I’ve been watching two of my teachers duke it out in public and it reminded me of something I want to teach my kids.
What do you want?
We are most easily deceived by our desires.
So start by asking, “what did I want?”
Then dig deeper.
My desires leave me open to deception.
Absent wanting, I can’t be fooled.
This knowledge is helpful to prevent the next person from using our desires against us AND so we can use self-awareness to guide effective action.
I was thinking back on races where I’d been impacted by cheating, and I remembered the fastest Half Marathon I ever ran was chasing down a guy who cut the bike course. I was so upset! That gave me a big smile, in a way, he did me a favor.
Other races, other outcomes.
When I looked deeper, I didn’t always like what I found.
An insatiable desire to “prove” myself better than others.
Not being able to feed that desire with external victories nudged me to look for other ways to prove merit. Again, my competition may have done me a favor.
Teachers & Mentors
I have learned from teachers with different goals, lifestyles and values from me. Sometimes, our teachers become a source of energy to do better within our own lives, and with our closest relationships.
Related, the first time you really get to know one of your heroes… it can be disappointing. We’re all flawed in some way. My kids are starting to learn my flaws, and they forgive me.
After the disappointment can come liberation. Take the best ideas and execute. There never was any magic.
Still, when you notice a difference in values, be wary. It’s not about right/wrong, more about compatibility. More in Drucker’s famous article about Managing Oneself.
When seeking a mentor, your wants might fool you into seeking to emulate a person who doesn’t fit your values.
Looking deeply, again.
My values & wants… from the inside, it feels like I’m in total control. I’m not.
By crafting my closest relationships, my mentors, my attention… I guide my life.
In some cases, I am better learning from a distance.
Which brings us to the final point.
Don’t torch the joint on the way out!
History tells me that I am going feel different about things later.
Life is about living, not building a habit of argument.
He was talking about race performances. Time has shown Scott’s observation to apply more broadly, say, to families and parenting.
Related to my last post about the phases of early education, you are unlikely to regret the difficulties required to set your family on a better path.
Go further… regardless of the outcome for the generation that follows you… providing a wonderful childhood, to any kid, will be a source of longterm satisfaction.
I’ve been at the fatherhood game for more than a decade. Often I feel worn out. The “worn out” seems to be adaptive. Our oldest is now a teen and my fatigue provides motivation to continue the process of getting her ready to leave us.
So that’s the family bit… occasionally awful, often fatiguing, always satisfying in hindsight.
Physically, my early 50s are much different than my early 40s. The rate of decline isn’t clear to me. The downward trajectory, however, is clear!
Specific tactics I’ve been using, and considering:
Anaerobic & Tempo Load – my ability to “do work” remains at a high level. What’s missing is the capacity to recover quickly from those efforts.
I can see why people choose to supplement their recovery hormones. I’ve skipped that path. I’ve skipped it because the last thing I need in my life is an increase in aggression. I also like the challenge-of-figuring-things-out.
Strava – I ditched it at the start of this month. I felt the public posting was nudging me towards fatigue.
=> Limiting crowd size appears to help the quality of my decisions.
Oura Ring – I bought the Gen 3 ring and have had it on for six weeks. It’s been a help. I particularly like the ability to look at what’s happening across the night.
Other Changes: turned my morning alarm off, stopped counting days skiing, stopped counting ski vertical and ditched all notifications.
Nothing buzzes, rings or flashes in my life.
Oxygen Room – When I lived in Christchurch (NZ), I had an altitude room that I used for work/sleep. It was a low-oxygen room, created by running O2 concentrators, and pumping oxygen out of the room.
The company that sold me the system is now creating oxygen-rich rooms, to let people sleep at “sea level.” A friend installed one at her ski place and she loves it. When she caught COVID (breakthrough) with Influenza (same time), she headed “up” to be at “sea level” for recovery.
With the O2 room, I’m considering:
What’s the goal? Perhaps better recovery. Sea level sleep, when physically tired, is bliss.
Assuming better recovery, how’s that actually better?
How would I use the better recovery? History indicates I’m likely to add load until I am just-as-tired as before!
So maybe it’s better to save the $$$s and modify my load.
Time’s going to force load reductions on me, regardless of recovery protocols. Another reason to avoid hormone supplementation => I might as well figure it out now.
Do you notice what you’re not doing to yourself?
It is difficult to wrap my head around things “not done.”
My demographic doesn’t write much about all the alcohol, edibles, prescription drugs and hormone supplementation that’s going on. I’ve decided to skip all that.
When my kids ask why…
Reality is enough for me.
You will need to decide what you want to get done in life.
Preparation & Prudence
Our family feels like it’s moving into a new phase. The changes are impossible to ignore.
My challenges with “preparing” physically.
Watching my kids track into self-directed learning, and living.
The shortening window, of years, that lie ahead.
On every metric, my life (and the lives of those close to me) is on track.
A new question arose this year…
Whatwas the goal of all the preparation and prudence? Amazing wife, all-star kids, cash burn under control, balance sheet on target, body doing better than I ever expected… what now?
Back in the summer, I wrote a small “to do” list. One of the items was 20 blogs in 20 weeks. This one is #20.
Thanks for reading and for getting in touch from time to time.
This holiday season, I hope you get outside and give yourself a chance to enjoy the view. I’ve been trying to look around more.
Picture below is moon-set from the middle of December. I never wonder “what now” when I’m enjoying the outdoors.
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!
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…
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.
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
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 trip to the Canyon marked the end of my summer season. On the bus ride back to our car, my wife asked “what’s next?” I’ll share the answers to that question and add some ideas that might be helpful.
One of my challenges with parenthood is being haunted by the thought… “I’m going to be old by the time I escape this grind.” In my 20s, that thought (and a divorce) helped me jettison myself from desk work.
Our youngest isn’t going to graduate high school until 2032, so there’s some truth in these feelings. However:
(1) my age isn’t necessary a problem, or a barrier, for a life with meaning;
(2) I had similar thoughts ~20 years ago and things turned out fine; and
(3) fearis a distraction from doing what solves the problem.
Anyhow, I wanted to acknowledge those thoughts as I’m certain many of us feel similarly, at times.
The Mental Benefit of Getting Better At Something
One of my coaching mentors, John Hellemans, has a wonderful presentation about triathlon. One of his lessons is “try something new, each year.” He backs this advice with a series of slides showing all the whacky equipment he tried out over the years. He must get a kick out of novelty.
Coming out of COVID (it seems we’ve been leaving the pandemic for all of 2021!), I was gym-strong. As a result, I’ve been able to get back, rather quickly, to a level of indoor climbing I’d last achieved in 1996.
Gains & novelty are fun.
What will you try this winter?
My areas for improvement: metabolic fitness via endurance cycling, skills & novelty via indoor climbing, eccentric leg strength via dryland ski training and agility via downhill skiing.
Knowing What I Don’t Want
Do you know the conditions likely to to bring out your worst?
I sure do: tired, in traffic, the whole family in close proximity, after a day spent answering questions and listening to low-grade bickering between my kids.
Not going to spend time, and money, to put myself in that situation!
My personal planner, through to the end of March 2022, doesn’t have a single peak-period family drive (and the kids had to demonstrate a material improvement in behavior to get me to agree to fly with them).
The current situation tends to continue as long as we tolerate it.
Write out your “not to do” list.
The Value of Being Able to Change Course
The last year was another reminder how life surprises me.
In August 2020, our daughter started year round swim team. Team implies ~12 meets a year, 6 of those requiring travel. That’s a lot of time out of my “with my wife” allocation. It was a major adjustment for me, which we are still figuring out.
That wasn’t the surprising part, fatherhood can feel like a gradual drift down the priority list until the kids move out. Just the way it is, and why I make a priority of having fun with my wife.
I was surprised by the cost. Swimming is expensive for a “cheap” sport. Our cost is greatly increased by my desire for childcare => so I don’t lose my mind, being left home alone with the other kids.
Over the years we have considered properties in various vacation markets. I feel fortunate that I didn’t pull the trigger on anything. Because we didn’t lock ourselves into a secondary market, it was painless to cut the winter activity budget in half and cover the cost of swimming.
So no winter ski place rental, which eliminates Sunday drives home (in snow storms, tired, with all three kids).
Of Interest Here: I am being compensated by less of what I don’t like. Very tough to price the benefit of via negativa.
What would I pay to cut my worst days in half? No idea, but I do pause to notice the benefits of less.
The lesson isn’t my specific situation. The lesson is life changes every five years or so. Choices, and investments, that make sense today can be costly to unwind tomorrow => even when you get out at a profit.
We’ve owned a BoCo rental property since 2010 and I’m often tempted to swap it for a vacation place. By not buying in a secondary market:
I continued to hold a rental property in my home market.
I didn’t pay capital gains taxes.
The rental income more than covered my vacation rentals.
I benefited from 75% capital appreciation.
My net cost on the site is zero, a few years back I subdivided and sold part of the land.
In 2016, I didn’t know how I would be surprised, but I could see the ability to cover vacation expenses with rental income. Also, it was also easy to calculate the taxes and agents fees deferred by not selling => make the cost of change visible.
I have a persistent feeling that owning is better. In secondary markets, the facts tell me otherwise.
Looking forward to 2032, I know we will be empty nesters. What that means for our life is unknowable today.
Take Advantage of Childhood Opportunities
There is a limited window of time where my kids will think I am brilliant. I care about the value of my family’s human capital so I remember…
It is much easier to indoctrinate a child in “risk management by example” than to achieve anything by heckling a teen.
As a coach, my job was to teach my team what I would advise, without needing to say it.
Being the brand was excellent preparation for parenthood. Kids have a keen nose for inconsistency!
It’s possible to spend one’s entire life getting stuff done and making no true progress.
What do I mean by this?
I took a week off at the start of August and looked deeply at my life. Here’s what I noticed.
Problems: when folks are seeking to help us, they often remind us to count our blessings with a stock phrase such as…
Many people would love to have your problems.
This is both true, and false. True because I have an excellent set of problems. False because my problems are more accurately described as my “to do” list. They are simply things that need to get done.
…and that’s where a habit of grinding away, can get us nowhere.
Before we can fix something, we need to identify just what we need to address.
I spent the start of August alone, wandering around the mountains. It was a unique opportunity to get outside my life.
When was the last time you unplugged and got outside of the box?
By the way, I’m writing this from my box – my home, my home office, staring at screens. Too much of that in COVID!
The first thing I noticed was my point above, what I call my “problems” is merely a to-do list. They aren’t problems in a structure sense – time will wipe them out.
The key issue of the last 12-months is a periodic, penetrating sadness. Ticking off items on my to-do list doesn’t have much of an impact on it. My cost of living – no impact on it. Portfolio returns – no impact.
This insight was useful for me. It spurred two follow on questions:
What am I doing when I’m not-sad?
Are there triggers that set me along a downward spiral?
There’s a paradox in my life as a father. Doing the actions required to be a great parent, wipe me out. Not a big deal – I don’t mind fatigue all that much.
However, listening to my kids bicker brings on nausea. It’s my kryptonite.
Combine the two, bickering at the end of a long day, day-after-day, week-after-week, for the last 10+ years.
Across the summer, it was getting to me. I decided to opt out of anything that had all three kids involved.
Digging deeper, I realized no one can make me drive a car, take a trip, sign a lease, deal with rush hour… anything really. Parenting can leave me feeling trapped, but it’s a trap of my own creation.
I have a central role in tolerating the triggers of my sadness.
Back to the “to do” list.
It all-too-easy for couples to get bogged down arguing about their “problems”. They never get anywhere because they aren’t addressing the issue at its deepest level.
My family asked me what I wanted.
Spend more time _alone_ with my wife => I make this clear each time the opportunity arises. Sometimes this is as simple as being able to finish our sentences to each other (without being interrupted by an addition to my to-do list, which the kids could do themselves!).
Help with the low-value tasks in my house => stepping outside my life in August made me realize how much time I spend on other people’s BS. In this regard, my sadness did me a huge favor when it nudged me to jettison Facebook (August 2020). Dealing with other people’s crap feels never-ending. In fact, it started to end the moment I decided I was done tolerating it.
In the meantime, I decided to stop:
Stop => helping anyone who is rude to me.
Stop => supporting anyone who wants to be a passenger.
All the while, modeling the the actions I want to see around me.
Which brings me to the #1 directive I gave myself, which I learned from our youngest daughter.
Not just because it works.
Because the opposite of polite => rudeness, disharmony, noise, bickering, petty squabbles is a HUGE sadness trigger for me.
Winning an argument won’t solve my problem because engaging in argument is a trigger.
The opposite of sadness => call it not-sad.
It isn’t happiness.
For me, it’s enthusiasm.
My retreat enabled me to reconnect with my enthusiasm:
Two minutes after we got back to the car (parked in pic below), my son started asking “what’s next?”
It was a reminder:
The world will take as much as you are willing to give (and more than I am capable of sustaining).
Which is related to “you gotta make choices” (because I can’t do everything).
And, a reminder that the enjoyment of achieving rarely lasts for long.
Life is a relative game and meaning is about process.
Relentless positivity is a trait that defined my early 30s.
Somewhere between 2001 and 2021, it’s gone astray.
I’ve been contrasting my life then, and now, to generate ideas.
Ideas about how to shift a persistent dissatisfaction that’s been stalking me and impacting my family.
Money: inflation-adjusted, my cash burn is up 6x in the last 20 years.
Family net worth is up more than that. So technically, I’m more secure. I don’t feel that way.
What I do feel, when periodic dissatisfaction comes, is my life experience is not worth what I pay for it.
A friend summed it up well, “the money just goes.”
Put another way, for every $1 I spend on something useful, another $5 goes out the door.
Flip back 20 years and I was living on a 1/10th of my current cash burn. This points towards a couple things:
More spending is unlikely to be the answer, to anything.
Financial security has a significant state-of-mind component.
My current life feels overpriced, and satisfaction is inelastic to spending increases.
I can’t spend my way out of these feelings!
Time: I am 20 years older, with more requests on my time.
This is really interesting to me. As I age, my concerns for financial security could be coming from a sense of my own mortality. Hopefully, a theme of the next 20 years will be making peace with that reality.
An entertaining part of the my life 20 years ago was how much time I spent completely blown out from low heart rate exploring.
Exhaustion, absent external demands, feels quite serene (see pic above).
Exhaustion, with noise and relentless external demands, is awful. I gave up exhaustion, as a coping strategy, when I lived with preschoolers.
I may have swung the pendulum too far away from getting tired.
Get Outside: I’m guessing there’s a “cabin fever” effect on my positivity-to-dissatisfaction ratio.
The last 17 months is the most time I’ve spent indoors in the last two decades. I think cabin fever will doom work-from-home for many.
Turns out, there’s a lot of emotional utility from getting outside my house.
Do what solves the problem.
Our youngest is outstanding at this approach.
Be kind, don’t sweat the rules and do what solves the problem.
On the summit before most folks hit the parking lot.
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