An Enduring Source of Happiness

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Clayton Christensen died last week and he left us this article, which was written ten years before his death. His questions…

First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

Articles, like Clay’s, encourage us to take positive actions to guide our life path. However, particularly when I was young, I had no idea about my future self.

Frankly, it was tough for me to understand myself in the present => ruled by passions and an energy I could neither understand nor control.

I had radically changed my life when I came across Clay’s article. These changes were heavily influenced by another HBR article, Managing Oneself, which I read annually. Combining the articles will give you more than applying them separately.

For me, it remains a whole lot easier to see “what not to do.” To see where I don’t belong and to consider where my repeated mistakes are likely to take me.

Every mistake, not addressed, will repeat and strengthen.

Via Negativa – defining a life with meaning by knowing what it is not => from 15 to 30 years old… my life was a case study of what not to do.

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Clay makes the point that you need to get going with creating your ethical anchor because, otherwise, you’ll get too “busy” to address the stuff that’s likely to wreck your life!

Career, family and self => here is a question I asked myself for 1,000 days around my 30th birthday…

If this behavior continues then where is it likely to take my career, my life and myself?

Initially, I was focused on other people’s shortcomings. What they were doing to me, and around me. Eventually, I started to look inward, at my own role.

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I was very fortunate to start my career in finance, a field where you can build capital in a relatively short time => 3-7 years learning the ropes => 3-7 years saving money, keeping my personal burn rate down and building the courage to leave.

In finance, winning is defined by making money and, looking back, the people that stand out were the ones unwilling to bend their ethics to make money. My first team was led by these sorts of people and I loved it.

What wasn’t working for me at the time was my personal life, which was filled with periodic alcohol abuse and consistent overeating.

I lacked a central anchor around which to make myself a better person => sport, religion, family, ethical work… there are many ways to “solve” this core need.

My firm, and friends, tolerated my personal shortcomings and tried to nudge me towards better behavior.

I smile remembering their nudges.

If you’ve tried to reason with a belligerent, and aggressive, person then you’ve probably discovered that polite nudging is ineffective.

What works better is time, and the inevitable smackdowns that life delivers to us all.

You might get fired, you might get really sick or injured, your firm might go bust, a close friend might die…

These painful episodes can provide an opportunity to reflect and ask, “Where are my choices likely to take me?”

By 31, the path ahead was becoming clear and it was likely to be filled with regret.

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In my early-30s I decided to spend a lot of time in places filled with people living in a way I wanted for myself => an outdoor life with friends.

I also found a central anchor, endurance sport, which provided a framework to address (some of) my personal shortcomings => binges were pushed into my offseason…

Turns out my “career” after finance wasn’t going to be elite sport. Two problems there. First, I wasn’t able to make much money! Second, another values misalignment with the concept of winning => we excuse awful behavior in our athletic champions.

My central pillar was going to become family, but not because it is fun. Rather because it is extremely difficult in a way that provides meaning and satisfaction.

My problems are an ideal fit for molding me into the person I want to be, forcing me to connect with others and providing me with an enduring source of satisfaction.

Getting yourself to the “right” set of problems can be more useful than solving everything coming across your plate. In my 20s, I was highly productive but not getting anything meaningful done!

Print the two articles out, make notes and take one positive action each day.

Where are my actions likely to take me?

 

Three Marriage Habits

2019-08-24 11.04.17Consider the purpose of your marriage.

Why did you get married?

Why stay married?

2019-08-14 08.14.55-1I am in my marriage for Lifelong Companionship

It is an overriding theme to everything.

Consider…

Do my actions move me towards my desired outcome?

2019-08-13 18.30.02Three habits I seek to create.

#1 => Tell the truth, slowly – foremost to yourself, also to each other.

If your life can’t handle the truth then change the way you’re living.

Being open with each other can be awkward but it’s better than the alternatives.

I always overreact in the short term, so I need to speak my truth slowly. A 24-hour time delay is usually sufficient to avoid an unforced error.

Daddy_blanket_and_Ax#2 => Do more than your share – I’ll illustrate with a story. For the last year I’ve been getting up early, working out before the kids are awake and keeping the hammer down for a couple hours once the house gets rolling. I was kinda looking for an “attaboy” or a “you’re incredible” from my wife. Instead I got…

You’re not lazy.

Reflecting on my “lack of laziness” indicated:

A – our spouses do more than we realize

B – because of “A”, your spouse might think you are lazy

Visible housework is one of the best things we can do to correct misinformed opinions.

2019-08-12 07.41.26#3 => Never rip your spouse – in public, in private, in your mind. A habit of bickering will not serve you well.

Negativity drives good people from our lives. Bring yourself back to the goal… lifelong companionship.

Talk like everyone is in the room.

wedding

You are going to think that you need to get your own way.

Our minds spin all kinds of stories about how our lives will be “better” if we get our way.

Pay attention, most disagreements are a habit of taking the other side.

Lifelong companionship is far more valuable than short term victories.

Yield.

 

 

 

Family Leadership

My kids are at the stage where they’re still asking for permission to go to the bathroom.

That will change.

When it does, I want to be ready for a chat on family leadership.

As a young man, I was a passionate believer in advancement based on merit. Merit being (solely) a function of competence and output. This suited me because what I lacked in tact was overcome by effort. I’m guessing most teams have members with weaknesses that are overcome by high output.

When we ask the world to judge us solely on output, we’re setting ourselves up for problems.

We are going to find most people confusing. This confusion will manifest in our families and relationships.

What’s my emotional output?

  1. How do people feel after they interact with me?
  2. How do I treat people that have no recourse against me?
  3. Do I stand ready to do what I’m asking you to do?

Thinking back to how I would have answered these 25 years ago…

  1. I don’t care
  2. No idea
  3. I use other people’s time and money to accomplish my goals – they are free to do what they want

I’ve found a large return from small adjustments.

What We Don’t See

Twenty-five years ago, I heeded a call to be a better person.

Just a bit better.

Frankly, at the beginning, it would have been tough to see the “better.”

My changes were, essentially, being less unhealthy and less of an asshole.

Even small acts of improvement are not easy.

They are challenging because, inside my head, I only “see” one side of life.

In the moment, my only experience is discomfort.

They are challenging because, I had created a life that supported my poor decisions.

Remember, what we don’t see.

Avoided Setbacks and Unforced Errors.

We never experience avoided health problems, relationships not falling apart, sidestepped addictions, bypassed financial ruin…

I’m grateful the 20-something version of myself was sick of being sick and decided to go for a walk.

 

 

Applying Wealth Wisely

A reader recommended a book about Living with a Seal. The book is an entertaining read, but I did find myself swearing far more than usual afterwards (burpee test!).

The book is about a marathoner who spends a month training with David Goggins (former seal). Having done extreme training, I think it’s safe to assume the rest of the guy’s life was on hold during his month with Goggins!

Complete control of your schedule and the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time.

Whether you want to train with a seal, start a business, write a book or simply get really, really good at something… the ability to control your schedule is the starting point for your journey.

Can you take a month “off” to focus on “one thing”?

A month is a good unit because it’s about what it takes for me to start a new business, write a book or bump my level up in anything.

As an elite athlete, I’d spend 13-week blocks focusing on my sport. By that time, I was already good, and seeking to become the absolute best I could be.

You need time because a second use of wealth is accessing, then following, the ACTIONS of world-class teachers.

Advice without action is entertainment.

I’ve been guilty of throwing money and other people’s time at anything I found unpleasant. It can be a winning strategy but it was a band-aid for unnecessary complexity in my life choices.

If you’re a do’er then work towards control of your schedule so you can learn-by-doing alongside the best.

Parenting is similar to learning to swim — we’re not going to become world class on a couple hours per week!

Make sure your mentors have the sort of lives, and character, that you’d like to emulate.

Chose wisely!

Mental Health for Aging Athletes

Lucho shared this video of David Goggins.

So many memories come back when I listen to Mr. Goggins share his truth.

It takes courage to change.

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Here’s something I learned from the greatest triathlete of my generation…

If your mental health relies on a physical expression of self then focus your drive on reducing your patterns of self-harm.

Everything else is details.

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Some useful details…

What’s your objective?

Can you answer this question simply, and immediately?

What’s your objective?

Not because of the the importance of whatever you are working on.

Rather, because working towards an objective gives structure to your days and meaning to your life.

+++

What’s your pattern of daily release?

Strength training and uphill cardio have better long-term outcomes than…

  • drugs and alcohol
  • violence and anger
  • outrage and gossip

…if your current alternatives aren’t working then consider…

Strength training and uphill cardio.

Whatever works for you… remove the things that prevent you from getting your daily release.

Pay attention to the habits that screw up tomorrow.

+++

What is your pattern of breakdown?

You are going to see this in your peers, before yourself.

The closer you are to the sharp end, the brighter your flame will burn.

Whether it is 5, 15 or 25 years… each body and mind has a limit to the amount of elite-level output it can sustain.

Similar to how you conditioned yourself to endure, train the capacity to appreciate when you’ve had enough.

  • Enough pain
  • Enough challenge
  • Enough exercise
  • Enough work
  • Enough glory
  • Enough winning
  • Enough dessert

Encourage the humility required to admit you’ve had enough.

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When life seems out of whack, return to the basics.

  1. Objective
  2. Release
  3. Patterns of Breakdown

Then…

  • Do good deeds in private.
  • Be your own hero.

It wasn’t enough

When I follow my own advice, life is better.

At the back of my mind, especially with kids, I have a desire for life to be “easy.”

My desire makes me chuckle because my “easy days” are often boring.

Based on eight years of parenting… easy is not going to happen so focusing on “better” is a smarter option.

From time to time my appetites come up with ideas to make my life _even_ better.

  • These ideas might be small — five beers, two burgers, large fries and couple desserts
  • They might be large — a vacation property with a cost of ownership that doubles my core cost of living
  • Many fall in between — clothes, vacations, sports equipment, alcoholic beverages, risk-seeking friends

These desires pop up as an emotion associated with pleasure, excitement or release.

Certain choices, situations and people are associated with bad outcomes.

Despite an association with pleasure, excitement or release… many of my desires are highly-likely to lead me to bad outcomes.

To tame my appetites, I pause and consider the last time I gave into that specific appetite…

I ask myself…

Was it enough?

It was never enough. Not even close!

I remember always wanting more, even while I was getting what I wanted.

My desires are frequent, but my specific desires are fleeting.

They come and they go.

If it wasn’t enough then maybe I should find a better way to live….

…and that’s the system that I’ve been sharing.

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What’s your system?

Is it working?