Break Free

$1 well spent at Super Target

My kids have started asking me “what’s next” in terms of high school and college.

I told them to save those questions for a few years – what’s important right now is learning the basics and enjoying themselves.

They did, however, get me thinking.

This starts out as a letter to our youngest.


I’ve spent the last 20 years with ~2,000 hours (per annum) of self-directed time. When I reach “normal retirement age”, I will have had an extra ~70,000 hours versus what I was told to expect.

Consistently making choices as if time is more important than money has been a defining characteristic of my life after 30. Those choices, much more than my personal results, have been what gave me a 1-in-10,000 life, so far.

By the time you get to my age, you will have a series of stories you tell yourself about why you can’t do certain things. You’re also going to have the habit energy of 30+ years of choices.

The good news is many of our choices matter much less than we think, I got past a lot of bad choices.

Avoid ruin, build good habits, persist and you can achieve a very useful form of freedom.


My adult life, that you didn’t see, splits into three parts:

  • High school (to 18 yrs old)
  • Early adulthood (18 to 25 yrs old)
  • Adulthood (25 to 40 yrs old)

Along the way, people will be giving you never ending advice — to seek your attention, to get your money, to convince you to serve their ends…

Most of this advice is going to be tactical, short-term, single-action oriented // not particularly useful and a distraction. To blow through this (largely useless) advice I hope you to make a habit of asking yourself three questions:

  • Who is this person?
  • How do they know?
  • What are they selling me?

You’ll have to figure out your own purpose in life. Here’s what my choices say about what I did from 18-40 years old…

Free to choose…

…how, where and when…

…I allocate my time.

What I’m going to share is a strategy for getting yourself time.


What’s the role of high school?

Create options for further study. Science, mathematics, engineering, finance, accounting, technology… choose your courses so you can take any of the challenging majors in college. In 1986, I could have gone any direction at any major university in Canada.

If you can’t pull that off then learn a valuable trade, or skill, where you have a shot at becoming world-class.

The above is your “to do” list. There’s a wide range of successful outcomes possible, if you avoid early setbacks.

  • Pregnancy – avoid it in yourself and your friends – free contraception saves lives
  • Early habits of addiction and substance abuse – hook yourself on exercise
  • Suicide – keep an eye on your friends, and yourself – get help when you need it – everyone needs help

Pregnancy and addiction can be overcome. With regard to suicide, stay in the game – your future self will thank you.


Early Adulthood

Every year you take off before 25 is an extra seven years you will work later in your life.

You must have faith about the impact of long-term compounding – it’s why I started saving your allowance in Kindergarten. Our brains are not set up to comprehend exponents.

What’s the goal here?

The best technical education you can acquire without borrowing money.

But what if I could join the professional class?

If you can figure out how to do it debt-lite then fine. Otherwise, be wary of the time you’ll give away to get there — and — the habits you create from living a debt-funded aspirational lifestyle.

The professional class are just as enslaved by the system as most other people — they have nicer cars, bigger homes and beautiful wardrobes — they still lack time and cope with status-anxiety.

There are, however, certain professions that are ideal fits for a life with meaning.

For example, my friends who are docs/surgeons get a ton of satisfaction from helping their fellow citizens. They traded a lot of time to achieve their positions – a good trade, as they are valuable members of their local communities.

At 25, I was a well-trained financial technician. Globally, there are tens of thousands of people with similar training. What made the difference?

  • I was young – option value of youth!
  • I trained myself to live on half my income – I didn’t, and don’t, miss the spending
  • I was debt-free with four-years living expense saved – four years living expenses saved at 25

What mattered…

  • Valuable skills
  • Living below my means
  • Time for my net worth to compound
  • Time to follow my healthy passions (athletics, coaching, relationships)

Compare that to my smartest peers at 25 — better educated, negative net worths (due to college borrowing) and a higher baseline cost of living.

Like a lot of things, there’s no visible difference until you hit mid-life.


Adulthood

A favorite question of mine for friends who are over 60 – name something your grandparents could have done that would have positively impacted your life today.

It’s a tough question – we are talking 50-100 year timelines.

Many families settle on… core real estate holdings that enable shared experiences across generations and time — the mythical cabin on a lake, and similar (not always ideal) investments.

What might be required to achieve that vision…

  • Proximity – the family needs to live close to each other, but not too close
  • Time – the subject of this essay
  • Enjoyment – do we enjoy spending time with each other? What if we don’t? How much are we willing to compromise to get along with each other?
  • Realistic expectations – from 25 to 40 many folks will be busy seeking to free themselves from wage-slavery

When it comes to wealth, be focused on time, not money.

Fatherhood

Not sure where I picked up the tip but it stuck with me… always write like it will be your last interaction with someone.

This morning I asked my kids to cut their social circle in half for the month of August.

My son said he was already down to one friend. For one month, I asked him to limit himself to seeing his pal outside, on a bike, with a mask.

I said we’d know more after Labor Day.


What we don’t see => just like that, July is gone!

Today is the end of Week 20. I can remember when Bill G’s advice about a 6-10 week lockdown seemed so long that I doubted it was reasonable.

The speed of the summer passing is a reminder to take the initiative with creating the life I want to live.


“We’re going up there?!”

I got through most my summer essay topics. Saved a couple to get me going again in September.

I’d like to get the whole family camping in August. We will see if I can pull that off and get our oldest up a 14er.



Here’s a technique I use to motivate myself to give extra effort to my kids’ childhood.

Listen to people talk about the way they see the world.

When we’re under stress, and we’re all under stress right now, our deepest mental habits leak out. When it comes to deeply felt emotions, not much is deeper than negative childhood experiences.

So when you hear someone say things like: nobody likes me, I’m treated very unfairly…

…it is a reminder that our actions will endure long after we are gone.


Even if you only need the light for five minutes… there’s something exciting about waking up in the dark, putting on a lot of clothes and hiking with a headlamp.

What comes after => the death of our parents is one last time to own our lives.

Gordon Livingston has a great piece of advice, “set a date and put the baggage of your past behind you.”

Part of my kids’ kindergarten motto was “own it.” Never too late to start!

If you’re still having trouble then remember nobody is the villain in their own story. Each of us is trying to do our best, while being beset by the habits of a lifetime.

COVID is an opportunity to (re)set our children’s mental habits. They are spending a lot of time soaking up how we handle stress.

In our house, it’s been 100-weeks of Daddy-Time in the last 20 weeks.



The best decision I made for my COVID-kids was a little bit of school each day for the last 20 weeks.

A low bar, done first thing daily, gets results.


I’m not telling you what to do. I am sharing the choices I made.

True Wealth in the Time of COVID

Peppy on top of Grays – Happy Birthday, my love.

You’ve probably read me asking…

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

Well, if you’re a family then your “one thing” might be having your kids achieve the capacity for independent living. We achieved it, briefly, this past week.

Wake up, sort breakfast, clean up, do home school, snack then light housework.

The kids were occupied long enough for me to do a classic Colorado hike and get back for lunch. This is big because it frees us from needing our school district to open => to provide childcare.

The kids, working together, can educate and feed themselves.

What’s this worth? As much as 20 hours a week, every week, until a vaccine is deployed.

Spend time to get time => the process was 8 weeks, involved 3 tutors, ~$6,000 and a lot of project management from yours truly.


Waiting for my O-sats to recover, that’s Torreys across the saddle. This is what I look like when I’m totally gassed.

COVID is a binary life for me – I am either on my property, or in the backcountry.

Five days a week, I’m inside two square blocks.

This is not my first choice for the next 25-75 weeks!


On the traverse to Torreys, I kept sorting my gear until I was left behind.

I perked up on the way down. Smiling under the mask. Torreys is above my head and Grays is the highpoint on the left. Masks on the trail are like flashing lights on a bike => most people have a reflex reaction to get out of your way.

The kids tested out of their next grade-level math, which gave them a confidence boost.

I don’t see how they will be able to mix into a higher grade’s math class but that’s a problem for the future.

For now, we’re basking in a job well done!

Knowing the kids are ahead makes me feel more relaxed about how the fall will play out. School districts across the US are delaying their re-openings.


Finding the win!

The above provides me with a case study to share a high-performance mindset with you.


In personal planning => use time to create time => life is about time. If you are surrounded by people that think otherwise then you should change your situation!

It cost me eight-weeks of effort to free as many as 1,000 hours.

This is a highly valuable option => especially in terms of removing the fear, and horror, of a full academic year worth of online learning!


In performance => we need to think clearly to perform at our best => placing yourself in a position where you have the feeling that you have already won will calm your mind and enable your best to flow through.

Now, I certainly don’t feel that we’ve won against COVID (unforced errors aplenty at the Federal level) but it is clear our household is doing well => just need to keep myself out of the hospital.

I am chipping away at the crisis’ ability to disrupt my life and clawing back my ability to direct my own time, within the constraints of the reality of the virus (masks, social distancing, closures).

Create the life you want to live.

Celebrate Success

South Arapahoe Peak, yesterday

Given the simultaneous outbreaks we have in the US, our media is going to have plenty of fodder for negative stories this month.

If you follow the news cycle closely, then this could be a tough few weeks for you.

Consider scheduling a few days offline.


The route follows the left skyline – it was at my limit for “unroped spicy with two of my favorite people”

If you’re sucking in a lot of negativity then you might find spillover inside your head. The spillover may manifest as a negative voice beating you down internally.

A lot of us aren’t able to “hear” the soundtrack in our heads. As a coach, I would notice it when my athletes had a habit of negative expression in voice and written words.

To counter a habit of negativity, I’d assign an excerise => buy a small notebook and end each day by writing down one positive thing that happened.

Every single day.

Life happens where you focus.

Change your focus, change your life.


Ax-man was a little buried by the end of the weekend. When it comes to fatigue, he has developed excellent coping skills.

Our Science Fair was a huge hit.


Secret ingredients to the traditional vinegar/baking soda lava recipe – a little dish soap, a little water and red food coloring – you can see the red chunks in the lava

Public speaking starts at home – learning to listen (and not correct) also starts at home

Spoiled is when you think your life is difficult but it isn’t.

Living under COVID is difficult in many ways. We are learning to embrace and enjoy our challenges.

It would have been very difficult for me to engineer rapid positive change without the challenges of closures, home school and social isolation.


Byrn Family Fitness Center – if there’s a will then you can figure it out. Picture is our Saturday morning fitness program. My son is finishing his “walk back” – I’m running my hill repeat in the background. The local college kids have embraced our street and we see some spectacular runners blaze past.

Personal responsibility is a key value of mine. In the past, this was to the exclusion of maintaining relationships. My kids have helped me do better with finding a balance between hard and soft skills.

Lots of personal responsibility was on display this past weekend: packing our own gear for a climb, learning to recover from a deep bonk (with grace and without blaming anyone), taking care of siblings.

The habit of having to take care of ourselves at home is spilling over into our larger lives.


Ax looking down the wrong turn I was about to make for my family. Thankfully, we managed an upward traverse back onto the main route.

Money and Kids

The basics:

  • An unconditional allowance set at $1 per week, per year of age
  • Money sits with Bank of Dad and yields 10% APR – I want my kids to get very excited about compound interest – we have a generation of kids growing up in a no-yield environment – this will have a HUGE impact on our societies – don’t know specifics but do know it will change finance for a long time
  • I hold a veto on any spending out of the “allowance account” – there is no obligation for me to be reasonable – if you disagree with my decision then…
  • Buy it yourself, kids can earn their own money – own money equals own choices – I want my kids to get excited about providing value to others and earning money for themselves – this is much more important to me than winning in sport
  • Summer reading prize – read every day across the summer and get a very good prize – it costs me $100 per kid, per summer, to create a habit of morning reading, without being asked!

The incentive structure has been successful.

Our latest addition is babysitting – our oldest taking care of our youngest. We’ve settled into $7 per hour for the oldest with $2 per hour to the youngest at the same time. We give them a written schedule with some easy chores to complete. This is the easiest “kid combo” for us to manage – the older sister/younger brother dynamic hasn’t been figured out, yet.

Another popular product is exterior cash wash at $5 per car, per kid.

Our oldest makes scrunches, masks and children’s stuffies. Orders, pricing, manufacturing, delivery… all sorted by her. Since school ended, she is averaging $75 per week of supplemental income.


Dawn breaks near the 4th of July Mine, Indian Peaks Wilderness

Adversity Reveals

This picture reminds me that leaning into the difficulties of fatherhood has one of the highest returns on investment, in my life.

Saturday’s entry in my Daily Stoic (link is to Amazon) was a reminder that adversity reveals, an excellent topic during these times.


I have a hunch, Colorado is in a lull in our virus process. I’m taking advantage of the lull to get outside.

This week, my kids are wrapping up an academic year’s worth of math.

Five weeks to learn, one week of review – on to the next year’s concepts.

Financial price was ~$500 per kid. The price in time was 4 classes a week (1-on-1, 30 minutes) and 4-6 homework sessions of 20-45 minutes each. The classes were led by a Middle School teacher. Her skill is how we made such rapid progress.

My role was making it happen and dealing with the occasional fallout when the kids struggled with the new concepts.

  • Financial investment – less than expected.
  • Time investment – less than expected.
  • Emotional Investment – more than expected.

It’s probably like that with a lot of things.

The true skill lies in pushing through the emotional hurdle of the status quo.


Bison Peak, Lost Creek Wilderness.

Our experience with Summer Math reminded me that harder is more meaningful. The kids have gotten a lot out of their struggles. In overcoming “math,” they know they have achieved something.

The challenges of these times have demanded more from all of us. Hopefully, you’ve seen the benefit of having to step up.

Difficult does not imply worse.


Right around 12,000 feet in the Rockies.

Governance matters.

Our local and state governments have done an excellent job at navigating through the early stages of this crisis. I disagree with a lot of what they’ve done! Part of what they’ve done well is manage all of the disagreeing voices.

The process of translating “the choices of government” to “an outcome in society” requires social trust and cohesion.

America has trust issues and many are making them worse. However, the lesson here isn’t for our country or your local jurisdiction. The lesson is for your family and your marriage.

There’s a balance between competence and cohesion. To lead, to govern, you need to be keeping both in mind and acting in a way that builds social cohesion.


Time and time again, I have been surprised by outcome.

We are 15 weeks into a process that will take far longer than I expect.

Adversity will continue to reveal.

Home School Stuff

Top of Hogback Loop, Boulder, Colorado


Science Wednesday was Plastic Milk – the girls weren’t interested and opted out – Axel enjoyed the session.

We’re going to take a break from experiments for a week and build ourselves a Volcano!


Eating the “plastic” was a highlight for him.

Workout Thursday saw Axel do more in 20-minutes than I can do in 25-minutes.



It’s a pattern you can do at home: (a) sandbag getup and run to the next room, repeat 4x; then 20 squat jumps (step down, never jump backwards) => keep rolling continuous.

Body slammed himself on the bench on the final rep of his 9th round (180 jumps total).

True savagery – once we were sure he hadn’t cracked a rib, we shared a laugh.



My daughter and I have been butting heads with her math.

This must happen to other families so I’ll share the workaround we discovered.

Like their Dad, my kids are good at pretending they understand when they have absolutely no frickin’ clue!

As you can see from the world around you, being clueless isn’t usually a problem. However, it is a suboptimal method to learn new math concepts via Zoom call.

In a typical school, the learning rate is slow enough that most of the kids figure things out on their own. At the Byrn Family Academy of Personal Excellence, we’ve been learning at a faster rate.

I didn’t realize how much faster until I noticed our youngest was nearly finished Unit Three of next year’s math. Five weeks to do half a year’s math curriculum => keeping things in perspective, it’s Grade Two and I give the kids supplemental lessons when they ask me about concepts. We’re not blazing AP Calculus but the pace for our Grade Four and Grade Six is legit.

With the new concepts, our oldest was reprinting the assignments on a clean sheet and handing in 100% correct work. Behind the scenes, I had been subjected to a half hour of tears and abuse => “Sweetie, it’s math, our opinions don’t change the answer.”

Anyhow, we both got sick of the struggle. She has no interest in receiving lessons from me => “Just tell me the answer, Dad!”

Not being able to teach is frustrating because I’m a great teacher! However, the goal is for student to learn, not the teacher to teach!

Family Value => It is OK to say “no.”

On the basis of “relationship before all else,” I resigned.

My resignation resulted in more tears. She’d rather struggle through with me than admit she doesn’t understand with her teacher.

So, we struck a truce…

  • Side by side, we review
  • When I find an error, she works through again
  • We arrive at the step that’s causing problems
  • Chip away until she gets it right

So far, no more tears and I don’t feel an ulcer coming on.


PE with Dad. Ax-man has 5L of water on the his back. Mountain Lion country (notice the bushes above, right). I had to tell him to stop dropping us!

Axel finished The Everest Trilogy by Korman.

He loved it and he’s going to do a book review with his English teacher.


My next summer essay is on the life cycle of an athlete.

Stage One is the Sporty Kid.

  • It is easier to have sporty kids if you lead the way.
  • Sporty kids have more energy for everything, ie learning.
  • If you want to develop sporty kids then the program is about their current ability level – not your workout goals (train daily before they wake up).
  • Use outside experts to teach technical skills.
  • Focus on enjoyment of the “doing” – resist the urge to teach.
  • Only positive feedback.
  • Focus on activities without a score and no judges.

Why I Want My Kids To Be Average

Ax-man making my home hairdressing look fabulous!

The thing I liked about triathlon was, if you were decent at everything, you could be world class at something.

– Scott Molina, World Champion Triathlete

Paul reminded me about this topic when he asked, “What do I want for my kids?” Paul is worth a follow.

Many, many parents’ actions indicate, “I want my kids to bring ME glory” or, with an Eastern twist, “I want my descendants to bring honor to the family.”

As parents, when we answer this question, we get an insight into our personal definition of honor and a clue to our value system.

We often reach for things we wish we’d been able to get for ourselves.


Something I found in my athletic career, when I set my mind to external results, I was sowing the seeds for dissatisfaction.

Applying a specific lesson from sport to the arena of life…

If I pass a habit (of external striving) to my spouse, or kids, then I am putting unnecessary emotional baggage into my most important relationships.

Going further, even if I’m successful, the kids are going to attribute their successes to their own efforts, certainly in my lifetime.

As an aside, I’ll leave it to Fooled By Randomness to offer cognitive dissonance on the source of external success. Time shows me many near misses with severe failure and ruin. I’m hardwired to own success and disown failures. This is an area where getting older helps.

Thinking about my far future self, am I really going to care about how anyone did?

Highly unlikely!

I am going to care about how they make me feel.


I’ll start by asking you a question. You don’t need to tell anyone the answer but you should be honest with yourself.

What would be more important to carry forward into the world?

  • Striving to outperform your parents?
  • Knowing you have outperformed your parents’ expectation of you?

If you’re unsure then ask someone close to you, “what do I talk about when I talk about my parents?”

Much of my approach is governed by listening to friends talk about their parents.


One our key family values is “We’ve already won.”

This frees us to slow down, favor the relationship over the mission and reduces our fear of missing out.

This mindset keeps us away from ruin and reduces our unforced errors. So we are more likely to reap the benefit of our own efforts.


Some lessons from coaching high-performers:

  • The coach is there to take the blame.
  • Success accrues to the athlete.
  • The plan is often the difference between success and failure.

Owning the above, helps the coach focus on the areas where they can have an impact AND frees the coach from taking ownership of outcome.

Ownership of another person’s outcome will make you miserable. I can generate a lot of “fatherhood fatigue” when I own every word, choice and action of my children.

To design a simple plan we can all execute, I need to avoid getting wrapped up in the endless micro-battles (real and imagined).

I also need the confidence to roll-the-plan and avoid sowing confusion by constantly tinkering for “fun” or “variety.”

Taking it together, where can I have the most impact:

  • My example via my actions
  • How I schedule our plan
  • The family incentive structure

Another lesson from watching families over long time horizons. The people who live up to “high expectations” are those who need them the least.

Put another way, expecting doesn’t work => action does.

Even stronger => mutually agreed collective action => the social pressure of working towards a collective “good example.”

Make it clear to yourself, and your kids, exactly what’s required to get your approval => your time & attention being a valuable form of currency in the eyes of your kids. We try to keep it really simple:

  • Exercise daily
  • Stay on grade level
  • Be kind to those without recourse
  • Learn how to teach yourself

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you are helping by expressing constant dissatisfaction.

Similarly, in your own life, if you are never quite get “there” then ask yourself where was I trying to go?

Kids And Mountains

Spending years crafting a desired outcome is something I do better than most.

It’s not just inside my marriage where I seek to influence outcome – I’ve been building a mountaineering partner. Since my son was two years old, he’s loved going uphill.

The “up” has never been a problem. In those early days, it was the “down” where he’d flame out. Back then, I’d never take him further than I could carry him out. We used to negotiate when the shoulder rides would start.

We’re into another hiking season and I wanted to share some ideas about developing your kids.

Last season, I carried everything, all the time. When I tried to get him to help out, the joy of the hike drained out of him. This led to some heavy, heavy days.

Over the winter, I adapted my training program so I could tolerate the loads.

This year, we’re trying something new. To change our view on weight, I’m leading by example and carrying extra water to every summit.

Weight is a privilege. The picture above represents ~25 pounds of privilege. 😉

Seeing me carry, had the desired psychological outcome and he’s been asking me to carry “more.”

Two things are required to earn the right to carry:

  • Beat me to the summit
  • Don’t fall on the way down

The not falling is tougher than it sounds. Our mental cue is “walk like a boss” => wide stance, toes down the mountain, stand tall. It’s easy for a minute.

Less easy for an hour while discussing the finer points of the latest Clone Wars season or estimating Chewbacca’s age.

Dad, Chewie is in every movie, I can’t figure it out…


With lockdown, my full program has become visible to the kids. They noticed that I do a lot of strength training. Two (out of three) asked to join. So they’ve been doing some supplemental work to our hiking program.

I made light sandbags for them. We do burpees, short runs, clean & press, keg lifts… Because their bags are light, they can run circles around me (literally). They get a kick out of being “faster than Dad” and that keeps them coming back for more.

Our youngest (below) is working with an orange dry-bag I filled with clothes. It looks HUGE but doesn’t weigh much. My son had bag envy – his is filled with pea gravel.

Let everyone be strong is a lesson I learned from Scott Molina.

Be sure you let your kids be strong and find their win. It helps build their internal motivation to persist.


As for the program we are:

  • following a gradual, weekly progression
  • doing it locally before considering any travel
  • including a mixture of too easy, just right and challenging routes
  • inserting easy days so we bounce back
  • making sure we get consistent sleep

If you think the above sounds like the approach used by a gold-medal coach then you’d be right. It was taught it to me early in my triathlon career.

I special ordered a black mask from our oldest. Combined with blue-iridium sunglasses, a baseball hat and a hunting knife… we don’t have any problems getting folks to yield on the trail.

Why masks?

Foremost, because America need more people wearing masks. Be the change.

Secondly, because we might be on some crowded routes when the high mountains open up. Get sick later.

Finally, because it’s going to make life above tree-line seem a whole lot easier when we take them off.


Over multi-year time horizons, we have tremendous influence on the direction of our life.

My son is 9 and we can hike any route I want in the Rockies.

Be willing to inconvenience yourself (today) to help the people in your life become what you wish for them (tomorrow).

Dealing With Really Difficult People

To offer my very best to these four people, I say “no” to drama

Over the course of your life, you will be sucked into many unnecessary arguments.

With the stress in our societies right now, I thought I’d share some hard-won wisdom.

Something I do well is deal with extremely difficult people.


Difficult people tend to divide into two camps.

  • Someone who is nuts, addicted or abusive => your best outcome is a clean exit
  • Somebody who is very comfortable with conflict => your best outcome is a mutually beneficial relationship

It is essential to know the difference => are you seeking a relationship or an exit?

Remember, it only takes one side to make a relationship completely impossible. You might never get the chance for a relationship. Likewise, no one can create a relationship without your agreement.

Keep your desired outcome front and center.


For the merely difficult, the best resource I’ve found is a book called B.I.F.F. => BIFF stands for Brief Informative Friendly and Firm.

BIFF is how I deal with every email in my life => when it spills into my marriage, or my family, it can get me into trouble. Still, on balance, it’s a winning strategy.

The BIFF method has saved me thousands of hours of hassle. You might not realize the psychological, and energetic, cost of the difficult people in your life.

Quick read => $10.

The book helped me see my own role in the conflicts that follow me around. The BIFF techniques work when applied with myself => Time to move along & What’s important now?

It takes discipline, and training, to avoid spinning my wheels with people, and situations, that have no good outcome (other than an exit).

With the Buddhists in my life, I joke, “that situation might need to wait for my rebirth.”

With the secular folks, “I have realized there are going to be some loose ends at the time of my death. This situation might be one of them.


So… onto times when you desire an exit.

Once you’ve decided your best outcome is an exit you need to constantly remind yourself of your goal.

Beware of the tendency for self-sabotage via:

  • Self-justification => forgiveness can come later => you don’t need victory or the last word => you need an exit
  • Helping => unless you’re a board-certified medical clinician, working in a professional capacity, you will not sort this person out => you need an exit
  • Obligation => this is a big one for people caught in a multi-year abusive relationship => you might feel that the person’s place in society (boss, relative, child, spouse, priest, coach, doctor) requires you to put up with their abuse => hell no => you need an exit

I struggled with the above in my 20s, so it’s probably going to take you a few years to get it right.

Some family systems train their members to put up with abuse across multiple generations => break the chain, if not for yourself then for your children.


Protect your exit – there will be many attempts to pull you back in => block, filter, never reply, don’t answer unknown calls, don’t open letters, don’t post your travel schedule, change your mobile number… whatever it takes. I’ve done it all.

The craftiest manipulators will use people close to you to advocate for them. These people will be happy to do so – in the hope that they will successfully pass the abuser off to you!

I defeat these attempts by asking an advocate, “Do you want more of XXX in your life?” and noting “I don’t have any interaction with them and that is plenty for me.” We then share a smile and move on.

Over time, there will be fewer and fewer attempts to rope you in.

It is no fun to “play” with a person who never responds and you must remember, never respond to sociopaths.

Don’t poke the bear.


I use similar rules on Social Media.

One strike you’re out => mute button on twitter, unfollow on FB => much less triggering than blocking, allow difficult people to move along to their next obsession.

How do they make you feel? Some people bring out the worst aspects of my personality => politicians, of every political stripe, do this on purpose => mute them down. Don’t water the worst seeds of your personality.

Discipline is freedom => execute my advice and pay attention => Is your life better without the drama? It is easy to develop a habit of engagement, of not leaving well enough alone.

What are you trying to achieve? Don’t rope yourself into a mess, just to give yourself something to do.

Fill your life with something more than emotional highs from justified rage and lows from sadness.

A Gentle Reminder

2020-02-29 12.19.17

A month ago, I was sitting at the dinner table and started chuckling to myself.

My son asked what was so funny and I replied, “I just realized how hooped you people are without me.”

2020-02-28 14.38.41

My kids have two main negotiating tactics: repetition and whining.

Our oldest (11), has a wider range of tactics and I encourage her to deploy them against me. It’s good practice for the real world. Unfortunately, she also has a habit of subjecting her siblings to random dominance displays.

So the song of disorder has three notes:

  1. Repetition
  2. Whining
  3. Dominance

The reason I was laughing at dinner was I finally figured out my kids had a really, really, really crappy negotiating position.

Further, this crappy position is going to stay bad for at least five more years.

Five years is beyond forever.

2020-02-29 12.19.43

That evening, I had been working on family taxes, while trying to schedule house cleaning, grocery shopping and some time for myself.

Combining everything, I decided it was time to gently remind my kids that the entire structure of their lives falls apart if they decide to take me on.

My opener had three notes:

  1. Endorphins – no electronics while driving
  2. Status – no visiting our ski club restaurant
  3. Fear – reduction in number of days skiing

I gave them the following message, individually:

  1. Your teachers and coaches tell me you are outstanding. I need you to bring your outside behavior into our house.
  2. If you want the best life in Colorado then I’m going to need you to make one change.

The change being “no blocking” for our oldest and “no yelling inside” for the other two.

One change to get your iPad back in the car.

One change to get my house more live-able for the next decade.

2020-02-28 12.20.20

We skipped our family ski day the last two weeks, drove home and the kids helped me clean the house top-to-bottom.

Cleaning was “totally separate from the noise in the house issue…”

My son is a bit of a “bro-cleaner.”

Bro-anything is when you do such a crappy job that you hope to get fired and don’t have to do it again.

Ladies beware, you’ve likely been “bro’d” before => childcare, meal prep, shopping and cleaning. Bro-zone!

Anyhow, we discovered we each have a niche we enjoy doing (spray bottles, vacuuming with music, floors, toilets).

Effectively saves me $75 per hour while training my kids to live on their own.

A bonus you might not have considered… in the currency of personal freedom, cleaning generates the single largest return on investment within my marriage.

Your ability to deploy this strategy is inversely related to the square footage you own. Another hidden cost of assets we think will make us happy.

What’s the job you can not do?