Building Resiliency

2019-08-11 07.56.00

I like to balance the Navy Seals in my feed with the Flag Officer in my life. Here’s what Admiral Jonser has to say:

Gordo, always remember that our words have far more power, and reach, than we can possibly imagine.

When my son was little he developed a habit of total breakdown. He could not handle the slightest disruption and we were at a loss about how to help the guy.

If anyone needed to “harden up” it was him. However, I couldn’t bring the hammer down (on the nicest guy I’d ever met).

We talked about this challenge with each other, with his pediatrician and with his teachers.

What we ended up doing was cultivating a different kind of normal for him.

My normal:

  • Read, exercise and learn every day
  • Be kind, especially to those without recourse

I focused on the above, invited him along, and gave up trying to fix him.

2019-08-13 08.08.03-1How do you help a sensitive kid learn to deal with strong emotions?

Lower The Stakes – paradoxically, expectations may be making life more difficult, particularly when you focus on external performance relative to peers and siblings.

Personal Mastery – Where can you give your kid (or yourself) a big win? Our kids try a lot of different things – climbing, swimming, hiking, skiing, martial arts, water polo, reading, math, art.

From the time he could stand up, my son had a passion for walking uphill. So I went with that, even when it meant I had to carry him back to the car! Turns out he also has a knack for skiing. So he’s 8 and he’s figured out that he can hike and ski like a man. That’s a big win in a boy’s world. Personal mastery helps, a lot.

Respect Sensitivities – at the start of the summer, I put his sister on BLAST. He was standing beside her. She shrugged me off, I merely “got her attention.” Unfortunately, my son was caught in the blast and ended up on the ground shaking from overload. I didn’t need Admiral J’s advice to see my approach had been completely ineffective.

Positive (Self) Regard – my desired outcome for my kids is simple. Basically, I’d like them to be polite, healthy and repeat mistakes less often. This leaves my mind free to acknowledge they are already better versions of myself. I share my shortcomings with them – current and when I was their age.


We stuck with the above, as best we could, and he figured out how to cope. My main role remains loving him and not making things worse!

Change happens slowly. This was a multi-year project and I didn’t notice he was a different guy until last weekend. He took a huge digger descending the highest mountain in Colorado, brushed it off and kept on rolling.

I said to myself, “this is something new,” and started to rewind the recent past. I realized my filter was out of date. Homie had been crushing life all summer and I didn’t notice.

Perhaps there was nothing to fix.

 

 

Baby Essentials

10411151_10152583824527622_2265981354170992571_nA friend just had a new addition. Here’s a summary of what I learned.

Become a Jedi-Master of the baby swaddle – this book will teach you how – there’s nothing more important than being able to settle your baby.

Put a full-size mattress in every room where the baby sleeps – we spent two years hunched up on a circular chair and could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle by spending $100 on a twin mattress.

More than vacations, clothes, a bigger house, visits to family… what your marriage needs (for the next three to ten years) is sleep and time. Time for yourself, for friends and for each other.

Say “no” to just about everything. Now you understand why your friends disappeared when they had kids!

You will get a chance to add stuff back later. For now, just get more sleep and some light exercise.

You are likely to hold a grudge against any child, or adult, to whom you overextend yourself. It is a paradox that you serve your family best by holding some of yourself back.

Forgive each other when you inevitably fall short. It’s a stressful time.

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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Better Relationships

2019-06-12 15.56.43June’s a happy month for me.

June 2000, June 2004, June 2005, June 2011 => milestones of a better life.

Before I arrived at better, I had a lot of experience with making my life more difficult than it needed to be.

“Relationships” was a particularly weak area.

When I got married (for the second time), I had no experience of being in a good marriage.

However, I had a willingness to look carefully at my role in creating a divorce.

Invert.

Do less of what moves you away from your goals

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As a coach, I would advise my athletes to:

  1. cut your intake of alcohol, sugar & cheese in half
  2. pay attention to what causes you to binge
  3. pay attention to what causes you to miss training

What were we doing?

  1. Learning how to take things out
  2. Learning how to get out of our own way
  3. Training the ability to look at our shortcomings and, gradually, address them

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What are the things that screw up relationships in my demographic?

Avoid being away for long periods of time. With no kids this meant business trips under 14 days duration. With three kids (6, 8, 10) this means I’m rarely alone.

Why’s the above important?

Let’s see…

Athletic couple, physically attractive, raising their heart rates independently, frequently apart.

Don’t come home tired. My wife put this on me a decade ago and it made an immediate difference. I’d go further…

Be seen to help out. When you’re smoked, don’t park yourself in the middle of the house and do nothing! I’ve made a habit of puttering around doing housework. It serves me well.

Away a lot, coming home tired, not assisting… if I wanted to create the perfect storm for my spouse to burn the relationship down (and feel relieved doing it) then that is a good place to start.

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Anyhow, we got to “better” and then we had kids!

Six years ago, our crew was 0, 2 and 4 years old.

Back then, my wife’s goal was pretty simple… Get. Through. The. Day.

Working through that period is when we noticed 1-2-3 (above) resulted in better.

Better, not easier!

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But the kids grew up and it does get easier.

And I looked around and discovered that I know what a great marriage looks like.

Nothing like what I would have expected!

 

Your Future Self Will Thank You

2019-05-03 19.25.51-1As a young man, 50 was well beyond the furthest I could imagine. I find myself living in a future I never imagined and it’s pretty good.

This (enjoyable) future is humbling because, on reflection, I had a tremendous amount of bad ideas along the way!

Fortunately, I failed to execute on my worst ideas.

Watching my kids navigate the world, I see bad ideas appear to be universal – at least in our household.

Two things I’m teaching them to help reduce the impact of their impulses:

First idea, not, best idea // it’s just my first idea. It might not be my best idea. I don’t need to act on, or believe in, everything I think.

Change slowly // I’ll use a recent example. I’ve been thinking about moving across town. As I think more and more about moving, I can get myself worked up about the move. The “move” is purely my creation.

Each time I notice the above, in one area of my life, I see how I create stress from forcing myself to execute my (first) ideas quickly (and these ideas might not be good ones!).

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You are much more likely to predict your reaction to future events than the events themselves.

Here’s your crystal ball… Research from your older mentors, friends and family:

What do people like me value when they are older? There is a rich history of people, like each of us, that have walked the path we follow. While my life is completely different than ten years ago, my values are similar.

Invert the question and watch… What do people like me lack when they are older? The easiest way to understand what the psyche lacks, is to listen quietly to what people say.

  • Control (over schedule, over self, over others)
  • Sex, Connection, Intimacy, Release
  • Stability (financial, emotional)
  • Health & Vitality (strength, energy, capacity to execute)

So perhaps you spend 30 years chipping away at:

  • Spend less than I earn
  • Make myself marriage material
  • Get to know my kids

And you arrive at a wonderful middle middle-age, pat yourself on the back and wonder what’s next?

Where to make an effort?

  • Friends
  • Strength
  • Health

Choose wisely.

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?