I just spent the last 30 minutes writing a blog post around a simple phrase that I like. I built out my thought process around it, used a handful of examples, and then filled in some additional ideas. I was proofreading it when I decided to go try to find the original source of the phrase.
The first page of Google’s results surprised me. There was nothing on the phrase I liked, but there was a wall of vitriol and controversy around a phrase that is close but had a few different words in it. When I read a few of the articles, I quickly was able to tie it back to something someone at Breitbart said. And then I vaguely remembered the controversy around the phrase.
I realized that it would be easy to misinterpret the phrase I liked as the phrase that had all the controversy around it. I said them both out loud and slowly a few times, and concluded that the post needed a lot more work if I were to publish it. Basically, if someone read what I wrote and thought about it, they’d likely separate what I was saying from the other quote that I found objectionable. Or, if they didn’t know about the other quote, they’d just be tracking what I said.
But, if they knew the other quote, the controversy, and they felt strongly one way or another about it, then what I wrote would likely be lost is the soup of the previous controversy.
Normally, when I write, I just hit publish after I’m done. I learn a lot from writing and it helps me work out my thoughts and ideas, which is the main reason I do it. I don’t try to get everything right the first time through (if you are a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll notice the iteration of lots of stuff as I refine it with different examples, evolve my thinking, or respond to other challenges and stimulus.)
In this case, I was worried that my thoughts would be judged because of the linkage to the controversy around this other phrase. Given the two phrases, this is deliciously ironic (kind of like capers, which I despise.) So, I hit save draft instead of publishing the post, wrote this post instead, and am now heading out for a run to contemplate what just happened, since I think this may be the first time in about 5,000 posts that I experienced this hesitation to just publish something I wrote.
I turned 53 today. Each year on my birthday I write a letter to myself reflecting on the previous year and pondering the coming year. I also go for a run – this year for 53 minutes. The past few years, I’ve started publishing them on this blog – if you are interested in what I’ve written in the past, take a look at @bfeld v52.0 and @bfeld v51.0.
When I review my goals for v52.0, they are all statements of what I want to do. Vegetarian, Introvert, Runner, Writer and Coach / Mentor. The phrase Discriminating Wisdom was tossed in as a bonus. When I reflect on v52, I wasn’t that successful at some of these. I started eating fish again in the spring. I didn’t run a marathon, was injured or sick for big parts of the year, and weigh in near my normal high of 220 today. I didn’t finish writing any of the books I’m working on.
On the other hand, I did get more time by myself last year and I feel that more of my work is in coach or mentor mode. I was very selective about adding new things to the mix. I traveled selectively rather than continuously. Overall, other than having some real struggles with physical health, v52 worked out well. I felt mentally healthy all year, feel surrounded and loved by good friends, and got to spend another year with Amy-my-soulmate.
I’m going to try a different approach for v53. Instead of statements about what I want to do, I’m going to focus on what I want to be. My long-time friend Dov Seidman wrote a book in 2011 titled How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything that I think is even more important today than it was eight years ago. When I chew on it, I feel like all of the statements of what I want to be can be subsumed by how I want to be, which are Curious, Healthy, Calm, Present, Supportive, and Boundless.
Curious: The essence of my existence has been an endless curiosity. When I was young, it was far-ranging. In the last 20 years, my curiosity has been more constrained by the work I do, where I’ve gone extremely deep in several areas, mostly bounded by entrepreneurship and technology. While I feel like one of my strengths (and a joy of mine) is the ability to synthesize things across multiple domains, I’ve recently felt the constraints of my exploration tighten. Some of this is based on age (e.g. I don’t feel like investing the energy in getting up to speed on something new) and some are based on responsibility (e.g. I’m too busy to invest the time needed.) While I’ll still be selective about what I go deep in, I’m going to let myself range more broadly again in v53.
Healthy: v52 was a bust on this front. I ended the year 16 pounds heavier than I started the year. In August, I got a serious bacterial infection (E. coli) and was borderline sepsis. I fell down the stairs and am – five months later – still healing from a bone bruise. My back hurts. And no, I didn’t run a marathon. I am running again, have seen my resting heart rate get back down into the high 50s, and hired a nutritionist so I’m eating smarter. Rather than endlessly measure and track my weight and food intake, I’m just going to focus on the behavior and habits that I know result in me being healthy. We’ll see where that leads me.
Calm: I don’t have much of a temper. I do carry around and absorb a huge amount of stress and anxiety, especially that of other people. I’m come up with a metaphor in therapy that I refer to as “metabolizing stress and anxiety.” As long as my metabolizer is working, I can handle an immense amount. When it’s not, I tip into depression. The notion of being calm incorporates a lot of activity for me (meditation, sleep, running, single-tasking, time alone, and time with Amy) that keeps my metabolizer working well.
Present: In v52 I deleted my Facebook account. I stopped consuming daily news, Twitter, and the endless random noise in our society. While I still get sucked into it occasionally, I am aware when I do, and it’s usually because my metabolizer isn’t working well enough. Going forward, when I’m on a video conference (which is multiple times a day between Monday and Friday), I’m 100% focused on the video conference. When I’m doing email, I’m doing email. When I’m writing, I’m writing. When I’m reading, I’m reading. When I’m with someone, I’ll be with them. My professional world prides itself on its ability to multitask. While I can do this with the best of them, v53 will be about being present.
Supportive: While an element of my work life is to be a leader, I have enjoyed moving into a coach and mentor role. When I think of the leadership I provide, it’s thought leadership, not functional leadership. Around v35, I decided not to be a CEO (or chairman) anymore. Today, I have no desire to be the boss of anything or anyone, but instead, want to have a supportive posture in the majority of my work activity. Every year I appreciate my friendships more, both old and new, and I’m going to continue to put supportive energy into those relationships.
Boundless: I finished Stephen Hawking’s book Brief Answers to the Big Questions last night. He’s one of my heroic figures and I’m sad that he’s no longer instantiated in human form. Even with his immense physical constraints, his mind – and where it went – was as unconstrained as any. It’s a beautiful thing to reflect on, and something to aspire to.
v53.0 booting up now.
This is how I think about my work and my marathon running.
We could all learn a lesson from this baby bear: Look up & don’t give up. pic.twitter.com/nm0McSYeqY
— IM🍑HIM (@ziyatong) November 3, 2018
My spirit animal is a bear. Generally, I think of myself as a big polar bear, but I’m going to spend the day relating to my little friend. And, when the day is done, I’m going to go run into the woods.
Every year or two I refresh the formatting on this website along with a few others that I help manage and generate content for. I work with a great firm called Valet that I really like and everything is hosted on Pantheon, so the process works smoothly for me.
In addition to the refresh on Feld Thoughts, I also just refreshed Venture Deals (which used to be Ask the VC) and Startup Revolution. Amy and I also recently put up a website for the Anchor Point Foundation (our foundation). And, Seth and Micah did a big refresh on the Foundry Group website.
As part of this, each of them now has a separate subscribe by email option in addition to an RSS feed. If you want to skip searching for it and just subscribe, click on the following links as you desire.
I’m still cleaning up a lot of little stuff now that it’s all live (e.g. I know the favicon for Venture Deals shouldn’t be my face), so if you see something that is either broken, wrong, or that you don’t like, toss it in the comments or email me. And, of course, general feedback on things that could be better are very welcome.
On the afternoon of 8/21, I had a Foley Catheter put in. I didn’t think I was going to die (that was the afternoon of 8/22), but I did think I was going to explode.
I feel better today. Not 100%. But on the mend. But two weeks ago I was in the midst of a blooming E. Coli infection that started Sunday 8/19 and probably came from some fruit and vegetables I bought at the Aspen Farmers Market on Saturday. Note to self – always, always, always wash your fruits and vegetables carefully.
By Thursday, 8/23 I was very sick. So I canceled everything on my calendar through yesterday. I addition to my dance with E. Coli, I am healing from a bone bruise I have on my left tibia and something miserably wrong with my right shoulder – both which came from a tumble down the stairs on July 16th.
Yeah – it’s been a physically shitty summer. Not just for me, but for lots of people in my world. A friend with liver cancer. Another friend in the ICU for a few days. Another friend with a messed up knee from a fall. Several big marital struggles. Lots of “we are 45 – 55 and stuff is starting to break” going on. No one close to us died this summer, but we had a few days of real uncertainty in the mix.
My worst day was the one where I had borderline sepsis. I always thought the acronym for sepsis was telling, but it’s not until you are on the edge of it that it really hits home.
S – Shivering, feeling very cold or having a fever
E – Extreme pain or discomfort
P – Pale or discolored skin
S – Sleepiness, difficulty rousing
I – “I feel like I may die,” a feeling like you’ve never felt before
S – Short of breath
Fortunately, all of that passed within a few days after they bombed me with IV antibiotics, but then I was completely exhausted for a week. For whatever reason, my shoulder pain intensified during this time period and between my new friend Foley and the pain, I couldn’t sleep. Within a few days, it was pretty easy to see the struggle one goes through with chronic pain or illness, something I’ve been spared my whole life.
Yup – it was a miserable two weeks.
Amy was incredible. I playfully tease her about her school motto, Non Ministrari sed Ministrare (Not to be ministered unto, but to minister), but it is remarkably accurate. She’s always been amazing in a crisis – any crisis – and shows up fully for whomever is in need. For two weeks, I got her continual, endless, and wonderful attention. I’m not sure how I would have handled the two weeks if I was alone.
A friend recently said, “Your real friends are the ones who show up in a crisis.” I count myself lucky – a lot of people showed up the past two weeks. While Foley is gone, I have plenty of healing to do in front of me. We are heading back to Boulder for the rest of September and I’m just planting myself in one place, doing only what I have to do, and getting healthy.
As I’m already getting lots of out of office messages for people taking this week off, I thought I’d revisit an approach to how to deal with email after a vacation.
In 2011, Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital came up with what, at the time, was what I thought was the best email vacation auto-responder in the history of email. Now, I have no idea if Josh invented this, but I’m going to give him credit for it.
I evolved this in 2014 when I took a one-month sabbatical. If you ever send me an email when I’m on my quarterly one week off the grid vacation, you now get this.
I’m checking out for a vacation until [date]. I’ll be completely off the grid.
When I return, I’m going to archive my inbox so I’ll never see this email. If you’d like me to read it, please resend it after [date]+1.
If you need something urgently, please email [my_assistants_email_address] and she’ll either help you or get you to the right person at Foundry Group to give you a hand.
On [date]+1, I usually get around 50 emails (in addition to my usual email flow of 500 daily emails) that are resent to me. That’s only 50 to respond to, instead of the roughly 3,000 emails I get each week.
It appears that The Atlantic has caught up with this thinking in The Most Honest Out-of-Office Message. I thought the article was fascinating, both in how the writer addressed the issue, but also in the intellectual and emotional tension around it.
Does it make you nervous to think about “Selecting All” on your existing inbox and archiving (if Gmail) or deleting (if Outlook)? While some of my friends do it periodically – as a result of pain or just to get a fresh start on a new year, I like to do the equivalent every quarter when I get back from a full week of an off the grid reset.
Josh – it was a while ago, but thanks for the inspiration. And, for those of you on vacation this week, I hope you aren’t reading this.
I was at dinner several weeks ago with Amy and two close friends who are 20 years younger than us. We were talking about what they were currently doing and they categorized their activities as “adding to” or “not adding to” the legend of mike and mary. I’ve anonymized them, but you get the idea.
The legend they were referring to was their internal legend as a couple. Neither of them could give a shit about the external legend, or what the world thought of them. This wasn’t about fame, ego, recognition, or acknowledgment. Fame and fortune didn’t play into the construct.
Instead, it was about their life together. Their journey. What they did together. It was the label for their narrative as a couple against the backdrop of a finite amount of time on this planet. Many of the activities in their legend where individual ones, but supported by the partner. And many others were ones they did together.
It was a beautiful approach. During the conversation, we went deep on the work one of them was doing, which they concluded was not adding to the legend of mike and mary. I got a note the next day that, as a result of the conversation, mike was going to leave his job and pursue something else that was much more important to him and that they thought could add to the legend of mike and mary.
I loved this construct. Since that dinner, Amy and I have used it a few times when talking about something we were considering doing. The question “Does this add to the legend of Amy and Brad?” provokes a different type of conversation about a specific activity or decision, especially when the activity or decision is significant, requires a long time commitment, or takes a lot of energy.
Remember – it’s internal, not external. Assume you write the legend at the end the end of your life but no one else ever reads it. It can be for you as an individual, or as a couple.
The next time you are pondering something, ask yourself the equivalent of “Does this add to the legend of mike and mary?”
I’m a fan of spring break. I’m a believer in regular vacations. I love it when people I work with get away and disconnect. And, I do it at least four times a year.
Spring break feels like it has gotten out of control. Rethinking it could be interesting. This year, at least 50% of the people I work with regularly are on spring break this week. I think the other 50% go on spring break next week. Easter seems to be the pivot point for this.
Unlike the week before Christmas, which moves around every year, if Easter is the pivot point for spring break, life would be better if everyone in the US decided the week before (or after – I don’t care) Easter was spring break. Then, the rhythm of work in the US would slow (or at least change) for that week, just like it does for the week between Christmas and New Years.
And, everyone who goes on spring break with their family and kids could actually disconnect, rather than what I’m observing, where some people disengage, but others keep one foot in, probably ruining the real value of a week-long disconnect from work for them
I’m not at all cranky about this. I’m at work this week – and next week. Amy, on the other hand, is on spring break with a girlfriend who is five years recovered from a serious illness. While I miss her, I’m using the time as an excuse to stay up late watching silly television shows.
While I know a blog post from me isn’t going to affect anything, imagine a world where we had a real, synchronized, completely off spring break in the US. It would be a better world for everyone.
Amy and I have learned that I need a Q1 vacation earlier in Q1 (vs. waiting until the end of March). We were apart for ten days because of a trip she took to Africa, so we went to San Diego for a week.
I played tennis every day for 90 minutes. I took a nap almost every afternoon. I got a couple of massages. We went and saw Black Panther, which we loved.
I interrupted vacation on Wednesday for some work stuff but stayed off email completely. I played a lot of chess online but realized after losing a bunch of games that I thought I was winning that it was a bad idea to play 10 minutes games while watching the Olympics in the background.
I didn’t read much. I didn’t feel like it for some reason. While unusual for me, I just rolled with it.
We had two friends visit. Ben Casnocha came down for two days of stimulating conversation. David Cohen took a tennis vacation, which he had planned for a more exotic locale that fell apart at the last minute. The friendships were warm, mellow, and enjoyable.
The month of December continues to be a huge struggle for me. I reflected on why and Amy and I came up with a plan for trying something completely different in December 2018 that we are contemplating trying.
I’m back home alone in Boulder for a few days, while Amy spends the weekend with her sisters. I decided to have an isolated, minimal human contact weekend. Yesterday was a digital sabbath that included meditation, running, a float, dinner by myself at Kasa Sushi, Lee McIntyre’s Post-Truth, Radius, and Lo and Behold.
Today is more of the same, except online plus a massage. Maybe I’ll drop the heavy and serious tonight and start working my way through Fast and Furious.
I’ll be back at it for reals on Monday …