Being Fifty

2019-03-23 14.56.18I expected a lot more physical decline!

The decision to phase out athletic competition was one of my best.

So much chronic fatigue is gone and replaced with healthier pursuits (strength training, human relationships, being-a-better-man projects).

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2019-03-17 08.11.54If I could give you one thing to achieve for your 40s then it would be to write down, how you get in your own way.

That’s one of the best things about getting older. The repeated mistakes make it obvious what’s going on.

Three post-it notes are enough for me:

  1. Don’t act on anger.
  2. Are you sure?
  3. What do you want to have happen? What do you think will happen?

All three are stuck to my computer monitor.

That’s my “what not to do” list.

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2019-03-13 16.07.22What about my “to do more often” list?

My 40s happened to coincide with the Great Recession, preschoolers, the death of my last two grandparents, a massive corporate insolvency and periodic unemployment.

Some years were better than others.

It took a decade to arrive back where I started:

  • A feeling of control over my schedule
  • Daily exercise: ideally, in nature
  • Teaching: kids, instead of clients
  • Seeking Mastery: skiing, instead of triathlon
  • Learning: how to think, act and be better

The core structure of my days, my values and what I enjoy to do… all are unchanged from my 20s.

What remains undone?

Parenting 2019

2019-03-15 08.09.40Ten years in, fatherhood still feels new to me.

At my current rate, I am going to settle into my role by the time they start to leave!

Recently, I took advice from a father, that’s been at it for close to twenty years.

On the subject of family governance, he is the most believable person I know. So, I was listening carefully when he shared ideas about what he wished he knew.

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No judged sports

No phones, alone, in the bedroom

Read: iGen by Twenge and Coddling of the American Mind

Optimize your family’s life for the family, do not create a series of “micro lives” for the individuals => schools, activities, geography, holiday time => make it work together.

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I know a lot of readers have kids even younger than mine (6, 7 and 10).

Somewhere between six and twelve, your family rules are going to get set — one way or another.

There’s a lot of pain involved (for everyone) if you wait until high school to change direction.

Choose wisely and be the brand.

Managing Towards 1,000-Day Outcomes

2019-02-23 09.55.59I can get a lot done, while achieving nothing meaningful, by solving problems all day.

Am I managing towards desired outcomes, or focusing on my problems?

2019-02-23 14.54.54

My favorite thing is doing stuff in nature and I want to have a successful marriage.

So, I try to be open to the experience of sharing things in nature, with my wife.

One catch…

  • 1,000 days ago, my wife couldn’t ski
  • 500 days ago, she was better but we were not sharing the vibe (more like enduring it)
  • So, we both did what it takes so that we could share skiing together, and enjoy it

1,000 days of focus was enough for the two of us to capture the bulk of the benefit (but it did take 1,000 days!).

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The big picture points:

#1 – We managed to strengthen our marriage by doing something neither of us was good at three years ago.

#2 – If your younger self was achievement-oriented then working towards mastery in middle age is extremely satisfying.

This is a game we can play, together, for the rest of our lives.

2019-02-24 09.18.11

1,000 days ago, this guy was Level Zero at the ski school. We kept signing him up for lessons and he didn’t get one tick on his skill list!

He showed NO signs of aptitude, for a year, but he enjoyed the process.

Now he’s skiing the entire mountain and loving it. His price was a whole lot less than mine. It took him ~100 days on snow and a million vertical feet.

If you don’t the work then you’ll never know if you could have achieved the result.

Be wary of letting “problems” get in the way of gradually moving towards desired outcomes.

40s Post Mortem

2019-02-05 07.30.58There were a lot of good habits in my first firm. One was holding a meeting to review all our dud deals. We tried to get value from our mistakes. Often, it would take many, many repetitions of the same mistake for the lesson to sink in.

So, if I could give you one thing to achieve by the time you are 50… it would be to write down how you get in your own way.

  1. a willingness to rely on competence, rather than kindness
  2. an enjoyment of getting too tired to care
  3. a tendency to not react, or completely over react

Do you know your list?

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Invert your errors and consider… what makes your life better?

  1. Get up really, really early
  2. Daily Exercise – low standard deviation, no zeros, frequency not load
  3. Roll a simple, visible, written schedule

Better, not easy!

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The best decision I made in the last ten years was to stop competing when my oldest turned two.

Take (some of) the energy you spend on competing and focus on being a better person at home.

Why only some?

  1. Because physical energy declines over time
  2. Because older, under-scheduled people think better
  3. Because being “busy” is a trigger for ALL the ways I get in my own way!

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Also because I recommend you don’t give too much to your baby.

I have a hunch that many of the downstream issues in families start with a young parent not defining personal boundaries and getting completely tapped out.

=> infidelity, addiction, anger, abandonment… all forms of release

The best thing you can do for your entire family system is set clear boundaries and remember that it is OK to say no.

Childcare benefits the marriage.

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Before I had real babies in my house, my “baby” was school, work or athletics.

Giving one’s self completely is a great way to live when you are young and single. Once you’re married with kids, there are a lot of unintended consequences of being single-minded.

Leaders keep their houses in order.

Letting Go

I was asked for advice on “successfully letting go, when you know it’s time to let go.”

The context was athletic identity but this applies to everything.

There are three components of how I deal with my attachments.

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Understand that mortality is going to force me to let go of everything.

In the context of physical power, we are forced to deal with this in middle age. You’d have to be a very out-of-shape twenty-something not to notice a shift as you move from 40 to 60.

Every transition in our lives can be used as preparation for the Big One that awaits us all.

Another example, from the preschool years. Parents dealing with grief from the disappearance of their babies. Our kids growing up is an opportunity for continual letting go. I miss our babies (but it’s ok).

My greatest attachment is to my kids. Some day we are going to have to say goodbye to each other. Preparing for that day is part of what remains for me.

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Acknowledge that the strength of my attachments is due to chemical signatures deep within me. I can feel them.

The transcendental experiences I had, while racing, live within me. When I speak of racing, my skin electrifies and my muscles warm.

Same deal with thinking deeply about my leaving my kids – though not as pleasurable! I feel them below my heart, just in front of my spine.

If you look deeply into these experiences, these attachments, they can be a source of tremendous energy. There is a lot of power here.

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Counter my grasping by meeting my obligations to those closest to me.

Put simply, my antidote to my mind is to be a good guy.

With a deep feeling of goodness, it’s easier to let negative thoughts pass through me and not get caught up in the opinions of others.

I deeply know that my current life is aligned with my core values.

If you’re (secretly) wigging out then it’s information that you’re out of alignment. Start acting better and your mind will follow.

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To see the power of these techniques, consider the times of your life when you’ve done the opposite.

Aggression isn’t Violence

If it turns out you brought home an Alpha Babe then you’ll know for sure by your child’s second birthday.

With our first kid, the challenge we faced was our cluelessness lived in a black box. We were unaware of how our lack of skill was making our lives FAR more difficult.

More than worrying about toilet training, speech development, when the little fella is walking… the #1 mission is early socialization.

If socialization fails then then life is going to remain very challenging for decades, rather than years.

Our approach was a minimum of three years at a well-established preschool, with wise, veteran lead teachers (Alaya).

We protected our marriage by carving our time for ourselves — hire patient, firm, college aged women.

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Dominance
If you score low in assertiveness then don’t panic!
Be cautious of falling into a fantasy of fixing the aggressive nature of your little one. We were a lot more successful with teaching how to channel their drive in a socially acceptable manner.

If you score high in assertiveness then resist the urge to attack your kid!
You won’t like the person that comes out the other side (you or your child).

Don’t tolerate other kids taking proxy-revenge on a challenging kid.

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Five Commands my kids learned very early…

1 – Baby on the ground (hand flat, palm moves toward ground)

2 – Easy, Tiger, Easy Tiger (palms facing out, gentle pushing motion)

3 – Breathe with me (exaggerated breath, shoulders rise and fall slowly with a smile x3)

4 – No hit (index finger points up)

5 – Slow it down, Slow it down (same as Easy, Tiger)

Of course, I needed to be working on these in all areas of my own life as well!

I still use these commands today… “but Dad, he’s not a baby anymore…”

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I’ve had ZERO success at changing the nature of my kids.

I have had a lot of success at:

A – keeping my exposure below the point where I start to dislike them

B – using the buttons they push to improve myself

C – improving my marriage and home life

Something for my kids, when they’re 21

I didn’t listen to much when I was younger.

These might have gotten through…

Save half of what you earn – you will not miss the spending you avoid and this constraint will have a positive impact on the rest of your life => first in appreciation for what you do buy => second in the ability to easily constrain yourself when life’s inevitable setbacks arrive.

Pay attention to what bothers you about others => fix it in yourself.

Ghost – resist the urge to justify yourself. You’ll feel different later. Personal truth changes with time and circumstance.

Climb your mountains – my time for large physical exploits is gone, I’m happy, content and satisfied with how the physical side of my life played out. Don’t wait to be great.

Be wary of the prettiest girl in high school, the star athlete, the charismatic sociopath – We are all fooled by appearances. LEARN from your inevitable mistakes. This tip is not about dating cheerleaders, it goes into every aspect of my life and is extremely hard to override.

Barbell your life – learn about your weaknesses but do not worry about them => You will do much better parking yourself where your strengths can shine. Fear ruin => my big three are substance abuse, leverage and toxic relationships. You will find yourself defenseless in the face of certain people, substances and situations. The two strategies that worked for me were avoidance (stay a mile away) and replacement (with healthy addictions).