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Firing All The Staff
Downstream Benefits Of Major Inconveniences
This is one of those pieces.
Listen to a Olympic Gold Medalist talk about how she organizes her life and you’ll gain insight into the single minded focus necessary at the top.
Success habits work, until they don’t.
I came to my habits from outside sport.
My field was Finance and, in my late 20s, my life was:
My guiding principle was simple:
Use money, and other people’s time, to support my goals.
This principle works, very well, on external goals.
When I left the corporate world, I applied the same approach to sport and had outstanding results.
Where the approach breaks down is friendships, marriages, family systems and parenting.
…and the easiest way to explain is with a story.
October 2019, Six Months Before The Pandemic
I’m 50 years old and helping with dinner.
My son is sitting on the couch.
His two sisters are eating dinner nearby, the youngest in a high chair.
My son raises his finger and shouts, “Booger!”
Our au pair grabs a tissue and wipes it off his finger.
The entire scene runs so smoothly, I get the impression it’s not the first time this has happened.
At that moment, I decide to fire every member of my household support team.
By the end of the calendar year, we went from six helpers to one.
March 2000, the day before the pandemic shut down air travel, I paid out our au pair’s contract and bought her a flight back to Sweden.
Six months, family staff to zero.
That was the easy part.
For 12 months, I spent 3-5 hours each weekend cleaning the house.
I raged, while cleaning.
Nobody offered to help but, eventually, when I asked them what job they wanted…
I had placed them in a position where a reasonable person would struggle to say no.
Today, my 3-5 hours a week is down to 30 minutes.
My year of cleaning is one of the highest return blocks of time I’ve ever done.
For me, and my family.
This story is not about cleaning.
We have many reasons why we can’t do certain things:
I don’t want to
I don’t have the time
There is a better use of my time
All are true and valid.
But who created the attitudes of our situation?
At first, we inherited them.
At some point, we need to own them.
In my demographic, many of us were taught to live a certain way as children.
We might not have been holding up boogers, but we had no idea how to:
We don’t need to be rich to end up clueless.
All we need is a family system where it is OK to skip the tasks of ordinary living.
It’s not our expectations.
It’s not our words.
It’s what we do.
As a father, I’d continued to do exactly what I’d done in Finance.
Throw money and other people’s time at anything I didn’t want to deal with.
Great for high-performance.
Less great for achieving my three goals for my kids:
I want them to be prepared to live without me.
I want them to have the skills to self-direct their lives.
I’d like them to avoid ruin.
The kids know I have the money to avoid doing any work. They’re aware I hold down our spending so we don’t get used to a standard that will be impossible for a reasonable person to achieve.
The above are words they’ve memorized.
What they see in my actions…
Having a habit of not doing one’s share greatly increases the risk of relationship ruin.
Relationship Ruin is much more likely when one parent opts out.
The Dog Poop Test
My wife and I have a test. We pay attention to who doesn’t “pick it up.”
Back in 2019, when my son held up that booger, he was modeling my behavior.
Not with poop.
That night, I didn’t say a word.
I knew who was responsible and got to work being the change.
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In the rest of my 20s, my time outside work was focused on deadly sins and vices. Shifting towards athletics was a major improvement.
When I was a lad… we hid boogers under the furniture. I’m grateful I had the wisdom to see past the trigger.