We create narratives about ourselves that become deeply entrenched in our minds and ways of being. Many of them are useless and counterproductive.
One of mine is that I am bad at learning languages. This is an artifact from junior high school. I took two years of French and, while I did ok, I didn’t love it. I hated my French III teacher, fought with her, called her an inappropriate name one day, and got kicked out of class. That was the end of my French language experience.
I have no recollection of why I chose to learn French instead of Spanish. I grew up in Dallas and now live in Colorado, so Spanish would have been a much more useful language to learn.
I recently spent two weeks in Mexico. While I was there, I realized that I was tired of not being able to say simple things in Spanish. More importantly, I was endlessly anxious whenever I said buenos dias, buenas tardes, or buenas noches since I always got them mixed up.
I had a similar childhood narrative around horses. My brother had a horse accident when we were little kids and I decided I was afraid of horses. He went the other direction and got a horse and became a great rider. Amy loves horses, so this has been an inhibitor in our time together since I never want to do anything involving horses. A few years ago we did a week-long vacation at a place that had a program to get comfortable with horses.
I painted a horse, I groomed horse, and I rode a horse. After a week, I was able to delete my self-limiting narrative about my relationship with horses.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been spending at least ten minutes a day on each of Duolingo and Busuu. They are different but both good. While a few hours on an app is a tiny beginning to learning a language, I already feel more comfortable just being around Spanish, saying a few words (mostly greetings), and am recognizing some of the things others are saying.
These days, when I catch myself repeating a self-created narrative, I’ve begun questioning each one of them. So far, none have held up to scrutiny as an actual thing.
I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, but I’ve been getting a lot more REM sleep due to the combination of a CPAP machine and the prostate reduction surgery I had last year (solving a “getting older” problem.)
Following is the doozy that I had on Tuesday night, written down shortly after I woke up on Wednesday.
I’m being tossed around in the passenger seat of a car with a blindfold on. As I shout out to the driver, “Where are we going?” I’m met with silence, then a very loud version of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing on the radio.
The car abruptly stops. The blindfold is off. I’m at my house. I run inside and pack my bags, grabbing all my computer stuff and tossing it in with my clothes. We drive away to a plane that I get on alone which flies while I read a book. We land in the mountains.
A car, without a driver, drives me to a big mountain house with a giant construction ditch in front of it. My parents are there and say hello. I run inside, dump my bag, and race around in my underwear for no apparent reason.
People start showing up.
I can’t find my phone or my computer, but I know I have a conference call starting to finalize the shutdown of a company. I race outside and start screaming, “Where is my phone?” My cousin Jon is there and we run around the construction ditch. There are lots of dead, old mobile phones around the edge, but none are mine. I find one that looks like mine, feel relieved, and then realize it’s not mine. I’m screaming at my parents about my phone, my computer, and they are just staring at me. I run in the house to try to find a computer to log in to Google and figure out the dial-in number. All of the computers in the house are too old to use a web browser. I run around some more but can’t find my phone or computer and start smashing keyboards randomly.
Agitated, I walk into a big room full of people. They are just sitting down to get ready to listen to me about something, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to talk about. I go to the refrigerator and try to open it, but the door sticks. Eventually, I get it open and get a yogurt. Everyone is staring at me, waiting for me. I’m still in my underwear.
I go to the front of the room, sit down, and start describing how in 1992, a small group of us got together in Burlington, Vermont and came up with the idea of the Montana future, where no one would want to live in big cities anymore so everyone would migrate to the west, set themselves up on big pieces of land, and work from their houses. We called this event a Chautauqua and my business partner at the time (Dave) came up with the idea for “The Wall” which was a video wall of TVs that you interacted with.
Lots of bugs started racing around the floor. They were exotic with lots of colors, different body shapes, and multiple segments. Everyone ignored them as I became increasingly agitated by them. I finally said, “It’s time for dinner” and everyone got up and went to another room.
I run out of the room and started squashing the bugs. I got to a bathroom where the water in the sink is running and try to turn it off, but can’t quite get the tolerances right. My parents were in the next room, so I went in there to look for my computer some more. There was a giant scorpion-like color bug on my bag and I asked my dad to get rid of it. He grabbed a tennis racquet and started swinging at it, bouncing it off the wall and then smashing it into pieces on the ground.
My computer and phone were on the top of my back. I had ten notifications in the Messages app with requests to join the phone call that I had missed.
I wake up.
I wonder why we ended up in Colorado even though the Montana future seems deeply imprinted on my brain …
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.“
This is a confusing time of year for me. Hanna Ingber described it well this morning in her article My Jewish Sons Have a Christmas Tree, and I Need to Deal.
Fortunately, I don’t have children, my wife isn’t divorcing me, and she’s remarkably mellow about my Christmas confusion. But, when I read through Hanna’s article, I kept nodding my head up and down.
When I take a vacation, I generally go off the grid completely. But the last two weeks of the year never feel like a vacation to me. Many people in my world check out, go on vacation, and stop working. The pace of everything radically changes.
That’s ok. I spend my time writing, catching up on stuff that’s been lingering for a while, and read a lot.
But my disorientation really amplifies when I venture outside the safe confines of my house. Amy and I went to dinner Sunday at our favorite local Chinese place and faced an onslaught of Christmas music. She commented on the paper cutout snowflakes hanging on the windows. Pride lights were everywhere which made me smile until it occurred to me that they were probably simply Christmas lights.
“Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the blogosphere
Not a VC was writing, not even an associate.
VC Twitter showed exotic holiday trips and Medium was vigilant,
In hopes that the partners soon would be back.“
We decided to be completely American-counterculture this year and take our vacation in the middle of January when everyone is back in the madness of the new year. We’ll be celebrating the run-up to Chinese New Year.
Until then, I’m substituting Hildegard of Bingen and Sigur Ros for Christmas music.
Simply begin again.
I turned 54 today. I’ve always marked the start of a new year on my birthday rather than January 1st. As part of my birthday tradition, I write myself a letter about my upcoming year. I started posting these publicly when I was 51 and they serve as a nice reminder of where I was at v52 (focusing on what I want to do ) and v53 (exploring what I want to be).
I established a daily meditation practice during v53 after many years of fake meditation and several years of reactional meditation. I used to believe that my running was equivalent to meditation, which I’ve since discovered was completely incorrect. During v48, I learned how to meditate, but ended up only doing it when I was stressed, anxious, or depressed. After 192 days in a row in v53, meditation is now a real daily practice, first thing in the morning, every morning.
For v54, I’ve decided to have no goals. Sure, I’ll do a lot of things. I expect that I’ll accomplish plenty and fail at some while declaring victory on others. However, I’m not going to focus on outcomes.
Instead, I’m embracing the moment. Every moment. Simply being in the moment. Being present with whomever I’m with or whatever I’m doing. But that’s not a goal. I know I’ll drift – regularly – just like my mind does when I meditate.
And that’s fine because I’ve learned that when my mind drifts during meditation, I acknowledge it and simply begin again by bringing my focus back to the breath.
As I embark on my mid-50s, my mantra is Simply Begin Again.
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.
Today’s the last day of my ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet. I wrote about my start in a post titled ProLon Day 1. I was a little nervous about trying this so I figured I’d blog about it to bust through any anxiety I was having about trying it.
I find myself very happy with it on Day 5. I’m not hungry and have only had a few stretches where I was hungry, and I think most of them were a result of someone (where 50% of the time that someone was Amy) saying “Are you hungry?” which then caused me to think about it.
The quantitative impact of it is pretty dramatic. My side by side weigh-in data (pre and post) is:
I generally only weigh myself once a week (usually on Saturday or Sunday morning). I don’t expect the weight loss to persist at the same level (e.g. I expect it’ll go back up a little when I start eating again). I haven’t run in the past five days (I took last week off) and am surprised that most of the weight that I lost was Skeletal Muscle Mass. And, it’s even more fascinating that my Body Fat Mass actually increased in the last week. I’m not really sure what to make of any of that, but my measurement in a week will be interesting.
If I was judging this only on weight loss, it would be a win. By seeing the type of weight I lost by doing the diet but not exercising, it feels like it wasn’t a win. But that’s perplexing to me so I’m interested in the next measurement a week from now.
But ProLon is about a number of other things besides just weight loss. I found their clinical trial data fascinating and their marketing summarizes it as:
Amy was right when she told me to get a bunch of blood work prior to starting ProLon and then do it again after I finished. I didn’t listen to her, which is usually a mistake on my part.
I’m going to try ProLon again in a month (they recommend you do it twice) and next time I’ll get my bloodwork done before and after.
In case you are wondering, my ultimate weight goal is 190. I’m 6’1″ and have a lot of lower body muscle mass from my running. It’s time to get down to 190 while working on both upper body muscle mass and flexibility.
I’m committed to that, although I’ve always had an extremely hard time with upper body exercise. If you’ve got any suggestions for a runner that hates going to the gym, loves to be alone, and has trouble getting into a weight lifting or yoga rhythm, I’m all ears.
As part of v53, I added the word “Healthy” into my statements of “what I want to be.” I’ve lost about 15 pounds this year, which has helped a huge amount with my running. I’m focused on losing another 10 pounds which will be me down to my goal weight of 195 that I’ll be happy maintaining for a while.
In addition to having an amazingly wonderful nutritionist named Katie Elliot who programs my meals, I’ve been experimenting with something different things. One that has been successful for me is intermittent fasting, where I only eat in an eight-hour window between 11 am and 8 pm.
This week’s experiment is ProLon, which is billed as a Fast-Mimicking Diet.
ProLon® is a 5-day dietary program that nourishes your body while promoting regenerative and rejuvenating changes, including effects on a wide range of markers that are associated with aging, such as cholesterol, inflammation, and fasting glucose.
ProLon® mitigates the burden and risks of water-only fasting, while responding to the unmet need of having a tasty, convenient, and safe dietary program.
Several people have mentioned it to me and one of the people in our office did it recently and loved how it made her feel. I’ve been pondering it but was pushed into trying it by a fascinating article about it in MIT Technology Review.
As a bonus, I have three dinners out in the next five days, so it’ll be good practice for not eating anything at dinner out, which is part of the intermittent fasting challenge (e.g. if I eat something at 11 am and have a dinner set that overlaps with 7 pm, I need to modulate what and how I eat at dinner out.)
I’ve decided not to run for the next five days. I’ve been running a lot lately and could use a mental reset so I figured timing it with ProLon made sense.
The experiment begins – now.
As I was typing this, I thought maybe I’d call them T and H. But, growing up they were referred to as “T Boone” and “Perot.” I didn’t know either of them personally, but they loomed large over the business community in Dallas where I grew up (from 1969 – 1983.) Over time, I had a number of second-degree connections to each of them, but I never ended up directly in either of their orbits.
I was giving a talk about entrepreneurship recently and alluded to the amount of information there is today about the topic. I riffed off a few current examples of famous entrepreneurs and reflected that when I was a kid, the only books available were biographies about guys with names like Iaccoca and Walton.
All of the rest of my childhood (and early college) business education came from three places: (1) word of mouth from my dad, my uncle Charlie, and a few of their friends, (2) magazines – specifically Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune, and (3) newspapers – specifically the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the business section of the Dallas Morning News (and eventually the business section of the Boston Globe.)
Occasionally, a book like On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett would come out and would captivate me, but that was atypical. More often, I was just gobbling down books on T Boone, Perot, and others when someone got around to writing a biography.
While the information available today is much more diverse and accessible, I fondly remember being curled up on a couch learning more about the day by day (and month by month) actions of some of my early business heroes.
With their passing, I’m reminded that in the end, we all die. It’s a good reminder to spend one’s time today on what you want since it’s all finite.
Amy and I are celebrating our 29/26/23rd anniversary today.
It’s the summer solstice, which is a special day for us.
29 years ago we officially started dating.
26 years ago we declared ourselves married (and eloped.)
23 years ago we signed an official piece of paper that was witnessed at the Boulder County Clerk’s Office because it was a pain in the ass to not be officially married.
When I reflect on the last 29 years of my life, it’s been a remarkable experience to get to share it with Amy. When we started dating, I was 24 years old. I lived in Boston. I was running my first company. I lived in a 24,000 cubic foot loft. I was struggling through a divorce, a failed Ph.D. experience, and a very stressful software consulting company, that, while performing well, consumed 100 hours a week of me.
As I sit typing this at age 53, at our place in Aspen, after dropping Amy off for the day at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the last 29 years have taken us to a place neither of us anticipated, planned, or expected.
For me, that’s the beauty of this relationship. I’m fortunate to have a number of very close friends who I have deep emotional intimacy with. But I only have one person who, as Amy likes to say, “shares certain things” with me, which includes a depth of love, trust, intimacy, curiosity, frankness, truth, emotion, and joy.
Amy – you are my beloved. Thank you for sharing the journey on this planet with me. I look forward to at least doubling all of those numbers in the title of this post with you.
I woke up this morning with my eyes glued shut. That was pretty disorienting. I wasn’t a character in a Dean Koontz novel, but I was relieved when I realized that I had conjunctivitis, as I’m not sure what I would have done if my eyes were sewn shut with fishing line.
After I sorted myself out, I remembered that I was supposed to be running the Knoxville Marathon today. I would have been just finishing up when I woke up, so I had a wave a sadness come over me. I took a long shower, letting the hot water run down my face, with a fantasy that it would wash away all the goo (both current and future) in my eyes.
It’s late in the afternoon in Boulder and I’ve taken two naps today. Neither were pretty – they were both sweaty, emotional, dream-filled messes with plenty of eye goo involved. I’m loaded up on Tylenol, but the pounding in my sinuses is unrelenting. I’m not able to take decongestants/antihistamines anymore, as they wreak unpleasant havoc on a part of me completely unrelated to what they are supposed to help with.
This cold came on hard on Tuesday. I haven’t been sick all winter and have felt good since November after a summer of physical misery that ended with a 60-day course of Cipro, ensuring that an enormous amount of bacteria in me – both the good kind and the bad kind – was very dead.
I know that I’m a whiny sick person. I also know that being sick tilts me toward depression. I’m lucky that Amy knows this also and takes amazing care of me when I’m sick.
I’ve felt a crash coming since Friday. I’ve been grinding through the work that I have, some of which has deadlines before I go on vacation in a week. I know I can tell the deadline enforcers that I’m sick and things will have to wait a few weeks, but then I’ll just have a bigger pile of backed up stuff to do, which just feels like an awful additional burden. And yes, I realize I’m procrastinating by writing this blog post, but I am also waiting for the full function version of Adobe Acrobat to download since I need to use it to edit the Adobe files I’m sending back to Wiley soon.
I know that every human being gets sick on a periodic basis. I also know that this particular cold (which I call Nev – Nasty Evil Virus), which has morphed into a cold + bacterial infection, is minor compared to what most people encounter on their time on this planet. I also know that my resources make it even easier for me to deal with something like this.
When I reflect on this, I still feel shitty, but I have context for how I feel. We all have periodic crashes of different levels of severity (and one that has ultimate finality), but that doesn’t make it any easier to work through the moment.
And yes, I’m looking very forward to my vacation.