Winter Season Planning

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) fear is 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.


We’ll see how long he can continue to flash his age. He’s currently 5.11 at our local.

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.


She’s always been a great runner, just didn’t like it! 🙂 Swimming helped her get used to how racing feels. PS: something I tell her, “by turning up at a race, regardless of outcome, you make everyone better.” She’s been shaking up the hierarchy at various squads around town. Be grateful for your competition, and remember that winning is fleeting.

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.


New sheriff in town. Howdy partner!

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.

Stay variable.


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!

Prepared is better than protected.


Repeating good habits from a young age will do more for my family than any amount of lecturing. (1) Do it right, every single time. (2) Be open to learning from everyone, even your siblings!

The Eternal Return of Childhood Nutrition


Many struggle to see how the Eternal Return impacts our relationship with risk (last week’s post).

It is easy, however, easier to see repetition with our food choices.

With my kids’ nutrition, I have three behaviors I model.



#1. Remove friction for good decisions.

Much of our learning happens by repeating what’s presented.

The path of least resistance is a useful tool when used with purpose.

COVID Fridge!

Dad always knocked the icing off. Such a fun guy… 😉

#2. Do not make binges fun.

I know ALL about this!

As an ultra endurance athlete, I had a lot of fun with binge training. For my brief period of being really, really fast… removing the binges was a key part of my coach’s strategy for me. Fatigue is a geometric process!

Most societies, and families, have a tradition of feasting. In an environment of abundance, training myself to overeat does not work. Most especially, when coupled with positive emotional feedback.

In the language of finance… my meal choices are not independent from each other => habit energy runs strong in my wise/unwise selections.

With the kids… never give positive emotional feedback, and in-the-moment attention, to overeating.

Later… I get a chance to listen to them… then add… “try to learn from what you just told me”.

To help our family members with “appetite”, we always start with nutrient dense foods.



I am binary in many areas of my life – not having to decide gives me energy to apply elsewhere.

With food, binary isn’t an option => we gotta eat every day and the better our choices, the better our outcome.

So…

The final area where we offer guidance, and make an effort ourselves, is with portion control of energy dense choices (bread, noodles, sugars, starches, desserts).

We’re OK with the kids eating anything – we’re gluten friendly, could care less if they eat meat, take good care of our vegan pals, have a choice of dairy/non-dairy milks… in Boulder, we can handle any kid.

There is no choice to make on household dogma.

You simply need to be willing to eat real food.

Fill up on the good stuff, first.

Then have some of whatever else you’d like.



  • Remove friction
  • Don’t celebrate binges
  • Good stuff first

No dogma.

Summer Vacation

Heading towards Missouri Mountain

One of the tips I would give my coached athletes:

Have your family come after the event.


I use this advice in different ways.

With young kids, I would train before any family event. I’m a whole lot more tolerant (of anything) after 45-90 minutes of cardio.

Eventually, I decided to train each morning before my kids wake-up.

I set my life up so my family sees the best part of me.


Huron Peak – I seem to smile more with a daypack than 100L of expedition loading

With the kids older, and with varied appetites for adventure, we placed a camping trip before a family vacation.

It was two nights out in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This included a monster hiking day, for my son and me.

Tire out the high-maintenance family members then…

…my wife and daughter rolled into town. The following day, we did a moderate hike.

A trip within a trip. Worked well.


Peak Fitness in Buena Vista combines a traditional gym, with a climbing wall. My son climbed while I lifted. Something I never would have expected.

The week away from home – my longest trip since the end of 2019 – reminded me:

Life can simplify when the kids grow up. With little ones, I remember the insane amount of gear we used to carry when we left the house => pack and plays, strollers, separate food, clothes, helpers… it was a major operation, and exhausting.

Ten years on, my son and I were able to do a week away with backpacks, a duffel bag, coolers and a carry-on. This seemed impossible five years ago.

This feeds into a reminder that life will change in ways I can’t anticipate.


Mount Oxford

Looking from the outside, My life has changed radically.

Internally, I’m following a similar path => teaching and exploring nature.

I got here by understanding my deeper motivations.

Two key components of my family strategy:

1/. A willingness to compromise and no races. Instead, a focus on being able to move outside with family. Personal events have changed to quick trips with a little adventure.

2/. Patiently, and relentlessly, up-skilling my family. I did a lot of “slow hiking with preschoolers” to get to the point where my 10 year old son could enjoy a 28-mile circuit bagging high peaks. Same deal with our 8 year old, she’s good for ~7 mile routes in the High Rockies.

I resist the urge to “up it” with my kids. They are a profoundly good influence on my aging body and personality.

Again and again, life has shown that, over 5 to 10 year time horizons, we can have a HUGE impact on our life experience.

Keep it simple, one positive step per day.


No trail? No problem. Oxford SE Direct.

But I need to beware.

A hazard of enjoying myself, in any environment, is the temptation to make a capital commitment, with ongoing costs of ownership.

I must remember => owning an asset doesn’t improve my enjoyment, especially as I’m a person who dislikes admin.


14 push-ups at 14,000 feet // not my idea – although I may have encouraged my son to bang out 20 sets of 10 on the way up

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.

Teaching About Teachers


My daughter is at the age where she’s able to articulate two things about grown-ups.

1/. We can be caught doing something different than we say.

2/. We often talk about things we don’t know very well.

This gave me an opening to pass along my principles about teachers, BS and integrity.


Step back from the teacher.

What’s your goal with learning?

My goal is to implement the best ideas from experts with specific domain experience.

Implement.

Put another way => pay careful attention to the best ideas from people who have done, repeatedly, what you would like to do… …pick one idea… do it… repeat.

Sounds easy, it is not.

My mind always wants to engage in debate, to point out flaws, to distract itself from what matters => one good idea, implemented in my own life, over and over and over.

Another risk: once I become an expert in one area, I think I know about everything!

I need to change my advisers as I change domains.

AND

I need to stay humble about my current knowledge. The example I use with my daughter is the “hotshot 12 yo athlete.” Fun at the time but the game still has 50+ years to play out!


Know your role.

The student’s role is not to engage. Take the ideas, and implement.

Gain enough experience to be considered a peer, then we can have a discussion.

In doing, you might discover that one-on-one engagement isn’t a productive use of your time! Why do you think I have a blog… 😉

Many great teachers have lives that are a mess. Remember, it is not the student’s job to sort the teacher. Our job is to implement the best ideas of the teacher.

Sometimes the best idea is to see the teacher’s strategy won’t work for where we want to take our lives.

I’ll give you an example, in sport. In my early 40s, with a young family, I took a deep look at the family lives of my peers and competitors. By this stage, I had a very good idea of what was required to excel at athletics. By looking around, I was able to see that athletic excellence was likely to take me somewhere I didn’t want to go.

A decade earlier, it was the same deal with finance. I got a look under the hood of the lives of the very best, and decided I wanted a life that was different.

Athletic excellence, nope. Financial excellence, nope. Excellence to my spouse and kids => a better fit.

Not easy, not always fun, usual better!

I’ve spotted, and hopefully avoided, a few dead ends => seeing where my actions were likely to take me.


A helpful teacher is someone with a good idea that I can implement. The opportunity to learn is everywhere – keep your eyes open!

A coach, or mentor, is something different. This individual has a system for living that we can emulate. This goes further than useful tips we can apply. A mentor is an individual with a values system we can apply to improve all aspects of our lives.

Mentors share the same risks with regard to venturing beyond their area of expertise, but you’ll find they have much better alignment between what they say and what they do.

In fact, your ability to notice a misalignment between word, and deed, is a useful tool. When you detect a misalignment, you’re probably in a student:teacher relationship rather than working with someone you want to emulate.


Take all that energy you have… the energy to correct others….

…and apply it in your own life.

Make a habit of implementing the best advice of others, and do what you say!

Your life only needs to make sense to you.

Coaching Anxiety

A desire to achieve can be a powerful incentive to overcome ourselves. My son’s quest for his school’s beep-test record has taught him a lot about human nature in group situations.

Sport is a wonderful place to equip ourselves with skills we can use in our daily lives. I’m going to take another swing at sharing some ideas about anxiety.

First up, the feelings most of us label “anxiety” are useful. They are not a problem to be removed and anxious people aren’t flawed. In my life, these feelings provide little nudges towards better.

When might my emotional state become an issue? When I make quick decisions based on unlikely fears.


I was chatting about this with one of my kids and they stated flatly, “I’m never anxious.” I smiled because this kid has some of the highest baseline anxiety I’ve seen. However, like many of us, they do an excellent job of living with it.

We were on a chair lift. About four towers out they started to get twitchy about raising the bar. This rapidly progressed to mild hysteria, “we are going to get caught and hurt!!!” After we got off, safely, it gave me a chance to introduce the concept of being worried about a future that might never materialize.

The feared future can be adaptive => better behavior nudged by a fear of getting caught.

It can make us miserable => fear of loss, resulting in never taking a chance on improving one’s life.

It can cost us money => fear-based selling in the face of price-volatility

Body composition, friendships, portfolios, marriage, business relationships… all are damaged when we train rapid action based on our fears.


How might we use sport to build useful emotional skills?

Don’t train the startle reflex => endurance sport is filled with opportunities to notice, rather than act on, our instincts. ALL our deepest habits come to the surface in the face of competition and fatigue.

With my athletes, we’d start with bike pacing, and using their powermeter to give them visual feedback (when they had lost their minds!).

We’d progress to getting bumped while swimming, holding personal pace in groups and, finally, letting other people make mistakes.

Letting other people make mistakes => letting others deal with the consequences of their actions

…this habit leads naturally towards “let it go.”

On the bike, in a race, on a zoom call, at the meal table… notice when the startle reflex is triggered and pause.


As a father and husband, my victories are invisible.

Conflicts not triggered, confidence not damaged, relationships strengthened by not-acting on my fears.

Notice, then let it go.

Connection


Paul’s tweet gave me a nudge to dig a little deeper.


My relationship with my kids started before they were born.

It started with how I approach my marriage:

The “no secrets” policy can be inconvenient but it has big benefits.

#1 => it makes it difficult for creeps to enter my life.

#2 => it’s an effective technique to lower stress and anxiety – especially when combined with daily movement in nature.

This openness applies in all areas – phone, email, opinions.

Sitting in a car with a kid – we all do it.

Sitting in a car with a kid, and a culture of openness… that’s different.


Sharing a meal with a 4 yo at Boulder’s Walnut Cafe – “Dad, sorry to break it to you… you need to try a little harder.”

So there is the culture my kids were born into – openness and a willingness to hear uncomfortable truths.

Then, before there was much to talk about… we went on short 1-on-1 trips. I started this around the time of our oldest’s 3rd birthday.

There wasn’t a master strategy. I simply wanted to give my wife some relief. Later, I wanted to offer her a chance to get to know our younger kids (our oldest has had a strong personality from the get go).

The trips worked. Not just for kids, by the way – we do Couples Retreats and, as a young man in London, train trips with the partners were GOLD.

I like to connect in my best environment. Do you know yours? Mine is mountain forests.


Hauling a 4 yo up Colorado’s Independence Pass – iPad, pillow, water bottle, lunch box, favorite blanket

Some other forums that work:

  • Walking together
  • Driving home in the dark, after exercise
  • Somewhere disconnected – we did a five-day trip without screens/phones
  • Looking at a campfire
  • Floating on water

Phone in airplane mode, turn off the music, expect nothing to happen.

The moments of connection are a tiny piece of the actual time I spend with my family.

I need to be there, and I need to be open to whatever happens.


Wanting to lead from a position of integrity is a motivator. I’ve been setting up the teen years since our oldest turned 8.

It’s helped me make positive changes with regard to my relationship with alcohol, social media, email, bedside phones and anger.

The phrase, “you will need to decide what sort of life you want to lead” is far more powerful when my kids don’t need me to explain my choices in words.

The process of positive change isn’t a whole lot of fun but coaching a winning team is deeply satisfying.

Everybody wants to play for a winning team!


Parenting June 2013

Problems vs Things


The moms who interact with our family (pediatricians, teachers, coaches and tutors) notice our kids have a different attitude towards work.

Recently, my wife was asked “How do you do it?”

She gave an excellent answer explaining it’s a mixture of leading by example, high standards and routine.

To gain useful insight for you, I took her answer and flipped it.

  • What’s different about my household?
  • How does my approach vary from what’s used by excellent parents in my community?

For 25 years, I have acted on this belief…

Only rarely will the biggest problem in my life coincide with what I need to be doing.

Problems, toxic relationships, habits of self-harm – intractable issues and people.

Let them go.

Stalkers, trolls and neurotics – I ghost without seeking to prove I am right, without seeking to justify my actions, without seeking to turn their community against them.

COVID and things I do not control – eliminate their ability to cause further harm.

This saves energy and frees my mind.


That extra energy…

That lack of distraction…

…is the difference between success and failure.


I have another quirk.

I enjoy inconveniencing myself to do what I think is right.

Now, the sensation inside of me is not enjoyment. In fact, I spend a lot of time feeling pissed off.

However, I’ve been around long enough to know there is a hidden payoff in every repeated action. Perhaps, I’m hooked on being true to myself. Frankly, I don’t know the cause. I do know it’s useful.

I believe both of the above are trainable. They’ve played a key part in my successes.

Let’s rephrase… if you’re prone to fixating on your problems then you need to let that stuff go. Letting go is what’s going to help you get past the distractions that prevent you from consistently moving your life forward.


I’ll end with an observation on 360-degree fatherhood. It’s how I choose friends, mentors and coaches.

Spend time sharing positive experiences with exemplars, while they sustain their good habits.

Me to my spouse. My spouse to me.

Me to my kids. My kids to me.

Let the best of others rub off on you.

Leadership Approach

I like to help people do difficult things.

It takes three things to bring out my inner teenager:

  • Seek to manage me from a chair
  • Tell me to do something you don’t do yourself
  • Don’t follow up

When I’m tired, the trifecta is guaranteed to generate an inner “whatever.”

So, if your family starts acting like they’re 15 then you might need to adjust your approach.

Worth repeating – if the world appears to be blowing you off then it is not you, it is your approach.


Thinking way back, my best coaches were effective with all kinds of kids.

Why?

Because they started small and inverted the three points from above.

  • Lead from your feet
  • Be the brand
  • Follow up

On the far side of my athletic career, the habits of daily exercise and improved nutrition are what endure.

They are foundational => exercise and nutrition set a ceiling on the work we can perform.

How might one pass these along?

Let’s talk about leadership style, in action.


Be The Brand

Our kids are programmed to follow what they see us do.

Not just kids => me too.

I am programmed to follow my prior choices.

Peers, media, advertising, books, students, teachers…

My environment is constantly nudging my habit energy.

My habit energy watches my choices.


After swim lessons, they come home and are greeted by a meal. Rewards are very habit forming – particularly, when appetite is high. This is the time to imprint nutrition.

I make it easy for my kids to make good decisions…

…and if I’m not willing to take action then I keep my mouth shut.

…because we create friction when we favor words, over actions.

Worth repeating… when I’m too tired to improve the situation by positive action… I leave.


The next generation of leadership right there. You better believe nobody in my house wants to be out-trained by an 8 year old. When she finds an area where she can outperform, it will be highly habit forming. Choose Wisely!

Foundational habits and positive addictions.

Know the areas where it’s worth making an effort.

Start with the person in the mirror.

Carefree

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.