Recalibrating For The Summer

Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, I still have some tenuous link to the idea of summer vacation. Well, not some much vacation, but a mode shift from going to class every day to doing other stuff, such as playing tennis at least eight hours a day (age 10 – 14) or writing software products (age 17 – 21).

A few summers ago I did a hard shift to maker mode. I did some of my most creative work in a while that summer, including writing Startup Communities and getting started with Amy on the book Startup Life. It was also a powerful summer for some of the companies in my portfolio and I was able to spend deep time with several of them on their product rather than just reacting to all the inbound stuff that was flying at me. I also got in the best physical shape of my life. I worked out – mostly running and biking – almost every day. I slept plenty. I ate well. I spend a lot of time reading and hanging out with my beloved.

At the end of the summer, I blew it as I shifted out of this mode. The fall started with a bike accident in Slovenia and ended with surgery to remove an 8mm kidney stone. But that was only the beginning of a slide into a very deep, six month depression which finally ended in the summer. I didn’t plan for an annual cycle, but that’s what happened on that one.

While I feel mentally healthy right now, I realize that I’m extremely tired. Amy and I slept an enormous amount of the time we were in Paris. While we usually have an epic Parisian meal two or three times during the week, we only had one at the beginning of the week and then cancelled the others because we just didn’t feel like it. We had an amazing visit to the Picasso Museum, but then spent a lot of time laying in bed reading or just wandering around aimlessly, and then heading back to the hotel to take a nap. The heavy fog of fatigue, which settled in on the trip, hasn’t lifted. I’m sure the endless rain in Boulder isn’t helping, but I’m aware that it’s time to shift gears again.

On top of that, I’m pretty tired by the noise in the system. I was tired of it all spring and wrote a few things about it, but the gap between real signal in the entrepreneurial world and the endless noise is at a volume that is very high. I filter much of it out so when it eventually breaks through I know I need to add a new filter, or recalibrate my filter.

At the same time, I’m extremely interested in many of the companies we are investors in. So, I know I’m not reacting to the work, or the types of companies I get to work with, but the systemic noise that isn’t about creating, doing, building, and thinking.

I’m using Memorial Day to Labor Day as my marker for recalibrating for this summer. I’m not going to use the 2012 Maker Mode summer approach but I’m going to design something else. I’m going to let this week roll over me without fighting it as I think about what the recalibration for the summer is, but the new mode will start in a week.

  • Am curious if the recalibration needs to be related to making or designing something. Considering that the system is tired, and that there is so much noise, can parts of the recalibration be not thinking but moving. Not necessarily imbibing new sights and sounds but something akin to your tennis days.

    Something where instinct takes over thought?

    • I badly need more physical movement. My running has been off-kilter for a year and it’s one of the things I’m adding in with consistency this summer.

      • As physically demanding running is, it leaves plenty of room to think of other things while engaged in it. On the other hand, a sport like tennis, where you are engaged in multiple exchanges in a short period of time, makes your instincts and muscle memory take over engaging DIFFERENT areas of the brain.

        So the form of physical movement might be more refreshing than physical movement itself.

      • Walter

        You should try rock climbing. All the movements are random. And hard. It’s somewhat like random sequences of yoga interspersed with bits of terror. Boulder is the mecca of climbing. Plus I know about hundred people that would like to climb with you.

      • I’d suggest you go back to tennis. As you now know, I’m a big tennis fan and if you’re a decent player and playing against other decent players, the cardio can be quite good. I actually wanted to ask you. I remember a while back you telling tale of depth perception issues. I would imagine that would have an effect on tennis, does it?

        • I will be playing a lot more tennis ONCE THIS FUCKING RAIN STOPS.

          • On the bright side… we should have great river rafting this summer in Colorado. I’ve never been, but looking forward to checking it out this year with friends.

  • Brad, have you ever had your vitamin D level tested? A lot of folks see a sharp drop off during the winter months due to lack of sunlight which can lead to Season Depression:

    • Yup – I have. Levels are a little low right now so that’s some of the issue.

  • I’d love to find some systemic-noise-canceling headphones a la The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Peril Sensitive Sunglasses.

    • There are many things from Hitchhiker’s I want. Zaphod Beeblebrox remains one of my all time heroes.

  • Good for you that you’re so aware of the cycle you’re in and your willingness to share it. Cheers for reframing your summer mode. I’ve just finished an insightful book by the amazing Dr. Ed Hallowell, Driven to Distraction at Work, addressing the noise and distracted state we live in. Here’s to more authentic connections and less noise.

  • “I’m not going to use the 2012 Maker Mode summer approach but I’m going to design something else.” Would love to understand your process of recalibration and design for this new approach. I’m currently in the process of recalibrating my work and personal life as well (have a kid on the way) and your insights would be helpful.

    • I’ll write more about it as it unfolds.

  • Sue

    Brad. Just returning (at 35k feet now) from Europe for a week. Found myself alone after my pal left for 2 days. Slept 2 nights @ 10 hours per and read 2 books (which is almost your vaunted pace). I was reflecting this morning on the fact that alone or not, I don’t tend to do that in Boulder. For me, just being away allows an ease I don’t permit myself at home. More being. Less doing. And way more happy, fortuitous discoveries seem to occur when I’m agendaless.

    That’s my wondering for summer. Your posts for these last 3 years have opened a portal for me to be more intentional about this topic. thanks.

    • Welcome home (or at least to the sky on the way home). I’m deleting a lot of summer commitments to open up space – I’m definitely believing in more being, less doing.

      • Elizabeth Kraus

        P.S.: I woke up in this fog too. Part rain, part exhaustion from noise. It is so helpful to know I’m not the only one. Our MergeLane team has committed to one month off for each of us in part because of you talking openly about Foundry’s success with this. I think the hardest thing with what we do is that we could book ourselves 24/7 reacting to emails and requests, but that is not where innovation and magic happens. And frankly, it’s not very fun either. It is so great to have business partners (so lucky to have you Sue), investors and community leaders talking about the need for “space”. Thank you.

  • yazinsai

    “… the gap between real signal in the entrepreneurial world and the endless noise is at a volume that is very high.”

    Could you perhaps clarify what you mean by this? I have some theories in my head, but a clarification would help reach certainty. Thanks Brad.

    • There is a ton of noise, random garbage, and bullshit spouted on a regular basis.

      The amount of fact, helpful information, and real truth is often buried in this noise.

  • same here.

  • Here’s my favorite about the human condition.

    “Pessimism of the intellect. Optimism of the will”

    Antonio Gramsci

  • I find the SNR from endless pitch-offs only increases each time the same company presents multiple years in a row, wins, and drowns out the newcomers. This added noise keeps the media whores and media in close proximity but drives out those (like you) who feed and nurture the ecosystem

  • Rob Ryan

    I say just focus on cuddling Cooper and Brooks this summer. Period.

    • Wisdom.

      • Rob Ryan

        And serious ROI.