Wanna Bet?

by EMILY ORTON

I’m betting woman...now.  I'm practicing separating decisions from outcomes.  It’s helping me appreciate good stuff more and be frustrated less.  I got this idea listening to Annie Duke, author of Thinking in Bets:  Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts, who got National Science Foundation Fellowship in cognitive psychology, but became sick during the academic hiring season and took a 20-year detour as a professional poker player before returning to psychology.  She says life is a lot more like poker than it is like chess.  I played poker for the first time last month and I agree with her.  In chess, whoever makes the best decisions wins.  In poker, that is not the case. 

Probability for a good outcome goes up when decisions are based on quality information, which includes experience, but there are no guarantees.  You might make a well-reasoned decision in poker and lose, or you could make a thoughtless choice and end up winning.  I know this is true because another player pointed out to me that I won a couple of rounds.  I didn’t know.  We were using my daughter Alison’s laundry quarters and promised to return them all after the game.  I had 80% of the cash in my hands just before the last round.  I truly had no real idea what I was doing.  I was lucky.  I appreciated my luck without getting any false sense of skill or merit.

I’ve been applying this to my life for the past few weeks and it’s helping me keep things in perspective.  I used to apply the outcome to the total when calculating the quality of a decision.  If things didn’t go well, that meant it was a bad decision, a lousy bet.  That meant it was somebody’s fault.  Usually mine.  I’m not trying to shirk my responsibilities, but a lot of the time, it’s just the way things are. 

We are in Yosemite National Park.  We made a sound decision to arrive before the main tourist season but while the weather is usually good.  It was a good bet to assume there would be lots of climbing partners.  We gave ourselves ample time to account for vetting partners and changing weather.  We could not have predicted a flood that cleared all the climbers out of the valley.  We could not have anticipated nighttime lows in the teens and twenties.  It was a good bet with an unexpected uncomfortable outcome.

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We considered a new decision to cut our losses and drive California’s Big Sur coastline instead of freezing our tails off in unseasonably cold Yosemite weather.  But then a climbing buddy for Erik showed up.  Some friends offered us two more nights in a campsite and the forecasts improved.  We never guessed that by staying we would participate in a writer’s workshop with the author of Burn Wild where we would make new friends. 

 With special Guest:  Christi Krug

With special Guest:  Christi Krug

We have a place to sleep.  The temperature is above freezing at night.  Erik and his climbing buddy already have their gear stashed on the 4th pitch of El Cap and they’ll climb it this weekend.  I’m with my family in one of my favorite places on earth.  We’ve made a few friends in the park.  One let us bake brownies in her oven.  One took us on a tour of the post office.  Another invited us to some fascinating park theatrical events.  

 Erik's climbing buddies are always part of the family

Erik's climbing buddies are always part of the family

We get as much good information as we can.  We use our intellect to figure out what will lead to the best outcomes.  Then we recognize that good and bad circumstances arise because they just do.  If we stay limber, as Erik says, we can roll with the frustrating parts.  Once they are past, inconvenience and discomfort make us grateful.  We thankfully acknowledge the good—sometimes amazing—stuff. 

 Find updates on Erik's El Cap ascent on my Instagram:  emilyorton2020

Find updates on Erik's El Cap ascent on my Instagram:  emilyorton2020

We made a plan A which detoured into plan B.  While we were frigidly working on plan C, shifts beyond our control made plan A possible.  As one dear friend once said, “The only thing I know for sure is that things will get a little better and then they’ll get a little worse and then they’ll get a little better.  And they just keep going like that.”  Right now, it looks like things are a little better. There is a lot I don’t know about poker and even more that I don’t know about life, but I bet this is a good hand. 

Luck favors the prepared.

If you think this post might encourage someone, please consider sharing.

My Word of the Year

by ERIK ORTON

I can’t tell you how many twists and turns we’ve had on this trip.  Some have been good, some have been bad, but all of them have been unexpected.  One of our families favorite movies is Dan in Real LifeWe can all quote most of it.  One adage from the film is: "prepare to be surprised." 

The very reason for this current road trip was unexpected.  We were invited to house sit in Hawaii for two months.  Awesome.  We said yes, and bought plane tickets.  Then, thru no fault of their own, our friends’ plans changed and they had to push back a few weeks.  Surprise.  But we had already committed our apartment to some other friends.  We decided to hit the road.  This would let us spend Easter with our college girls and do some Spring climbing in Yosemite before flying from San Francisco to Hawaii.  Surprise.  We drove across country, enjoyed a wonderful visit with Karina and Alison, and pressed on to California.  Next stop: Yosemite.  We’d traveled 3,400 miles.  With less than a 100 miles to go, we got word:  Yosemite Valley was closed.  It was getting some of its biggest rain in decades and was being evacuated.  Surprise.

 Good spirits despite the set-backs.  dinner at jack-in-the-box didn't hurt.

Good spirits despite the set-backs.  dinner at jack-in-the-box didn't hurt.

We pulled over and told all the kids to take out their ear buds.  After a fast food meal, a couple phones calls, and a few recommendations from Facebook friends, we decided to make a U-turn.  We back-tracked 5 hours of driving to Joshua Tree National Park, so we could camp somewhere dry.  We limped in at 3am, and all the campsites were full.  Surprise.  We crashed for the night at a Motel 6 one town over.  That day we set an Orton record for hours driven in one day:  16.  None of us want to do that again, ever.

The next morning we checked a campground we hadn’t heard of before.  Ranger Amanda told us they were booked.  Bummer.  Then Ranger Damon returned back from his rounds.  We happened to still be standing at the counter as he walked in.  Turns out there was one site for the exact two nights we needed.  We took it, and it was a beautiful:  abutting the desert, with a big rock formation for primo privacy.  Surprise. 

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We ate well, made new friends, rock climbed, got slushies at Sonic (oh, man!) and got sunburned.  Three days later we shoved off for Yosemite.  As Yvon Choinard, founder of Patagonia,  says, "It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong."

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In my case, if some things hadn’t “gone wrong” most of the opportunities I’m enjoying right now never would have surfaced.  I wouldn’t have spent Easter with my daughters.  I wouldn’t have camped in the beautiful desert.  I wouldn’t be back in majestic Yosemite.

My word for this year is:  limber.  I want to stay limber, because if I grip and cling too tightly to what I expect to happen, I’ll exhaust myself, get frustrated and miss out on all the unexpected opportunities hidden behind what I might consider bad news.  Limber lets me enjoy the unexpected.  I’m preparing to be surprised.  Stay limber, my friend.  

 Sunset at Joshua Tree.  Spin off from the rain storms up north.

Sunset at Joshua Tree.  Spin off from the rain storms up north.

 Warming up and climbing outside again after a long winter.

Warming up and climbing outside again after a long winter.

 After a couple hot days in the sun, we discovered Sonic's slushy menu.  (But we brought our own sloppy Joes : )

After a couple hot days in the sun, we discovered Sonic's slushy menu.  (But we brought our own sloppy Joes : )

 The road from Joshua Tree to Yosemite, as seen through our WINDSHIELD.

The road from Joshua Tree to Yosemite, as seen through our WINDSHIELD.

Are You Drinking the Kool-Aid?

Are You Drinking the Kool-Aid?

by EMILY ORTON

This week we’ve been on the road.  We drove from our home in New York City to Idaho, where our daughter Alison attends school.  We stayed with our friends Matt and Mary who both teach at the university.  Mary extended a surprise invitation to speak to her Human Resources class.  The topic was conformity.  It is human nature to fit in, to go along, and to roll with it.  This class talked about being mindful of incremental influences.  We don’t want to be on autopilot mindlessly going wherever the crowd or prevalent culture is leading. 

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Your Perfect Day

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Yesterday I turned 44.  Birthdays make me philosophical.  So I’d like to speak briefly about time, my perfect day and taxes. 

Taxes are not part of my perfect day.  That’s what I did the day before my birthday.  It put me in a funk.  Maybe it doesn’t have the same effect on you, but it did a number on me.  However, my birthday pulled me out of it, and I’ll tell you why. My birthday reminded of one of my personal mantras:  the longer I live, the faster time moves.

I know my life is only accelerating.  My next 44 years will feel like a fraction of my first 44 years.  If there are things I want to do, I don’t have time to waste.  I gotta get on it.  No time to sulk over taxes.  And I’m pleased to report that my birthday was a perfect day.  The nice thing was that I didn’t do anything different than what I would do on a normal day, and I liked that.  Here’s the rundown:

  • Got up with the sun
  • Went for a walk with Emily in the park (the same walk we do every day)
  • Worked out, got ready for the day (the same routine I do everyday)
  • Breakfast:  bran flakes and raisins with whole milk (my usual.  I love it.)
  • Sat at my desk and mapped out my work time:
    • Worked on book project #1
    • Worked on book project #2
  • Lunch (leftovers, my favorite)
  • Sent texts, emails and responded to messages as needed.
  • Worked on the online financial class we're creating:  Video chat with some dear friends who are beta testing it.  They sang happy birthday to me in Polish (not usual).  They live in Warsaw right now.
  • It was climbing day, so I drove up to the climbing gym with my buddy Rob and my daughter, SJ (as usual)  I climbed okay, but nothing special.  I was pushing myself, but just a little bit.  Jane had some breakthroughs.  I was really proud of her.
  • Drove home (as usual)
  • Visited with someone I’m going to serve with at church.  Invited him to stay for dinner. 
  • Had dinner, birthday cake, ice cream.  No gifts, no decorations.  Just the way I like it. 
  • We played my favorite board game:  Cashflow.  I’m a nerd.
  • Did our regular bedtime routine with the kids.
  • In bed by midnight.

I loved this day.  I recognize that it may not be your perfect.  And that’s okay.  That’s actually kind of the point.  I learned something yesterday: it’s important to know what you want, which may be different from what you think you’re supposed to want. 

Often times we’re tricked into thinking what other people want is what we should want.  If everyone wants to own a home, I should too.  If everyone wants to ski over winter break, I should too.  If everyone wants to sail the world, I should too.   Not so.

As we video chatted with our friends about this class, I said, “We don’t have to accept other people’s Instagram dream as our own.”  They said, “You should say that.  Write a blog post about that!”  So here we are.  Everyone needs to know what they like and what they want.

I’m so inspired by Warren Buffet, because I think he’s a classic example of this.  He’s one of the richest men on the planet, but he knows what he likes.  He likes his simple home in Omaha that he bought in 1958, so he still lives there.  In a shareholder meeting, he said, "My life couldn't be happier.  In fact, it'd be worse if I had six or eight houses.  I have everything I need to have, and I don't need any more."  I once read his favorite meal was a Chuck-a-Rama steak and a Cherry Coke.  His current favorites now include rootbeer floats, McDonalds breakfast food, and more steak.  The point is, he knows what he likes. 

I like to sit quietly at my desk, looking out the window at the park, figuring out my thoughts and writing them out.  I also like road trips.  We’re hitting the road again on Monday.  We’ll be gone a couple months.  In fact, if all goes to plan, this year will be a string of trips where we go far but we go slow.  I don’t like fast travel.  The slower and simpler, the better.

I know that if I’d never figured out what I wanted, I never would have gotten it.  If I didn’t discern what I actually enjoyed and liked, I very easily could have run the risk of pursuing what someone else liked or wanted.  And if I got it, I wouldn’t have been happy, because I would have achieved someone else’s dream.  Lame.

Some people think we do cool stuff, and that’s okay.  They say nice things and it makes us feel good.  I’m glad that sometimes we can inspire and encourage people.  But what I don't hope is that people read what we share and say, “I want to do that too.”  Rather, I hope they think, “If the Orton’s figured out how to do what they want, I’ll bet I can figure out how to do what I want.”  It may be the same thing as us--and that'd be cool--but it may not be the same thing.  I don’t want to open a yoga studio, but our friends did.  I’m so happy for them.  I don’t want to be an organic farmer, but my friend does.  I hope she makes it happen.  My dad loves to work with wood.  I do too, but it’s not my top priority.

As I sit here looking out the window, watching the latest blizzard and the kids sledding on the hill across the street, I’m grateful.  I’m grateful I’ve found my own version of the basic steak and Cherry Coke life. 

We’re going to some places I’m excited about, and we’re going to do some things I’m eager to learn.  But mostly importantly, I hope I can be honest with myself and make sure I’m clear about whether I like it, or whether I hope other people like it.  Because only one matters.

What is your perfect day?  Is it truly your own or borrowed from others?  If we can figure out what we really value and live our lives that way, each day will be a perfect day.  And a whole bunch of days like that can add up to a pretty amazing life.  And each life can be completely unique.  Whatever it is, try to describe it to yourself before you look at Instagram.

 

He Likes It!

He Likes It!

About a year ago we took Eli climbing in the Shawangunk mountains...

The event was so impactful that Eli decided he did not like rock climbing.  He was not a rock climber.  He was a victim of fate, born to parents who thought scaling rocks was a good time.  We even took him on a 105 day road trip seeking out some of the greatest rock climbing in the U.S. and Canada.  He preferred to sit at the base and wait for it to be over.  I only got him in the harness once when I guaranteed he would not have to climb.  I wanted him to stay low to the ground and swing on the rope.  When introducing new foods, I only expect my kids to take a taste not eat the whole plate.  I wanted Eli to get a taste of trusting the rope.  He didn’t love it, but he didn’t panic.

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See How Far You've Come

See How Far You've Come

There are some seasons where I can’t tell I’m progressing at all.  This is especially true in February.  It’s the shortest month, but it feels like the longest.  Like the world will always be gray and cold.  It feels like nothing is coming together.  I have no traction.  I’m spinning my wheels.  I look back at my day, week or even the month and it doesn’t seem like I’ve accomplished anything. I’ve just churned through the days.  It’s very trendy to live in the Now. But what if Now doesn’t look like anything? 

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Easily Distracted? Me Too.

Easily Distracted?  Me Too.

Getting distracted is the easiest thing in the world.  We all walk into a room, forget why we came, try to remember and walk out.  Or an email comes in.  Or a text, or Facebook, or Instagram.  I do it.  You do it.  We all do it.

This morning my son was sitting on the couch with his game pad.  I asked him, “Didn’t you just say you wanted to go play with Daniel?”  Oh, yeah!  Right.  He stood up and walked out the door to go find his friend.  Even if it’s something we want to do, we get distracted.

We’re pretty good at giving ourselves reminders for things we “have to” do:  conference calls, deadlines, dental appointments.  But what about reminders for the things we want to do?

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Being Me for a Better We

Being Me for a Better We

Today is about love.  Maybe it's about romantic love, friendship, family or that co-worker who always manages to make you smile.  It's about those relationships where you show up as yourself and you are embraced.

The night before Karina was born my water broke so I woke Erik up and he me drove to the hospital.  Before we got out of the car I said, “A lot of women yell at their husbands during delivery.  I don’t want to do that to you.” Writing this memoir is like that except we’re both in labor at the same time.  Heaven help us. We laugh a lot, but there are long pauses after statements like, “I’m feeling defensive.”  "You seem defensive."  “What did you mean by that?”  “That’s what you thought I was doing?”  Our communication is leveling up.

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Changing Lenses

Changing Lenses

Our editor asked us to gather up photos that might be good for the cover of our upcoming book.  He joked that it’d be great if we had a drone shot of our family on deck while sailing in open ocean.  One of these days we’re going to get a drone.

But I did remember when we crossed from St. Martin to Anguilla, our friends on Discovery sailed parallel to us and took some pictures.  I asked if they could forward them along.  Within a matter of hours, they’d shared not only the photos from that little crossing, but also photos from the several months we sailed together.

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