Month: November 2019

Nov 30 2019

Book: Stillness Is The Key

Ryan Holiday’s newest book, Stillness Is The Key, came out at the beginning of October. I ended up with two copies and thought I’d read it over the weekend after they showed up at my house. The weekend slipped by and I didn’t pick it up until mid-day on Thanksgiving.

It was pouring rain in San Diego all day so it was a perfect laying on the couch reading afternoon. I just finished and, once again, Ryan delivered with this book.

Ryan divided the book into three sections: Mind, Spirit, and Body. He has a thorough exploration, broken up into about a dozen chapters, for each category. As is his style, there are many detailed and powerful examples.

He leads with Seneca, a friend of all Stoics and a frequent visitor in Ryan’s writing. He tells a short story around apatheia, or upekkha, or aslama, or hishtavut, or samatvam, or euthymia, or hesychia, or ataraxia, or aequanimitas – a word that finally comes closer to translation into English.

That word is stillness. In the intro to the book, Ryan says,

To be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude—exterior and interior—on command.

Buddhism. Stoicism. Epicureanism. Christianity. Hinduism. It’s all but impossible to find a philosophical school or religion that does not venerate this inner peace—this stillness—as the highest good and as the key to elite performance and a happy life.

And when basically all of the widom of the ancient world agrees on something, only a fool would decline to listen.

I thought the chapters in each section were extremely well-titled and are listed below. Like reading a poem, slow yourself down and, instead of skimming the next three paragraphs, read them aloud.

Mind: The domain of the mind, Become present, Limit your inputs, Empty the mind, Slow down think deeply, Start journaling, Cultivate silence, Seek wisdom, Find confidence avoid ego, Let go.

Spirit: The domain of the soul, Choose virtue, Heal the inner child, Beware desire, Enough, Bathe in beauty, Accept a higher power, Enter relationships, Conquer your anger, All is one.

Body: The domain of the body, Say no, Take a walk, Build a routine, Get rid of your stuff, Seek solitude, Be a human being, Go to sleep, Find a hobby, Beware escapism, Act bravely.

If even one chapter in each section strikes a chord with you, I encourage you to grab a copy of Stillness Is The Key.

Ryan – thanks for adding another phenomenal book to my bookshelf.

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Nov 29 2019

Lux Capital on How Technology Evolves

My partner Lindel pointed me at the Lux Capital 2019 Annual Dinner Talk. I watched it the other day and thought it was one of the best examples of a VC think piece that I’ve seen in a long time.

Lux‘s premise is that technology evolves out of the infinite arms race between deception and its detection. It touches on many contemporary ideas about truth and lies and the use of data in the pursuit of outcomes based on humans’ perceptions of truth and lies.

You don’t need to go very deep to understand how, as humans, we are regularly and continuously manipulated by the way information is presented to us. This isn’t a new phenomenon. What is new is how rapidly technology is evolving both in ways we understand as well as ways we don’t comprehend.

The optimist views this as innovations that will improve our species. The pessimist contemplates that this is a path that will diminish us, subjugate us to machines, or possibly even eliminate us.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

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Nov 28 2019

The Dystopian Future

Amy and I have been watching The Handmade’s Tale. Simultaneously, I’ve been listening to the book on Audible while running. Last night I said, “The Hulu adaptation of the book is really good.” And then we both grimaced, as we’ve each commented many times over the past week about how incredibly bleak the show is.

A different dystopia is coming to our TVs soon.

As we roll into the end of 2019, almost all of the new near term sci-fi I’m encountering (reading and watching) is dystopic. And many of the people around me have pessimistic views of the future.

Amy and I are fundamentally optimistic people. But I wonder whether it is easier to be optimistic if you’ve had a lot of good fortune.

My year begins again on December 1st (my birthday) rather than January 1st. I’ve been in my head a lot the past few weeks as I finish out my year. My v53 was complicated and had a lot of ups and downs. I have been re-evaluating some of my premises, based on the poem Old Maps No Longer Work by Joyce Rupp that Jerry Colonna pointed me to earlier this year.

I’m rebooting as v54 in a few days. With new, and hopefully improved, software.

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Nov 19 2019

Ten Percent Happier

Over the weekend, we spent time with a friend who works for Ten Percent Happier.

I’ve explored most of the popular meditation apps in the past few years after getting started meditating on a regular basis by using Headspace. I eventually switched to Insight Timer since I usually now just do silent meditation for 20 minutes first thing each morning.

I had never tried Ten Percent Happier, but I felt connected to it because of Ben Rubin, one of the co-founders. We looked seriously at investing in Ben’s prior company Zeo early in the life of Foundry (around the time we invested in Fitbit) and I had several Zeo’s scattered around my world that I used regularly. When I had the headband on, Amy referred to me as “King Brad” which was about the only redeeming thing that happened when I had the headband on (other than getting some data about my sleep.)

On Sunday, I downloaded Ten Percent Happier and gave it a try. I’ve been doing it alongside my 20 minutes of silence with Insight Timer and have been really enjoying. The onboarding is extremely clean and the first teacher – Joseph Goldstein – is spectacular.

I’ve applied beginners’ mind to my Ten Percent Happier use. While I meditate regularly, I’m listening carefully to what Goldstein says. He’s one of the founders of the Insight Meditation movement in the west and his tiny, bite-sized starting points are incredibly poignant. I remember having similar aha moments when I started up with Headspace, so I don’t have a strong opinion as to which is better, but my beginner’s mind has been well-nourished the past few days.

If you are interested in meditation and mindfulness and just want to see what it’s above, give the Ten Percent Happier app a try. It’s got a 7-day free trial to give you a taste to see if it’s for you.

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Nov 15 2019

Shirt Competition: Brad Feld vs. Warren Katz

For almost 30 years, I’ve shared a huge number of life experiences with Warren Katz.

Yesterday, I did a breakfast AMA at Cooley’s office near La Jolla with the Techstars MDs and PMs from the western half of the US. At the end of the hour, we were presented with the above video from Warren as the final word on a question that is on everyone at Techstars’ mind.

I suppose if I used Facebook, I’d post this there. But I don’t, so it lives here for all of posterity.

I just showed it to Amy and she laughed out loud four times during the four minutes, which is a record for her since she doesn’t really understand humor very well. But, like me, she adores Warren. And his shirts.

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Nov 14 2019

Happy 13th Anniversary Techstars

Techstars was born 13 years ago. There’s a delicious article in the Denver Post that was the launch article of the first accelerator in Boulder titled How TechStars was born from 5/18/07. The photo is fun.

Some of my favorite lines from the article include:

Jared Polis, Brad Feld, David Cohen and David Brown are the “professors” – the founders of an organization called TechStars, created to mentor 10 startup companies for the summer. The inaugural session kicks off Monday.

“I had never met David (Cohen),” Feld said. “We had a random meeting and in 15 minutes, I was totally in love with the idea.”

“I was thinking about the gaps in my own experience. I made a lot of mistakes,” said Cohen. “I wish I had had more mentorship, and more access, not only for capital, but the critical thinking. How to think about (starting a company) and approach it from a strategic standpoint.”

“Certainly people who are investing look into us and what we’ve done. There’s really a strong bench of support and proven success there,” Polis said. “I wish when I was first starting out I had access to this kind of brain trust.”

“I love helping start companies,” Feld said. “The four of us funded TechStars this year. If it’s successful, we’ll do it again.”

TechStars hopes the summer will shine light on Colorado as a top destination for technology startups.

Happy birthday Techstars. It’s pretty awesome to see what you’ve become after 13 years. And, thanks to everyone who has been involved throughout the entire experience, as Techstars simply wouldn’t be relevant without all of you.

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Nov 13 2019

Laser Engraved Personalized Chocolates

I love chocolate. I love lasers. So it would be logical that I’d love chocolates that are engraved with personalized messages with lasers.

I met Jennifer, the founder of Noteworthy Chocolates, in Boston at the Authors & Innovators event. She handed me some chocolates engraved with “Authors & Innovators” we talked a while and she sent me a long story about how she figured out how to laser engrave chocolates.

A week later a special box of laser engraved chocolates arrived at my office for me and Amy.

They were clever and delicious. Jennifer won me over and I expect that laser engraved chocolates will be on my gift rotation (for gifts I give my friends) in the future.

If you like chocolates and lasers and want to give some customized laser engraved chocolate gifts for the holidays, Noteworthy Chocolates has you covered.

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Nov 12 2019

Through the Looking Glass: Chapter 2

Personal robots and replicators and instrumented humans. I like to invest in areas predicted by the mountains of science fiction I read.  

Today, I’m delighted to report that another science fiction dream is becoming real. Take a look at this insane video of the Looking Glass 8K Immersive Display, which is the world’s largest and highest resolution holographic display.

Foundry invested in the Looking Glass team in 2017. Since then they’ve shipped thousands of desktop holographic developer kits. But the Looking Glass 8K is something different.

The Looking Glass 8K is more like the looking glass that Alice stepped through. It’s a holographic window for groups of up to a dozen people, connecting the world of atoms we inhabit with the world of 3D digital space. In tribute to the sci-fi dream, the holograms in this new iteration also aren’t bound by the physical volume of the device itself – they can extend in front of and behind the glass. 

And this all works without VR or AR headgear.

The Looking Glass 8K is in production now in limited quantities, with units shipping in volume in Spring 2020. Arrange for a private demo to see one for yourself by going to look.glass/8K.  

I think it’s the universe telling me to get ready for Season 4 of The Expanse.

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Nov 8 2019

Give First Podcast with Rajat Bhargava

It was a delight to interview Rajat Bhargava for the Give First Podcast. We’ve been working together since 1994 when I made my first angel investment in Raj’s first company (NetGenesis). We’ve worked on a number of companies since then, some successful, and some not, but our friendship – even with our own personal ups and downs – has been a constant.

Raj covers a lot of ground in this podcast, including some origin stories, his relationship with Will Herman (who co-invested in NetGenesis with me at the very beginning, which is how he met Raj), a moment where I treated Raj poorly and our relationship could have easily gone off the rails if we hadn’t both put energy into acknowledging what had happened and getting back to a healthy place, and how he thinks about Give First, both in the Boulder startup community and at his current company JumpCloud.

Raj – 25 years later, I still learn something from you every time we talk. You are a gem. I’m so glad you came up to me after that MIT guest lecture oh so many years ago.

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Nov 7 2019

One Reason Superhuman Is So Much More Effective For Me Than Gmail

I’ve been a Superhuman email fan for a while. I decided a week ago to go try Gmail and see if I still liked Superhuman so much better.

After about two hours, I went back to Superhuman.

Several days later, I tried Gmail again, deciding that I was just grumpy for some reason. I bounced back to Superhuman within an hour.

This time I sat and thought about why I liked Superhuman so much better. It took a little while for it to come to me, but when it did it was painfully obvious.

When I’m looking at Superhuman, I am processing one consistent font. All the time. It’s the same for every email, except the occasional over formatted and stylized email marketing newsletter thingy. My focus stays on the content and the clean screen. I just read and respond.

When I’m in Gmail, there are a zillion random things everywhere. Emails are in different fonts – both types and sizes. My brain is constantly processing multiple inputs that make me tired, distract me, and slow me down.

All I really want to do it get through my email. When I just sit and process it email by email, with no context switching or distractions, it gets done quickly. Superhuman facilitates this; Gmail doesn’t.

Blogging is similar. The newest WordPress editor is delicious. I just type. It’s clean, simple, and always the same.

When I chew on it more, it’s part of why I love reading on a Kindle. The font is always the same, no matter what I’m reading. Suddenly, my brain is not processing different textures when I’m processing text.

It’s kind of clear to me when I type it out, but it wasn’t obvious until I thought about the other day. We’ve taken the UI to a place of divergence – it’s either consistent and simple or chaotic and complex. I’m all about consistent and simple.

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