Where To Spend More Part Three

13 years ago this month

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

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

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

So let’s try again with key concepts.


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

…balances with…

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

So…

Where to spend?

I spend in areas that…

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

Childcaredetail here

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

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

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

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



Some nuts & bolts about removing friction

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

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

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

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

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

Mantra: Spend money and time seeing good people

Who to vist? Simple filter…

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

Some do all three – recruit them!

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

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

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

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

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

Human Capital over long time horizons. Supported by:

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

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

Sunday Summary 15 May 2022

Tweets of the Week (by engagement)

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

Data comes from my Public Dashboard on BlackMagic.So

Family

Workouts & Working Out

High Performance Living

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

The Choices That Define Your Financial Life

  • Act as if personal finance is a game where you only get ten tickets to play.
  • Invest as if you are holding a checkbook with only a dozen checks inside.
  • Speak as if you’re holding a six-shooter, is it worth one of your bullets to make the point that’s on your mind.

I’ve been hearing versions of the above my entire life. It’s been great advice and encouraged me to:

  • Slow down
  • Resist the urge to interrupt compounding
  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on the big decisions
  • Treat small movements like noise

So, we started your kids with the allowance game.

Then, we moved onto discussing the family’s allocation of capital towards education.

With that, we considered the impact, across generations, of borrowing.

What next?

Teach your kids their financial lives will be about no more than a dozen choices.

Here are mine:

  • Study finance (class of 1990)
  • Save 50% of my take home (1990-2007)
  • Partners investment scheme (late 90s, all in then, equivalent of 1 yr spending now)
  • Work to build a startup (2000)
  • Sell into the frenzy (2005-2007)
  • Move into a low-cost Vanguard portfolio (2008 onwards)
  • Boulder real estate (2010 & 2012))
  • Downsize (2012-2013)
  • Borrow long at 3.25% (2013)
  • Debt free (2007 & 2020)
  • Have kids with a kind woman from a humble background (on going)

Every other choice turned out to be noise. What to do?

Focus on actions, not outcome.

What does that really mean?

Do what moves you forward and have faith. Sport, marriage, money, all things… daily action is the fundamental force moving you towards “better.”

Education matters => I was given a chance in Private Equity because I had high marks in a useful field. Between my high school graduation (1986) and my youngest’s (2031) the nature of “useful” will have changed. However, the need for skilled people to “do” will endure.

The most useful part of my degree wasn’t finance! It was financial accounting, programming and mathematics => I learned fundamental knowledge in college. I learned my profession on-the-job. You learn the valuable part by doing work, for the best people you can find.

This keeps popping up over and over again (professors, partners, coaches, mentors, twitter follows). At 53, I’m learning from people less than half my age! Do work to learn.

Avoid Ruin => studying, then working in, financial accounting helps you learn when a situation doesn’t feel right. Embezzlement is an old game and it’s useful to learn the patterns. Financial fraud happens, and will continue to happen. Take steps to reduce your family’s exposure to ruin.

With the accounting, I learned the most with 9 credits spread across three courses. Financial Accounting 1, 2 and 3. Small investment, huge return. Do it when you’re young. Being forced to rely on others to do your financial math is a disadvantage that will cost you.


Let’s pull it together for you…

Starting your working life (in a useful field, with your financial accounting courses done)…

You are at least a decade away from making the shift to lifestyle sustainable, so you focus on:

  1. Learning by doing with the best people who will hire you
  2. Savingget that first $100K banked, you will be grateful when you’re older
  3. Waiting for the fat pitch – once in a lifetime investment opportunities happen once a decade
  4. Turning yourself into the sort of person you’d like to marry, the friend you’d like to have, the parent you aspire to be => meaningful connection is true wealth

Your mind will try to trick you into thinking it’s the investment choices that matter.

It is not.

It is the four habits I outlined above, and avoiding substance abuse.

Building a Family Tradition at Jackson Hole 2022

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

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

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

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

We drove home that afternoon.

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

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

I’m patient with execution.

We checked out JHMR last summer.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Jackson worked great, eventually.

++

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

My wife and daughter were flying in the next morning.

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

I was not OK.

I couldn’t fall asleep.

I got up.

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

I booked a very nice room, slope side.

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

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

I slept great, despite the staleness!


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

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

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

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

He’s a better listener than me.

The list goes on and on…


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

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

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

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

Similar to bible camp, but we shred.


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

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

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

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

A thought on kids.

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

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


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

It was really nice to spend time with old friends.


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

Recap:

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

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

More and Less

My kids love it when I dress up

I view my negative emotions as feedback and, when they persist, I change my approach.

My summer had some unpleasant moments. Moments which spurred the resolve to reach for better.


The first thing I noticed…

If I am going to do something mean then it’s going to happen at home, after spending the day alone.

I can’t remember a single unforced error happening after a day outside. The errors I do remember start with a slow boil starting at my desk!

So…

I have stickers facing me while I type away on my screens…



Whatever I truly need… it’s not to be found in a chair, looking at screens.



Another lesson I’ve learned, this time about marriage.

Schedule time to enjoy each other.

I don’t know if we’d gotten “too busy”, or complacent.

Either way, when I’m getting jealous of swim meets then it’s a sign we need to increase our us-time.

  • Tuesday – train together (outside), then lunch
  • Thursday – starting after Christmas break, ski together
  • Saturday – date night (and our oldest can handle the sitting)

Three opportunities for “together” each week.

Have fun together and avoid forming a habit of preparing a list of grievances for each encounter, yes I have done this.

The Thursday means we need to help. When I first raised the idea, it was…

I want you to get childcare so I can take an entire day off. Every. Single. Week.

My wife had no idea what, or why, this was important.

Nothing happened, for months.

When I explained the downstream idea (ski together each week), help was found within 12 hours.

Good ideas do better with effective communication.

These ideas were put together with an understanding of enduring drivers of satisfaction in my life…

  • Exploring, together
  • Being outside, together

The three “weeklies” put me in my best environment, so my wife isn’t interacting with me in my worst environment (the house after a day alone).

We had a bit of an issue with restaurant selection so we rotate choice, by week, with a no-veto policy.


Kid #2 completed their reading challenge!

John Hellemans notes there are three plans in any athlete-coach relationship. I goes something like this…

  • The plan the coach believes the athlete is given
  • The plan the athlete actually does
  • The plan the coach believes the athlete did

It’s a reminder to be cautious with assumptions, and pay attention to clues that point to reality being different than expected.

A version of this extends to all things in life…

  • What you think you need
  • What you actually do
  • What you think you did

Consider money…

  • What I think I need to spend to make myself happy [A]
  • What the family is actually spending [B]
  • What I think my family wants me to spend [C]

The punchline here is TIME.

When you are enjoying each other, your family will enjoy inexpensive hobbies.

INVERT => no amount of spending can overcome a lack of meaningful connection

What’s been bothering me, quite a bit as it turns out, was the ratio of B to A. The $5 of family spending that follows each $1 I find useful in my own life.

I dug deeper.

What I’ve arrived at is equity. Equity of contributions and benefits. We’re working on it. A simple change, that is difficult to implement…

I will not burden myself with the task of removing the consequences of another’s choices.

Basically, if someone calls an audible, repeats a bad habit, makes a poor choice… then I’ll limit myself to polite emotional support, while calmly showing the connection between their choice and the consequence.

Then I’ll move on.

++

Getting What I Want

With the money I think my family wants me to spend… I just smile at myself.

First, because my wants are driven by my peers, my values and the advertising industry => my family is the solution, not the issue.

A bit of effort with my media filter dials down my greed, and dials up useful traits. A simple change… unsubscribe reduces useless spending.

Second, my “wants” are transitory. They come and go, just like moods. I don’t need to take them seriously, they change all the time.

A better question:

What’s it going to take to raise my kids, the way I want, and set myself up for the next stage of my life?

The price is a cost of doing business.

The actions are where to focus.

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! πŸ˜‰

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.

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… πŸ˜‰

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 PiΓ±on 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… πŸ™‚

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!