Your Life

2020-02-22 07.55.12

Last May, I challenged myself to publish 50 blogs.

The process was triggered by an article encouraging me to embrace small failures. There is a little bit of risk associated with publishing, and risk makes me feel good.

I have a policy whereby I only publish if I’m ok with the article being the last thing on my site. This is a good email policy as well. I only publish/send something if I’m OK with it being my last interaction with you.

The final two goals were to leave a record of this period for my kids and find out if we (reader/writer) have overlap in our areas of interest.

The goals were useful, especially the practice with risk-taking.

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Two things were even more helpful.

#1 – document the key strategic decisions in my life. Do not trust your memory, or your ability to remember over time. Our memories are selective and self-serving.

#2 – talent, hard work, luck => their impact is real. However, the largest impact in your life is knowing what you want to achieve. Most people never compare their daily choices to their goals. Writing helps me get straight in my head.

Marriage => athletic wife, who is kind to me

Home Life => kids who respect my desire for harmony

Financial Life => simple, low cost, long term gain oriented, enables me to spend most of my life exercising in nature

Physical Life => able to do fun things with my wife and kids, separately

Each of these implies a certain “what to do.”

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I am bombarded daily by ideas about how to pack more into my life => my need is not more. I have plenty to do!

The “what to do” helps me prioritize => for example

  • an athletic wife implies supporting the athletic aspect of her life
  • harmony at home implies routine and adequate sleep for the kids (and using incentives for them to change disruptive behaviors)
  • financial life goals are a filter for eliminating ideas that will take time away from my real priority (of exploring the Rockies)
  • physical life goals get me lifting weights early in the morning – start every day with a win

The best filter I have is my early wake up. It encourages me to say “no” to a lot of attractive stuff.

Another “not to do” is overlaying “my” goals across my spouse. It is endlessly tempting to help her improve her life (by being more like me).

Finally, watch that your journalling doesn’t become a never-ending list for Santa, or your ego.

Your life only has to make sense to yourself.

Choose wisely.

Marriage Mindset

Ax_Dad

I’ve found these helpful.

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At its core, what’s marriage?

Marriage is an agreement to never intentionally harm each other.

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I have a strange, and recurring, expectation => a desire to see my spouse happy doing things that I find difficult.

It is unreasonable to expect my spouse to be happy doing things I find difficult.

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Early in our relationship, I made a wise decision.

I gave up trying to teach my wife anything about nutrition.

I should have extended this attitude across a wider range of topics.

I didn’t marry for the opportunity to teach competency to my spouse.

I married for the opportunity to serve.

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Our children have two habits that cause problems in our house: (1) “accidentally” physically hurting each other; and (2) the use of biting “humor” to tweak each other.

Make a habit of avoiding unnecessary conflict.

Start by noticing, there is a lot of it, particularly internally.

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Winners want the ball.

To be fit for leadership, I need to figure out how to deal with this.

“This” being whatever happens to be upsetting me at the minute.

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I don’t need to “figure out” everything.

What I need to figure out is my reaction to the normal ups and downs of life!

I am absolutely certain, my future self will say I could have chilled out more.

Make a habit of yielding as much as possible.

Basic Week Parenting

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When I was training seriously, I’d start most seasons with 13-weeks where I would “stay put and roll the week.” Having a simple, basic week is a powerful tool for getting stuff done and avoids the cost of variation.

The cost of variation is the energy required to consider alternatives, to choose and to negotiate for “space” for ourselves.

When you are at the limit of your ability, patience or capacity to recover => eliminating unnecessary variation (and associated conflicts) can be a big help. I’ve brought a similar approach to my family.

I’ll use my son’s schedule as an example, here’s what he’s doing November to April:

  • Monday – school/soccer
  • Tuesday – school/water polo
  • Wednesday – choir/school/jiujitsu
  • Thursday – school/swim lesson
  • Friday – school/go to mountains
  • Saturday – ski group/movie night
  • Sunday – family ski/back home

Every-single-morning, he’s going to read for 20 minutes before doing anything. He is usually reading by 6:31am.

Despite everyone “knowing” the schedule, we write it out and place it on the kitchen counter. This lets everyone have a look and get comfortable with the plan.

There is variety between the days, but little variation between the weeks. For example, I don’t need to worry about what we are going to do on a rainy February weekend.

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The bulk of my “life” fits into the time before my kids wake up, when they are at school and my “days off.” In the winter, many weeks, my wife handles the kids from end of school Thursday to Friday evening.

Bedtimes, my own included, are set so we can wake up and keep the week rolling. When we start to get run down bedtimes move earlier and earlier.

I give myself zero flexibility with my own wake-up time => “no excuses wake-up” eliminates energy spent on choice.

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Some principles we use.

Sleep, school work and healthy eating is our highest priority. Create the habits and energy to outperform.

Kids don’t know what they want. Our minds are hardwired to complain about every single change and variation => just look inside! Absent a repeating schedule, you are certain to have endless negotiations. Exhausting, when you don’t have energy to spare.

My kids want: love, to demonstrate competence and acceptance => the schedule needs to provide everyone with a chance to meet their basic human needs.

Clear ownership of responsibilities. Who is doing what? The kids are hardwired to compete for your time. Lay out the mommy/daddy times, make it equitable. With our preschoolers, showing them their “mommy days” was very important to reduce conflict and let mom see she was doing enough.

Keep it rolling at grade level. I do not care about the relative performance of my kids. I am most interested in identifying holes. If you have a future Rhodes scholar in the house then it will become apparent in its own time. However, if you miss the fact that your little one doesn’t know how to read then it will severely damage self-confidence, their attitude toward education and their capacity to teach themselves.

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My constraints are extremely useful as they keep me from over-doing-it. I have a track record of burying myself with fatigue.

My goal is to do what needs to be done, strengthen my marriage and have peace of mind => to know I am executing to the best of my ability, most days. I know what I want.

Because I witness my internal dialogue, I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings!

Meeting a reasonable basic week gives me an anchor and avoids the temptation to increase my expectations of myself.

Simplicity and repetition.

 

Ownership Within A Marriage

2019-10-30 06.41.45Here’s a parenting challenge we’ve been dealing with for a few years.

If we don’t get her out of the house, 90-minutes after she wakes up, then our daughter gradually becomes anti-social. She doesn’t like to putter around. We’ve been muddling through for years. and it is why I used a ton of sitters => to get her engaged and into her day.

As I’ve phased out help we’ve been forced to deal with things we’ve been avoiding (article here).


 

I’m certain every marriage has repeating conflicts not between spouses => conflicts that give rise to frustration between spouses.

The conflict is never all that big.

Easy to endure for a little while.

But it repeats.

As it repeats, frustration morphs into bitterness towards the other spouse.

There is a simple fix.

Make it crystal clear who owns the situation.

  • Saturday mornings => down to me
  • Organize a swim meet => down to my wife
  • Get the kids to gymnastics, ski team or water polo => down to me
  • Sunday mornings => down to my wife

So when conflict arises, I know who’s in charge.

This helps me:

  • let go from outcome when I don’t own; and
  • own my frustration within my domain => instead of sliding into blaming… fix it, or grind it out.

 


 

With ownership assigned, we need a process for assessing if the job is getting done.

This can be tricky!

With babies and toddlers in the house, I could not reconcile my leadership principles with my marriage principles.

#1 being => I will never ask my spouse to do something I am not willing to do myself.

I do not like spending time with toddlers. So I used a lot of childcare, preschool and after school activities (~50,000 hours). It was a difficult, but temporary, time.

These days, I chuckle and remind my wife that the kids will start moving out “soon.”

Soon being eight years.

 


 

Increasing My Capacity To Own

Over the last two years, I have put the key elements of “my life” into the time before my family wakes up, or when the kids are in school.

Going back five years, I made my daily schedule visible to my spouse.

These two changes created the capacity to own more of my family life.

I also changed my attitude. I am willing to take on, or eliminate, anything. I’ll either do it, or eliminate it.

Own the predawn, live an open life and fix repeating pain points.

In this case, better is better.

Quenching A Thirst For Adventure

2019-08-30 19.44.42Being sensible for too long can leave me with a desire to BUST OUT something extreme.

However, there is a substantial hangover if I’m away from home for long.

How to maintain an adventurous spirit without putting a huge strain on our lives?

2019-08-30 18.38.03I’m fortunate to have pals with serious jobs, who do fun things.

I’ve been paying attention to their mini-adventures and planning my own.

  • Excitement => moving through nature in darkness
  • Novelty => route finding in new places
  • Risk => uncertainty, weather
  • Companionship => sharing the trip with my son, or my wife
  • Short duration => back home within 30 hours

Small, frequent doses of shared adventure, while meeting my obligations on the home front.

Do you know your “good enough?”

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Three Marriage Habits

2019-08-24 11.04.17Consider the purpose of your marriage.

Why did you get married?

Why stay married?

2019-08-14 08.14.55-1I am in my marriage for Lifelong Companionship

It is an overriding theme to everything.

Consider…

Do my actions move me towards my desired outcome?

2019-08-13 18.30.02Three habits I seek to create.

#1 => Tell the truth, slowly – foremost to yourself, also to each other.

If your life can’t handle the truth then change the way you’re living.

Being open with each other can be awkward but it’s better than the alternatives.

I always overreact in the short term, so I need to speak my truth slowly. A 24-hour time delay is usually sufficient to avoid an unforced error.

Daddy_blanket_and_Ax#2 => Do more than your share – I’ll illustrate with a story. For the last year I’ve been getting up early, working out before the kids are awake and keeping the hammer down for a couple hours once the house gets rolling. I was kinda looking for an “attaboy” or a “you’re incredible” from my wife. Instead I got…

You’re not lazy.

Reflecting on my “lack of laziness” indicated:

A – our spouses do more than we realize

B – because of “A”, your spouse might think you are lazy

Visible housework is one of the best things we can do to correct misinformed opinions.

2019-08-12 07.41.26#3 => Never rip your spouse – in public, in private, in your mind. A habit of bickering will not serve you well.

Negativity drives good people from our lives. Bring yourself back to the goal… lifelong companionship.

Talk like everyone is in the room.

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You are going to think that you need to get your own way.

Our minds spin all kinds of stories about how our lives will be “better” if we get our way.

Pay attention, most disagreements are a habit of taking the other side.

Lifelong companionship is far more valuable than short term victories.

Yield.

 

 

 

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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