About Gordo Byrn

I write for my kids

Kids Don’t Lie

2019-07-09 10.57.59A segment of our local community is dealing with the fallout from treating child abuse as an internal issue – rather than seeking assistance from local law enforcement.

I have been bumping into this story for over thirty-five years.

There is never just one incident. 

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Years ago, I attended a child abuse prevention workshop.

Remember…

Kids don’t lie – in over 20 years, my teacher had instructed 100,000 kids. Out of the 400 reports received, none were false.

20 years, 100,000 child interactions, 400 reports, zero false positives.

The perpetrator will have primed your child that you will be angry and not believe them. The most likely perpetrator is a male you know.

Have a no secret policy in your home – predators use secrets against our kids – let the kids know that kisses and touches should never have to be kept secret.

It is awkward to live an open life. Awkward is better than creating a culture of secrecy exploited by evil people.

Create a support network – have your kids name five people they know and trust (ideally women) – discuss places in their neighborhood where they feel safe.

When I’m walking around town, I’ll ask my kids… “Show me a safe person.” “Why is that person safe?”

Teach your kids that adult authority should never go unqualified => even your own!

Teach your kids… If you feel uncomfortable then:

  • Leave
  • Tell
  • Get Help

As a parent, the most important thing you can say is “I Believe You.” I say this a lot, I will “believe” somewhat ridiculous things.

People that commit evil deeds are hoping you will look away.

Be Brave.

 

Dealing with Difficult People

2019-07-09 08.06.27We rolled through 14 years of marriage last week. So good!

My marriage is my most important, and easiest, relationship in my life.

This is surprising because I have a track record of being a very difficult person to live alongside.

A favorite bit of advice, paraphrased…

If you are surrounded by difficulties then remain open to the possibility that you may be playing a small role in creating them.

In my 20s, everyone tried to get through to me. Friends, co-workers, mentors, bosses, family… they were ineffective with their attempts to improve me.

Some might think the lesson is not to try.

That’s not my experience.

My experience has been to “try smarter” by focusing on: (#1) myself and (#2) getting expert advice on what those around me are likely to value.

In applying expert advice, I found it easiest to remove little bits of the “small role” I play in my relationship difficulties.

2019-07-04 19.17.39Bit #1 => my attitude is the main source of my (relationship) problems

I’m lucky to live with two people that are VERY easy to get along with (my son and my wife). They are my “canaries in the coal mine” – if they start to bother me… something is out of whack.

This is a major improvement for me. I used to get to the point where everyone, everything… would be bothering me.

When I’m on the other side of “everyone,” I pause and reconsider.

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Bit #2 => I can stay mad for DAYS

This is more common than any of us let on.

The good news… anger only becomes a problem if I act on it.

If I’m wandering around the house doing power-housework then my anger is only making myself miserable (see #1).

The payoff… once I settle down, there’s no emotional cleanup.

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Bit #3 => treat others the way they wish to be seen

The deep reservoir of goodwill I have for my wife and son comes from the match between their instinctive treatment of me and my deepest desires.

I am often unaware of my values & desires but I can intuit them by reflecting on the people I like to hang around.

For other people, I can sit quietly, listen and tweak my approach.

Call out culture does us a huge disservice, I have yet to regret leaving negative thoughts unsaid.

Better to keep my mouth shut and use the energy to improve myself.

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Strength & Training Strategy at 50

2019-07-07 09.01.30Strength gives me better choices.

Specifically:

  1. Maintain muscle mass
  2. Challenge my connective tissue
  3. Strengthen my shoulder complex (to survive my inevitable crashes)
  4. Get the bio-chemical benefits from working large muscle groups anaerobically

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My base period needs to be longer: I was very consistent with strength maintenance across the ski season. As a result, I lost less strength than prior years. However, I was WORKED at the end of the season and my mojo stayed flat for a long time when I returned to more focused strength training.

Two, maybe three, “good” sessions per week: At 50, I go flat quickly! I need to be humble with the load I put into myself.

I split upper and lower body days: in order to do quality exercises, and recover, I split my workouts across the week:

  • Monday/Thursday – lower body
  • Tuesday/Friday – upper body
  • Wednesday/Saturday – plyo (~7 minutes total per day)

Very little sustained intensity: I lose a lot when I get sick and can’t train. Put another way, my ability to go training is more important than my training ability. A calendar of events would certainly push me to do more (likely for less benefit).

I go to the gym to be around people (even if I don’t speak to them!): the core of my program has been the same for 20 years. It would be easy to set it up in my garage. However, part of my “feel better” seems to come from the gym process. The most time-efficient setup isn’t always best.

My aerobic goal is “about an hour, every day.” I’ll go longer when I can hike trails with my wife or son. I do a bunch of walking on top of the aerobic exercise.

Learning to navigate the physical decline of middle age is a benefit of middle age.

The days that start with training are clearly better.

Pay attention to better.

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Alpha Tween

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I’ve noticed that a couple mornings each month, she arises with one goal in mind…

Test. Pack. Hierarchy.

She has a go with random acts of sibling violence and a Marie-Antoinette approach to manners.

It’s tiring but far better than when she was an Alpha Pup, each of those days was a grind.

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We’ve tweaked our approach as she gets older.

Written schedule – always visible – seven days forward. Without the anchor of the school week, this is a huge help. Keeps me relaxed as well.

Binary choices – One of her weaknesses is self-directed time, so offering simple choices works for everyone. Frankly, I don’t care what she does (so long as she does something). Since her first birthday, when she’s not engaged… it’s been challenging.

With the top two in mind => Listen, consider. change later. In order to run the house, we need a schedule.

She understands “change later” and we make it clear when we’re adjusting the plan based on her feedback.

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If you have a go-with-the-flow personality then all the structure, rules, discipline… you’ll be asking, “Is this really necessary?”

If your home life is calm then “no, it isn’t.”

However, if you have a young person (or husband 😉 ) who is constantly trying to take command then they might do better with structure, routine and scheduling.

For a few days each month the conflict is real. For the rest of the month, she relaxes into the hierarchy and our mutual expectations.

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It helps to remember my goals for the kids:

  1. Daily physical activity
  2. Polite => most importantly, to people with no recourse
  3. Learn to teach yourself and live independently

I am at my most effective when I lead by example.

When I need to give guidance: immediate consequences and always follow through (especially when inconvenient).

She has a nose for inconsistency and weakness.

How Bad Ideas Get Funded

2019-06-26 14.43.54After a decade of asset price inflation, I’m tempted to shuffle the deck. I remind myself:

  1. Each time I change, I crystalize tax liabilities, pay transaction fees and introduce the possibility for error.
  2. A key benefits of an attractive position is the freedom NOT to change it.
  3. NOT following through on a mediocre idea => can be a great decision.
  4. My greatest investing weakness is the desire for change, for change’s sake.

Against the above, I’ve developed a hunch that assets are going to be cheaper 2 to 3 years from now.

Fully invested, with yields at historic lows, there’s little reason to rush into changing strategy.

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Costly mistakes happen when we overpay late in an expansionary cycle.

Where are we?

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Start with yourself => write out your ten largest items for the last year.

  • Childcare
  • Ski Season Accommodation
  • Food
  • Mortgage
  • Taxes
  • Healthcare
  • College and Retirement Accounts
  • Disney Cruise
  • Ski Passes & Gear
  • Insurance
  • Harry Potter World

How does your current rate of spending compare to 2009/2010? I’m double my bear market rate. Sitting at a 2007/2008 rate of spending (with 3 more dependents).

Are you considering any big-ticket items?

I am:

  1. Vacation property
  2. Trading up my home
  3. New vehicle

There is information in what you are willing to consider. #1 and #2 are rarely on my radar.

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What’s happening locally?

We are doing well in Boulder County, 2% unemployment, significant investment in schools, parks, and recreation facilities.

Some things stand out at the margin,

  1. multi-million dollar homes being left empty by seasonal residents
  2. houses being purchased for ~$1.25 million then torn down
  3. properties selling for double 2007/8 valuations
  4. local governments seeking to borrow HUGE and take technology risk on utilities / broadband

There are many people choosing risks they do not need to take.

There are many people sharing stories about quick money being made.

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Risk being ignored across all levels of society.

State => We have an active State Assembly passing laws and regulations as fast as the Governor can sign => at the margin… they are seeking the repeal of TABOR so they can spend money even faster.

Federal => in the news… medicare for all, national student loan forgiveness and a war of choice with Iran. No constraint on the ambitions of government.

Interest rates => at the top of the cycle, moving away from rate increases and a yield curve showing sub-2% money five years out.

VC to Public Markets => rapid internal dealing to ramp valuations prior to IPO => weak post IPO performance. The smart money is shifting risk, fast.

Every political viewpoint, local to global:

  • acting as if capital is unlimited
  • taking on risks of choice
  • increasing debt burdens
  • agreeing to future commitments of unknowable magnitude

These conditions are how bad ideas get funded.

  • Asset prices at all-time highs => a price umbrella influencing EVERYTHING
  • Cost of debt back at a generational low => easy money

If you are smart then the marginal idea that gets funded might be your own! Right now is THE time to raise money, sell businesses and unload illiquid positions.

If you are concentrated then consider taking money off the table (link is a blog of mine that’s worth your time).

Stay variable.

Chronic Endurance

2019-06-17 13.27.54A friend’s question gave me a nudge to flesh this out.

My pal asked, “am I damaging my health by pursing my endurance dreams?”

The science seems clear => you are very, very unlikely to screw up your health by exercising. Most everyone could benefit from exercising a little more often.

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However…

My demographic is different than the general public.

Call us the “screw the limit” exercisers.

What about us?

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I’m fortunate to have a group of endurance mentors that are moving through their 60s, 70s and 80s with many, many, many (!) years of chronic endurance training under their belts. Some of their hearts, and joints, are coming off the rails.

It’s tempting to “blame” exercise for their issues but that ignores the problems they avoided through exercise (high blood pressure not received, depressions not experienced, diabetes not developed, harmful addictions successfully managed).

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That said, whenever I find myself asking a question about excess, the fact that I’m asking is, in itself, part of the answer.

If you’re already exercising daily then you’re not going to find any doctor to advise you that you need to ramp that up by a factor of 2-5x.

…and you may find yourself reaching out to someone like me to get comfort that it’s OK to do a little less.

In doing a little less, but continuing to exercise daily, you will reduce your risk of ruin.

“Ruin” being the loss of the benefits from daily exercise.

Risk of ruin is what encouraged me to do less.

Immune system failure, bike crashes, lower leg injuries, death by avalanche/car accident… each is extremely inconvenient.

In doing less, I discovered unexpected benefits of eliminating chronic endurance => improved sex drive, better cognitive ability, happier joints, less cravings and additional muscle mass.

If you’re under 50, or pre-menopausal, then my benefits list will make more sense in a few years!

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What about that Tour de France study about longevity? (abstract linked)

While extreme, I’m not writing about Tour athletes.

Chronic endurance is about chasing podiums for decades after your elite career.

It’s not surprising TdF athletes live longer than their peers. The constitution required to get to the start line creates a special cohort.

A better cohort to review is “masters age-group champions” across 10, 20, 30, 40 years and compare them to “daily exercisers”.

There’s not much money to be made studying healthy people so I wouldn’t hold your breath on seeing my alternative study!

Frankly, I wouldn’t expect there to be much difference in longevity. You’d be studying two healthy populations.

Our findings underpin the importance of exercising without the fear that becoming exhausted might be bad for one’s health.

Lifespan isn’t the point.

Being exhausted is horrible for our relationships.

Look around and you will see that relationships are what we lack in later life, particularly if our favorite hobbies involve being alone… 😉

Quality of life and keeping a lid on my risk of ruin… that’s what interests me these days.

None of these benefit from chronic endurance.

 

Winning The Loser’s Game – personal finance book, Charles Ellis

2019-06-16 08.44.50This one sat on my shelf for a while, probably due to a concern that I might have to change my mind on something if I read it!

Well, just because something is unpleasant to consider, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Besides, I can handle bad news.

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Fortunately, there wasn’t much bad news inside this book and it was an excellent read.

Takeaways…

Nearly everyone will be working into their 70s, at least part time. This is a result of success, not failure.

  1. Success in following a healthy lifestyle and benefitting from modern medicine => much longer lifespans.
  2. Success in financial well being => implies our baseline spending at 50, 60, 70… is higher than anticipated.

A working life of 50+ years implies:

  • We will be technically out-of-date before we’re halfway done!
  • Multiple careers, unexpected transitions, continuous technical education
  • Start with something the enables you to get paid well on an hourly basis and become world-class in a niche market
  • If you spent your early career not doing a whole lot then you still have many decades left in your working life. Hit the reset button and get yourself educated without borrowing a ton of money.

Despite “retiring” 3x (!) since my 30th birthday, I’m still working part-time. I had been expecting this to end at some stage. This is not going to happen, and I shouldn’t wish for it to happen.

I should be on-the-lookout for attractive part-time employment and training myself for my next career(s).

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As you’d expect from a bestselling personal finance book in its 7th edition, there are excellent sections:

  • Six self-assessment questions (p 80-81)
  • Living under your means as a form of savings (p 161)
  • Annual personal review questions (p 197-198)
  • Contributing time, talent and money to your community (p 227)

I was also reminded of my personal weaknesses as an investor by the author’s advice to “give compounding time to work.”

Across a 50-year working life, that is a lot of time!