Life Gets In The Way – Punting on SXSW

This morning I was taking a break between meetings in San Antonio at TechStars Cloud to check my email when I saw a note from my wife Amy with the header “I just broke my wrist.” The email said “Fell on stairs. At urgent care. Got x ray. Have “dinner fork” type fracture. Pam and Ryan will get me home. Not hurting too bad. Right wrist so also lucky.”

I called Amy immediately and got her voice mail. There isn’t anything more disorienting to me than hearing that my beloved is in distress and not being able to jump into action to help her. I sent her a note that said “I just tried to call. Call when you have a chance” and then tried to get my mind back into my next meeting. She called about 30 minutes later and we had a short tearful conversation but then she went into some room at urgent care where she couldn’t talk on the phone. I didn’t hear back for two hours, but in that period of time decided that I was heading home first thing tomorrow morning to be with her.

My awesome magical assistant Kelly dealt with the 20-ish SXSW meetings and panels I had set for Thursday through Sunday. The notes back from people were very supportive of me choosing to go home to Amy, even though I’m sure I’ve inconvenienced or disappointed a few of them. By the time Amy and I finally connected, she was doing ok but glad I was going home. By about 1pm I settled down and wasn’t thinking about her every two minutes and feeling helpless as I went through my meetings.

I had a super day at TechStars Cloud. The gang down here is doing great stuff, there are some really neat companies that are developing nicely (and quickly), and the vibe is dynamite. While part of me was excited about SXSW, the introvert in me was dreading it. This was the first leg of the trip and I was gaining energy from the focused interaction with the TechStars Cloud folks which I hoped would sustain me through four days of SXSW extrovertness.

Life got in the way. Being with Amy is infinitely more important to me than four days of nerd craziness. As I sit here in my hotel room wound up and unable to sleep I long for a teleportation machine that would get me home in 30 seconds. I’ll be home in 12 hours, but that feels like a long time. I know Amy is fine, but the magnetic pull of what matters to me overwhelms my patience right now.

Yesterday at TechStars for a Day in Boulder, I gave a short talk about obsession. As part of it, I focused on the importance of taking a long term view and being obsessive about what you do in a way that you can sustain over a lifetime. I made the comment that unexpected things will happen continually throughout life and you have to be flexible enough to react to them, especially when they are difficult, painful, or tragic in a non-work dimension. I had to live with those words today and it was easy. So while I’ll miss a bunch of friends at SXSW, I’ll be spending those four days with the person who matters the most to me on this planet. And that feels good.

  • Thanks for sharing Brad…a powerful reminder of what’s truly important in our lives, and not to get distracted by that fact.  

    Hoping for a quick recovery for Amy, and time for you and her to connect these next few days instead of hanging out in the rain in Austin…

  • My best to Amy and glad you pulled the plug.  Just home tonight myself.  Feels good.  Will run on Sunday without you.  LE

  • Here’s to a safe journey and a speedy recovery. Hang in there. 

  • JLM

    Tough break.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    If you had not gone home to be w/ your wife you would have regretted it for the rest of your shortened life.

    Well played!

  • You’re a good man Mr. Feld. You have the right priorities and that’s why people want to work with you. Thanks for the post.

  • Oh that’s what the tweet was about. Sorry to hear, and hope she recovers soon. I liked how she ended with “On the bright side, I’m left handed”. Glass always half full eh. 

    • Yeah – at her core she’s an optimist – which is one of the things I love about her.

  • Be grateful you’re a short plane ride away. I was in Bangalore, India when April had a serious pregnancy complication with our daughter. To boot, India was in the midst of the most serious monsoon season they’d seen in a century. The entire country mobilized the airlines to move Indians around and foreigners couldn’t board planes for days. Took me 5 days to get home to my hurting family. Torture.

    • Wow – 5 days would be a total mindfuck. Killer.

  • I saw your RT earlier today and said to myself, although I don’t actually know you (I met you a few times), from what i have i shared with you over the past few six months via your blog (I also looked at your earliest blogs via web archive) this guy is heading home.  Look at this as an opportunity to work on that  book we are waiting on (hope you and your wife enjoyed the chocolates i sent to you in Miami). Thanks again for all the information that you have shared. It has saved me countless hours. 

    • Thx! I have no idea what I’m going to spend the next four days on but I have nothing scheduled anymore except a few phone calls so I know I’ll be spending a lot of it with Amy which is an unexpected surprise for both of us. Thx for the chocolates by the way – they were awesome – we had no idea who sent them (the W did a nice job with them but there was no sender note – mystery solved!)

      • Not their oversight. I had asked to keep it anonymous. Just thought it might lift Amy’s and your spirits at this time to know that you both are making a difference.

  • Reuben Katz

    Brad, never met you but can relate in many ways. Startup life is hard on a family but great wives are there for us through it all. It’s a great testament to what’s important in your life that you want to rush back to her. Don’t know how many years you’re married (almost 10 here) but I imagine you’ll grow old happily with her…SXSW and all the geeks in Austin won’t be there when your Depends need changing. 🙂 tomorrow will be your best flight home ever.

  • In the midst of Nerd & Startup (bubble/growth/expansion/craziness), proud to see you let real life be in control – well played, sir!

  • It’s moments like these that make you realize what’s really important in life. 

  • Nicely done. No one wishes they’d spent more time at work at their deathbed..

  • right call. i hope amy feels better and gets better quickly

    • Thx. I got an email from her early this morning about the new and exciting challenges she’s having with only one wrist. For example, it’s really hard to get a twist off top off of an Odwalla bottle to drink some juice.

      • necessity is the mother of invention

        • I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous. 😉

          (By the way, I concur… you made the right call coming home.)

  • Life prioritizes work. It’s one of its best attributes. 

  • Good call. Heading home to your loved one is always the right thing to do. 

  • Feeling helpless for a loved one sucks. Have a safe trip home and I hope Your wife heals quickly.

  • Best wishes to Amy for a fast + complete recovery. 

    Right call to go home.  I’ve probably told this story before, but I rec’vd a call like that (fortunately only) once while I was in Sausalito.  Boys, both still in diapers, were sick + Jen hadn’t slept more than 10-15 mins in 3 days.

    The call was simply ‘need you home’.  I hung up + headed to SFO.

  • I’ll add my best wishes to the pile here Brad, glad you were able to get back and everything was alright. It’s great that you illustrate so well the awareness of and achievement of that obsession rhythm you talked about yesterday, I enjoyed seeing you speak again at TS4AD.

  • Sorry to hear that about Amy! Sending healing thoughts to her.

  • Bobby

    Brad, hope your better half is doing well. Was a good decision. 

  • Great job Brad.  While we will miss you at the spring break for nerds event, you give so much time to the start up community and a life emergency take much higher priority.  Hope Amy heals quickly.

  • One thing that the way you live your life has taught me is “people first, and loved ones before that.” I hope Amy is doing ok, and while Im no longer in Boulder, lemme know if there is something I can do to be helpful.

    • Thx man. She’s hanging in but I’ll holler if I need anything.

  • Brad, You are making VC’s  more human and taking away their super powers.. 

    I hope Amy gets better soon..

  • Lkunde

    Just after my divorce I received a text from my soon-to-be ex husband, about my ex’s best friend, who he had moved in with during our devastating break up:

    Steve died last night, not sure what to do.

    I will never forget such a text, and it changed everything for me that day, even though our marriage was still over. His roommate had a heart attack that they refewr to as the “widowmaker”. I was sad that my ex had to lose me AND his best friend.
    Plus it was Christmas week that week.

    Amazing how those few words contained so much SAD.

    • Devastating and a good remember that we need to live our lives every day.

  • I applaud you for showing the human side so regularly. I was hoping to meet you at the TechStars event tonight, but I was a bit nervous. This is cool. It shows that you are just a guy, one that is very in-tune with life and priorities. Kudos, and great decision. I hope Amy adjusts quickly. 

    Word of advice: Put a small vice in the kitchen… I know that sounds weird, but it will help get things like the Odwalla cap off. I broke my hand a couple years back–leave it to a guy to create the culinary vice.

    • Vice – brilliant idea. I have vices like peach cobbler ice cream but I’ll get here a real one next.

  • Good call Brad. Add the story to the final chapter in your book. 

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  • Kevin Dykes

    Glad to read in the next post that all is ok at home. I too had a family moment for which I’m glad I did not go to SXSW. As an Austinite now living in Berlin, it was a real struggle to not go back home where all my friends are and geek spring break is in full swing. But, we chose focus on critical path for a new product. And the bonus for this decision… I would have missed seeing my 7 month old crawl for the first time if I’d been out drinking with my buddies in Austin. 🙂 Happy for my choice. Best to you in Boulder Brad! 

  • good luck.  It looks like you are missing a lot of rain in Austin.  Hope she feels a lot better having you around. 

  • jacquichew

    Hope Amy will mend quickly. And thank you for sharing a very personal episode.

    My spouse is the most important person to me on this planet and your story will hopefully empower others to speak up too as opposed to playing down or worse yet disparage their relationship with their spouse to their peers.

  • I can relate with this post.  My mom fell while I was in Austin and didn’t tell anyone for 24 hours that she hit her head.  She finally called me Monday with symptoms that made it obviously that she needed to go to the ER immediately – thankfully my husband did not travel to SXSW with me as planned and he was able to get her to the ER and stay with her until I could finally get home Tuesday   – it was painful not being able to get a flight out of the area for the 18 hours while we weren’t sure what would happen.  Thankfully I got home and she got out of the ICU yesterday.

    • I’m so glad she’s ok and your husband was able to take care of her. Sending you good karma.

  • No private jet?  If it was that important why not spend $8k or so and get home in two hours?

    • I have an emotional aversion to flying private. I’ve done it plenty when I’m tagging along with other people, but I’ve had a glitch that has prevented me from being willing to do it myself. As a result, I don’t have an easy “private option” and when I was in San Antonio, my choices to quickly get home were limited and the best one was the early flight the next day. It turned out to be fine since I didn’t really know Amy’s status until mid-afternoon and then she was in good hands through the night, asleep when I got home – and then I was able to take it from there.

      This particular case changed the way I think about private flights. I would have totally hopped in a cap, driven to the airport, and paid $8k (or whatever it is) to fly to JeffCo (15 minutes from my house) and be home in a couple of hours. I’ve now got that option set up for emergencies – it’s one phone call for me rather than a scramble to figure something out.

      So – yes – I wish I’d had that set up and it’s an important reminder to me not to let my glitches about things like this (I’m sure I have others) get in the way.

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