Brad Feld

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Vacation in Paris with Amy and Books

Mar 20, 2005

Five years ago, Amy told me that in order to stay married (to her), I needed to commit to going away for a week every three months for a vacation.  A real vacation.  No computer, no email, no cell phone (and now no blogging / RSS).  Five years later, we fondly refer to our “quarterly complete disconnect” vacations as “Qx vacation” (e.g. this one was Q1).

Amy has dreamed of living in Paris as long as I’ve known her and even though I’d much rather spend a week in Rome, we spent Q1 vacation in Paris helping her get settled in to a six week “intensive Paris experience” where her goal is to really learn how to speak French.  She’s been writing about her first week on her blog – if you have any interest in an American writer’s experience in Paris in 2005, check out her Postcards from Paris section.

I spent the week sleeping, reading, running, sleeping, playing with my magnificent wife (who I’ll miss a lot over the next month), eating, sleeping, and staying as far away from my computer as I could.  I turned it on for the first time today and – shockingly – it hadn’t changed much.

Over Thanksgiving (Q4 vacation – get the picture) – I maintained my typical vacation reading pace of a book a day.  I kept it up again and chewed down seven books this week – all of them worthwhile.  Following is a quick summary of each

I started the week with Long Distance by Bill McKibben.  McKibben is an awesome writer and a hugely entertaining person.  At 37, he decided to pursue a “year of the body” (instead of what he’d been doing previously – which was spending all his time writing and being a self-described wimp) as he needed a break from “failing to save the world.”  He chronicled his year of training competitively as a cross-country skier, transforming himself from a wimp to an accomplished athlete, and coping with the unexpected illness, decline, and death of his father.  If you are an athlete, aspire to be an athlete, or love beautiful, emotional, and intense writing from a master of words, this is for you.

Jack Fish was next.  This was pure mental floss – wacky, silly, fun, colorful – all the typical mental floss adjectives.  Brain candy.

In response to my On Bullshit post, one of the readers of my blog (sorry – I forgot who – I know, bad form) recommended Why Business People Speak Like Idiots.  Terry Gold had a good series of posts on Jarbarish and I don’t think I ever need to hear the words “space”, “traction”, “leverage”, “mindshare”, or “value-added” again in my life (please hit me if I say any of these stupid, meaningless words).  This book was written by some ex-Deloitte Consulting folks.  While it was predictable, it went down fast and had some entertaining moments.  While not nearly as philosophical as On Bullshit (nor as short), it helped identify best practices for more fully leveraging your value-added communication to your constituents.

The best part of The Number was Mark Cuban’s introduction – just because it was so right.  While this was yet another “post bubble – what happened – why it always happens – and why it will happen again” book, it had some useful history, completely trashed (appropriately) the accounting industry, and had some good anecdotes that I hadn’t heard before.  Oh – and it trashed the accounting industry (did I say it trashed the accounting industry – it did – and it was fun to read (and correct)).

Sapphire Sea was more mental floss – I believe it was the author John Robinson’s first novel and – although it needed a much better editor – it was fun.  I’d like to believe I learned something about Madagascar, but I think the half-life of the book has already passed.

Normally I’d fight the urge to read any book with the word “marketing” in the title (ok – I wouldn’t have to fight the urge very hard), but I looked forward to The Marketing Playbook since it was by John Zagula and Richard Tong – both of Ignition Partners (and ex-Microsoft).  This one belongs on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf – John and Rich did a great job of distilling their battle-tested marketing approaches into five different “plays”, explained them well, gave plenty of relevant examples, and only got hung up in marketing blather a couple of times.  The second edition needs a better editor (notice a pattern – it’s remarkable the different between a well edited, not so well edited, and poorly edited book) – 25% of the words could go.  But – still well worth the time. 

Touching The Void kept me up until 3am last night (which is part of the reason I’m up again tonight at 1:30am Paris time).  This is Joe Simpson’s classic book about the disastrous climb he and his climbing partner Simon Yates had in 1985 on Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Joe survived a near death experience to write an amazing book about it (and subsequently live a great life – this man did not waste his second chance).  Wow.  I never need to climb a mountain like this.

So – I’m back on line, refreshed, a little goofed up on time, and very happy to be part of the human race.  It only took a week to get back to something that resembles normal.