Home Gym – best money I spent in the pandemic, make time to use it every single morning. It does not matter what I do! My life, and health, get 100% of the potential benefit by simply waking up and doing something.
Autopilot – kids and self – go through to pain to let good habits run on their own.
Specific to my life, waking up crazy-early forces me to ditch the poor choices I make after 6pm. To reinforce my inability to screw myself up, I volunteered to drive my daughter to her evening swim practices. We love talking to each other and I read while she swims.
The Easy Way – overcoming (myself, the pandemic, whatever) generates lasting satisfaction. We don’t serve our families when we remove the opportunity for our children to challenge themselves, fail and learn by experience. Same advice works in my own life – difficulty is an opportunity for personal satisfaction.
Travel less and shorter – my pandemic gains were big – stay put and grind is a winning strategy, and not just for athletics. I’m closing in on 100,000 words published during the pandemic.
Travel is a bit like social media – a pleasant distraction from the work that brings me lasting satisfaction. Travel is best in small doses, used to recharge before returning to work.
Year round tutoring – part of getting ahead is never falling behind. Our tutors did much more than help us fill the long days of school break. They helped the kids become confident, skilled, learners.
What’s my conclusion?
Frankly, I’m not sure!
Human nature tells me that I won’t need to add much to feel great. Like my kids, I’ve adapted to pandemic life.
So, for a bit, I’m going to enjoy a quiet house and resist taking on any new initiatives.
More in the future about “how to spend” => the weirdest thing about this pandemic is every asset class I follow appreciated.
Strangely, 2021 feels like 2017 => Like I said at the start of the Trump Administration, if you’re selling to rich people… increase your prices. There is significant pent-up demand due to the effect of zero-rates and lockdowns.
We’d just finished riding from Miami to Key West as a reverse start to a very fun bike trip. I tagged along most of the way from Key West to NOLA. Good times with my friend, Petro (love you, bro).
Look closely and what do you see?
I’m at the southern most point of the USA and I’m looking at my phone.
I stuck it on my printer to remind me that life happens outside my office.
The pandemic increased my intake of news and social media.
This was not a good thing.
To be sick of sickness is the only cure.
Tao Te Ching
Some of my choices have a negative utility => meaning net-net doing NOTHING is better that doing them.
With this in mind – consider what “not to keep” from the pandemic.
At the end of Summer Break, I dropped Facebook/Instagram.
Over Winter Break, I pulled the plug on Twitter and email.
News => I subscribed to our local paper’s online edition. Published daily, no live updates. One paper a day, no updates until 5am the next day. Being a local paper, something needs to be big to make the online edition.
Across the year, I removed the option to flee into my phone, or the news, or an urgent (but not really urgent) email.
It is not feasible for me to completely drop email from my life, but it is feasible to remove social media & browsers from my phone and limit the time spent staring at a screen (link is my email sig file).
Repeat after me…
Life happens outside my office.
I want my family to remember I made time for them.
The cost of the status quo is hidden.
So… each year, keep what works AND try something new.
PS: eMail initiative & early wake up => 1,250 hours per annum. Small changes have big results when compounded over time. An inconvenient truth => My middle age ends in eight years. Do I want to spend an avoidable 10,000 hours looking at a screen? Own the outcome!
Today marks ten months of pandemic living and I remind myself, everyone wants to be on a winning team.
Yesterday, I shared that it took my kids ~100 days to return to baseline greed, avarice, appetite and longing. 😉
I took this as a good sign. My wife and I had created a normal environment for them.
Frankly, it was disappointing to be unable to repeatedly play the “but there’s a global pandemic going on” card.
However, having spent time with three-year-olds, I was used to a kid-don’t-care attitude. Three-year olds are incredibly useful training for life.
What have you done for me lately?
I went through the pain to get you on autopilot.
Up by 6:30am, read, breakfast, Duolingo, get dressed, brush teeth, walk around the block and login to Online School.
Six months to catch them up to an all-star single mom’s family routine. Our friend (all-star single mom) probably doesn’t feel like an all-star but I’ve been watching her for years. I’d always wondered how she did it.
She did it because she had no alternative.
Here’s another lesson from my COVID-season…
Alcoholism, addiction, pandemics, fitness, weight-loss, anger management, academic performance… wherever we are screwing ourselves up!
Once you’ve gone through the pain to change, hold on to those gains!
Everyone around you wants to be on a winning team.
They are longing to follow the structure, and standard, you set.
2020 was the most time I’ve ever spent with my kids. I watched them closely.
By July, the COVID’s shock had worn off and it dawned on me…
…their appetite, gratitude, happiness, greed, all of it
My kids had returned to baseline ~100 days after the pandemic hit.
Collectively, we tell ourselves that hardships “take” from us. However, my children’s moods, behavior and desires told me they got back to normal, quite quickly.
What’s the lesson?
Don’t spend money, time and emotion making my children’s lives easier.
Like every_essential_truth, once I was able to see this lesson outside myself, it was possible to turn the lesson inwards.
If you are struggling then challenge yourself.
It’s easy for me to blame the constraints of family, COVID, or my life situation for my “problems.”
There is nothing, outside my own attitude, that causes problems in my life.
What To Do?
Back in May, I said “screw it” and reset my alarm to 3:45am.
It’s been there ever since.
I carved out 900 hours a year when my kids are sleeping.
No matter what the day holds, I start with a win.
The habit of action moved me past the illusion that my problems were outside my control.
Don’t train your kids, or yourself, to be a victim of circumstances.
Own the outcome.
PS – if you’re keeping track, then we’re up to 900 annual-hours worth of pandemic lessons, our health and wellness program is done by 8am and we are not training ourselves to be victims of external circumstance.
Sharing my gratitude list was derailed by Andy’s death.
Reviewing my list helped me get through the challenges of the last couple weeks.
Of course, I have to remember to do the right thing. There were a couple of days where I forgot to take stock of the goodness all around me.
When you force yourself to think about what you value, you have an opportunity to reevaluate how you are spending your time.
Time being our most valuable resource.
20-25 more weeks (of COVID) is a good chunk of time. Pretty much a full season, back when I was an elite athlete.
When I step outside the specifics of my list, certain themes pop out.
Authentic Connection => Two sides of this. The A-side is my marriage, exploring Colorado with my kids and time in nature. The B-side (my not-to-do list) is looking at a screen.
It takes effort to look away, and keep looking away.
Breaking free from social media is something my kids have watched us do, and gives us a lot of street cred when we talk about using technology.
Physical Experience => My training program has a few “moments” each week that are deeply uncomfortable, totally worth it.
2% of my week is unpleasant, 18% I’m tired, 80% I feel great. Excellent trade – I remind myself to be grateful, rather than greedy.
COVID may be the only time of my adult life where I get a no-excuses block of time. No travel, no races, no distractions from doing what it takes.
Likewise, as my buddy Jonser is fond of saying,
Being married to a smoking’ hot wife has its benefits.
If I want the benefits, then I need to be willing to: (a) do what it takes for myself; and (b) support someone else’s goals, sometimes in priority to things I might prefer to do. Useful lessons.
Across the year, I had a lot of “achievements” – 10,000+ feet vertical skinning days, 68,000 feet descending ski day, 14ers, strength PBs… achieving specific goals does not leave an enduring imprint.
The emptiness of striving is a reminder to focus on process and remember to back-off enough to enjoy the journey.
Do we strive because we feel anxious? Or do we feel anxious because we have a habit of striving?
Financial Stability => COVID took away most my luxury and discretionary spending. Two trades in March covered my cost of living for the entire year. Again, don’t be greedy.
I’ve been in no hurry to add spending back. Instead, I’ve been asking: (a) what’s missing and (b) what’s actually useful about financial wealth?
Stability => the absence of financial anxiety, the ability to choose, the ability to control my own schedule.
It’s tough to remember the value of the absence.
It takes far less money (and time) than you’d expect to achieve the full utility of money. The toughest parts are managing my own ego and keeping my household expectations in check. Humans have unending desires and we do a good job of nudging one-another along.
As for what’s missing => again, not much $$$ required. Circle back to authentic connection and make time to go to my pals, who might be a little too busy to visit me.
Self-sufficiency – when we had a house full of babies and preschoolers, we used to live in fear of holidays. The longer breaks of Christmas and August were particularly tough. COVID forced us to figure it out and, sure enough, we did.
As the pandemic unwinds, the ability to take care of ourselves is something I’d like to retain. Personally, it costs me a couple hours a day (chores, cleaning, errands) but it’s better than having to manage (a process of avoiding what I can do myself).
The pandemic forced me to think deeply about how I want to educate my kids. Home school forced us to get involved in their education. My children are the most direct expression of my legacy in the world. So I’m thankful for the opportunity to pass along my values to them – they’re always watching!
I’ll end with a lesson from Mark Allen – AKA the greatest triathlete of all time.
Often, you need to recover, simply to see how tired you are.
Mark taught me the lesson in the context of end-of-season recovery but, like much of what I learned in sport, I found it applies more broadly.
Fatigue, grief, trauma… whatever you happen to be working with… think in terms of layers.
Often, we start to feel better then charge right back into the patterns that were causing our difficulties in the first place.
Eight months into COVID, a return to home school, several deaths close to me, kids running around the house all day… it’s reasonable to assume that I might be a little more tired than I realize… 🙂
In life, we reap the rewards during recovery, not beat down.
One other quick note: one of my wife’s friends sent us three picture frames. The idea is each kid gets to put a favorite Andy memory into their frame. Wonderful gift idea that I wanted to pass along. Our oldest added a note at the bottom of her frame, “Thank you Andy for being a great uncle.” Gratitude in the face of grief.
OK, now an idea about relationships for you.
When death, divorce or another life changing event takes place, we might have a feeling that we need to rebuild. Rebuilding, after everything fell apart.
Alternatively, we might get caught in a victim mentality. The shock of the event leaving us feeling angry, hurt or disoriented – feeling like the world, or a specific person, did us wrong.
We’ve been done wrong!
Two things I shared with my oldest daughter.
Yes, your uncle dying is the worst thing that has happened to you. However, it’s unlikely that this moment is going to be the worst thing that happens in your life. [I avoided the temptation for us to brainstorm future tragedies.]
No, we are not being singled out. Death is a natural and universal human experience. Everyone you meet will have their own story about death.
In terms of tough moments, I have a buddy who started 2020 with his spouse dying after a long journey with cancer. I followed them for many years. They packed a lot of living into those final years.
Roll forward into COVID, into grief and he shared an observation about a person he’d met.
We have an opportunity to build a life together.
Opportunity, Build, Together
I wanted to pass those words to you because they are very different from the way I saw relationships as a young man.
My ideas of the past, at best, were to find someone to share MY experience with ME.
Or perhaps, someone to follow MY instructions and serve ME.
Far more useful to be thankful for the opportunity to have loved, to have had the opportunity to raise kids and then focus on what’s next. Life after children, life after his spouse has died.
When I place myself in my friend’s mindset, certain things become clear.
Don’t seek to nudge others towards my view – share experiences and change together.
Know that shared experiences, particularly struggles, are what it’s all about. Embrace the opportunity to face life together, as those will be the moments that bring us together.
If my time allocation reflected my values, then what would it tell me?
Be grateful for an opportunity to build better together.
Saturday, when I wrote about wanting to blame someone… it was because I spent the night before blaming Andy.
By Sunday, I was able to shift my focus to something useful. I asked…
How’d this happen?
Let’s start with that question.
The goes way back to something call the Turkey Problem.
The turkey is good every single day until just before Thanksgiving… then it gets chopped.
Most gamblers have something in common, early positive feedback with risk.
Andy had a lifetime of strongly positive feedback (aside from two knee surgeries, a broken ankle and waking up at the base of a tree with a separated shoulder). He saw his injuries as a cost of doing business and handled them with grace.
Andy was in fantastic shape, looked really good and enjoyed the outdoors. Andy’s life worked for Andy. I respected his right to live the way he wanted. In many ways, he was an ideal brother-in-law.
Like all of us, his attitude was influenced by feedback on his choices.
Lots of positive feedback.
A key difference between me and many around me… I’m OK with providing direct, negative feedback.
Something I tell my kids, people can get away with a lot of bad choices on snow. It’s a forgiving medium. I say this when we see people doing silly stuff in avalanche terrain. For all the wacky stuff we see… very few folks actually die.
Rock is much less forgiving and it’s RIGHT THERE in Boulder.
Walking out my door, I can see multiple accident sites by spinning my head 180-degrees. On foot, I can get to Andy’s accident site in half an hour.
My kids are going to have opportunity, and access, to the mountains.
So, as a parent, I need to look deeper.
I need to look to the root causes of faulty thinking.
What else does it take?
To kill yourself you need peers who think unacceptable risks are acceptable.
This summer Andy (briefly) fell out with my wife when I forced her to choose between: (a) allowing our daughter to ride technical mountain biking terrain with him, and (b) following my wishes.
My wife never told her favorite person in the world it was my decision behind the scene. I’d spent enough time with Andy to be very uncomfortable with his definition of reasonable, especially for a kid.
I am smiling right now thinking about kid-Andy.
The vision I have in my head… he’s on a Big Wheel, sending a huge ramp with a massive smile on his face.
Hair flowing behind him, full of joy.
It’s a good way to remember him.
I absolutely respected Andy’s ability to make his own choices. It was his risk evangelism that bothered me, to the point of stepping in.
Andy would be happy he didn’t take anyone with him. I know he truly didn’t see the risks he was taking as unreasonable.
Andy would want me to apologize to the college kids (who gave CPR to a dead man) and first responders (who cleaned up his bloody accident scene).
Andy didn’t think past his landing – a lesson I’ve been teaching my son since we started skiing extreme terrain.
A teaching I pass to you right now => Think Past Your Landing
This year, Andy decided to add climbing to his routine.
Eight weeks after setting his speed record on the Second Flatiron, he fell and died.
Locked down due to COVID, then driving past the Flatirons on the way to work… I understand why he wanted to climb.
Heck, I want to climb too! 🙂
But I don’t.
Tribe => I choose mine wisely. One of my kids is hysterically risk adverse – I love her for it and I need her in my life.
On Wednesday evening, after my wife made five days of calls, I was sitting at my desk with Andy’s phone. On a whim, I opened his Strava App to see what he’d been doing over the last little while.
Strava is a web-based application that lets athletes share their training. You can upload from any GPS-enabled device. I use my watch, and my Peloton bike, to automatically share my stuff with anyone who’s interested.
As soon as I opened the app, I saw that Andy had been recording a workout when he fell. Quickly realizing what I had in my hand, I saved the workout and notified the Sheriff’s Office.
I pulled the workout up on Strava and opened satellite view. I saw Andy’s day start at the parking lot, head up the Flatirons Freeway and end up at the morgue. Ugh.
I think the Deputy must have closed Strava when he took possession of Andy’s phone, which didn’t have a passcode on it. Strava only records when you’re moving so this saved the battery life.
Seeing Andy’s day, visually, really hit me. I’m feeling it as I share with you.
Why am I sharing with you?
I am going to tell you why.
Since turning 30, I’ve been gradually whittling away at my acute risk exposure.
Technical rock climbing
Small propellor-driven aircraft in mountainous terrain
I lost very little by eliminating these items from my life.
Because I was able to look deeply at the reasons I wanted to hang onto things that could ruin my life.
What’s the source of your risk-seeking behaviors?
For me it was a combination of factors: a lack of impulse control, a short-term high and a desire to do things other people couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do.
Elite sport forced me to address my impulse control issues.
I replaced short-term highs with the serenity that comes from having good judgement.
I refocused my desire to do difficult things… I focus on being a better person over time and have a set of habits that nudge me in this direction => my wife/son are my backcountry partners and I wake up very early each day.
If you are not ready to make a change then I understand. I’ve been working at this for 20 years.
I’ve kept areas of risk in my life.
Traveling alone in the backcountry
Winter driving on highways
Riding bikes on open roads
Skiing the toughest downhill terrain I can manage
Here’s what I’d like you to do.
Minimize the impact of your choices on the people around you.
Pay attention when friends and associates die doing what you do. I haven’t had a friend die from bike racing but I can put a named-deceased on each of the other lines in my list.
Run a GPS-track in the backcountry and have it automatically ping to a satellite. Every ten minutes my location bounces off a satellite to a web page. Your family is going to want your body when you’re done with it.
Outside the backcountry? How about a Road-ID bracelet and a Garmin Watch.
Share your definition of late. Andy made this crystal clear and it saved us a lot of worry over the years. It also let us know immediately when he was in trouble.
Sure, it’s tough to watch his Strava file on Google Earth, but it’s a lot better than wondering what happened for the rest of our lives.
Those are the big three.
At the micro-level, I mitigate risk with fitness, snow tires, a big vehicle, knowledge, avoiding risk-seeking peers, not calling audibles, turning around and carrying everything I need for running into someone else’s emergency (because it’s never going to happen to me, right?). 😉
Risk works both ways. Lots of little risks become material, yes.
But also, chopping your tail risk and combining with mitigating factors… can reduce your likely penalty over a lifetime of repeating the same choices.
And, just in case you get chopped, remember the Big Three => Pay Attention, Run GPS to a Satellite and Define Late for those who love you.
One last thing.
Here’s how I make key decisions in my life.
September of 2000: I was sitting in a very nice townhome in Hong Kong. At 31 years old, I had arrived at the top of socio-economic pyramid, exceeding my wildest childhood dreams.
I was doing work that I was good at, and I was well paid for that work. Outside of work, I was a top athlete in the local amateur community and had a great group of friends. Yet…
I felt empty when I looked ten years out. All I could see was an older, wealthier version of myself.
That’s not the life I wanted.
The filter I used…
You’re 50 years old and sitting in a doctor’s office. He tells you the tests came back and you have pancreatic cancer.
How do you feel?
Balance that against something I told my friend KP after he ticked past the age his father died…
Despite an irregular year, my fitness followed a typical pattern with a clear peak around the end of August.
Because of COVID it’s going to be tempting to change things up this winter. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. The earliest I can see a return to racing (other than super-spreader events in soon-to-be-personal-freedom-loving-hotspots) is Q3-2021.
You want to be thinking about multiple base cycles. This season, more than ever, early base is really early… …we’re way out from when you’re going to want to perform.
Here’s some ideas that might help you avoid common pitfalls.
Drop your zones – I spent the last 7 weeks pushing one-rep maxes and climbing mountains. I was either sore or exhausted, and had many days where all I could manage was easy spinning.
The reduced bike load had the effect of drawing down my aerobic bank account. I got my money’s worth and am satisfied with my COVID-summer. Coming back to “real” bike training…
1/ I put in place a 130 bpm HR cap – for this first cycle of the 2021 season. This is just under the top of my “steady” HR zone when I’m fit.
2/ Tested my low-end aerobic fitness (around 120 bpm for me), saw my power had fallen by ~40 watts so pulled 40w out of my FTP estimate and re-calculated my zones.
I could train much more intensely but what would the extra effort buy me?
1/ Know when you want to be fit and the type of fitness you require. My required fitness is sustained endurance, with pack, to guide my family on trails and snow.
At 51, my true goal is pushing out the start of old-age, which implies a large functional strength reserve at 60 years old, and a body in orthopedic shape to use it.
The best choice I made in my athletic career was to avoid choices that would jeopardize this overriding goal for my future self.
2/ Closing out 2020, building mojo gets you more than building fitness. We are going to need a lot of mojo to get ourselves from January to Easter.
The lower zones are a wonderful break from having to get psyched for sustained tempo and generating KJs when tired. If ever there was a good time to let go of chronic endurance then now is that time!
3/ Leave space for COVID disruptions. It could be a hectic winter with random quarantines due to positives at my kids schools.
I’m a lot more patient with my kids, my spouse and the reality of my COVID-life… when I’m a little under-done with my training.
Freshness is a good trade for an improved life experience.
At the back of my mind, I’m remembering that my first “COVID winter” started on March 13th. That’s 20 weeks from now!
Waking up with a foot of snow on the ground (October 26th) I think caution with pacing my season is warranted.
Hope this helps,
Two big 1RM achievements for me in 2020. 135# overhead and 200# bench.
Earlier in the block, I had missed on 205# and found myself pinned under the bar, in my basement, solo, at 5:30am. Eventually, I rolled out and was fine.