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.
Today is my 46th birthday. I’m hanging out with a bunch of friends and family, enjoying their company, and reflecting on the past year. 45 was a good, but intense year. Lots of ups, a few downs, and much learned. Following are some of the things I’m chewing on as I start being 46.
Mortality: I’ve had a lot of reminders of mortality lately. In the past year, several close friends’ parents have died and a few other friends have gotten very ill. When I think about being 46, I accept that even in the best case scenario I’m probably half way done with my time on this planet. I’m happy with my physical self – I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in since I was in my early 20’s – but I’ve finally decided to really focus on dropping the 20 pounds I want to get rid of. Rather than being 210, I’d like to spend the rest of my life around 190.
Optimism: I’m an optimistic person – always have been. I’ve noticed an incredible amount of negativity around the system in the past year. Historically I’ve tuned out most of it because I ignore all non-tech news, but I’ve really noticed it in the tech news the past year. Clearly a switch flipped and the journalist / bloggers decided the best way to get attention – or at least links – was to be negative. Balanced is fine (not all is good), but the preponderance of negative trending toward nasty and hostile, especially without any facts or substance behind it, is a drag. I haven’t decided what to do about this yet, but I think I’ll likely just keep tuning it out the best I can.
Learning: I had another awesome year on this front. Between the companies and entrepreneurs I get to work with, TechStars, the books I’ve written, my running, and all the random stuff that I talk about and explore with Amy, I’ve learned more than I could have hoped for. I especially loved the experience of living in a new city for a month (Paris) – just living – not trying to be a tourist, or alter my normal work rhythm, but live in a totally different place for 30 days. Amy and I are going to do this in New York from mid-April to mid-May in 2012 as part of our “live for a month in a different city every year” experience.
No Assholes: I’ve worked really hard to get to a place where I get to spend almost all of my time with people who I want to spend time with. I’ve been able to do this while figuring out how to engage with lots of new, interesting people all the time. I’m going to work even harder at this at 46 – more great people, no assholes.
Travel: My greatest personal disappointment while I was 45 is that I sucked at managing my travel – again. At several points throughout the year I was completely exhausted from the endless cross-country travel. I’m taking a totally different approach at 46 – I’ve already locked down my entire schedule for 2012. With the exceptions of emergencies, I’m not making any trips that aren’t already scheduled. There will be a lot more video conferencing in 2012 and longer stays in cities when I do travel. Who knows if that tempo will work better, but I’m going to try.
For all of you who are part of my life directly, who know me through this blog, or have a relationship with me in any way, thanks for being part of my first 45 years. I look forward to spending time with you during the next 45.