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.
I’m glad I get to live in the United States of America.
I started reading the Declaration of Independence every year on America’s birthday a while ago and just read it again. The famous line that always gives me chills when I read it is:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I believe that all men and women are created equal, but it took our country until 1920 to acknowledge this for women. And then it took until 1964, the year before I was born, to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. And same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015. It took a while, but we have, and continue to make, progress as a country, and a species.
As we enter what most expect will be a very contentious, hostile, and nasty election cycle, I encourage everyone to remember that ultimately we are all on the same team. I think one of the brilliant parts of our democracy is how resilient it is. We are each allowed to have our own beliefs and, as long as we follow the rule of law, we can express them however we’d like. This is a unique characteristic of the best democracies and one I value tremendously.
I expect that over the next 40 years it’s going to get more, rather than less, complicated. We are currently in the middle of a confusing debate around gender identification which was presented in an easy to consume way in the New York Times Magazine article over the weekend titled The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes. We are beginning to talk about the idea of enhanced humans, and whether they should have the same rights as the un-enhanced. And, our fears of the coming AI Apocalypse are making headlines on a periodic basis.
I’d like to believe that in America, we’ll continue to be at the forefront of human society as we work through these issues. We have been since 1776 and I hope that continues at least until 2076. Happy birthday America.
My dad – Stan Feld – turned 78 years old today. He’s one of my closest friends and a life-long buddy. He always rocks a wild green outfit on his birthday.
In honor of him turning 78, following are 7 things I’ve learned from him:
- Be kind to everyone.
- Treasure you wife.
- Never lose your anger in public.
- If you aren’t standing on the edge you are taking up too much space.
- Naps are awesome.
- Chocolate ice cream is the best food in the universe.
- Learn something new every day.
and 8 things I love about him.
- Same as #7 above – he’s always learning.
- He knows how to laugh.
- He not afraid to try new things, like blogging.
- He always says what he thinks, and then see #1.
- He loves his sports car.
- Whenever we are together, we are really together.
- With his brother Charlie, he set an amazing example of brotherhood for me and my brother Daniel.
- With his wife and my mom Cecelia, he set an amazing example of marriage for me and Amy.
Dad – I love you.
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.
I turned 48 on December 1st. I took a week off the grid (from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until the Wednesday after my birthday) – part of my quarterly off the grid routine with Amy. We had a very mellow birthday this year, spent it with a few friends who came to visit us in San Diego at the tennis place we love to hide at, and basically just slept late, played tennis, read a lot, got massages, ate nice food, and had adult activities.
I returned to an onslaught of email (no surprise) which included a long list of happy birthday wishes. I had 129 happy birthday wall posts and about 50 LinkedIn happy birthday messages.
As I read through them, I was intrigued and confused.
- The Facebook wall posts were nice – almost all said either “happy birthday” or “happy birthday + some nice words.” I received one gift via Facebook (a charitable donation – thanks Tisch, you’ve got class!) Ok – that felt pretty good.
- The emails were mixed. Many of them were like the Facebook wall posts. A few of them were online cards. But about 10% of them asked me for something, using the happy birthday message as an excuse to “reconnect.”
- About 50% of the LinkedIn messages were requests for something. The subject line was “Happy Birthday” but the message then asked for something.
I decided not to respond to any of them. There were a few emails with specific stuff that I wanted to say, but the vast majority I just read and archived.
I found myself noticeably bummed out after going through the LinkedIn ones. I woke up thinking about it again today, especially against the backdrop of reading Dave Eggers awesome book The Circle (more on that coming soon.)
I’m an enormous believer in the idea of “give before you get.” It’s at the core of my Boulder Thesis in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and how I try to live my personal and business live. Fortunately, many of the people I am close to also believe in this and incorporate it into the way they live.
When processing my birthday wishes, especially the LinkedIn ones, there was very little “give before you get.” That’s fine – I don’t expect that from anyone – it’s not part of my view of an interaction model that I have to impose it on others. But I was really surprised by the number of people that used my birthday as a way to “get something” without “giving something” other than a few words in a social media message.
This confused me. The more I thought about it, the more I was confused, especially by the difference between email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. When I tried to organize my thinking, the only thing I could come up with was that email was “variable”, Facebook was “generic”, and LinkedIn was “selfish.” I didn’t love these characterizations, but this prompted me to write this post in an effort to understand it better.
I’m going to ponder the “culture of different communication channels” more, but I’m especially curious if anyone out there has a clear point of view on the different cultures between email, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Feel free to toss Twitter in the mix if you want.
It’s amazing to me that Techstars is now 7 years old. We are involved in over 300 active companies who have now raised over $400 million. 27 of them have been acquired. They’ve created over 2,000 jobs. And we are just getting started.
There’s some awesome classic footage from the last 7 years in the 3:37 video below. Enjoy. And thanks to EVERYONE who has been part of the Techstars community – we wouldn’t exist without you.
My dad is one of my best friends. I’ve known him for 47 years and other than a few relatively brief moments where we have struggled with classical father / son stuff as I was growing up and separating my identity, he’s always been a buddy, mentor, friend, cheerleader, and confidant. I’ve learned an enormous amount from him, and continue to treasure every moment I have with him.
My mom arranged a 75th birthday this weekend for my dad in San Antonio. They live in Dallas so I’m a little perplexed why we ended up in San Antonio, but when you are 75 you get to decide where you want to celebrate your birthday. So me, Amy, my brother Daniel, his wife Laura, their daughter Sabrina, and my dad’s brother Charlie and his wife Cindy descended on the Eilan Hotel. As expected, there was no shortage of confusion when there were Felds in four different rooms, but we had our usual fun tormenting the hotel staff who tried their hardest to keep us all straight.
As part of the birthday, my mom asked us all to write some thoughts to my dad about our relationship with him. She has compiled them and has them waiting for him when they arrive back in Dallas, but I thought I’d spring my thoughts on him a little early. Here they are!
Dad – as I sit here at 6:46am on 3/11/13 pondering all the amazing things we’ve done together, I closed my eyes and thought back as far as I could to some memories from my childhood. As I get older, I find that the memories fade to snippets, rather than entire concepts, but here are a few that I remember when I close my eyes and let my thoughts drift back to when I was a kid.
– Reading a little green book on endocrinology in my bedroom.
– Being in your very white and organized office at Endocrine Associates looking at all the New England Journal of Medicine books on the wall.
– Driving past the KERA building downtown in the car on the way to something with you and mom.
– Running the 1.5m loop around our neighborhood early in the morning with you.
– Sitting at the round kitchen table in those painfully uncomfortable white mesh chairs eating dinner and talking about what happened during the day.
– Having you hand me the keys to mom’s Corvette while you said “Enjoy it – be careful – don’t kill yourself.”
– Going to a store in Addison to buy my Apple II computer – I remember it was in the shopping center near where Houstons used to be.
– Driving to Frito-Lay’s data center to play on Charlie’s mainframe.
– Sitting in your study at 7310 being extremely frustrated with Hebrew a few weeks before my Bar Mitzvah.
– Sitting in our living room with all my friends who were seniors figuring out how to redesign our high school schedule, and then creating a movement to change it, so that we weren’t stuck in school all day.
– Doing algebra with you. I loved learning algebra. That was probably my favorite time in school at any point in time.
– Walking around Concord, MA with you and mom in October of my freshman year at MIT and wanting to quit because I was homesick and lonely. You told me to give it a year. I did, and by the time a year was up I was fine.
– Being pissed off at you so much that you said something like “I think it’s time for therapy” at which point I let a few days pass and then decided I wasn’t pissed off any more. This was 7th grade or something around there. I remember walking on the 1.5m loop with you as you tried to get through to me.
– Getting a huge hug from you after missing a the final sudden death playoff kick where we lost. Scott Albers (wow – where did that name come from) missed his kick – he was the star of our team – and I let the last one go by me and I cried.
– Doing rounds with you at Presbyterian and hating the way the hospital smelled. Hating the bright florescent lights. And hating the beeping noises.
– Sitting in the back of Cy Arnold’s convertible on the way to a Dallas Cowboys game.
– Getting picked up from Camp Champions when you had gallstones and just hoping we could get home so you could be ok.
– Saying something totally dumb on the CB Radio on a trip to Big Bend that caused a big backlash. I think my handle was “Teddy Bear.” You calmed me down and were very nice about it. We were with the Segals I think.
– Mrs. Waters Chocolate Cake. That stuff was awesome. I think she put drugs in it.
– Having the flu in my old bedroom and puking for a few days during Chanukah. There was a big Hefty trash bag full of stuff involved somehow.
– The first night of every trip to see your parents in Hollywood. It was one giant food orgy.
– Playing tennis with you.
– Riding in your Porsche and thinking I had the coolest dad in the world.
I love you!
As they wheeled me into surgery, I thought to myself “If this is the end it has been pretty amazing.” This is a photo my brother Daniel took of me just after they wheeled me out of the recovery room and back into my little cubby hole where Amy and Daniel were hanging out. While I don’t remember any of this, probably due to being under the influence of Versed (a truly amazing drug) at least I had the right attitude in response to Daniel saying “take that kidney stone!”
I had an 8mm kidney stone removed using Laser Stone Surgery using Flexible Pyeloscopy on Friday 11/16. While not a major surgery, I still went under general anesthesia for two hours for the first time as an adult. Amy describes this as “they take you to death’s door, open it a crack, let you peer in for a while, and then pull you back and close it.” I probably didn’t need her to tell me that description prior to the surgery.
On Sunday 11/18 I went to Cabo San Lucas for a two week vacation which included my 47th birthday. I don’t remember much of the first week – I was stoned on Vicodin and in a happy, warm, cuddly, very constipated, fields of golden retriever puppy haze. I stopped taking Vicodin on Thursday 11/22 but it still took a few more days to start feeling normal. I dropped off the grid entirely for the week of 11/8 but resurfaced to do some email and writing the week of 11/25. By 12/1 (my 47th birthday) I felt about 90% and was very relieved to have the surgery, and the prior three months behind me.
This period started off on 9/5 in Kobarid, Solvenia with a bike accident. I broke a tooth, got some stitches, and badly bruised my ribs. It was entirely my fault and my partner Ryan McIntyre, who I crashed into, saved me from much more severe damage. I then proceeded to spend the next three weeks on the road, totaling a month away from home. That was mistake #1, as I underestimated how tired I’d get from it. Mistake #2 was underestimating the damage from the bike accident. I ended up running the Detroit Marathon on 10/21 and did fine, but I was completely wiped out physically by the end of October. I continued to spend a lot of time in October and November on the road and found myself exhausted and depressed by the end of it. And then our dog Kenai died.
Oh – and Amy and I wrote the bulk of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur during this time period (it’s done – we submitted the final page proofs over the weekend.) I recognize the irony of completely burning myself out during the writing of this book – fortunately we talk about this challenge plenty in the book and we communicated extraordinarily well as a couple during this time frame about what was going on. Finally, I do have a full time job and spent the bulk of my time working on that, so all of this other stuff was the extracurricular activity that filled in the cracks around the 60+ hours a week of VC work I was doing during this time.
I had a lot of time to reflect on this last week after I came out of my Vicodin-induced haze. At 47, I realize, more than ever, my mortality. I believe my kidney stone and depression were linked to the way I treated myself physically over the 90 days after my bike accident. While the kidney stone might not have been directly linked to the accident, the culmination of it, the surgery, and my depression was a clear signal to me that I overdid it this time around.
I’m back in Boulder and very refreshed. I’m also determined to learn from this experience. Amy and I spent a lot of time last week talking about changing the tempo on some things, including adding in some new daily habits like yoga that prioritize higher than other things. And I’ve accepted that part of my travel pacing has to include being home over the weekends to so I can recharge my extrovert.
Thanks everyone who gave me well-wishes and support the past few weeks. It means a lot to me. I leave you with the sunrise from Cabo that I saw each morning during the past two weeks.
My partner Seth Levine turns 40 today. I’ve known and worked with him for 11 years. It’s been awesome.
My first memory of Seth is him showing up in our office at 100 Superior Way with red velour platform shoes. There wasn’t much I could say since I was probably wandering around barefoot or in sandals at the time. But it made an impression – I knew he’d always be more stylish than me.
Seth started working with me in the fall of 2001. This was a truly shitty time for me for a variety of reasons, some having to do with the implosion of many of the companies I was an investor in due to the collapse of the Internet bubble, some having to do with 9/11, and some having to do with the overall stress on the system from lots of directions. Seth didn’t seem to mind that most of our conversations started with me saying something like “well – this is all fucked up, but I need your help on …”
I remember when I realized I was going to learn a lot from working with Seth. We were working together on Service Magic. He’d dig in deep and really understand what was going on. I had a pretty strong sense of it using my jedi number mind trick. But when I really wanted to understand something about their extremely highly analytical business, I just asked him. And he always knew the answer.
There came a point early in our work relationship when I realized I completely trusted his judgment. I knew he’d get whatever work done that was put in front of him, and this was good, but it was really table stakes for being a VC. Seth quickly took it to the next level and within a few years we were working as partners on things, even if we theoretically weren’t partners. That would change – in 2007.
In 2006 we started talking about creating Foundry Group. The early conversations were clear – this would be an equal partnership, not a “Brad thing” with other people working for me. The last thing I wanted was a hierarchy of any sort, especially since I’d fully embraced the concept of a network in all aspects of my life. Seth embraced this and on day one when we started Foundry Group was an equal partner with me.
Five years later I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to have three equal partners – Seth and our partners Ryan McIntyre and Jason Mendelson. We are best friends, love working together, and treasure each moment of life that we get to spend together.
Seth – your 40th birthday is a special one. I remember 40 like it was – well – almost seven years ago – and it was the beginning of what has been an awesome decade so far for me. I’m thankful that I got to spend so much time with you when you were in your 30s and I now get to spend so much time with you while you are in your 40s. It’s going to be an amazing time!
Happy birthday @sether.
My dad is one of my best friends. His birthday is on Saint Patrick’s Day and it has been a bright green celebration for as long as I can remember. He turned 74 today and we had dinner tonight at Oak at Fourteenth with Amy, my mom Cecelia, my sister-in-law Laura, my brother Daniel, and their daughter Sabrina. We had a wonderful evening and it reminded me once again of the importance and delight of family.
I’ve learned many things from my dad during the 46 years I’ve been on this planet. Following are a few pivotal ones that have shaped my life.
Age 10: I told my dad I didn’t want to be a doctor like him. I didn’t like how hospitals smelled, I was bored when we did rounds together (I just wanted to sit in the corner and read), and I didn’t like being around sick people. He told me that I could do anything I wanted to do.
Age 12: I hated learning Hebrew and thought being Bar Mitzvah’ed was stupid. My dad didn’t fight me on how I felt, but he told me tradition was important and this was a seminal jewish tradition. I procrastinated as long as I could and then crammed over the last few weeks. He sat with me, coached me through it, and was patient with me when I continued to fight the process. My Bar Mitzvah was a powerful learning experience, and, while I eventually became an atheist, am glad that I participated in the key jewish tradition.
Age 17: After two months at MIT, I was ready to quit. All of my friends had gone to UT Austin, including my girlfriend, and I was homesick and lonely. As we wandered around Concord, MA on a beautiful October day, he told me to give it a year and if I still didn’t like it, I could go somewhere else. But he told me I’d be short changing myself if I didn’t give it a year. By spring time I had fully embraced MIT and never looked back.
Age 21: Dave Jilk (another Saint Patrick’s baby) and I started Feld Technologies. My dad was our third partner, sat on our board, and contributed continuously as a mentor to us as we figured out how to create and build a company. He personally guaranteed a $20,000 line of credit with his bank which was our beginning working capital (which we stupidly used up immediately, although that made us realize we had to be profitable and cash flow positive from the beginning because there was no more money to tap.) Almost every year Dave, my dad, and I would go away somewhere for an annual meeting. I remember these weekends fondly as they shaped the path of our business. My favorite line from this period that I remember from him was “if you aren’t on the edge you are taking up too much space.”
Age 24: My father resisted the easy temptation to say “I told you so” when I got divorced. When I dropped out of a PhD program, he told me he supported any decision I made. When I was feeling sorry for myself, he’d remind me cheerfully that “everyone pees in the shower.” His unambiguous support of me, at a period of darkness in my life, was priceless.
Age 29: When Amy and I decided to move to Boulder, the first words out of my dad’s mouth were “that’s a great idea.”
There are many more like this, but this should give you the sense for it. In addition to being one of my best friends, he’s been an incredible mentor, business partner, and supporter. I love his sense of humor, his joie de vivre, and his endless curiosity. He always lights up any room he’s in, is always learning, and keeps on trying new things.
Dad – happy birthday. You are awesome. Green suits you.