Gratitude

Paint-it-yourself project from our youngest, Mando Coffee Mug – a great start to any day

Sharing my gratitude list was derailed by Andy’s death.

Reviewing my list helped me get through the challenges of the last couple weeks.

Of course, I have to remember to do the right thing. There were a couple of days where I forgot to take stock of the goodness all around me.


When you force yourself to think about what you value, you have an opportunity to reevaluate how you are spending your time.

Time being our most valuable resource.

20-25 more weeks (of COVID) is a good chunk of time. Pretty much a full season, back when I was an elite athlete.


When I step outside the specifics of my list, certain themes pop out.

Authentic Connection => Two sides of this. The A-side is my marriage, exploring Colorado with my kids and time in nature. The B-side (my not-to-do list) is looking at a screen.

It takes effort to look away, and keep looking away.

Breaking free from social media is something my kids have watched us do, and gives us a lot of street cred when we talk about using technology.


Physical Experience => My training program has a few “moments” each week that are deeply uncomfortable, totally worth it.

2% of my week is unpleasant, 18% I’m tired, 80% I feel great. Excellent trade – I remind myself to be grateful, rather than greedy.

COVID may be the only time of my adult life where I get a no-excuses block of time. No travel, no races, no distractions from doing what it takes.

Likewise, as my buddy Jonser is fond of saying,

Being married to a smoking’ hot wife has its benefits.

If I want the benefits, then I need to be willing to: (a) do what it takes for myself; and (b) support someone else’s goals, sometimes in priority to things I might prefer to do. Useful lessons.

Across the year, I had a lot of “achievements” – 10,000+ feet vertical skinning days, 68,000 feet descending ski day, 14ers, strength PBs… achieving specific goals does not leave an enduring imprint.

The emptiness of striving is a reminder to focus on process and remember to back-off enough to enjoy the journey.

Do we strive because we feel anxious? Or do we feel anxious because we have a habit of striving?


Financial Stability => COVID took away most my luxury and discretionary spending. Two trades in March covered my cost of living for the entire year. Again, don’t be greedy.

I’ve been in no hurry to add spending back. Instead, I’ve been asking: (a) what’s missing and (b) what’s actually useful about financial wealth?

Stability => the absence of financial anxiety, the ability to choose, the ability to control my own schedule.

It’s tough to remember the value of the absence.

It takes far less money (and time) than you’d expect to achieve the full utility of money. The toughest parts are managing my own ego and keeping my household expectations in check. Humans have unending desires and we do a good job of nudging one-another along.

As for what’s missing => again, not much $$$ required. Circle back to authentic connection and make time to go to my pals, who might be a little too busy to visit me.


What’s missing? September 2016 => a campfire in the desert after riding mountain bikes. I can achieve a similar vibe with my son BUT he’s going to grow up and leave! COVID strengthened a fatherhood- tendency to lose touch with people outside my immediate circle.

Self-sufficiency – when we had a house full of babies and preschoolers, we used to live in fear of holidays. The longer breaks of Christmas and August were particularly tough. COVID forced us to figure it out and, sure enough, we did.

As the pandemic unwinds, the ability to take care of ourselves is something I’d like to retain. Personally, it costs me a couple hours a day (chores, cleaning, errands) but it’s better than having to manage (a process of avoiding what I can do myself).

The pandemic forced me to think deeply about how I want to educate my kids. Home school forced us to get involved in their education. My children are the most direct expression of my legacy in the world. So I’m thankful for the opportunity to pass along my values to them – they’re always watching!


I’ll end with a lesson from Mark Allen – AKA the greatest triathlete of all time.

Often, you need to recover, simply to see how tired you are.

Mark taught me the lesson in the context of end-of-season recovery but, like much of what I learned in sport, I found it applies more broadly.

Fatigue, grief, trauma… whatever you happen to be working with… think in terms of layers.

Often, we start to feel better then charge right back into the patterns that were causing our difficulties in the first place.

Eight months into COVID, a return to home school, several deaths close to me, kids running around the house all day… it’s reasonable to assume that I might be a little more tired than I realize… ūüôā

In life, we reap the rewards during recovery, not beat down.

Don’t be in a hurry to add back.

Marriage Material

I blew up my first marriage in a year.

If you asked me about it then, not only would I have blamed my ex-spouse, I would have blamed the entire concept of marriage.

Roll forward a couple decades (!) and here’s a lesson that I’m seeking to pass along to my kids.

Sibling bickering is exhausting, painful and universal.

Rather than focusing on “fixing” my kids – who seem healthy, loving and normal – I use conflict as an opportunity to teach.

I wait for the energy to go out of the situation.

Hey, I want to teach you a Jedi mind trick.

When you are upset…

Watch your mind.

 

It is going to fix on something outside…

…Bella’s voice

…Axel’s question

…Lexi’s tone

…my face

 

Your mind is going to trick you into thinking that the problem is out there.

Not helpful.

Because you can‚Äôt do anything ‚Äúout there.‚ÄĚ

 

What you can do is pause and ask, ‚ÄúWhat do I want?‚ÄĚ

And you’re going to find something to helpful to do.

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Simple, not easy.

What We Don’t See

Twenty-five years ago, I heeded a call to be a better person.

Just a bit better.

Frankly, at the beginning, it would have been tough to see the “better.”

My changes were, essentially, being less unhealthy and less of an asshole.

Even small acts of improvement are not easy.

They are challenging because, inside my head, I only “see” one side of life.

In the moment, my only experience is discomfort.

They are challenging because, I had created a life that supported my poor decisions.

Remember, what we don’t see.

Avoided Setbacks and Unforced Errors.

We never experience avoided health problems, relationships not falling apart, sidestepped addictions, bypassed financial ruin…

I’m grateful the 20-something version of myself was sick of being sick and decided to go for a walk.

 

 

Mental Health for Aging Athletes

Lucho shared this video of David Goggins.

So many memories come back when I listen to Mr. Goggins share his truth.

It takes courage to change.

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Here’s something I learned from the greatest triathlete of my generation…

If your mental health relies on a physical expression of self then focus your drive on reducing your patterns of self-harm.

Everything else is details.

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Some useful details…

What’s your objective?

Can you answer this question simply, and immediately?

What’s your objective?

Not because of the the importance of whatever you are working on.

Rather, because working towards an objective gives structure to your days and meaning to your life.

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What’s your pattern of daily release?

Strength training and uphill cardio have better long-term outcomes than…

  • drugs and alcohol
  • violence and anger
  • outrage and gossip

…if your current alternatives aren’t working then consider…

Strength training and uphill cardio.

Whatever works for you… remove the things that prevent you from getting your daily release.

Pay attention to the habits that screw up tomorrow.

+++

What is your pattern of breakdown?

You are going to see this in your peers, before yourself.

The closer you are to the sharp end, the brighter your flame will burn.

Whether it is 5, 15 or 25 years… each body and mind has a limit to the amount of elite-level output it can sustain.

Similar to how you conditioned yourself to endure, train the capacity to appreciate when you’ve had enough.

  • Enough pain
  • Enough challenge
  • Enough exercise
  • Enough work
  • Enough glory
  • Enough winning
  • Enough dessert

Encourage the humility required to admit you’ve had enough.

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When life seems out of whack, return to the basics.

  1. Objective
  2. Release
  3. Patterns of Breakdown

Then…

  • Do good deeds in private.
  • Be your own hero.

What To Do

2016-06-26 12.45.44We can be trapped into thinking that one person can’t make a difference…

…that there’s no point in bothering

…that we will be punished for good deeds

A bias towards inaction enables the enemies of a civil society to screw things up for personal gain.

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This is what I got done in June:

  • Sent in my naturalization papers
  • Wrote an elected official
    • Introduced myself and my kids
    • Told him where in his constituency I lived
    • Pointed out¬†an issue where he had¬†done a particularly good job
    • Told him my #1 issue for his consideration
    • Thanked him for his service to us
  • Continued my home-based¬†practice of de-escalation — when my family watches me improve¬†myself then our¬†entire community is better off
  • I selected¬†a political group and a politician that “don’t get it”
    • I picked an area from each where they “do get it”
    • I shared my areas of¬†agreement with my wife
  • Consumed less violence – whatever your favorite source… MMA, NFL, CNN, hate speech, movies, video games – choose less¬†– I¬†pay particular attention to visual violence as well as violence I¬†can feel in my body¬†– the NFL scores uncomfortably high in terms of pleasurable, tribal violence
  • Generated less anger – I can hold emotions, rather than feeding them – my mantra is don’t act on anger – the “holding” is done while breathing calmly¬†because¬†speaking when angry merely feeds it

Each of the above was inconvenient but, collectively, improved my life.

I need to remind myself of the overall improvement because it takes sustained effort to create the life I want to live.

Indeed, it takes sustained effort to create the mind in which I want to live!

Do we care enough to change?

One small step, daily.

 

Two Gifts

2016-01-09 19.05.25For a number of years, I’ve chosen one thing and constantly reminded myself that I have far more than I need of this item.

If you’ve heard me talk about my experiences with finance, or sport, one¬†theme that I emphasize is a feeling that I was¬†far more successful¬†than I expected to be.

Another example might be talking about living with preschoolers… it’s the most hugs I’ve ever had in my life. I’m very well loved.

Or what it’s like to be married to my wife… sharing my life with her¬†is far from a hardship posting.

This habit need not be built with the “big” things in our lives.

2016-01-09 16.56.53Each time I leave a tip at a restaurant, I might pause and say, internally, “isn’t it wonderful to be in a position where I have a little extra to give.”

Each time I reach into the fruit drawer of my fridge, “pretty amazing that we can have crispy apples, year round.”

If I shovel my neighbor’s sidewalk, “it’s so cool to have the time to help this person out.”

The point being to create, and reinforce, a trigger than reminds me that I am surrounded by examples of having more than I need.

So the first gift I wish for you is a feeling of having enough, in at least one area of your life.

2016-01-03 12.59.47++

A new habit I’m seeking to build is paying attention to how I feel when I’m walking.

I picked this one up from The Art of Power, by Hanh. It’s a wonderful book, filled with stories about how¬†I fool myself!

I have found walking a little slower feels better.

I’ve noticed that breathing a little deeper feels better.

Strengthening those two habits will lead to better outcomes.

Because…

Most my errors come from quick action when anxious.

So the second gift I wish for you is short, pleasurable breaks whenever you find yourself walking.

2016-01-01 11.49.55

A Young 46

boatingSomewhere beyond your 30th birthday the world might begin to tell you that you look young for your age.

If you say¬†this to me, I might smile and reply, “This is what 46 looks like.”

Likewise, many people say… “but I don’t feel my age.” To them I note, that’s what your age feels like.

They might follow that up with… “I wonder what 50, or even 75, is going to feel like?”

It’s going to feel like right now.

+++

The practice of accepting my age helps me accept all phases of life…

  • The overtired toddler
  • The anxious teen
  • The sociopathic 20-something
  • The fearful cancer patient
  • The crabby elder
  • The grieving spouse

If we are fortunate to live a long life then we will move through most these phases of experience. At midlife, they surround me.

If we happen to be “young for our age” then it might take a few more¬†years for us to arrive at the¬†phase where we “look old.” But it’s coming.

So I will try to enjoy this day and I will try to accept whatever day you are going through.

And when I am scared, or angry, or tired…

I’ll pause, try not to pass it on and remember to live as best I can.

 

 

Fatherhood: Giving Myself A Break

disneyDuring the school year, my son and I have a routine. When I come back from my afternoon workout, he takes a bath while I have a shower. It’s a win-win-win as the two of us end up clean and my wife likes a fresh family.

Last week, as I was heading out the door for date night, my son asked me to help him get clean.

One of my reactions was fear.

  • Fear that if I gave into this request then I’d never get out of the house.
  • Fear that if I gave into the request then the requests would never stop.

Fortunately, I was able to pause before I acted on my fear.

While pausing, the thought arrived that I MUST break this pattern of behavior in my boy.

What pattern was that?

Loving me, or wanting to spend time with me? ūüėČ

Pausing a little more, I thought about everyone in the situation.

  • The Sitter – being left with a dirty, unhappy four-year old
  • My Wife – sitting outside, content with her apps
  • My Boy – wanting his dad to spend time with him
  • Myself – feeling a wall rising¬†inside me as I’m tempted to close out my son

I sent my wife a text that I’d be a bit late, enjoyed giving my son a bath and everything worked out fine.

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I share this story because it highlights a dangerous habit that is easy to create.

Closing my inner life because I’m scared of future demands.

If you look for this pattern then you will see it everywhere.

  • Gifting – refusing to help now, to avoid being asked later
  • Parents – giving into the desire to break the child now, to “help” them later

Inside me, the habit feels like a form of revenge.

I’ll turn away from you now, because that’s “easier” than having to say no later.

Looking deeply, I’m the one that is hurt by this habit (and I’m robbing myself of the feel-good benefit of being a nice guy).

Harsh people think their hardness is a long-term favor to the people in their lives. They probably learned this habit in a difficult childhood.

My heart tells me that I’ll be OK with the risks of staying open to the people in my life.

Be brave.

The Village in my Sienna

mobileMonday’s article touched on a trait that makes me an effective investor: the capacity to see the options inside the deal.

My ability to see second and third order effects isn’t limited to finance.

Last week, Mr. Money Mustache published an article about the cost of buying more assets than we need.

I confess that I am an expert at living above my needs.

The fact that I have earned the “means” does not change the reality of my choices.

A story!

Our local hospice has a partnership with an organization in Tanzania. One of their joint projects is building houses for widows and orphans.

It costs $600 to sponsor a house.

These days, I drive a 2011 Toyota Sienna AWD van. The Sportsmobile (pictured above) was sold when my kids arrived.

$600 is the semi-annual cost to insure and register my Sienna. Two houses a year.

Last week, I spent a house on new tires!

The good people at Mint.Com tell me that my Sienna is worth $21,499.

Swapping my Sienna for a cargo bike, would net 30 houses and save my family 6 houses annually, forever.

Over a decade, this choice could help 500 people with the loss of their spouse or parent.

I have been to Tanzania and these are good people to help.

The cost of this change is inconvenience when the weather isn’t great and a reduced ability to go on driving vacations.

The benefit would be knowing that hundreds of kids ride with me each day.

I told my wife that I’m going to wait a year on selling the Sienna.

However, the cargo bike arrives this month. I financed it by selling items that I put to one side last spring.

Change slowly.

Too Kind Too Generous

ax_and_bellaHow do you deal with someone telling you that you’re too kind or too generous?

What if the person telling you is your inner voice?!

I wasn’t sure how to handle, so I went for a bike ride to consider my alternatives.

Riding along, I laughed when I realized that people never tell me that I’m too kind to them, only too kind to others.

A little later, I laughed again when I realized that I seem to have everyone fooled. My too-kind-too-generous strategy is solely in my self interest.

So, rather than get grumpy. A better reaction is to share that…

You are a good person.

Remember that my capacity to help another person isn’t limited to them. It’s how I treat you.

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I looked a little deeper and considered the times where I felt that life was giving someone else too much of a good thing.

These feelings are related to the difficulty that I can have with other people’s success and happiness.

I realized my criticism was flowing from a fear that there wasn’t enough for me.

+++

I’ll end with a song that my son learned when he was two-years old.

The song is called Magic Penny and this is my favorite part…

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any. 
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

My children are excellent teachers.