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).

+++

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.

+++

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?

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!).

+++

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?

+++

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!

+++

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!

+++

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.

+++

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”

+++

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.

+++

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.

+++

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!

+++

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.

+++

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.

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.

+++

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.

+++

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.

+++

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.

+++

To see the power of these techniques, consider the times of your life when you’ve done the opposite.

Something for my kids, when they’re 21

I didn’t listen to much when I was younger.

These might have gotten through…

Save half of what you earn – you will not miss the spending you avoid and this constraint will have a positive impact on the rest of your life => first in appreciation for what you do buy => second in the ability to easily constrain yourself when life’s inevitable setbacks arrive.

Pay attention to what bothers you about others => fix it in yourself.

Ghost – resist the urge to justify yourself. You’ll feel different later. Personal truth changes with time and circumstance.

Climb your mountains – my time for large physical exploits is gone, I’m happy, content and satisfied with how the physical side of my life played out. Don’t wait to be great.

Be wary of the prettiest girl in high school, the star athlete, the charismatic sociopath – We are all fooled by appearances. LEARN from your inevitable mistakes. This tip is not about dating cheerleaders, it goes into every aspect of my life and is extremely hard to override.

Barbell your life – learn about your weaknesses but do not worry about them => You will do much better parking yourself where your strengths can shine. Fear ruin => my big three are substance abuse, leverage and toxic relationships. You will find yourself defenseless in the face of certain people, substances and situations. The two strategies that worked for me were avoidance (stay a mile away) and replacement (with healthy addictions).