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!

Grand Canyon 2021

If you are a tentative nighttime-descender then consider getting a set of Knuckle Lights. Worth 5-10 minutes per mile for my wife. They didn’t do much for my night vision, but she was happy!

Two days and ~50 miles in the Grand Canyon. Going to share pictures and ideas in case you’re thinking about something big in your future.


At the start, dropping down Bright Angel trail – it’s an extra 2.5 miles to Phantom Ranch but the drop is more gradual and the stairs are not as high as on South Kaibab. The view dropping in on South Kaibab is spectacular, however. We were in the dark so I opted to save our legs with a smoother entry to the canyon. TIP: If you want to maintain your night vision then green works better than red. Water available (in-season) on Bright Angel, none of South Kaibab until you hit the river.

~82F at 5am at Indian Gardens. With no real heat training, I was quite concerned about melting down. We dropped in ~3am on both days.

From Indian Gardens through to Manzanita Rest Area, you’re never far from water. Bring a filter and keep your clothes wet. Ultimate Direction’s ultralight tee was awesome – in the heat and low humidity it felt freezing each time I put it back on after dipping.

Good look at my lightweight setup – three piece carbon poles, running hydration vest with pockets up-front. Accented (!) with a small belt pack. This pic is at the bottom of Bright Angel.

Soft sand segments and beach weather!

10+ years ago I came through here with Jonas Colting on our way up Bright Angel. So many good memories with him.

TIP: on your way into the canyon, aim for as many flat foot plants as possible. In the sand, on the stairs, everywhere. This will reduce the stress on your feet and lower legs.

10 miles to the end of the bridge from Bright Angel Lodge at the top of the South Rim.

Ultimate Fastpack 20L, can hold 4x500ml soft bottles up front. Gear keeps getting better and better.

Knee sleeves are HUGE for keeping my 52 yo legs happy when descending. Big lifeguard hat works better in Colorado cool than Arizona heat. Still loved having it.

Back in the day… I ran into the Canyon with nothing but a belly full of sports nutrition. Loaded up on the Ranch’s lemonade and hit the water stations on my way up Bright Angel.

Water, food and souvenirs available at Phantom Ranch – check their website for details and opening hours.

Someone didn’t pick up their breakfast, so they gave it to me, gratis! I didn’t eat the sausage.

Day One was ~2,500 kcal by 7am and 3,000+ by 10am. I skew my calories, fat and protein => early and late.

~25 miles to the North Rim if you drop Bright Angel. But… my GPS works “funny” in cliffy sections, we had a couple miles (both days) that seemed too quick for the effort. I think it was the GPS bouncing around/up/down in steep terrain.

Box Canyon is a neat place. I wouldn’t want to be there on a hot afternoon. We were through by 9a.

More Box Canyon and a profile shot of my pack. Knee sleeves are transitioned to calf compression.

Ran into our buddy, Doug, below Cottonwood Campground. He did the out-and-back in a day. 30 miles in his legs at this point and he was looking strong. Bold!

A very dry place with lots of water around.

I’ve been using Katadyn BeFree collapsible water filter (1L bottle) all season. Weighs nothing and doubles as a spare bottle. Carrying some form of water purification system is essential – the park water can fail and/or get contaminated.

~4,500 vertical to go. Long days are about finding sustainable pace and sticking with it. Both days the uphill segments took longer than we expected. With a 3am roll, there was a lot of darkness/shade in our 10 hour north-bound crossing.

The view from the dining room of the North Rim Lodge, which is ~2 miles from the North Kaibab Trailhead.

They release their rooms/cabins in batches. I signed up in April for our September trip. I also booked dinner at the same time. They were sold out, and fully booked, on a Tuesday after Labor Day.

Day Two breakfast was carrot cake from the restaurant and Nitro Coffee I’d hauled across. Not having to worry about a third day, I ate lighter, but not light! 😉

On day two, five hours of hiking, and six hours total time, found us back at the river.

Phantom Ranch sells cold brew coffee, which was appreciated. Drank three refills before the ice was gone (one coffee and two water).

Just south of the bridge, we were rolled up by a mule train.

We were chatting with the cowboy and found out they take 4 hours, with 19 stops, to get from Phantom Ranch to the top of South Kaibab. We pushed on, curious to see if we’d be able to hold them off…

Mule train moving right in the foreground of this shot, bottom of the frame.

These views are why South Kaibab is so amazing.

I was hopeful that the top of this feature would see us within shouting distance of the top.

Not to be!

Tucked into the butte with 3 miles and 2,300 vertical to go. Feeling my lack of heat training and hiding under a ledge to dial down low-grade nausea while I drank. From this point on => heat, not fitness, dictated sustainable pace. I’d planned on dumping surplus water on myself to cool off but found we didn’t have any to spare.

Pants are the best $30 I’ve spent this year – team them up with a fabric belt, which can double as a field tourniquet. Rest of my first aid kit was an epipen, albuterol, scissors, moleskin and an assortment of fabric bandages. Lunch, both days, was ~500 kcal of Hammer Gel Vanilla served at 10am with a stack of water. No further calories until the rim, just sipping water. Eat so you can continue, without eating, when the going gets tough.

Never surge HR and remember by the time you need to drink, it’s too late.

I started my hydration early. I knew Day Two would have a demanding finish and I’d been peeing every 45 minutes since before dawn. Drank ~2L, while eating, at Phantom Ranch. We filled up every container we had for the hike up Kaibab.

The only thing you will find on South Kaibab is vault toilets, and the kindness of strangers.

I have a similar pic from April 2008.

Three kids and many adventures later… I was back.

Make time to share experiences with those you want to grow close to.

Love you babe!


Feeling fresh on the bus back to the village AND we put an hour into those mules!

A little bit of shared suffering is an effective way to strengthen the bonds of marriage.

Deeply thankful the trip was her idea.

The Eternal Return of Childhood Nutrition


Many struggle to see how the Eternal Return impacts our relationship with risk (last week’s post).

It is easy, however, easier to see repetition with our food choices.

With my kids’ nutrition, I have three behaviors I model.



#1. Remove friction for good decisions.

Much of our learning happens by repeating what’s presented.

The path of least resistance is a useful tool when used with purpose.

COVID Fridge!

Dad always knocked the icing off. Such a fun guy… 😉

#2. Do not make binges fun.

I know ALL about this!

As an ultra endurance athlete, I had a lot of fun with binge training. For my brief period of being really, really fast… removing the binges was a key part of my coach’s strategy for me. Fatigue is a geometric process!

Most societies, and families, have a tradition of feasting. In an environment of abundance, training myself to overeat does not work. Most especially, when coupled with positive emotional feedback.

In the language of finance… my meal choices are not independent from each other => habit energy runs strong in my wise/unwise selections.

With the kids… never give positive emotional feedback, and in-the-moment attention, to overeating.

Later… I get a chance to listen to them… then add… “try to learn from what you just told me”.

To help our family members with “appetite”, we always start with nutrient dense foods.



I am binary in many areas of my life – not having to decide gives me energy to apply elsewhere.

With food, binary isn’t an option => we gotta eat every day and the better our choices, the better our outcome.

So…

The final area where we offer guidance, and make an effort ourselves, is with portion control of energy dense choices (bread, noodles, sugars, starches, desserts).

We’re OK with the kids eating anything – we’re gluten friendly, could care less if they eat meat, take good care of our vegan pals, have a choice of dairy/non-dairy milks… in Boulder, we can handle any kid.

There is no choice to make on household dogma.

You simply need to be willing to eat real food.

Fill up on the good stuff, first.

Then have some of whatever else you’d like.



  • Remove friction
  • Don’t celebrate binges
  • Good stuff first

No dogma.

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.

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

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.

Teaching About Teachers


My daughter is at the age where she’s able to articulate two things about grown-ups.

1/. We can be caught doing something different than we say.

2/. We often talk about things we don’t know very well.

This gave me an opening to pass along my principles about teachers, BS and integrity.


Step back from the teacher.

What’s your goal with learning?

My goal is to implement the best ideas from experts with specific domain experience.

Implement.

Put another way => pay careful attention to the best ideas from people who have done, repeatedly, what you would like to do… …pick one idea… do it… repeat.

Sounds easy, it is not.

My mind always wants to engage in debate, to point out flaws, to distract itself from what matters => one good idea, implemented in my own life, over and over and over.

Another risk: once I become an expert in one area, I think I know about everything!

I need to change my advisers as I change domains.

AND

I need to stay humble about my current knowledge. The example I use with my daughter is the “hotshot 12 yo athlete.” Fun at the time but the game still has 50+ years to play out!


Know your role.

The student’s role is not to engage. Take the ideas, and implement.

Gain enough experience to be considered a peer, then we can have a discussion.

In doing, you might discover that one-on-one engagement isn’t a productive use of your time! Why do you think I have a blog… 😉

Many great teachers have lives that are a mess. Remember, it is not the student’s job to sort the teacher. Our job is to implement the best ideas of the teacher.

Sometimes the best idea is to see the teacher’s strategy won’t work for where we want to take our lives.

I’ll give you an example, in sport. In my early 40s, with a young family, I took a deep look at the family lives of my peers and competitors. By this stage, I had a very good idea of what was required to excel at athletics. By looking around, I was able to see that athletic excellence was likely to take me somewhere I didn’t want to go.

A decade earlier, it was the same deal with finance. I got a look under the hood of the lives of the very best, and decided I wanted a life that was different.

Athletic excellence, nope. Financial excellence, nope. Excellence to my spouse and kids => a better fit.

Not easy, not always fun, usual better!

I’ve spotted, and hopefully avoided, a few dead ends => seeing where my actions were likely to take me.


A helpful teacher is someone with a good idea that I can implement. The opportunity to learn is everywhere – keep your eyes open!

A coach, or mentor, is something different. This individual has a system for living that we can emulate. This goes further than useful tips we can apply. A mentor is an individual with a values system we can apply to improve all aspects of our lives.

Mentors share the same risks with regard to venturing beyond their area of expertise, but you’ll find they have much better alignment between what they say and what they do.

In fact, your ability to notice a misalignment between word, and deed, is a useful tool. When you detect a misalignment, you’re probably in a student:teacher relationship rather than working with someone you want to emulate.


Take all that energy you have… the energy to correct others….

…and apply it in your own life.

Make a habit of implementing the best advice of others, and do what you say!

Your life only needs to make sense to you.

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.

Freedom 2021


A big motivator in the finance world is the dream of earning “f-u money”.

The universal motivation for this goal is expressed in the Johnny Paycheck song, Take This Job and Shove It.

Trouble is, once you have a goal to tell people to Eff Off, you will never run out of targets for your ire.

You’ve created a habit that can’t be solved by money – and being consistently abrasive will drive good people from your life.


My friend, who changed my view on the UltraRich, demonstrated an alternative approach.

People think the benefit of wealth is f-u money. The benefit isn’t the ability to be rude with impunity. The benefit of financial independence is the opportunity to say no-thank-you to the ever-present drama around us

The goal, to opt out of BS, doesn’t require much money at all.

However, the first $125,000 I saved nudged me in a better direction, eventually, out of finance.

What my younger self found attractive (in wealth accumulation) was a pathway towards serenity. I feel very fortunate that I gave my younger self a chance to look around.

Serenity was found in nature, in connection and in exercise.

Do I want peace or drama?

Immunity and Disclosure

Closing Weekend 2021

A lesson I learned in Private Equity was:

Concession for concession

If I’m going to give something away then I should get something in return.


Because the public sector has different incentives than the private sector, it is possible for corporations to gain valuable concessions in exchange for not much in return.

Name an industry with corporate immunity for losses associated with their product.

The first one that usually comes to mind is guns. Here’s a link to a summary of the law – The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms.

In Colorado we have the Ski Safety Act (link to the law) that grants immunity to ski operators from the inherent risks of skiing. This act provides a huge incentive for resort operators to expand their Colorado operations. Colorado skiing is better because of this act, and I like to ski.


Backcountry Skiing

If you die in an avalanche in Colorado then the CAIC will do their very best to find out as much as possible about your death. They will publish their findings so the community can learn from the price you paid.

It’s a valuable public service, done on a limited budget ($1.6 million of public money in 2020). The accident reports give us a chance to make individual learning, collective. The reports also enable the public to make informed decisions about how they participate in backcountry skiing.

We have the accident investigation infrastructure, outside the resorts, and it doesn’t cost much. The $1.6 million of public money buys much more than accident investigation.


Investments in Public Safety

When I arrived in Boulder, the junction of North Broadway and Highway 36 was governed by a single stop sign. A cyclist turning left (on to to Hwy 36) needed to cross high speed traffic.

This intersection was the scene of fatal accidents and, eventually, the stop sign was replaced by a traffic light.

Before the light was put in, only the locals knew it was a dangerous location. The highway traffic comes around a corner and would catch unsuspecting cyclists while they tried to clip back into their pedals. I worked at a training camp where an out-of-state participant was killed at this intersection, when he turned back early from a group ride.

Colorado counties have the information they need to make informed investments in their road safety infrastructure.

With our in-bounds terrain, the counties and the public are largely skiing blind.


As a community, we’ve made a choice to accept the inherent risks of skiing.

I support this choice.

By taking personal responsibility for the risks of skiing, we save the ski operators tens of millions of dollars. A large multiple of the value of these savings is enjoyed by the owners of the resorts. The cost of better information would be a tiny fraction of gain in capital value

Improved disclosure, while preserving corporate immunity, would provide a positive incentive for the ski operators to improve their “dangerous intersections.”

Colorado can handle the truth


Here’s a link to the ski safety code – It is common sense stuff. The code fails to nudge skiers away from death and permanent injury.

From reading about fatal accidents, I learned some things I’ve passed to my kids:

  1. Trees kill
  2. Look where you want to go
  3. Hit things with your legs
  4. We don’t know why the rope is there
  5. Bar down

With better information, we can improve Colorado for those who follow us.

Let’s iterate towards better.