My Children’s Laughter

Loading UpIn my mid-20s, it dawned on me that I had saved enough money to sail around the world.

Instead of a trip, I took a promotion.

By my early 30s, my net worth had grown and I took a leave of absence, to effectively, exercise all-day everyday.

It wasn’t a feeling of financial security that pushed me to make the change.

It was a set back, an unexpected divorce.

Other major changes have been triggered by unemployment or massive financial loss. In buddies, I’ve seen health issues as the trigger.

Most recently, it’s been misery. Unexpected misery has proven to be the most useful part of parenting.

A story about coping…

BelleSince 2008, I’ve done, or seriously considered…

  • Studying ministry
  • Teaching my kids, my wife’s family’s religion
  • Selling my house, buying a catamaran, sailing around the world – this would include boat-schooling my kids
  • A bioscience degree
  • Various start-ups
  • Returning to finance
  • Pursuing a world-title in a niche sport
  • Pursuing a world-title in another, even smaller, niche sport
  • Relocating to Australia
  • Relocating to California

Pretty big list but I’ve discovered that major change is unlikely to be the solution to a question, that I’ve had difficulty framing.

In my search, two mantras popped up…

2016-01-28 10.03.11Everything I need can be found at home – there is no happiness available in a new sport, new town, new house, new job, new partner… that isn’t available within my existing life.

2016-01-27 11.38.06Meaningful work is part of the solution – everything that I’ve enjoyed in my life is a result of effort. I’m constantly trying to fool myself that doing less will create more happiness. I have the means to make myself miserable through sloth.

Road tripBut what to do?

There are two traits with guaranteed huge payoffs to myself and every person with whom I interact – patience and kindness.

Patience moves my inner life towards serenity.

Kindness vaccinates my mind against anxiety and the opinions of others.

At some stage in your life, I hope you realize that you are free. When that realization touches fear, and a feeling of “WTF now?!”, I hope you remember to fall back on kindness and patience.

What does all this have to do with my kids’ laughing?

After five years of effort, I wouldn’t describe my inner life as jovial. However, I live with three of the happiest children in the world.

When I listen to their frequent laughter, I know that I am happy enough.


Fatherhood: Giving Myself A Break

disneyDuring the school year, my son and I have a routine. When I come back from my afternoon workout, he takes a bath while I have a shower. It’s a win-win-win as the two of us end up clean and my wife likes a fresh family.

Last week, as I was heading out the door for date night, my son asked me to help him get clean.

One of my reactions was fear.

  • Fear that if I gave into this request then I’d never get out of the house.
  • Fear that if I gave into the request then the requests would never stop.

Fortunately, I was able to pause before I acted on my fear.

While pausing, the thought arrived that I MUST break this pattern of behavior in my boy.

What pattern was that?

Loving me, or wanting to spend time with me? 😉

Pausing a little more, I thought about everyone in the situation.

  • The Sitter – being left with a dirty, unhappy four-year old
  • My Wife – sitting outside, content with her apps
  • My Boy – wanting his dad to spend time with him
  • Myself – feeling a wall rising inside me as I’m tempted to close out my son

I sent my wife a text that I’d be a bit late, enjoyed giving my son a bath and everything worked out fine.


I share this story because it highlights a dangerous habit that is easy to create.

Closing my inner life because I’m scared of future demands.

If you look for this pattern then you will see it everywhere.

  • Gifting – refusing to help now, to avoid being asked later
  • Parents – giving into the desire to break the child now, to “help” them later

Inside me, the habit feels like a form of revenge.

I’ll turn away from you now, because that’s “easier” than having to say no later.

Looking deeply, I’m the one that is hurt by this habit (and I’m robbing myself of the feel-good benefit of being a nice guy).

Harsh people think their hardness is a long-term favor to the people in their lives. They probably learned this habit in a difficult childhood.

My heart tells me that I’ll be OK with the risks of staying open to the people in my life.

Be brave.

Thriving In An Imperfect World


At the start of the month, my wife received some “bad” news. She was reminded that one of our pals was probably cheating. It’s wasn’t a big cheat. Well below a felony. But it created some cognitive dissonance for her.

She sighed… “but I thought he was one of the GOOD guys.”

It’s a thought that I often have myself…

…especially in February, when frauds and felons can become the focus of my endorphin starved brain!

I’ve been coping much better this winter and want to share some quick tips that might help you thrive in an imperfect world.

Parenthood has shown me the value of loving an imperfect person

You might think that I’m talking about my love for my kids.


It’s is my kids’ constant forgiveness of my own shortcomings that is most valuable. Their forgiveness helps me become a better person.

So, I remind myself that it’s OK to love an imperfect person.

That said, past choices are a powerful predictor of future outcomes. Put differently, people that consistently make poor choices are more likely to have bad outcomes.

So, it’s OK to file away that I don’t want a close relationship with someone that doesn’t share my values. I will even go so far as to write it down in my diary. I’m a sucker for charismatic charlatans!

The other observation I shared with my wife is that she is a good person. It is transformative to believe in the goodness of the people around you.

What’s the inner emotional trigger when we find out someone has been naughty?

That the world might find out about all of my own shortcomings!

So the best antidote might be to own my disappointments and fix them in myself.

Finally, even with all the shortcomings, it’s great to be alive.

Renewing My Vows

ax_leavesHopefully, I’ll be around so my actions teach my children this post before their first kiss.

If not, then I leave it to point them in the right direction. Read it to them annually, at graduations and at their weddings.


Have you ever heard couples discussing their wedding vows? Perhaps wondering if they should include “honor and obey” in the words they exchange? That seems silly to me because it overlooks the essential components of EVERY long-term relationship.

What follows is how I try to live my marriage, and through my marriage interact with everybody. It wasn’t always this way – as a young man, my greatest weakness was a lack of compassion and an inability to see the second order consequences of my habit of hurting other people.

What are the most important ways that we honor each other?

First, and most importantly, is a commitment not to hurt other people.

Relationships fail when we get caught in a cycle of keeping score, tit-for-tat and not breaking the chain.

We don’t even need to be in the same room with each other to perpetuate this cycle. When I hear about marriages through third parties, I can feel the pain that the couple is creating for each other.

So I offer: I’ll do my best not to hurt you and ask that you forgive me for the many times that I’ll fall short.

Small children understand forgiveness instinctively. Each morning, I get a fresh start and, hopefully, I see each morning as a chance to get a little better than yesterday.

Now, my children will be like me in many ways. This means that they will arrive at adulthood with habits that will torpedo their relationships if not addressed. The most toxic of these habits is enjoying subtle retribution and justified anger.

So I offer: When I feel pain, I know it will be because I you have touched one of my many limitations. I vow to turn that knowledge inwards and try to make incremental progress.

I’ve been married for close to a decade. By chipping away a little bit each day, I make progress and, together, we strengthen our marriage.

It is my improvement, not my position, that makes me fit for leadership, and shows that I’m worthy of being honored.

Being honored for experience is great but being forgiven is much more valuable than being honored.

In a successful relationship, my errors are forgiven, rather than acting as triggers on top of 5, 10 or 15 years of repressed, mutually reinforced pain.

My dearest, I promise that I can handle the truth.

In life, we are tempted to protect others from the truth. This is a mistake and you will find that your strongest relationships are built on being open. In sharing our individual truths, we can work towards understanding what rings true as a couple.

The wisdom of these lessons becomes clear when you invert them.

Relationship failure is characterized by retribution, blame outside of myself and suppression of truth.

I failed many times before I learned a better way.

In order to shape my reality, I started by accepting it.

Chose wisely.

One Kind Word

Duty CallsSometimes I watch my friends get caught up in drama, and sometimes I watch myself.


What’s your mission?

Whether you desire riches, fame or simply want to be loved, it helps to figure out the “why” of your existence. We get a lot of clues through the people that we admire.

Here are some of my whys for living

  • Write Books – help my kids; establish expert credentials; challenge my mind; get my ‘story’ straight
  • Blog – use my best form of expression to connect with like minded people to share my experience so we all feel less alone; experience gratitude from sharing my story; hold myself accountable to the ideas that I express publicly
  • In My Family – fulfill my role as a member of the family; What’s that role? Just love ’em.

At the care center where I volunteer, they have a flow chart that helps the team figure out when to act. I probably walked past the chart 50x before I gave it a read. The first question was revolutionary:

“Is this my domain?”

Each time I’m tempted to engage, I’ve been pausing and asking, “Is this my domain?”

It’s been eye opening to discover how much of my life isn’t my domain. In fact, I can ditch much of my internal strife by sticking to my domain.

Sometimes, it is my domain – take, my kids. With a pause, I get a chance to consider my goals, “teach my kids by my actions.” If I don’t want them to freak out with each other, then it helps not to get caught up in transient dramas.


Being angry at injustice is a source of energy. If you pay attention to it then you can simply open up to the feeling and change the emotion. Anger, with a bit of time and breathing, can change into a desire for positive action.

That sounds great and I might get there. However, I’m not that Zen, so I convert my negative feelings to a drive to empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, fold the laundry or vacuum.


Later, I look deeply and consider what’s really driving the response.

Often, I will try to con myself that I want to help others but, in my case, it’s a desire to make the world more like me, or get you to change your opinion to show me you care.

If I’m still stuck then I look for a way to send the person a little bit of love – a kind comment, any small gesture to help alleviate their pain. For people that get caught in hate, there’s always a source of pain that’s hidden from our view.

One kind word can break the chain.

Let’s Agree That It Is OK To Say No

I was chatting with a buddy and asked if I could borrow a book.

“No, you can’t. Go buy it for yourself.”

“But, I promise to return it.”

“I know you’ll return it, Dave (mutual friend) wouldn’t return it but you would.”

“But, if I buy it for myself then the author (a writer that cashed in on exploiting my pals) will get my money, and that bothers me.”

“Sorry, can’t help you, that’s your issue.”

My friend says “no,” without reservation, many times per day. He’s a grandmaster of “no.”


The ability to say “no” frees us from the emotional drain of doing what we don’t want to do AND frees those around us to be open about their needs & desires.

Everyone is better off.

Running a major corporation, dealing with a demanding friend or guiding an energetic preschooler, puts us in a position where we will never be able to meet every request. We will never meet the demands of the world, or our inbox.

To protect our ability to do what needs to be done, we need to create a habit of shedding what we can’t do.

It’s OK to say “no.”


Another example. Over at Endurance Corner, we host training camps for triathletes. At the start of camp, I often say:

We’re here to support your camp. Feel free to ask us for anything you need. If we can get it done for you then we will make it happen. If we can’t get it done then we will tell you why.

Ask me anything.

If I can serve you then I will do it.

If I can’t serve you then I will tell you why.


Much of the stress we experience in our lives comes from a reluctance to say “no.”

Toxic people and sociopaths use this reluctance against us. It’s a form of abuse and they feed off the abuse. We’re not doing anyone any good by complying with their wishes.

Within your Family Web, see if you can get everyone to agree that it is OK to say “no.”

It’s better for everyone.

Cyber Strikeout

Consider why you are on the internet.

I’m on because it is an effective way for me to share my writing, communicate quickly and learn. I need to remember these reasons because the internet, like certain people, can be an emotional drain.

In cyberspace, I operate a one-strike-you’re-out policy. When I come across a source of discord, I block it. Following a decade of pruning, this only happens once a quarter and keeps my mind free of clutter.

I’ve noticed that many of my pals take Facebook quite seriously, with posts and comments impacting their mood. I’ve heard…

  • Did you see that…
  • I can’t believe that…
  • Why did they…
  • I wish I had less friends…

Most people struggle to break free from tabloid journalism – we’re all hardwired for voyeurism. The way I started was to eliminate one site for a month – I started with a chat forum that I used to check hourly. It was tough but I told myself that I only needed to last 28 days.

Because our brains are wired to notice negatives, more than positives, it only takes a small trigger to adversely impact our mood. Within your online life, it might be worth considering your strike rate.

How often does a site, a person or a situation trigger negative thoughts?

In my life, Facebook and chat forums had a strike rate of once per login. It was easy to see an immediate benefit from breaking their hold on me.

Similarly, because they have a low value-to-noise ratio, there aren’t comments sections on any of my websites. My sites exist to share useful information and free my mind via publishing.

Leaving a habit behind forever can seem daunting. As humans, we’re very attached to our habits, even those that hurt us (smoking, abusive relationships, toxic people, media sources that generate fear & anger).

Take a break for 28 days then ask yourself if you miss it.

This habit will change your life.