Re-entry From Sabbatical

If you play tennis almost every day for five weeks you get a lot better.

I’m back from what was an amazing sabbatical. Last year Amy and I went to Bora Bora. This year we went to Rancho Valencia – a tennis resort near San Diego.

In addition to turning 50, I had an incredible mental, emotional, and physical reset. Two years ago, Seth, Jason, Ryan, and I decided that we would each take a month off the grid each year. We’d do this asynchronously so only one person would be on sabbatical at a time. We’ve now had two cycles of this.

It serves two powerful purposes. For the person who goes off the grid for a month, it gives them a complete reset. I just spent every day with Amy since November 1. We had long stretches of time together doing vacation things rather than daily life things. We had lots of friends come visit this year. We played a ton of tennis. I read a bunch of books. We went to bed early and slept late. We watched every episode of Archer and Star Wars 1 – 5 (Return of the Jedi will get watched this week.) I feel 10 zillion times better than I did on October 31.

The second, more subtle purpose, is that by going off the grid, I handed over all of my work to Seth, Jason, and Ryan. One of our core values is that we all work on everything together. There’s nothing quite like stepping away for a month and letting your partners cover everything for you, or having one of them step away for a month and you cover his stuff. If this happened once every decade, that would be one thing, but by having this happen every year I believe we are creating another, even deeper level of trust and connectedness between us.

When I wrote my post #GiveFirst on 10/25, I planned to check out from blogging through the end of the year and just work on my next book (#GiveFirst). But, as my sabbatical came to an end, I was missing the rhythm of almost daily blogging. So, I decided to start blogging again when I feel like it, rather than wait until January 1, 2016 to start again.

Yesterday was my first day officially back. It was a busy day, but I managed to get outside and play 90 minutes of tennis. As I re-enter my normal world, I’m glad to be back, but I had an amazing time away.

  • Dave Hall

    Nice blog and wish I had the opportunity! Bring your racquet the next time you come to Boston.

    • I’m always happy to use a loaner!

      • Dave Hall

        I have plenty of extras!!

  • Welcome back! Always great to get your blog in my inbox. Cheers

  • I’m a firm believer in the positive impact that taking time off has, both on an individual level, and on the companies they’re a part of. This time last year I was wrapping up a 3 month sabbatical with my family after exiting my previous startup of 5 years, and before jumping into the next big thing, and it was such an invigorating experience.

  • Welcome back!

    I love how you continue to walk the talk of self-care. Sometimes I find that slowing down to take care of myself is way harder than just getting immersed in work stuff, which is socially reinforced and kind of addictive in its own way.

  • Daan

    Fred, I love your posts about taking time off. However, from the perspective of a startup entrepreneur, this often seems pretty unrealistic, versus an established venture capitalist. How realistic do you think it is for young startup entrepreneurs to take significant time off?

    • Re: Fred – I think you are confusing me with Fred Wilson – That said, I’m always happy to be confused by Fred.

      While I think taking five weeks off isn’t something a young startup founder might do, taking real time off the grid – a day, or a weekend, or a week – is a hugely positive deal.

      • Daan

        Sorry about that Brad! Two VCs whose names almost rhyme, confusing… Thanks for the answer.

  • Welcome back Brad. Glad your reenergized and ready to blog….

  • MorganHoward

    I’m glad you decided to write now instead of waiting for an arbitrary date. Why can’t you (we) incorporate some of those “off the grid” practices and benefits into the “normal world”? Even If it’s only to feel 1 Zillion times better, I’ll take it. 🙂

  • Happy to hear you’re doing well and playing Tennis, a great sport and one which takes your mind off the daily issues. You are blessed to have such trustworthy and competent partners to be able to do this. Look forward to reading #GiveFirst.

  • yay! welcome back. I’ve been missing your deep thoughts. 😉

  • Michael Shaler

    Glad you had such a reinvigorating sabbatical. It was a bit of a trek across the desert for us Feld Thoughts readers–welcome back!

  • Thanks for providing an early Christmas present to those of us who love your blog posts.

  • Welcome back, Brad!

  • Welcome back, Brad!

  • lancemichalson

    Welcome back. We missed you 🙂

  • Alex Iskold

    Welcome back and seems like an awesome reset.

  • Good to see your return to my inbox, Brad. Recharging the battery by “unplugging” always amazes me on how effective it is. I say to myself everytime, when the mind begins to clear, I really need to make this more of a priority. But each time I have the same battle, pushing myself to get away. Any advice for evolving past these internal fights, or at least have them less frequently, moving into my year 2?

    • It took me five years to get to the point where I could just disconnect without a struggle. I did it during those five years, but struggled to get into a disconnect mode each time we went away. Like many things, it’s just practice.

    • It’s all about needing pizza.

  • I regularly find myself thankful for your candor and openness. I usually trade doing something about that thankfulness for some task or moving along with something. I thought I’d pause a bit today. Brad, thanks for your candor and openness.

  • Felix Dashevsky

    welcome back, brad!

  • Welcome back! How was the progress on the book?

    • Minimal. I did a little work on a few days, but nothing serious.

  • Welcome back! We missed you! I saw on your goodreads list that you read Defending Jacob. The author, Bill Landay, is my brother in law and the murder takes place in the park that sits near our home in Newton. Curious whether you liked it or not?

    (and congrats on Foundry Next. Brilliant idea!)

    • Defending Jacob was excellent! Bill did a great job.

  • Welcome back. Brilliant move with Foundry Next

  • awaldstein

    Welcome back.

    Curious how exercise plays into your daily life actually.

    To me its critical for my mental space as well as obviously my health.

    • I’ve been playing tennis five days a week and running about three of them. I’ve been getting regular massages (one or two a week), swimming a little, and walking a lot.

  • Welcome back, and happy 50th Bday!

  • Rick Patch

    Depending on the competitor, Tennis is probably much safer than bicycling. I think you reset me a bit just reading your story.

    • Yup – I can’t seem to figure out how to fall off a tennis racquet.

  • good idea to get away from the intensity. no one can be intense 100% of the time.

  • The Discipline of Letting Go > It’s easy to energetically incinerate ourselves trying to be ever-productive. I’m on vacation right now in MX, away from my precious startup. Lounging by the pool/ocean is far insufficient for me to truly ‘let go’. I have to swim, run and yoga each day, to forcefully displace my work-mind with true re-cre-ation. Brad, do you consider recreation a critical discipline for the entrepreneurs that you work with, just like work/technical skills?

  • Just noticed your back. Tell me about the tennis. What level are you and Amy? What parts of your game did you work on and why? What equipment do you two use? I’m a bit of a tennis head so curious. I’d much rather hear about that than anything tech 😉

    • I’m a 4.0 trending toward a 4.5. Amy’s a 3.5 trending toward a 4.0.

      I use a Babolat Play although I recently switched to a Wilson Blade 104 which so far I love.

      I worked on – well – everything.

      • Very kewl we’re at similar levels. I play Fed’s old Wilson Prostaff.