My favorite and most productive time of the year is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Basically, summertime.
Normally I’d declare this the Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend but I’m just getting over a cold so fuck it, summertime starts today.
During maker mode, I try to only do meetings and phone calls in the afternoons between 1 and 5. There are some exceptions – mostly board meetings – but I try to give myself lots of space to work on the longer term stuff. While this is mostly writing, it also includes deeper work for specific companies, especially around product and product strategy. Essentially, things that take more than 30 minutes of concentration.
Last weekend Amy and I shifted into reading mode over the weekend (we were both sick so couldn’t do much other than lay on the couch, read, fall asleep, and complain about feeling crappy.) It continued into the week – the TV hasn’t been on for a while and evenings are spent on our couches with the dogs and our Kindles. Heaven.
In addition to turning off the TV, I’ve turned off all the continuous interrupts. I’m not looking at social media (although I am still broadcasting.) I’m not looking at news (I figure anything I really need to know will find its way to me) other than my continuous stream of tech news in my a Slack channel. My Sunday New York times habit will be banished until after Labor Day. Podcasts – forget it – for a while.
While I fantasize that I can be in maker mode all the time, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to sustain throughout the year. For some reason, the tempo of the summer makes it easy. Maybe it’s because the days are longer. Or it’s warmer and more people melt away. Or after 40+ years of behaving a certain way, summer is just different for me than the rest of the year.
Amazingly, I still haven’t conditioned myself to turn my phone horizontally when I take a video. I feel old.
I’m sitting in my condo downtown, drinking coffee, listening to Soundgarden, and contemplating the dissonance of so many things. I just got off a Facetime saying good morning to Amy and talking to Brooks and Cooper.
I love Soundgarden, but I try not to listen to the lyrics too carefully. Unlike Pink Floyd, where I’ve got most of the albums memorized, I hang on to individual riffs. For me, Like Suicide is a love song, rather than an appeal for help, but it rattles me this morning as the snow comes down. I replace it in my head with all that you touch, all that you taste, all that you feel, all that you love, all that you hate, all you distrust, all you save, all that you give, all that you deal, all that you buy, beg, borrow or steal …
Things are amazing. Things are awful.
Life is complex. Dissonance abounds. And the Dude abides.
Strikes and gutters. Ups and downs.
I’m sitting up in Amy’s office on a beautiful Tuesday morning listening to the Liz Wright station Pandora. Amy is downstairs doing something with the dogs.
I just cried for a few minutes after reading Ted Rheingold’s post As I Lay Dying. When I got to the final section, which he calls “Now,” I read it three times.
“I’ve gained some powerful emotional powers (super powers) in what I’ve been calling my second life. Most all my deep-set hangups died with my first life. A number (but not all) of my grudges, entitled expectations, self-assumed responsibilities, judgements are simply gone. I have no FOMO. There isn’t an event I’ve heard of since I’ve recovered that I wish I would have been at. I’m simply content to be alive and living my life. I have no bucket list. Life is the bucket.”
If you don’t know Ted, he now describes himself as “Beating stage 4 carcinoma thanks to amazing researchers oncologists and immunology. Passion for making the Internet do exciting and wonderful things.” I know him from an angel investment in Dogster, a company he founded and ran from 2003 to 2011 when he sold it to SAY Media. Jeff Clavier introduced us, and I think it was the first investment Jeff and I did together.
I haven’t kept up with Ted other than a periodic email. But whenever I see his name, I think of him fondly. While Dogster was an ok outcome (I think I got a modest return – maybe 2x), Ted worked his butt off, valued his early investors, and was a delight to engage with him. But that doesn’t matter, as it’s not what is important about this thing we call life.
Ted touched me profoundly today with this post. His clarity around his second life is intensely powerful. The statement, “I’m simply content to be alive and living my life.” is something that vibrates in my brain.
Ted is getting a phone call from me to say thank you for putting this out there. And to send him a hug over the phone lines. Ted – thank you for saying “Life IS the bucket …”
Amy and I just took a two-week vacation. We were mostly off the grid, to the extent we could be given several things we were working on together. We hid from the world, caught our breath, and regrouped.
I often get asked what my rhythm is on a vacation like this. It’s simple – I have no rhythm or schedule. My days are organized around waking up when I feel like it and going to bed when I’m tired. When I look at my Fitbit sleep data, I got at least nine hours of sleep every day. My resting heart rate was 62 at the beginning of the month (down from 69 when I declared a travel moratorium) and is 57 today.
I do have a few things I do each day. I meditate first thing for 20 minutes. Amy and I three meals together. I exercise, which on this trip included ramping up my running nicely. I take an afternoon nap. And I try to read at least once book a day.
We have a few friends living near where we are hiding so we have had some fun dinners together. We went and saw the movie Logan in the middle of the day and walked around a shopping mall for a few hours. We thought about going to a sporting event but never managed to pull it off. And we’ve watched zero TV.
Usually, we take a week off the grid each quarter. This time I felt like I needed more, so we took two weeks. I’m glad I did.
In our very divided world right now, this video is worth three minutes of your life on this Super Bowl Sunday.
A snarky person could call the title of this post “the tagline for Facebook and Twitter.” A bitter person could expand this to mean all of media.
I’ve got a cold (it’s a bummer to end the year with a cold, but if it runs its course by January 1st I’ll be happy) so it’s been hard to concentrate this morning. Instead of working on the final draft of the Second Edition of Startup Opportunities: Know When to Quit Your Day Job (being published by Wiley in Q117) I’ve been surfing the web, looking at Twitter and Facebook, responding to email, and drinking apple cider.
I came across three articles this morning that were prompted by an email exchange about truth / fake news / exaggeration, which was stimulated by Fred Wilson’s Headlines post today.
I figured I’d be done after reading Erin Griffith’s The Ugly Unethical Underside of Silicon Valley. There’s a lot of meat in the article but Erin’s writing deserves a better, less clickbait headline. But, we know that’s not going to happen.
I then bumped into ‘How Propaganda Works’ Is a Timely Reminder for a Post-Truth Age which resulted in a one-click Amazon purchase of the book How Propaganda Works.
I still felt sick, but for another reason.
I finished my random reading off with some Garrison Keillor who always makes me happier. Our country is bitterly divided. How ’bout a little small talk? ends with a great punch line.
“They say the country is bitterly divided. Maybe so, but that’s no reason to be rude. My mailman likes to banter, and so do the guys at Lloyd’s Automotive and the cabdrivers. So what’s going on with you? Cat got your tongue? Where’d you get that sweater? What’s that product you put on your hair?”
I’m going to quit stalling and go work on two more chapters of Startup Opportunities and then take an afternoon nap. And that’s the truth.
I turned 51 today. I’ve been telling people I’m 33 (since that’s my age in hex) and when I feel like having people say “whoa – you look a lot younger than that” I say I’m 63 (since that’s my age in octal). I like to look forward on my birthday instead of backwards, so when I woke up this morning I had a handful of things in my head for the next version of myself. So, here’s what I’m going to try to incorporate into v51.
No Booze: I’ve never been a big drinker (my parents don’t drink so other than awful Manischewitz wine on the jewish holidays I rarely saw booze as a kid. I don’t really like wine or beer that much so my go to drink is scotch. I have a moderator problem with all things in life – I’m either off (abstainer) or on (all in) so it’s a lot easier for me to abstain. I go through long no-drinking phases and I feel like v51 should be one of them.
Mission Sub-200: I weighed in this morning at 218. My weight fluctuates between 205 and 220 depending on how much I pay attention to it. My adult low weight is 192 and I feel really good around 200 so in v51 I’m going to figure out a combination of food and exercise that gets me permanently below 200. Fortunately, I have an awesome coach (Gary Ditsch) who can help me with that and I expect the no booze feature will help.
Religious Digital Sabbath: When I take Friday night through Saturday night off the grid (Digital Sabbath) I always feel a lot better on all dimensions. I’ve been inconsistent about this in v50. For v51 I’m going to be religious about it.
Focus On My 2%: I’ve written about this many times in different ways. On a daily basis, I pay almost no attention to the macro. When I was a kid, my dad once said to me “focus on the 2% you can impact and spend all your time there.” That’s generally how I live my life, although like many others I got swept up into the most recent election madness and found myself spending a non-trivial amount of time paying attention to the macro, even when I knew I couldn’t impact it. I’m recommitting my energy to my 2%, recognizing that my whole world is a network and my activity is almost entirely bottom up engagement rather than top down. v51 is recommitted to that.
Reset Social Media: While I’ve always been a broadcaster on social media (primarily Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), my consumption and engagement patterns ebb and flow. For v51, I’m going to select ebb. So, while I’ll still be broadcasting, I won’t be engaging or reading the streams. Email remains the best way to get me, although I will continue 1:1 interaction via whatever channels find their way to me (SMS, txt, FBM, LI, DM).
More Maker Mode Expansion: v51 will include more travel and more maker mode. I’m writing daily again and working on several books (the 2nd Edition of Startup Opportunities and the 1st Edition of Give First.) I get so much emotional and intellectual joy out of the process that I’m just going to let it be a bigger part of v51.
Travel Mode Expansion: I’ve been traveling more and feel like I’ve figured out a comfortable way to do it. The biggest shift is that I spend my traveling time “in the moment”, I don’t over schedule when I’m somewhere and instead focus on longer time with less people. I also give myself plenty of me time on the road. I’ll take longer breaks from any travel or settle in one place for longer stretches with Amy. v51 will try this again, but will be careful not to over do it.
Those are the big features I am modifying or expansion packs I’m adding. As today is day 0 of version 51, I expect I’ll iterate on plenty of these – and others – on my way to v51.365.
For those of you who have wished me happy birthday on Facebook and Twitter, thank you (per my reset social media, don’t expect a reply on my wall …) For my one friend who called me on the phone to wish me happy birthday, I treasure what is now a 34 year (in decimal) friendship. And, for everyone else, v51 looks forward to engaging with you.
Yesterday morning I woke up and said out loud “I accept whatever the outcome of this election is.”
I decided that whatever the outcome, I had spent all the emotional and functional energy I wanted to on the election. I was public about my point of view. I advocated for my perspective. And I voted.
In our democracy, I accept the outcome. I’m a long term optimist and hold that value front and center.
It’s now time for me to get back to work. And that starts with a run on the Embarcadero …
I love dreams. Mine are often very detailed, clear, extremely colorful, linger for a while (several hours) after I wake up, and full of strange and complex linkages between things that often cause me to make associations I wouldn’t have otherwise made. Ever since I learned about the concept of garbage collection in 6.001 at MIT in 1984 while using Scheme on HP Chipmunks, I’ve always thought of dreaming as the same as garbage collection for a computer. When I read Minsky’s The Society of the Mind I started referring to dreams as garbage collection for the mind.
I woke up this morning with a particularly vivid dream that has stuck with me for the past hour as I get ready to head to Seattle and Portland for a few days. After 30 days off the grid, I’ve had an expectedly intense full three days as I get back in the flow of things. I’m processing a lot and when I went to bed last night around 11:30 my brain was full. As I laid down next to Amy, she said “I can feel you thinking.” We murmured a few things to each other and then I promptly fell asleep.
I woke up in the midst of the dream to Amy saying “Did you set an alarm?” (Answer: “No, but I’m awake now!”) In my dream I was walking down the hall with the Chief Information Officer of a health care company I’d somehow ended up as a consultant for. The CIO was an older white guy – classic last generation CIO – who was totally panicked about a security breach but had no idea what to do about it. He and I had just walked out of a board meeting with about 30 people moments after they’d fired the CEO. The board was in an uproar, trying to figure out how the CEO had let the security breach happen and why there were all these Twitter accounts posting images of patients with posts in weird / poor English saying things about how great Trump is.
In the board meeting I had explained to the board that the Twitter accounts were geo-coded with locations in Russia, so it was likely a Russian hacker and a focused attack that had nothing to do with the company. One of the board members was emotional. “I don’t give a shit – just fix it!” Other board members were talking over each other about who the new CEO should be. The consensus was “We don’t care what it costs – just solve the problem.”
Immediately prior to walking into the board meeting, I had been in an underground office below a parking garage meeting with a small team of white hat hackers. They had previously gotten my attention by breaking into several highly secure systems unrelated to me, sending me evidence of their break ins, and suggesting that they were for hire. I had been going back and forth with Rob Hayes at First Round Capital about his experience with them, since he’d hired them in the past. The lead hacker showed me how he’d spoofed Rob’s response to me and replaced it with an image of a gigantic hairless cat.
As I go back further in the dream, it’s fading now so I’m losing the thread. But you get the idea.
Amy and I just got back from a month off the grid in Aspen. If you are an Atlas Shrugged fan, think of it like the annual trip to Galt’s Gulch.
Since 2000, Amy and I have been taking a week of the grid every quarter. I’ve never been a good moderator with anything, especially work, so it has been a way to get a cold reset every twelve weeks or so.
Three years ago my partners and I at Foundry Group decided to experiment with a month off the grid. Each of us goes away for a month and the other three (now four) cover for him. It’s been remarkably successful for us, both individually and as a partnership.
Let’s start with the individual stuff first. My brain is cleared of cruft, I’m extremely content, and my energy level is high. I’m in great physical shape, as I slept around 10 hours a night, ran about seven hours a week, and took almost daily naps. I’m in great emotional shape, as I meditated almost daily, spent lots of time with friends who came to visit, ignored almost everything going on in the world (although I got sucked into the election a few times), stayed completely off social media, and read a book a day. I’m in great relationship shape, as I got to spent 24 hours a day for a month with my beloved.
Professionally, having now been through this three times, I know that all my responsibilities were in good hands with my partners. As a bonus, they just spent a month taking care of the companies I’m primarily responsible for, so they know what is going on in my world – the good and the bad. Spending a month disconnected is, in some ways, the ultimate display of trust, and it powerfully reinforces the idea that we all work together on everything.
And – no email. No Twitter. No Facebook. No calendar alerts. No Voxer. No Slack. No phone calls. No conference calls. No Google Hangouts. You get the picture.
We did watch Season 2 of Narcos (awesome). We watched a bunch of movies. We watched 24 Second Edition (also known as Designated Survivor.) Amy and I ate dinner together every night. We held hands a lot as we walked around and enjoyed a splendid fall in Aspen. We missed our dogs (they were staying with our Rover sitter who they love), but this let us stay up late and sleep until 11am some days.
I know it’s a huge privilege to be able to take a month of the grid every year. I’ve fantasized about this since I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 19. Thanks Jason, Seth, Ryan, and Lindel for helping this become a reality. Most of all, thanks Amy for sharing this time with me.
That said, it’s good to be back. I look forward to reconnecting with everyone – starting now.