The Real Thing

Above treeline with my kids on a Wednesday – most definitely, the real thing

Cam recommended a book…



A favorite currency is good ideas.

One good idea per book, per meeting, per trip…

Taking my kids to the library every Tuesday this summer => has proven to be a good idea. We look forward to the time together.

I spent decades being too busy to implement any good idea that involved slowing down.

I was only interested in ideas that helped me get more.


The good idea from the book above is “seek the real thing” => it’s similar to advice I give myself => look deeper, consider my un-met need, what are my actions saying about my values…



Approval – social media is driven by our need for approval. We get just enough to keep us coming back for more.

For me, the real thing is teaching kids. They are hardwired to think any reasonable human is an all-star, and that feels great.

Another favorite currency… a child’s hug, a deeper form of “like.”

Self-aware of goodness in action.

With the real thing, there’s no clutter, no background noise, no BS.



The author talks about sex being a motivator and it is, obviously.

…but that’s not always an option.

Consider skin-to-skin contact.

Massage, hugs…



Time, to look around

As an elite athlete, I’d rarely stop, take pictures or notice my surroundings. There was a constant feeling of being in a rush.

This feeling goes back as far as I can remember.

At child’s pace, there is plenty of time: tiny flowers, distant goats, chubby marmots, streams, snow patches shaped like dragons and bugs…

Time to notice > scrolling in air-con.

There’s a persistent illusion that I’m doing something when I’m roaming online, but I’m not.

And nature is a much more effective form of nothing.



…but I need to get past my personal inertia.

…and that’s the author’s point.

In a world of competing interests, prior commitments and personal goals… where to focus?

Focus on moving myself towards the real thing.


Each of our kids has a calming blanket – programmed into them since birth, along with skin-to-skin human contact. The blue one in this pic works well on both of us. 😉

Changing Everything

This picture releases wonderful feelings. I collect favorite pictures of people with whom I want to be effective.

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


As a young man, I thought the answer was having a million-dollar net worth.

I was wrong, five-years living expenses was the key point, ~$125,000 in the mid-1990s.

For 15 years, everything beyond that point merely generated lifestyle inflation.


Later, as an elite athlete, I spent five years acting as if the answer was “winning Ironman Canada.”

I was wrong, the choice was switching from mountaineering to triathlon.

September 1998 was the moment of change, or perhaps leaving my house for a walk in the fall of 1993.


1986 => I made a choice to study finance over law or medicine. This was key, and I spent 15 years learning about money.

The lesson here might be to assume, coming out of high school, you are going to work your tail off for ~15 years in whatever field you choose for your major in college. You might not, of course, but it’s a fair assumption.


1999 => I made a choice to exit my marriage and leave Asia.

Career, friends, life structure and geographic location – all different in the space of 18 months. I was working remotely as a financial consultant and learning how to become a triathlon coach.

It’s tempting to tell myself that remote work in an exotic location was useful. It was fun but it didn’t transform me.

Here’s what I got right – incidentally, it paraphrases advice given to me by a happily married woman after my divorce.

Marry someone who lives in a way, and comes from a background, you’d like to emulate.

My marriage contains different reflections of the same principle. The principle is how I choose friends, advisers and coaches.


Field of study, relationships, where I live, how I spend my time… all traditional areas for change.

The birth of our second kid was another key inflection point.

Fathers think our lives are changing with the birth of our first child, and they do, but they don’t REALLY change until the second one arrives and we’re faced with a choice in how we will support our wives and marriages.

My choice was to drop racing to free up time, and energy. It was a big change but it didn’t “change everything.” Roll forward a decade and my life feels similar to how I lived as an athlete, just less training volume and more housework!


For 30 years, I thought powerful changes could only be driven by major adjustments in my external life => Winning, Work, Wife, Wealth and Geographic Location.

Then the Pandemic arrived.

Very interesting!

The hard lockdown of Spring 2020 had me running home school, without tutors and with a lack of experience.

For the first time in my adult life, I was locked into a two-block radius of my home.

Most my discretionary time disappeared in a flash.

Eventually, I made a choice to do whatever was required so I could train before my kids woke up – my choice grew out of a decision to wake up before my kids.

Waking up before my kids was good, but I found I was simply scrolling Instagram and drinking coffee. Certainly, better than drinking beer in the evening (and scrolling) but it didn’t change my life.

The second step, exercising every morning before my kids wake up, proved transformative => self, spouse and kids => one year later we are all in a better place from the cascading impact of one choice. Through my writing the benefits of this change flow into the world.

I wanted to pass the observation along.

Why?

Because my ego taunts that I’m trapped in a never ending Groundhog Day of cleaning toilets, meal prep, dishes and laundry!

It’s easy to talk myself into a mild depression about the grind of fatherhood.

Not true!

Positive, significant, transformation remains possible…

…and I know there’s a lot to be achieved with my internal experience.

Quick Hits

I’m working on a post about Anxiety but it feels a bit preachy.

While it marinates in my sub-conscious, I’m going to blow out my notes folder.


I get my second vaccine shot tomorrow. The first had a very positive impact on my vibe.

J&J’s in the news for a 1-in-a-million risk of severe blood clotting. No doubt, we will get saturation coverage for the next couple days.

I’ll let the experts comment on the data. I want to share how I deal with risk.


The last two columns

  • Who should take a one-in-a-million risk?
  • What are my alternatives to what scares me?
  • What is the risk of a bad outcome from not taking this risk – ie what’s the risk from not choosing?
  • What are the real risks in my life that I’m taking, unawares?

The final point is a big one for me. It feels like I am reading about a male, aged 16-25, dying every week in Boulder County (pop. 326,000). Lots of car accidents.

Humans take a lot of risky shots, and avoid many sensible risks.

How am I fooling myself?

Most everything I pay attention to is a distraction from my main task of teaching my kids.


My daughter had a fabulous swim meet this past weekend. She then got home and proceeded to diva-it-up with regard to housework and making her lunch.

I get it, she was tired from racing like a maniac.

However, when she started to push back on anything other than lying down and staring at a screen… I was triggerrrrrrrrred!

Hey! You can be coming home from Olympic Trials. I don’t care. You’re still doing the vacuuming.

Here’s my philosophy… Training, and racing, are a treat. You need to earn the right for both. You earn the right by meeting your obligations to your family and your future self.

Collectively, this is a major failure with how we treat the beautiful, rich and speedy => not going to happen with my minor children, at least in my house.


Have you every caught yourself saying…

I don’t want to be that way.

I do, a lot. It was the source of the $100 challenge I gave my kids if they catch me yelling.

Well, underlying that thought is a habit of giving control to people and events outside of myself.

Of saying internally… “you’re making me be this way”

Of ignoring the true source of the way I am.

My choices, my habits and the incentives I give myself.


We’re moving off the State’s COVID dial this week. We don’t have a clear explanation of how we will move towards normal.

Here’s the chart I follow locally (risk)…


Via Boulder County COVID data – hospitalizations

And Nationally (ruin)…


Via washingtonpost.com

Our state budget is in great shape. I expected the opposite.

It is a tough time to be fiscally conservative.

Government is setting a lot of preferences in my city, state and country. I don’t mind, per se. I’m no better than government with regard to the future and I’m insulated from the impact of the downside.

I’m not writing about COVID restrictions – we’ve done a good job compared to the rest of the world => based on… what we knew at the time, and the constraints of how we set up our society.

What catches my eye is the massive amount of capital being allocated by all levels of government.

Always well-intentioned, often inefficient and an incentive for re-election, rather than long-term value.

The consequence of easy money is wasted funds and lower initiative.


I read an excellent book on Colorado Snow. It’s called Hunting Powder. Fun to read.

The author writes about being involved in close calls, body recoveries and making conservative choices in avalanche terrain.

This gives me an opening to remind you… when your downside is death, especially when you have kids, the conservative choice is to not take the risk.

Even if you don’t have kids… Gary, Henry, Andy and all the others we’ve lost to accidental death.

Every death resonates far beyond its immediate circle.

I feel the death of remote folks, every single day.

Stay.

It’s good for the collective and your future self will thank you.

The View From 52

This was the 4th take – I was trying to smile but, I guess, the pack was a touch heavy – Call me, “happy on the inside”

After a year of COVID-training, I’m in good overall shape. As a high-performance athlete, it would be time to ‘sharpen’ and race a bit. 

At 52, I chuckle at the thought of spending my summer tired and moody… while chasing external validation.

I’ve had enough winning in my life.

Instead, I’ve been asking…

What aspect of fitness might I miss at 60?

Stamina – capacity to tag along on outdoor trips with my grown kids

Strength – but go deeper and be specific!

  • Overhead capacity
  • On, and up from, the floor capacity
  • Eccentric load tolerance (downhill and soft surface loading)

Agility – the ability to move skillfully under light loads, and balance under heavy loads

Sex Drive – it’s more than sex, it’s overall hormonal status for recovery, mood and life experience

Looking at the above, none of what matters is easily measured.

That’s athletically.

It’s gets even more obvious when I step into my “real” life.


#1/. We overweight metrics that are easily measured

#2/. We combine these metrics with our most salient memories

#3/. Our most salient memories are the joys of youth and the recent past

Beauty, pace, VO2, VAM, race placing, net asset statement, followers, likes, segment timing… hang around long enough and all will decline.

What I’m trying to say…

The stuff I can measure doesn’t have much to do with where a wise person would take himself.

+++

A question I asked my 40-something wife, “Where do you want to be five years after menopause?”

I asked the question to create mental space between (a) the memories of the past and (b) the actions required for a desired future.

Each of us will have a question that helps us make the split and see more clearly.

+++

For me?

Older is going to be about three things.

Patience, always patience – In March, I caught myself yelling at my Alpha Tween. Not the best way to enter the teen years! So I made an offer, “$100 to any kid that catches me yelling.” Haven’t had to pay out so far.

Small incentives can have large outcomes.

Cultivate the kindest girls/women in my life – The last year has had a strong bias towards up-skilling my son so he can hang with me, in any terrain, in any month, in the mountains. We’re there – all that remains is load shifting from my backpack to his.

The next 12 months my focus will shift to our youngest and continuing to have fun with my spouse, who’s been talking about Rim-To-Rim at the Grand Canyon. I’ve started negotiating for Rim-To-River.

Keep on keeping on – Radical change isn’t required.

Take time to enjoy 2021.

Writing and Publishing

My writing brought this woman to me – the highest ROI of my life

I’ve been publishing for 20 years and wanted to pass along what I’ve learned.

Giving away good information for free is effective marketing, and good karma. It works best if you start by going to where the clients are and always write to your target audience. Only engage those who bring out the best in you.

Related, there is huge option value in creating a higher personal profile, but beware the costs (links to Tim’s blog on fame). The higher profile part of my life worked best when I was tucked away in a small town in the Southern Hemisphere.

Once I realized I had much more success than I needed, my reasons for continuing to publish changed:

Catharsis – if an idea stays with me for a long time then the easiest way to clear my head is to tell the whole world about it. It’s my version of Crocodile Dundee’s Just Tell Wally (link is YouTube clip from the movie).

If publishing doesn’t do the trick then it’s a sign my values aren’t aligned with my life situation. I’ve made two big changes using this test (leaving finance and elite competition). Taking the time to “think-write-publish” is as a reality check on how I’m living.

When my tone turns negative, it’s a sign I’m not living right. It has nothing to do with the subject of my writing.

Legacy & Mortality – Leaving lessons for my kids’ future selves gives comfort. Each of us learns a lot as we move through life. I’m grateful to the writers who came before.


Publishing started around 1999.

Before 1999, I wrote.

35 years and counting.

My published material generated, and led me towards, money. As a young man, it also forced me to get-my-story-straight about who I was and what I believed worked.

My unpublished material generated wealth, connection and greatly improved the quality of my life.

Worth repeating – my most useful stuff has an audience of one, maybe two.

Writing is the quickest way to flush out my blindspots (COVID, the future, how I’ll feel next Tuesday). I need constant reminders of where I’m clueless.

It is also how I identify where I have the capacity for good judgement (fitness, finances, family).

If you’ve had success in any area then your mind will try to fool you into thinking you have been successful in every area. I’m told this is an occupational hazard for great surgeons in the mountains, or markets. It certainly applies to me whenever I stray outside my core competencies. Talking to a surgeon about medicine for example… 😉

Writing is my system to counteract this feature of human misjudgment (link to Munger’s famous talk).

While I forget most of what I write (Catharsis is real), I have access to a valuable record of what I was thinking at each key decision point in my life. I spent this past week reviewing budgets and financial projections from the last decade.

With searchable email you have the same thing. Make it even better by writing a one-pager before key decisions, or simply jot down ten thoughts to start each week. 500 thoughts a year. You will see patterns, you’ll learn about yourself.

My older material teaches me to be cautious with personal memories. My memories change over time and are magically back-fitted to actual events. The principles of a decision are much more sticky in my mind.

What you’re looking for is principles that work and remembering how often reality surprises us.


The act of writing is a step, on a journey of daily action, that creates incremental improvement.

Writing isn’t magical but the continuous compounding of small daily actions will appear to be.

Winter Season Review

Homeboy chilling after a three-hour tour

I want to offer you the best lessons from my winter.

#1 winter lesson right here

This is the first winter, out of the last five, where I haven’t been ill or injured.

It’s not because of the pandemic.

It is because I resisted the urge to ramp training load until something broke.

Do you know the warning signs of doom?

  • Sugar craving
  • Hungry all the time
  • Need for double naps
  • Coffee has no impact
  • Inflamed gums (I’m in big trouble once I get this far)

Back in January, I started doing a bit of “real” training. It didn’t seem like much. I added a bit of tempo.

The session is simple, 2×20 minutes climbing on skins/skis, do it Tuesday/Thursday => 80 minutes of tempo, per week.

I’d feel high all day. For the rest of the winter, I had to remember Iñaki’s advice and resist the urge to add more.

I also had to add an extra 45 minutes of sleep, every single night, to recover (from what seemed like a tiny increase to my weekly load).

If you were injured, despite the pandemic (!), then you need to train yourself to follow Iñaki’s advice.

This habit, of increasing to the breaking point, may be applying more broadly in your life.


…and my son learned how to alpine tour

The BEST thing about amateur athletics is:

If you can learn a lesson, when the stakes are low, then you just might be able to apply it somewhere useful. 😉

  • Humility, Patience, Fortitude => how I raced
  • Consistency => no zeros => apply it to Project “Life”
  • Equanimity => focus on the controllable, leave the rest

Making time to share nature, together

Back in September, I wrote about seeking options during the Pandemic. I planned to swap 95% of my ski budget for a new vehicle, while removing COVID’s ability to screw up my ski season.

Worked out well, I traded-in three vehicles, reduced the target specification, bought my wife a new car and ended up with a 4Runner for myself.

By holding myself back, my financial outcome was better. Not surprising – I’m good with finance.

The surprising part was my ski season.

I will end March with 97 ski sessions and I never hit peak traffic, in the dark, with three kids in the car, during a blizzard…


…and our youngest is linking her turns in the black bumps

Let’s bring it together.

No injury, no illness, ~100 sessions on snow, 2 new cars, family is improving their skills…

…no net financial cost

…no peak-period driving

…during a pandemic

Take time to notice good judgement.

Closing Out Corona

Considering there’s a pandemic rolling – ski season has been a lot of fun. Grateful to get outside!

We’re not vaccinated but it’s clear we are on a glide path to exit the pandemic.

March 13, 2020 is the day we pulled out kids out of school and battened down the hatches for a few weeks.

March 13, 2021, we’re going to bake a cake and eat ice cream.


Things that surprised me:

1/. We sure didn’t pull together as a nation. We did pull together as Coloradans. I really appreciate the school, city, county and state leadership (thank you to my civic-minded friends who read my stuff). Our system worked.

2/. Being scared of Amazon packages.

3/. Shopping for shotguns (last April) when young men were roaming our neighborhood trying to get into occupied houses in broad daylight.

5/. How well simple actions work. A truism for health is “focus on reducing smoking.” Before the pandemic, I was skeptical of the role of basic hygiene. No more. This has been my healthiest 12 months since before I had kids (2008) – all due to masks, hand washing and social distancing.

6/. No financial impact – in a year where my net earned income went to zero.

7/. The power of routine. It was a HUGE pain to get ourselves into a series of useful habits. Now they run on autopilot. Big gains happen during crisis management.

8/. I kinda knew this final one from investing… take pain early. Hit yourself very hard when the setback comes. Human systems adapt very quickly to pain. I always underestimate human resilience. This was a key Federal mistake both now, and with 9/11. Politicians have an incentive to avoid pain => pain works to drive change.


Takeaways:

  1. Embrace my difficulties.
  2. Be seen to support measures that benefit the collective.
  3. Take pain early and have faith you’ll adapt.
  4. Routine and discipline are a source of deep comfort in turbulent times.
  5. Simple actions work. Stay focused on core competencies.

Ditch the habit of staying tuned to the next-big-crisis.

We still have work to do – particularly with regard to equal justice under law.

Enjoy 2021

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.

Vibe Check

Savage Kitty and her rainbow skis

At the end of the last year, I marked my calendar for a vibe check on February 14th.

As we rolled into Feb, the mess of The Other Guy’s administration was still playing out. So I pushed things to March 1st.


How you doing?

I’m really proud of my family. Lots of personal growth for us.


Current best guess is I’ll get my first shot of the vaccine before Easter. Our governor shuffled the eligibility and, as a 50+, I’m going to get green lighted before they declare open season to the entire population.

That’s one year after we battened down the hatches. We’ve scheduled a COVID birthday party for March 13th. Cake will be served.

American life-science tech is absolutely amazing. Getting back to a somewhat normal life this summer will be a payoff for relocating myself to the USA.

Take time to notice good judgement.


Who were the least reliable sources of information over the last year?

I’m always fine-dining my filters. Now would be a good time to dial some folks down, and others up.

Our bad sources of information are obvious. Let them go.


What generates feelings of gratitude?

This surprised me.

I get more benefit from good science fiction than the legacy media.

Over the pandemic I read Dune (1-8), Three-Body Problem (1-3) and Foundation (1-7). Science fiction generates feeling of gratitude in me – gratitude for my routine life, gratitude for my wonderful marriage and gratitude for the opportunity to educate my kids.

An unexpected bonus, from venturing outside my typical reading genres.


What areas of your life uncovered blindspots?

I do a little public service work in our local community.

It can be frustrating because I’m not very good at interacting with groups of live people! Zoom was a blessing – especially as my default is submitting written comments, in the chat.

I stick with it because people respect tell me I’m helpful, despite my limitations.

Get involved.

If you don’t step up then someone else will, and they might be clueless.

You can see this effect in the major US cities where a large chunk of the smartest parents have opted out of the public school system, and their school boards appear to be losing their minds.

Second, and third, order effects.


What’s on your must-keep list?

I’m reading No Rules Rules about Netflix’s corporate culture. I’m reinterpreting for ideas about leading multigenerational families.

One of their rules for employees is you need to be on the must-keep list to stick around. Good enough is not good enough.

  • What habits are holding me back from excellence? Still anger management.
  • What’s on my pandemic must-keep list? Pick one thing. I’ll go with “challenging strength training 2x per week.” It’s the one thing, where its absence, will make a big difference when I’m 60.
  • What are you doing when you feel serene? Spending time with my wife – she has a heavenly vibe that calms my soul.

1,000 days from now, the pandemic will have faded from collective memory.

If you feel like you lost a year then be sure to keep the lessons.

Enjoy 2021.

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!