Winter Season Planning

The trip to the Canyon marked the end of my summer season. On the bus ride back to our car, my wife asked “what’s next?” I’ll share the answers to that question and add some ideas that might be helpful.


One of my challenges with parenthood is being haunted by the thought… “I’m going to be old by the time I escape this grind.” In my 20s, that thought (and a divorce) helped me jettison myself from desk work.

Our youngest isn’t going to graduate high school until 2032, so there’s some truth in these feelings. However:

(1) my age isn’t necessary a problem, or a barrier, for a life with meaning;

(2) I had similar thoughts ~20 years ago and things turned out fine; and

(3) fear is a distraction from doing what solves the problem.

Anyhow, I wanted to acknowledge those thoughts as I’m certain many of us feel similarly, at times.


We’ll see how long he can continue to flash his age. He’s currently 5.11 at our local.

The Mental Benefit of Getting Better At Something

One of my coaching mentors, John Hellemans, has a wonderful presentation about triathlon. One of his lessons is “try something new, each year.” He backs this advice with a series of slides showing all the whacky equipment he tried out over the years. He must get a kick out of novelty.

Coming out of COVID (it seems we’ve been leaving the pandemic for all of 2021!), I was gym-strong. As a result, I’ve been able to get back, rather quickly, to a level of indoor climbing I’d last achieved in 1996.

Gains & novelty are fun.

What will you try this winter?

My areas for improvement: metabolic fitness via endurance cycling, skills & novelty via indoor climbing, eccentric leg strength via dryland ski training and agility via downhill skiing.


She’s always been a great runner, just didn’t like it! 🙂 Swimming helped her get used to how racing feels. PS: something I tell her, “by turning up at a race, regardless of outcome, you make everyone better.” She’s been shaking up the hierarchy at various squads around town. Be grateful for your competition, and remember that winning is fleeting.

Knowing What I Don’t Want

Do you know the conditions likely to to bring out your worst?

I sure do: tired, in traffic, the whole family in close proximity, after a day spent answering questions and listening to low-grade bickering between my kids.

Not going to spend time, and money, to put myself in that situation!

My personal planner, through to the end of March 2022, doesn’t have a single peak-period family drive (and the kids had to demonstrate a material improvement in behavior to get me to agree to fly with them).

The current situation tends to continue as long as we tolerate it.

Write out your “not to do” list.


New sheriff in town. Howdy partner!

The Value of Being Able to Change Course

The last year was another reminder how life surprises me.

In August 2020, our daughter started year round swim team. Team implies ~12 meets a year, 6 of those requiring travel. That’s a lot of time out of my “with my wife” allocation. It was a major adjustment for me, which we are still figuring out.

That wasn’t the surprising part, fatherhood can feel like a gradual drift down the priority list until the kids move out. Just the way it is, and why I make a priority of having fun with my wife.

I was surprised by the cost. Swimming is expensive for a “cheap” sport. Our cost is greatly increased by my desire for childcare => so I don’t lose my mind, being left home alone with the other kids.

++

Over the years we have considered properties in various vacation markets. I feel fortunate that I didn’t pull the trigger on anything. Because we didn’t lock ourselves into a secondary market, it was painless to cut the winter activity budget in half and cover the cost of swimming.

So no winter ski place rental, which eliminates Sunday drives home (in snow storms, tired, with all three kids).

Of Interest Here: I am being compensated by less of what I don’t like. Very tough to price the benefit of via negativa.

What would I pay to cut my worst days in half? No idea, but I do pause to notice the benefits of less.

The lesson isn’t my specific situation. The lesson is life changes every five years or so. Choices, and investments, that make sense today can be costly to unwind tomorrow => even when you get out at a profit.

We’ve owned a BoCo rental property since 2010 and I’m often tempted to swap it for a vacation place. By not buying in a secondary market:

  • I continued to hold a rental property in my home market.
  • I didn’t pay capital gains taxes.
  • The rental income more than covered my vacation rentals.
  • I benefited from 75% capital appreciation.
  • My net cost on the site is zero, a few years back I subdivided and sold part of the land.

In 2016, I didn’t know how I would be surprised, but I could see the ability to cover vacation expenses with rental income. Also, it was also easy to calculate the taxes and agents fees deferred by not selling => make the cost of change visible.

I have a persistent feeling that owning is better. In secondary markets, the facts tell me otherwise.

Looking forward to 2032, I know we will be empty nesters. What that means for our life is unknowable today.

Stay variable.


Take Advantage of Childhood Opportunities

There is a limited window of time where my kids will think I am brilliant. I care about the value of my family’s human capital so I remember…

It is much easier to indoctrinate a child in “risk management by example” than to achieve anything by heckling a teen.

As a coach, my job was to teach my team what I would advise, without needing to say it.

Being the brand was excellent preparation for parenthood. Kids have a keen nose for inconsistency!

Prepared is better than protected.


Repeating good habits from a young age will do more for my family than any amount of lecturing. (1) Do it right, every single time. (2) Be open to learning from everyone, even your siblings!

Generational Transitions

There’s a straightforward way through the headwall – just take it one step at a time

Last week, Mark Spitznagel’s book came out (Safe Haven). Don’t expect any specific strategies for constructing Safe Haven insurance. Do expect to (re)learn useful concepts:

  • a reminder of the central role of time in our lives – the capacity to sustain action, cognizant of time, is extremely rare
  • a reminder that we think in terms of arithmetic averages but experience geometric averages (COVID, portfolio compounding, fitness, nutrition, body composition)
  • a reminder that downward moves (in %age terms) have the same impact, regardless of their position in the time series – the counter to this => absolute dollar losses are best taken later in the time series (down $100,000 wipes me out at 25 y.o. – not so at 60) // by the way, creating negative net worth early (via education loans) is a very nasty geometric headwind.
  • a reminder to consider the cost of your insurance strategy, including the decision not to insure. Health, accidents, portfolios, relationships, nutrition => “insurance” comes in many forms.

Also some great parables/examples to help explain mathematical concepts that I’d previously failed to grasp, most importantly, the negative waterfall of financial ruin in a geometric environment.

Related to geometric returns, some useful illustrations of how/when diversification fails, despite its enduring appeal.

Finally, using Eternal Return when assessing risk. With any important choices assume you’ll be stuck repeating that choice over-and-over. I’m not sure I would have been capable of applying this advice as a young man. At 52, my life continues to benefit from this mindset (health, accidents, portfolios, relationships, nutrition…).

++

Today, I want you to think about the past, present and future.

Specifically, I want you to look backwards 10-15 years, as well as forwards 10-15 years. This will give you a 20-30 year time span in which to consider family strategy.

We call 20-30 years a generation. For family leaders, it’s the shortest period we should be considering. Let me illustrate:

  • 2004 – met my wife
  • 2008 – birth of first child
  • 2032 – youngest child graduates high school
  • 2037 – youngest child self-sufficient financially

For our family finances, a generation will be closer to 40 years than 20.

Act with 25+ year time horizons => the Eternal Return is a useful mindset for multigenerational family systems.

++

Family Earning Capacity Over Time

The biggest change of the last 15 years, for us, has been the quasi-retirement of the two largest earners in our family system. Looking forward 15 years, the biggest change will be the addition of new earners into our family system.

The shift in earning capacity every 30 years, or so.

If you are the prime earner, today, then here is a question for you. Does your family system have the assets, earning power and desire to continue to run the overheads you have built over the last five years?

Current choices can create a “geometric” headwind for the next generation.

++

Family Risk Management Over Time

The demographic that seems to worry the most about financial risk is the Top 2%. Makes sense, they own most of the assets and, therefore, have the most to lose.

The easiest way to manage family financial risk is to create a cash flow statement with many different inflows, while having the capacity to painlessly chop outflows. I’ve been working on this for 20+ years, covering fixed overhead categories with a mix of inflows.

The option to shrink cash spending is valuable. Specifically, looking at your cash flow statement and seeing how much of it you could chop, at will.

For example, there are excellent reasons to borrow right now (inflation hedge, low nominal rates, negative real rates). However, the costs and negative-optionality of debt are hidden and difficult to price – particularly in a near-zero rate environment.

  • What is the correct way to price the ability for a lender, or my fixed overheads, to force me out at the bottom?
  • How do I price the capacity to invest during the next credit crisis?
  • What’s it worth to not have a boss?
  • How much is a lack of financial stress worth?

In my memory, all the remains from the 2008/2009 crisis is a note I wrote to myself to NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. Ten years along, there is no “pain scar” from the stress I endured.

With our next generation a decade out from starting to earn, we’re debt free, and happy to be there. It’s worth more than I can prove mathematically. I do not have the capacity to think in terms of negative optionality. I can’t price ruin.

I’ll finish with another note I wrote to myself:

Moderation is easier when the prime directive is simply staying in the game.

This applies to my appetite for risk, further wealth, spending choices and personal fitness => interestingly, my greed focuses on various forms of external winning, while my quality of experience is internal.

Building Allies

I spent the last week 1-on-1 with our oldest. Some in Mexico, some in Boulder.

Our oldest has a big interest in all-things-family.

I spent the weekend getting her on-side with some family adjustments.


Many families keep the kids in the dark about family finances – with our oldest coming into her teens, I’ve started the process of educating her about how to run a household.

I’m hoping improved disclosure will result in her supporting shifting some of my wife’s time back to me!

Do you know how much money it takes to run the family? No idea.

Why don’t you guess. $1 million

No, no that much but I did work for a guy that was close to that. Big spending creates big pressure.

We iterated until she got close enough.

OK, I need to come up with that much cash every year. That’s my main financial job and I enjoy it.

Now, how many days do I get each month in exchange for coming up with that cash?

What do you want to do?

Well, I’d like to do something other than hang around the house, alone, and do housework.

This time she answered bang on => two days per month.

June, July and August => How many days are you away with Mom? Ten each month.

Let’s convert that to a nice round number for the year. 100 days.

Take those 100 days, are they going to make my marriage stronger, or create stress?

Panic (!) on her behalf as the penny drops… I talk her down and reassure her that our marriage is “great”.

She did not need any encouragement to want to strengthen her parent’s marriage.

She did need to calmly, slowly, be led through where her desire to constantly take her mother away might lead.

She immediately came up with a useful idea => alternate chaperones with her best-swim-friend. A win-win-win for all of us.


On to cleaning => Earlier, she’d been slamming the vacuum around because she didn’t want to do her weekly chores.

She gets this from me, I’ve been known to toss furniture when frustrated. I’m trying to cut back on acting-out frustration. Out of all of us, I’m the one who needs to improve the most!

Sweetie, did you notice that I spent the last two days cleaning the entire house?

Yeah, but you had nothing to do.

Sweetie, how do you think that statement makes me feel?

Not good?

Actually, not that bad, the house does look great and that makes me happy. Do you think that there is something else I might rather be doing than staying home alone and cleaning?

That led us into a discussion about relative contributions.

Human happiness is a relative metric.

Is it fair that I’m handling all the cash generation, and doing most of the housework?

What would you like me to do?

I’d like you to help me spend more time with your mother. She’s my favorite person in the world.

16 Years of Marriage

Handmade card – always a winner!

My wife asked me to share ideas about our marriage.

I’m better in writing, so I figured I’d leave this for my kids, and you.


This morning, the summit of Bear Peak – one of the coolest places in Boulder County

16 years – it went by in a flash.

My inability to feel duration, can make me a little sad. I have a hunch that soon I’ll be an old guy wondering what just happened!

Acknowledging the reality of the fleeting nature of time… it is useful at helping me stay focused.

No time to waste.


Best Swim Coach, EVER

VP Pence took heat for his rules of marriage. To me, they were OBVIOUS and reflect how I act.

  • I met my wife at the pool. As a result, I don’t train with attractive, athletic females (other than her – she’s very attractive).
  • I don’t consume alcohol with females, or anybody else.
  • I don’t find myself 1-on-1 with females, especially other people’s spouses.

The above is a simple risk mitigation strategy. Applied across domains, over 50+ years, it works.

I keep myself away from situations where a poor decision results in ruin.

I pointed this out with regard to Andy’s accident and it applies everywhere. The decision is best made before you have to make a decision.

How do you stack up?


Wedding Day

So many have conflicts over money.

I don’t.

Since the late-1990s, I’ve paid the living expenses of everyone (male/female) who’s lived with me. By the time, our youngest graduates high school the bill will be over $6 million.

My favorite wife-quote about family finances is when she said to me, “What do you know about money?”

I just smiled.

I know how to make it, when to stop reaching for it, and what’s more important than money.

My financial knowledge has enabled our family to live a good life AND I have been able to educate my kids.

Most parents want to see their kids grow up. I made a choice to go one step further. I’m educating our children in how I see the world. These lessons will endure into the next century.

Invert => how much of your family’s financial wealth from 1950 do you have right now?

My ancestors legacy is good ideas, memories of what didn’t work, a debt-free education and a life-changing introduction to my first boss in finance.


She wouldn’t have been smiling if she knew the doc had underestimated the size of the baby by three pounds. There’s a lot about childbirth that’s better not to know.

To finance our life, I need one good idea per decade. The rest of the time I avoid mistakes, and manage spending.

It takes a lot of effort to avoid mistakes. I write this blog to help my kids identify their inevitable mistakes.

Mistakes are effective teachers, I “manage” by:

  • letting things go wrong
  • letting other people be wrong
  • surfacing, considering and fixing my own mistakes

Across 50-100 year time horizons, wealth habits add up. A simple annuity calculation (laid out many times in previous blogs) will show that my choice to avoid financial conflict will end up “costing” my heirs millions.

The human capital I am building will more than cover this amount.

  • Education
  • Motivation
  • Ruin Not Experienced (divorce, substance abuse, spending, investment)

There is deep, multigenerational wisdom when we act with long time horizons. In my current life, I try to be the parent I’d like my grandkids to experience.


You will not regret creating a composite image, like this, for each of your pregnancies

What are the choices that caused your family tree to lose capital, lose members and lose productivity?

Be as open as possible about errors, they tend to repeat.


Not all toddlers are difficult

Two years ago, my son decided to hold up his finger and yell, “BOOGER!”

Yes, there was a nasty one hanging there!

As I sorted his booger, I decided to fire every staff member in my life.

What works:

  • An unimpeachable moral authority stemming from out-working everyone around me
  • Relentless attention to detail (in myself) – no days off, no exceptions
  • A schedule that enables me to follow up on the above, especially when it’s inconvenient

Before talking to others… How do I measure up?

Confidence comes from knowing you can outwork your competition over long time horizons. My kids are very confident, with good reason.

Tough to beat.


Get in my belly!

Let’s talk about staff.

We got through the highest stress period of our marriage (babies and preschoolers) because I had the courage to make a poor financial decision. I spent money so we could maintain some sort of life between the two of us.

Our recent trip to Death Valley let me price opting out (of living in the real world).

  • 160 student contact days ($50)
  • Leaves 205 non-student contact days ($200)
  • 365 overnights ($50)

Multiply that out, gross it up for payroll taxes => $80,000 per annum and I can watch someone else deal with my kids boogers… 😉

I’m sure many professional people cut that number in half when calculating the exit cost from an unhappy marriage, or when feeling overwhelmed (as we all do) with a young family.

But is that winning? Before blowing up a marriage, look two generations out, consider your unborn grandkids.

I don’t serve anyone by having my family see me opt out.

Queen Elizabeth comes to mind. Still grinding!

The goal of life is not to opt out of the obligations of citizenship, or be worshipped for position. To build a successful organization, requires a long term commitment to service.

Even then, there’s going to be scandals, setbacks, challenges and very good reasons to quit.

Keep moving forward and be comfortable with what you control (your actions).

Goodness, in action, inoculates one from the options of others.


If you want the result then you must accept the work.

Finding => Be the person you want to marry => you’ll have a positive influence on everyone around you and, when things don’t work out, you’ll be well placed to keep moving towards better.

Retaining => Be clear about your minimums => cleaning, sex, financial contributions, social engagements => table everything you hear your friends complaining about.

Optimizing => Take care of yourself => knowing it is better being married to an athletic spouse… I need to be an athletic spouse.

Being Effective => Do not manage from the couch => If you don’t care enough to stand up then let it go.

Willful Blindness Is The Seed of Bitterness => Be clear about what you don’t want => very few people want to be left alone and, even the kindest partner, is likely to grow bitter when the “division of inconvenience” is out of whack.

Knowing actions matter, I watch => in myself, and everyone around me…

  • What is done first?
  • Ruthlessly honest inventory of time allocation. Do not fool myself by saying something is important, when I allocate little time to it.
  • What am I doing when I am willing to inconvenience myself? My core values live here.
  • Is there something small I can do, daily, to support the people who are essential to me? Have I asked?

I try to stay humble by remembering how each chapter of my family’s story will end.

Iterate towards better. Document, then share what works.


The Beginning, O’ahu 2004

Live The Lesson


Often, when sharing my experiences verbally, the listener thinks I am:

  1. talking about their life
  2. giving them advice
  3. suggesting they are wrong

Any one of these is enough for a conversation to go sideways.

Better to blog!


There are a couple areas of life I know well.

I know these areas well because I have been able to live the lessons of the largest mistakes that have been made around me. This is my superpower.

So, I guess, when sharing my opinion on sensitive topics, it would be best to preface my observations with…

You could do that, you would certainly be justified. In fact, my family tried that a few times. However, for us, that course of action ended in a multigenerational disaster.


My mom died last year, so she won’t mind me sharing a family anecdote to illustrate my point.

Many years ago, I visited mom in Vancouver (our hometown). On the visit, she said she wanted to introduce me to a friend. I agreed and we headed off…

…to the courthouse!

Her friend was a security guard at the courthouse.

I didn’t get served with a summons but the introduction was a little weird. The guard was polite and we exchanged small chat before heading on our way.

Over the 1990s, mom had whittled down her peer group to a security guard at the courthouse. Social isolation did not have a positive impact on her mental health.

Her mental health descent was a biggie.

I have a childhood memory of mom being the cover story on Vancouver Magazine. It was a time when she was busy, engaged, productive and socially connected. One of the most successful businesswomen in town. Beautiful, happy and a very good mother to me.

FWIW, I look at the Free Britney movement and think we should give that family space. Many elements of that story fit pieces of my family history.


In a war, disagreement or divorce… at some point, someone has to stop fighting, regardless of the facts.

A few years after her Cover Story, mom’s life started to fall apart. In the process, she got into a habit of not letting go, of anything.

Mom sued everyone possible, for as long as possible, and achieved nothing but negative consequences for all parties.

Except me!

I inverted and applied this lesson, the lesson of watching what happens when we don’t stop fighting, as the guiding principle of my adult life.

My adult life truly started when I stopped engaging the toxic personalities in my life and… used money to avoid BS, the highest utility spending I know!

One example, I bought the contents of my home when I got divorced. I’d purchased everything in the first place, and paid off my spouse’s debts when we were married. So it seemed silly (to me) that I had to purchase everything again.

But I’d learned the lesson.

…and the check was small relative to the BS that would have resulted.

When you are thinking about using money for revenge… …better to use it for a clean exit, that moves you towards your long-term goals.


By the way, I could tell you all kinds of stories about “what was done to me” during my divorce.

My former spouse could do exactly the same.

We’d both be right.

Our stories would be true, and some would appear diametrically opposed.

Rather than arguing truth…

Sit back, pause and consider…

  • What’s best for the youngest members of the family?
  • What actions should I take with their interests in mind?

Ironically, in my divorce, I was the youngest person involved.

I took great care of my future self.

This isn’t always the case.

Kids bear all the pain from family conflict and receive none of the benefits.

Do you want to hear what was done to me? Actually, no. That wouldn’t be helping you, or the youngest members of your family.

What’s the outcome you want 10 years from now? Get to work on that.

Break the chain.

Limits of Knowledge


A online physics course reminded me of the ways we get ourselves in trouble. I tried to explain this to a buddy and he replied, “there’s simply too much to worry about.”

I’ll give the explanation another shot.

Better thinking is not building the capacity to worry constantly, about more things. Better thinking is about training ourselves to focus on making a limited number of excellent choices, given imperfect information.

  • When to worry?
  • Where to focus?


Limits to Knowledge

Snowflakes: even if a human mind could know everything there is to know about water molecules, it would not be possible to predict a snowflake’s structure.

Mobs: understanding individuals, in isolation, tells us very little about the actions of mobs, or markets, or cities, or nations.

Lots of other examples: DNA to elephants; Neurons to consciousness; the patterns of a sandbar; the shape of a cloud, politics, wars, life sciences.

Clouds are a current favorite of mine – a reminder to stay humble with any bet that requires me to be correct about outcome.

I’m currently debt-free. As a result, I’m able to make more mistakes, be less correct and less impacted by outside factors. The value of this position doesn’t show up in conventional analysis.



Properties that emerge, at scale, make prediction impossible. Joe Norman’s presentation at RWRI helped open my eyes to this aspect of our reality.

I don’t need to become a complexity expert to apply this knowledge. What is essential is understanding the nature of the system in which we find ourselves.

  • Are we in a complex system?
  • Are we in a system subject to extreme events?

To answer my friend’s question, “when to worry?”

Complex systems, subject to extreme events… exposures here are worth the time to carefully consider.

You don’t need to be the CEO of AIG to get bitten on the butt by complexity. If you’ll get fired for the mistakes of one of your direct reports then, given enough time, you’re fired.

Sudden unemployment is one way the nature of universe can come home to roost. Happened to me in 90-days at the end of the last boom.

Here’s another… if you woke up and discovered an undisclosed $20 billion dollar loss in an important counterparty then what would that mean to your life?

What about your family, your employer and your portfolio?

Concentration is a risk we can mitigate. It’s why I have unrelated jobs and several cash flow sources. Here again, conventional analysis fails to capture the value of this position.

In 2021, in a very benign financial environment, we’ve seen multi-billion dollar losses pop up in a week, or less. Rapidly emerging, massive losses are a feature of our system.

Things, that have been stable for a very long time, can disappear quickly.


Prediction: our minds love to predict, to assign causation and to tell stories about the world around us.

Grasping for a “why” is a waste of time.

When operating in complex environments, most importantly when surprises can bite me in the butt, I need to constantly remind myself NOT to make predictions.

For myself, I actually need to go further, I need to implement a policy of NEVER making predictions and NOTING surprises. There is useful information contained in every surprise.

Even further, I shun input from individuals (especially smooth talkers) who make predictions. A reason why I try to never watch videos — too persuasive.

I’ve found that even a little prediction, it leads me down a path of wasting thought.

  • What’s likely to happen – what happens to me if the opposite happens?
  • What’s the worst that can happen – can I mitigate?
  • Does the situation appear reasonable – given the above
  • There are games, investments, relationships and opinions… I don’t need to play, make, engage or have

There are a lot of business where “the burden of the worst” falls outside of the beneficiary class (government, general partners, VC, private equity, OPM, CEO-class, banking).

We can waste a lot of energy railing against the system, I’ve found it much more useful to make sure I understand…

My family cannot afford to take the same risks as my employers, my shareholders and my government.

This is a lesson I learned through, rather expensive, experience when I left Private Equity.



Families…

No Prediction => focus on getting rid of ruin => subject to not becoming a casualty myself… education of youth “buys” more than portfolio returns, or my personal savings rate.

Conventional analysis fails to capture the present value of teaching how to avoid future mistakes.

Risks => practices that make sense for large entities, given time, will wipe out my family


So my point was…

There is more to reality than we are capable of comprehending.

Stable situations can become fragile at scale.

There are certain domains where acting “irrationally conservative” can make rational sense.

We are going to be surprised over, and over, and over, again.


Philosophically, one could say reality is pointing towards a deeper form of intelligence.

From a more linear point of view… the next time you are on an airplane, write a list of your concentrations and counterparty risks. Blow them up, one-by-one, and carefully consider if you need to mitigate.

Crypto

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.


Sunrises

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.

Family Values 2021


Here’s another topic from our Couples Retreat.

How do I know, deep down, that I’m a good person?

Implementing my answer has become a source of strength and satisfaction. The answer has to do with core values. Values I use to guide my interactions, and actions.


Why do we believe all family is optional?

By leaving ourselves free to take no-action, we avoid a habit of manufacturing drama, and victimhood, to justify our opinions.

The habit of victimhood is easiest to see in others, but it lives in me.

Living this value takes the pressure off. It’s a whole lot easier to avoid unhappiness than be happy.

Put plainly => there’s no need to manufacture a “slight” to take a break.

Look beyond the slight.

Look inside and you might find unresolved grief, pain from your childhood or other trauma.

Maybe it’s simply a bad habit, of keeping little bits of pain alive.


By making “all family optional” we create space.

Breathing room spreads across our lives – especially when combined with a habit I wrote about last Friday. Letting other people make mistakes.

This could lead to forgiveness, or not. Perhaps, we start by deciding to stop recycling pain by telling stories about “how we were wronged”. Let it go.

To break the chain, we give everyone the right to opt out.

I’m grateful I gave myself permission to opt out.


We’re out, we are free!

To enjoy our freedom, we need to make positive contributions.

I’m a bit money-centric, so my first stop is personal cash flow. Easy to measure, so always given too much weight!

Pay my own way => helpful, but not sufficient.

I had my cash flow sorted by the time I was 21, yet my personal life remained cluttered.

Eventually, I realized too much freedom was a very bad idea. My choice was to embrace the challenge of creating an enviable marriage and household.

The choice to make continuous contributions is a good one => especially when you consider what is likely to happen with the inverse.

It takes time to see what happens when a spouse opts out of their family. The slow-burn bitterness, building to the point where someone burns the family structure to the ground.

Even if everything seemed fine…. Would opting out be winning?

Remember, I’m seeking to know, deep down, I am a good person.


So this freedom-to-opt-out takes the pressure off and lets me have a look around.

Phew!

I’m not bitter. I’m not filled with resentment.

What do I see?

In my case, I see the wisdom of becoming the sort of person who helps others when he doesn’t need to.

Keep coming back to this.

Shed the drama, talk like everyone is in the room, get back to work.


By not binding ourselves together, all interactions become gifts.

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.

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.