Category: Personal

Sep 12 2019

The Passing of Two of My Childhood Business Heroes

Two of my childhood business heroes, T. Boone Pickens and H. Ross Perot, died this year. Perot passed away this summer at age 89 and Pickens passed away yesterday at age 91.

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.

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Jun 21 2019

29/26/23 Anniversary

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.

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Mar 31 2019

The Crash

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.

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Mar 19 2019

Birth of An Entrepreneur

In the past 24 hours, I’ve gotten a bunch of emails with positive feedback about my 81st birthday tribute to my dad and the Storyworth history I posted on how we ended up in Dallas.

I woke up this morning to another Storyworth history from him, this time titled Birth Of An Entrepreneur: Brad Feld. I read it and loved it, especially since it reflected so significantly on how integral he was to the entrepreneurial path I ended up on.

As a tribute to my dad turning 81, I thought I’d share another experience from my childhood in Dallas when he was 46 and I was 13.

I know I have been incredibly fortunate to have the parents that I have. I appreciate and love them both more than words can express. Hopefully this story gives a little flavor of the basis for the depth of that appreciation.

Birth Of An Entrepreneur: Brad Feld

by Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

Brad Feld’s Bar Mitzvah in 1978.

Many boys receive presents of cash when they celebrate their Bar Mitzvah. Gold coins were hot in 1978.

Many Of Brad’s Bar Mitzvah friends exchanged their new found fortune for two gold Krugerands. Gold was being predicted to increase to $1400 an ounce in the coming year.

Not Brad. His cash gifts totaled $1300. He wanted an Apple II Computer. The Apple computer company released the Apple II computer in 1977. I was delighted that he wanted to invest his Bar Mitzvah money in himself and not gold.

At age 13, he was certain that he could learn to program the Apple II computer. I asked him how much an Apple II would cost. He said about $1300.

The following Saturday, after his soccer game, we went to the computer store on Coit Rd and Beltline Rd in Dallas to buy his Apple II computer. Brad convinced me during the preceding week that “we” needed an Apple II.

He spent his $1300. We spent $3100. After spending $3100 for the Apple II computer and all the necessary peripherals, “we” walked out of the store with all the pieces “we” needed to “create the future”.

As we were walking to the car I had an “aha” moment. Brad’s willingness to spend all his Bar Mitzvah money on his future convinced me to spend an additional $1800. I was sure he had all the characteristics of an entrepreneur. He told me the future was in personal computing. He was correct. “We have to spend the money on the future”. This was a pretty profound statement for a 13 year old boy in 1978.

He was right. Not only did he learn how to program the Apple II himself, he started a business. He taught boys and girls in the neighborhood how to program in Basic for a fee.

In 1982 he was tiring of the Apple II. I needed a program to print out laboratory reports generated in my office chemistry laboratory. Brad volunteered to write the program, design the pretty printout and sold the Apple II computer and all the peripherals for $1600. The laboratory program he created was a bargain to me.

Brad monetized his asset for a profit. He added value to my practice while he leveraged his acquired talent.

The moral to this story is many of our children are very perceptive. We should listen to them.

We have to create the environment for them to want to learn and be excited about learning. We have to make them responsible for their actions. They have to then put “skin” in the game.

Our country’s greatness was built on this entrepreneural spirit. It is parents’ responsibility to help promote the tradition of entrepreneurship.

I am convinced that by creating an environment in which my sons can be creative and innovative, I have learned more from them, than I have taught them.

Both Brad and Daniel understood my goal for them. I am very proud of both of them.

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Mar 17 2019

Happy 81st Birthday Dad

My dad turns 81 today. He’s one of my best friends. He loves the color green. And, a few of my other friends have a birthday today (happy birthday Dave.)

Lots of people don’t realize that I grew up in Texas (did you know that 33.3% of the Foundry Group partners are from Texas?) My parents have been living in Dallas since 1969.

I’ve been doing a Storyworth history book with my folks. For my dad’s 21st entry, he told the story of Why We Moved to Dallas. I thought it was delightful and a fun bit of Feld family history to post on his 81st birthday.

Why We Moved To Dallas

by Stanley Feld M.D., FACP,MACE

Cecelia and I lived in Great Neck, N.Y. during my internship and first year of internal medicine residency. We loved Great Neck. It was an upscale suburban town just outside Queens. Its public parks, library and entertainment facilities were excellent.

I had decided that I was going to be a practicing clinical endocrinologist before the completion of my first year of internal medicine residency. The chief of medicine at Long Island Jewish Hospital decided to have me become LIJH’s first chief of endocrinology.

Then the trajectory of our life changed. President Johnson expanded the Viet Nam War. I was drafted into the U.S. Airforce. My Berry Plan deferment meant nothing when America was at war. I was assigned to Blytheville, Arkansas.

Cecelia and I had to go to the library to get a map and find Blytheville, Arkansas. I did not try to pull any strings to avoid going to Blytheville. I was afraid I would be reassigned to Viet Nam. The Viet Nam war was a war I did not understand, nor did I want to be involved in.

Blytheville, Arkansas turned out to be a glorious experience for two kids that had never lived outside of New York City and its environs.

The chief of medicine at LIJH helped me get a clinical endocrinology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston when I completed my two years of Air Force Duty.

At the time a fellowship at MGH was the most highly rated clinical endocrinology fellowship in the country.

The two years at the MGH were great. I not only learned a lot of endocrinology, I became comfortable around famous endocrine physicians.

In October 1967 Boston had a tremendous snowstorm. Large snowstorms were called nor’easters. The drive home during the storm took 8 hours. The trip usually took 20 minutes. Cars were left stranded on Storrow Drive. I had my 1963 Dodge Dart 170. It had a great air conditioner, but the heater was broken. It was fifteen degrees outside with no heater. I had a thin winter coat on and was freezing the entire time.

I could not get on any of the bridges crossing the Charles River to get to the other side of the river. Finally, I made it across the Watertown Bridge.

A driver in front of me skidded and made a 360 degree turn. He just missed me. Thankfully it did not end in an accident. When I got home and got out of the car I kissed the ground.

When I got into the house, I asked Cecelia if she would go to the library after the storm and figure out where we should go to settle. I did not want to have anything to do with cold, snowy weather.

She picked a few cities that had the right demographics for a clinical endocrinologist in 1969. Dallas was one of the cities.

In the summer of 1968, I was selected to give a paper on acromegaly in Mexico City. My preceptor, Bernie Kleiman, knew Cecelia and I were considering Dallas, Texas as a place to settle. He said he would to happy to introduce me to some of his friends at Southwestern Medical School.

Bernie set up a lovely dinner in a restaurant in a park in Mexico City. Dan Foster, Norman Kaplan, Jean Wilson and Marvin Siperstein were there. We had a great time. We liked each other.

I decided to stop in Dallas on the way home to Boston. It looked like a great town. It was easy to get around. The hospitals were modern. The medical school had excellent teachers led by Donald Seldin.

Norman Kaplan set me up with some hospital job interviews. They were all very encouraging, but nothing came of them.

I called Cecelia the first night I was in Dallas and told her Dallas was the place. The only thing missing were hills and trees. After fifty years there are plenty of trees. There aren’t any hills yet.

We made the decision to come to Dallas on very little information except Norman Kaplan saying the town needed a clinical endocrinologist.

We have never doubted our decision or looked back. Cecelia and I have had a fabulous life in Dallas, Texas.

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Jan 21 2019

Crazy Vivid Travel Anxiety Dream

The brain in sleep state is a fascinating thing.

I have been awake for 30 minutes and the dream is lingering. While it’s not as vivid as when I woke up, the details are still there. Maybe it is a result of the Super Blood Wolf Moon. Or maybe its because I’m traveling today.

I’m in an airport casually talking to someone who has stopped me to ask me a question. I realize it is 6:35am and my flight leaves at 6:30am. I rush to the gate to find that my plane has departed to New York but there is another one leaving at 7:05am. I stand in a short line but people keep getting in front of me. I finally decide to push my way to the front and talk to the gate agent. She says it’s too late to get on the 7:05am but I can get on the next flight to New York, which is at 10:30am.

That won’t work because my meeting starts at 10:30am. I’m meeting Person L and Person F there at Company B to pitch Company B on something. I’m wearing my normal work uniform (jeans and a Robert Graham shirt) but I’m nervous that I should be wearing a suit given Company B’s culture.

I try to figure out a solution with the gate agent. She’s nice, but she doesn’t have a solution for me other than the 10:30am flight. I start to get my bags and try to go to another airline, but both my Filson bag and my laptop bag are missing. My phone was on top of one of the bags so it’s missing also. I start to panic and ask the gate agent to help me find the bags. She points at a bunch of different bags that are just lining the gate area, but none of them are mine. I try to walk out the doors to the plane to find my bags but some burly guy stops me.

I go back to the gate agent to make sure she has my information in case she finds my bags. She says she does but I’ve never given her anything so I try to give her a business card. When I put it on the desk, I see it is for Person E. I try to write my phone number on the card but my writing is illegible. The gate agent isn’t paying attention to me anyway.

I remember that the document that I was working on is stored in Google Docs so it’s automatically backed up. But my suit is in my bag so I can’t wear it to the meeting. And I can’t call Person L to tell him that I can’t make it to the meeting. I decide to punt and go buy another phone.

I wake up feeling very unresolved.

I sometimes wonder what my computer is dreaming about when it’s in sleep state.

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Jan 1 2019

Welcome to 2019

Three of my colleagues at USV have first day of the new year posts up this morning that inspired me. Two are macro-related (Fred’s and Albert’s) but one is personal (Bethany’s). Take a look at all three – they are a good way to get ready for what is to come.

Fred’s punchline is “It is going to be a doozy” and I agree. But from my frame of reference, every one of my 53 years on this planet has been a doozy. So, while the macro will for sure be another doozy, I’m focused on what my @bfeld v53.0 goals are and how I’m doing a month into the v53 journey (v53.1).

Curious: I only read five books in December, but the one I’m reading now, Number One Chinese Restaurant, definitely fits in the curious category. I read 113 books in 2018 and have a goal of 100 books again in 2019. However, I had way too many “predictable” books in my 2018 reading list, so 2019 will be much more unpredictable as I skip over the obvious stuff to read and instead indulge my curiosity. If you have non-business, non-tech books that you think will stretch my mind, put them in the comments for all to see.

Healthy: I’m off to a great start on this front. My running is going well – last week was 4:31 running over five days for a total of 21.6 miles and a TSS of 579. This has been a steady build since I started running again in mid-September with a week of two runs, 1:21 for 4.94 miles and a TSS of 52. I’ve lost seven pounds since v53.0 and that feels good. I’ve signed up for the 2019 Cowtown Marathon (Fort Worth) in February and the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon (Knoxville) at the end of March. If you want to join my Knoxville Marathon team, drop me an email and I’ll send you an invite.

Calm: The metabolizer is in good shape. It managed to not get damaged over the holidays, which is a dangerous time for it.

Present: I’m doing “ok” here but could be a lot better. Amy has noticed that I’ve been distracted and I periodically feel a bunch of external nonsense sneaking into my brainspace. I’d like to blame Twitter or news.google.com, but ultimately this is a discipline I need to keep working on.

Supportive: Each day I’ve thought of a person to reach out to who I know needs some support for some reason. I’ve been doing this by email, but I’m going to play around with physical letters, phone calls, and meals.

Boundless: This aspiration now anchors everything I do. It’s 8 degrees outside. I’m looking forward to my run today. Later today I’ll wander over to the Carriage House (where my writing space is) and put in two hours on The Startup Community Way which I’m getting pretty excited about. I expect I’ll spend some time on the couch with Amy and the dogs reading this afternoon. And, I know we’ll watch at least another episode of The Americans (we are halfway through Season 3 and loving it.) Whatever else happens, happens …

Happy new year. 

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Dec 11 2018

The Moment You Realize You Aren’t Comfortable With What You Wrote

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.

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Dec 2 2018

Happy Bohemian Chanukah Queen Fans

Queen was one of my favorite bands as an adolescent. The movie Bohemian Rhapsody was delightful. And this is even better.

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Dec 1 2018

@bfeld v53.0

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.

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