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.

Connection


Paul’s tweet gave me a nudge to dig a little deeper.


My relationship with my kids started before they were born.

It started with how I approach my marriage:

The “no secrets” policy can be inconvenient but it has big benefits.

#1 => it makes it difficult for creeps to enter my life.

#2 => it’s an effective technique to lower stress and anxiety – especially when combined with daily movement in nature.

This openness applies in all areas – phone, email, opinions.

Sitting in a car with a kid – we all do it.

Sitting in a car with a kid, and a culture of openness… that’s different.


Sharing a meal with a 4 yo at Boulder’s Walnut Cafe – “Dad, sorry to break it to you… you need to try a little harder.”

So there is the culture my kids were born into – openness and a willingness to hear uncomfortable truths.

Then, before there was much to talk about… we went on short 1-on-1 trips. I started this around the time of our oldest’s 3rd birthday.

There wasn’t a master strategy. I simply wanted to give my wife some relief. Later, I wanted to offer her a chance to get to know our younger kids (our oldest has had a strong personality from the get go).

The trips worked. Not just for kids, by the way – we do Couples Retreats and, as a young man in London, train trips with the partners were GOLD.

I like to connect in my best environment. Do you know yours? Mine is mountain forests.


Hauling a 4 yo up Colorado’s Independence Pass – iPad, pillow, water bottle, lunch box, favorite blanket

Some other forums that work:

  • Walking together
  • Driving home in the dark, after exercise
  • Somewhere disconnected – we did a five-day trip without screens/phones
  • Looking at a campfire
  • Floating on water

Phone in airplane mode, turn off the music, expect nothing to happen.

The moments of connection are a tiny piece of the actual time I spend with my family.

I need to be there, and I need to be open to whatever happens.


Wanting to lead from a position of integrity is a motivator. I’ve been setting up the teen years since our oldest turned 8.

It’s helped me make positive changes with regard to my relationship with alcohol, social media, email, bedside phones and anger.

The phrase, “you will need to decide what sort of life you want to lead” is far more powerful when my kids don’t need me to explain my choices in words.

The process of positive change isn’t a whole lot of fun but coaching a winning team is deeply satisfying.

Everybody wants to play for a winning team!


Parenting June 2013

Adventure Novelty Exploring


Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Ticked the box on my first post-pandemic adventure this past weekend, a little earlier than expected (my second shot is mid-April).

Snow camping.

Why snow camping?

The #1 forward-looking reason is regret minimization.

There’s been a lot of accidental death around me.

The best way to deal with my son’s love of adventure is to teach him everything I know about the outdoors. It’s a fun project and fits my view that “skilled is better than safe.”



What do you remember about your life before COVID?

My main memory is spending a lot of money, time and effort for a life that felt pretty similar to the last 12 months.

The feel, inside me, is very consistent.

My baseline satisfaction is resilient to setbacks, and doesn’t move much with luxury.

Time in nature (with family), writing and teaching are three things that move the needle for me.

So the question I asked myself is “how best to allocate my time and effort going forward?”

Bring back the experiences, and people, that I missed.

Adventure, novelty & exploring => the best experiences of the last 12 months had this in common => so I’ll be aiming for a quick fix every six weeks.

Quick trips, back to my normal life quickly… because I’ve learned that more isn’t better.

I bought myself a monster pack (105L), which lets me carry everything for my partners and removes any temptation for me to pick-up-the-pace on my team.



With people – same game plan.

Who did I miss?

Write a list of the people I didn’t see during the pandemic then do whatever-it-takes to have a quick visit with them.

Spend time, and effort, on connection.


I’ll end with a fun story from the overnight trip.

We started at 6am on Easter Sunday.

By noon, we had skied, skinned and set up camp. Both our feet were shot but there was eight hours until darkness!

What to do?

Hey buddy, let’s go on a water hunt.


First Attempt, nothing

It’s still deep up there

Second Attempt, under a bridge – in a couple weeks there will be water RAGING through here

Just like a pioneer, amigo. Keep digging!

Hey, do you hear water?!

Jackpot when he kicked through the final ice layer.

My son got a huge kick out of using a shovel “for something real.”

Staring at a screen during homeschool… not real.

Nature, water, snow, cold, wind, mountain lion tracks… real.

Let’s bring back the real.


Enjoy 2021

When Horror Pays A Visit

How I spent last Monday

As you undoubtedly saw, ten of my neighbors were murdered last Monday.

The shooting happened at the supermarket where I purchase my pancake mix.

The crime scene is about as close to home as close to home can be.


How do you deal with something like that?

#1 => Keep living, a very British solution to terror.

#2 => With our oldest, we spent the last week repeating simple phrases (Boulder is safe) and answering her questions with simple answers (don’t answer the door, call 911).

#3 => Keep the dialogue open and the answers simple.


What about my internal life? What kind of questions arise when horror makes a visit?

One of the victims, Kevin Mahoney, reminded me of my future self. His daughter shared a tribute, which was a reminder to live so my kids remember me with beautiful thoughts.

While avoidance is an effective coping strategy, any one of us might end up dead for no good reason.

In my senior year at McGill University, 14 women were murdered at another college in Montreal. Canadians made changes that reduced the frequency, and lethality, of their mass shooting events. The Montreal shooting happened seven months after Columbine.

It sounds like Kevin got a chance to say what he wanted to say to his daughter. I’d want my kids to know that a senseless death doesn’t imply a senseless life.

Don’t focus on my death, I want you to live your best life.

+++

What to do?

Big picture, nothing to do with guns, but everything to do with how to act in society…

Ghost the sociopaths.

If I think you are the sort of person who might hurt me, or if this is a situation with a stranger who might have a .357 magnum under his seat, then seek an exit, quietly.

I drive mellow because cars can be dangerous weapons.

I extend my driving habits to all situations.


My first thought, when I heard about Officer Eric Talley’s death, was gratitude that I live in a place where people are willing to walk into gunfire to protect their community. Selfless valor did not happen in Montreal and additional women died as a result.

When it comes to death (and it will come to death for all of us)… saving others is as good as it gets.

I want to thank Eric Talley’s family for supporting his choice to be a police officer.


When my daughter asked me what I thought, I advised her that it’s better to be effective than right. Specifically, my adult life has been about moving towards better.

Seek better.


To my wife, I pointed out that we inherit our opinions from our parents, then our opinions are reinforced by our peers and, as adults, our opinions are strengthened year-after-year by confirmation bias.

What does this mean in practice?

Don’t engage opinion – it’s just an opinion and didn’t belong to the owner to begin with!

Because it is near impossible to change an adult’s opinion, the wise work with children.


If you want to change reality then start with agreement.

We might decide it is a good idea to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Similar to being in favor of “tax simplification,” I have never met a person who took the other side.

I also note the success of Colorado’s marijuana lobby – they used a simple slogan “treat it like alcohol”. A simple slogan that reached beyond the issue.

Like alcohol, cars kill a lot of people. Cars, alcohol and cigarettes – we’ve been able to move towards better on many issues.

Making my life completely safe isn’t available to me. What I get to choose is where I focus and what I do. Lifetime risk of death is a useful way to reset your emotional state. Daily movement, more veggies, don’t speed and don’t smoke. Click the link to see why.

With violence, address it in myself, so I don’t enhance it in my son.

Own Use Control Acquire Build

For some, the building (of assets) is the best part of the process.

Last Thursday, I mentioned that my son and I were talking about real estate assets.

My son, like most folks, has a bias towards ownership. This runs deep – the only relationship he sees with assets is own vs want.

Now, as any yachtsman will tell you, when it comes to assets… the person getting the greatest benefit isn’t always the person paying the bills.

Two questions that are fundamental to how you organize your affairs:

  • Who gets the benefit of the asset(s)?
  • Who gets the benefit of your time?

Back to Thursday’s strawberries, a proxy for cash flow

From Thursday’s example…

  • The direct benefit of the renal property goes to the tenant.
  • The cash flow goes towards my cost of living.
  • Not having to earn that cash flow, gives me time to spend educating my kids.

The person, or entity, that owns the rental property doesn’t matter as much as you’d think.

What matters is who uses, who controls and who gets the benefit of… the asset.

The mismatch, between ownership and benefit, is a key source of friction within family systems. To mitigate, each generation should have an opportunity to create and affirm their own values.

Short version: we each agree to pay our own way.

The mismatch is also why our political class does a poor job of picking winners, setting preferences and allocating resources.

Incentives matter.


So, are you a balance sheet builder? Are you someone who enjoys using assets? Do you seek power through the ability to control budgets? Does giving to others bring you happiness? Do you love the thrill of the deal, or is it more about the novelty of a new purchase?

As a young person, these questions can be difficult to answer. Even when you think you’ve answered them… you might think differently later.

Here’s something I’ve noticed about myself. The more I notice others, the more I need to step back, relax and recharge. When I’m getting enough time to recharge then the noise of the world flows by.

Remember time and you will make fewer mistakes.

Leadership Approach

I like to help people do difficult things.

It takes three things to bring out my inner teenager:

  • Seek to manage me from a chair
  • Tell me to do something you don’t do yourself
  • Don’t follow up

When I’m tired, the trifecta is guaranteed to generate an inner “whatever.”

So, if your family starts acting like they’re 15 then you might need to adjust your approach.

Worth repeating – if the world appears to be blowing you off then it is not you, it is your approach.


Thinking way back, my best coaches were effective with all kinds of kids.

Why?

Because they started small and inverted the three points from above.

  • Lead from your feet
  • Be the brand
  • Follow up

On the far side of my athletic career, the habits of daily exercise and improved nutrition are what endure.

They are foundational => exercise and nutrition set a ceiling on the work we can perform.

How might one pass these along?

Let’s talk about leadership style, in action.


Be The Brand

Our kids are programmed to follow what they see us do.

Not just kids => me too.

I am programmed to follow my prior choices.

Peers, media, advertising, books, students, teachers…

My environment is constantly nudging my habit energy.

My habit energy watches my choices.


After swim lessons, they come home and are greeted by a meal. Rewards are very habit forming – particularly, when appetite is high. This is the time to imprint nutrition.

I make it easy for my kids to make good decisions…

…and if I’m not willing to take action then I keep my mouth shut.

…because we create friction when we favor words, over actions.

Worth repeating… when I’m too tired to improve the situation by positive action… I leave.


The next generation of leadership right there. You better believe nobody in my house wants to be out-trained by an 8 year old. When she finds an area where she can outperform, it will be highly habit forming. Choose Wisely!

Foundational habits and positive addictions.

Know the areas where it’s worth making an effort.

Start with the person in the mirror.

Vibe Check

Savage Kitty and her rainbow skis

At the end of the last year, I marked my calendar for a vibe check on February 14th.

As we rolled into Feb, the mess of The Other Guy’s administration was still playing out. So I pushed things to March 1st.


How you doing?

I’m really proud of my family. Lots of personal growth for us.


Current best guess is I’ll get my first shot of the vaccine before Easter. Our governor shuffled the eligibility and, as a 50+, I’m going to get green lighted before they declare open season to the entire population.

That’s one year after we battened down the hatches. We’ve scheduled a COVID birthday party for March 13th. Cake will be served.

American life-science tech is absolutely amazing. Getting back to a somewhat normal life this summer will be a payoff for relocating myself to the USA.

Take time to notice good judgement.


Who were the least reliable sources of information over the last year?

I’m always fine-dining my filters. Now would be a good time to dial some folks down, and others up.

Our bad sources of information are obvious. Let them go.


What generates feelings of gratitude?

This surprised me.

I get more benefit from good science fiction than the legacy media.

Over the pandemic I read Dune (1-8), Three-Body Problem (1-3) and Foundation (1-7). Science fiction generates feeling of gratitude in me – gratitude for my routine life, gratitude for my wonderful marriage and gratitude for the opportunity to educate my kids.

An unexpected bonus, from venturing outside my typical reading genres.


What areas of your life uncovered blindspots?

I do a little public service work in our local community.

It can be frustrating because I’m not very good at interacting with groups of live people! Zoom was a blessing – especially as my default is submitting written comments, in the chat.

I stick with it because people respect tell me I’m helpful, despite my limitations.

Get involved.

If you don’t step up then someone else will, and they might be clueless.

You can see this effect in the major US cities where a large chunk of the smartest parents have opted out of the public school system, and their school boards appear to be losing their minds.

Second, and third, order effects.


What’s on your must-keep list?

I’m reading No Rules Rules about Netflix’s corporate culture. I’m reinterpreting for ideas about leading multigenerational families.

One of their rules for employees is you need to be on the must-keep list to stick around. Good enough is not good enough.

  • What habits are holding me back from excellence? Still anger management.
  • What’s on my pandemic must-keep list? Pick one thing. I’ll go with “challenging strength training 2x per week.” It’s the one thing, where its absence, will make a big difference when I’m 60.
  • What are you doing when you feel serene? Spending time with my wife – she has a heavenly vibe that calms my soul.

1,000 days from now, the pandemic will have faded from collective memory.

If you feel like you lost a year then be sure to keep the lessons.

Enjoy 2021.

Groundhog Day

Arapahoe Basin, Gully #4. “Dude, I’ve been dropping steeps since I was nine…”

I love asking questions. Here’s one from last week…

What’s wrong with being a househusband?

This question started a conversation about how great a job I was doing. The recognition was appreciated, but wasn’t the point.

That’s interesting, because when I said something similar, that you were having a great pandemic, you sniffed and said, “you mean I’m a better housewife.”

Well, actually, yes… 🙂

What was more interesting was my wife didn’t have ANY memory of the instant reaction she had. Her non-memory got me wondering how often my biases, and values, bubble up and leave no trace.

You might have a hidden bias against what’s required to run a good house. Call it the Virginia Slims effect, heavily reinforced by our collective culture and 50+ years of media/advertising.

If you think the internal dialogue is tough as a woman, try it as a guy.


Same gully, different aspect. Plenty of room between those rocks!

So the real point of the conversation wasn’t to congratulate ourselves for being domestic Gods and Goddesses…

The point was to create an opening to share ideas about coping with the grind of meals, laundry, dishes and cleaning that makes up family living.


You Gotta Do Something => I’ve had all kinds of jobs from “important” to “menial.”

COVID took my menial though the roof.

  • All jobs have admin/low value moments associated with them.
  • All jobs are better than having nothing to do.

Our minds might tell us that buying a white Porsche and focusing on our nails & hair will make us happy. More pleasurable than cleaning toilets, certainly, but I’m not sure leisure is “the answer”.

Meaningful work, not too much, well rested while I do it.

So, what are you going to do? And… What does winning look like to you?

You gotta do something.


You don’t have to enjoy it => My wife looked at me with in horror when I spoke the truth…

Honey, I absolutely hate dealing with the endless BS. However, I’ve decided, I’m going to continue regardless of how I feel.

It’s taken me decades to notice… that quote applies to every_single_thing I work on!

When there is a feeling that follows me everywhere… changing my situation might not be the answer.


It’s Temporary => Ten years of babies & preschoolers left no trace in my memory. I have to scroll back in my photos to see what actually happened.

Whatever you’re dealing with, do what needs to be done and schedule little sessions that perk you up.

In my case, it’s worth overcoming inertia to get my morning training, time with my wife and a chance to teach in nature.

Make time for meaning, while you manage the menial.


In each of the important jobs I held, I was replaceable.

Husband, Father, Leader => Give extra effort to the areas where you are hardest to replace.

Knowing “this is my job to do” makes it easier to endure.


Finally, something from watching my kids. There’s a part of me that wants my family to enjoy doing menial tasks. It stems from my desire for constant pleasure from every task life throws at me.

This is a completely unreasonable expectation, but it’s there. Seeing it, let’s me smile and shake my head when I catch myself in the pattern.

Meaningful work, can feel meaningless at times.

You are not alone in your feelings.

Best pandemic ever.


Teaching others in nature – always perks me up. Across my year of COVID, I’ve done a good job of scheduling events to look forward to. Find the win!

Make It Fridge Worthy

There’s a lot in this section of my fridge. Bora Bora, Valentine’s Day and leading out the swim at Ironman Hawaii.

Over the last six years, our discretionary budget has been simplified to vehicles, skiing and vacations.

Let’s start with vacations.

Most families with kids, place their vacations before considering Childcare and the size of their mortgage/rent payment. I recommend you reconsider your priorities. Earlier I explained why, I sold assets so the grown ups could maintain their health and relationship.

When I was living with a 4, 2 and 1 year old – my favorite kind of discretionary spending wasn’t a vacation, it was “more childcare”.

Always, more childcare.

Why?


End of the Napali Coast Trail – worth the hike!

To be a good investor, you need to know your opportunity cost.

Same deal for being a good spouse!

The Bora Bora vacation (above, still on my fridge) is the equivalent of 150 date nights.

When I was working through a decade of bedtime dramas… I priced my life in date nights (time with my wife, time without a kid melting down).

Date nights where someone else can put the little ones to sleep, and you can alternate the following morning with your spouse.

Alternate the routine so each spouse gets a slot where they are “off” from 5pm to 10am.

Sweetie, I just need two nights a week where nobody is yelling at me.

I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve a nervous system reset 2x per week.


Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Still want to head out of town? These were my rules for luxury spending:

  • make it “fridge-worthy” (re-live the vibe over-and-over)
  • book it way in advance (create anticipation)
  • take a lot of pictures


The trips were a good bang for the buck, we spread them out, got stuff done and had something to look forward to.

We found shorter trips were better – if we left for more than a few days, our Alpha Pup would try to take over the household!

We left the kids at home, in their normal routine – never risk the sleep schedule!


Take a look at your budget, are you making time to enjoy each other?