Couples Retreat April 2021

A couple months ago, I made a prediction… Coming out of the pandemic, it would take very little to improve my life. This past week, we put my expectation to the test by taking a mid-week trip.

We drove 75 miles, stayed in a motel overlooking the interstate, ate mediocre takeaway and had a really good time!

The kids were in school, so we hired two favorite sitters to cover for us. Our kids loved it.

Our lead sitter was duly impressed with how the kids had up-skilled themselves during the pandemic.

“Things change above tree line”

Each morning started with a trip to 12,500 feet.

Our time together was a reminder of the benefits of an athletic spouse, and how learning new skills can benefit a marriage.

Uphill skiing is a skill we learned as we transitioned out of elite sport.

When we met, we spent a lot of time sharing meals in hotel rooms.

Good memories, which reminded me I have something to look forward to… a future life together.

A happy expectation, 10 years away, is a useful antidote to a dark vision that had been appearing around bedtime each night.

Coffee indoors – first time since March 2020

One of last week’s blogs was covered on the drive to the motel. My wife got the long-form version of “using money to opt out of BS“.

The concept is simple but there is a deep human urge to be “proven right” rather than “quietly opt out of drama”.

A effective treatment (for my desire to be proven right) was spending time with preschoolers. A preschooler has no capacity to understand my perspective about what is right & fair!

With little kids, and the child in all of us, it pays to choose peace over drama.

Focus on what works – opting out of drama works.

On Top

One of my 2021 projects is less resistance. I lay things out in my blogs and explain them to my family.

And then…

I follow my own advice and let it go.

Something I let go of last week was a planned trip to ride up Haleakala. It was going to be my June adventure. My wife wanted us to head to Maui as a couple. Fair enough. I’ll probably be able to make the 10,000 foot climb in a few years.

If you want to perform at high altitude then touch 12,000 feet as many times as possible in your training, and do most your sleeping under 6,500 feet. Whatever “high” altitude is for you, just touch it – do your real training (and sleeping) lower down.

With each passing week, it’s looking like Colorado’s summer will be fairly normal. We mapped out the next four months for our kids.

Related, Boulder County has 500 open vaccine appointments for today, as I type this on 4/23. I suspect we’re going to start hearing about vaccine-tourism into the US.

If you are still in the COVID smackdown then take heart. You will see rapid improvement once the weather turns and your local vaccine supply ramps up.

If you’re not vaccinated then be careful. We’ve had a three friends get seriously ill in April.

For me, the money altitude for training is 6,000 to 9,000 feet – high enough to desaturate, not so high I slow down and extend recovery. Once you’re doing a bunch of volume over 9K elevation, it doesn’t translate as well down to where the races happen. Different, however, if you’re preparing for a high altitude event.

Make time for the people who got you through the pandemic.

Thanks, babe.

Writing and Publishing

My writing brought this woman to me – the highest ROI of my life

I’ve been publishing for 20 years and wanted to pass along what I’ve learned.

Giving away good information for free is effective marketing, and good karma. It works best if you start by going to where the clients are and always write to your target audience. Only engage those who bring out the best in you.

Related, there is huge option value in creating a higher personal profile, but beware the costs (links to Tim’s blog on fame). The higher profile part of my life worked best when I was tucked away in a small town in the Southern Hemisphere.

Once I realized I had much more success than I needed, my reasons for continuing to publish changed:

Catharsis – if an idea stays with me for a long time then the easiest way to clear my head is to tell the whole world about it. It’s my version of Crocodile Dundee’s Just Tell Wally (link is YouTube clip from the movie).

If publishing doesn’t do the trick then it’s a sign my values aren’t aligned with my life situation. I’ve made two big changes using this test (leaving finance and elite competition). Taking the time to “think-write-publish” is as a reality check on how I’m living.

When my tone turns negative, it’s a sign I’m not living right. It has nothing to do with the subject of my writing.

Legacy & Mortality – Leaving lessons for my kids’ future selves gives comfort. Each of us learns a lot as we move through life. I’m grateful to the writers who came before.

Publishing started around 1999.

Before 1999, I wrote.

35 years and counting.

My published material generated, and led me towards, money. As a young man, it also forced me to get-my-story-straight about who I was and what I believed worked.

My unpublished material generated wealth, connection and greatly improved the quality of my life.

Worth repeating – my most useful stuff has an audience of one, maybe two.

Writing is the quickest way to flush out my blindspots (COVID, the future, how I’ll feel next Tuesday). I need constant reminders of where I’m clueless.

It is also how I identify where I have the capacity for good judgement (fitness, finances, family).

If you’ve had success in any area then your mind will try to fool you into thinking you have been successful in every area. I’m told this is an occupational hazard for great surgeons in the mountains, or markets. It certainly applies to me whenever I stray outside my core competencies. Talking to a surgeon about medicine for example… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Writing is my system to counteract this feature of human misjudgment (link to Munger’s famous talk).

While I forget most of what I write (Catharsis is real), I have access to a valuable record of what I was thinking at each key decision point in my life. I spent this past week reviewing budgets and financial projections from the last decade.

With searchable email you have the same thing. Make it even better by writing a one-pager before key decisions, or simply jot down ten thoughts to start each week. 500 thoughts a year. You will see patterns, you’ll learn about yourself.

My older material teaches me to be cautious with personal memories. My memories change over time and are magically back-fitted to actual events. The principles of a decision are much more sticky in my mind.

What you’re looking for is principles that work and remembering how often reality surprises us.

The act of writing is a step, on a journey of daily action, that creates incremental improvement.

Writing isn’t magical but the continuous compounding of small daily actions will appear to be.

When Horror Pays A Visit

How I spent last Monday

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

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

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

How do you deal with something like that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What to do?

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

Ghost the sociopaths.

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

I drive mellow because cars can be dangerous weapons.

I extend my driving habits to all situations.

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

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

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

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

Seek better.

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

What does this mean in practice?

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

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

If you want to change reality then start with agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

Vibe Check

Savage Kitty and her rainbow skis

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

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

How you doing?

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

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

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

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

Take time to notice good judgement.

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

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

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

What generates feelings of gratitude?

This surprised me.

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

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

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

What areas of your life uncovered blindspots?

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

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

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

Get involved.

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

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

Second, and third, order effects.

What’s on your must-keep list?

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy 2021.


Carefree, not careless => a capacity to look past flaws and focus on the relationship.

The pandemic hasn’t been all about cleaning toilets and chasing hairballs. It’s also been an opportunity to spend a lot of time with my kids.

I’ve learned a lot, especially from our youngest.

I’m a mission-oriented person – I’m most happy when I’m following the rules, ticking away towards an objective. The fact that other folks see the world differently can seem like a flaw in their approach.

How might these people see the world?

Through the eyes of connection and harmony.

This has implications for relationships and leadership style.

I’ll share a couple errors of mine that repeated until a desire to be more effective with my kids got me past them.

Don’t expect a carefree person to be the “bad cop” in any situation.

If there’s difficult news to be delivered, a negative consequence to be administered or even a negotiation to be had… assign the mission-oriented person.

That part was fairly easy to figure out. In any relationship, one party will be better able to handle conflict than the other.

Where I spun my wheels was trying to up-skill my partner to be more like me. A waste of both our time and unlikely to provide any improvement to the marriage.

Further, your partner may be a great listener while you waste both of your time trying to up-skill them in a manner they have no intention of following!

This is best illustrated by dropping our youngest off at a COVID-playdate. We pull up, and my daughter tells me:

Don’t worry Daddy, we’re always super safe and stay outside. Love you, bye!

She hops out of the car, walks over to her friend, waves and wanders right into the house.

She told me exactly what I wanted to hear, then did exactly what she wanted. My son and I looked at each other, shrugged and headed off on our hike.

So, not only is “teaching” a kind person (to be a hardass) a waste of your time. Be sure you leave them an exit.

Be willing to drop the point.

First, because it probably doesn’t matter. The point is never the point, with a relationship-based person. Feelings are the point.

Second, because if you’re going to see a truly nice person totally blow their stack then it’s going to be when you’ve cornered them.

If you need to come back to it then consider an indirect approach…

  • Do you remember that thing?
  • How’d that make you feel?
  • I was a little bit sad when…

Set the standard and love your ladies.

Reframing Envy

Monday, I shared some ideas about searching for the underlying need.

Most of us spin our wheels for YEARS before we wise up, usually after a major crisis, and decide to drop the external BS that rules our lives. A divorce 20 years ago nudged me in a better direction.

Still… my time in finance always left me desiring more – more money, more stuff, more financial success. When I slid over to athletics, those feelings followed me – more victories, more performance, more speed.

Under a constant barrage of “more” – both external and internal – How does one cope with the realties of a more modest existence?

I once got to fly on a private jet, it was wonderful. My host single handedly changed my opinion of the UltraRich => such a great guy.

My advice to “live where you don’t need to leave” is a coping strategy to free myself from a desire to live like Mick Jagger.

Put another way, I looked deeply into a well adjusted billionaire’s life and saw… there is no “more” to be had. Once I sorted my cash flow, I could access the best parts of his life for a fraction of the cost.

COVID drove this lesson home. Live your best life, with your family, under one roof. 11 months and counting!

The last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time in Vail. In a ski town, most everybody likes to know what you do, and where you live.

So Gordo, what else do you do beside ski?

Weights, Paul. If you want to rip the bumps then you gotta hit the weights.

My wife got a huge chuckle with that reply. The possibility of another layer to that question didn’t brush my consciousness.

Coping by redefining the game.

Spending a lot of time in the mountains, brings back the urge to own multiple properties.

When cycling was a central part of my life, I owned property in Arizona. It was my way to hang onto my pre-kids life of switching hemispheres in an endless summer.

Can you see what I was doing? Buying an asset to hold onto an illusion.

The illusion that my life would be better with more assets never leaves. The dream persists alongside the knowledge that the assets will lie idle, cost money and generate admin.

In my first career in finance, our firm had access to money. Lots of money!

When you have access to money people want to be your friend. A favorite quote from my well adjusted buddy with the jet…

I’ve got enough friends.

Related, “When is five “likes” better than five thousand?”

When you deeply understand the nature of external approval. Both what it does to you, and who is doing the approving.

The bold words are reminders to avoid the false gods of financial wealth. Specifically, to be wary of the temptation to follow my greedy impulses for no true benefit.

Get the cash burn down, address the underlying need and let envy float away.

Family Financial Review: Risk, Worry, Ruin

I ended Wednesday by asking, Am I worried about the right things?

It’s easy to get distracted by the noise surrounding our lives.

Do you know your key risks?

It varies between people and over time => focus on habits that might lead to ruin (leverage, lack of impulse control, smoking, substance abuse…).

See also my review from 2019.

Set your financial life up so it runs on autopilot.

Did you read the PDF from yesterday? Good reminders at any age, as well as an embedded reading list.

Things I focus on more than my portfolio…

  • Near-term: keeping up with my teenagers – what is it going to take to share the outdoors with my family when I’m 60?
  • Medium-term: personal engagement when my kids are gone – what will I do with more time, and less energy?
  • Health: poor choices increasing my risk for cancer and other health issues
  • End of Life: my body outlives my brain

My actions today reflect awareness of the real risks in my life.

My portfolio? Good enough is good enough. Avoid unforced errors and keep on keeping on.

Don’t assume these answers.

Do the calculations from Wednesday, reflect on your life, write it down, review annually…

Then get out there and enjoy 2021.

Remember Kindness

A couple weeks ago, I shared that Andy was “everywhere.”

No place is this more true than my home.

My new reality took a little getting used to.

At first, I resented the intrusion. My resentment struck my rational mind as somewhat strange.

Uncharitable feelings, but real.

So I dug a little deeper.

  • Worry. I couldn’t heal my wife.
  • Worry. Andy’s ghost might take my wife away.
  • A general, get-out-of-my-house sentiment.
  • A desire to use avoidance as a coping strategy.

Lots of not terribly useful thoughts.

So I decided to re-frame.

I asked myself:

  • What did Andy do far, far better than me?
  • Why was Andy loved so deeply by our community?


When I think about him, I’m reminded of kindness.

Kindness at a standard that seems far out of my reach.

So I’ve made him a buddha, of sorts.

…and when he’s popping up in my life, I know he’s reminding me to remember kindness.

Searching For My Inner Viking

Placing myself under quasi-house arrest after Andy died proved to be a disaster for my mood management. I find myself short-tempered with frequent unforced errors with my kids.

When it comes to darkness — both inner and outer — my Nordic pals embrace their annual trip to the Dark Side.

Historically, the challenges of the Winter Equinox have proven useful. Somewhere across the winter, I get so pissed off with my funk that I resolve to get-something-done. I’ve written books, started companies and thrown down outstanding base training.

This year, with schools closed, a recurring feeling is “leave me alone and let me do my time”.

  • <100 days away from having our teachers vaccinated
  • <20 weekly house cleanings
  • <5 months before I’m vaccinated

Grinding, the summit slog

There’s a desire to push everything away, seek silence and grind.

When I get pissed off, I think about my Nordic friends. At their best, they laugh at the Dark Side and let the energy build for their return in the Spring. I’ve been trying to follow their example.

Last week, my wife was going through the roughest patch I’d seen since she successfully managed some postpartum depression in 2012, I made a sign…

Don’t Control => Feelings

Do Control => Actions

She bounced back by lunchtime.

I’ll repeat from a few weeks ago. Resiliency is a resolve to carry on, despite how we are feeling.

My son was shocked by the reality of winter hiking, but he stuck with it, to the summit.

The two most resilient people I know are the two kindest.

Rather than seeking to understand the connection between kindness and strength, I’ve started following their lead.

The pictures are from a hike we did on Saturday. My son ticked the box on his goal of a Winter 14er, before winter officially started. If I’m honest then I didn’t enjoy the experience at the time. That said, I’m very happy looking at the pictures, and even happier that I can share them with you.

I couldn’t control my hike feelings (oh so tired), but I overcame my feelings, got out of the house and my son was happy.

Another positive step => Our oldest is an online education master. I let her know it, in front of the rest of the family.

Step by step => controlling my actions, having faith in a better tomorrow.

Sharing positive vibes, patting myself on the back when I carry on (despite my feelings)… those are lessons from my wife and son.

Telling the world about the challenges I face and living an open life, that’s a technique that dates back to the 90s.

I feel better already.

I’m smiling now, probably wasn’t when this picture was taken!

An Education In Crazy

Due to normal teen-anxiety, some of my daughters friends are at the early stages of self-harm.

There’s nothing unusual here, these patterns have been in my family since before I was born.

To help my daughter understand, and navigate, irrational choices, I’ve been introducing her to the neurotic athlete archetype.

Allow me to introduce…

Neurotic means you’re afflicted by neurosis, a word that has been in use since the 1700s to describe mental, emotional, or physical reactions that are drastic and irrational. At its root, a neurotic behavior is an automatic, unconscious effort to manage deep anxiety.

The entire Web-MD entry might sound familiar – it applies to 90% of the champion athletes I know. A constant quest for high performance can be an effective management technique for anxiety, that never quite clears.

Normally, I exit deeply-neurotic people from my life. I do this because I have my hands full dealing with myself!

As an athlete, you need to watch out for three traits: (a) a willingness to hurt one’s self; (b) the desire to chronically under-feed yourself; and (c) an addiction to stress hormones (hooked on breakdown).

If you find yourself in a training group, or alongside a coach, who embraces self-harm for “performance” (or as a path towards his own sexual gratification) then you need to exit ASAP. As a young woman, my wife found herself in that position. It took a shattered wrist for her to listen to an inner voice that was telling her “this situation is not good for you.”

This situation is not good for me.

If you hear that voice then get out.

Get out.

Watch for “development” squads led by sketchy men. Their mode of operation is breaking down healthy people and they need a steady supply of young, healthy athletes to fund their operation.

Sports that embrace the “breakdown” of girls are constantly in the news for long-term sexual abuse of multiple athletes. Steer clear! You can not fix a sport where breakdown is a design feature.

These groups are very dangerous when run by a sexual predator. The leader will seek to isolate anxious, young and inexperienced athletes. For many of these young people, it will be their first time away from home and the leader will be the first authority figure who expresses confidence in them.

You don’t want that type of man to be the first person to believe in your daughters.

I tell my most anxious daughter, frequently, she is a star.

I do this in word, in writing and by reflecting her own good choices back to her.

My message…

You have the capacity for good judgement.

You know what’s good for you.

If you’re dealing with anxiety in yourself, to the point of driving the good out of your life, then get professional help. Get professional help, break the cycle of spin.

Feelings of anxiety are a universal part of human experience. These feelings are useful when successfully managed. A good chunk of my writing is about this topic. I don’t point it out because nobody likes hearing they are are headcase!

Here’s what works for me, the topics link back to the Web-MD article.

If your life is a shambles then I’m willing to bet you’ve inverted much of this advice.

I know I can make myself both irrational and miserable by doing the opposite of what follows:

Self => if you want to teach this to others then sort yourself first. The best education my kids receive is watching me manage myself.

Routine, routine, routine => change slowly, change later => if you are a parent to a highly anxious child (or a neurotic spouse) then do not call a lot of audibles!

Be Open, Connect, Do Not Self-Isolate => anxiety builds when not discussed, make time to let mentally healthy, objective people influence you. On the flip side, secrets are a huge part of the lives of the neurotic. You will not learn that everyone is feeling the same way if you keep everything to yourself.

Exercise every morning => it just seems to work => if you have a neurotic child then set a minimum for them and stick with it. I’m way over the minimum, but I’m a fairly extreme case.

Sleep => the time you get to sleep is just another thing to obsess about. Forget about it. Focus on waking up at the same time, every single day. Same deal for your kids.

If you’re wrecked then you can have a 20-minute nap before noon – that’s all you get. OK to go to bed early but wake up at the same time!

Stop doing too much and making yourself exhausted => wean yourself from chronic fatigue.

Nutrition => know your binge triggers, know the foods (usually highly-processed carbs and refined sugar) that screw up your neurochemistry.

Abstinence does not work for sex education – abstinence also doesn’t work for anyone’s nutrition.

Focus your attention on portion control of triggering foods, boosting the quality of your intake, making veggies easy to eat and getting the timing right on sugar/carbs.

For example, if I eat 3-6 squares of chocolate before a bike ride then I’m far less likely to eat an entire bag of Halloween candy before bed.

Positive Male Attention => call it “essential masculinity” => Fathers, if your kids (and spouse) don’t get it from you then they might get it from some creep.

In yourself, seek approval from individuals who bring out your best, rather than feed your intrinsic rage.

Best tip for the end.

These feelings will be with you for a long while. Make friends with them, they are a very useful aspect of your personality profile.

The most effective management technique is to replace your “worst” triggers with a habit of making better choices.

Transcendence comes but it takes years of persistent work.

Replacement works.

Don’t mess with a streak => be willing to say no (nicely, don’t freak out) to well-meaning people who tempt you away from a life structure that works.

Finally, teach your anxious kids, they are at a very high-risk for getting hooked on socially-acceptable depressants.

There’s a big chunk of our society self-medicating, most days, with wine, sleeping pills or marijuana. Athletes tend to replace the drugs with fatigue, to the point of breakdown.

It works, but only at a superficial level.

I encourage you to look deeper…

When I looked deeply into my own strategies, I realized that being sensible was no worse than being medicated/exhausted.

Being medicated is more pleasurable, I don’t dispute that reality.

Being exhausted also has a form of pleasure associated with it, the pleasure of being able to fall into a deep sleep, for example.

However, being sensible is far more useful, particularly to manage anxiety, get stuff done and avoid the risk of ruin from negative addictions.

If you’re an athlete, who is “hooked on hard”, then making better choices can feed directly into your deep desire to challenge yourself. It’s not easy for me to avoid becoming a headcase! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Choose wisely.

I sincerely hope this helps someone. Winter is a really tough time for the anxious, even more so due to COVID isolation.

As I told my wife this week…

Hey! Pay attention. This is a topic I know well.