What Are You Optimizing For?

Health matters. Wealth matters. These things matter not just to us, but to our families. You only have to look around to see people who don’t optimize for these things and the way that ripples through not just their own life, but the lives of their children–children who see dad not taking care of themselves, mom who never quite realized her potential.

So it’s good that you have your routine. It’s good that you work hard. That you are disciplined about these things, that you don’t accept excuses or make exceptions.

But…but…but…that’s what having kids is…unavoidable reality and endless exceptions. As Peter Attia, author of Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity and a very regimented person himself, recently explained in a New York Times interview,

“I’ll give you a personal example that happened today: My son in kindergarten had a thing at school. Parents come in, and from 9 to 9:30 the kids are going to read you the story that they wrote. This poses a challenge for my schedule, because from 6 until 7:15, when my kids go to school, I’m with my wife and kids. Then the second my kids leave until about 8, I’m getting as much work done as I can before I jump in the gym — I usually work out until 10:30. Then my day runs scheduled, 11 to 5. Well, today, not only do I have my son’s thing at 9, but then I have my skin exam at 10:30. Once a year, you’ve got to get the dermatologist to look you over for moles. So I had a choice to make, which was I could have punted on going to my son’s thing and got my full workout in, or I could have squeaked in a 45-minute workout, then gone to the dermatologist. I thought about this for two nanoseconds, and it was clear what the right thing was: I’m not going to miss this school thing, because that’s not the dad I want to be. That’s costing me a little in terms of fitness. Today was supposed to be a killer day: squats and deadlifts. It didn’t happen. I didn’t do my blood-flow restrictions. I missed stuff that I wanted to do, but that’s the trade-off I wanted to make. We have to think about those things constantly. I could say, ‘I am going to spend this summer in Ibiza, partying with my friends, never lifting a finger, and boy, will I have fun.’ But the price I will pay with my health is too great.”

What are you optimizing for, at the end of the day? What is your most important goal? Are you trying to get one percent stronger, or are you trying to be the parent you have committed to being? Are you trying to make one more dollar, or are you trying to really be there for them?

It’s your call. You’ve got to decide what’s most important, what price you’re willing to pay. Because this too, as we say in the February 6 entry in The Daily Dad, is its own form of discipline.

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