On May 24th, I wrote a post titled Shifting To Maker Mode For The Summer. I had full intentions of making this shift around Memorial Day and sustaining it until Labor Day.
I have completely failed at this. While I’m managed to stay off social media and read a lot more than watch TV, I massively underestimated the amount of transactional activity I’d have this summer. On Monday mornings, when I’d look at my schedule for the week, I’d see a wall of blue through Friday, starting early in the morning and going until dinner time. My goal was to have nothing scheduled until 1 pm with an upper bound at 5 pm, but this ended up being an epic fail. And, as a bonus, I’ve had a dinner almost every night between Monday and Thursday so far this summer (that’s not a good thing.) I’ve had a few days that weren’t completely full, but they’ve ended up being catch-up days.
The next few of weeks are more of the same. So, I’ve accepted that Maker Mode is not happening this summer.
I’ve got two books in process: Give First and Startup Communities 2. I wrote 15,000 words on Give First in March but haven’t opened my Scrivener file since. I have a co-author (Ian Hathaway) work is hard at work on the first draft of Startup Communities 2, so at least he’s making progress, but I haven’t even started holding up my part of that particular bargain.
I’m am running and have committed to do the Run Crazy Horse marathon in South Dakota in October. The running has been great for my body and even better for my mental health, so that’s good.
I feel deep equanimity around this. In the past, I’d be frustrated with myself for not getting in gear. But in hindsight, it’s clear that maker mode wasn’t realistic given the other work commitments I have along with all of the episodic stuff that regularly comes up in my work life. Snoopy continues to be my guide on this particular journey.
My favorite and most productive time of the year is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Basically, summertime.
Normally I’d declare this the Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend but I’m just getting over a cold so fuck it, summertime starts today.
During maker mode, I try to only do meetings and phone calls in the afternoons between 1 and 5. There are some exceptions – mostly board meetings – but I try to give myself lots of space to work on the longer term stuff. While this is mostly writing, it also includes deeper work for specific companies, especially around product and product strategy. Essentially, things that take more than 30 minutes of concentration.
Last weekend Amy and I shifted into reading mode over the weekend (we were both sick so couldn’t do much other than lay on the couch, read, fall asleep, and complain about feeling crappy.) It continued into the week – the TV hasn’t been on for a while and evenings are spent on our couches with the dogs and our Kindles. Heaven.
In addition to turning off the TV, I’ve turned off all the continuous interrupts. I’m not looking at social media (although I am still broadcasting.) I’m not looking at news (I figure anything I really need to know will find its way to me) other than my continuous stream of tech news in my a Slack channel. My Sunday New York times habit will be banished until after Labor Day. Podcasts – forget it – for a while.
While I fantasize that I can be in maker mode all the time, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to sustain throughout the year. For some reason, the tempo of the summer makes it easy. Maybe it’s because the days are longer. Or it’s warmer and more people melt away. Or after 40+ years of behaving a certain way, summer is just different for me than the rest of the year.
It’s summertime and Snoopy is happy.
I’m happy also. Summer is my favorite season. I’ve always been at my most creative in the summer and some of the profound life experiences that influenced me happened during the summer.
When I was a pre-teen, summer meant tennis. Endless tennis. Eight+ hours a day in the Texas heat except for the three weeks I went to Camp Champions. It was awesome. I remember one summer with over 30 days of temperatures over 100 degrees. A break for lunch inside at the North Dallas Racquet Club felt really decadent. It was always a challenge to get back outside at 1pm, but we did it. And kept playing tennis.
I spent the summer between 11th grade and 12th grade living in Knightsbridge, just outside of London, and working for Centronics at their office in South Kensington. I wrote software on an Apple ][ to design the character sets for Centronics printers, ran a lot, learned how to drink beer, got into the drama of the Falklands War, and endured a Tube strike.
In college, summer meant going back home to Dallas. I worked for PetCom for several summers, putting in 80 – 100 hours per week writing software. Then one summer I rented a house at 2430 Denmark in Garland, Texas from my mom where Feld Technologies really got its start. I drove my mom’s Mercedes 240D around that summer – it went from 0 to 60 in about two minutes.
You get the idea. Every summer is a different adventure for me. Several years ago I wrote Startup Communities and Startup Life over the summer. This summer I’m finishing up the 3rd Edition of Venture Deals and writing the first draft of my newest book #GiveFirst. I’m gearing up to be in marathon shape with the goal of running the Portland Marathon in October. And I plan to make a healthy dent in my infinite pile of books.
This summer is going to be about writing, running, and reading. While the rest of the US is playing politics, I’m going to side step that since I expect the amount of negative energy around it will be legendary this cycle. I’m in a great rhythm around our portfolio and investing so I know what that tempo will be like. And, while I’ll travel a little, Amy and I planning on spending the summer in Boulder.
I’ll see you around town, if you are here. And now, I’m off for a two hour run.
Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, I still have some tenuous link to the idea of summer vacation. Well, not some much vacation, but a mode shift from going to class every day to doing other stuff, such as playing tennis at least eight hours a day (age 10 – 14) or writing software products (age 17 – 21).
A few summers ago I did a hard shift to maker mode. I did some of my most creative work in a while that summer, including writing Startup Communities and getting started with Amy on the book Startup Life. It was also a powerful summer for some of the companies in my portfolio and I was able to spend deep time with several of them on their product rather than just reacting to all the inbound stuff that was flying at me. I also got in the best physical shape of my life. I worked out – mostly running and biking – almost every day. I slept plenty. I ate well. I spend a lot of time reading and hanging out with my beloved.
At the end of the summer, I blew it as I shifted out of this mode. The fall started with a bike accident in Slovenia and ended with surgery to remove an 8mm kidney stone. But that was only the beginning of a slide into a very deep, six month depression which finally ended in the summer. I didn’t plan for an annual cycle, but that’s what happened on that one.
While I feel mentally healthy right now, I realize that I’m extremely tired. Amy and I slept an enormous amount of the time we were in Paris. While we usually have an epic Parisian meal two or three times during the week, we only had one at the beginning of the week and then cancelled the others because we just didn’t feel like it. We had an amazing visit to the Picasso Museum, but then spent a lot of time laying in bed reading or just wandering around aimlessly, and then heading back to the hotel to take a nap. The heavy fog of fatigue, which settled in on the trip, hasn’t lifted. I’m sure the endless rain in Boulder isn’t helping, but I’m aware that it’s time to shift gears again.
On top of that, I’m pretty tired by the noise in the system. I was tired of it all spring and wrote a few things about it, but the gap between real signal in the entrepreneurial world and the endless noise is at a volume that is very high. I filter much of it out so when it eventually breaks through I know I need to add a new filter, or recalibrate my filter.
At the same time, I’m extremely interested in many of the companies we are investors in. So, I know I’m not reacting to the work, or the types of companies I get to work with, but the systemic noise that isn’t about creating, doing, building, and thinking.
I’m using Memorial Day to Labor Day as my marker for recalibrating for this summer. I’m not going to use the 2012 Maker Mode summer approach but I’m going to design something else. I’m going to let this week roll over me without fighting it as I think about what the recalibration for the summer is, but the new mode will start in a week.
I love summertime.
Amy and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Manhattan. We stayed in Soho, hung out with some friends, ate a lot, and just wandered around. Oh – and I slept 17 hours yesterday once again demonstrating that I have amazing sleeping powers. I needed it after two full days at the Glue Conference, a day at Tech Wildcatters in Dallas, and a full week of “normal work.”
I’m on the east coast (New York and Boston) the next two weeks. One of my favorite things to do when in New York is eat – we’ve already had four great meals at Kittichai, Spring Street Natural, Market Table, and Excellent Dumpling House. Whenever I’m here it blows my mind how many amazing places to eat are within walking distance of whatever hotel I’m staying at. As Amy and I were walking down Broadway on the way back to the hotel, we both had a moment of being completely overwhelmed by the Soho and Chinatown crowd, looked at each other, and agreed it was time to get back into the isolated comfort of our hotel room.
I nourished my inner 14 year old with my friend Warren on Sunday by going to a matinee of Rock of Ages. Journey, Styx, Whitesnake, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Quiet Riot, Asia, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, and Pat Benatar. Seth would have been in heaven – maybe I’ll take him the next time we are in town together.
I love the hot, sweatiness of summer. Bye bye cold and snow – see you later. Time for a run outside in Soho.