Positive Change

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My inkling for change starts with a feeling that I should take a break from doing something, or seeing someone.

The “someone” breaks happen because I notice that my inner life becomes unpleasant. I don’t like my thoughts when I’m around the person. So I take a break and pay attention.

The “something” breaks happen because I ask myself the question… “where is this choice, repeated, likely to take me?” Eating habits and a couple daily beers would be examples from my life.

Anger, self pity, inaction in the face of adversity, getting really upset about external reality… other areas where “I should take a break”.

Politics, ethical lapses of others, the drama in your media feed… do you need more? So nice to dial it down.

Unfortunately, by the time I notice something is damaging me it’s already become a negative habit.

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Do It Now => If take-a-break thoughts stick around then I don’t wait for lent, don’t wait for New Years, don’t wait until later.

I make a change for a month and pay attention.

A month will not create a habit but it is enough time to see if it might be worth the long-term effort that’s going to be required to change.

The sooner I start, the sooner it will get easier to live with the change.

After 500-days, my habits roll along, mostly on autopilot. My job (on the far side of change) is to not screw up the streak, and reduce life stress when old habits start to tempt me.

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The Drain of Self-Justification => resist the urge to justify yourself with others. You are going to need that mojo for something useful!

Don’t say goodbye, don’t give a huge explanation, don’t burn bridges… Because…

First, and most importantly, I need all my energy to sort my own life out.

Second, I’m going to feel differently about this situation (and every situation!) later and don’t want to go on-the-record in my mind.

Finally, do what you need to do and be low-key about it.

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Peers => pretty clear that you don’t want to hang around your dealer, anger-buddies or gluttony-appreciation crew. The “not do” is a whole lot easier to see.

As a guy who enjoys periodic isolation, it can be easy to think that the answer is walling myself off. Lasting change needs to happen in a way than enables me to live in the world, to connect with others.

What do I want more of?

More of the person who makes me want to improve => I married her.

More of the people who motivate me to set a better example => my kids.

More of the wisdom to see the difficulties I experience are coming from the pain of change NOT from anything to do with other people.

It is not about what we think it is about. All of my difficulties are arising inside of me.

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Stress => as an elite athlete, the spring and summer would be spent with a focus on “doing.” Training stress would be high as I prepared for a race. Fall was a time for racing, then assessing. Winter was when I dropped stress down and addressed issues that had arisen during the high-stress period of the summer (or tried to put my life back together after six-months of ignoring most non-sport items).

Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a family doesn’t work on an annual basis!

As a father, I couldn’t just hold on until November…

Being newlyweds was an amazing time and I had my life dialed.

As we added, babies and financial stress => 2008-2015 => my “bad” habits started to return. Financial stress and toddlers are a potent combination if you’re prone to escapism.

I’m not sure if I realized what was happening but I noticed moments when I said to myself “I should probably take a break from this.”

In times of high-stress, keep it together as best you can. It’s going to be tough, for a while. I had a buddy advise, “just don’t get fat.” He’d gotten fat.

Once our youngest started kindergarten, I had the capacity to start making progress (back towards where I was in 2004!).

  • 500 days to make a new habit.
  • Don’t mess with a streak.
  • Pay attention to your triggers => people, places, situations.

So if you are thinking about change… choose one thing, with a low bar and do it daily for 500 days.

Difficult games can be fun to play.

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PS – As my friend, Doc Hellemans, says… “exercise is medicine” – picture above is from my 51st birthday lunch.

Marriage Material

I blew up my first marriage in a year.

If you asked me about it then, not only would I have blamed my ex-spouse, I would have blamed the entire concept of marriage.

Roll forward a couple decades (!) and here’s a lesson that I’m seeking to pass along to my kids.

Sibling bickering is exhausting, painful and universal.

Rather than focusing on “fixing” my kids – who seem healthy, loving and normal – I use conflict as an opportunity to teach.

I wait for the energy to go out of the situation.

Hey, I want to teach you a Jedi mind trick.

When you are upset…

Watch your mind.

 

It is going to fix on something outside…

…Bella’s voice

…Axel’s question

…Lexi’s tone

…my face

 

Your mind is going to trick you into thinking that the problem is out there.

Not helpful.

Because you can’t do anything “out there.”

 

What you can do is pause and ask, “What do I want?”

And you’re going to find something to helpful to do.

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Simple, not easy.

Better Sleep

I started waking up earlier, kept my mouth shut and watched a cascade of positive effects roll through my house.

I got the idea after calling myself out about my self-prescribed sleep “aids” and from Jocko’s book.

The hook in Jocko’s book was his observation that 4:55am is more than ten minutes better than 5:05am.

I began to wake up in the “4s” in February. After two weeks my body adjusted and I don’t need an alarm to do it.

Monica asked me “why” => “All I was doing was scrolling social media for 90 minutes after the kids went to sleep.”

I was wasting a key advantage => I need less sleep than my kids.

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The game is “do whatever before 5am then one useful task.”

As the family wakes up… it’s on and I’m drawn back to the family (sometimes from the middle of a workout).

Jocko’s point –predawn is the only time we truly own.

Other tips…

If you want to go to sleep then wake up – same time every_single_day – with travel, I stay on my home time zone.

I always have a cushion of sleep available by going to sleep at the same time as my kids and waking up at the same time as usual.

 

Mastery

What are the choices that bring me satisfaction?

Getting better than I thought possible at anything.

I had zero athletic success as a child (my little league nickname was “Useless”). My lack of early success makes it easy to impress myself with anything I enjoy enough to do daily. Something I can work at every day.

I use expert instruction from strangers to speed my learning process. Strangers are important — watch high-achieving spouses “teach” each other. When we notice our kids aren’t open to learning from us – we bring in outsiders. Once they get the hang of it (whatever “it” happens to be) they are keen to show us their competency.

Stay close to nature — I am trained in the desk-bound pursuits of finance, banking, taxation and corporate law. They pay well, and were a ton of fun for the first decade. However, they don’t feed my soul. What feeds your soul? Beware of craving high-doses!

Connect with others — opportunities at both ends of the age spectrum await. From teaching children to learning from aging experts.

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Excessive “anything” leaves me in a short-term state of tranquil exhaustion.

Exhaustion plays havoc with my home life because a fatigue hangover leaves me intolerant and prone to depression.

If this sounds familiar then pay attention.

Being better than myself is superior to seeking to better others.

Mastery – a different sort of game.

Long Term Healthy

Yet another friend convinces a doctor to give her a procedure so she can continue to do what’s causing her pain…

…reminds me of a realization – prescribing is less fun when I see my role in hurting the health and home life of my clients.

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Avoid Athletic Ruin

Missing one day of cardio makes me serious, two days off and I’m quiet, three days off and I’m sullen…

Ruin, in an athletic sense, is dealing with the implications of not being able to exercise.

If that rings true then what follows might help.

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Given my lifetime of extreme exercise, bike crashes and running injuries, a radiologist could find a lot of things “wrong” with my body.

Knowing that I’m a walking insurance reimbursement opportunity – I stay away from those that profit from unnecessary treatment.

When I pay attention to what follows, my body works great.

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Before paying someone to cut, inject or irradiate you…

Rest – addicts seek extreme friends to reassure themselves that an unreasonable lifestyle is sustainable – sometimes I’m the seeker, sometimes I’m the friend.

Lifestyle Modification – winning isn’t important, racing isn’t important – ask a broken down athlete what they miss and you’ll hear a similar story, I wish I could simply get out the door without pain. It’s worth a lot of compromise to maintain my ability to get out the door.

Pre-Habilitation – why not try a world-class rehab program BEFORE you opt for surgery. For non-acute injuries, rest as if you had a procedure then give your best effort to strengthen your body and increase your range of motion.

My demographic takes pride in doing what-it-takes for athletic success. If you want a true challenge then do the above and deal with the internal dialogue that results!

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Risk seeking friends – this is wider than athletics.

My past choices have shown that I have the capacity for bad judgement.

  • Elevate my heart rate.
  • Introduce group dynamics and social proof.
  • Surround myself with charismatic risk seekers.

…and you have the recipe for a good time! 😉

It’s also a perfect storm to spin myself into fatigue, injury and depression.

Remember who gets to deal with the wreckage.

Strategies for Good Times

Here are three areas where I fool myself.

Consider Ruin – I’ve done a good job of addressing the risks identified three years ago. So good that, when I asked myself the question, “What can wipe me out?” I quickly answered, “You’re set amigo.” That’s a top-of-the-market sentiment if I ever heard one.

Having mitigated the hazards of leverage, unemployment, litigation, fraud, risk-seeking peers and insolvency… my main risks are health and accidental death.

Do you know your own?

Stay Variable – I was listening to out-of-state visitors rave about the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

They’re right.

Where they go wrong is assuming that buying a condo will enable them to lock in the emotions of beautiful spring day.

I’m just like them.

We’re all just like them.

Good times give us access to additional finance/capital. We often use this money to capitalize luxuries and time.

Stay variable, stay invested and resist the urge to lock in family overheads.

Rebalance Time – the best deals I’ve done have been where I traded money-for-time.

It takes vigilance to carve time to become world-class at things that interest me. Mastery makes me happy.

Social media, marriage, long-term friendships, work/non-work, self/family – I don’t advocate being in balance – I do advocate making an honest assessment and asking myself if I’m OK with where my time allocation will take my life.

What We Don’t See

Twenty-five years ago, I heeded a call to be a better person.

Just a bit better.

Frankly, at the beginning, it would have been tough to see the “better.”

My changes were, essentially, being less unhealthy and less of an asshole.

Even small acts of improvement are not easy.

They are challenging because, inside my head, I only “see” one side of life.

In the moment, my only experience is discomfort.

They are challenging because, I had created a life that supported my poor decisions.

Remember, what we don’t see.

Avoided Setbacks and Unforced Errors.

We never experience avoided health problems, relationships not falling apart, sidestepped addictions, bypassed financial ruin…

I’m grateful the 20-something version of myself was sick of being sick and decided to go for a walk.