Building Allies

I spent the last week 1-on-1 with our oldest. Some in Mexico, some in Boulder.

Our oldest has a big interest in all-things-family.

I spent the weekend getting her on-side with some family adjustments.


Many families keep the kids in the dark about family finances – with our oldest coming into her teens, I’ve started the process of educating her about how to run a household.

I’m hoping improved disclosure will result in her supporting shifting some of my wife’s time back to me!

Do you know how much money it takes to run the family? No idea.

Why don’t you guess. $1 million

No, no that much but I did work for a guy that was close to that. Big spending creates big pressure.

We iterated until she got close enough.

OK, I need to come up with that much cash every year. That’s my main financial job and I enjoy it.

Now, how many days do I get each month in exchange for coming up with that cash?

What do you want to do?

Well, I’d like to do something other than hang around the house, alone, and do housework.

This time she answered bang on => two days per month.

June, July and August => How many days are you away with Mom? Ten each month.

Let’s convert that to a nice round number for the year. 100 days.

Take those 100 days, are they going to make my marriage stronger, or create stress?

Panic (!) on her behalf as the penny drops… I talk her down and reassure her that our marriage is “great”.

She did not need any encouragement to want to strengthen her parent’s marriage.

She did need to calmly, slowly, be led through where her desire to constantly take her mother away might lead.

She immediately came up with a useful idea => alternate chaperones with her best-swim-friend. A win-win-win for all of us.


On to cleaning => Earlier, she’d been slamming the vacuum around because she didn’t want to do her weekly chores.

She gets this from me, I’ve been known to toss furniture when frustrated. I’m trying to cut back on acting-out frustration. Out of all of us, I’m the one who needs to improve the most!

Sweetie, did you notice that I spent the last two days cleaning the entire house?

Yeah, but you had nothing to do.

Sweetie, how do you think that statement makes me feel?

Not good?

Actually, not that bad, the house does look great and that makes me happy. Do you think that there is something else I might rather be doing than staying home alone and cleaning?

That led us into a discussion about relative contributions.

Human happiness is a relative metric.

Is it fair that I’m handling all the cash generation, and doing most of the housework?

What would you like me to do?

I’d like you to help me spend more time with your mother. She’s my favorite person in the world.

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

Death Valley 2021


We decided to take advantage of the second-to-last week of daytime childcare (i.e. school) and do a quick couples trip.

Post-pandemic, I’m aiming for one adventure each month.


Vegas Pants…

Tuesday morning we caught a 7:30am flight out of Denver. Gaining an hour, we rolled out of Vegas by 10am and were hiking by 3pm.


At the Mesquite Dunes, M demonstrates the huge vertical of a top ultra-endurance athlete…

The idea was PM/AM hikes to get some overload in preparation for a September trip to the Grand Canyon.


In the background, Charcoal Kilns from way back.

Wildrose Peak, 2,200 vert, ~8 miles, trailhead (at ~7K) was 20F cooler than Stovepipe Wells, which was 102F.


A well-made trail climbs through Piñon Pine and Juniper


After the Wildrose Peak hike, it was time to get to the campsite.

From the 2WD lower trailhead, it is ~2 miles to the 4WD upper trailhead. I’d rented a Jeep and was grateful we didn’t have to haul our camping stuff up the road, or camp lower down.

In Colorado terms, it’s a good dirt. I would have felt OK giving it a shot in a Honda CR-V or a Subaru.

That said, the consequences of a double-flat, or torn oil pan are high… 60 miles to the nearest mechanic.


No water, but a clean toilet and 10 sites

Upgrade! Big Agnes, Copper Spur UL3

Arriving at the trailhead, we were surprised to see a couple sedans up there. I was grateful for 4Lo in the Jeep, a smooth drive up for us.


A rock had been placed in front. Unfortunately, an unlucky driver powered over the rock and dropped his low-clearance sedan onto the wooden spike.

One guy managed to tear open his gas tank, while backing up close to our campsite. It was 7pm. He declined an offer to get a message out via satellite communicator and decided to deal with the salvage operation the following day.

We had periodic cell reception on the high ridges – not enough for the web but good enough to send a couple pics/texts to our kids.


~13 miles round trip and 3,250 ft of climbing (3,000/250)

Telescope Peak is the highest point in the Park. The first two miles of the trail had a little exposure and the last mile to the summit is exposed to rockfall if parties are above you.

The prior day’s hike (Wildrose Peak) was mellow. Great trail with no exposure, or rockfall.


We started just before dawn, which was about as late as I’d recommend. Doing it again, I’d roll 75 minutes before sunrise.

I did an online weather course this spring. It’s increased my appreciation of the world around me.

Fun fact, if you start from the Death Valley side then you can climb >10,000 vertical to the summit of Telescope. However, the route wasn’t clear and the valley is a reminder that, sometimes, nature wants to kill us.

Looking down, I could see water in the canyons, no idea on salt content.


A moderate section for an hour in the middle of the climb. The route switchbacks up, behind the looker’s left skyline coming down from the peak. This picture is taken from the west side of Bennett Peak, wonderfully cool in the morning.

The dead Bristlecone Pines reminded me of The Tree of Woe from Conan the Barbarian – lots of signs of lightning activity on the Death Valley side of the trail.

~11,000 at the top

On the way back down, I could have done with lighter options for sun protection.

We left the stranded motorist a spare gallon of water and crossed paths with a Ranger on our drive out.

Here’s a link to the NPS write-up on Telescope and Wildrose.


Hot wife…

For peak conditions, I used OpenSummit.Com to track the forecast (Telescope Peak). Zion was our back-up plan if wind, or weather, wasn’t favorable.

The Trails Illustrated map of Death Valley National Park saved me more than one wrong turn.

These days, quick trips are where I point my fitness. Avoiding the incentives associated with racing is a better deal for my marriage and myself.


Create the life you wish to lead

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?

Family Spending Principles

West Ridge, Eldora

An observation that I am trying to pass along to my kids.

My never ending desires are rooted in a false idea of what will make me happy. I have a clear idea about the structure of the days that are “better.” Achieving better is easier, and more rewarding, than chasing pleasure from purchases.


To help me achieve “better”, I have a series of principles.

1/ Visible spending for wife, first // This works on a number of levels.

  • Don’t buy something for yourself that you wouldn’t buy for your entire family.
  • It easier to be value conscious when I remove myself from the purchase equation.
  • It’s just good policy.

2/ The minimum outlay to meet the underlying need

Strangely, I got this via Joe Friel on coaching masters athletes => the minimum, and the most specific, training to get the desired physiological adaption.

Capital takes time to acquire and is easily squandered (spendthrift heirs and lottery winners are common examples).

A default to the minimum reduces the scale of my (inevitable) errors and increases the ability to change my mind later.

3/ Do not sweat the small stuff – set a Give A Hoot threshold (links to Marriage Money article)

Set an annual plan, track the cash quarterly and promise you will not sweat the small stuff. Good people are made miserable by tracking every nickel.

Stay out of the weeds so your mind is able to think and get the big things right.

4/ Avoid Choices That Have A Material Cost to Hold => this applies across domains (assets, leases, friends, family, commitments, Facebook/eMail). The math from yesterday.

There are many ways to find yourself over-extended… debt service, cash flow, emotion & time.

Exit bad decisions => they crush you on all levels.

Mark Allen on pacing…

just because you’ve made a bad decision, doesn’t mean you have to continue it


Combine these principles and you’ll find the sum is worth more than the parts.


Dropping into West Turbo. Pali Chair, A-Basin.

My son asked about the last big purchase I made, other than real estate.

My off-the-cuff answer was “we don’t spend much money” but that didn’t line up with what I know about our cash flow statement.

So I spent January thinking about it. Next time, the best financial choices I’ve made across my marriage (16 years this summer).

Writings for an expecting father: Where the rubber meets the road


The second birthday of your first child is a key milestone.

Life’s about to get real.


I think a lot of guys would be more involved if they knew, in advance, what long-term female bitterness does to a marriage.

How much risk do you want to run?

What sort of role do you want to create for yourself?

  • Take a dominant kid away so your wife meets the other kids (this comes later).
  • Taking a toddler away on an overnight trip so your wife can put her adrenal system back together.
  • Lock in a Daddy Day once a week.
  • Lock in a time slot 5 days a week so your wife can exercise.

Smart, tactical choices will help create the woman you’d like to spend the rest of your life alongside.



What do you do best?

For me, it is 1-on-1 time in nature. Whatever your skill happens to be, do not expect it to be a whole lot of fun at the beginning.

The “win” happens when your wife uses the space you create for her own needs.

To create space for meeting our own needs, I was rarely supportive of “getting exhausted together”.


Also invert the situation and consider…

What does your partner like least? …but maybe that’s outside your skill level. In that case…

What can you subcontract? Teaching your kid(s) to be put to bed at an early age from someone other than their mother is one of the best things you can do for your marriage.

I experienced some resistance to outside help with our first kid. The resistance was _completely_ gone by the time our 3rd arrived.

Subcontracting is not a clear cut issue. I can easily subcontract cleaning but it’s one of the highest return things I do in my house. Unassailable authority when I assign chores or ask for help.

Do no expect your kids to thank you => remember you’re doing this for your marriage and to hedge your bets for tomorrow.

You can not do it all => What are you willing to give up to create space for this new initiative?

In the short term, as you adjust to your new reality, it will feel like you’ve given up everything => Because you have!

It’s a brand new life you’re creating.

Writings for an expecting father: The Start


Three things:

  • Learn to swaddle
  • Focus on your wife’s sleep
  • Babies cry

Nothing else matters until you’ve mastered these points.

Why?

Done well, these points bring relief and create space for the rest of your life.


Downstream effects

Where you’ll be sleeping => I spent a lot of time, alone, in the basement.

Sleep schedules => Baby, Mom, You => in order of priority.

Use of outside help => support the marriage by supporting your wife’s sleep and up-skilling everyone’s ability to swaddle and deal with the reality of the baby (they cry).


Pay attention to what works, and doesn’t.

Keep what works and build a schedule.

Writings for an expecting father: Why


How do you deal with the risk that your body lasts longer than your mind?

Serve the young.


A pregnant wife is the start of an outstanding opportunity to de-risk the back end of your life. The skills required to take advantage of this offering are likely to be very different from what you’ve been using so far.

You don’t need to be a father to take advantage of these posts – young spouse, young students, other people’s kids, grandkids, neighbors… the key element is consistent service to others.


Now, in my own case, it wasn’t a desire to “get” future help.

Rather I had a strong desire to “avoid”.

  • Avoid another divorce.
  • Avoid the pain of future regret.

Still not sure? Listen quietly while grandparents talk about their life decisions.

My New Year’s Resolution

…was made ten years ago.



Last week. my wife and I were chatting about her needs.

They were modest => a daily swim and an outdoor walk with a friend.

It brought me way back, and made me smile.


Byrn Family 2010. Pearls, Lace and Savagery!

The last time we’d spoken about her needs was a decade earlier.

We had a two-year old in the house and my wife was pregnant with our son.

Actually, we didn’t really talk much.

I broached the topic of changing how we were living. It went something like…

I have neeeeeeeeds.

One of the better things I’ve EVER done was not engage.

Non-engagement was a general policy during pregnancy and, fortunately, my wife was pregnant enough that the habit stuck with me!


Upper left hand corner could be my son’s first photo

Back to “needs” circa 2010.

I looked around:

  • 2,000 sq ft per person
  • 3:1 adult-to-kid ratio
  • weekly cleaners
  • professional kitchen

I did not say a word but I made a mental note.

The situation around us, I had created. All our needs were created by me.

It was time to own the outcome.


Roll forward a decade, add a global pandemic, and we’re down to a walk and a swim.

50% of our baseline cost of living => gone.

I even got rid of cable (took me five years).

Stay focused on where you want to go.

Own the outcome.


We kept the mixer.