While FAKEGRIMLOCK and all of the humans he has let survive are hanging out at the TechStars SXSW party, I’m at home with Amy, buried in a snowstorm, reading. I haven’t read much this year – I’ve been overwhelmed with work and writing and haven’t had much energy for reading. Which is dumb, since I love to read, and it’s an important way I discover new things and think about things I’m interested in.
A copy of Clay Christensen’s new book How Will You Measure Your Life? ended up finding its way to me. It’s signed by Clay and his co-authors James Allworth and Karen Dillon so I assume someone sent it to me. I read it tonight. It was timely and excellent.
One of the chapters in Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur that was especially challenging for me and Amy to write was the one about children. We don’t have any, so we enlisted a bunch of friends to write sections of it. I’m proud of what they wrote and think it hits the mark, but it is an area I struggle to understand since we made a deliberate decision not to have kids. So I dug into the middle section of the book where Clay spends a lot of time talking about children in the context of measuring one’s life. I learned a lot from it that I think I can apply to my interaction with children that are not my own.
Clay very deftly uses business concepts to set the stage for a deep discussion of how to think about your life, your values, and how you operate. The one I liked the most was his discussion of the theory of good and bad capital. It’s very nicely linked to the Lean Startup methodology (without realizing it). The theory is that early in their life, companies should be patient for growth but impatient for profit. Specifically, they should search for their business model, and long term strategy, before stepping on the gas. This is good capital. Bad capital early on will be impatient for growth ahead of profit.
When companies accelerate (search for growth) too early, they often drive right over a cliff. However, once the business model and strategy is figured out, then companies should switch modes to be impatient for growth but patient for profit. Invest like crazy when you’ve got it figured out.
The section that follows is awesome. You need to read it to get it, but imagine the notion of how you invest in friendships, in your children, and in yourself. At any particular time are you focused on growth or profit? Do you have them sequenced and allocated correctly? Clay’s punch line is:
“There are two forces that will be constantly working against [your investments in relationships with family and close friends.] First, you’ll be routinely tempted to invest your resources elsewhere – in things that will provide you with a more immediate payoff. And second, your family and friends rarely shout the loudest to demand your attention… If you don’t nurture and develop these relationships, they won’t be there to support you if you find yourself traversing some of the more challenging stretches of life.”
I’ve just had one of those stretches – I spent the past three months struggling with depression after having a bike accident, wearing myself out travelling for two months, and then ending up in the hospital to have surgery to remove a kidney stone. I’d made the right investments in my relationships so it was easy to cash in on a bunch of them, and I appreciate greatly everyone who invested energy and support in me. I came out of the depression around February 14th and I appreciate more than ever the value of investing in these relationships. I now have a powerful business analogy – that of good and bad capital.
There’s a lot more in How Will You Measure Your Life? It’s a great companion to Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur and very easy to recommend to anyone who is trying to live the best life they can.
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 Startup. If 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Entrepreneur, a 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.
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.
My 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.
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.