Kids and Spouses

Christmas in Mexico

I’m going to write this in the context it arises in my life. I have a hunch it applies more broadly. A variation pops up at least once-a-week in casual conversation.

Ten years ago, a wise preschool teacher shared a quote with me. I liked the quote so much, it’s been on my fridge ever since.


If you are triggered about things, or money, then look around for the unmet (childhood) emotional need.

I have used the quote to guide my life for the last ten years.

  • Give time, not money.
  • Share experiences, not spending.

There’s another aspect of the quote… If you run into an adult who’s childhood emotional needs were unmet… assets, and spending, will not fill their void.

The void cannot be filled from the outside. This is an area where we need to heal ourselves.

Go further… to the heart of addictions…

Quite often, the attempt to “be a good provider” for these folks, makes their emotional problems worse. Further, they are going to feel crazy because they will be miserable while surrounding by conventional “success.”

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Let’s step back from the underlying emotional issues and discuss how parents, and spouses, can guide family spending and investing.

First, we need to sort ourselves.

My spending sets a floor above which everyone will operate. This might sound backwards but it’s my observed reality. My choices anchor “down” everyone around me.

INVERT: constraining myself is less likely to trigger resentment.

I’m the most powerful (spending) role model in my children’s life. I do them a lifelong favor by setting a consumption standard they can easily attain.

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Second, be brutally honest with yourself… Am I meeting the emotional needs of those around me?

When you are already a good emotional provider, it is very difficult for someone to trigger your need to be a good “financial” provider.

Rather than a high-stakes bargaining session… discussions about money end up closer to a 7th-grade math problem. An example… the ski-place…

  • 20-25 days spread across five resorts
  • Total cost of hotels/airfares ~$15,000
  • Shows the folly of seeking to “save” money in a single location by locking up capital

Clothes => let’s start by wearing everything in our existing wardrobes first

Cars, Furniture, Art => is there a more effective way to scratch this itch?

Recreational assets, out-of-town commitments, 2nd homes => …are you sure you want to give me an incentive to be away from you and the kids?

On and on and on… think past the purchase to overall incentives, habit creation and the impact of repeating the action for the next 5-10 years.

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Third, the “what are you going to do with the money” argument.

Related to, “but we can afford it…”

Ability to pay is probably the toughest one to control. It’s hard not to spend money in your checking account.

SIDE NOTE: this is a good argument to move cash out of places where it’s easy to spend. This was a (somewhat bizarre) benefit from a choice to STOP earning so much money when I was a young man. Financial success was making it harder to be who I wanted to be.

Here again, pause and consider,

  • What game do my actions show I am playing?
  • What is the game I want to be playing?
  • What game would move us towards “better” five years from now?

If you have kids then these questions usually point towards up-skilling independence via parental investment of TIME, and modeling behavior.

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Fourth, after you’ve done 1-2-3. Sit down and talk it over with the key people in your life.

If you are unable to convince them then have the humility to consider the possibility (albeit remote) you may be wrong!

In family systems, I’ve found it’s better to wait for a consensus to arrive than pulling rank.

Bonus: slower decisions are usually better decisions.

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Finally, related to the what will you do with the money discussion…

If you are focused on sharing time with the one’s you love then, hopefully, you will favor “experiences with them” over “making more money for them.”

Trustees, entrepreneurs, managers, exemplars, fiduciaries, parents, students, citizens…

We care for what we’ve been gifted by circumstances and pass it on.

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As a package, incorporating this process into your life results in a better allocation of time AND capital.

The expectation “we each take care of ourselves” is a good one. Even better when the parents model the behaviors required, and pass along the skills required to pull it off.


Let’s pull it together…

  • Sort myself first
  • When triggered, pause and look for the unmet emotional need
  • Smart leaders set the anchor with intention => I anchor those around me via my effort, personal standards, emotional control and personal spending.
  • Within family systems, remember my role is to meet emotional needs while teaching/modeling how to be self-sufficient financially.
  • Have the humility to see: (a) when helping-isn’t-helping; and (b) my own capacity for error.

Early Education

My wife and I went skiing for a couple days. Our youngest missed her mom.
So… she wrapped her stuffy in my wife’s robe! Insta-mommy.

I watch where people send their kids to school. It’s a revealed preference for their values. Amongst my pals, Boulder is one of the few locations were public schools are the default choice.

One of the challenges our district faces is declining kindergarten enrollment – we don’t have a good idea “why.” Some things I’ve noticed with the families that have gone private:

  • Private school is contagious, by neighborhood, by family and by peer group. It would be great to get those families back into the district. I’m not sure we’ve asked them what it might take.
  • As elementary school enrollments shrink, the impact of a single weak teacher increases. How we support weak teachers is not clear to me.
  • Having switched one of our kids to a full-enrollment, school… there is a quality of experience issue with the schools that aren’t full. The overall experience at a “full” school is better.

Thinking about the phases of our kids’ education…

New Parents: The #1 thing we got right, eventually… Listen to professional educators. My default position is seeking to understand why staff’s view makes sense. Take time in forming opinions.

Age 2 to 6 => choose your daycare/preschool/early education based on where the child will get the best socialization skills. This is particularly important if you have a high-energy kid. Early socialization trumps preschool “academics.” All three of my kids started Grade One at the bottom of the class, all three caught up in 18 months.

Parents: model the socialization techniques the kids are learning at preschool. Learn from the teachers so the child is in a consistent environment at school, and at home.

Remember during this phase… the most important money you spend is childcare that benefits your marriage. You are under more stress than you realize – make time for each other.


Age 6 to 8 => a daily focus on learn-to-read and learn-to-learn. Learn-to-learn is building on the early socialization work that happened before they arrived in Grade One.

Parents: 20-minutes a day (read-to, read-aloud) in this phase has the highest return in your kids’ education career.

No joke!

10 minutes before school (read-together). 10 minutes before bed (read-to). HUGE.

The confidence boost from being able to read provides a positive association with learning. INVERT: smart kids (who can’t read) will wonder if they are stupid.

=>100 hours per year time investment. The highest return parenting time you will ever have.

PS => the read-together before school, should morph into read-to-self each morning. I used a summer reading prize (100 mornings = $100) to establish this habit.


Age 9 to 12 => Our theme here: don’t mess with the streak!

Siblings, routine and habit form a virtuous circle of positive reinforcement.

“Read to self” every morning, summer reading prizes, consistent bedtimes, 2-3 different after school activities, consistent weekly schedules. This phase is about locking in a routine and keeping it rolling.

Be the brand.

If you’re not then they’re going to call you on it. 🙂

My expectation on the kids is “perform at grade level.” This lets them take all the credit for above-average performances.


Other thoughts

Earned Enrichment: there’s a joke that every parent thinks their two-year old is gifted. This is funny because it’s true.

In order to keep as many families in the public channel as possible… make it clear that all kids who want to accelerate their learning will be supported. Fairness of opportunity for all kids.

Related: make it clear that teachers will be supported. I’ve watched two weak teachers cause a (very polite) gradual exodus from a wonderful neighborhood school.

Some stories:

  • My son wants to take combined Grade 7/8 math next year. We have a simple policy, if you want to accelerate then you need an “A” in current year math. You need… A’s to Accelerate.
  • Seeing her older siblings ahead… our youngest wants to get ahead in math. At the start of each academic year, she gets a chance to test out. Once that test is done, we won’t intervene on the kid’s behalf. You gotta earn it, yourself. She’s been trying for two years and has a good shot next September!
  • Overall, I’m in no rush for the kids to accelerate their learning. Just like their sport, they have 10-20 years (!!!) of formal education ahead of them. The heavy lifting will come when I’m out of the picture and must be internally motivated. Our job is to set the schedule and not screw it up!
  • Same deal with sport. If school work falls apart then we will be dialing down the training load. You need to earn the right for extra training.
  • Fair doesn’t mean equal. My kids are always comparing who-gets-what. My focus is on supporting them, fairly, to get whatever outcome they can achieve on their own merits.
  • I was very unequal when they were young. In any given year, I over-allocated toward the kid who needed an early intervention of my time. I think school districts should do the same – prioritize early interventions across all demographics.

Finally, schedule time to focus on your stars. It is very easy to get wrapped up in problems.

1// One-on-one trips/special events in your best environment.

2// Acknowledge that successful parenting means getting out of their way — building their ability to live in the world — letting them go.

3// ABC => Always build confidence, or competence… depends on the situation!

INVERT: don’t crush their confidence when they are small.

The confidence point is a big one. Bad habits don’t take your family where you want to go.

That last point is a good one => take time to ask around…

Where do we want to go?

All too easy for strivers to keep striving, across generations.

Challenging the Status Quo

Three nights in Mexico last week. Very enjoyable.

The cost of the status quo is hidden.

It simply isn’t possible to see both (a) what the future could be; and (b) the drag of accepting the way things are.

Over Thanksgiving my kids reminded me of this fact. They were amazing.


After a decade of fatherhood, they chilled the entire flight, enjoying each other.

Bickering

Earlier in the year, I told them that I was done spending time with all three. No “full family” trips.

I stuck to my guns. When it came to kids, I was 1s and 2s across the year. Much less refereeing between them.

But they missed hanging out with each other so they started a get-along campaign.

See Dad, we get along now.

Reminded me of another favorite lesson => to be sick of sickness is the only cure.

The part of me that likes to say “no” was a little sad at their improvement. Strange thing human nature!

I share the story as a holiday reminder that parents have a choice with regard to the status quo. It does take a lot of patience, skill and persistence to help everyone get along with each other.

While I can’t control the actions of others, as a parent, I can influence the incentive structure.

Even getting the incentives correct, change was slow and took many months, to become obvious.


Personal Recovery

Another thing that’s been frustrating is my lack of recovery. In my 50s, I simply do not bounce back from anything very well.

I’ve noticed that the days with “more” cardio are a whole lot easier for my mental health. So, with an eye towards “better”, I got myself an Oura ring to gain insight into resting HR, HRV and sleep quality.

This process was another reminder… Two things are necessary for progress: (a) make mistakes visible; and (b) have the courage to see, then address, uncomfortable truths.

You see, I bought the ring so it could tell me what I wanted to hear!

Unfortunately, the data has had other ideas. It’s early days, so I’ll skip the specifics until I’ve gone a full season.

Suffice to say, the message appears to be that my appetite is greater than my tolerance. The only way I’m going to fit in “more” is to go a whole lot easier (most of the time). This reminds me of an observation I shared with KP (when he was my age).

I used to do a lot more easy training than I remember.

He liked that quote so much, he hung it above his desk. As I near 53, I’m glad the memory came back to me.

Anybody over 50 who says “age is just a number” isn’t paying attention, or may be trying to sell you something. 🙂

A recurring theme across my fatherhood journey… remembering it is OK to be sensible.


Anaerobic Tolerance

Another observation, this one physiological, each time I give myself a novel anaerobic stimuli, it kicks my butt for at least a month.

The first month of something new kicks my butt. Being wrecked is obvious to me. Thereafter, the fatigue gets more subtle.

Mark Allen quote… just because you feel better, doesn’t mean you are better. At the time we were talking about over-reaching but it applies more broadly.

In other words, adaptations are continuing even when I can’t “feel” them.


A well worn race shirt

The shirt pictured above is from the last time I was “fast” in a conventional sense, August 2012. We had a 3 year old, a baby and my wife was 8-months pregnant with our youngest.

Shortly thereafter, I decided to pause the racing. That one choice started a positive cascade of consequences that continue to benefit my family.

The “pausing” racing choice was a big one to make. I had a lot of my identity tied up in my relative performance.

I also had a mistaken belief that the process of race preparation was essential to look good. As I age, I’m bumping into the same fear.

Just like with my household, changing the incentives can lead to better.

Kid Rich

Summer reading prize – read aloud challenge.
I had to offer his older sister a “bonus”…
If your boss offered to pay you, AND send you on a vacation, then would you do a 100-day training program that required a mere 12-minutes per day?
When she said “hell, ya”, I pointed out that she needed to get the reading challenge done before I would be paying for any out-of-state swim meets.

Dressed up and out of the box!
Pre-, and post-, flight COVID tests enabled us to enjoy a normal wedding in Cali.
So great.

What is the underlying goal of childhood financial education?

=> Self-generated, lifelong financial stability

I’ll run through to tools we use to equip the kids to pay their own way in life.


Allowance => simple formula: weekly deposit into an account with the Bank of Dad, deposit is $1 for each year of age, and the deposit balance earns 10% per annum.

Many families view the purpose of an allowance to teach a kid how to spend.

We don’t.

The purpose of an allowance is to create a positive emotional association with the power of compounding.

Our oldest has been rolling her allowance since Kindergarten. She now earns $7 per week from compounding and $13 from being 13 years old.

Compounding is an ever growing sum. When they enter high school, I’ll run through the math behind it. I have a spreadsheet by week.

In time, I will let them know I grew my net worth by 15% per annum for many years, mainly by saving half of what I earned. This habit bought a lot of time.

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To put off the discussion of “why am I saving?”, I have them pointed at “saving up for a car.” When we get closer, we will sit down and look at the impact of swapping their earnings (from doing nothing) with a set of bills for owning a car (insurance, maintenance, taxes).

Uber is going to look VERY attractive against 10+ years of compound interest. That lesson plan might be: keep depreciating assets variable and stay invested.


Earned money is their money – this has resulted in a house full of Lego

Earned Money Is Their Money

To effectively learn about spending, one needs to earn the money being spent.

This is because spending other people’s money feels different.

Sometimes really different…

Spending other people’s money, with a credit card where you don’t see the bill, feels better than free!

Don’t hook your kids on this form of pleasure. We tell ourselves all sorts of BS to self-justify this situation.

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Our greatest financial achievement in 2021 happened by accident. We got our oldest off the payroll. She started babysitting and stopped asking us for money, for anything!

This opened her up to the real world of: lending money to friends, spending paycheck-to-paycheck, buying poor quality goods on impulse…

…and because it was HER money, she learned very quickly from her errors, and her friends were not (indirectly) placed on our payroll.

Self-Earned Money + Scarcity + Freedom to Err = Learning

Also… “if you want to buy friends then you’ll have to do that with your own money. Your choice. I think you are a star.”

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Our other kids aren’t old enough to babysit, yet. They get assistant sitter gigs, and do yard work in the neighborhood. The work pays well in kid-terms. I supplement with odd jobs.

This is enough to make the whole family “kid rich” => rich enough to buy whatever they want, from their own money.

Quite often, what they wanted was LEGO and it was tempting for me to use my own money to “make them happy” thereby facilitating consumption.

One of our family values is we each pay our own way. Elders are to avoid facilitating consumption. With this in mind, I made a choice to reward my kids with time and I remember…

When you are spending other people’s money you can easily get trapped into dreaming of more, more, more.

This is because we are chasing something stuff can never buy. The journey of adulthood is about discovering our personal “what.”


Quietly, I watched nothing happen with the birthday present…

With the shift towards their own money, supplemented by Christmas, birthday and summer reading prizes… they noticed…

New stuff is fun, but only for about a week, then it sits on a shelf.

I let it sit on the shelf, for years, then one day…

I never play with my Legos, they are kind of a waste of money…

Jackpot!

So the current lesson: we buy luxury goods at retail and sell them at wholesale (if we are lucky!).

Thanks to a very kind cousin, we are in the process of converting Lego sets to cash. Lesson to come will be comparing “cost to buy” against “net realized value from sale”.


Breaking down the sets and preparing for sale

“If you want an iPhone then earn the money to buy it”

In 2020, our oldest sold 200 masks, at $5 a mask, to earn the cash to buy herself an iPhone. No social media on that phone and we financed the sewing machine and materials. She handled marketing and mask production. She shut down the “business” the day after she had enough for the phone!


To recap

  • Allowance creates a positive association with compounding
  • Earned money is their money
  • Listen to their errors, give time and positive attention to their lessons
  • Celebrate “getting off the payroll” => they also make their own lunches, another big win.

Let scarcity teach and create incentives to reward work.

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Basic Cleaning

A valuable lesson for them, weekly humility training for me…

We split the house into Five Zones:

  • Kitchen
  • Carpets
  • Cat Room (dirtiest room in house, done by our youngest)
  • Sinks, counters, baths and showers
  • Toilets and floors

Same zone each week, no excuses.

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.

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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.