Brad Feld

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Death and Dying

Nov 21, 2010

Two colleagues have died suddenly in the past two weeks – one was in his 60’s and one was in his 50’s.  Both shook me up.  A close friend’s mother is very ill.  And a close friend’s father died earlier this year.

I’ve had a physical challenging year.  I ran a marathon in February and was geared up for a lot of running and then hurt my back.  Seven months later I’m better, but I had five months of solid and consistent pain (never getting below a two on a 0 to 10 scale and often reaching eight or nine.)  On top of that, I’ve had a few nasty colds, including a staph infection in my earlobe that scared the shit out of at least one doctor.  Oh, and two weeks ago my extrovert completely burned out.

When I read the title to Fred Wilson’s blog this morning (Pacing Yourself) I thought he was going to talk about “personal pace.”  His post ended up being about investment pace (and is a very important one), but it has deep roots in personal pace, even if they aren’t obvious on the surface.

I’m turning 45 in a few weeks and this is the first year of my life that I’ve felt any amount of sustainable physical fatigue.  Every year I run extremely “hot” until I burn out, but then I recover in a week or so of deep sleep and rest.  Suddenly, however, I’m feeling tired on a more regular basis.  My binge sleeping on the weekend is reaching new levels.  It takes me a few days to recover from a redeye (and, as a result I’ve decided not to take them anymore.)  The periodic intervention from my partners about “pushing too hard” seems to be turning into an annual affair.

Fear of death motivates a lot of human behavior.  I’d like to believe that I’m tranquil about death (when my number is up, it’s up) and when I read posts like Regrets of the Dying (thanks @djilk) I smile and feel good about how I approach my life.  But this year feels like a transformative one for me as I am suddenly acknowledging that I’m probably not in the first half of my life anymore.

I had a couple of dreams that past few days about death and dying and good versus evil.  I’m 99.9% confident these dreams are a result of me watching the Star Wars episodes over the past five days (Return of the Jedi is tonight – then I’ll be done).  As I come out of my latest burnout cycle, I’m starting to ponder how and what to adjust so that year 45 if a healthier one than 44 and doesn’t have a burnout week (or month) in it.