Brad Feld

Tag: life

Congrats and good karma to my friend Bre Pettis on being able to take his new child – Nika – home from the NICU.

Over the last few months as we were working together to close the MakerBot financing, Bre and his partner Kio Stark had Nika prematurely, which resulted in a bonus six week stay in the NICU. I talked to Bre a number of times during this period, often when he was camped out at the NICU, and he was remarkably calm and engaged during this period.

He’s written a very detailed, thoughtful, and intense post about how to survive the NICU. While I don’t have any kids, nor do Amy and I plan to, I expect all of my obsessive behavior would come out with a vengeance if I ever ended up in a similar situation to Bre’s. My guess is that his rules apply to the hospital stay of any loved one and are well worth reading.

Bre – thanks for taking the time to write up your survival guide. I’m glad everyone is home, safe, and healthy.

I gave a talk yesterday to a class of soon-to-graduate MBA students at CU Boulder yesterday. It was their last class in the course that had been filled with a bunch of interesting VC and entrepreneurial guest lecturers. We did Q&A for several hours, covered a lot of ground, and had plenty of fun (or at least I did.) At the end, the professor asked if I had any final words of advice to the room full of MBA’s who were about to graduate. I thought for a moment and then said an abbreviated version of the following.

Imagine that you are 45 and are looking back on your last 15-20 years. Is your work, and life, full of meaning?

Don’t worry about money right now. You can always get a job that pays you plenty of money. Don’t worry about your resume. Don’t worry about “am I positioning myself the right way for something five years from now.” I know way too many 45 year olds who have plenty of money, have done all the right career things, yet are unhappy with where they are in life, where they live, and what they do. Don’t be that guy or gal.

Start by choosing the place you want to make a life. If it’s Boulder, figure out how to stay here. If it’s New York, there’s an easy United flight that gets you there in under four hours – take it the day after you graduate. San Francisco? That flight is only two hours long. Just go and figure it out when you get there. Don’t talk about “I’m going to live there some day” – go get in the middle of wherever it is that you want to build a life. Oh, and Boise is a pretty cool place, as is Austin, Seattle, Miami, DC, and at least 95 other cities in the United States.

Next, choose a domain that you want to dedicate your life to. If you’ve dreamed of being an investment banker or consultant to Fortune 1000 companies since you were 10, then Goldman Sachs or McKinsey is looking for you. If you want to be an entrepreneur, working at an investment bank or consulting firm for a while is pointless. Be an entrepreneur starting now. Pick that domain that turns you on the most – start at a high level (e.g. software, Internet, clean tech) but then pick a thing that you really care about and a set of problems you want to solve. If you aren’t technical, go find a technical co-founder right now – there are hundreds of them on this campus. Get your ass out of your chair and just get started.

Finally, make sure you are living your life. You are young and hopefully have plenty of time on this planet. But don’t wait because you never know when the lights are going to go out.

Ok – that’s more cogent than what I probably said in real time, but it’s what I meant. And I think it applies to anyone about to graduate with an MBA. When I graduated from MIT Sloan with an SM (they didn’t have MBA’s back in 1988) I was already following three of these – I hadn’t focused on where I wanted to live until 1995 when Amy and I moved to Boulder. But when I look back, I didn’t care about money (and subsequently made plenty of it), I focused all of my energy on building a software company (which evolved into helping create software / Internet companies), and I lived my life every single moment – the ups, the downs, the dark depressed days, and the euphoric moments.

Go do something important right now, whatever that is for you. The world needs it and your chances of living a meaningful, happy, and fulfilling life will increase dramatically.

Oh goody, they are here.  Every magazine, newspaper, and most of the online publications known to man are putting together their “2008 year in review” and their “2009 prediction” editions.  What a fucking waste of human energy.

This has been one of my pet peeves for 20+ years.  For a while I managed to ignore them completely.  At some point I started getting asked for my predictions and succumbed to my ego for a few years and participated in the prediction folly.  At some point I realized that there was zero correlation between my predictions and reality and that by participating, I was merely helping perpetuate this silliness.

The energy that goes into the “year in review” and “prediction” stuff seems to be significantly greater in “extreme” (both good and bad) times.  The prognostications become stronger and bolder.  The analysis by hindsight intensifies.  I don’t think this benefits anyone.

Over dinner recently, I was having a discussion with a friend. The conversation took place in a very full and busy restaurant.  At some point the discussion turned to the sentiment throughout the United States right now and how the level of anxiety, negativity, pessimism, depression, and downright panic seemed at an extremely high level and appeared disconnected from general reality.  We talked about what “general reality” meant for a little while – both “our realities” (which are different) as well as our view of the “actual general reality in the United States.”

As we rolled through some of the discussion, I made the offhand comment that I thought much of the sentiment that existed started near the end of the summer a few weeks before the DNC.  As I thought about it more, it made sense.  For the 90 days prior to the election, all we heard and read was “things suck in America.”  Oil hit $135 / barrel and was going to go to $200 / barrel (it’s $35 / barrel today.)  Gas was going to be $10 / gallon (it’s under $2 / gallon in Colorado today.)

I was on vacation in England the week Lehman went bankrupt, AIG melted down, and Merrill Lynch got bought by Bank of America.   Amy and I rarely watch TV on vacation (other than movies) but since CNBC’s Closing Bell was on about the time we were crawling into bed, we watched it as though it was a sporting event.  Over the course of the week, we must have seen 100 different people predict 500 different things.  485 of them were wrong.  Oh – and I read Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable during this week and just could stop bursting out with cynical laughter each evening.  Over the 90 days we heard over and over again how much America sucked.  How many problems we had.  How everything was totally screwed up.

Of course, the financial markets have been a disaster in Q3 and Q4.  The housing bubble has finally officially exploded (doesn’t explode sounds more dramatic than burst.)  Unemployment is rising.  Credit is frozen.  Retail sales are massively off this Christmas.  All companies except Walmart are having a tough Q4.  Blah blah blah.  And now come the 2009 predictions.

My prediction for 2009 – the vast majority of the 2009 predictions will be wrong.  Ignore them. Find a Dharma that fits your Karma (more on that when I review Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement (Columbia Business School) by Bill Duggan, which I read last night.)  You get a finite number of years on this planet – make the most of all of them, no matter what is going on around you.