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.

Groundhog Day

Arapahoe Basin, Gully #4. “Dude, I’ve been dropping steeps since I was nine…”

I love asking questions. Here’s one from last week…

What’s wrong with being a househusband?

This question started a conversation about how great a job I was doing. The recognition was appreciated, but wasn’t the point.

That’s interesting, because when I said something similar, that you were having a great pandemic, you sniffed and said, “you mean I’m a better housewife.”

Well, actually, yes… 🙂

What was more interesting was my wife didn’t have ANY memory of the instant reaction she had. Her non-memory got me wondering how often my biases, and values, bubble up and leave no trace.

You might have a hidden bias against what’s required to run a good house. Call it the Virginia Slims effect, heavily reinforced by our collective culture and 50+ years of media/advertising.

If you think the internal dialogue is tough as a woman, try it as a guy.


Same gully, different aspect. Plenty of room between those rocks!

So the real point of the conversation wasn’t to congratulate ourselves for being domestic Gods and Goddesses…

The point was to create an opening to share ideas about coping with the grind of meals, laundry, dishes and cleaning that makes up family living.


You Gotta Do Something => I’ve had all kinds of jobs from “important” to “menial.”

COVID took my menial though the roof.

  • All jobs have admin/low value moments associated with them.
  • All jobs are better than having nothing to do.

Our minds might tell us that buying a white Porsche and focusing on our nails & hair will make us happy. More pleasurable than cleaning toilets, certainly, but I’m not sure leisure is “the answer”.

Meaningful work, not too much, well rested while I do it.

So, what are you going to do? And… What does winning look like to you?

You gotta do something.


You don’t have to enjoy it => My wife looked at me with in horror when I spoke the truth…

Honey, I absolutely hate dealing with the endless BS. However, I’ve decided, I’m going to continue regardless of how I feel.

It’s taken me decades to notice… that quote applies to every_single_thing I work on!

When there is a feeling that follows me everywhere… changing my situation might not be the answer.


It’s Temporary => Ten years of babies & preschoolers left no trace in my memory. I have to scroll back in my photos to see what actually happened.

Whatever you’re dealing with, do what needs to be done and schedule little sessions that perk you up.

In my case, it’s worth overcoming inertia to get my morning training, time with my wife and a chance to teach in nature.

Make time for meaning, while you manage the menial.


In each of the important jobs I held, I was replaceable.

Husband, Father, Leader => Give extra effort to the areas where you are hardest to replace.

Knowing “this is my job to do” makes it easier to endure.


Finally, something from watching my kids. There’s a part of me that wants my family to enjoy doing menial tasks. It stems from my desire for constant pleasure from every task life throws at me.

This is a completely unreasonable expectation, but it’s there. Seeing it, let’s me smile and shake my head when I catch myself in the pattern.

Meaningful work, can feel meaningless at times.

You are not alone in your feelings.

Best pandemic ever.


Teaching others in nature – always perks me up. Across my year of COVID, I’ve done a good job of scheduling events to look forward to. Find the win!

Make It Fridge Worthy

There’s a lot in this section of my fridge. Bora Bora, Valentine’s Day and leading out the swim at Ironman Hawaii.

Over the last six years, our discretionary budget has been simplified to vehicles, skiing and vacations.

Let’s start with vacations.

Most families with kids, place their vacations before considering Childcare and the size of their mortgage/rent payment. I recommend you reconsider your priorities. Earlier I explained why, I sold assets so the grown ups could maintain their health and relationship.

When I was living with a 4, 2 and 1 year old – my favorite kind of discretionary spending wasn’t a vacation, it was “more childcare”.

Always, more childcare.

Why?


End of the Napali Coast Trail – worth the hike!

To be a good investor, you need to know your opportunity cost.

Same deal for being a good spouse!

The Bora Bora vacation (above, still on my fridge) is the equivalent of 150 date nights.

When I was working through a decade of bedtime dramas… I priced my life in date nights (time with my wife, time without a kid melting down).

Date nights where someone else can put the little ones to sleep, and you can alternate the following morning with your spouse.

Alternate the routine so each spouse gets a slot where they are “off” from 5pm to 10am.

Sweetie, I just need two nights a week where nobody is yelling at me.

I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve a nervous system reset 2x per week.


Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Still want to head out of town? These were my rules for luxury spending:

  • make it “fridge-worthy” (re-live the vibe over-and-over)
  • book it way in advance (create anticipation)
  • take a lot of pictures


The trips were a good bang for the buck, we spread them out, got stuff done and had something to look forward to.

We found shorter trips were better – if we left for more than a few days, our Alpha Pup would try to take over the household!

We left the kids at home, in their normal routine – never risk the sleep schedule!


Take a look at your budget, are you making time to enjoy each other?

Family Spending Principles

West Ridge, Eldora

An observation that I am trying to pass along to my kids.

My never ending desires are rooted in a false idea of what will make me happy. I have a clear idea about the structure of the days that are “better.” Achieving better is easier, and more rewarding, than chasing pleasure from purchases.


To help me achieve “better”, I have a series of principles.

1/ Visible spending for wife, first // This works on a number of levels.

  • Don’t buy something for yourself that you wouldn’t buy for your entire family.
  • It easier to be value conscious when I remove myself from the purchase equation.
  • It’s just good policy.

2/ The minimum outlay to meet the underlying need

Strangely, I got this via Joe Friel on coaching masters athletes => the minimum, and the most specific, training to get the desired physiological adaption.

Capital takes time to acquire and is easily squandered (spendthrift heirs and lottery winners are common examples).

A default to the minimum reduces the scale of my (inevitable) errors and increases the ability to change my mind later.

3/ Do not sweat the small stuff – set a Give A Hoot threshold (links to Marriage Money article)

Set an annual plan, track the cash quarterly and promise you will not sweat the small stuff. Good people are made miserable by tracking every nickel.

Stay out of the weeds so your mind is able to think and get the big things right.

4/ Avoid Choices That Have A Material Cost to Hold => this applies across domains (assets, leases, friends, family, commitments, Facebook/eMail). The math from yesterday.

There are many ways to find yourself over-extended… debt service, cash flow, emotion & time.

Exit bad decisions => they crush you on all levels.

Mark Allen on pacing…

just because you’ve made a bad decision, doesn’t mean you have to continue it


Combine these principles and you’ll find the sum is worth more than the parts.


Dropping into West Turbo. Pali Chair, A-Basin.

My son asked about the last big purchase I made, other than real estate.

My off-the-cuff answer was “we don’t spend much money” but that didn’t line up with what I know about our cash flow statement.

So I spent January thinking about it. Next time, the best financial choices I’ve made across my marriage (16 years this summer).

Teaching Kids To Smoke


Growing up, I spent ten idyllic summers at a YMCA camp on Howe Sound.

When I worked my way up to Senior Staff, I learned part of the camp’s Oral History => prior to the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking, the camp used to sell cigarettes in its Tuck Shop.

My boss at the time, told me it went further.

We used to teach kids to smoke.

Keep in mind the camp was run by the Young Men’s Christian Association – these were good people, trying to help a wide range of kids.

The story reminds me to keep my eyes open for obvious harms, accepted by everybody.

Current practice can be completely clueless.

Vaping “it will shift people from smoking” is an obvious example. A handful of entrepreneurs hooked a generation of young people before anyone noticed.

Less obvious is the introduction of electronics, and social media, into the lives of our children. My kids have been staring at screens since preschool. COVID institutionalized screens into the daily lives of our children.

Here’s what I’ve told our oldest, now in Middle School.

  • You don’t want to spend your life doing sexy dances for strange boys and men (TicToc) => who’s on the other side of the screen?
  • There’s no such thing as digital privacy – it does not exist
  • You will need to make a choice => do I want to get stuff done, or stare at screens (IG, Snap, Among Us)
  • Your mother and I saw what it was doing to us and stopped
  • Exercise makes you happy – I point this out after every good workout

Similar to conversations I expect to be having on sex, drugs and alcohol… I had to get my own life in order before I attempted to teach my kids.

Who am I really trying to impress? Following a path of external approval creates a never ending cycle of “more” (likes, followers, stuff, money, food, victories). Where is “more” going to take me?

Fastest way to boost health and self-confidence?

  • Positive Action => a habit of daily exercise
  • Via Negativa => ax the Social Media

Right now, your mother and I are making smart choices for you. Soon, it will be up to you.

Choose Wisely.


Little update on my 2021 tech initiative.

  • January saw me cut my screen time in half. Pretty impressive from a single workflow change and deleting two phone apps.
  • My eyesight improved.
  • Less eMail/Twitter is far easier than less “news”.

Writings for an expecting father: Where the rubber meets the road


The second birthday of your first child is a key milestone.

Life’s about to get real.


I think a lot of guys would be more involved if they knew, in advance, what long-term female bitterness does to a marriage.

How much risk do you want to run?

What sort of role do you want to create for yourself?

  • Take a dominant kid away so your wife meets the other kids (this comes later).
  • Taking a toddler away on an overnight trip so your wife can put her adrenal system back together.
  • Lock in a Daddy Day once a week.
  • Lock in a time slot 5 days a week so your wife can exercise.

Smart, tactical choices will help create the woman you’d like to spend the rest of your life alongside.



What do you do best?

For me, it is 1-on-1 time in nature. Whatever your skill happens to be, do not expect it to be a whole lot of fun at the beginning.

The “win” happens when your wife uses the space you create for her own needs.

To create space for meeting our own needs, I was rarely supportive of “getting exhausted together”.


Also invert the situation and consider…

What does your partner like least? …but maybe that’s outside your skill level. In that case…

What can you subcontract? Teaching your kid(s) to be put to bed at an early age from someone other than their mother is one of the best things you can do for your marriage.

I experienced some resistance to outside help with our first kid. The resistance was _completely_ gone by the time our 3rd arrived.

Subcontracting is not a clear cut issue. I can easily subcontract cleaning but it’s one of the highest return things I do in my house. Unassailable authority when I assign chores or ask for help.

Do no expect your kids to thank you => remember you’re doing this for your marriage and to hedge your bets for tomorrow.

You can not do it all => What are you willing to give up to create space for this new initiative?

In the short term, as you adjust to your new reality, it will feel like you’ve given up everything => Because you have!

It’s a brand new life you’re creating.

Writings for an expecting father: The Start


Three things:

  • Learn to swaddle
  • Focus on your wife’s sleep
  • Babies cry

Nothing else matters until you’ve mastered these points.

Why?

Done well, these points bring relief and create space for the rest of your life.


Downstream effects

Where you’ll be sleeping => I spent a lot of time, alone, in the basement.

Sleep schedules => Baby, Mom, You => in order of priority.

Use of outside help => support the marriage by supporting your wife’s sleep and up-skilling everyone’s ability to swaddle and deal with the reality of the baby (they cry).


Pay attention to what works, and doesn’t.

Keep what works and build a schedule.