Sometimes, we need to look at information that make us feel uncomfortable. As a leader, I acknowledge “bad” news, as well as my capacity to receive it.
I like simple metrics, especially those that don’t require purchasing hardware or subscriptions!
The first one… can I spend a random weekday with someone I love? Shared experience is a form of wealth.
Another… last year, how often did “yesterday” screw up “this morning“? => hangovers, days without exercising, days without writing, days waking up late… depends on your goals.
Keep it simple.
The amount of data coming from wearables has exploded over the last few years.
Like the early years of power meters, the data is best used to make our mistakes visible.
With health, the big ones might turn out to be: alcohol, intensity, salt, carbohydrate timing, inactivity, anaerobic load… time will tell.
In my life, the valuable information is in the mistakes. Most of us know what we ought to be doing. What’s helpful is clearly seeing my errors.
Soon, we will be able to be constantly connected to our physiology (blood lactate, HVR, HR, glucose, breathing rate, blood pressure). If we want then data will be constantly scrolling across our phones.
A lesson of Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness… the less often you check the data, the better the quality of the signal you receive. Nassim was writing about portfolio returns, the lesson applies widely.
Consider the one thing you are seeking to achieve in 2022, and write it down. The One Thing is the thing, if I happened, that would create a positive cascade in your life.
One things from the last 20 years…
Get a loss-making business to profitability (reduce cash burn)
Launch a new product (make money, while saving time)
Launch a new company (create options for financial wealth creation)
Cash flow breakeven (increase self-directed time)
Write a book (establish expert credentials)
Improve my relationship with my daughter (become a world-class father)
Take care of a dying relative (learn about death)
Become an expert skier (mastery)
Win an Ironman (mastery)
Find love (connection)
Increase the kindness I show my wife (2022 goal)
Before you move forward, look back…
Where did I sleep last year?
How many nights did I spend away from my One Thing?
Sport is a wonderful place to equip ourselves with skills we can use in our daily lives. I’m going to take another swing at sharing some ideas about anxiety.
First up, the feelings most of us label “anxiety” are useful. They are not a problem to be removed and anxious people aren’t flawed. In my life, these feelings provide little nudges towards better.
When might my emotional state become an issue? When I make quick decisions based on unlikely fears.
I was chatting about this with one of my kids and they stated flatly, “I’m never anxious.” I smiled because this kid has some of the highest baseline anxiety I’ve seen. However, like many of us, they do an excellent job of living with it.
We were on a chair lift. About four towers out they started to get twitchy about raising the bar. This rapidly progressed to mild hysteria, “we are going to get caught and hurt!!!” After we got off, safely, it gave me a chance to introduce the concept of being worried about a future that might never materialize.
The feared future can be adaptive => better behavior nudged by a fear of getting caught.
It can make us miserable => fear of loss, resulting in never taking a chance on improving one’s life.
It can cost us money => fear-based selling in the face of price-volatility
Body composition, friendships, portfolios, marriage, business relationships… all are damaged when we train rapid action based on our fears.
How might we use sport to build useful emotional skills?
Don’t train the startle reflex => endurance sport is filled with opportunities to notice, rather than act on, our instincts. ALL our deepest habits come to the surface in the face of competition and fatigue.
With my athletes, we’d start with bike pacing, and using their powermeter to give them visual feedback (when they had lost their minds!).
We’d progress to getting bumped while swimming, holding personal pace in groups and, finally, letting other people make mistakes.
Letting other people make mistakes => letting others deal with the consequences of their actions…
…this habit leads naturally towards “let it go.”
On the bike, in a race, on a zoom call, at the meal table… notice when the startle reflex is triggered and pause.
As a father and husband, my victories are invisible.
Conflicts not triggered, confidence not damaged, relationships strengthened by not-acting on my fears.
Despite an irregular year, my fitness followed a typical pattern with a clear peak around the end of August.
Because of COVID it’s going to be tempting to change things up this winter. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. The earliest I can see a return to racing (other than super-spreader events in soon-to-be-personal-freedom-loving-hotspots) is Q3-2021.
You want to be thinking about multiple base cycles. This season, more than ever, early base is really early… …we’re way out from when you’re going to want to perform.
Here’s some ideas that might help you avoid common pitfalls.
Drop your zones – I spent the last 7 weeks pushing one-rep maxes and climbing mountains. I was either sore or exhausted, and had many days where all I could manage was easy spinning.
The reduced bike load had the effect of drawing down my aerobic bank account. I got my money’s worth and am satisfied with my COVID-summer. Coming back to “real” bike training…
1/ I put in place a 130 bpm HR cap – for this first cycle of the 2021 season. This is just under the top of my “steady” HR zone when I’m fit.
2/ Tested my low-end aerobic fitness (around 120 bpm for me), saw my power had fallen by ~40 watts so pulled 40w out of my FTP estimate and re-calculated my zones.
I could train much more intensely but what would the extra effort buy me?
1/ Know when you want to be fit and the type of fitness you require. My required fitness is sustained endurance, with pack, to guide my family on trails and snow.
At 51, my true goal is pushing out the start of old-age, which implies a large functional strength reserve at 60 years old, and a body in orthopedic shape to use it.
The best choice I made in my athletic career was to avoid choices that would jeopardize this overriding goal for my future self.
2/ Closing out 2020, building mojo gets you more than building fitness. We are going to need a lot of mojo to get ourselves from January to Easter.
The lower zones are a wonderful break from having to get psyched for sustained tempo and generating KJs when tired. If ever there was a good time to let go of chronic endurance then now is that time!
3/ Leave space for COVID disruptions. It could be a hectic winter with random quarantines due to positives at my kids schools.
I’m a lot more patient with my kids, my spouse and the reality of my COVID-life… when I’m a little under-done with my training.
Freshness is a good trade for an improved life experience.
At the back of my mind, I’m remembering that my first “COVID winter” started on March 13th. That’s 20 weeks from now!
Waking up with a foot of snow on the ground (October 26th) I think caution with pacing my season is warranted.
Hope this helps,
Two big 1RM achievements for me in 2020. 135# overhead and 200# bench.
Earlier in the block, I had missed on 205# and found myself pinned under the bar, in my basement, solo, at 5:30am. Eventually, I rolled out and was fine.
Half a century is more than enough time for choice to impact outcome.
Here’s how I stack the deck.
Understanding three things greatly simplifies decision making:
Who bears the worst-case scenario
In most cases, knowing the above eliminates the need to make any prediction (of an unknowable future).
In investing, you can bet big when someone else bears your downside (non-recourse leverage, other people’s money). At home, you will want to be more careful.
You are going to be tempted to spend most of your time predicting an unknowable future.
Instead, figure out the payoff function, what’s the worst that can happen and who bears that downside.
Previous writing touched on the payoff functions for fame, financial wealth, strength training and personal freedom.
Tim’s blog did a great job of laying out on his worst-case scenario – shot in his own home as well as a brain dump of everything that can go wrong, and right, with fame. It was an enjoyable read but life is too complex to perform cost-benefit analysis for every choice.
Sounds good, doesn’t scale.
One of my favorite shortcuts is to teach myself the areas of my life where I have a lousy track record, and defer to my expert advisor(s). I look for advisors with domain-specific experience and a temperament different from my own then… …I do what they recommend.
There’s deep wisdom in stepping outside ourselves => What Would Jesus Do, or Buffett, or your coach, or whomever you think knows better than you.
Each time I choose, I open the opportunity to make a mistake. To reduce unforced errors, there are filters I use to eliminate the need to make a choice and to make the correct choice obvious.
First level filter => repeat my choice for a decade, where’s this likely to take me?
The first three are obvious, but that doesn’t stop many, many people from surfing close to the edge, or getting an emotional rush from having charismatic risk-seeking friends.
Sometimes I need to phase out a relationship, sometimes I need to adjust my own behaviors.
With marriage, specifically, it’s impossible to “see” just how challenging your life will become if you have kids. You’re going to be really, really stressed out for a decade. Every single one of my prior bad habits tried to make a re-appearance in my life!
There’s no easy way around it but you can significantly reduce your chance of disaster if you pay attention to how your potential mate approaches risk.
Personally, I like to drive with people. You can learn a lot about someone by chatting, and watching, while they drive in traffic.
It is difficult to let charismatic sociopaths out of our lives. These people are a lot of fun to hang around with, especially when we aren’t the target of their ire. It gets easier with a few bad experiences.
When you need to make a change, resist the urge to justify your choices.
Learn to ghost with grace.
What if we are the person that needs to change?
Owning my choices and considering where they might take me.
Mountaineering, peer choice, alcohol use, cigars, bike racing… as my life changed from “just myself” to “my young family” the following became clear to me…
The people who were bearing the downside had no choice in whether to take the risk.
To make myself feel better, I took out a long-term care policy. The insurance reduced the financial burden if I was disabled but didn’t address the mismatch between who was taking the risk and who was bearing the downside.
In my 40s, severe permanent disability could have been worse than death. In 2013, with three young kids and an impaired balance sheet, I was in a very different place than I hope to be when our youngest graduates high school (in 2030, or so).
Perhaps I’ll add back risky stuff in my 60s… right now, I doubt I’ll have the energy.
Divorce, violence and self-harm => the bottom half of the list.
Nobody gets married hoping for a divorce.
Nobody starts a drive hoping to get their car shot up in a road rage incident.
Nobody repeats a pattern of justified rage hoping to create a crisis.
But these things happen, and their seeds are small choices, repeated.
I try to be alert to habits that can lead me astray.
Anger remains a challenge for me.
I pay attention to situations and habits that reduce my faults.
I focus on better.
Making a habit of the first-level filter, tosses all kinds of stuff into the forget-about-it pile.
Reminder about the 1st Filter => repeat for a decade, where am I likely to be?
The first filter very quickly gets rid of (most of my) bad ideas.
Here’s how I set priorities and shape my “to do” pile.
When I was an elite athlete, every decision I made was passed through a filter of, “Will this help me win in August?” At that time, the filter worked very, very well.
In 2005, I married and quickly realized my filter (of winning) would, if applied over many years, make a second divorce more likely. Deeply seared from my divorce, I really, really, really didn’t want another divorce.
I wanted a different result so I needed a different approach.
I needed to change my filter to…
“How will this impact my marriage?”
Your situation is likely different, but your need to know, and direct, your filter is the same.
Baby, or COVID, arrives… “How will this impact my family?”
Allocating time week-after-week… “What’s my real priority?”
Trivial irritations, the opinions of strangers… “Who gets my emotional energy?”
Every single person we meet has a filter => victory, vanity, external wealth, fame, likes, validation, please the person in front of me, attention, minimize conflict, how do I feel right now, what is the last piece of advice I heard… lots of people, lots of different filters.
A friend’s question gave me a nudge to flesh this out.
My pal asked, “am I damaging my health by pursing my endurance dreams?”
The science seems clear => you are very, very unlikely to screw up your health by exercising. Most everyone could benefit from exercising a little more often.
My demographic is different than the general public.
Call us the “screw the limit” exercisers.
What about us?
I’m fortunate to have a group of endurance mentors that are moving through their 60s, 70s and 80s with many, many, many (!) years of chronic endurance training under their belts. Some of their hearts, and joints, are coming off the rails.
It’s tempting to “blame” exercise for their issues but that ignores the problems they avoided through exercise (high blood pressure not received, depressions not experienced, diabetes not developed, harmful addictions successfully managed).
That said, whenever I find myself asking a question about excess, the fact that I’m asking is, in itself, part of the answer.
If you’re already exercising daily then you’re not going to find any doctor to advise you that you need to ramp that up by a factor of 2-5x.
…and you may find yourself reaching out to someone like me to get comfort that it’s OK to do a little less.
In doing a little less, but continuing to exercise daily, you will reduce your risk of ruin.
“Ruin” being the loss of the benefits from daily exercise.
Risk of ruin is what encouraged me to do less.
Immune system failure, bike crashes, lower leg injuries, death by avalanche/car accident… each is extremely inconvenient.
In doing less, I discovered unexpected benefits of eliminating chronic endurance => improved sex drive, better cognitive ability, happier joints, less cravings and additional muscle mass.
If you’re under 50, or pre-menopausal, then my benefits list will make more sense in a few years!