Tag: startup life

Mar 6 2013

Go Fill Up Some Gas Tanks Today

I’m spending the day working at Yesware. I’ve been an investor from inception and love what this company is doing. I also love the culture – I wrote about it in my post The Monastic StartupIf you use Gmail and Salesforce and are not also using Yesware, take a look at email for salespeople right now.

It’s an atypical day for me. I was supposed to be in DC all day today and tomorrow. I had full days of meetings, including two Startup Communities related events – one with the World Bank and one with a Congressional Caucus on Innovation. I had a few company meetings along with some stuff I was exploring. And I was going to drop in on 1776 and check it out.

Congress decided to shut down for the week because of the pending snow storm so the two events I built my trip around (the World Bank and the Congressional Caucus) were cancelled. So I decided to punt on going to DC and stay in Boston. I decided to have a “work at one of the companies I’m an investor in” day and get caught up on some stuff.

Last night before dinner I had a phone call with someone who gave me a great metaphor about “filling up your gas tank.” We were talking about the introvert / extrovert dynamic and how always being in “give / support mode” drains an introvert like me. He suggested that I make sure I do things on a daily basis that fill up my gas tank. Yup – that makes sense. But then he said something that was a new thought to me.

“Encourage everyone you work with to put some gas in someone else’s tank every day.” 

It’s totally consistent with my give before you get philosophy, but it’s got a nice twist. Rather than being random, be deliberate about doing it, but random about how you do it.

For example, when a friend of mine had testicular cancer last year, I called him every day for 60 days during his chemo regimen. While I only talked to him every two or three days, I always left him a message. I was filling up his gas tank a little each day.

Another example is that I try to randomly call a different CEO of a company I’m on the board of every day. I don’t manage to do this every day, but I try. These are short calls, often voice mails that just startup with “Hey – thinking of you – no need to call me back.” I then often offer up an observation about something positive I see going on.

I like to be impulsive when I’m on the road. After lunch (I took out the Yesware team and yes, I paid) I stopped by Kinvey‘s new office on 99 Summer which is around the corner from Yesware. Kinvey went through TechStars several years ago and while we didn’t participate in their venture financing, I love the company and especially the CEO Sravish. I surprised him, gave him a hug, got a tour of the place, grabbed a few tshirts and some stickers, and headed back to Yesware. He sent me a link to a new post they just did titled The Boston Startup Map: Visualizing the City’s Tech Scene so I could do more random drop ins if I wanted.

bostonstartupmap

These aren’t programmed, scheduled calls in that I’m being deliberate in advance. They are just me filling up someone else’s gas tank with some random positive feedback in the midst of an otherwise chaotic life. And it makes me feel good.

So – go fill up some gas tanks today. And tomorrow.

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Feb 23 2013

The Ebb and Flow of Work and Life

The phrase “work-life balance” is a vexing one. Some people think it is impossible. Others strive for it. Many entrepreneurs, and pundits about entrepreneurship, reject it as impossible. Others believe that figuring out how to balance work and life is a sign of a more enlightened entrepreneurial perspective.

In Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur Amy and I talk about many of the tactics we use to integrate work and life, which Amy loving refers to as “all the time that I’m not working.”  We don’t often use the phrase work-life balance as we aren’t striving for a balance between the two, but rather an effective integration of them. I’ve been using the word “equilibrium” lately which feels different to me than the word “balance”, but I know many people will equate the two.

The challenge is that we are dealing with a very dynamic system that ebbs and flows continually. It’s early Saturday morning – I’m at the John Wayne Airport waiting for my flight home. I have an absurd amount of email backed up from the week. I’m currently on top everything in my portfolio, so I feel good about that, but I’ve got a long writing backlog. And there’s a bunch of things I’d like to explore. So I have much more work than I could possibly do this weekend, even if I spent the entire weekend working.

On the non-work front, I haven’t seen Amy (except for several times a day on Facetime) since early Tuesday morning when I left for Seattle. I miss her and Brooks the wonder dog. We have dinner with my brother, my partner Ryan, and their wives tonight. I have a 2:10 hour run on Sunday morning (I have a marathon next weekend) and a massage in the afternoon. And I want to watch last week’s episode of Scandal.

There’s no way to “balance” all that stuff or achieve any semblance of balance. But I can get to an equilibrium where I’m happy, Amy is happy, and I have fun. Sure – I’ll work some, but I’ll rest some also. I’ll spend some time by myself (mostly during my run) and I’ll get to go to bed and wake up with Amy each day. I’ll be in Boulder, a town I love, with friends who are dear to me. And I’m sure I’ll spend some time laying on the couch snuggling with my dog.

Next week will be completely different than this last week. Next weekend we are in Arkansas and I’m running a marathon. Amy will be there. Then I’ll be off to Boston for a few days. then DC, then NY. Alone again. I won’t be striving for “balance”, but I’ll roll with the ebb and flow.

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Feb 18 2013

Seattle Startup Life Meetup – Wednesday 2/20

Wednesday night I’ll be in Seattle doing a Startup Life Meetup with some of the contributors to the book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur.

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Well – I’ll be in Seattle all day (and all day Tuesday) meeting with Startup Weekend, Rover, SEOmoz, Cheezburger, and BigDoor, but the real fun will happen at the Hard Rock Cafe between 5:30pm and 7:00pm on Tuesday. Or maybe after 7:00pm.

My co-hosts will be Emily Huh (Cheezburger Network), Geraldine DeRuiter (Everywhereist), Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz), and Keith Smith (BigDoor). great relationship in the context of the crazy, high intensity startup life we all life.

We’ve got some seats left – it’s free and everyone who attends gets a free copy of Startup Life. But you have to register before we hit the fire code limit – only registered attendees will get in.

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Jan 31 2013

I Am Enough

I received a bunch of great comments and responses to my post Be Vulnerable. Several people asked if I was inspired by Brené Brown’s TEDxHouston talk in 2010. I hadn’t ever seen it so I watched it last night. After 20 minutes, it’s easy to see how it could have inspired my post – it’s absolutely wonderful. As a bonus, it’s an example of an excellent 20 minute presentation – Brené shows us how a 20 minute high concept talk is done.

I especially loved the thread on numbing vulnerability.

“We are the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated cohort in US history. You can not selectively numb emotion – so we numb everything. We numb joy, gratitude, happiness. Then we are miserable. And we feel vulnerable. So then we numb. And create this vicious cycle.”

Another great segment is around making the uncertain, certain.

“I’m right, you are wrong, that’s it. There is no discourse or conversation – just blame.”

Carve out 20 minutes and give yourself the time and space to watch, listen, and think. And let yourself be vulnerable, especially to Brené’s ideas.

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Jan 29 2013

Be Vulnerable

We are told that leaders must be strong. They must be confident. They must be unflinching. They must hide their fear. They must never blink. They cannot be soft in any way.

Bullshit.

Last night, after my first public talk on the new book that Amy and I just released titled Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneura woman came up to me afterwards and gave me two pieces of feedback. The first was that I expressed incredible vulnerability in my talk. She thanked me for that. She then suggested that I hadn’t done a good job of weaving the notion of vulnerability into the importance of the dynamics of the relationship that Amy and I have.

She was absolutely correct on both fronts. Amy and I allow ourselves to be very vulnerable with each other. We aren’t afraid of each other and – by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable – we are more direct, honest, and clear about what is on our minds. It works both ways – we are more able to hear the other person, and more able to offer feedback in a constructive way, because we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

But it doesn’t stop there. I’m allow myself to be very vulnerable with my partners Seth, Jason, and Ryan. And they allow themselves to be vulnerable with me and each other. We embrace the notion of “brutal honesty” with each other – we say things as we see them, as we believe them, and as directly as we can to each other – while at the same time recognizing that the other person is open to any feedback, in any tone, in any way. Notably, we are each vulnerable to each other, which makes our communication much more powerful and effective.

I try to be bidirectionally vulnerable with every entrepreneur I work with. I try my hardest, but when I hurt someone, I want to hear why. When I let someone down, I want to hear why. When I am struggling, I talk openly about it. When I’ve failed, I listen to why. And I hope that every entrepreneur I work with feels the same way, or whatever their version of “being vulnerable” is.

I’m vulnerable to the broader community I engage with. I’m open about my struggles – personally and professionally. I’m not bashful about being wrong, and owning it. And, when I get feedback, my ears are always open. Sure, I get plenty of random criticism from nameless, faceless people. That used to annoy me – now I just put them in the bucked of “anonymous coward” and delete it from my brain. If they can offer me the feedback directly, in their own voice, with their own identity, I’m open to it. I’ll let myself be vulnerable in that context. But I draw the line at random, anonymous attacks, especially ad hominem ones.

The great leaders I know are vulnerable. Maybe not to everyone, maybe not all the time, and maybe not in all contexts. But the allow themselves to be, simply, themselves. Human. They allow others in. They know they can be wrong. They know they can fail. And they know they can improve. Vulnerable.

That’s part of being a great leader. And a great partner – business or personal. And it opens you up to be a greater human. Thanks to the person who reminded me of that last night.

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Jan 28 2013

Boulder Startup Life Event Tonight at Riverside

I’m going to be doing the first public Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur talk tonight at Riverside at 7pm. If you don’t know Riverside, it’s a new co-working, event, and cafe space on 1724 Broadway in Boulder. It’s a beautiful old building that’s been a fixture in Boulder for a very long time. There’s a nice article about what Christian Macy and Richard Moser are working on with Riverside in the Boulder iJournal.

If you want to attend tonights event, please sign up. I’ll be there with a bunch of copies of Startup Life that I’ll be selling thanks to the magic of Square, my green pen to sign books, and to talk and hang out.

And, as the Startup Life marketing machine kicks into gear, don’t forget to enter Operation Win A Dinner with Us. It’s going on through Saturday, 2/2/13 at 11:59pm EDT.

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Jan 27 2013

Startup Life – Operation Win A Dinner With Us

Order me, email Brad, and maybe win dinner with Brad and AmyMy newest book, Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, that I wrote with my wife Amy Batchelor, is shipping. As a result, I’m activating Operation Win A Dinner With Us today.

Between now and Saturday (2/2/13), if you order a copy of Startup Life, you will be entered into a random drawing. I’m going to pick two random winners – one for orders from Amazon and one for orders from BarnesandNoble.com.

All you have to do to be entered is email me the electronic receipt by 11:59pm EDT on Saturday night (2/2/13). I will announce the winners on Monday morning.

The winners will get dinner with me and Amy somewhere in the world in 2013. Dinner will be our treat – it’ll be for you and your significant other. And I promise we’ll choose a nice place of our mutual liking somewhere that is convenient for all of us.

If you play, make sure you also Like the book (if you order on Amazon), tweet out or Facebook the purchase, or do whatever other social media thing lights your fire.

If you want to see an example of the result from my version of this contest for Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, take a look at the post When You Know It’s Impossible, Do It Anyway….Or Win A Contest. And find out about Chris’ Random Acts of Entrepreneurship.

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Jan 23 2013

Are Entrepreneurs More Prone To Depression And Divorce?

Amy and I talk a lot about big issues, such as depression and divorce, in Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. I’ve been speaking from experience on each of these topics, as I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire adult life (the official DSM-IV code I have for my diagnosis from 1991 is 300.3 – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and, in 1990, I was divorced from my first wife.

I’ve always been open about these two issues (and experiences) since they’ve had a profound impact on me. I’ve learned how to manage my OCD and, even when I’m depressed, I’m very functional (if you didn’t know I was having a depressive episode, you’d think I was just flat or having an off day.) And many of the things that Amy and I do right in our relationship are lessons that we learned when reflecting on why my first marriage, and marriages of friends of ours – many of which are entrepreneurial couples – have failed.

As I’ve been doing interviews and talking about Startup Life, I’ve been asked several times whether or not entrepreneurs are more prone to depression and divorce. While I have zero empirical data, I believe from my qualitative experience that they are no less prone to this than the rest of the population. But I don’t really have empirical data to support this assertion either.

So – I’m looking for real data. Do any of you out there know of real quantitative studies – preferably academic / social science oriented, that investigate the question of whether or not entrepreneurs are more prone to depression? Or, a separate study that investigates the question of whether or not entrepreneurs are more prone to divorce?

If you know of one, email me or leave it in the comments.

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Jan 7 2013

Launching Startup Life: Surviving And Thriving In A Relationship With An Entrepreneur

Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an EntrepreneurThe second book in the Startup Revolution series, Startup Life: Surviving And Thriving In A Relationship With An Entrepreneur, is shipping in the next week or so. My wife Amy Batchelor and I wrote this one, with contributions from about 20 other entrepreneurial couples.

Amy and I have been friends since we met in college in 1984. We have been together as a couple since 1990. We got married in 1993. Our marriage almost ended in 2000. Today, I am ecstatic in my relationship with Amy. We’ve worked hard over the past 11 years to figure things out, get it right, and build a long-term, sustainable relationship.

Startup Life explores the unique challenges that exist in the context of a relationship with an entrepreneur. Like my other books, there’s a lot of personal stuff in it – in this case, from both of us. We include lots of stories and wisdom from our entrepreneurial friends, especially in areas where we have no experience, like that of having – and dealing with – children in the relationship.

Amy and I have been talking about writing this book since 2007. It was an awesome experience to write it together – all of the expected collaboration dynamics appeared. For example, when we started, I wanted to simply split up tasks and write chunks separately; Amy wanted to collaborate on every word. After a laugh together about the clicheish male / female gender stuff at work here, we quickly figured out how to make progress together.

Of all the books I’ve written, I’m most proud of this one. We dug deep into our own life, experiences, and personalities. We bared our souls a lot. We’ve got a lot to learn still about relationships, but we feel like we covered a lot of ground in this book.

Several early readers have told us this is a great broad relationship book that applies to any couple. While we hope that is the case, we especially focused on the special stresses that we’ve experienced in an entrepreneurial life. Either way, we hope there’s a lot here that can be helpful.

If the topic appeals to you, pre-order a copy of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship today. Engage with articles you find interesting about this topic on the Startup Revolution Hub. And look for a lot more on the Startup Life blog in the coming weeks.

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Oct 21 2012

The Disorganized Mess of Shipping

Amy and I shipped the final draft of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur yesterday. “If you are interested in this book, go pre-order it now on Amazon to help our pre-order numbers“, said Brad the Book Salesman.

The backlog of things on my to do list is at an all time high. I’m normally super responsive to everything and have zero backlog. That is not the case right now.

The only thing in front of me for the next seven hours is the Detroit Marathon which I’m going to go suit up for after I finish writing this blog post. I don’t expect this to be a pretty marathon – I haven’t been running very much, or consistently, since my bike accident six weeks ago, but I’m running to support my partner Jason Mendelson who, along with Jill Spruiell and Becky Cooper from Foundry Group, are running their first marathon. Our partner Ryan McIntyre is also running today, along with Andrew Tschesnok of Organic Motion. I think it’s pretty cool that 36% of Foundry Group is running this marathon.

While my backlog is huge, I’ve been focused on making sure I’m responsive to all the top order stuff. In my hierarchy this is Amy, my partners, the CEOs of companies I’m an investor in, anyone else who works for a company we are investors in, and our LPs. That’s it – everything else is in “the next bucket.” I’ve gotten plenty done outside of this, but all my excess available time over the last thirty days has been allocated to shipping this book. If you check with Kelly and ask about my schedule, she’ll suppress a laugh as she tries to fit you in somewhere.

Every time I ship something I have new respect for all the entrepreneurs and people who work for the companies we are investors in. I’ve had a lot of time (almost 30 years) to work on my “prioritization algorithm” and feel like I’ve got it well tuned. I’ve always had a continual overcommit problem – where I take on slightly too much and then have to back off on some optional stuff – and this cycle repeats itself regularly in my life. However, when you commit to shipping something, like a book, you have a deadline and suddenly have to execute against it. The high order priorities come into clearer focus. The separation between them, and everything else, become crisp. When I’m sitting in a hotel room at 11pm after a day that started at 5am, I no longer am thinking that I’m going to get through all of my email. Instead, I’m learning the brilliance of using Google Circles to search my inbox for circle:”foundry ents” label:inbox and make sure I get all of those done before I go to sleep.

While I’ve got a ton of other things I want to get to that are interesting and relevant to me, none of them are either timely or important, at least to me. I realize they are timely and important to the person on the other end so I’ll eventually get to them, but the prioritization filter gets tight and the first constraint to enforce is timeliness. I try not to spend any time on stuff I don’t think is useful. As Amy likes to tell me “I’ll be the judge of that” – and I am the judge of what I want to spend my time on, and I’m sure I get this wrong some of the time.  If you aren’t in the “inner circles” (yes – Google really got this right) then you have to wait. I’ll eventually get to it, but it won’t be first.

Everyone I know talks about how busy they are. And I’m sure they are. But if you haven’t shipped a product lately, I encourage you to configure something you are working on to look like a product that you are shipping. If you don’t have an external deadline, give yourself one. When you are working on something that has to ship in two weeks, you realize how much stuff is trying to get your attention that isn’t a priority, or even relevant to your mission on this planet. It’s a good way to remember how to prioritize. And it’s an excellent reminder to me about the pressure the people I invest in are under who continually ship products.

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