Tag: bipolar

May 9 2017

Helping To End The Stigma Around Mental Health By Talking About It

I’m super lucky. I get to work with many incredibly brave and insightful people. One of them is Chris Heivly who is now working at Techstars with me and a few others on a new set of products around the concept of startup communities.

May is mental health month. Jenny Lawton, Techstars COO, led off Techstars commitment to engaging with the post Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Health. Her call to action, before she goes on to talk about her experience with mental health issues, follows:

“May is Mental Health Awareness month and Techstars is driving to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Let’s open up the conversation around it and what it means to our community and industry.” 

Today, Chris went public with his story in the post That Time I Could Not Break My Depression. If you’ve never met Chris, he’s a gregarious, energetic, fully engaged entrepreneur who has had multiple successes. But, he has struggled with depression, as he says in the lead off of his story.

“None of that prior success prepared me for a moment in 2015 where the evil thoughts in my head had overtaken the rational startup brain.”

As I read his story, I was incredibly proud of him for being able to talk about it and provide leadership for others. Then I read Lance Powers (founder at Sigmend – Techstars Class 68) post The Vital Role of Community in Mental Health Support where he talks about his bipolar disorder.

“If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be writing a post discussing my Bipolar disorder for my friends, coworkers, and entire community to see, I wouldn’t have believed you. Thanks to the hard work of my local community in Boulder and Denver, I am not only comfortable writing this post, I am proud.”

Lance has two statements that encapsulate what I believe.

  1. “The problem is less about the disorder and more about the way we handle it.”
  2. “The one thing I know to be absolutely true is that a supportive community is vital to recovery.”

Lance points to Dave Mayer for paving the way for him to speak openly with the Mental Health in the Startup Realm panel Dave led at Boulder Startup Week 2016.

On Saturday, Amy and I participated in the annual BCH Foundation Gala which this year was in support of the BCH Foundation Mental Health Endowment. As part of it, we announced a lead gift for the new BCH Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion which will be used primarily for behavioral and mental health issues.

While more is coming on the work Amy and I are doing with BCH, for now, I’m going to end with the simple statement. I am incredibly appreciative and proud for all the insights, support, and bravery of all my colleagues and friends, around the issues of depression and mental health in general. Thank you.

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Aug 28 2016

Book: A Truck Full of Money

In case you are curious, based on the feedback I got to Is Republishing To Medium Worth It?, the answer, at least for now, appears to be Yes. So, if you are reading this on Medium, enjoy!

I’m a huge Tracy Kidder fan. I read The Soul of A New Machine as a senior in high school and, even though I don’t include it in the reason I went to MIT, I’m sure it played a part. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite books, although I haven’t read it in many years. I just kindled it (and several other Tracy Kidder books I’ve decided to re-read) and expect it’ll be in my near term reading list.

About a month ago Paul English sent me an email asking me if I wanted to read an ARC of Tracy Kidder’s new book A Truck Full of MoneyPaul and I haven’t worked together, but I knew him from a distance because of Kayak, the Boston startup community, and a few interactions we’d had over the years, including a long conversation via videoconference where we talked about depression and his new company Blade.

My answer was a rapid yes after his mention of Tracy Kidder. But what really got my attention was the line in his email that follows:

“The book deals with my bipolar stuff, and your writings on depression have been meaningful to me.”

That’s about as vulnerable a sentence you will see from an entrepreneur. The idea of exposing oneself around this topic to a writer like Tracy Kidder was incredibly brave to me. So now I was doubly interested.

I read the book the day after it arrived at my office. It was five stars – off the charts awesome on many levels. I asked Paul if I could blog about it and he asked me to hold off until his publisher said it was ok to do it. It’s now ok to do so.

Tracy Kidder wrote an amazing book. Paul like many entrepreneurs, is a complex person. Kidder doesn’t dwell on the good or the bad. He shifts effortlessly between the past, present, and future. Paul is the main character, but it’s not Paul’s biography. Kayak plays a role, but so does Blade, as does Paul’s childhood and early jobs. Interleaf makes an appearance (if you remember Interleaf, you just dated yourself. If you don’t remember Interleaf, you need to go learn about it because it was a really important pre-Web and then Web-transition company.)

The book isn’t about mental health and biopolar disorder. But Paul’s struggle with it is woven throughout and by the end of the book you have a good understanding of how it has been both a positive and a negative force in Paul’s life and career. Kidder does a magnificent job of teasing out moments that create the example of bipolar disorder without pounding the reader over the head with it. All of this makes Paul a complete human rather than just an entrepreneurial machine.

In the absence of a spectacular writer, Paul’s story is a fun one to read. But Kidder brings out another layer to the story, the person, the personality, how bipolar disorder impacts Paul and everyone around him, and how they respond, adjust, and calibrate to it.

Ultimately, it’s an incredibly intimate book. While I’m very open about my life, it takes an absurd amount of courage to hand yourself over to someone like Kidder. Paul did it in the context of his own struggles with bipolar disorder, against the backdrop of a complex entrepreneurial journey, at the beginning of his next act.

The only thing I disliked about the book was the title. It’s catchy, but it doesn’t capture the complexity of the book, or the protagonist. But that’s ok – titles are hard to get right and are really just a pointer to the content of the book.

Paul – thanks for being brave enough to let yourself be the subject of a Tracy Kidder book. Tracy – while I don’t know you, know that you have a mega-fan out in the world who has read all of your books. And, if you are an entrepreneur, investor, or curious about the intersection of mental health and entrepreneurship, or just love a great non-fiction book that reads like a novel, A Truck Full of Money should be the next book you read.

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