I’ve personally been in a liminal space for most of 2020. Today, most of America is in a liminal space.
The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.
I’m participating in the first annual DEIS Practicum with Rodney Sampson of Ohub today. In our opening discussion, we touched on the importance of being uncomfortable.
Liminal spaces are uncomfortable. When you sell your company, leave, and think about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When your company fails, and you are thinking about what to do next, it’s uncomfortable. When a parent dies, and you re-evaluate your priorities, it’s uncomfortable. When you get fired from your job and start thinking about what is next, it’s uncomfortable. When you show up as a White person in discussion with Black colleagues about racial equity and say something deeply stupid or hurtful, it’s uncomfortable. When an election happens on a Tuesday, and it’s still not resolved on a Thursday, it’s uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable to wait and not know. It’s uncomfortable to be in the in-between spaces. It’s uncomfortable not to know what is next.
This is the liminal space.
If you embrace it, it’s where transformation takes place. But, you have to be ok with waiting, and not knowing, and let being in the liminal space do its magic.
If you haven’t voted yet, today is the day. Please vote.
Until six weeks ago, my favorite software product of all time was Lotus Agenda. We ran my first company (Feld Technologies) on Lotus Agenda from when the first version of Agenda came out sometime in 1990 to when we sold the company in 1993. If you aren’t familiar with Agenda and want a quick, readable description, take a look at AGENDA: A Personal Information Manager (Belove, Drake Kaplan, Kapor, Landsman).
Agenda was the brainchild of Mitch Kapor (and several others) and, after Lotus killed it off in the time of a transition to Windows (Lotus Organizer was not an adequate Windows replacement), there was an effort (again led by Mitch Kapor) to recreate it with an open-source project called Chandler that never came to fruition.
Agenda is the only product that augmented my brain and how I think until I started using Roam on 9/11/20.
Since then, as I got up the learning curve on how to use it, I’ve found it amazing. It’s evolving rapidly, so there are lots of neat new features that show up on a regular basis. There are many integrations with other stuff, and, while a bunch of them are rough, several of them (like Readwise) solved a fundamental “notetaking while reading” challenge that I’ve had since the Kindle first appeared.
I use a lot of different software.
Nothing has had as much impact on me since Agenda as Roam. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it more in the future.
And, a post like this wouldn’t be complete without a thank you to Mitch Kapor. I have several entrepreneurial heroes. Mitch is one of them. Lotus Agenda is only one thing among many that I’m thankful to him for.
Update: After getting some negative feedback about taking the other post down, I decided to put it back up with an intro relating back to this post. I’ve left this post unedited.
I rarely take down a blog post.
After plenty of feedback and activity, I’ve decided to take down the post from last week titled A Conversation With Dan Caruso About Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club. The primary reason is the progress from the BCC board’s approach in the past week.
I received a lot of positive and negative feedback on the post. The feedback covered a wide range of topics, including:
- Gender equity
- Privilege and the notion that two rich White guys were complaining about an issue at an exclusive country club
- The approach we were taking
- How golf works
Not surprisingly, there were a few ad-hominem attacks at Dan and me, but I’ve become used to that whenever I write something.
My personal goal with the post was to highlight a gender equity issue and reinforce that gender equity issues happen everywhere in our society, including at exclusive member-only country clubs. While often difficult to sort through and resolve, I think it’s vital to address equity issues at all levels.
Dan and I connected today after processing all the feedback and change in approach from the past week. I’m not involved in any of the BCC discussions, so I’m deferring to Dan’s assertion that there is positive change happening around the debate. Ultimately we didn’t feel like leaving the post up was necessary.
Since several people attacked me directly on my agenda, neither Amy nor I are golfers, so we are not directly impacted by the golf issue we brought up in the post. While we are members of the Boulder Country Club, Amy only plays tennis, and I probably haven’t been there in at least a year, so I’m not a very active member.
Regardless, I care that there is gender equity in anything I’m involved in, so I hope BCC addresses this matter in a manner that results in policies and practices that are equitable.
We’ve learned many things in the last six months that help slow the spread of the Covid, such as social distancing, outdoor vs. indoor activity, and mask-wearing. We’ve also learned a lot about how to treat the disease.
But, regardless of what you think of the severity or impact of Covid, the transmission characteristics of the disease remain unchanged.
Many people worldwide, and in Colorado, are working tirelessly on controlling and mitigating the disease. Technology-based solutions around exposure notifications have been under discussion since April (here’s a post of mine from 4/23/20 titled Names Matter: Exposure Alerting vs. Digital Contact Tracing.)
Last week, the State of Colorado rolled out an exposure notification application built on and integrated into the Apple/Google approach. It’s privacy-first – completely anonymous, confidential – and extremely simple to turn on and use. In one week, over 10% of Colorado residents have enabled it.
The team at the State, led by Sarah Tuneberg, have been working intensely on this for many months. They’ve evaluated many different approaches, made privacy a critical feature, along with ease of implementation and use.
I’ve also been deep in this with several other initiatives, including a national Covid Tech Taskforce led by John Borthwick and Andrew McLaughlin. After seeing many different tech approaches, I’m confident Colorado has chosen the right one and built an application that can help mitigate the spread of Covid.
Coloradans – please help each other keep each other safe from Covid!
If you can’t imagine that a drama about chess would be riveting, you need to watch The Queen’s Gambit. And, if you love (or even like) chess, start watching it tonight.
The first two episodes are the Opening. The Middlegame happens in episodes 3, 4, and 5. The Endgame is episodes 6 and 7. Each is delicious. The Endgame is spectacular.
We watched it in three nights. Last night was episode 5, 6, and 7. We normally would have gone to bed after episode 6, but we played through rather than taking an adjournment.
So wonderful. Thanks Netflix for the distraction from everything else.
Update: on 11/1, I wrote an update post titled Progress on the Discussion Around Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club. It gives more context on the progress in the past week around this discussion along with some additional context on the motivation for this post.
Initially, I took this post down, which I rarely do. I then got negative feedback about taking the post down. Since I rarely take posts down, I decided to put it back up with this introduction. If you are seeing this post now, please also read Progress on the Discussion Around Gender Equity at the Boulder Country Club.
Brad: Hey, Dan. Like Cindy and you, Amy and I are Boulder Country Club members, but we play tennis, not golf. Is it true that only men can golf on Saturday mornings?
Dan: Yes. Believe it or not, you must indeed be male to golf on Saturday mornings. There are a few exceptions. During the winter season, women can golf on Saturday mornings. Women can also use the 9-hole Par 3 course on Saturday mornings all year round.
Brad: Wow. Really? Women aren’t allowed to golf on the main course on Saturday mornings except during winter months?
Brad: That’s disappointing. Why is the policy of men-only golf on Saturday mornings still in place?
Dan: That’s a good question, Brad. I’m embarrassed to say that I never gave it much thought until recently. The past few months’ events have led us all to soul search on equity, with the primary focus being racial equity. As I reflected, I began to consider this BCC policy. It was very spontaneous. The thought came to me, and I challenged myself to bring it up to the Board Chairperson and the General Manager.
Brad: I understand a fellow venture capitalist is Board Chair. I don’t know the GM. Did you approach them?
Dan: Yes. I had a Zoom call with them in August, and we had an email exchange in the subsequent days.
Brad: What did they say?
Dan: They said this issue had been brought up only once in the past 20 years. They seemed surprised that this would be viewed as a gender equity matter. They pointed out that women leagues get exclusive use of the club during blocks of time on Tuesday and Thursday morning while men get exclusive use during Tuesday evening for a men’s league and Saturday morning for men’s only usage. They said they checked with some women golfers and that they preferred this setup.
Brad: That sounds like an episode of Mad Men.
Dan: Mad Men was a great series. It illustrated how much the norms of one generation would give way to a more progressive era. I figured now that Saturday golf for men only was surfaced, it would get quickly on a path to change this relic from our past.
Brad: Did they address it?
Dan: Not yet. And, to be honest, it is unclear whether they will. They are positioning this as a golf tee time preference instead of a gender equity issue. They believe most golfers might prefer the current format, where women get the course during certain weekdays and Saturday mornings are exclusive to men.
Brad: Amy and I are members of BCC. This is the first we are hearing about this issue. Do we get to weigh in?
Dan: As I understand it, they are preparing a general survey that they plan to send only to golfers.
Brad: I view this as a gender equity issue that pertains to all members of BCC. Does BCC have a gender equity policy?
Dan: I raised this question but have not yet received a complete answer. I’m told the application process includes statements of equity. I’ve asked if there is a statement in the Bylaws or elsewhere. I didn’t get a clear response, though a question was asked during the Annual Board meeting, and the answer suggested something is in place.
Brad: You’d think this would be an easy question to address. Strange. You know, Amy and I were taken aback by the Men’s vs. Women’s card rooms’ inequity. When we got a tour as part of our interview process to become members, I remember seeing the tiny Women’s card room that stood in stark contrast to the opulent Men’s card room. We almost didn’t join BCC for this reason alone. I understand the renovation is addressing this, at least in part, which is good. Are there other examples of gender inequities?
Dan: I don’t know. I’ve suggested that BCC do a more thorough review of equity, including gender, race, and sexual preference. Perhaps this will be part of the survey, though the survey is said to focus on golfers.
Brad: So let me get this straight. They are going to focus the survey on golfers. Aren’t most golfers men? Won’t many of them be conflicted by their desire to have Saturday’s reserved for men only?
Dan: Yes. They are conflicted. I know that a lot of male golfers enjoy their Saturday morning golf. Some of them, I learned, are reserved specific tee times on Saturday mornings. I respect that the tradition of men’s-only Saturday morning golf has been an important part of their lives. This is why the overall issue is uncomfortable to address. A Y-chromosome shouldn’t be a requirement for golfing on Saturday mornings.
Brad: Changing this policy seems like a no-brainer. After all, it is 2020, and this is Boulder.
Dan: The chatter is that many golfers prefer the current system and will lobby for no change.
Brad: That’s disappointing. Amy and I know lots of BCC members. I’d like to think they would rally around changing this policy.
Dan: Most, I suspect, don’t know about it. The Board and Golf Committee haven’t shared it with the broad membership. Moreover, they are viewing it as a tee time preference issue instead of a gender equity issue.
Brad: Why are you doing this? Is Cindy a golfer? I know you have daughters. Are they golfers?
Dan: Cindy is a golfer. One of our four daughters is a golfer. I have two step-granddaughters — one is a newborn, and one is two years old. The toddler took her first golf swing in September. She needs to work on shortening her backswing.
However, my reason for surfacing this is about our responsibilities as leaders in our community. Zayo has 600 employees in Boulder, and half are women. Level 3, which I helped found, has even more Boulder-area employees. I collaborate with leaders like you to drive more inclusion into the entrepreneurial and business ecosystems. Many past and future employees of all these companies have or will be members of BCC.
Everyone I know wants golf to be a more inclusive recreation from both a gender and a race perspective. Our policies and practices need to communicate that we value all golfers equally.
For all these reasons, I’ve concluded we shouldn’t look the other way while knowing our country club has a stale male-biased practice.
Brad: Are others behind you on this?
Dan: We raised it with others, but we have not campaigned on a widespread basis. Knowing this could be an explosive issue, I didn’t want to put our fellow members in an awkward position. We are hoping BCC will raise this to the broad BCC membership in an appropriate way.
Brad: When you’ve raised it with others, what has been the reaction?
Dan: Every single person (excluding board/committee members) we’ve approached has rallied behind the need to open up Saturday morning golf to women. Several business and community leaders have expressed this support to the BCC board. Again, we held back raising this except to a half dozen or so friends.
Brad: How’s your back?
Dan: What do you mean?
Brad: I suspect you are taking some arrows.
Dan: I’m a Chicago Southsider, a cancer survivor, and a serial entrepreneur. I have lots of scar tissue on my back. More importantly, though, I have friends who have my back. If you are reading this, you know who you are, and I thank you for your public and private support!!!
Brad: For what it is worth, please know that Amy and I have your back as well!
Here’s a simple one to make your 10 hours a day on Zoom more enjoyable.
Hide Self View
Click on the three little dots next to Mute in your video window. Choose “Hide Self View.”
The following view …
is much better to look at that the one with my own picture in it.
Staring at yourself for 10 hours a day is exhausting. If you are having trouble relating to this, put a mirror on your desk in front of you and look at it all day. That’s basically what you are doing when you don’t hide self view.
For some crazy reason, Zoom hasn’t made this a default feature yet (Dear Zoom, make it a default to Hide Self View).
I started doing this about a month ago. It has blown my mind how less tiring the day of endless Zoom is and how easier it is to concentrate when I’m not constantly looking at my face on the screen.
I find it fascinating when a large company enters a new arena.
Some of you will remember this happening back in 1981 when IBM announced it was getting into the personal computer market. This was a field that up until that point had been completely dominated by smaller players like Apple. Steve Jobs’s response was the now-infamous full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal welcoming IBM to the game.
Fast forward to today. Sony just announced they are going to start shipping a holographic display. This is the first large company entering this nascent field that I’m aware up. And, as far as I know, the only company actually shipping a product at this point is Looking Glass (I sit on the board, and Foundry is an investor.)
As the quote attributed to Mark Twain says (but ironically unclear whether he actually said it), “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
In an effort to rhyme, Looking Glass CEO Shawn Frayne’s welcome letter to Sony, inspired in font and spirit by the original Apple 1981 ad, follows.
When I ponder my life in 2040, I am confident that I will not be spending 12 hours a day in videoconferences on a 2D display. I’m also not going to have a headset encapsulating my face. I’m ready for my holographic future, and I’m having fun being an investor in a company that helps create it.
Let the games begin! Looking Glass has some fun stuff up their sleeves that they are releasing on December 2. Sign up here to be the first to know.
One of my mantras for v54 is “Simply Begin Again.”
As I get closer to v55 (58 days from now), I’ve been thinking about it more. During my morning meditation, I repeated it for a stretch and then did the same for about a mile on my run this morning.
Garth gets so many things correct.
I made a big shift earlier this summer after I finished up some of the work I was doing with the State of Colorado around Covid, specifically around the Innovation Response Team. A lot of that energy shifted to new work around racial equity and the release of my new book with Ian Hathaway The Startup Community Way. At the same time, my Foundry Group workload intensified as companies shifted from “survive Covid” to “grow like crazy because of tailwinds from Covid and adjustments made during Q2.”
When I reflect on where we are in October, 2020, I’m amazed. There is a spectrum that has awesome at one end and awful at the other. I’m engaged on both ends and spent relatively little time in between them. The inequities that exist on so many dimensions of our existence are extremely visible to me right now.
My gear shift around each day has been profound. I’ve adopted a set of new habits for the beginning and end of the day. I start each day with 30 minutes of meditation (I’m on a year and a half streak), then have 15+ minutes of coffee with Amy, and then go running three or four days a week. It’s a full reset every morning, which has had a profound impact on my attitude to everything that then follows.
Next, Amy and I try to have a 30 minute lunch every day. We probably miss a day a week, but right after I hit post, I’m going to go have lunch with her. We’ve never done this during the week before and I hope to do this with her every day for the rest of my life.
At the end of the day, which ranges from 5pm to 8pm, I’m done. I no longer try to get through all my email. I no longer do one last check before I go to bed. I just stop for the day.
And then I simply begin again the next day.