’re like me then, at least initially, you’ll come up with a shopping list of admirable traits – things you like about yourself. So far, I haven’t had the courage to verify this list with my wife!

More useful is to reflect on the traits that might lead one’s self into trouble. Quickly, I came up with two…

  • A preference for isolation
  • A tendency for internal over-reaction

Combine those two, magnify them, accept them for another 20, 30 or 40 years and you’ve got one heck of a cranky Old G.

I suffer disproportionately from my negative traits – particularly the internal reactions, hidden from most people. Fortunately, there’s a well-known fix for training one’s mind.

To the traits above, my wife advised that I “should watch my tendency to let myself go.” So true, my love, so true.

As things inevitably unwind, our personal truth comes to the foreground.