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 …
Amy arrived home from Africa yesterday evening around 6pm. She had been gone for 12 days and, while she had an awesome trip, we missed each other terribly.
She arrived home to a bunch of early Valentine’s Day stuff like a hot bath.
I figured it was Valentine’s Day somewhere in the world yesterday at 6pm Colorado time like, well, in Kenya, where Amy was.
It’s great to have Amy back home. For some reason, Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Love is better than everything else.
I love the idea of A User Manual To Working With Me. A number of the CEOs we work with have written them and Seth sends out a letter to all new founders about working with us.
While I occasionally think about writing an @bfeld User Manual, I never manage to get around to it. On our Q4 vacation, Amy and I talked a lot about dinners out, especially my own struggle with dinners with large groups of people, which caused me to reflect on how I approach dinners out in general.
Business dinners have become increasingly challenging for me for a number of reasons. I’m an introvert, so when the dinner is more than four people, it’s extremely draining for me. I no longer drink, so every dinner lasts at least 33% too long. I’m a vegetarian and am now eating very lightly at dinner, so the experience of dinner is much less important to me. I’ve been to all the restaurants in Boulder many times, so there’s no novelty in the experience. I’ve got a 30-minute drive home from downtown Boulder to my house, so getting home is dinner_end_time + 30 minutes.
I go to bed early (usually before 10 pm) so dinners often are the only thing I do in the evening before going to bed. I love to lay on the couch with Amy and read in the evening before I go to sleep, so this decompression from the day is almost always lost when I have a business dinner. I also love evenings at home with just Amy, business dinners out take time away from this for us.
That said, business dinners are part of my work. I’ve been to at least 1,351 board dinners in the last 25 years. I typically have business dinners three or four times each week, every week. I almost always have at least four major dinner-related events (with greater than 25 people) each month. Simply deciding not to do business dinners isn’t an option as long as I do the work I’m doing.
To solve for this, and make business dinners more enjoyable and productive from my frame of reference, following is the best way to have a business dinner with me.
- The maximum number of people at dinner should be eight.
- Dinner should start early (I love 6 pm start times).
- I’m indifferent to the restaurant – you choose.
- I’m going to be fully engaged during dinner, but as the group gets larger, my focus becomes on the people seated immediately next to me.
- Don’t worry about what I do, or don’t, eat. And don’t be surprised if I don’t eat anything.
- I don’t mind if you (and the other people) stay later than 8 pm, but I’d like to leave then.
I’m sure I’ll end up at some dinners, and events, that don’t fit this profile. By default, I’m no longer going to board dinners, although I’ll make exceptions when necessary. Amy occasionally likes to go to galas and big public events, so I’ll tag along for those. And, of course, I can comfortably do these periodically. But, if you want to get the most out of me, and have me enjoy the experience, the bullet points above are a good guideline.
I’m on day 8 of a cold, which in retrospect has been possibly the harshest cold I’ve ever had. I felt worse when I had salmonella poisoning in Adelaide in 2016 and I remember a childhood flu over the holidays that had me throwing up for days. But, on Friday, when I had some existential dread, I realized I was really sick and crawled back in bed for the rest of the day.
I woke up this morning still sick but feeling on the mend. I’ve been at home for a week and haven’t been doing much other than sleeping, reading, responding to email, eating mac and cheese, and sleeping some more. I’ve been a sub-optimal companion for Amy, but Brooks and Cooper have filled in pretty well for me.
I’m glad the world is taking a break for the holidays. 2017 was an intense year in many dimensions. Our society changed in ways that feel extremely uncomfortable to me, but I’ve tried to process it with a long view. Long-simmering conflicts that were just under the surface explosively broke through and forced us to confront them and our collective behavior, and reactions, to them. I’ve continued to do what felt important and right to me while listening and learning. I worked hard to eliminate the noise and concentrate on the signal. To do this, I withdrew on several dimensions, especially via social media and online channels, which diminished my experience, but allowed me time and space to think.
I’ve been metabolizing my emotions at a new level. I’ve always been able to handle a huge amount of stress and anxiety, and part of my role has been to absorb the stress in the system, stay calm, and help the people around me work through whatever we are confronting. I’ve learned that when this gets to a certain level in me, it can trigger a depressive episode, so I’ve been working on understanding my limits better and how to address them more effectively. The broader cultural challenges of 2017 have just piled onto this, so I had to learn a new set of skills around this. If anyone is curious, the magic gateways for me have been meditation and therapy.
This cold forced some downtime on me. As I’m recovering, I’m going to savor the rest of the week and prepare for 2018. It feels like a cold reboot is in order.
I turned 52 on Friday. Last year, when I turned 51, I wrote a post titled @bfeld v51.0 where I talked about several things that I wanted to change in v51 of me. This year, I enhanced my annual tradition of birthday reflection by reviewing my previous year’s blog post, writing a letter to my 52-year-old self, going for a 52-minute run, and then condensing the letter to myself into a public blog post (the letter was much longer.) I planned to do this on Friday and the day was set up nicely for it, but work got in the way. So I did this on Saturday instead.
Let’s begin by reviewing my v51 plans.
No Booze: I had a no alcohol goal for v51. Late in 2016 and early in 2017 I had several nights where I drank alcohol, but I think all but one was a special event. By the end of springtime, I wasn’t drinking at all and I’m now in a very comfortable no drinking mode. I feel like it’s one that I can continue for the rest of my life and, while it feels like a good aspiration, I’m going to only set it for v52, rather than saying “I’ll never drink again.”
Mission Sub-200: Weight loss was a big topic for v51 of me. I wanted to be under 200 pounds after weighing in at 218 on my birthday. I weighed 201.9 yesterday and 202.3 today so I’m close enough to that goal to call it completed. While my ideal weight is 190, Amy negatively reacted to me setting my goal to be 190 and suggested 195 instead, which feels much more achievable to get to and maintain.
Religious Digital Sabbath: Digital Sabbath has been hit or miss for me. While I have almost no organized work activities on the weekend, and when I do I put them on Sunday afternoon, I’m still on my computer on Saturdays. I’ve tried to isolate “on my computer” from “checking email”, but even that constraint is awkward. But, there is a difference between “spending a bunch of time catching up on email” and “just checking/responding to the stuff that came in overnight or throughout the day.” I’m going to drop the goal of Religious Digital Sabbath from my v52 completely, but be very conscious of trying to minimize work and email on Saturday while using my computer for writing and the normal life tasks that the computer pops up for (like logging my runs, or scheduling dinner.)
Focus On My 2%: Overall I feel like I did a good job focusing on my 2%. It took a while to completely shrug off the 2016 election, but by mid-year, I was engaging where I could make a difference, rather than wallowing in the daily noise and nonsense. I made some mistakes in terms of thinking about what my 2% was, such as wading into Boulder politics around the November 2017 city council election. While I thought I could have an impact on the election, I didn’t, but more importantly, I hated almost every moment of what I was doing around this. I realized I wasn’t defining my 2% precisely enough. So, I’m going to re-evaluate my 2% some with a combination of asking myself “should I be doing this?” and “do I want to be doing this?” before including something in the 2%. My default posture is going to be “no” instead of “yes” so I need to convince myself, rather than default into doing things.
Reset Social Media: I completely and successfully reset my social media interactions. While I still broadcast, I don’t consume anything. While I’ll periodically open up Twitter or Facebook, I always feel unhappy (or even “dirty”) after I do this, so there is almost no desire on my part to do it. I took both apps off my phone early in the year and, while I put them back on and deleted them a few more times, they are currently deleted and I don’t have an urge to put them back on. I’m still broadcasting regularly through my blog, Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but I’m not responding to the comments and responses I get, except for occasional ones on my blog or more personal interactions via email. I like my position as a content generator and am relaxed in my lack of interest in engaging in discussions through these mediums.
More Maker Mode Expansion: Maker mode expansion and my writing in v51 on books was a failure. I had a few stretches where I wrote, but they weren’t sustained, and I didn’t really make any progress on either GiveFirst or Startup Communities 2. Instead of calling this maker mode expansion in v52, I’m simply going to write these two books this year. It feels comfortable to type that, as I want to write each of these books and can project that my emotional satisfaction around both the process and the completed product will be high.
Travel Mode Expansion: My travel changes in v51 were mixed. 2017 started off disastrously, with five consecutive weeks of travel. At the end of the fifth week, I acknowledged to myself that I was on the edge of falling into a depressive episode, so I abruptly stopped traveling, canceled a bunch of stuff, and shifted back into self-care mode. I experimented with a few other travel approaches and settled on shorter and more focused travel. I’ll travel in v52 for work, but I’ll always ask myself “why” before each trip commitment.
Reflecting on v51 as a setup to v52, I had several big functional goals that required a shift in behavior. However, I don’t feel like I had an overarching theme. I’m not sure a theme helps me, so for v52, I’m going to use nouns to describe what I’m focused on.
Vegetarian: Food has become increasingly challenging for me. While my diet has changed as I’ve lost weight, I’m struggling with more food sensitivities. I’ve been a pescatarian since I was 19, but these days I’m not enjoying fish at all, including sushi. Overall, I’m struggling a lot with food and would like to be free of what feels like regular allergic reactions to things. A vegan diet might get me there, but it feels too extreme, especially in the context of me and Amy eating together. So, v52 will be vegetarian, trending toward vegan.
Introvert: My default social posture will be more time to myself, with Amy, or with small groups (up to six people, but a preference of four people). When I do something with a bigger group, I’ll consciously engage, but know that I want to limit the length of time and the frequency of larger events.
Runner: Food, weight, and fitness are all part of my identity as a runner. I leveled up a lot in v51 and will level up more in v52, both on the physical and emotional dimension. My goal of 195 pounds continues in the right direction, which a vegetarian diet and no alcohol (which was successfully implemented in v51) will help with. I’m committing to a daily meditation of at least 20 minutes for v52, along with a nightly goal of at least eight hours of sleep. My running rhythm of at least one marathon this year will continue, but I’ll incorporate swimming and strength training into the mix.
Writer: I’m going to write GiveFirst and Startup Communities 2 in v52. To be a good writer, I believe you have to read a lot. I’ve read 72 books so far in 2017 (a goal of 100). I’m going to keep the goal of 100 books for 2018.
Coach / Mentor: My work role has shifted over the years from “doer” to coach/mentor. While there is inevitable doer activity in my work, I’m identifying more as coach/mentor. I’m going to explore this more in v52 as I think forward to future versions of me. I don’t plan any abrupt shift or specific different sets of behavior, but rather a broad and continual reflection on my role in my work.
Discriminating Wisdom: This is a great Buddhist notion that Amy pointed me at. I want to be selective about anything new that I take on and I want the overall number of things I’m working on to decrease. If I view this as an input/output model, where inputs are new things I take on and outputs are things that I finish/get closure on, I want there to be more outputs than inputs in v52 so that I end v52 with fewer overall commitments.
I learned a lot about myself in v51. Time for another trip around the sun.
I’ve spoken openly about how I don’t care about the idea of legacy. When pressed, I’ve struggled to describe the reason why I don’t care.
My long-time friend and first business partner Dave Jilk sent me the following Percy Bysshe Shelley poem to help me understand my perspective better.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Look up at the sky and ponder how far the sands actually stretch. Infinity is far away.