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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Regroup Successful

Comments (80)

My theme for Q2 was “regroup.”  I wrote about this in my post When The Sun Comes Out in early May as I was starting to feel my depression lifting. It’s officially gone at this point – I feel normal, and have for at least a month (probably six weeks.) That’s long enough to declare this depressive episode over.

The feedback I’ve gotten from talking openly about my depression has been incredible. I’m deeply appreciative of everyone who engaged me, offered me support, help, suggestions, empathy, or just said “thanks for sharing.” While I didn’t have any urgency about feeling better, I was optimistic that I would based on the arc of my previous two major depressive episodes (the first for two years in my mid-20s, the second for three months in my mid-30s). This one – at age 47 – lasted about six months which is so much less than two years…

My goal in Q3 was simply to “regroup.” I’ve talked about some of the specific tactics that I tried. Many people have asked me what they were. Here’s a quick list.

  • Stopped drinking alcohol
  • Stopped drinking coffee
  • Stopped travelling
  • Stopped waking up at 5am – just slept until I woke up
  • Went to bed consistently at 10pm
  • Running when I felt like it
  • Scheduled a lot less things
  • Took a digital sabbath – no email or phone from Friday night until Sunday morning
  • Started floating in an isolation tank once a week
  • Didn’t fight how I felt
  • Shared openly with friends / spend more time with friends, especially with men
  • Checked in with Amy every day – worked hard to communicate my emotions

From a work perspective, I focused on the things that mattered and tried to eliminate all the other stuff. I prioritized my Foundry Group partners, the companies we are investors in, and Techstars. Rather than looking at a lot of new stuff, I shut it all down and made sure I had time for all the existing stuff. I put more effort into videoconferencing and face to face interactions locally since I wasn’t travelling. And I tried not to schedule anything before 11am.

As Q2 comes to an end, I feel that I have successfully regrouped. I’ve added back in a few things that I want to do, including drinking coffee and getting up at 5am. I’m still not drinking, but I’m being more disciplined about my running. And I believe that digital sabbath will be a part of my rhythm for the rest of my life, although I’m letting myself answer the phone when it rings and occasionally sending an email or a text throughout the day when I need to communicate something to someone.

I was originally thinking about a theme for Q3 like “ship.” I’ve got a several work related things that I believe I’ll get closure on in Q3. I have several writing things in process that I’d like to finish.  I’m still not travelling – nothing until Amy’s birthday in September. So, I originally thought I’d focus on something like “ship” as the broad theme for the next three months.

Yesterday I spent two and a half hours with my dear friend Jerry Colonna. We just hung out and talked. And eventually started talking about the idea of a Q3 theme around “ship.” After a while this sounded wrong – first to him – then to me. He challenged me with what I was actually trying to do. Ultimately it was to give myself more focus, and more structure, to spend time on the things I wanted to spend time on, and stop spending time, or filter out, the things I didn’t want to spend time on.

“Ship” seems like the wrong way to think about that. Instead, we came up with “be happier.” I’m going to try to use the phrase “be happier” as I decide what to spend time on, as in “will spending time on this cause me to be happier?” The simple theme – to be happier – which has all kinds of implications and second order effects on how I spend my time.

Instead of focusing on applying this theme only Q3, I’m going to apply this theme for however long I feel like it. And just thinking of it that way makes me happier.

  • secureccloud

    :-) feel good. Looking forward to seeing you in your natural habitat soon!

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx – looking forward to seeing you also!

  • http://www.agilevc.com/ leehower

    Glad to hear of your regroup and thx for sharing.

  • jacquichew

    Really like the happier theme. It feels to be more about an ongoing focus on getting to par or better versus moving toward an event.
    While I don’t suffer from depression (have bpd instead), I do experience SAD and bought a sunlamp called Northern Lights that helps me in the winter.

  • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

    Thank goodness. Really happy to hear that you’re feeling better.

    One of my core values is “Optimize for Happiness” (and I recently stumbled across another dude who uses the same words). “Be happier” is simpler, but you might enjoy the elevated geekiness of the words I chose. Seriously, though, it emphasizes that we all make choices, and not all of them lead toward happiness. I care about a lot of things, but if I had to choose one thing to optimize for, it’s clearly happiness.
    Good luck, man.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I love “optimizing for happiness.”

  • Rich

    So glad to hear Brad.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx man.

  • Kristy Schoenberg

    Thank you for sharing Brad. I’m so very happy for you that you are moving into a new stage. I do believe that if we can conquer our internal demons, all external forces are a piece of cake. Personally, the fog has yet to lift for me but I look forward to the day it does, the day the sun starts to shine through and I can remember what life is really about.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding the happiness you are in search of…

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    Well, Jerry would know best, but personally I have found little success with ethereal concepts like “be-happier”. It can be used to justify so many things and has very little discipline implied vs the restrictions of ‘re-group’. I am sure you will find a way to make it work. Best of luck.

    p.s. My design antennae is going bonkers at the way the title of this post is split between the black and orange….. ahhh!

    • jerrycolonna

      :) See my comment below…it’s really a short-hand way of seeing things…a kind of litmus test when choosing.
      If done with a “noticing” then it’s unlikely to do anything. But if you notice, for example, that smoking cigars late at night makes you feel crappy the next day, then perhaps you might consider not smoking a cigar. Or, if you do choose to do so, understand how you’re likely to feel later.
      It’s really about being present, noticing what’s happening, and then choosing based on longer term feelings.
      I run because I feel better not, as I often do, I run because I’m afraid if I don’t I’ll be depressed again. Same action; different intent.

      • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

        Thanks Jerry. I’m not sure I could effectively weigh the happiness of a late night cigar vs the happiness of feeling better the next morning, especially at 11pm. Better to ‘be healthier’ and leave little ambiguity to those late night cigars.

      • Jeffrey Hartmann

        Intent is so important in my mind, how we view things can have a profound effect on our mood. Our view of the world can put the same events and actions in a totally different light, and it can have an entirely different outcome with respect to how we feel. For example when something is a labor of love, we definitely treat the long slog of accomplishing our goal in a different way than if we just focused on the herculean effort. I think it was a fabulous idea for you to suggest to Brad to change his perspective from ‘ship’ to ‘feel better’. The lens we use to view the world can have profound effects, even if we end up doing and accomplishing the exact same things.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      But we got rid of a bunch of stuff you didn’t like!

      • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

        Ha!, I just noticed that. My eyes thank you.

  • jerrycolonna

    Thinking about our talk yesterday, and reading this, I remembered a conversation I once had with a friend. She was exasperated because I kept giving her “all that Buddhist crap.” She said, “You Buddhists and your focus on the elimination of suffering…sheesh, what if everyone just focused on eliminating suffering. THEN where would the be?”
    “Happier?” I said.
    To be clear, I don’t think it’s the pursuit of pleasure…that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and it’s dangerous.
    But if “shipping” makes you happier, enlivens you, is generative, well then, that’s an interesting path.

    But if “shipping” becomes the end and not the means, then I think it can do as much damage as losing oneself in work or, oddly, the running away from the pain.

    • http://pashagivesback.com/ William Mougayar

      I like your conclusion, as I was thinking in terms of “means to an end” as well when I first read Brad’s post.

      I’m trying to think like that. I think that finishing (small chunks of) work and getting things done is a liberating act in itself, and results in better happiness. Is this a good way to think about it?

      • jerrycolonna

        Does it work? Does it give you some relief? If so, then I think it’s a good way to think about it.

        • http://pashagivesback.com/ William Mougayar

          It works. I’m getting the sense that part of your tactics involve boomeranging questions back. I don’t mind that approach, as it makes you think.

  • RBC

    Hi Brad, I’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks so haven’t been checking in recently.

    Great post today – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness! Ben Franklin snuck that last one in, he was 20 years older than the other founding fathers and certainly added his wisdom there! If you listen to audio while you run there is a great podcast series on him from a lecturer at Stamford, https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/ben-franklin-world-enlightenment/id384234008.

    Also any thoughts on doing a better video/conference calls? I want them to be better – but so often they are grim, grim, grim.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Ben Franklin had it nailed.

      My videoconferences have gotten a lot better since (a) I got all my hardware right, (b) I focus 100% when I’m on a video (no email, nothing else). Whenever I’m not 100% present it all goes to hell.

      • RBC

        Yup, no email and focused sounds right although it has got to be both ways! What kind of kit did you get?

  • http://learntoduck.net/ Micah Baldwin

    I hope that “Be Happier” becomes a theme for more than just Q3. :)

    When I was working through understanding my bipolar early on, my doctor was explaining to me the importance of sleep.

    He explained that the human mind wants to go to sleep around 10pm, and if you stayed up much later, then the brain would assume that you wanted to just stay up, so it would rev back up and convince you that it was hungry. Given the brain only likes to eat carbs and sugar, you would get hungry but crave a late night ice cream cone instead of an apple.

    He continued to explain that the brain naturally wanted to wake up around 6am. And if you went to sleep at 10am, the body and brain would slow down until its lowest point at 4am, and then slowly speed up until 6am, when you should naturally wake. This pattern also leads to most people who die in their sleep to die around 4am.

    I find it interesting that you choice 10pm to go to sleep, as it is the most natural point to do so.

    As for your Q3 goal, define what happier means to you. It could be a feeling or it also could be an action. For me, its spending time uninterrupted with my dogs. This is why travel doesn’t make me happy nor do early days full of meetings. By having a clear understanding of what happy is, you can know if you are more of it.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve been taking Brooks (my golden) for a 15 minute walk at least twice a day. It’s been awesome. I talk to him the whole time and he just smiles at me, pees, smiles some more, chases a squirrel, smiles, poops, smiles while I pick it up and throw it away, and smiles.

  • Ajpape

    Brad – Really happy to hear you feel on solid ground. You’ve helped me a lot by sharing openly while you were going through the tough part.

    One theme that’s working well for me lately is “trust my impulse.” This helping me deal with an intense travel schedule and know when to say Yes or No to client requests. I could definitely use more sleep and a bit less travel, but trusting my impulse is helping a ton.

    Looking forward to your longer term reflections as they emerge.

    AJ

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Good suggestion. I’m also using the “If I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to do it” filter.

  • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

    welcome back Brad

    be well buddy

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx @reecepacheco:disqus. Come play in Boulder this summer – the Techstars Boulder gang needs to meet you.

      • http://reecepacheco.com/ reece

        been meaning to get out there…

        will shoot you an email

  • http://www.cazoomi.com/ Clint Wilson

    Like the list Brad and need to try, “Started floating in an isolation tank once a week” for sure:)

    ~Clint
    @cazoomi

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      The isolation tank has been awesome awesome awesome.

      • http://www.cazoomi.com/ Clint Wilson

        I will search one out in SF then:)

        ~Clint
        @cazoomi

  • http://pashagivesback.com/ William Mougayar

    Happy to hear about your full recovery. When you say “talking about it”, do you mean via the blog or f2f? I’m trying to understand the impact that the blogging part has had on you, in addition to the physical world. Blogging and commenting is part-therapy?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Both / all!

  • StevenHB

    I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better, Brad. When do you think this started? Was it around the ultramarathon?

    I went through a period either freshman or sophomore year. I found at the time that talking friends helped.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      The ultramarathon in April 2012 was probably the beginning – trigger – for what came after. My bike crash in September is the starting point I refer to often, but Amy always tracks me back to the ultra.

  • http://www.itdatabase.com/ Travis Van

    Outstanding share. I like this kind of stuff a lot – b/c I feel like I’m really good at being efficient with my work, but whatever spare time I have on weekends and personal life I am like a rudderless ship. Finally learning you also have to have a purpose and goals in your personal life to be the kind of husband / father / son you want to be. Things that I’ve been doing that have greatly increased my happiness lately:
    * stopped reading tech blogs that are bad for my mental health (a lot of the top blogs are so trashy, what makes it in / what doesn’t pisses me off, and I finally realized I’m so much better off not even looking at the ones in question)
    * stopped even bringing my computer home on the weekend (every weekend is about plans with wife and kids, and completely disconnecting … which I picked up here)
    * started running the 4.7mi to work 4x weekly (eliminated the life sucking experience of waiting for a bus, and getting the much needed exercise I couldn’t seem to fit in, in one fell swoop)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Great choices. The dumping reading the stupid tech blogs is a great one. So much nastiness, negativity, ego, and hate floating around.

  • Jonny Schnittger

    That’s great new to hear. Working through depression is probably one of the toughest things in life. Keep up everything your doing right, and don’t let yourself slip back.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx for the encouragement!

      • Jonny Schnittger

        Good luck, keep us posted on your progress :) Getting it out there helps not just you, but anyone else who suffers from depression. It’s good to know that you’re not alone.

  • http://simplifilm.com/ Chris Johnson

    Hi, Brad:

    Congrats. Thanks – as always for sharing.

    I took your quarterly theme to heart and I replicated it here. Q2 was “launch” and we knew it was going to be an explosive bender of work. We nearly completed everything -and DID complete our financial stuff.

    Q3 is “build”. The difference between “launch” and “build” is that we’re building things that will last. I see Q4, in my head, as “give.” In Q4 we’ll be able to have a solid enough company to start giving more to others.

    It seems that stealing this from you is going to be an important building block of our culture, so thanks for sharing.

    -Chris

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I personally love a quarterly rhythm – I have always used it to my advantage. I’m going to try a “six month rhythm” between now and the end of the year and see how it works. I’ve been using decade long rhythms also – I’m searching for a 20 year rhythm from age 50 – 70, so maybe doubling the rhythms will work.

  • Kathy Gallup Keating

    Thanks for sharing this; as always, you really give me a lot to reflect on! I found myself berating myself this weekend for wanting to do absolutely nothing (like it was somehow wrong or bad). It’s always a good wake up call to me because I know it means I desperately need to regroup. I need to find ways to get recognize that I’m going off track faster because once we get too far down the path it’s even harder to pull ourselves out.

    What was your a-ha moment that put you onto this path? (And where did you find an isolation tank in Boulder?)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I found the isolation tank via a Google Search – the one I’m enjoying is Cloud Nine Float Center – http://cloudninefloatcenter.com/

      I don’t know the specific moment that I knew I was really depressed this time around but I know that when I was in Rio this spring I knew I had to just shut down all the travel and regroup.

  • John Fein

    Thanks for the continued openness Brad. For lack of a better word, I’ve found value in knowing when to be “selfish” – to prioritize sleep, relaxation, healthy eating, etc. over the needs/wants that others may impose. “Selfish” has a bad rap but it just seems to be about doing to key things that keep ourselves healthy. Glad you’re finding a system that works for you!

    • Elizabeth Kraus

      I completely agree with this! The “Give Before You Get” philosophy is something I try to live by and my giving has paid back in spades in both my personal and professional life. But the problem is, that some people (me included, and I’m guessing Brad and John, you are this way too) have the ability to Give Until We Break. So…now I am trying to learn the art of saying NO. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago (http://impactangelgroup.com/2013/06/07/angel-investing-learning-the-art-of-saying-no/), but here are the most helpful and relative points:

      #4: Saying “NO” in one place enables you to say “YES” in another. I try to remind myself that to be helpful, I need to stay focused on the companies that I am most able to help.

      #5: Your sanity is worth a “NO”. By nature, I am an entrepreneur and, similar to many entrepreneurs/angel investors, I have the overwhelming drive to goal that can propel me to sheer and utter self-destruction. I try to remember that I have to take care of myself in order to continue to be able to help others.

      #6: The easiest people to say “NO” to are often the last people you should say “NO” to. It’s easy to say “no” to the people you know best and care for you the most – your family, friends and close colleagues. However, these are often the people who have done and will continue to do the most to help you.

      A wise and successful man (Rich Hoops) once said that his best and worst quality was that he says “yes”. I can definitely relate to that.

      Hope this helps and as always, thanks for talking about this. It is helpful for all of us!

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Great post Elizabeth – thx for taking the time to put it up and excerpt from it. Rich is definitely a wise man – I’ve seen that in action from him many times.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve always described an aspect of my behavior as “selfish” as I generally do things that make me happy / that I want to do. I lost site of that last fall and it crushed me this time around. But I agree with the notion that selfish can be powerfully positive if used correctly.

      • FAKE GRIMLOCK

        WHY PUT OXYGEN MASK ON SELF FIRST?

        BECAUSE DEAD PERSON HELP NO ONE.

        LISTEN TO AIRPLANE ADVICE, IT GOOD FOR EVERYTHING IN LIFE.

        • http://twitter.com/andyidsinga andyidsinga

          yup, that and lots of checklists before takeoff

      • John Fein

        Hi Brad, would it be okay if I emailed you a brief question about entrepreneurs/depression? I have your Foundry email address. Thx

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          Go for it.

          • John Fein

            Just sent it. (Longer than intended.) Thanks!!

  • Albert Hartman

    Cool stuff, hope things go well. I just saw this great TWIST interview (Jun 25, 2013) Jason Calacanis did on your buddy/coach Jerry Colonna that others might find interesting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEqrGfHgNT8

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – fantastic interview with Jerry – totally worth watching. Fred Wilson wrote a great post about it the other day at http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2013/06/video-of-the-week-jerry-colonna-on-thisweekin.html

    • btrautsc

      recommend for all entrepreneurs at any stage. watched today and literally had to take a walk to regroup – but finished watching and feel pretty uplifted. Came here not expecting to see this but very happy this sentiment is spreading throughout the community.

  • buzzbruggeman

    T.A. and I were talking about you the other day. Glad your feeling better. I’ve come to focus on just being happy each day. Sometimes harder than it should be.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx Bud – great to hear from you. I miss seeing you and TA.

  • http://www.cornfedsystems.com/ Frank W. Miller

    Did you have a caffeine withdrawal when you first went off it? I did a forced caffeine withdrawal as a result of an illness recently and it was awful.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I didn’t have caffeine withdrawal. I drank tea – that was enough. I don’t drink that much coffee and I don’t drink soda, so it wasn’t that severe.

    • http://patrickfoley.com/about Patrick Foley

      I did that, too … did it feel almost like a hangover for you? I used that as motivation for staying off it – if caffeine made me feel like that on the way out, I figure it can’t be positive on the way in …

  • Eric

    Glad you’ve recovered Brad! If your depression comes back in the fall again, you may want to read this http://howirecovered.com/active-b12-therapy-faq/#methylation because Seasonal Affect Disorder is a B12 deficiency symptom pointing to methylation dysfunction…

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx – interesting. I probably don’t get enough B12 in any case based on my diet.

      • howirecovered

        For a healthy person like you, any deficiency should resolve easily with the right supplements and possibly prevent some other very nasty problems from occurring!

  • http://www.twitter.com/stevenkane Steven Kane

    thanks for these posts brad. i have had similar talks with jerry – he is a godsend. and when colonna isnt available, there’s always great movies. good for the blues: Singing in the Rain – for massive sunshine and spirit and giddy fun. The Best Years of Our Lives – for somber meditation and ultimate uplift on value of human relationships. Popcorn is useful also.

  • http://petegrif.tumblr.com/ Pete Griffiths

    Happy to see you back.

    These periods must be a huge strain on Amy.

    Could you share any resources that are useful for partners living with someone with depression? Anything that could help others trying to help their partner as they go through this?

  • http://twitter.com/tobyruckert Toby Ruckert

    Fantastic list and totally makes sense. Thanks for sharing! Try meditation, too. Also: you may want to change those bad fluorescent lights in your office to full spectrum ones. You’ll notice the difference in a single day by seeing and feeling better.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      The floating is pretty close to meditating for me. If I want some of your lights, where is the best place to buy them online?

      • http://twitter.com/tobyruckert Toby Ruckert

        Nice, I have to try the floating for sure. Lights: http://www.viva-lite.com – but we’re not selling in the US (only Europe + Asia-Pac at this point). Will drop you an email for alternatives in North America.

  • panterosa,

    I always read your depression posts. I have a friend who suffers who depends on me, and I find your posts helpful for me as the outsider.

    I feel like your Q3 image is neither ship nor build, but drip. Like the water that comes thru the coffee filter, when you make coffee on top of a mug. Some of the water wets the coffee and opens it, and some of water brings flavor out the other side. Perhaps that equates to the feeling you seek.

    (Jerry ‘outed’ me as a diagrammer, or visual metaphorist…)

  • garyditsch

    I keep meaning to write up my experience in the float tank, I hope someone here in Lexington installs one soon as I appreciated the time; but after 3 visits only felt like I was starting to accept everything it had to offer. I do agree with Toby, if only to suggest that a meditation practice would enhance the float experience. I’m currently back to 5min / day of meditation, that’s all my attention and mind can manage.

    In regards to the happiness, one thing I have to continually remind myself when using it as a source of decision making is that I’m often inaccurate in my predictions of what will make me happy in the future. Constant discussion about what will make me happy now vs. what will be best for the long term. In short, how can I find happiness in what I’m doing today?

  • jaredatname

    I love that such an important topic can be shared so casually–screw stigma, let’s just talk. Thank you for that. And to reaffirm your list, it’s good to get rid of caffeine (especially that diet crap), exercising and, in my case, forcing myself to write even when I don’t want to. I try to write portraits of tough times and, in that writing, Shawshank through the shit tunnel and get to a better place. http://ewysplayhouse.squarespace.com/journal/2013/1/17/about-something-in-1998-or-about-now.html <—–shameless sample

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I love the phrase “shawshank through the shit tunnel” – I will be using that in the future!

  • FAKE GRIMLOCK

    MAYBE THEME IS “BUILD”?

    BUILD HAPPINESS. BUILD BACK UP. BUILD NEW THINGS.

    BUILD UP.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I like BUILD. That’s good.

      • Jonny Schnittger

        Iterate everything, but perform regression testing to make sure nothing else is broken :)

  • http://clareyouthere.com/ Clare

    As someone who deals with anxiety and depression in my own life, I so appreciate your candid ability to share. I watched a documentary about the isolation tanks recently, I’m intrigued.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Thx Claire. Give Cloud Nine in Boulder a try – tell them I sent you!

Build something great with me