I’ve personally been in a liminal space for most of 2020. Today, most of America is in a liminal space.
The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.
I’m participating in the first annual DEIS Practicum with Rodney Sampson of Ohub today. In our opening discussion, we touched on the importance of being uncomfortable.
Liminal spaces are uncomfortable. When you sell your company, leave, and think about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When your company fails, and you are thinking about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When a parent dies, and you re-evaluate your priorities, it’s uncomfortable. When you get fired from your job and start thinking about what is next, it’s uncomfortable. When you show up as a White person in discussion with Black colleagues about racial equity and say something deeply stupid or hurtful, it’s uncomfortable. When an election happens on a Tuesday, and it’s still not resolved on a Thursday, it’s uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable to wait and not know. It’s uncomfortable to be in the in-between spaces. It’s uncomfortable not to know what is next.
This is the liminal space.
If you embrace it, it’s where transformation takes place. But, you have to be ok with waiting, and not knowing, and let being in the liminal space do its magic.
One of my mantras for v54 is “Simply Begin Again.”
As I get closer to v55 (58 days from now), I’ve been thinking about it more. During my morning meditation, I repeated it for a stretch and then did the same for about a mile on my run this morning.
Garth gets so many things correct.
I made a big shift earlier this summer after I finished up some of the work I was doing with the State of Colorado around Covid, specifically around the Innovation Response Team. A lot of that energy shifted to new work around racial equity and the release of my new book with Ian Hathaway The Startup Community Way. At the same time, my Foundry Group workload intensified as companies shifted from “survive Covid” to “grow like crazy because of tailwinds from Covid and adjustments made during Q2.”
When I reflect on where we are in October, 2020, I’m amazed. There is a spectrum that has awesome at one end and awful at the other. I’m engaged on both ends and spent relatively little time in between them. The inequities that exist on so many dimensions of our existence are extremely visible to me right now.
My gear shift around each day has been profound. I’ve adopted a set of new habits for the beginning and end of the day. I start each day with 30 minutes of meditation (I’m on a year and a half streak), then have 15+ minutes of coffee with Amy, and then go running three or four days a week. It’s a full reset every morning, which has had a profound impact on my attitude to everything that then follows.
Next, Amy and I try to have a 30 minute lunch every day. We probably miss a day a week, but right after I hit post, I’m going to go have lunch with her. We’ve never done this during the week before and I hope to do this with her every day for the rest of my life.
At the end of the day, which ranges from 5pm to 8pm, I’m done. I no longer try to get through all my email. I no longer do one last check before I go to bed. I just stop for the day.
And then I simply begin again the next day.
Larry Nelson, a very close friend, passed away on Friday.
If you don’t know Larry, he was a super positive participant in the Boulder and the Denver startup communities for many years. He and his wife Pat produced w3w3.com well before podcasts were trendy (Larry and Pat referred to it as “Internet Talk Radio.”) I always thought of Larry and Pat as the encouraging storytellers of the Boulder and the Denver startup communities.
Going back to some time in the late 1990s, Larry and Pat started showing up at every event I can remember participating in, which were a lot. I’d be doing a thing and there was Larry and Pat, with their cameras and their microphones. They took it all in, took tons of photos, and always wrote up interesting stuff about what was going on.
Larry was a master interviewer before everyone in tech started being a podcast host or a podcast guest. “This is Larry Nelson of w3w3.com” sticks in my mind. I enjoyed my interviews with Larry – he always made me laugh, made me feel loved, and brought out good stories. He was relentless and tireless in a way that made me say yes to everything he asked.
At some point, I started spending some social time with Larry and Pat. I introduced them to my parents, who became good friends with them. Everyone I knew liked them and welcomed them wherever they went. Over time, I (and many others) started calling Larry “Lord Nelson.” I can’t remember where the nickname came from, but my greeting to him went as follows.
Brad: Hey Lord Nelson, how are you today?
I never, ever got tired of that greeting.
Larry became ill recently and ended up in the hospital. I talked to him several times a week for the past few weeks, checking in on him, laughing, and hearing him respond to my greeting with “Magnificent!” even though I knew he was suffering.
Larry – I love you. I will miss you. But I will think of you often. You were a magnificent human.
It’s Monday. Again.
I have 30 Zoom meetings on my calendar this week (yes – I counted). It’s a light week for Zoom meetings since I have four board meetings this week, which each takes up a big block of time, limiting the total number of Zoom meetings for the week.
Did I say that it’s Monday?
My Whoop recovery score is yellow again. It’s yellow almost every day. I get plenty of sleep, but it’s still yellow. Sometimes it’s red. It’s rarely green these days.
On Sunday, I turned the pages of the New York Times with mild disgust. The only day I look at news is on Sunday, and then it’s only the New York Times in physical format. It now takes about ten minutes and I’m not sure why I’m doing it anymore.
Amy and I made a small change to our life algorithm this week. Instead of having the dishes pile up until one of us does them, we are alternating weeks. I’m on dish duty this week. We use the same plates over and over again.
I did my laundry again on Sunday. Every week I do my laundry on Sunday. I take my running clothes out of the sink in the mudroom bathroom and toss them in the washing machine. I grab my laundry basket from my closet and throw them in also. I set the machine for 1:06, pour in Tide Sport, and press Start. When it beeps, I put them in the dryer for 0:40 and press Start. When it beeps, I take them out, fold them, and put them in my closet. They are the same clothes every week.
I’m either running or swimming at least four days each week. Since my Whoop is always yellow, I keep thinking that taking a few days off will help. When I swim, it’s in the same pool back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. When I run, it’s in the same 0.94-mile loop – sometimes clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise. Over and over again.
It’s Monday. Again.
Brooks the Wonder Dog passed away yesterday. Somehow, a long time ago, his vet started referring to him as Brooks Batchelor. Mail came to Brooks Batchelor. His pills, which he took a lot of lately, are labelled Brooks Batchelor. Amy and I giggled everytime we saw this.
Brooks was an awesome dog. He was dog number 3, following Denali and Kenai. Definitely the cuddliest of the three. Always happy. He loved bagels, salmon, and tissue boxes. We ran in Keystone together and did laps around my house at St. Vrain for years until he couldn’t run anymore. He loved chasing bunnies, even if he never caught any. When he was young he loved to swim, but decided that wasn’t for him after he walked straight into the deep end of our new pool on his introduction to our St. Vrain house (we laughed so hard it was challenging to fish him out …)
When Amy and I talk about “Golden Retriever eyes” we are thinking of Brooks. Deep, black, and full of love, especially if you were holding a bagel. Or a piece of salmon.
At some point, he decided he was going to sleep on the bed. Early on we tried to convince him the bed was just for the two of us. I traveled a lot, so when I was gone he slept on my side of the bed. When I was home, he slept at the foot of the bed. Eventually, we got a bigger bed.
When he was a puppy, Kenai took good care of him (Kenai is on the left, Brooks is on the right)
When we got Cooper, he was annoyed for a while. Apparently he forgot that Kenai helped him grow up. Cooper was inscrutable and the first difficult puppy we had. Brooks figured this out before us and, while he’d occasionally assert his dominance, he generally gave Cooper a wide berth. When we sent Cooper to doggie boarding school for a month, we could tell that Brooks didn’t miss him. But, when Cooper came back, enough had changed that they were suddenly (and finally) buddies.
Cooper was extremely patient with Brooks the past few years as Brooks aged. When they ran together with me, Cooper would do his thing for a while but eventually hang back with Brooks who trotted along next to me at my slow pace.
Several months ago Brooks had a seizure. It turned out that he had a significant brain tumor. After being at the vet for a few nights, he came back home and was basically non-responsive. Amy and I cried all weekend, just hung out with him, and were ready to let him go.
We decided to give it one try with the vet where they dialed back some of his meds to see if he could get a few more months. While he still slept most of the time, he was ambulatory, happy, and somewhat responsive when he was awake.
Last Monday he had a series of seizures. Back to the vet he went, where the seizures continued. He passed on Saturday.
I thought of him a lot of my 12 loop run today. I write this with tears in my eyes. Brooks Batchelor, you were a wonder dog. Thanks for being part of our lives.
There was a disturbance in the Force yesterday.
Our old dog, Brooks (age 13 – on the left) had a seizure mid-afternoon. He spent the night in the hospital where he had another seizure. He’s there now being inspected and detected.
We are lucky to have great vet care and a Rover co-parent for Brooks who loves him as much as we do.
I called it quits at 5 pm shortly after my last scheduled meeting. Amy and I watched a few more episodes of Breaking Bad and went to sleep early. I got a good night sleep, but woke up feeling sad, scared, and disoriented.
Meditation and coffee has helped a little, but there’s definitely a part of me that wants to write off the day and just lay the couch, read a book, and play with Cooper and Brooks.
It’s another Monday in the time of Covid. Recently my family had an email exchange about prom and it reminded me of the following scene from Contagion.
This morning, my mom (the artist) reminded me about her email and suggested I start the week off with something joyful. So, I thought I’d write about her prom with pictures from 1959. Her email is in italics below.
S – Remember when we talked about “Prom” and you said it wasn’t a big deal in Boulder and I said it was definitely a big deal in New York back in the ’50s and 60’s.
I found these pictures of Prom 1959. There were two proms that June, one from my high school (Music and Art) and one from Grandpa’s college (Columbia). I was a senior in high school and GP was a senior in college. I told you I had two fancy dresses. We think the color picture is from the Columbia prom and the black and white from M&A. My strapless (!) dress was actually a pale blue which looks white in the b&w photo. It looks like I am wearing a tiara in the color picture. Fancy, schmancy! Notice the high heels and corsage. GP with hair!
I was minus six years old, which is kind of mind-bending to consider since that was over 60 years ago.
Mom / Dad – y’all both look awesome in these photos. Awesome, and super-duper happy. And, Dad, you had hair!
I hope this helped start your Monday off with a smile.
Earlier this evening we celebrated my dad’s 82nd birthday using the appropriate COVID-19 social distancing approach.
St. Patrick’s day has always been a special day for my family because of my dad’s birthday. Ever since I was a little kid I can remember the outrageous green outfits with the green buttons and the green bangles and a bunch of other green things my dad would drag around each year on March 17th.
My mom always makes a super delicious chocolate cake. We usually sneak in chocolate ice cream sometime during the day. If I’m lucky, we pull off a DQ Choco Brownie Extreme Blizzard when my mom isn’t looking.
While we weren’t together in person this year, we had 30 minutes of laughter on video at the end of another intense day.
My parents are healthy, happy, and settled into their own social distancing routine at home in Texas. I have a small family, but deeply love my parents, my brother and his wife, their daughter, and my wife Amy. In times like this, I realize how lucky I am.
Dad, thanks for being you, even on days when The Hulk would be jealous of your outfit. And Mom, thanks for always being there with the cake and the candles.
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.