The Power Of A Digital Sabbath

I’m doing a little better than I was on Friday morning when I wrote the post Generosity Burnout. Just writing the post put me in an appropriate frame of mind to reflect on things on Saturday. I took a digital sabbath, something I’ve been doing on 90% of the Saturdays since I first tried it in March, 2013 in the middle of a deep depressive episode.

I’m not religious but I know many successful people who take a full day off once a week. I’m most familiar with the Jewish traditions, so I decided to emulate sabbath in spirit. No phone. No computer. No email. After almost four years, it’s a weekly touchpoint that has become a central part of my life.

On Friday, when I wrote Generosity Burnout, I was exhausted from three weeks of travel. On Tuesday in San Francisco, in the midst of an endless downpour, I acknowledged to myself that I had started to feel “down”, which is a euphemism for “feeling depressed” for many of us. I hadn’t tipped to a dark place, but I realized that I had given myself a total lack of self-care since the beginning of the year. While I had a normal amount of work stress, with something new fucked up every day, I was feeling the emotional impact more and carrying around extra anxiety that was bordering on obsessive thoughts.

Yesterday, I had a typical digital sabbath. I slept 12 hours, meditated, and then went running. Amy and I had lunch and talked. I then retreated to the couch and a read a book with her and the dogs. We took an afternoon nap, showered, and then went into Boulder for dinner with friends. We went to bed when we got home.

I took action on the self-care front. I haven’t been drinking any booze since my birthday (@bfeld v51). I decided to stop drinking coffee, cancel all of my Q2 travel, spent two nights a week at home with Amy for dinner in Q2, and start saying no to everything new until I feel like saying yes again. I’ve got plenty to work on – there’s no need to add more to it. And I know I get a lot of satisfaction and energy from working on what is on my plate.

I feel a little better today. I’m still tired and anxious. Meditation this morning was calming, as is writing this. After I hit post, I’m heading out for a run with the dogs.

Generosity Burnout

HBR recently did an interview with me around the idea of generosity burnout. It’s part of the challenge that Adam Grant is exploring after the huge success and impact of his book Give and Take.

There’s a longer article on HBR by Adam about the general concept of generosity burnout. It’s a good read and it’s helpful to me as I start working on my next book, Give First.

Several people have picked up from the tone of some recent blog posts that I’m wandering up to the edge of this. I’m at my limit emotionally and made a conscious decision a few days ago to change modes through at least the end of Q2. I cancelled all my work travel in Q2, uncommitted to a number of things that weren’t already in process, and generally decided to focus my energy on what I’m currently working on, rather than add to anything new, especially in the “this could be fun but I don’t know why I’m doing it” category.

I already say no 50+ times a day. I’ve also tuned out a ton of noise around things I can’t directly impact. That’s not the issue. Instead, it’s remembering to ask myself “do I want to do this while I’m in my current mode” at least twice before I say yes to anything.

Foundry Group on The Twenty Minute VC

I’ve become a huge fan of Harry Stebbings, the intrepid entrepreneur turned VC whose age (20) matches the title of his podcast (The Twenty Minute VC.) Today, at SaaStr at 1:40pm in the Hypercritical section, Harry is interviewing me about – well – whatever he wants.

Harry has done hundreds of 20 minute VC interviews over the past few years. It’s a staple of mine on my podcast listening rotation so I’ve heard a bunch of them. It’s fun to watch Harry evolve as an interviewer as his knowledge of the industry has increased dramatically and his point of view about various VC-related things has become crisp and clear. And his hustle is relentless and has led to him also doing the SaaStr podcast and joining Atomico.

All five of the Foundry Group partners have been interviewed at this point. I think our interviews are a great way to get to know us quickly since we each tell our story, our strategy, and our approach in our own words and from different perspectives. Over the past few weeks I’ve probably talked to over 100 VCs between my trip to Australia, LA, and SF. When I find myself telling our story in response to being asked, I often wish I had a short cut to point people to.

This post is now the shortcut. I’ll use Harry’s original titles so you can see how his SEO prowess has evolved.

20 VC 065: FOUNDRY GROUP WEEK 1: BRAD FELD

20 VC 066: FOUNDRY GROUP WEEK 1: SETH LEVINE

20VC: THE FUNDAMENTALS TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE PARTNERSHIP & THE OPTIMAL INVESTMENT DECISION MAKING PROCESS WITH RYAN MCINTYRE, CO-FOUNDER @ FOUNDRY GROUP

20VC: HOW 50% OF VCS HURT ENTREPRENEURS, HOW TO BUILD A RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST WITH YOUR VC AND HOW ENTREPRENEURS CAN DETECT VC BS WITH JASON MENDELSON, CO-FOUNDER @ FOUNDRY GROUP

20VC: WHY MANY VCS FAIL TO RAISE, WHY LP COMPENSATION IS A MASSIVE PROBLEM & WHY FUND OF FUNDS WILL BECOME MORE PROMINENT WITH LINDEL EAKMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR @ FOUNDRY GROUP

Yeah – I don’t love the capital letters either, but there you have it.

In case you are wondering about the tone of the 100 VCs I’ve talked to, I’d rate it as very high on the anxiety meter. Some of the tone is from the macro dynamics post election, but some seems deeper and more unsettled. I don’t know what it is, but I switched my Headspace meditation pack from Motivation (which I don’t need any help with) to Anxiety, just to be proactive.

Soggy In San Francisco

I arrived this morning to a downpour and a city that feels exceedingly waterlogged. I’m sitting at a coffee shop in Berkeley in advance of a talk I’m giving on Startup Communities, a topic that to me suddenly feels even more relevant than before given the self-inflicted chaos going on at a macro level in America. As things unfold, I’m calmly pondering the next 20 years as I put the final touches on a presentation for a talk at the Greenspring Associates annual meeting later this week.

My partner Ryan is going to the NewCo Shift Forum while I’m theoretically covering SaaStr (and doing a brief speaking bit tomorrow there and then at the Strictly VC event.) While reading Fred Wilson’s post Capitalism At A Crossroads, John Battelle’s efforts and conference spiked in relevance to me. But it’s too late to shuffle things this time around.

Last week was sunny in LA at the Upfront Summit. Mark Suster and team did an amazing job – I think this was one of the best two day conferences I’ve ever been to. If you want a quick taste, read Mark’s recent posts titled Why Was Winter in Venture Capital Funding so Short? and How Glenn Beck Won the Audience Over at the Upfront Summit.

My version of VC Conference Season ends on Friday, as there are endless opportunities in the next few months to spend two days to pretend to work while sitting with a bunch of other people at a conference, waiting to participate in a 30 minute panel or doing a fireside chat. I’m wrapping this week up and then I’m done for a while, as I shift my extra energy to maker mode. In this mean time, I’m pretty sure I won’t need a shower tomorrow to fit in around the bay area – I’ll just need to go outside and walk a few blocks.