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!

 

18 Months to Make a Habit

2019-06-05 05.33.55Dalio’s book (Principles) shares that habits sustained for ~18 months are likely to become permanent.

Aiming for 18 months (~550 days) was a change because my typical time horizon is a 30-day test.

30 days is not enough time for the impact of a change to percolate through your life and impact your peers, family and spouse. Changes are still happening from an adjustment I made in December of 2017.

My main thing was “wake up in the 4s.” I got the “wake up early” from Jocko’s book (Discipline Equals Freedom).

It appealed to me because it fits into lessons I’ve learned:

  • Try faster before going slower – Daniels
  • Prove you can do it by diving into a cold pool – Purcell
  • If it’s important then do it first – Covey
  • 4:55 is more than ten minutes different from 5:05 – Willink

I can make my life experience a lot better by making my daily life a little more difficult.

“How am I going to wake up in the 4s for the next 18 months?” is good problem to have.

The problem (up early) points me towards solutions in other parts of my life:

  • Exercise early (what else is there to do at 5am when the kids aren’t up for another 90 minutes)
  • Drink less alcohol (being binary, I simply stopped)
  • Fall asleep (if not tonight then most certainly tomorrow)
  • Start every day with a win

What does winning look like on the home front?

By 8am:

  • I’ve done a workout (win for myself)
  • My kids have eaten, read and brushed their teeth (win for my family)
  • I’ve done an hour of visible housework (win for my marriage)

There’s a TON of noise associated with the above.

Does it really matter? Is this the best use of my skills? Dude, you’re only squatting 95 pounds! My “career” is taking out the compost every morning?!? Shouldn’t I be sub-contracting the busy work?  Blah, blah, blah. Why so angry, bro?

Apply those thoughts to what happens after 8am.

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.

What I Learned This Year

2018-11-23 11.00.48

You’re probably going to feel different about that later.

I say that to myself, a lot.

And I never regret following what flows from it.

Namely…

  • Not acting on anger.
  • Resisting the urge to “say what I really think”

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2018-11-19 16.44.04I recharge in solitude, ideally in nature.

I seek to fool myself that the solution (to everything!) lies in withdrawing from society.

I counter this faulty thinking by saying to myself… “I know you feel that way right now but you’re likely to need help, at some point, over the next 20 years.”

If you’ve ever been in a bad relationship then you might have a similar thought pattern…

…thinking that the problem lies in all relationships, not simply the bad ones.

I don’t have a mantra to help you get past your pain but I can say that my marriage is a great source of strength, stability and happiness for me.

“Better” is out there and it’s worth looking around.

Put yourself in a position to meet someone who shares your values.

Try to make yourself into the person you want to meet.

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2018-10-31 08.09.49My BIG change for 2018 was waking up earlier, way earlier.

I’m up two hours before the rest of my household.

At first I used the time to surf instagram and drink coffee on the couch.

Eventually, I started going to the gym.

“Gym Days” are better.

Not easy.

Better.

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2018-11-07 16.18.42-1

Life is better when I’m stronger,

Even at 49.9 years old, I’m able to be stronger than just about all my peers.

Being stronger is available to you.

Four days per week, 30 minutes per day.

Results in… better!

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Get up early, lift weights, be pleasant to those around you and when you are thinking otherwise remember…

…you’re probably going to feel different about that later.

Being Wrong

IMG_4015Some of what I know to be true is false.

Being (somewhat) wrong is a natural state of being.

It rarely harms me.

But when it does…

Boom!

What to do?

Pay careful attention where error has the greatest impact on my life.

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Blindspots – what are the areas where I am unlikely to be right?

In a marriage, a business partnership, an investment, a sport… the greater our personal, emotional investment… the bigger the fall when a new reality slams against our old beliefs.

Often a feeling of righteous anger comes forth, and along with it, a desire to lash out.

When these feelings arise I remember:

  1. I fooled myself. Make a note! It is going to happen again!
  2. Acknowledge, we all want to be fooled. I am not alone, nor am I the first to experience this situation. Nothing personal, bro.
  3. Further energy invested into a (clearly) losing situation is better spent creating the life I want, within my new reality.

It is easy to get hooked into a cycle of mutual retribution – it might even feel good, for a while…

…but you might not be aware of the harm you are creating.

Sleep, skin, hair, mood swings, cravings… all useful signals when we are off-the-path.

Tough to point this out directly to someone! The people who have been effective with me have said something along the lines of…

“I wonder if there might be a better way to handle this…”

“You’re right, of course, but you might feel different later…”

Attention

What’s the penalty for being wrong?

  • Marriage partner
  • My last haircut
  • Sports with a high degree of concussion risk
  • Sunscreen
  • Business partnership
  • The shirt I wear
  • Personal guaranties
  • The color of my socks
  • Borrowing money
  • What I am having for dinner
  • The ability of my children to teach themselves
  • My choice of car
  • My temper

Be willing to talk about what matters, with the people who matter to you.

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

Supporting Public Education

In my community, many families opt out of the public school system. Public schools are better with all our kids attending. We’d love to have you opt back and join us.

Three kids imply $100,000 per annum, pre tax, in the private system. Three million dollars of future value when my wife reaches retirement age.

For a whole lot less, consider…

Volunteer in the district — I started by helping in the classroom but realized my skill set was most useful at the district level. Monica rotates between our kids’ classrooms on a weekly basis. If you want better treatment then give.

Hire public school teachers to tutor – the single best investment you can make for your kid – you will be amazed at the benefit one session per week brings to your child.

Join education.com // it’s a no-brainer and gives you access to worksheets you can do with your kids.

Smarter application of family finances:

  • childcare to support your marriage and the young adults that work for you
  • after school activities because fit kids have greater capacity to learn
  • swap money for time and use the time to make yourself a better person
  • live walking distance to a great public school, kill your kids’ commute and be a hub of goodness in your community

I often catch myself fixating on external problems that distract me from taking action on what I control.

Choose wisely where you invest time, money and emotion.