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?

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.