Relational

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Family Culture

My marriage has ranked a 10 for about 15 years.  Prior to that, I’d say it averaged a 6 or 7. At one particularly low point, I wondered if it was going to last. What changed so that we went from a question mark to truly happy?

One night when my wife and I were arguing in bed for the umpteenth time about the usual things: me helping her, her respecting me, not enough leadership, not enough sex, blah, blah, blah, I suddenly was hit with an epiphany.  Literally, bam, I saw the futility of our arguing against one another in a power struggle of a zero sum game. I stopped that night arguing on MY behalf and started reasoning on OUR behalf. The shift was subtle, but tectonic.

That night could have been as a result of my brilliance (unlikely) or as a result of a journey we had undertaken over the previous year.  We started taking a parenting class, Growing Kids God’s Way by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. We had learned through this class the outlines of family structure and values, languages of love, disciplining children, and countless parenting techniques. But it wasn’t till I was in the moment of a leadership opportunity where it was up to me to understand what the argument was about and what my role in it should be that I finally understood what family leadership meant. We needed to be a team and I had to lead the team in my role. My wife was completely ok with that, in fact that’s what she wanted more than anything. But she had often experienced me as an immature idiot. I needed for her to understand that she hadn’t hitched her wagon to some out of control donkey. Therefore, arguing that night like all previous nights for my power and ego was only reinforcing that impression. Instead after that night when I started providing her with a true sense I was on her side and wanted what she wanted – happy wife, happy life – she stopped arguing with me and we started negotiating our wants and needs together. It was the simplest of revelations. I actually listened to her instead of preparing my rebuttal. Our communications were no longer AT one another, but WITH one another. Every aspect of our relationship improved almost overnight. (almost).

That then became the foundation of our family culture. A husband and wife trying to figure things out together, working as a team, to navigate the infinitely complex life to come. From there, over time, we determined our core values.

  • Family first. Many people say God first.  I don’t. When you put family first, God can be (should be) part of the package. If you put God first, I think family takes a back seat in a way that kids don’t really get. Maybe the other way works too, but I’ve seen a meaningful distinction. It also means that career also isn’t first. Now, you can borrow against family for a time, which I did to get my MBA and build my business, but it was restored to its rightful place.

  • Mealtimes are the keytimes to build family values. I was blessed to be able to eat at home 90+% of the time. Research supports this evidencing that truancy, drug use, early sexual activity, etc. are highly correlated with not eating together consistently as a family. It’s true, look it up. I had to prioritize so that work fit around this critically important family investment.

    • Appreciation: At mealtimes we would pray essentially the same thing every time, but not rote or empty. We would give thanks to God for blessing our family so massively. He has showered us with goodness and for 30 seconds we express gratitude. It’s not much, but the consistency has created a family trait.

  • Adventure-minded. At dinner the saying was “Gotta try before you cry.” We traveled a lot, therefore different foods and experiences were a big part of our lives (my wife is Swedish). So it wouldn’t work to have the kids closed-minded as we ate raw fish or haggis or curried eggplant. Adventure is exciting and new, so an open mind is required. This is huge.

  • Health-minded. Eating good balanced food with lots of water (no sodas) was the mainstay of our lives. Since we ate at home, it was easier. It was nice that Lis was a stay at home mom and liked to cook. My contribution was often cleaning the kitchen. Bottom line – the kids followed effortlessly what we modeled. They ate what we fixed.

  • Integrity-minded. Learning to give your best is a matter of integrity. Kids often just throw down the first thing that comes to mind on homework; so we read what they did and replied pretty much every time, “Hey, great first try. Now go back and re-read it and see how you can improve it.”  We didn’t re-write if for them as they needed to own their grades. As a result, the kids got A’s in school, but more importantly, they have A’s in life. Integrity is also a value where hypocrisy is always lurking in the shadows for mom and dad and is identified as such when the kids are in their teens.

  • Other-oriented. In order to grow spiritually, you really do have to take the focus off of self. Kids will follow whatever is the family model. If husband and wife don’t think of the other person in the regular course of everyday life, the kids won’t buy the argument on other-orientedness. Words matter, but action matters more. We stole the motto “Love is action”. Also, trust is a delicate family component and is the reason parents discipline against lying because it breaks trust, breaks relationship. Lying has many forms (speaking untruths, half truths, omitting important information, unfulfilled promises, holding oneself above others), so family culture requires firm adherence to building trust through other-oriented integrity.

There are many of you in the honeymoon period of your marriages, some literally. That period builds goodwill and can last till you have your second child. I don’t know if you’ll have marital conflicts or not, but I suspect you will. The above list isn’t comprehensive, but can be a good starting point for discussing what you want your family to value. In addition to your Ironmen group, start a conversation with your wife.

 

To your continued success,

Dave

 

Hey, do me a favor and talk to someone about Ironmen and get them to sign up.  Thanks

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By | August 1st, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Re-parenting

As I sit down to write these lines, I agonize like a dad on how to connect. I ask myself again and again how I can come up with a concept, a phrase, an example, an analogy to open up the aperture of a young man who, knowingly or not, is seeking the path. For I am a dad talking to a son on the multitude of thoughts, attitudes, skills, habits, and perspectives that mark the path. Hopefully, the goal of a dad is to equip his sons and daughters for the life to come. But it gets complicated as he grows from baby to boy to adolescent to man. Intentions get lost in the maze of life. The baton is handed off well or poorly, but handed off nonetheless. So each son, now a man, must take over the job of equipping for the life to come. And, regardless of the quality of parenting that has gone before, he must go back and re-parent himself into manhood.

“The ball is red”.

What just happened there is a miracle. Think about the complexity of that little line. I conceptualized an image of ball and red. Through the miracle of language and subvocalization, I silently sounded it out while holding the image in my mind. Instantly, I was able to translate the image and subvocal sounds into symbols I learned a lifetime ago through that cute ABC song. I learned to type in high school and can now type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Because of the compounding of human learning and capitalism, I typed the symbols onto the computer screen that is captured and saved in the Cloud. All of that is miraculous enough, but the real miracle is what follows. You are now reversing the process of capturing from the Cloud the symboled thought of a red ball so that you now hold the image of it in your head. It is a miracle of transferring conscious thought from one mind to another.

But you move out of “Red ball” dialogue pretty quickly. What happens if the son doesn’t want to read these letters? Or he wants to but doesn’t know how to open your email? What if you’re pissed off at me that I say the ball is red when it’s really magenta? What if I’m drunk and say the “lob is ded”? What if you’re hungry and tired? What if.. what if? So even if your parents were fantastic, these what-ifs created a suboptimal growing experience. In thinking about parenting, look at the increased complexity necessary to communicate.

My dad (whom I love and who loved me) used a technique that I wouldn’t recommend. Negative psychology was the term he gave it. “I bet you can’t…run to there, catch this ball, finish first…” His thinking was that I’d respond “Oh yes I can! Just watch me!!” and then I’d buckle down to prove him wrong. His dad was an alcoholic so maybe that’s why he liked that idea. Well as it played out there are pros and cons: I ended up being successful for whatever reason. I intellectually understand his point. I have had to work hard at confidence almost my whole life. I’ve also had to work at positive self talk. I have been known for sarcasm and a biting sense of humor. All attributed to negative psychology? Who knows.

So the point is: you come from your unique background that has some good and some less than good. For you to hit on more cylinders, you need to understand the inputs you’ve received and come to grips with how they have formed your current self. But importantly, you need to realize that you can change. You’re not stuck with who you are. You have been given the power to grow out of your history and into your future. Obviously if your parenting inputs were way down the quality charts, you have more work to do, but everyone must own their life and reevaluate their childhood.

A friend of mine had a dad who was a cad in his early years. Divorced his mom due to philandering. He drank a bit and womanized a lot. As my friend grew up, his dad wanted to bring him along on some of these escapades. Needless to say, my friend had challenges with appropriateness and women and, as he grew to understand this dysfunction, his dad. The guilt and anger he had for his dad played a significant role in his marriage and business life. I suggested that he write a letter to his dad, get it all out on paper, pour over it with all the emotions, then send it…to himself. Then I suggested that he write a response from his dad, sign it from his dad, and actually send it to himself so he could get it in the mail and open it. He took that advice and said it helped him quite a bit.

My friend did this heavy lifting in his forties. He eventually forgave his dad’s shortcomings and they have a good relationship today. I did my lifting in my thirties and my dad and I had a great relationship. You should start today.

The journey from red ball to college between father and son is an incredibly complex and dynamic miracle. It would be so even if everything else in life were stable and enriching. But that is far from the case. A father must first navigate his own shortcomings, his ignorances, biases, intentions, childhood, economics, and relationships that all influence the quality of his parenting. You can only pour out from your jar into a child what you have in it. And if your marriage is challenged, or your job, or your health, or the health of one of your children, etc, etc. etc, your jar runs a little empty. Therefore, you as the son must take over the job of parenting. You must go back and forgive and fix in order to grow.

From a dad – for your continued success,

Dave

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By | July 11th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

(In)Fidelity

My groin told me to get in the elevator.

Recently I have been confronted with several stories of men following the call into a situation that eventually led them into another’s bed. I suspect every man faces this dilemma, some more than others. Ultimately it’s to satisfy ego – the need to be wanted. More times than not, it leads to divorce and the destruction of trust you have with wife and kids.

I had an office in Bellevue Washington where I traveled every other month to get my office set up. I stayed at the Hyatt a few blocks down the street. One night after a long day at the office, I went up to the restaurant for dinner. The place was packed so I went into the bar to wait for a table since they said it’d be almost an hour. No big deal, I’d have a couple beers and hang out. There wasn’t anyplace to sit, so I leaned on the piano. I’m halfway through my first beer when a good looking blonde comes in, does the same math as me, and comes to the piano to wait. I do what all guys do, I check her out without trying to be too obvious. Nonetheless, we have eye contact and she smiles. She’s pretty.

I don’t remember who started it, but within a handful of minutes we’re talking. She’s waiting for a friend who’s late. A drink goes by and we’re chatting it up. Wow, she’s pretty. Her friend arrives and now they can put their names on the list. Two minutes later the hostess comes to get me for my table. It’ll be 40 minutes before the ladies get a table and I’m alone, so I invite them to join me. We order a bottle of wine and dinner. I’m funny and oh so charming. I’m getting the eye from both of them. The bill arrives and we split it 50/50. I’ve had too much to drink and feeling the urge. She reaches across the table and touches my hand saying “Thanks for the lovely evening”. The eye thing again.

We’re at the elevator and the two ladies get in. “You coming?” asks the blonde.

The fork in the road: (In)Fidelity.

So what’s really going on when someone decides to go outside the marriage table for a little snack. Given that surveys today indicate that plenty of people do it, what’s really happening?

I think pre children, it’s like all those home buyers that bought houses they couldn’t afford and put nothing down to get the home. Then one day they just can’t come up with the payment and they default. Reality caught up with the fact that they weren’t prepared to be homeowners; they were essentially just renting anyway. If two young people get married and ultimately decide that it doesn’t fit their current lifestyle or maturity, I’m not opposed to calling it quits. Infidelity is just another low integrity way of saying, I made a mistake and I like this other house better.

So when children are added to the mix, it’s a totally different story. Infidelity can be naively thinking that sex doesn’t matter. Evoking the Rule of 382 (when you’re 382 miles from home, marriage rules don’t apply) is a way to be free and enjoy life. Saying to some gal in a bar “My wife and I are separated (by 382 miles)” is a choice to put the future and happiness of your family up for sale. The price? A couple hours of chase, the thrill of capture, and a few seconds of release.

Today’s society has a strong push towards “Happiness” or personal fulfillment. As you certainly know, there are different degrees of fulfillment – a quick one night stand of physical and egotistical satisfaction or long abiding intimacy and companionship (and the infinite variations in between). The first is easy, the second takes work. And the real challenge is the “work” isn’t a straightforward or easy path to follow. Your ego, biology, psychology, relationship, communication skills, and maturity play a role in being able to follow the path to relational intimacy.

The recent situations I’ve become aware of are complex. He said, she said, he did, she didn’t, kinds of scenarios. It’s as old as time, so don’t think (you young marrieds) that your marriage is different. You must decide (today would be good) that you want to have a great marriage with a great sex life that is an anchor to your world and the world of your kids. You can do that right now. Commit in your heart and mind that you will do the things necessary to stay faithful to your commitments, faithful to your future, faithful to your own potential, faithful to your kids, and faithful in body and mind to your wife.

Here’s how you do that:

When you decide not to flog the dolphin before you go out, you’re choosing to leave your hotel room with a loaded gun. When you decide to drink that extra beer and go ahead and enter into a harmless conversation with that blonde, you’re cocking the gun. Shooting the gun is at the end of a series of choices. But the biggest choice you make is not investing in the relationship you have at home while you’re at home. Be there. Engage. Learn love languages. Speak them fluently. Express your intentions and seek direction from your wife on how to lead the relationship and family.

If you’re enjoying a good sex life, have good conversations, enjoy being a dad, enjoy the growing sense of responsibility, and then decide to have an affair – yes, you are a selfish pig. Pure and simple. But if your relationship is challenged, sex is infrequent, and communication is spotty, it’s understandable to be attracted to the easy allure of starting something physical elsewhere. Everyone is susceptible to the tug. But before you surrender to that superficial aspect that we all have, invest again in your own character, invest in your children’s long term happiness, invest in the vision of your life that gets through the tough parts of marriage and discovers true intimacy and satisfaction that emerges from tough times. Don’t get on the elevator.

So I said, “I think I’ll take the next one. Good night.”

Discuss in your Ironmen group ways in which you will invest today in your marriage to avoid marriage problems 5 years from now.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | June 20th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Suitable Helper

“Hey Dad?”

“Ya, bud. What’s up?”

“Can we have The Talk?”

“Uh, you’re twenty-one years old.”

“No, not that one, sort of. I want your thoughts on this girl I’ve been dating.”

“I’ll give you whatever I’ve got.”

“I know that. Alright so you know I’ve been with my girlfriend a while, and I want…”

“My blessing?”

“No, too soon for that. I just want to know your thoughts on whether the person you’re with is ‘The One’. I mean, you and mom have a great relationship. How did you know she was the one you wanted to marry?”

“Hmmm. Well, we dated for a while, five years. I got to know her pretty well. I would say that I was pretty ignorant of all things I would conclude today were important. Marriage is a big deal, picking that person will define you for sure. I can’t think of anything that will have a greater impact on your life.”

“Yeah, therefore my question.”

“Well ok. I imagine I’ll say things you’ve heard a dozen times. It’s mostly about fit. Does she fit with you? Does she harmonize with your spirit? Does she have the same general views and values as you? Is her life trajectory in sync with yours? These questions are hard to figure out with limited information. I’m not a fan of whirlwind marriages. I think that while you’re figuring her out, you’re also figuring yourself out.”

“Sure, ok. When you say ‘does she fit’, what do you mean?”

“Physical attraction has a kind of fit to it as a starting point. If she’s way better looking than you, then that might be a problem down the road for one of you. But the bigger issues of fit are cultural. Is her upbringing similar enough to yours where both your hidden assumptions can be brought to the surface and worked out and reconciled; or are they too different so that they’d cause a break in the relationship.”

“Like what?”

“Ok, say she grew up in a completely different economic strata than you, say 2 levels up, and was used to buying whatever she wanted. If her clothing allowance exceeded your mortgage payment because her parents showed her love by buying her material things – Would that cause strife at some point? What if she couldn’t or wouldn’t change and used debt to satisfy her need?”

“Yes, that would be a problem.”

“What if she came from a family where the mom and dad were divorced and not on speaking terms? What was her childhood like?”

“So you’re saying don’t marry someone whose parents were divorced?”

“No, of course not. But we all define love and happiness based largely on our childhood experiences. Don’t you think someone who observed family conflict every day and didn’t see affection between mom and dad might have a different view of love than you?”

“Yes, I suppose. But my girlfriend’s parents are divorced. I don’t know what her childhood was like.”

“Ok, that’d be a good discussion to have if you’re serious about moving to the next stage.”

“Good idea. Then how did you know when you wanted to marry mom?”

“When I got married I just assumed I’d be happy. I had no idea what I was getting into really. I think we got married out of momentum. It was just the next thing to do after dating for so long. I got zero advice or feedback on whether my choice of partner appeared to be a good one. But fortunately for me, I hit a home run.”

“Yeah it seems as though you and mom have had a perfect marriage.”

“Ha! No, but we’re happy now. But there was a time when I doubted. As we piled on responsibility, that’s when you get tested, personally and relationally. We both had jobs along with a new house and two kids and had been married for 6 or 7 years when those doubts came on strongest. The weight of all that just seemed insurmountable to me. I would work all day and come home and your mom would be tired from taking care of you kids plus working her job out of the house. Our energy tank didn’t have much left for each other.”

“What do you mean you doubted? What does that mean exactly?”

“We would have arguments, not fights, but strong disagreements over lots of stuff – kids, money, sex, me helping her out, her giving me respect. Ultimately it was all about whether we valued one another and how we demonstrated that value. My doubts lingered on the fantasy of having a much more selfish life where I could find someone else who was more suitable.”

“You thought of leaving mom?”

“Not seriously, but it crossed my mind.”

“Can you land the plane Dad? I mean you’re kind of pushing me away from the whole idea of commitment.”

“I don’t want to do that! The reason I hit a homerun in marrying your mom is because we fit together in ways that only conflict could reveal. Because of her upbringing, she didn’t run away from conflict. She stayed engaged to move toward resolution. She was always looking to resolve our issues. I remember the dozens and dozens of times we’d lie in bed at night with tension in the air, neither sleeping. Your mom would break the ice countless times insisting we not go to sleep angry. Eventually, I shared that responsibility till it became our marital credo. I believe her parents raised her to value marriage over her own personal ego, so she was well equipped to help me grow through my own immaturities. Now, she had some of her own immaturities that I was all too happy pointing out. In that way, we were suitable for each other.”

“But you were happy.”

“Oh gosh yes. We always had this shared belief that we were building something. Even though I had fantasies of starting over with some nubile wench, that was just a passing thought I never chased. We fit together even though sometimes we had to sandpaper some of the edges. I think it goes to the biblical concept of ‘Suitable Helper.’ You familiar with that?”

“Relatively. I’ve heard you and mom talk about it.”

“Suitable Helper is from The Book of Genesis. ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Suitability in my opinion is about growth. You want to find a woman that will help you grow and vice versa. So you want to make sure that she’s interested in growing with you so that you fit together. My initial thought was to make your mom just like me, but I eventually grew up enough to know that that’s not what I wanted. Fortunately, we had many things go our way and we came to a place in our relationship that has worked exceedingly well for a long time. But I think all that came as a result of being equally yoked – similar families, similar values, similar likes and dislikes, no major trauma or tragedy in our background.”

“Well Dad, finding someone that fits seems a little vague.”

“If you’re serious about this girl, then you should take the time to invest in knowing who she is. You should both go to a marriage class because she’s going to be the one you’re choosing to navigate through ever growing levels of sophisticated problems. You’ll want to discuss deep issues. You’ll have problems whether you’re married or alone. It’s better to face life with your best friend by your side.”

“Sounds ideal when you say it like that.”

“It can be. Having said all that, I’d think you should lean forward into taking risks rather than lean back and be too cautious. There’s no clear answer most of the time.
“That’s good to know. Thanks Dad.”

“I love you buddy. You’ll be fine. Maybe next time we should talk about leading a marriage when there’s conflict. That’s a discussion worth having.”

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | May 9th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Church

Ok, so this may be objectionable to my Christian friends. There are plenty of compelling reasons not to go to church on Sundays. When the kids were young, the hassles of getting them ready were enormous compared to the pleasures of playing with them or just relaxing with my coffee and paper (thing that came to the house that had news in it). You guys probably fall into two camps: those of you who have grown up going to church and those of you who have mixed or even antagonistic views of church.

I have come from the latter camp.

Yet, despite that, I wholeheartedly recommend that you plan to be a regular attender of church for strategic, quality-of-life reasons. If you also fall into the second category, I hope to plant the seed for you to reconsider your Sunday choices.

Ironmen is intended to be a universal appeal to people of all religions and walks of life. My values and maturity come from a Presbyterian perspective. Regarding church, I have over the years found many things I’ve objected to, things I’ve had intellectual concerns with, styles that I found shallow or disingenuous, and agendas that struck me as too narrow or self-interested. Taking all my internal disharmonies, I have been nagged by one thought that has kept me engaged with church and churchgoers – Is there greater value for me and my family in the long run that I can’t perceive because of my current state of maturity?

As a reluctant church attendee, at least I did get that part right. I truly am better off having attended church than if I attended to my more immediate desires. I base my statement that you’ll be better off on some assumptions. 1) That you’re going to be married and have children and you’ll want to lead them to well-being; 2) That you are interested in personal development over the many stages of your life; and 3) That you want to have a vibrant communal and social life.

I don’t want to discuss religious doctrine. Ironmen is solely interested in your personal growth and well-being whether you are labeled agnostic, atheist, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, Protestant, or whatever. To be sure, I provide my takeaways from the Bible because that’s what has helped me mature. The world is better off with you committing yourself to your wife and growing your family than subscribing to anything I have to say about religion itself. But the discussion is worthwhile because it’s a strategic factor in your life: To church or not to church? That is the question. Reflexively ignoring that question could be a strategic blunder.

Having observed myself over the last 20+ years as a reluctant church attender, I can easily say that I am much better off than if I hadn’t gone. I say that for the following reasons:

  1. My relationship with my wife has matured in subtle ways that is hard to describe. She thrives in a community of women. Our marriage has grown because of the relationships my wife has had with other women which vicariously allowed me to see the female world in ways I absolutely wouldn’t have otherwise. MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) was a critical component of family success.

  2. Kids like structure. Our 3 children have grown up in a church context that has created numerous opportunities to teach about morality and family identity. Raising children where everyone uses the same language creates a firm grounding. Any concerns that your children will be brainwashed into something you have some disagreement with is overblown. They’re more likely to be brainwashed by secularism.

  3. We have been able to find and maintain quality friendships with a core group of people that have allowed us intimacy and fun that has nourished us for more than 20 years. We have been able to give and get to our hearts content with great people.

  4. I have learned more about myself through the long term pursuit of Truth and wisdom. By trying on other ideas and suspending my existing arrogance (to which I’m highly susceptible), I have come to reconcile ideas I had previously rejected.

  5. And importantly, purpose in life often wears the clothes of “service to others”. I have come to realize why I’m here on earth and how I can be the most impactful.

  6. MOPS, Growing Kids God’s Way, Dad the Family Shepherd, Small Groups – are all church based programs that have been incredibly impactful to my life. As I look out on society, I see an increasingly isolated populace. The consequences of family isolation are dangerous to the health of a family to which a church environment can be the antidote.

If you’re not going to church now, I recommend you reevaluate. There are very good looking single women there. Music you’d probably like. A community of people that will genuinely embrace you. You’ll find yourself on some rung of the spiritual ladder that you can climb. You may note that most of my other posts talk about God-given this or that, but not here. I’m talking about church.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | April 4th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Decision-Making and Girls

There is no bigger turn off for girls than a guy that can’t make a decision.

I should just stop there and let that statement stand alone, but who are we kidding? Me leaving all that white space is like the government leaving a bunch of money untaxed. To be sure: a guy’s ability or inability to decide sends all kinds of meaning to the world, and girls are particularly attuned to that message.

Decisions are forks in the road. Small ones (Steak or chicken? Have friends over or go out? Go to a movie? Which one?) are irrelevant. They won’t affect anything but the moment of pleasure. Standing there evaluating the tiny fork like it’s some complete diagnostics screening to determine which sensation will absolutely capture the maximum amount of pleasure—puhlease! If you’re on a date and can’t look at a menu and decide what you want to eat in under a minute, the girl is going to pass. Make decisions on irrelevant things quickly and don’t look back. My daughter dated a nice young guy for a while, but eventually broke up. Why? He wouldn’t make any decision whatsoever. For example, she gave him 3 choices of movies that she’d like to watch and he refused to decide, actually getting upset with her and insisting that she choose. That was the last straw. Who knows what he wanted, but it wasn’t a co-equal relationship. Sorry, bub. No spine; no chance.

So what’s the deal? Why is it so hard to decide on trivial things? Or, and here’s one of the questions that a couple guys have asked, why is it so hard to talk to a (pretty) girl?

Those points aren’t synonymous, but highly correlated. It’s because the guy isn’t comfortable with his own value. “Why would an attractive girl want to talk with me? She’s hot, I’m not. She looks put together. Have you seen me?! I’ve got a zit, or, halfway through a conversation with her, I’d get one. No, better to go home and rub one out than risk her thinking I’m a loser.” You lose the game without even getting in.

It would be great if guys actually used self-talk at all, even if it’s negative, because you could correct a negative monologue. Instead, there is nothing going through the brainwaves, and the self-defeat occurs on a totally subconscious level. It’s hard to steer a ship that is laying at anchor.

So here’s the thing: If you want to talk with girls, practice being decisive. Get good at deciding what you want. Don’t vacillate on small things; dinner, movie, clothing, anything. Challenge your day to find how you can evaluate your likes and dislikes quickly and practice deciding to avoid sending the world the message that you’re a walking question mark. Then, work on being interesting. Have activities. Make sure you work out, read, and pursue a life worth living. All these things will build on themselves and build up your value, your confidence, and your ability to take action and live with the consequences.

In case you haven’t heard, there is a huuuge shortage of substantive guys. There are so many mama’s boys and jerks out there that quality women are opting out of relationships altogether. So don’t worry about finding Ms. Right. You build quality within and you’ll have plenty to choose from. There’s a surplus of quality, good looking, fun women out there waiting for you to become a man. Personal traits you want to develop are: Purposeful, Decisive, Open-Minded, Action-Oriented, and Fun. You do that, a good woman and good life await you. A very good life.

To your continued substantive life with a fun, good looking woman success,

Dave

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By | February 28th, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

Sex vol. 2

Last time we talked about sex (in Sex 1), I thought it’d be helpful to identify the different scenario-types of sex. But sometimes it’s easier to describe what is right, what is beneficial, and what is desirable only by describing what can go wrong, what the challenges are, and where the pitfalls occur. Such is the case with developing human sexuality. As a parent of 3 children, it’s a universal parent thing that we strongly desire our children meet a special someone and have a fantastic marriage (which we silently assume contains healthy satisfying sex which, as a parent, is a little awkward to think about). Since sex is private, it’s not talked about much in polite circles. The lone time when I asked my dad about sex, he replied “You just need to learn about it in the gutters where I did.” Ha ha. “Seriously, Dad…” “No seriously.” End of discussion. Okaaay. (Literally verbatim).

One of my Ironmen cohorts has 2 boys that illustrate today’s challenges for parents and for you. Much more forthcoming than my dad, my buddy and his wife are equipping their boys with knowledge. Understanding the landscape we all face in trying to create a healthy life in an unhealthy world it’s still uncomfortable to discuss in a straightforward manner. But for their boys health and well-being is critically important given the downsides that exist. My friend’s boys are in their mid teens, liked by girls for all the right reasons – great guys. They are entering the age when girls become more forward, peer pressure is ubiquitous, the internet is quicksand, and the urge to spurge is upon them. So what are the topics of conversation my friend should have with his boys? The same ones you should consider anew, particularly if your dad was like mine and didn’t cover it.

Masturbation: Yes it’s a reality. Every male does it. It’s not inherently bad, but it can lead to guilt and other problems if not managed properly. In my opinion, proper management is to “get ‘er done” and get back to your life. Don’t obsess over the mental images or the potential subsequent guilt. My high school girlfriend’s brother threw his stereo through the front window of their house due to the guilt of masturbating. Yeah, messed up. The main problems with flogging the dolphin is (a) the huge waste of time prior to climax, (b) the desire to supplement with visual stimulation (aka porn), and (c) the internal conflict about the recurring urge versus feeling guilty about not being able to control it. Plus the whole Bible ambiguity of God killing Onan is more about rebellion and seems a little messed up anyway with the law requiring him to sleep with his dead brother’s wife. But I don’t think it’s a biblical prohibition against masturbation. Bottom line: I think dads should discuss the normalcy of this, encourage management, and reassure family love. For you – self management.

Porn: Porn is a big deal. The effect porn has on the human brain is exactly similar to the gateway pleasures of drugs and alcohol. The first time feels good and what on earth could be the downside? The second confirms the thrill. Within no time, hours can be wasted alone surfing increasingly bizarre forms of sexual… intimacy?, no; expression?, no; adventure?, nope; perversion?, yep that’s it. What is known by good marriages to be a wonderful intimate expression of love has been perverted by marketers to make bank off of human nature’s requirement. Porn is not just an indulgent waste of time, it can prevent relationships from forming as described in this brilliant article: Don Jon – How porn is rewiring men’s brains. You need to read this article. Once a brain has been rewired, real life relationships can have a tough time becoming intimate. There is a real risk that you could become more “satisfied” with masturbating to porn rather than making love to a real woman. I know of several marriages that split up due to the guy’s inability to forego porn. Whether you’re married or not, read the article.

Girls: The historical barriers on sexuality are not only greatly reduced, but society thinks empowerment by women requires sexual aggressiveness. The hip part of society thinks that young girls should take control of their sex life and be promiscuous. The latest Madonna clone, Miley Cyrus, is targeting 14-19 years olds for lessons in twerking. The result of society’s dysfunction is evidenced in high school and college grinding, sexting, hook ups, and who knows what other new craze. I’m not saying women shouldn’t be empowered, but what is obvious is increased sexualization by both young men and young women has consequences. Those consequences are not obvious to the participants because sometimes people have to crash and burn a few times to come to understand that “free sex” isn’t free. An article today points out that 40%, 40%!, of all children are born out of wedlock. The majority of those new lives are born into poverty because of the difficulty of raising a child in one parent household.

Even if no babies are produced, sex too soon in a relationship results in shallow roots. It would be better for young people to forego sex until they’re more mature to handle its complexities. I say that from a practical standpoint and not a moral one because the link between casual sex, broken relationships, and childhood poverty is undeniable. I’ll leave the morality position to someone else. But to you who are unmarried, it would be wiser to show some restraint. I know logic doesn’t play a role at go time, but if you weigh the two paths between having sex and holding off, your life won’t turn on a dime if you held off one more time…even if you’re not a virgin. Whereas, if you follow the urge, it could change your life rather dramatically. Just sayin’. Don’t let Johnson or society tell you when you should have sex. You decide when you’re ready. Prior to the situation.

My friend’s parenting life stage is about providing guidance to his boys in advance of their life situations. Those boys will likely take their dad’s advice because of their trust and faith that their dad (and mom) have their best interests at heart. Those boys will likely take that parental advice and navigate all the turbulent rapids of high school, college, post college, dating, and marriage. Of course the advice fades as experience takes over, but don’t miss the point – the boys will likely lean on their parents guidance in this tumultuous dawn of their sexuality. Absent parental guidance (or lack of faith in parents) leaves young men and women burdened with the heavy load of ignorance with which to navigate sex.

So where are you? Do you have a Dad like my friend who has provided valuable counsel over the years that has helped you develop self management and direction? Or was your sexual discussions like mine, non-existent? If the latter, the difference between you and me, however, is that I didn’t grow up in a world that is soooo sexually charged with porn on demand and aggressive women willing to give it up on the first date. There are real pitfalls where you can lose your future just as if you were a high school pot head that fell into harder things.

In your Ironmen group, discuss the parental education you received and how you’d do it differently. Even though you don’t have teenage kids now, you will. By reviewing your own teenage experiences, you can re-parent yourself and improve your own sex life by clearing out possible pitfalls that can get in the way. As a result, you’ll be happier, a much better father, a better husband, and maybe a better lover.

To your continued sexcess,

Dave

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By | January 23rd, 2014|Relational|0 Comments

2014 Objectives

Over the last 30 years or so, I have written down my goals maybe half the time and the other half just had them in mind. In assessing the difference, I’d have to give the nod to writing them down, as you’d expect me to say. The years I reference back to my written goals, the greater likelihood I wouldn’t drift from them. My best year that saw the most economic gains was the year I worked my plan the most consistently. Which makes sense of course, plan your work and work your plan.

The path to creation is: Thought – Word – Deed. Rather Biblical, I’d say.

Thought
You identify what you want your life to look like by gathering all the images of success in family, business, health, personhood, and in your spiritual essence.

Word
You declare to yourself, to God, and to a few select others your desires through the written word.

Deed
Then you breathe those words into life through your actions. Consistent action alone will allow God, the Universe, your family and friends to see that you are serious about life and your direction. They will all get on board and cheer your purpose. Then, and only then, when your definiteness is declared through consistent action can results begin to manifest in reality.

Every year I used to write a couple of pages of goals that detailed all the things I wanted to accomplish. Year by year I cut back on the number of goals and now focus on 1 or 2 in each category. I save myself the irritation of looking at all the unaccomplished. Better to get one goal accomplished well than a dozen half assed.

 

So here are my 2014 public objectives:

Health: Tough Mudder in June. Sprint Triathlon in May and September.

Business: Double revenue through organic growth and strategic alliances. Introduce the CORE platform; FHLMC.

Relationships: Travel with wife quarterly to fun destinations.

Spiritual: Grow Ironmen five-fold. Volunteer at church for parenting classes.

Personal: Develop public speaking skills.

Other: Volunteer for Mike Kopp in CO Governor’s race.

Let me expand on the Ironmen objective because you can help me with it. I’d like to positively affect the lives of as many men as possible in order to improve the quality of marriages and parenting. My letters may have some positive effect, but the key is the continual encouragement of Ironmen groups. Being reminded by me every week to be on the lookout for one or two guys of similar circumstances, in which you can meet and delve into the infinitely subtle elements of growing up, that’s the big value of my letters. My 52 year old perspectives that drip into your life may occasionally hit a chord, but it’s small potatoes compared to having an Ironmen group.

You can help me do that by introducing Ironmen to some of your friends: by forwarding to them a quote or two, then a Letter, and then giving them your thoughts. I would appreciate the assistance and they might as well. If there’s 10 must-have thoughts per year, you’d be a good friend to make the recommendation.

As for 2014, there’s a lot to talk about. What are your goals for this year? How can you make this a pivotal year? In health? In business? In your relationships? In your spiritual life? Personally? How can you be bold and break out of taking small steps?

Send me a Letter on who you are and where you are going. What challenges do you face? What questions do you have?

Taylor G. writes: What books are worth reading? I’ll take that up soon.
Keenan S. asks: Why should I go to church? That’s a worthy topic.
I’ve got a couple of business topics written that you may find interesting.
I’ll revisit the father-son relationship again (and again).
Sex usually seems to be a worthwhile topic that I’ll address a few more times.
And since this is an election year, I’ll try and treat the issue fairly.

The weekly drip campaign is in its 4th quarter. What are your thoughts so far?

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | January 10th, 2014|Financial, Personal, Physical, Relational, Spiritual, Summaries|0 Comments

Santa and Family Traditions

Another Christmas. It really is a time of renewal and hope for people. And when life doesn’t go well, Christmas time lays bare the memories that could have been, the disconnnectedness one can feel from family and friends, and the spiritual deficit that is possible. Therefore, here at the fulcrum of your life you need to decide for yourself, regardless of what childhood memories were wrapped as your present, how you will create memories. Therefore, I thought I’d describe some of our family traditions that have made our life fantastic.

Our youngest was 2 years old when we suggested that they sleep under the Christmas tree and wait for Santa. All 3 kids still believed in Santa and as they lay looking up at the twinkling lights of the tree, they talked and squirmed at the excitement of Santa’s arrival. They whispered guesses as to what he was going to leave them, encouraged sleep so he would arrive sooner, pretended sleep to catch a glimpse, and flail arms and legs at uncontainable excitement. Eventually, when time and youth overcame and sleep was unavoidable, Santa would finally come and bring presents wrapped in special paper so as not to give doubts. He would bite the cookie and sip the milk. Presents were place around the children and some actually inside the sleeping bags. That would bring the most excitement. “How did he do that?!!!”

The rule was they couldn’t wake mommy and daddy up till 7. It taught patience, respect and self control. We would wake up and have the stocking presents before breakfast. Then make a big feast with banana pancakes, eggs, bacon, fresh squeezed orange juice, and fruit. We’d clean up and then gorge on the material haul. Each child expressing short term appreciation for each gift until the next was opened. My philosophy was that gifts should hit different categories: one for fun, one for the mind, one for the body, and the rest are practical – socks, underwear, pajamas, etc.

Traditions are so foundational to family culture. Traditions to dads aren’t what they are to kids. Maybe I’m being cynical not coming from an upbringing that had closely held traditions, but the kids own these annual events with a fierceness that surprised me. One tradition that I encourage is taking a family picture every year and sending it to your friends. Don’t send just the dog, that’s a little pathetic. Don’t send just the kids, that says there’s no family unity. The kids will look at the family evolution depicted by the Christmas cards taped on some door along with all the other cards you get. That ends up being pretty cool. Another tradition that we did was read a Christmas book “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”. We all loved it. We watched the greatest movie ever made: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. We’d go over to Aunt Sue’s for Christmas Eve. Some traditions were obligations, but most were not.

This little child phase is a period of your life that is idyllic on which you will look back as dreamland. Cherish it. Let all conflict pass by without escalation because this period goes quickly enough followed by a more complex period. This is the Santa era and is special. Santa represents an innocence and simplicity that is fun and should be treated lightly. He’ll fade like some ephemeral morning haze and the residual will remain as a love of Christmas time. A good trade-off. Some families struggle with the idea of Santa due to their spiritual beliefs, but I don’t think kids can make those principled distinctions. It’s fun and life needs to build that reservoir before you’re 8.

As the family leader, take the best of your and your wife’s Christmas past and make conscious decisions to play the games, trim the tree, drink the eggnog, sing the carols, pray with the family, read the stories, and immerse yourself in the season. You have something special that too few enjoy.

Discuss in your group, family traditions that you want to incorporate into your family life. Steal the best ones.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | December 20th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments

The Baton

The sweat dripped from his brow as he scaled the hill. His muscles were fit but lean from the years of training. No longer carried by the meaty limbs of his youth that bounded with certainty among the rocky terrain, he picked his way with crafty precision with a mind toward efficiency sparing his remaining strength. The hill was a long one and the injuries of past events could be felt with every step. The many scrapes and scars stood out against his sinews as he pumped up the hill.

His breath was strong despite the slope, though his pace slowed a touch as his strength faded, the crest fast approaching. The race continued after his part was done; his job was nearing completion. The baton weighed more now than a short while ago, but he remembered when it weighed nothing at all. When the race started so long ago, the baton seemingly weighed nothing in actuality compared to what he thought it might. How he imagined the weight would cramp him and cause him to stumble. But in the end, he carried it well like so many before.

Looking up he could see the next runner waiting at the mile stone, running in place with fresh legs, the sun anointing him with a golden glow around his head. Squinting, he couldn’t see the next runner’s expression backlit against the sun. However, as he neared, an eager smile appeared. He firmed his pace down the stretch so the handoff would be on his terms; where he could look into the next runner’s eyes as an equal, not as one who had spent his last to gain the final yard. He would carry the baton at a solid pace running along side for but a short while. Then with an easy manner pass the baton to the next runner wanting so much to encourage him, to explain the course, to describe what meaning can be derived from the race itself. But in the end, after a few paces where the untested energy of the new contestant begged to be released, he handed off the baton.

He kept pace for a couple of strides and caught the eyes for but a glance. And what a glance. Optimistic and full of light, the new runner smiled with a wide grin and unknowing but heartfelt appreciation. With a slight wave of his hand that held the baton, the young runner eased his stride respectfully, but certainly. He moved smoothly away. The older runner, without baton, running no longer had meaning. But after such a long race, stopping didn’t seem right either. He carried on for a bit till the baton runner melted into the sun. At that point, when he could see the other runner wasn’t going to fall or drop the baton or need anything whatsoever, he slowed his pace to a walk. The race continued, but not for him. He had run to the best of his ability and now that he had passed the baton, it was time to rest. The baton ran ever towards the sun, but here, evening had already begun to set. It would be nighttime soon. Time to get off the hill and rest.
To grandpa and morfar. With love.

I wrote this when I went to my wife’s father’s funeral. This week my Dad would have been 82. You Ironmen, time moves faster than you can possibly imagine. Make sure you place honor on those whose shoulders you stand. Reach out this weekend and tell them how much you appreciate them.

To your continued success,

Dave

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By | November 15th, 2013|Relational|0 Comments