Marriage Money

The progression: Magna Tiles, Legos then Erector Set. So far, Magna Tiles were the best money spent. The kids love them after many years. I’m told Meccano is a new level of complexity. He’s loving the challenge. I bought the Meccano as a consistency prize for daily Spanish Duolingo.

It’s tempting to think that more money will result in less financial conflicts. However, I haven’t found that to be the case.

The habits that lead to conflict follow us up, and down, the socioeconomic ladder.

Similarly, if I can make a habit of de-escalation in one area of my life then my approach will follow me into other areas.


Earlier this year, my wife had her eye on a very nice jacket. For some reason, I became obsessed with the cost of this jacket.

Where did my feelings come from? I have no idea but I knew my feelings were unproductive. I knew because of the filter I apply to my marriage, “Where are these choices likely to take me, and my marriage?”

I knew it would be helpful to move on but I wasn’t able to shake my opinions.

So I funded the jacket.

Actually, I funded 7x the cost of the jacket.

That jacket was a massive write-off…

😉

I placed the money into an account that is invisible to my internet banking.

I asked my wife to pay cash so I would have no ability to track her spending.

I felt better immediately.

It was one of the best deals I did pre-COVID.


I’ve been running my financials since I was 16 and managed to save 50 cents of every dollar I earned from 16 to 40 years old.

My first job out of college was in finance. My mentors made two observations about spending that stuck with me:

  • From the Managing Partner, “We could keep a better eye on the small stuff but that would make this place a lot less fun to work at and it wouldn’t make any difference to my financial life.”
  • From a Young Up-and-comer, “If you ever want to get someone then start by auditing their expenses.”

Apply these to myself

=> make sure my choices can survive an audit (by anyone, but especially my spouse)

=> being a stickler for fine detail will make the people around you miserable (especially if you have a life that can’t survive an audit)

As a leader, what does that actually mean?

In 2009, unexpected unemployment left us facing a financial crisis. I started by cutting my personal budget by 80%. I laid that out to my wife and said we needed to cut our family budget by 50%.

We made a budget, we implemented the changes and we went on with our lives.

Good enough was good enough.


Endless optimization makes everyone miserable.

Often there is a fear-based motivator that is driving our attention to fine-detail.

It can be near impossible to transcend fear-based habits!

Two things that might help:

1/ Set a “give a hoot” threshold.

Each year, I set a dollar-amount that is my “give a hoot” threshold. If something is below that threshold then I promise myself that I_will_not_give_a_hoot.

My total spend in the “give a hoot” category is ~2% of my total budget. The 2% spend cuts 90% of my external annoyances and gives me a lot of internal credibility when I say “we don’t have the money for that.”

Not getting wrapped up in the little stuff makes my internal life better and gives me the authority to direct the big stuff.

This policy is a bargain (but letting go is oh-so-tough).

2/ What about when the threshold is triggered?

When something big pops up, I like to pause and distance myself from the decision.

I’ve set my financial life up to create friction in my ability to spend money. The friction gives me time to ask…

What’s the goal? => How does this choice benefit my family, my marriage, myself…

If it won’t make a difference then wait.


Another filter => Am I willing to spend this money on someone other than myself? If not then wait, again.

Investing and spending => I do a lot of waiting and that’s OK because anticipation is often better than reality.

I spent yesterday afternoon at a car dealership and traded my car for a newer model. The new car will be “my wife’s” and I’m going to roll in the oldest car we own.

Knowing that my family is seeing me roll in the “old car” will make me at least as happy as a new car, which I can always get later.

Here’s why…

Your spouse, your kids, your unborn descendants… all will be impacted by the choices you make with regard to spending and investment.

Financial values scale across generations.

Chose wisely.

Free is Better

A friend recommended Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss.

Somehow, searching my way to that title popped up Tim’s Blog on being famous. The blog has a Bill Murray quote about fame, “try being rich first.” The blog is an interesting read, by the way.

I’ve spent a lot of time with rich folks.

“Rich is better than famous?” – that didn’t feel right to me but, heck, Bill Murray knows more about both than me.

Here’s what I’d like to teach my kids… rich is a trap.

For yourself => the never-ending treadmill of personal spending and consumption => a trap of more.

For your family => if you’re lucky enough to see your way through the hoax then you’ll have to convince everyone around you to modify the lifestyle to which you’ve trained them (COVID, or any external crisis, can help).

Pretty risky, especially as there is a much more useful target to give yourself.

Free.

The downsides Tim writes about in his fame blog are infringements on personal freedom.

The fame upsides strike me as an external forms of recognition, a universal desire.

The thing is, once you target external validation, you’re trapped.

External validation is a need to be weaned, not watered.

Free is better.

Hiking with Ghosts

Missouri Mountain. Yesterday, we turned around at a short down climb that, from this angle, is hidden just behind the summit. My son went through the five stages of grief over the following four hours. While demonstrating there’s no shame in backing off, I took advantage of the opportunity to talk about a few things.

In the mid-90s, I spent a unique Christmas morning under a full moon on top of Mt Cook in New Zealand. My guide was a young man called David. On the descent, he rappelled off the end of our rope. A common accident, which had no consequences because the end of our rope was only a couple feet off the ground. The mountains got him several years later when he was killed by a Himalayan avalanche.

Roll forward a bit and I was flying into Denali. As I was landing, the rangers were dragging a body bag across the snowy runway. They flew a young man out on the plane that flew me in.

Later that trip, I was shuttling loads between camps. I was solo and approaching a higher risk area near 14K. There was a commercial group nearby and I asked to clip into their rope to get past a sketchy area. The guide said sorry, but no. He was blown off a high ridge a couple days later when his group was caught out in a storm. He’d unclipped to help a client.

My biggest ghost is the father of my dead friend, Stuart. I met him shortly after placing his young son’s casket in a hearse. The depth of his despair as been with me ever since. He gave me a hug, which felt like his soul was collapsing into my heart.

My ghosts are always with me in the mountains.

What do they say?


My ghosts remind me that it is impossible to see the number of lives that await us.

Since my friend died, I’ve had many lives: financier, elite athlete, father, husband, entrepreneur…

Stu lost his lives, his children’s lives and his grandchildren’s… not a fair trade.

The magnitude of his loss grows as I move through my own life and have the opportunity to share the world with my children.


Yesterday, I didn’t tell my son about “the Dad at the Funeral.” It remains a difficult story to discuss.

Instead, I gave him a soft hug while telling him that I’d like to keep hiking with him for the rest of my life and that means we’re going to have to turn around sometimes when I don’t feel right.

He asked what scares me and I told him, “losing you.”

COVID Training

An example of what we can do => Outdoor Ed with Mom and Dad.

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.


What’s your definition of normal?

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.

Where things can get derailed is disordered eating, chronic endurance and body-image goals that incentivize self-harm. In that case, you need to get your head straight (mental health) before you’ll be in a place to make progress in other areas.

My favorite quote here is from an elite running coach… “sometimes my role is to build the athlete’s confidence to the point where they can leave competitive sport.”

Every single time you make a change to support your health… write down your reasons.

Once you’re healthy, you’ll forget why you needed to make a change.


Indian Peaks Wilderness. My wife took the pic. As I have a policy to immediately get a tree between me and any moose, I was heading back into the forest!

My first COVID-season is wrapping up in September and I’m planning for (at least!) another six month block.

I spent my 20s, 30s and 40s focused exclusively on my own achievement. It’s a challenging habit to shake!

COVID blew up all my plans for personal achievement. To demonstrate leadership within my house, I’ve been focused on what’s best for the team.

Within that constraint, there’s fun to be had. I simply had to get creative and use my project management skills for something other than winning races, making money or doing deals.

This is where Principle #3 comes in. It’s not simply “what do I want to be doing” in five years.

It is… “With whom do I want to be living in five years?

Up-skill your team.

If you can’t plan your season then plan your life!

All That Remains

We finished our volcano science unit with a trip to a volcano! This was the first field expedition of Home School.

Someday my kids will move out. This is a summary of what I hope they take with them.

Here’s what’s most important to remember:

  • We’ve already won
  • It’s ok to say no
  • We can handle the truth
  • We can do difficult things

Lunch on top – my wife catered the kids and I made a huge error by self-catering!

There’s a great book out there called Winning The Loser’s Game – a “loser’s game” is one where you win by not beating yourself. The book has an investment angle but, in many ways, a successful family is created with a similar approach of avoiding error.

Errors such as… financial ruin, substance abuse, fractured relationships and emotional upheaval.

Many unforced errors occur, and repeat, because their causes are deeply programmed into our consciousness, and family culture.

To avoid errors, we need to think slower and whittle away at the habits that hold us back.

So how do we slow down our thinking?

We take away feelings of obligation, feelings which can lead to blame and lack of personal ownership => All family is optional

We don’t let pressure build up… Everyone can speak, about whatever they’d like to discuss, and we commit to a “no secrets” policy.

Secrets, taboos, not being able to speak => these habits make it easier for evil doers to do bad things.

Ask child abuse survivors to describe their family culture and you will find a consistent pattern, of repression and secrecy, that enabled their abusers.



I got the next tip from a four-generational family, where the patriarch was deeply successful (work, family, financial, community). The family has multi-generational quarterly meetings and has successfully managed two transitions between generations.

Close but not too close – via staying in your own space – via sorting your own food – with a respect for differences.


Take the above and invert them…

…a feeling of obligation, never being able to say what’s on my mind, staying in close quarters, eating different food…

then… add alcohol, relentless toddler noise, politics or any emotional trigger..

and… BOOM!

Not winning!


Carrying weight is a privilege. On the way down, I grabbed his pack and he busted out a quick hill repeat. Blood was tasted, apparently. He gave himself an introduction to “race cough.” The kid has a passion for hills!

What does winning look like?

We enjoy sharing experiences with each other, usually in nature.

It is about shared experience and, frankly, it need not be all that fun. My son and I find meaning enduring difficulties together.

Each generation, each household, each adult needs to affirm its own set of values and define winning on its own terms.

If there isn’t a consensus then we remember… it’s OK to say “no” and all family is optional.

Also… we don’t need to agree to be buddies and I’ll respect your right to not have an opinion.


Some multigenerational thoughts…

Seek to connect not correct. Do not put a spotlight on people, just ask an easy, “how are you doing.”

Down, and up, the generational chain remember our goal is shared experience, not optimization.

Joys, and disappointments, with founders/followers/descendants are best used to motivate positive personal change in myself.

The most powerful form of teaching is living an open life where people see us modeling the best we have to offer.

Pay attention to those who bring out your best.



What about money and finances?

The fundamental point is everyone pays their own way and we do not create incentives to consume more. By the way, COVID gives you a useful opportunity to make changes in your family spending choices.

Any capital that become multigenerational is managed in a custodial capacity.

What does that mean?

It means you take care of things you didn’t create so others can enjoy them.

When financial decisions need to be made, we remember we are less likely to make errors if we keep it…

  • Simple
  • Low cost to hold
  • Focused on long term capital gain
  • Tax effective
  • If it won’t make a difference then wait

I use the above as a checklist because it slows my decision making.

For me, the three most important factors to remember are: cost to hold, leverage/borrowings and wait if it doesn’t matter. Together they nudge me to avoid the most common errors of investing => fees, tinkering, borrowing leading to ruin, cost to hold resulting in cash crisis….


After I’ve taught the above, I will hand it off and focus on modeling grace through what remains of my life.

Take what’s useful and make it your own.

Celebrate Success

South Arapahoe Peak, yesterday

Given the simultaneous outbreaks we have in the US, our media is going to have plenty of fodder for negative stories this month.

If you follow the news cycle closely, then this could be a tough few weeks for you.

Consider scheduling a few days offline.


The route follows the left skyline – it was at my limit for “unroped spicy with two of my favorite people”

If you’re sucking in a lot of negativity then you might find spillover inside your head. The spillover may manifest as a negative voice beating you down internally.

A lot of us aren’t able to “hear” the soundtrack in our heads. As a coach, I would notice it when my athletes had a habit of negative expression in voice and written words.

To counter a habit of negativity, I’d assign an excerise => buy a small notebook and end each day by writing down one positive thing that happened.

Every single day.

Life happens where you focus.

Change your focus, change your life.


Ax-man was a little buried by the end of the weekend. When it comes to fatigue, he has developed excellent coping skills.

Our Science Fair was a huge hit.


Secret ingredients to the traditional vinegar/baking soda lava recipe – a little dish soap, a little water and red food coloring – you can see the red chunks in the lava

Public speaking starts at home – learning to listen (and not correct) also starts at home

Spoiled is when you think your life is difficult but it isn’t.

Living under COVID is difficult in many ways. We are learning to embrace and enjoy our challenges.

It would have been very difficult for me to engineer rapid positive change without the challenges of closures, home school and social isolation.


Byrn Family Fitness Center – if there’s a will then you can figure it out. Picture is our Saturday morning fitness program. My son is finishing his “walk back” – I’m running my hill repeat in the background. The local college kids have embraced our street and we see some spectacular runners blaze past.

Personal responsibility is a key value of mine. In the past, this was to the exclusion of maintaining relationships. My kids have helped me do better with finding a balance between hard and soft skills.

Lots of personal responsibility was on display this past weekend: packing our own gear for a climb, learning to recover from a deep bonk (with grace and without blaming anyone), taking care of siblings.

The habit of having to take care of ourselves at home is spilling over into our larger lives.


Ax looking down the wrong turn I was about to make for my family. Thankfully, we managed an upward traverse back onto the main route.

Money and Kids

The basics:

  • An unconditional allowance set at $1 per week, per year of age
  • Money sits with Bank of Dad and yields 10% APR – I want my kids to get very excited about compound interest – we have a generation of kids growing up in a no-yield environment – this will have a HUGE impact on our societies – don’t know specifics but do know it will change finance for a long time
  • I hold a veto on any spending out of the “allowance account” – there is no obligation for me to be reasonable – if you disagree with my decision then…
  • Buy it yourself, kids can earn their own money – own money equals own choices – I want my kids to get excited about providing value to others and earning money for themselves – this is much more important to me than winning in sport
  • Summer reading prize – read every day across the summer and get a very good prize – it costs me $100 per kid, per summer, to create a habit of morning reading, without being asked!

The incentive structure has been successful.

Our latest addition is babysitting – our oldest taking care of our youngest. We’ve settled into $7 per hour for the oldest with $2 per hour to the youngest at the same time. We give them a written schedule with some easy chores to complete. This is the easiest “kid combo” for us to manage – the older sister/younger brother dynamic hasn’t been figured out, yet.

Another popular product is exterior cash wash at $5 per car, per kid.

Our oldest makes scrunches, masks and children’s stuffies. Orders, pricing, manufacturing, delivery… all sorted by her. Since school ended, she is averaging $75 per week of supplemental income.


Dawn breaks near the 4th of July Mine, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Home School Stuff

Top of Hogback Loop, Boulder, Colorado


Science Wednesday was Plastic Milk – the girls weren’t interested and opted out – Axel enjoyed the session.

We’re going to take a break from experiments for a week and build ourselves a Volcano!


Eating the “plastic” was a highlight for him.

Workout Thursday saw Axel do more in 20-minutes than I can do in 25-minutes.



It’s a pattern you can do at home: (a) sandbag getup and run to the next room, repeat 4x; then 20 squat jumps (step down, never jump backwards) => keep rolling continuous.

Body slammed himself on the bench on the final rep of his 9th round (180 jumps total).

True savagery – once we were sure he hadn’t cracked a rib, we shared a laugh.



My daughter and I have been butting heads with her math.

This must happen to other families so I’ll share the workaround we discovered.

Like their Dad, my kids are good at pretending they understand when they have absolutely no frickin’ clue!

As you can see from the world around you, being clueless isn’t usually a problem. However, it is a suboptimal method to learn new math concepts via Zoom call.

In a typical school, the learning rate is slow enough that most of the kids figure things out on their own. At the Byrn Family Academy of Personal Excellence, we’ve been learning at a faster rate.

I didn’t realize how much faster until I noticed our youngest was nearly finished Unit Three of next year’s math. Five weeks to do half a year’s math curriculum => keeping things in perspective, it’s Grade Two and I give the kids supplemental lessons when they ask me about concepts. We’re not blazing AP Calculus but the pace for our Grade Four and Grade Six is legit.

With the new concepts, our oldest was reprinting the assignments on a clean sheet and handing in 100% correct work. Behind the scenes, I had been subjected to a half hour of tears and abuse => “Sweetie, it’s math, our opinions don’t change the answer.”

Anyhow, we both got sick of the struggle. She has no interest in receiving lessons from me => “Just tell me the answer, Dad!”

Not being able to teach is frustrating because I’m a great teacher! However, the goal is for student to learn, not the teacher to teach!

Family Value => It is OK to say “no.”

On the basis of “relationship before all else,” I resigned.

My resignation resulted in more tears. She’d rather struggle through with me than admit she doesn’t understand with her teacher.

So, we struck a truce…

  • Side by side, we review
  • When I find an error, she works through again
  • We arrive at the step that’s causing problems
  • Chip away until she gets it right

So far, no more tears and I don’t feel an ulcer coming on.


PE with Dad. Ax-man has 5L of water on the his back. Mountain Lion country (notice the bushes above, right). I had to tell him to stop dropping us!

Axel finished The Everest Trilogy by Korman.

He loved it and he’s going to do a book review with his English teacher.


My next summer essay is on the life cycle of an athlete.

Stage One is the Sporty Kid.

  • It is easier to have sporty kids if you lead the way.
  • Sporty kids have more energy for everything, ie learning.
  • If you want to develop sporty kids then the program is about their current ability level – not your workout goals (train daily before they wake up).
  • Use outside experts to teach technical skills.
  • Focus on enjoyment of the “doing” – resist the urge to teach.
  • Only positive feedback.
  • Focus on activities without a score and no judges.

Helping Friends and Family


Tuesday’s essay generated interesting questions.

These three questions touch on my work as a fiduciary.


#1 – What are the best types of incentives?

There are so many issues here.

Who is deciding, why are they deciding, what is the goal of assistance, does helping help, are you seeking to “parent” an “adult”, what does the situation require, where will this take us in 10/20/40 years, where is my energy best spent… and on and on.

A starting point for tackling these questions is this reading list. If you’re operating in a fiduciary capacity then the linked books are essential reading.

Before we get into thoughts about others, how are you doing? How’s your life? I ask myself this question over and over because of certain realities:

  • I am more likely to be successful helping myself
  • My ability to influence people outside myself is limited, prone to error and usually leads to resentment
  • The people most open to my help don’t need it
  • And the biggest thing I have found… what we think is “right” will most certainly change over time

How do you react when others try to help you? Many of us believe we already know what’s required of ourselves. Having an outsider give us more information rarely causes improvement.

Do you care enough to change? By this I mean, “Do I care enough about this individual to inconvenience myself?”

Am I willing to spend time with this person, consistent & frequent time, to help them achieve their goals?

…and it needs to be their goals. Not a goal of pleasing someone else. Not a goal scaffolded onto them by someone who thought it would be good for them.

If you “flow chart” the above then you’ll see there are high hurdles to overcome before you’ll be in a position to consider helping someone, beyond your daily example and the choices you make.

…and that’s a good thing because what most people truly need is you to listen and hear what they think about their life.

Listening, without knowing, and taking small actions will greatly improve your relationship and that’s more valuable than any external incentives you might apply.


#2 – What do you think about financial incentives inside family systems?

I believe in universal support: such as childcare, health insurance and value-for-money education.

Reduce stress inside the marriage (childcare), reduce the risk of ruin (health insurance) and improve human capital (education). Modest, achievable goals.

I do not believe in subsidizing personal consumption choices.

I do not believe in making it easier for a family member to enter the housing market. Learning how to wait, and buy modestly, is an essential life lesson.

A core value, that was taught to me by three prior generations, “everyone pays their own way.”

When considering financial support to an individual, run the numbers on providing the same benefit to everyone in the family system for 20+ years. Small choices have large impacts when repeated across decades and extended to successive generations.

Just like when you evaluate risk, you must assume you will repeat this choice many times. The discipline to assume you will repeat, for a long time, will help you think better.


#3 – What’s my role?

Share knowledge from prior generations, to listen, to love and to set the absolute best example I can within my own life.

The gift I give is my time and a key benefit I bring to the family system is having my own life in order. I am living the life I wish for you.

I am keeping my life together, so I don’t become an emotional or financial liability to my grown kids. I won’t be able to avoid every problem but sticking to the basics will eliminate many unforced errors.

I cultivate the humility to appreciate that I am clueless about what’s best for you. I’m willing to share what’s worked for me but, beware, my memory is clouded by hindsight bias and an inability to see where luck has greatly benefited me.

If you’re unsure then… just love ’em.

Be the brand.

Why I Want My Kids To Be Average

Ax-man making my home hairdressing look fabulous!

The thing I liked about triathlon was, if you were decent at everything, you could be world class at something.

– Scott Molina, World Champion Triathlete

Paul reminded me about this topic when he asked, “What do I want for my kids?” Paul is worth a follow.

Many, many parents’ actions indicate, “I want my kids to bring ME glory” or, with an Eastern twist, “I want my descendants to bring honor to the family.”

As parents, when we answer this question, we get an insight into our personal definition of honor and a clue to our value system.

We often reach for things we wish we’d been able to get for ourselves.


Something I found in my athletic career, when I set my mind to external results, I was sowing the seeds for dissatisfaction.

Applying a specific lesson from sport to the arena of life…

If I pass a habit (of external striving) to my spouse, or kids, then I am putting unnecessary emotional baggage into my most important relationships.

Going further, even if I’m successful, the kids are going to attribute their successes to their own efforts, certainly in my lifetime.

As an aside, I’ll leave it to Fooled By Randomness to offer cognitive dissonance on the source of external success. Time shows me many near misses with severe failure and ruin. I’m hardwired to own success and disown failures. This is an area where getting older helps.

Thinking about my far future self, am I really going to care about how anyone did?

Highly unlikely!

I am going to care about how they make me feel.


I’ll start by asking you a question. You don’t need to tell anyone the answer but you should be honest with yourself.

What would be more important to carry forward into the world?

  • Striving to outperform your parents?
  • Knowing you have outperformed your parents’ expectation of you?

If you’re unsure then ask someone close to you, “what do I talk about when I talk about my parents?”

Much of my approach is governed by listening to friends talk about their parents.


One our key family values is “We’ve already won.”

This frees us to slow down, favor the relationship over the mission and reduces our fear of missing out.

This mindset keeps us away from ruin and reduces our unforced errors. So we are more likely to reap the benefit of our own efforts.


Some lessons from coaching high-performers:

  • The coach is there to take the blame.
  • Success accrues to the athlete.
  • The plan is often the difference between success and failure.

Owning the above, helps the coach focus on the areas where they can have an impact AND frees the coach from taking ownership of outcome.

Ownership of another person’s outcome will make you miserable. I can generate a lot of “fatherhood fatigue” when I own every word, choice and action of my children.

To design a simple plan we can all execute, I need to avoid getting wrapped up in the endless micro-battles (real and imagined).

I also need the confidence to roll-the-plan and avoid sowing confusion by constantly tinkering for “fun” or “variety.”

Taking it together, where can I have the most impact:

  • My example via my actions
  • How I schedule our plan
  • The family incentive structure

Another lesson from watching families over long time horizons. The people who live up to “high expectations” are those who need them the least.

Put another way, expecting doesn’t work => action does.

Even stronger => mutually agreed collective action => the social pressure of working towards a collective “good example.”

Make it clear to yourself, and your kids, exactly what’s required to get your approval => your time & attention being a valuable form of currency in the eyes of your kids. We try to keep it really simple:

  • Exercise daily
  • Stay on grade level
  • Be kind to those without recourse
  • Learn how to teach yourself

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you are helping by expressing constant dissatisfaction.

Similarly, in your own life, if you are never quite get “there” then ask yourself where was I trying to go?

Dealing With Really Difficult People

To offer my very best to these four people, I say “no” to drama

Over the course of your life, you will be sucked into many unnecessary arguments.

With the stress in our societies right now, I thought I’d share some hard-won wisdom.

Something I do well is deal with extremely difficult people.


Difficult people tend to divide into two camps.

  • Someone who is nuts, addicted or abusive => your best outcome is a clean exit
  • Somebody who is very comfortable with conflict => your best outcome is a mutually beneficial relationship

It is essential to know the difference => are you seeking a relationship or an exit?

Remember, it only takes one side to make a relationship completely impossible. You might never get the chance for a relationship. Likewise, no one can create a relationship without your agreement.

Keep your desired outcome front and center.


For the merely difficult, the best resource I’ve found is a book called B.I.F.F. => BIFF stands for Brief Informative Friendly and Firm.

BIFF is how I deal with every email in my life => when it spills into my marriage, or my family, it can get me into trouble. Still, on balance, it’s a winning strategy.

The BIFF method has saved me thousands of hours of hassle. You might not realize the psychological, and energetic, cost of the difficult people in your life.

Quick read => $10.

The book helped me see my own role in the conflicts that follow me around. The BIFF techniques work when applied with myself => Time to move along & What’s important now?

It takes discipline, and training, to avoid spinning my wheels with people, and situations, that have no good outcome (other than an exit).

With the Buddhists in my life, I joke, “that situation might need to wait for my rebirth.”

With the secular folks, “I have realized there are going to be some loose ends at the time of my death. This situation might be one of them.


So… onto times when you desire an exit.

Once you’ve decided your best outcome is an exit you need to constantly remind yourself of your goal.

Beware of the tendency for self-sabotage via:

  • Self-justification => forgiveness can come later => you don’t need victory or the last word => you need an exit
  • Helping => unless you’re a board-certified medical clinician, working in a professional capacity, you will not sort this person out => you need an exit
  • Obligation => this is a big one for people caught in a multi-year abusive relationship => you might feel that the person’s place in society (boss, relative, child, spouse, priest, coach, doctor) requires you to put up with their abuse => hell no => you need an exit

I struggled with the above in my 20s, so it’s probably going to take you a few years to get it right.

Some family systems train their members to put up with abuse across multiple generations => break the chain, if not for yourself then for your children.


Protect your exit – there will be many attempts to pull you back in => block, filter, never reply, don’t answer unknown calls, don’t open letters, don’t post your travel schedule, change your mobile number… whatever it takes. I’ve done it all.

The craftiest manipulators will use people close to you to advocate for them. These people will be happy to do so – in the hope that they will successfully pass the abuser off to you!

I defeat these attempts by asking an advocate, “Do you want more of XXX in your life?” and noting “I don’t have any interaction with them and that is plenty for me.” We then share a smile and move on.

Over time, there will be fewer and fewer attempts to rope you in.

It is no fun to “play” with a person who never responds and you must remember, never respond to sociopaths.

Don’t poke the bear.


I use similar rules on Social Media.

One strike you’re out => mute button on twitter, unfollow on FB => much less triggering than blocking, allow difficult people to move along to their next obsession.

How do they make you feel? Some people bring out the worst aspects of my personality => politicians, of every political stripe, do this on purpose => mute them down. Don’t water the worst seeds of your personality.

Discipline is freedom => execute my advice and pay attention => Is your life better without the drama? It is easy to develop a habit of engagement, of not leaving well enough alone.

What are you trying to achieve? Don’t rope yourself into a mess, just to give yourself something to do.

Fill your life with something more than emotional highs from justified rage and lows from sadness.