Sleep

2016-11-26-12-06-54Sleep, exercise, kindness and childcare are the foundation of my marriage.

Here’s what works for us…

  • Optimize so every member of our family sleeps well
  • Train someone to put our kids to sleep so Mom & Dad’s nervous system get a scheduled 24-hour reset on our weekly date night(s)
  • Exercise the kids
  • Use the same routine — save energy for managing inevitable surprises

As a couple, the payoff is huge… more sex (!), better moods, less bickering, better body composition, more energy, better cognition…

If you’re looking for romance then start by improving everyone’s sleep.

2016-10-23-16-05-28Saying “no” to sleep deprivation is a difficult — you might need to say “no” to pets, friends, family, extracurricular activities.

2016-10-04-18-06-32We have a family sleep system.

Our kids (4, 5 and 8) nap on all non-school days. The minimum acceptable nap is 60-minutes alone in a dark, cool room.

  • Routine
  • Separate Rooms
  • Blackout Shades

The nap gives everyone an emotional reset and splits the day in half. Often, we need a fresh start!

Sleep is non-negotiable. Obviously, we can’t force the kids to fall asleep but we can exercise them, model the desired behavior and insist on their staying in bed without electronics.

We have colored digital clocks and everyone knows to stay in their rooms until the “Green Seven.”

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Once again, consider the opposite of the bullets (above). If that sounds like your household then you have tremendous upside!

Regime Change

2016-11-24-19-02-19A friend asked for my thoughts about “what he should do” regarding the changes that are about to happen within the US Government.

My quick answer was “do nothing.”

2016-11-25-16-16-29..but there is a lot we can do.

I spent the days after the election teaching my kids to read, helping with math and working on the family’s open water skills.

My advice to “do nothing” is based on the following…

#1 – if you are adjusting strategy more than once a decade then you don’t have an effective strategy // if you truly feel the need to change then there is a structural problem within your family plan

#2 – you should consider tweaking strategy when your life changes (not the ruling party) – unemployment, impending retirement, new dependents, less dependents, major illness, wealth transfers // external surprises are going to happen all the time — spend your emotional energy preparing yourself to stay-the-course, not feeding your fears

#3 – the best time to sell high-quality assets is “never”

2016-11-25-16-31-59#4 – all the emotional energy and financial wealth spent on elections is better allocated to the next generation of your family

#5 – the richest people in America are about to feel a whole lot richer // stay invested and, if you sell to rich people then, raise your prices

#6 – with Elaine Chao’s appointment, the pieces are falling in place for a major domestic infrastructure initiative — this strikes me as a whole lot better (for everyone) than nation building via Asian land wars

#7 – don’t build capacity, or leverage, to the peak // the next recession is likely to be large

#8 – there will be excellent buying opportunities in all our futures // I’ve been researching my next major purchase since before the last recession

2016-11-26-10-29-40The hive-mind has been wrong all year. Glaringly wrong!

I ask myself, “Have they ever been right?!”

Spending time infecting our minds with media noise is the worst thing we can do for clear thinking. Turn off the media, learn persuasion psychology and study history.

Know that the largest gains in your family’s human capital come from self-improvement, ever stronger marriages and educating the next generation.

  • Financially – stay the course
  • Individually – incremental positive change

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Financial Planning for Long-Term Success

2016-09-07-12-05-16November 1st is the start of open enrollment in the US healthcare sector. To celebrate, Unitedhealthcare notified me that my premiums are heading up by 25%. I wonder how the total compensation (salary, bonus, private jets, security, stock) of their senior people will compare to the next president’s cabinet?

I overreact to unexpected, but manageable, loses.

Perhaps you are the same?

2016-10-14-17-33-43It takes effort to make myself more rational, and avoid exposing my family to unnecessary suffering. Here, I include loss of happiness from worrying about the small stuff.

The antidote is to always frame negative surprises in the largest possible context.

Our premium change is…

  • …less than 1% of the increase in our net assets over the same period
  • …less than 0.25% of my family’s net worth
  • …less than 5% of my family’s core cost of living

The premium shock motivated me to take a deep dive into family assets, liabilities and expenditures.

We measure core cost of living in terms of healthcare, total taxation, education, food and housing (mortgage, taxes, insurance).

Our key discretionary items are childcare, vehicles, vacations, college funds and gifting.

2016-10-14-14-56-00When you’re looking at a budget, or a business, go deeper and consider…

  1. Sources of large changes in income // unemployment, vacancies, new initiatives
  2. Sources of large increases in expenses // lease rates, insurance premiums, tax rates
  3. Prudent future planning // long lifespans, persistent lower investment returns

What can go wrong? What can we do, when inevitable shocks arise?

What can go right? How can we increase our exposure to large positive outcomes?

  • Children
  • Education
  • Capacity to help others with high-value work
  • Equity investments
  • Voluntary simplicity – our greatest wealth creator

2016-10-15-09-42-33While no one can predict the future, the 30-year bond (2.5%) is indicating that prospective returns are likely to be less than any of us have seen across our adult lives.

Historically, financial freedom targets net assets equivalent to 25 years of core cost of living. While that might be true historically, have a careful look at your joint life expectancies and quantify your longevity risk.

Young couples need to consider 50-year retirements, with 0.5-1.0% real rates of return (before taxes, fees and expenses).This possible outcome is far different than what I was taught in school, or even considered five years ago.

Creating A Life With Meaning

2016-10-15-15-57-57Jonser made flag so I loaded up my Alpha Child and we headed out to Coronado.

I was looking for ideas about about leadership and creating a life with meaning.

2016-10-14-13-48-27We spent the day before at Legoland – a cover story for the trip!

lexi_pinningWe went full “Colorado” for the ceremony – pink cowgirl boots and hat.

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What do models and professional athletes have in common?

By the time they are one quarter of the way through their adult lives, the best days of their careers are behind them.

Here in Boulder, we can pay too much attention to race fitness and body fat percentage.

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2016-10-15-14-10-10So what did Jonser have to offer?

The first thing that strikes me with senior officers is how much they get done.

The trick is being challenged enough to bring out the best in ourselves but not so busy our health, family and marriage suffer.

On the flip side, drive without a socially desirable outlet leads to anti-social behaviors (addiction, aggression, promiscuity).

My Alpha Pup has stacks of motivation, loves rules and respects authority (that’s why she got the trip to Coronado). She also loves people.

2016-10-15-15-08-14Everyone who makes it through Aviation Officer Candidate School, or Med School or an MBA program has motivation.

What’s a key differentiating factor for success?

oathEmpathetic listening.

When Jonser listens to me, it is like I am the only person in the world.

Here is a skill that can be learned, and is often ignored by overachievers.

Listening is a tough one for high-energy folks — how can we get our minds to slow enough to admit external input?

I work on impulse control. Physical first, then spoken word, then relaxing with my thoughts.

As for empathy, my kids started at a buddhist preschool. The school taught the kids, and me, various techniques for taming our inner savage.

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2016-10-15-17-08-18So we have motivated, empathetic listeners, who have tamed themselves. What next?

Lifelong learning and investment in the “person” through ALL levels of the organization.

The military, teaching hospitals, ministry, parenthood — these paths have the opportunity to learn, teach and serve.

Is this a field where I am going to be able to learn for twenty years?

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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!”

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.