Amy and I took a much needed 10 days off in Aspen.
The first five months of the year was intense for both of us. Lots of travel, work, and stuff. Not a lot of self-care, time alone, or reading. And very little running since my calf was injured.
The last 10 days were lots of together time, running, reading, and sleeping. I gobbled up a bunch of books, all of them worth reading.
Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear: I started with a short book by Carl Hiaasen. I’m a fan of his fiction, so this caught my eye in Explore Booksellers (the local Aspen bookstore where we always load up whenever we come here.) It was cynically wonderful, and great advice.
Adjustment Day: Ever since Fight Club, I’ve been a Chuck Palahniuk fan. His fiction is cloudy, complex, challenging, contemporary, and cynical. He’s basically the C-Man of fiction (go Chuck, go …) Adjustment Day was the perfect fictional setup for the next book I read, which was …
Fascism: A Warning: Amy and I have been fortunate enough to get to know Madeleine Albright through our collective relationships at Wellesley. Amy knows her better, but I had an amazing dinner sitting next to her one night where I walked away thinking “I wish she had been born here so she could run for president.” The word “fascism” is once again being used so often as to mean nothing, so Albright spends 250 or so pages walking the reader through real fascism, how fascists behave, what they do to their countries (and societies), and what – as a citizen in a democratic country – to pay attention to. She covers the famous ones, but also some not so famous ones, especially those who came to power in the context of a theoretically democratic society.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup: Every entrepreneur and VC should read this book. John Carreyrou has done something important here. Maybe this book will finally put a nail in the phrase “fake it till you make it”, but I doubt it. The amount of lying, disingenuousness, blatant and unjustified self-promotion, and downright deceit that exists in entrepreneurship right now is at a local maximum. This always happens when entrepreneurship gets trendy. Carreyrou just wrote a long warning for entrepreneurs and VCs.
Imagine Wanting Only This: I love graphic novels. I don’t read enough because – well – I don’t know. Amy bought me this one because she loved the cover. Kristen Radtke wrote a beautiful, provocative, at times extremely sad, but also uplifting story that is auto-biographical. I wish I could write this well. And, when I read a book like this, I really wish I could draw.
The Painted Word: The world lost a great writer recently when Tom Wolfe died. So I bought the Five Essential Tom Wolfe Books You Should Read. I hadn’t read The Painted Word so I started with it. It’s a deliciously scathing criticism of modern art, circa 1975. I loved it.
Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto: If you read one book from this list, read this one, especially if you live in Boulder. Alan Stern, the PI on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, wrote – with David Grinspoon – a riveting story that spans around 30 years. Both Alan and David are at CU Boulder, which plays a key role in the exploration of the last planet in our solar system (there – I said it – Pluto is a planet, the IAU be damned.) This book is a page tuner and will cause you to fall in love with Pluto. And, in late breaking news, Pluto may actually be a giant comet (ah – clickbait headlines …)
Damn Right!: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger: I’m a huge Charlie Munger fan. For some reason, I’d missed this biography of him. I learned a few things I didn’t know and got to travel back in time to a book written in the context of Charlie Munger about 20 years ago.
It was a great vacation. I’ll be back in Boulder tomorrow …
I’m running my 25th marathon in South Dakota on 10/8/17. My training has been going well and I’m now in a zone of 30+ miles a week with a long run once a week in the high teens.
Today’s run from Aspen to Basalt was the best run I’ve had in over a year.
Just under a year ago, I did this same run in 4 hours. So, I’m in significantly better shape, which makes me happy since my October 2016 Marathon in Portland, Oregon was a debacle.
A three and a half hour run gives my brain plenty of roaming around time. I like to run naked (no headphones, no music) so the thoughts just drift around. My friend Matt Bencke was in my head a lot on this run. Houston and Hurricane Harvey floated around. The red mountains that I was surrounded by frequently caught my attention. I said hello to a bunch of cyclists and a few horses. Random company stuff made its way to the surface. I noticed lots of crawling bugs and scurrying animals. A bunch of jets flew overhead delivering people to Aspen for the weekend. I thought of Amy a lot.
On a run like this, I need more than two water bottles. I’ve been trying different running backpacks and finally found one I like – the Nathan VaporAir Race Vest. Yup – I’ve got a pile of others (from Camelback, Osprey, and Patagonia) all collecting dust in various closets. The Nathan VaporAir is a keeper.
In the photo above you can see Amy, in her Range Rover, waiting patiently for me at the end of my run (just after the bridge that crosses over 82.) She’s an amazing sherpa for my running, always bringing me a clean shirt, stuff to eat and drink, and transportation back to wherever I started. We went and got a pizza at New York Pizza in El Jebel before heading home. We’re on the couch watching Nadal vs. Mayer, Amy is knitting, and I’m typing.
Today is a day to treasure. Just like all of them, no matter what is going on.
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.
Amy and I are back in Boulder after spending a week off the grid in Aspen. We sent my mom a birthday present from the Prada store and she responded with an OMG so I figured it was ok for a 49 year old to use it publicly if his mom used it privately.
On our way to Aspen last Friday, I spent most of the time in the car asleep. I could tell I was super grumpy based on the tone of some of my recent blog posts, what was rolling around in my head, and Amy’s mildly concerned questions about how I was doing.
After a week doing nothing but reading, sleeping, eating, running, hanging out, being in the mountains, shopping, and adult activities I feel a lot better. I was just very, very tired. Fitbit tells me that I got an average of 10 hours and 27 minutes of sleep each night last week, which confirms things on the fatigue-o-meter.
I paid very little attention to the world last week. Other than watching the first hour of the Republican Debate, mostly just for the amusement factor, and the finals of the US Open, the TV was off all week, along with the computer and the phone. Yesterday I took a look at the Techmeme River and saw all the tech news I missed. I took a deep breath and archived all my email. And then I was back and refreshed.
The most enjoyable book of the week was The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh. While it’s perfect for a teenager interested in sci-fi (the heroes are all kids), the concepts played around with are fun for any age. After bailing on The Girl in the Spider’s Web after 10%, I gave it another shot on the behest of Howard Morgan and enjoyed it a lot. Ironically, these were both on my Kindle, as all the “good for me hardcover books” sat on the shelf, other than Kafka which was excellent.
My favorite day was shopping day. I hate shopping and the idea of spending time in a retail store makes me need to go to the bathroom. So, I made sure I was empty and then ventured out into the mean streets of Aspen with Amy. She loves to shop so my birthday present to her this year was a day of shopping together, with me paying full attention, offering opinions, and supporting whatever purchases she decided to make.
I knew I’d scored when her first guess of what her “experience present” was the day prior was “shopping.” We had a blast together, just wandering around and being together while she lit up on a zillion different things, buying only the ones she really loved. Yes, she has a few more purses now.
When we went to Paris for our Q2 vacation, we were both exhausted. Once again, we found ourselves in a state of deep fatigue, reenergized by a week in a beautiful place away from humans (other than the friends who came to visit). And, as I return to Boulder, I’m more determined than ever to stop wasting my time on stuff I don’t care about or want to spend time on, which I know is just wearing me out in the midst of an otherwise extremely busy life.