On Grief

  • Dad wisdom: On grief
  • Workshop: Unique Strengths assessment and coaching—you in!?
  • Focus: The simplest way to reduce mistakes
  • Fitness: Pain or discomfort?
  • Bonus stuff—including a dad joke

On grief

One of the reasons that men sometimes struggle to talk about grief is that—even if they have the words to express what they're feeling—they do not always feel welcome to do so... To feel what they're feeling in plain sight.

You might assume that this issue exists primarily in men speaking to other men but I've learned that this friction often presents itself via partners and families. We are often told to soldier on—or will at least feel penalized for failing to do so.

In a recent issue of the Dad Strength newsletter, I shared how we sometimes respond to challenges with our kids in ways calibrated to regulate our own emotions, instead of theirs. Likewise, in grieving, we are sometimes handed the emotions of our friends and families to regulate—instead of being given space to simply sit with our own. They may be too uncomfortable with our discomfort to comfort us. So, we instead hear platitudes and problem solving—or someone centring the story on themselves instead of you.

This is, of course, not the exclusive domain of men; women know this situation all too well. However, if we're asking men to be more tuned into to their emotions, we can support them by giving them the space to feel those same emotions without judgement.

These thoughts are based on the most recent Dad Strength weekly call.

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Workshop: Unique Strengths assessment and coaching—you in!?

It is a gift to be able to build your life around Quadrant 1 Activities (as below):

And to do the same at the centre of this diagram:

Want to tap into your unique strengths so that you can reach all of the quadrants and centres that are important to you? I’ve connected with Clifton Strengths expert, Dr. Judy Oskam, to run a workshop on helping you identify your Top Five strengths and to build skills around developing them further. Sign up for the Dad Strength Newsletter for further details (or email me directly if you know where to find me ;)

The simplest way to reduce mistakes: slow down

We often think of high achievers as having a particular type of genius. The far less sexy truth is that high performance is most frequently characterized by a lack of unforced errors. In other words, it’s less about being smart and more about avoiding stupid mistakes. One of the key ways to do this: avoid rushing.

Not rushing seems almost too simple. You don’t need to find a master on a mountaintop for this kind of wisdom; everybody already knows it. The real trick is in applying this concept with utter consistency—meaning that you have strategies to deal with different types of rushing. Like when Nobel Prize winning economist, Daniel Kahneman shares his favourite rule is to never say yes to a request on the phone or behaviour design expert, BJ Fogg, says that when he notices that he’s rushing through things, he will say, “I will slow down 10%.”

It’s easiest to avoid rushing by getting ahead of it. So, here’s my question for you: what situations are most likely to have you rushing—and what prompts can you locate ahead of these to use as tools for preemptively slowing down?

Pain or discomfort?

Bob, a guy in his mid-30s was an expert in machine learning, an experienced marathoner, and a strength training newbie. His question immediately grabbed my attention: “My back hurts when I do this. Is that ok?”

Generally, my response to this type of question is, “Hell no.” Of all the types of uncomfortable sensations we might experience, back pain is one of the scariest. It hasn’t helped that people have crafted terms like slipped disc, pinched nerve, and degenerative disc disease. In reality, discs don’t slip, nerves are far more likely to be irritated than pinched, and all bones and tissues age—yet we don’t hear about degenerative rib disease. It all sounds way scarier than the reality. Yet, a true back injury isn’t… not scary, so I always tread carefully.

I verified that the position that Bob’s positioning didn’t have any red flags. In other words, his spinal position was pretty close to what we’d see with him standing normally AND nothing was moving during the set.

I also confirmed that this exercise required endurance from his spinal extensors. In this case, he was in a bent-over row position. This is a quasi-isometric position with minimal complexity. All movement came from the arms, so any back movement would be easy to detect. Simplicity first.

New exercisers don’t always have the internal vocabulary to safely differentiate between harmful and benign sensations. So, I asked Bob the following:

  • Does the feeling build as you go through the set? Yes.
  • Does the feeling dissipate as soon as you stop the set? It did.
  • Does it feel like burning—in the same way your quads burn when they’re fatigued? Yup.

I told Bob to always err on the side of caution—and to trust his gut—but that all signs, in this case, pointed to him experiencing a typical and productive muscular burn in the same muscles that prevent him from slumping over under weight.


“It's a profound privilege to die from stress related diseases. It is the elimination of other causes of death such as infectious disease which is responsible for bringing lifestyle diseases to the fore - and these are exquisitely sensitive to stress.

—Robert Sapolsky

Dad joke

Did you hear that the cheese warehouse exploded?

Da brie was everywhere

Thanks to Jordan for this one

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