Passion

What were you talking about the last time you were the most animated person in the conversation?

2016-09-18-18-01-09There’s information inside your passion.

Write it down!


In my case, I was talking about trying to be a father within a successful marriage.

A young wife will have a portfolio of needs, biases and desires.

As a husband, and new father, you are going to have your own portfolio of ideas for success.

Avoid the error of seeking to change your spouse…

…instead, be the best person you can be, while seeking to understand your core needs.

Remember…

When you are under stress, you are going to have a tendency to assign blame to your partner — stop this immediately — it is counterproductive. Try a week as a single parent and remember your family needs all the help it can get.

If you ask around (about your “problems”) then you will find out the parenting experience is universal. A better way to frame your household is your “new reality!”

+++

Many of my friends have a tendency to frame fatherhood (and marriage) as a negotiation.

I think there is a more effective way, than trying to outwit, outplay and outlast your life partner.

  • Be clear and consistent about your own needs.
  • Be willing to work to get your needs met.
  • Support your partner’s needs.

Childcare is an area where couples stress themselves, and their marriage, to save from their family budget.

Most my peers have the ability to earn a multiple of their babysitter’s hourly pay. Allocate four hours of work per week — invest the incremental income in time spent as a couple and time spent alone.

A wise allocation of time can bring you closer as a couple and keep you from tipping over the edge with your kids.

 

Reaching For Success – Young Families

2016-08-20 10.51.46

What makes a successful family system?

If you ask around then you might hear love, kindness, tolerance and forgiveness. All good but, with a room full of youngsters, these “higher states” often seem unattainable.

Let’s focus on specific tactics.

2016-08-17 17.20.34Renunciation – As an elite endurance athlete, this was a strength of mine. However, what serves a high-performer’s goals is unlikely to serve one’s family.

What happens when deeply help beliefs get in the way of being a good father, a good parent, a good son?

Most of us have past habits living inside of us. Feeding these desires as a single adult have limited repercussions in our lives. As a father, self-indulgence leads to misery.

What beliefs/habits are holding me back from being a better man?

The difficulty of change is completely worth it.

2016-08-17 10.52.28Intangible Assets – What is peace of mind worth?

What price are you willing to pay for a happier spouse?

How much is it worth to teach a three-year old conflict resolution skills?

I promise that you will undervalue the intangible benefits of greater serenity and you will greatly overestimate the pleasure you receive from hard assets.

In my family budget, “luxury” spending is focused on two areas:

  • Pre-K for the kids
  • Childcare for your marriage

At the end of 2012, we downsized our home to ensure we could fund the above.

2016-08-16 11.24.53One-On-One Time – It takes one-on-one time to get inside your child’s world.

Spend the same amount of time (overall) with your spouse.

Hold sacred your daily quiet time with yourself.

With kids, spouse, self, job, PTA, laundry, parents… we have endless demands on our time!

It is “ok to say no.”

Get more comfortable doing enough for the family, rather than your best for yourself. You might never be fully comfortable with time compromises. Discomfort is OK.

2016-08-14 12.26.58Patience – it will take work, over time, to learn skills to maintain your sanity, within the natural chaos of a new family home.

Give yourself 1,000 days to see where you need help.

Go get help!

Experienced preschool teachers have a wealth of knowledge you can tap to become skillful at home.

Most my “problems” are created when a lack of skill meets my emotional habits of anger, retreat, sadness, aggression and revenge.

2016-08-13 21.00.46Renunciation, self-care, connection and patience.

 

What To Do

2016-06-26 12.45.44We can be trapped into thinking that one person can’t make a difference…

…that there’s no point in bothering

…that we will be punished for good deeds

A bias towards inaction enables the enemies of a civil society to screw things up for personal gain.

+++

This is what I got done in June:

  • Sent in my naturalization papers
  • Wrote an elected official
    • Introduced myself and my kids
    • Told him where in his constituency I lived
    • Pointed out an issue where he had done a particularly good job
    • Told him my #1 issue for his consideration
    • Thanked him for his service to us
  • Continued my home-based practice of de-escalation — when my family watches me improve myself then our entire community is better off
  • I selected a political group and a politician that “don’t get it”
    • I picked an area from each where they “do get it”
    • I shared my areas of agreement with my wife
  • Consumed less violence – whatever your favorite source… MMA, NFL, CNN, hate speech, movies, video games – choose less – I pay particular attention to visual violence as well as violence I can feel in my body – the NFL scores uncomfortably high in terms of pleasurable, tribal violence
  • Generated less anger – I can hold emotions, rather than feeding them – my mantra is don’t act on anger – the “holding” is done while breathing calmly because speaking when angry merely feeds it

Each of the above was inconvenient but, collectively, improved my life.

I need to remind myself of the overall improvement because it takes sustained effort to create the life I want to live.

Indeed, it takes sustained effort to create the mind in which I want to live!

Do we care enough to change?

One small step, daily.

 

Fame, Meaning and Risk

2016-06-21 16.41.25A buddy asked me to have a look at the movie, Meru, a compelling account of climbing at the highest level.

What an amazing movie.

It reminded me of the themes that challenge my daily living.

+++

Fame

We share a need for connection and approval.

When I see someone with an extreme need for approval, I feel compassion for the child within them. I feel this because growing up with addiction, abuse or abandonment will crank up our need for approval/fame. My kids are lucky to have parents that are present and loving.

Try this antidote.

Lots of small acts of kindness.

I’ve been at it for more than 5,000 days.

+++

Meaning

Young people thrive when working together on a challenging mission.

In middle-age, many of your fondest memories will be a result of this reality. Remember that memory is a chemical signature of a story we tell ourself.

Coming back from the mission, or simply growing up, can leave a HUGE void in your life.

Applying the kindness tip gives you a dose of meaning but you’re going to long for a stronger fix.

Surprisingly, the mission might not need to be that much larger.

  • Build a veggie garden for your son
  • Teach your daughter to use an inflatable dinghy
  • Take your wife camping
  • Drag your son on a sled to a mountain lodge

I’m constantly giving myself missions. Recognizing that I’m larger than myself, my missions have an ever lower risk of death.

+++

Risk

Teach your kids to recognize, and be wary of, risk-seekers – especially the criminal variety. Risk-seekers are exciting when your under 25. They are a disaster as a partner in family living.

Another antidote…

Gradually expand your sphere of influence…

  • Your future self
  • Your marriage
  • Your kids
  • Your family
  • Your tribe
  • Your community
  • Your country
  • Your planet

At times, I found it useful to take a break from my risk-seeking pals. I’ve tried learning new hobbies. I’ve resisted the urge to constantly benchmark myself against others.

It takes courage to make better decisions.

Wisdom

2016-06-20 09.38.59Last month, Dr. John wrote an excellent blog about medical wisdom. I’d urge everyone to read it. I took that post one step further and read Ending Medical Reversal, which was recommended in the article. If you want to make better life decisions then you need to make time to read and consider the book. At a minimum, ensure that the book is read by a leader within your family, firm or practice.

Aside from the specific examples, which are fascinating, I hope you take the following away from the book.

2016-06-18 08.42.46-2HUMILITY – medicine is a global field where we have tens of thousands of our brightest humans spending trillions of dollars. The book makes are strong case that 30 to 40% of that expenditure provides no net benefit to humanity.

The authors lay out numerous examples where billions are blown for no net benefit. It is a wonderful reminder of our shared capacity for irrationality and misjudgment.

+++

2016-06-18 08.44.11PARACHUTES – one of my favorite parts of the book is when they explain that there aren’t a whole lot of parachutes left in medicine.

What does this mean?

If all of humanity has to jump out of an airplane then nearly all of us are all going to do dramatically better if we’re giving a parachute.

A parachute is an intervention with big positive outcomes for a large slice of the population.

What are parachutes that you can apply in your life?

They probably include items like: exercise, germ theory, antibiotics, vaccines, not smoking and seat belts. In a capitalistic society, there’s a clear role for government to play in keeping society focused on the big ticket items.

+++

2016-06-18 08.33.54EXPECTATIONS – let’s say you do your part and follow the “parachutes,” what’s a reasonable expectation from modern medicine?

Keeping in mind that 30-40% of modern interventions are bunk, I was left with an expectation that most procedures will usually make most people a little better.

That’s it.

+++

If we have the courage to consider:

  • widespread error
  • limited number of high-value options
  • realistic expectations

then we might find that there are new resources to focus on parachutes in other areas of our society. The cost of the status quo is often hidden from view.

There are plenty of good ideas: universal basic health services, early-childhood programs, pre-K, drug treatment, parent coaching and financial literacy training (see Kristof at the NYT). Other authors prefer infrastructure projects.

Whatever your preference, it’s clear that uninformed choices can waste valuable resources.

 

+++

A final note about change.

Even clearly harmful treatments can take a decade to exit the system (plenty of examples in the book). Strangely, I took this as a message of hope.

You might not be able to reform the healthcare system but you can certainly make better decisions within your own life.

Keep at it.

Ultimately, the truth wins.

Breaking Down Family Risks

2016-06-09 17.39.38In May, I wrote about a misplaced sense of entitlement being our family’s greatest source of loss.

There are two components implicit in the article’s discussion of loss.

#1 – permanent loss of capital

#2 – loss of purchasing power over time

A wise advisor will keep these two factors front and center when discussing the risks associated with your assets, income and spending.

Unfortunately, wise counsel runs counter to human nature which likes to discuss…

Prediction of the future – we love stories about how our decisions will do better than other people’s decisions.

Fear of price volatility – nearly all price movements represent noise that can be ignored.

Two phrases for you to repeat daily….

No one can predict the future.

Volatility is not loss.

2016-06-09 21.25.10Instead of scaring yourself witless with the news, do something useful.

Turn your electronics off (ideally, for a week) and consider…

#1 – Where is the family exposed to permanent loss of capital?

#2 – Does our life situation protect us from the loss of purchasing power over time?

Consider further…

#3 – Where are our uninsured catastrophic risks – health, life, fire, earthquake, flood, asset concentration, counter party, addiction, fraud, abuse…

#4 – What is our ratio of net assets to core cost of living – how many years, months or weeks do we have?

#5 – What is the ratio of net assets to actual annual spending – most families have significant discretionary spending that can be cut in crisis. If necessary, do we have the ability to change and extend the years, months and weeks of cushion?

#6 – What percentage of our cost of living is covered by passive income (rental income, dividend income, interest income)? How does this income change over time?

a – rental income // an indexed source of income based on local economic growth, there’s also a potential capital gain associated with the land value, However, there is the potential for vacant periods as well as the need for occasional large investments with the building

b – dividend income // in a low-cost index fund, this source will be indexed based on national/international economic growth. There’s no potential for capital calls and you will have the ability to sell in small increments

c – interest income // this is fixed source of income, where the best you can do is get your money back at the end of the loan period.

If you put a number beside each of a/b/c and lay out your other sources of income (employment, pension, social security, partnership) then you will see how you are funding your annual spending.

Most families will have concentration in income, as well as assets. Concentration is a source of risk.

Are we acting on the right things?

Change slowly.

 

 

The Blue Flame Years

blueflameLast week, I might have left you with the impression that it’s always a good idea to trade money for time. Here’s a counterpoint.

What do you plan on doing with that time?

As a young adult, I had the opportunity to travel before graduating college. I spent much of that summer drunk. A dangerous trade for a young man with a family history of addiction and mental illness.

Later, I dialed down my drinking and discovered a big increase in time on my hands. I was fortunate to fill this void with sport.

As a coach, I often saw athletic performance decline when an athlete gave themselves more time to “get serious” with their sport.

A high-powered lawyer shared his fear of retirement. He was terrified at the prospect of increasing his non-working lifestyle (sleep, booze and high living).

With a bit of luck, your parent’s helped guide your focus. If not then you would be smart to channel that energy into areas that you’ll value in later life…

…but what the heck are those things?!

Here’s what the young man (in the picture above) got right.

An education that you can apply to help other people – this could range from finance (helping myself) to engineering (building things with others) to medicine (helping others).

A habit of lifelong physical activity – if your parents didn’t pass this on to you then you’d better start immediately – don’t get wrapped up in performance, focus on touching nature every day.

World-class peers and mentors – when you are burning bright, it is more important to learn, than to earn. During a two-year apprenticeship, I was paid peanuts by one of the best firms in the world.

An ability to live cheaply – this accomplishes three things: (a) gives you the flexibility to take any type of work; (b) minimizes debt from your education; and (c) enables you to continue an early habit of saving money for freedom.

A fear of debt – assume that every $1 you borrow before 25 is $10 that you won’t have at 40. Frankly, if you don’t quickly establish a habit of living within your means then it will never take hold. Ask your parents and study their friends.

A love of work – here’s what my wife gets right about endurance sports for kids – growing up active, my kids are associating output with fun. If you have an alpha child then sports are an essential part of not ruining, or drugging, what makes her great.

I have made a ton of mistakes.

A handful of good habits mitigated the damage.