Life Lessons From Admiral Jonser

RADM Scott “Jonser” Jones

Years ago, I wrote a book about Ironman Triathlon. At the back of the book, I put my email address and invited readers to reach out.

Scott read the book, and sent the email…

I was sitting at my computer and wrote him back five minutes later.

Take the shot, make your own luck

22 years prior to that email, Scott dropped out of high school and joined the Navy.

At 17, he took the shot.

40 years of service

Shot after shot, after shot…

June 10, 1982 (E1) to June 10, 2022 (O8)



Scott was able to live his childhood dream.

What was yours?


One good relationship can change your life

There have been moments in my life when Scott has pointed out faulty thinking.

Based on the turnout at his retirement ceremony, there are hundreds of people who have appreciated a timely dose of Vitamin Josner.

One person can make a huge difference in the world.

Find your tribe, iterate towards better, contribute.


Just Keep Winning !

Just Keep Winning – some time this year, I started saying this (all the time) and passing it along to others

  • People hate you for no reason… just keep winning
  • Feeling imposter syndrome… just keep winning
  • Unsure what’s next… just keep winning

I get to the ceremony and it’s on the cake!

This got me thinking…

I have no memory of where Just Keep Winning came from but, now, I have a hunch.



People influence me, without my awareness

When you come across a positive influence, be willing:

  • to change
  • to go to them
  • to share what they like to do

Last Thursday, I gave you a list:

  1. Do they make me laugh?
  2. Do they help me think better?
  3. Do they set an example for the type of man I want to be?

I’ll add one more filter… The Better Test

What happens when this person arrives on the scene?

Pay attention when you see “better” happening.

Jonser makes things better.


The Admiral at 17 => top right

Where To Spend More Part Three

13 years ago this month

This series came from a conversation with someone, who was taking >50 years core spending off the table.

Part One was True Wealth & Part Two was Spending / Consumption

Where to spend was the final part of the conversation and I didn’t connect as well.

So let’s try again with key concepts.


Money not spent will end up with people who didn’t earn it (and have unintended consequences)

…balances with…

Family spending can become a burden to adult children (high baseline consumption expectation)

So…

Where to spend?

I spend in areas that…

  • help create the person I want to share my life alongside
  • reduce the risk of divorce
  • reduce friction towards the man I want to be

Childcaredetail here

  • Reduce, and redirect, resentment raising young kids is tough! We’ve had to “fire” different childcare people… but the marriage endures. Better to “fire” the babysitter, than me!
  • Kind, athletic spouse – create space so your spouse can be the person you’d like to build a life alongside. Never let anyone sacrifice their life for the “benefit” of the family/marriage.
  • Stay well back from the edge – there were times when I disliked being a father. Create space so you don’t act on negative feelings. ALL feelings are temporary! My marriage, and my family, needs me to not-act on temporary feelings. It is never OK for me to blow my family up.

Create happy memories – I’ve spent the equivalent of a very nice SUV on trips with my wife. Bora Bora, Napali Coast, Paris, London… these are some of the happiest memories of her life.

Over long time horizons, these shared experiences have continued to pay dividends. Much more than I expected.

Lesson: my spouse is likely to connect, and find meaning, in ways I don’t fully understand.



Some nuts & bolts about removing friction

My body looks better when I eat salad => I spend $2,500 a year on prepared salads – I don’t care if I throw a bit of food out. I want it easily available, always.

Related, a luxury good is the ability to not price check the person doing the shopping. If quality & availability matter then provide an incentive for what you want to have happen.

I’m a better person when I train in the morning => At replacement value, there’s $28,000 worth of fitness equipment located where I live.

Weights and cardio… ZERO friction between me and what I need to do for health.

Many of my best friends, now, have kids => make it very easy for them to visit me, or visit them (with a kid).

Mantra: Spend money and time seeing good people

Who to vist? Simple filter…

  1. Do they make me laugh?
  2. Do they help me think better?
  3. Do they set an example for the type of man I want to be?

Some do all three – recruit them!

Remove as many micro-triggers as possible => Twice a year I write a large check to my wife. From that check all the small stuff comes out of our family. My job is to make sure that check gets funded. Her job is to take the pain of those micro-payments.

Do not micromanage my spouse! Agree the master budget and trust your partner to run their slice-of-the-pie. I get one number a month from my wife, net cash out. That’s all I need.

Drop my worst environment – when I was younger, it was commuting. I paid a premium to live close to work. These days… driving. The goal for my family is to get my driving down to ZERO.

Anyhow, know your worst environment and throw some money at it to reduce your exposure. This is a luxury good with a good payoff… your family gets a better version of you.

Beware… you might be hooked on the drama of suffering through for the “benefit of the family” – I’m calling BS on that. Just like your health, you need to own the outcome. Your family needs the best version of yourself. You need it too!

Human Capital over long time horizons. Supported by:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Connection
  • Mood management
  • Conflict reduction

None of them make me appear rich, all of them contribute towards True Wealth.

What To Do When You’ve Made A Bunch of Money Part One

There are similar issues at retirement.

++

The realization I was spending on things that didn’t make me happy drove positive changes in my life.

In Private Equity, I was surrounded by rich people who struggled to apply their financial wealth towards improving their lives.

My climb up the ladder saw me scale consumption and reinforce my ego.

Until one evening, recently divorced, sitting alone in a fancy townhouse…

I realized the only thing left inside my current path was “more money”

What To Do?

++

Consider Declaring Victory

More money will not be making your life any better. In fact, you’re now in danger of being able to ramp consumption in a way that makes your life more complicated.

If you don’t believe me then think about your most recent financial loss. The loss hurts, it’s a distraction, you find yourself wanting more and more…

…but you already have more than your younger self thought they needed?

To think clearly, you need to get out of your environment.

In the summer of 2000, I took a two month leave of absence and trained for triathlon in the hills above Boulder, Colorado.

I journaled, while training to quality for Ironman Hawaii.

Got a bucket list? Go do something on it. Do another. And another.

In my case, I kept on the same thing=> faster, and faster, and faster…

++

WHILE LIVING THE DREAM…

Do You Have A Committed Long-Term Relationship?

I didn’t. You might.

This person is your most valuable asset.

Live your dream WITH THEM.

High achievers, quite often, are short-sighted about the value of relationships vs completing “the mission.”

++

Don’t have a relationship?

Consider moving to a location where there are a lot of people who share your values & culture.

Once there, focus on making YOURSELF into the person you’d like to attract. It’s took me five years to meet my wife, be patient.

My values:

  • an active outdoor life
  • surrounded by nature
  • athletic
  • kind & reliable

Yours?

Write it down.

++

Do You Have Kids?

Your future self would like you to get to know them, very well.

Why?

If you blow off (the difficulty of toddlers) then you’ll end up with a regret you can’t fix!

You don’t need to become a preschool teacher.

When they were little, I could only handle a few hours a day with my crew…

…but they were very useful hours.

I was able to train my kids to become my partners in exploring the world. I trained our little ones during 1-on-1 trips. They have a lot of very happy memories.

There has been a HUGE payoff. From the time they were 7 years old, my kids have been able to do really cool stuff with me.

Know your best environment – teach them there – 1-on-1

Remember this => don’t let your adult agenda derail the child’s joy in simply being there.

Fill your child with pleasant memories of doing stuff with you.

Sunday Summary 22 May 2022

Top 5 by Engagement

  1. SuperVet Fitness – blog tomorrow
  2. Things to try before swimming harder
  3. Training Nutrition
  4. Ditch your alarm, with AC
  5. Train the payoff – also with Jenรฉ at Triathlete

Workouts and Working Out

High Performance in the Real World

Sunday Summary 15 May 2022

Tweets of the Week (by engagement)

  1. Better to REMOVE one thing than chase the latest thing
  2. Our Pelotons read power -29% to +15% (nested threads)
  3. There is no hurry in Early Base (or anytime, really)
  4. What I did to get Ironman Marathon under 3-hrs
  5. Recap of my 2nd round of Swedish 5:2

Data comes from my Public Dashboard on BlackMagic.So

Family

Workouts & Working Out

High Performance Living

A public forum a lousy place for topics that require 1:1 trust

Turning My Kids into Bounty Hunters


When I’m tempted to call someone out, I put that energy into self-improvement (and housework).

One of my most effective techniques is turn my kids into Bounty Hunters.

I get them to hunt down my Bad Habits and call me out.

Two examples, and two price points

Misdemeanors

  • Spitting toothbrush foam into the kitchen sink
  • You catch me, or I catch you… $1 cash!

Felony Violations

  • Yelling
  • Anybody catches me… $100 cash!

So far the score is 1-1 for misdemeanors

No Felony Payouts, so far

…but I could have charged the kids more than once!


What’s this really about?

It’s a fun way to teach my kids that…

Effective leadership models a willingness to accept bad news

and

Speak up when you notice a Say-Do gap.

Five Questions Every Coach Needs To Ask Themselves

Let’s cast our minds back to my 30-something self.

He’s bought a house in Christchurch, covered his taxes/utilities by giving a room to his property manager and has the ability to live free by renting out additional rooms.

Create a base of operations where you can live for free

Tick


Next up, he needs to figure out what sort of work to do and how to cover his cost of living.

A dozen triathlon coaching relationships (US$250) per month was what it took to cover basics. Those relationships were worth more than money. The relationships made his lifestyle sustainable.

Tick


Basic client filtering over time.

Which relationships to strengthen and retain? Green light client rating – immediate response, has all personal contact details. Travel to them.

Invert, which relationships are a source of distraction and drain energy? Red light client rating – still high service level, hand-off to a better fit at a natural breakpoint (end of season, end of project).


Move on to…

Next level client selection because => there is a limited number of close relationships we can sustain

What do I want to learn about?

  • Pro cycling
  • Lifestyles of the rich and famous
  • Olympic level triathlon
  • Sports medicine, orthopedics, biomechanics, kidney function, cardiology
  • Exercise physiology, metabolic health, blood markers
  • Financial planning
  • Military aviation
  • Theology and ministry
  • Addiction, Al-Anon, AA, recovery
  • Trust, estate and family law

These are areas I was able to study, from world-class experts, while covering my core cost of living.

Put another way, there are millions of interesting people out there. A consultant needs 5-12 relationships for a viable business. Craft those relationships with intent because your time is worth more than someone’s ability to pay.

Wise client selection is a game of getting paid to learn.

…but you gotta be lifestyle sustainable. So get that first!


Where do I want to visit?

Back in 2000, Christchurch NZ was cheap for a reason. It was far off the beaten path!

A material slice of my cost of living was international travel (airfares & hotels). I really enjoyed this aspect of my life.

I’m not alone. A key form of marketing is the ability to offer clients/investors the ability to travel to nice places. Most large companies have advisory boards, with a membership consisting of their key relationships. The advisory board has the perks of being a director, with none of the fiduciary risk.

I’ve had gigs in: Aspen, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Scotland, LA, Italy, London, Dubai, Paris, Cannes, Hawaii…

So, where do YOU want to go? Find that client, help them achieve their goals and undercharge them.

Rich folks love random acts of financial kindness. They’re always expected to pick up the tab, so paying for coffee/breakfast is a high-return investment.

A long term value added relationship with someone in a place you enjoy visiting – it’s worth more than whatever your financial deal is.

Invert (again) => don’t take work from a location you don’t want to visit. At any price.

One of my gigs came with an around-the-world ticket every six months. With a bit of planning, that covered an entire year’s worth of air travel. Another slice of my budget, covered.


What demographic am I curious about?

Tim’s blog on fame shares the Bill Murray quote, “trying being rich first.”

Actually, being rich is tough. It takes a lot of time and striving. Living rich is even worse, not for me.

Before you try to “be something” => get to know it. See what it’s like when nobody’s watching.

Coaching the rich, the fast, the famous, the savage, the beautiful… and paying attention, helped me look under-the-hood with regard to my values.

Be careful, desire is contagious.

Building a Family Tradition at Jackson Hole 2022

A pack of little rippers at the base of the Jackson Hole Tram

One of my 2020 goals was to establish “ski week” as a family tradition. I booked a week in Telluride for each of February and March.

Feb 2020 : Ski Week 1.0 => Everything was going according to plan. The night before we drove through a storm and arrived ready to shred.

Two hours into our powder day, after dropping a double black in style (!), my daughter slipped on a catwalk and fractured her wrist.

We drove home that afternoon.

March 2020 : Ski Week 2.0 => Our trip was blown out by COVID.

I’m not the sort of guy to be put off by setbacks.

I’m patient with execution.

We checked out JHMR last summer.

Feb 2022 : Ski Week 3.0 => Vail, Beaver Creek, Steamboat Springs then Jackson.


A clear day at the top of the Tram. One of the most beautiful places in the world.

“Dad, do these heart-pants make me look like a beginner? I think I need all black.”

We currently have two family traditions, matching Christmas PJs and Christmas in Mexico. Adding Jackson fits with my medium-term goals.

It gives me a forum to relate with my kids in my best environment. I should be able to rip until our youngest is done with high school.

It gives me a forum to expose them to my mentors, Doc J was there.

It gives me a forum to introduce them to younger, role models of outstanding character. Justin Daerr, Ironman Boulder Champ, all around good bro, was along for the week. I’d like to get his wife out for Ski Week 4.0.


The view from my wife’s hotel. We didn’t stay together.

As an athlete, I learned “the first time you go somewhere is usually a hassle.”

This was a reminder to stay put and train… as well as a warning against thinking life is better somewhere else.

The first step is making it work, where you are.

The next step, once it’s working, don’t mess with a streak.

Jackson worked great, eventually.

++

When we arrived, we were greeted by an AirBnB that smelled like stale cigarettes and dog!

My wife and daughter were flying in the next morning.

My son kept asking me… “Are you OK, Daddy?”

I was not OK.

I couldn’t fall asleep.

I got up.

Rather than spending energy assigning blame, I jumped on a travel app and made the problem go away.

I booked a very nice room, slope side.

The bill was large. However, just like I recommend with taxes, I compared the bill to my family net worth… it was manageable. I will remember the lesson, and not miss the money.

My thirst for blame and revenge was replaced by gratitude that I had the insight to make the problem go away.

I slept great, despite the staleness!


Doc J and Me, skinning to the top of Snow King mountain.

Doc J has an athletic wife, kids both older / younger than mine and a family tree where elders live a very long time.

He faces many of the same challenges/concerns as me. Plus, he actually went to med school… ๐Ÿ˜‰

He also has a proven track record of giving me advice that nudges positive change.

He’s a better listener than me.

The list goes on and on…


Daddy Ski Day at Vail – Gore Range out the back – each time I look at those mountains I remember Gary and think about his traverse with Chris

The good doctor is helping me with a project and we are talking about compensation…

You could pay me, but I’m good at earning my own money. What would be better is if you could teach my family in an area where I’m not an expert => finance, money, forms of wealth.

A strategic family relationship, combined with a family tradition, combined with the kids not noticing we are teaching them while they’re having fun.

Similar to bible camp, but we shred.


Justin and my son – hike-to terrain at Steamboat – there will come a time when my lessons are better taught by others – look at the lightness in my son’s stride – that’s bro-joy right there!

Alta Chute 3 – Jackson is an Expert mountain – the next day I was humbled one chute over and got to self-rescue with a boot pack up to my lost ski…

Final event was waffles at Corbett’s Cabin – highly recommended – the non-expert skiers in your party can bail back down the Tram

Free cookies are back at Beaver Creek!
Many other signs of a return to normal living – Jackson had a tolerant, relaxed vibe.

A thought on kids.

You don’t need to be a parent to have a child reflect your inner goodness back to you.

Teaching kids has proven to be a surprising source of strength, and quiet pride, within my life.


In Vail, J’s first skin, ever.
I ran my light setup and was grateful.

It was really nice to spend time with old friends.


Putting my immune system to the test (!) on the Jackson Tram.

Recap:

  • Spending time, and money, in a way that meets the family’s strategic goals of building its human capital.
  • Exposing young family members to various lifestyle options, of friends with strong character.
  • Providing a forum for young people to speak with young adult role models.
  • Listening to the advice of friends who know me well.

Corbett’s // maybe next time
S & S // that ship has sailed

Kids and Spouses

Christmas in Mexico

I’m going to write this in the context it arises in my life. I have a hunch it applies more broadly. A variation pops up at least once-a-week in casual conversation.

Ten years ago, a wise preschool teacher shared a quote with me. I liked the quote so much, it’s been on my fridge ever since.


If you are triggered about things, or money, then look around for the unmet (childhood) emotional need.

I have used the quote to guide my life for the last ten years.

  • Give time, not money.
  • Share experiences, not spending.

There’s another aspect of the quote… If you run into an adult who’s childhood emotional needs were unmet… assets, and spending, will not fill their void.

The void cannot be filled from the outside. This is an area where we need to heal ourselves.

Go further… to the heart of addictions…

Quite often, the attempt to “be a good provider” for these folks, makes their emotional problems worse. Further, they are going to feel crazy because they will be miserable while surrounding by conventional “success.”

++

Let’s step back from the underlying emotional issues and discuss how parents, and spouses, can guide family spending and investing.

First, we need to sort ourselves.

My spending sets a floor above which everyone will operate. This might sound backwards but it’s my observed reality. My choices anchor “down” everyone around me.

INVERT: constraining myself is less likely to trigger resentment.

I’m the most powerful (spending) role model in my children’s life. I do them a lifelong favor by setting a consumption standard they can easily attain.

++

Second, be brutally honest with yourself… Am I meeting the emotional needs of those around me?

When you are already a good emotional provider, it is very difficult for someone to trigger your need to be a good “financial” provider.

Rather than a high-stakes bargaining session… discussions about money end up closer to a 7th-grade math problem. An example… the ski-place…

  • 20-25 days spread across five resorts
  • Total cost of hotels/airfares ~$15,000
  • Shows the folly of seeking to “save” money in a single location by locking up capital

Clothes => let’s start by wearing everything in our existing wardrobes first

Cars, Furniture, Art => is there a more effective way to scratch this itch?

Recreational assets, out-of-town commitments, 2nd homes => …are you sure you want to give me an incentive to be away from you and the kids?

On and on and on… think past the purchase to overall incentives, habit creation and the impact of repeating the action for the next 5-10 years.

++

Third, the “what are you going to do with the money” argument.

Related to, “but we can afford it…”

Ability to pay is probably the toughest one to control. It’s hard not to spend money in your checking account.

SIDE NOTE: this is a good argument to move cash out of places where it’s easy to spend. This was a (somewhat bizarre) benefit from a choice to STOP earning so much money when I was a young man. Financial success was making it harder to be who I wanted to be.

Here again, pause and consider,

  • What game do my actions show I am playing?
  • What is the game I want to be playing?
  • What game would move us towards “better” five years from now?

If you have kids then these questions usually point towards up-skilling independence via parental investment of TIME, and modeling behavior.

++

Fourth, after you’ve done 1-2-3. Sit down and talk it over with the key people in your life.

If you are unable to convince them then have the humility to consider the possibility (albeit remote) you may be wrong!

In family systems, I’ve found it’s better to wait for a consensus to arrive than pulling rank.

Bonus: slower decisions are usually better decisions.

++

Finally, related to the what will you do with the money discussion…

If you are focused on sharing time with the one’s you love then, hopefully, you will favor “experiences with them” over “making more money for them.”

Trustees, entrepreneurs, managers, exemplars, fiduciaries, parents, students, citizens…

We care for what we’ve been gifted by circumstances and pass it on.

++

As a package, incorporating this process into your life results in a better allocation of time AND capital.

The expectation “we each take care of ourselves” is a good one. Even better when the parents model the behaviors required, and pass along the skills required to pull it off.


Let’s pull it together…

  • Sort myself first
  • When triggered, pause and look for the unmet emotional need
  • Smart leaders set the anchor with intention => I anchor those around me via my effort, personal standards, emotional control and personal spending.
  • Within family systems, remember my role is to meet emotional needs while teaching/modeling how to be self-sufficient financially.
  • Have the humility to see: (a) when helping-isn’t-helping; and (b) my own capacity for error.

Early Education

My wife and I went skiing for a couple days. Our youngest missed her mom.
So… she wrapped her stuffy in my wife’s robe! Insta-mommy.

I watch where people send their kids to school. It’s a revealed preference for their values. Amongst my pals, Boulder is one of the few locations were public schools are the default choice.

One of the challenges our district faces is declining kindergarten enrollment – we don’t have a good idea “why.” Some things I’ve noticed with the families that have gone private:

  • Private school is contagious, by neighborhood, by family and by peer group. It would be great to get those families back into the district. I’m not sure we’ve asked them what it might take.
  • As elementary school enrollments shrink, the impact of a single weak teacher increases. How we support weak teachers is not clear to me.
  • Having switched one of our kids to a full-enrollment, school… there is a quality of experience issue with the schools that aren’t full. The overall experience at a “full” school is better.

Thinking about the phases of our kids’ education…

New Parents: The #1 thing we got right, eventually… Listen to professional educators. My default position is seeking to understand why staff’s view makes sense. Take time in forming opinions.

Age 2 to 6 => choose your daycare/preschool/early education based on where the child will get the best socialization skills. This is particularly important if you have a high-energy kid. Early socialization trumps preschool “academics.” All three of my kids started Grade One at the bottom of the class, all three caught up in 18 months.

Parents: model the socialization techniques the kids are learning at preschool. Learn from the teachers so the child is in a consistent environment at school, and at home.

Remember during this phase… the most important money you spend is childcare that benefits your marriage. You are under more stress than you realize – make time for each other.


Age 6 to 8 => a daily focus on learn-to-read and learn-to-learn. Learn-to-learn is building on the early socialization work that happened before they arrived in Grade One.

Parents: 20-minutes a day (read-to, read-aloud) in this phase has the highest return in your kids’ education career.

No joke!

10 minutes before school (read-together). 10 minutes before bed (read-to). HUGE.

The confidence boost from being able to read provides a positive association with learning. INVERT: smart kids (who can’t read) will wonder if they are stupid.

=>100 hours per year time investment. The highest return parenting time you will ever have.

PS => the read-together before school, should morph into read-to-self each morning. I used a summer reading prize (100 mornings = $100) to establish this habit.


Age 9 to 12 => Our theme here: don’t mess with the streak!

Siblings, routine and habit form a virtuous circle of positive reinforcement.

“Read to self” every morning, summer reading prizes, consistent bedtimes, 2-3 different after school activities, consistent weekly schedules. This phase is about locking in a routine and keeping it rolling.

Be the brand.

If you’re not then they’re going to call you on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

My expectation on the kids is “perform at grade level.” This lets them take all the credit for above-average performances.


Other thoughts

Earned Enrichment: there’s a joke that every parent thinks their two-year old is gifted. This is funny because it’s true.

In order to keep as many families in the public channel as possible… make it clear that all kids who want to accelerate their learning will be supported. Fairness of opportunity for all kids.

Related: make it clear that teachers will be supported. I’ve watched two weak teachers cause a (very polite) gradual exodus from a wonderful neighborhood school.

Some stories:

  • My son wants to take combined Grade 7/8 math next year. We have a simple policy, if you want to accelerate then you need an “A” in current year math. You need… A’s to Accelerate.
  • Seeing her older siblings ahead… our youngest wants to get ahead in math. At the start of each academic year, she gets a chance to test out. Once that test is done, we won’t intervene on the kid’s behalf. You gotta earn it, yourself. She’s been trying for two years and has a good shot next September!
  • Overall, I’m in no rush for the kids to accelerate their learning. Just like their sport, they have 10-20 years (!!!) of formal education ahead of them. The heavy lifting will come when I’m out of the picture and must be internally motivated. Our job is to set the schedule and not screw it up!
  • Same deal with sport. If school work falls apart then we will be dialing down the training load. You need to earn the right for extra training.
  • Fair doesn’t mean equal. My kids are always comparing who-gets-what. My focus is on supporting them, fairly, to get whatever outcome they can achieve on their own merits.
  • I was very unequal when they were young. In any given year, I over-allocated toward the kid who needed an early intervention of my time. I think school districts should do the same – prioritize early interventions across all demographics.

Finally, schedule time to focus on your stars. It is very easy to get wrapped up in problems.

1// One-on-one trips/special events in your best environment.

2// Acknowledge that successful parenting means getting out of their way — building their ability to live in the world — letting them go.

3// ABC => Always build confidence, or competence… depends on the situation!

INVERT: don’t crush their confidence when they are small.

The confidence point is a big one. Bad habits don’t take your family where you want to go.

That last point is a good one => take time to ask around…

Where do we want to go?

All too easy for strivers to keep striving, across generations.