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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.
I’m in Las Vegas at CES. I walked the floor yesterday, had a bunch of meetings in the afternoon, and then went out to dinner at Nobu with my partners and a bunch of the founders of companies we are investors in. It was a great day but at the end of it I was totally used up, especially since I got up at 4am Las Vegas time to go to the airport.
My plan today was to walk the floor of CES some more. I only have one thing scheduled at 2pm (a call with Mark Udall, one of our Colorado Senators, about PIPA) – the rest was left open. But yesterday I felt like I saw everything I wanted to see. And I was tired of bumping into people, overwhelmed by the smoke everywhere, and way over stimulated. On top of this, I’ve been feeling a little flat (not depressed – but down / off balance) since the middle of last week, I’m on the road through the end of the month on the east coast, and I’ve got a head cold that I’m having trouble shaking.
When I woke up at 6:50am this morning, I decided I was going to camp in my room today. Just me, my computer, and whatever is on the other end of my computer. We’ve got another Foundry Group event tonight – by then I’ll probably feel like seeing humans again. But until then, I just feel like hiding for the day. The one exception is a run, which my body is begging me to do, even though I have snot dripping out of my nose.
Some days it’s best to just hide in your room. Today is one of those days for me.
My twitter stream this morning had a conversation between Kara Swisher and Chris Sacca about a TED video from Jill Bolte Taylor. Kara recently had a TIA (minor stroke) and wrote about it. The conversation between them prompted me to watch the TED Talk by Jill Bolte Taylor about a massive stroke that she’d had. Taylor is a brain scientist, which makes the whole discussion even more incredible as she had a chance to study and think about her own experience of having a stroke.
I strongly encourage you to invest 18 minutes of your life in this. It’ll change how you think about your brain, as well as possibly a few other things.
I’m off to run the Zeitgesit Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho with my friends Mark and Pam Solon. It’s another beautiful day on planet earth.
I am completely wiped out. It’s noon on Saturday in Colorado. I just had five days in a row of 18 hour days. I started the week in San Francisco and flew back home on Friday night from New York (with a red eye in between). It was awesome, but exhausting.
In addition to all the work, there was plenty of ambient emotion last week including some around mortality (Steve Jobs died and a close friend’s father died). In between everything, I spent a had a lot of meals with people I haven’t seen in a while, or whom I’m really close to. On top of that, there were hundreds of emails a day, plenty of telephone calls, and lots of random stuff to deal with. And plenty of running, coming off a weekend of back to back long runs (14 miles on Saturday, 16 miles on Sunday). And the Imperial March rang on my phone several times a day when Amy called, which always gave me a nice positive emotional charge.
I slept 12 hours last night. Amy made me a great breakfast and I’ve spent an hour catching up on unread emails from yesterday. But I’m just fried. And I’m going to crawl back into bed for a nap, go to a movie this afternoon, and then have a quiet dinner with Amy somewhere.
When I reflect on last week, I consciously spent very little time thinking deeply about anything. My runs were mostly mental garbage collection times, I slept on the airplanes, and I was in the moment the rest of the time dealing with the present. Sure, some of the discussions were longer term, strategic type things, but all the thought processes were surface level vs. deep discovery.
I’m working on a book called Entrepreneurial Communities. It’ll be done by the end of the year. I’ll likely self-publish this one as I don’t perceive any benefit to having a publisher now that I’ve done two books the traditional way. I also don’t want to introduce an additional six months into the writing to publishing cycle. I spent exactly zero time working on the book last week, although I had no expectation that I would.
But when I think about what I learned this week, and what I talked about, plenty of it pertained to the book. While I consciously spent very little time thinking about entrepreneurial communities, I unconsciously spent a lot of time thinking about it. And while my surface level discussions about longer term things didn’t impress me as deep thinking, by talking out loud about complicated issues I continued to modify the way I talk and think about them.
This is a style of mine. While I don’t “think out loud” like some do, I “refine my thought process” by talking about – and doing – things around the topics that I think deeply about. The development, creation, and sustaining of entrepreneurial communities is one of those topics that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about lately, and anyone who knows what I spent my time on knows that many of the things I work on pertain directly to the activities around these, rather than just the thoughts around these.
By being insanely busy in areas that I think (and care) deeply about, I’m actually engaged in an “active deep thinking” rather than a passive deep thinking. It’s easy to end a week like the last one (which is a pretty typical week for me) with the reaction of “wow – that was intense and insane, but I didn’t really have any time to think about what I wanted to think about.” That’s wrong – I spent the entire week actively thinking, which makes my ability to deeply think about topics I care about even more powerful and effective.
I’m sure there is some philosophy, or psychology, about how a human links passive and active around the formation of thoughts, ideas, and theories. I’m not going to think deeply about that, especially since it’s meta in the context of this post, but I’m certain that the answer the my question that I posed in the title is a resounding yes when you combine active and passive thinking.
I go off the grid four times a year for a week at a time. During these weeks I put up a vacation reminder that says I’m off the grid, not checking email or phone, but if it’s an emergency I can be found by my assistant Kelly. While I leave her email and phone info in the vacation responder text, she still checks my email to make sure that nothing critical is going on. While this works well, Josh Kopelman blew my mind with his awesome vacation responder a few weeks ago.
I am currently out of the office on vacation.
I know I’m supposed to say that I’ll have limited access to email and won’t be able to respond until I return — but that’s not true. My blackberry will be with me and I can respond if I need to. And I recognize that I’ll probably need to interrupt my vacation from time to time to deal with something urgent.
That said, I promised my wife that I am going to try to disconnect, get away and enjoy our vacation as much as possible. So, I’m going to experiment with something new. I’m going to leave the decision in your hands:
- If your email truly is urgent and you need a response while I’m on vacation, please resend it to email@example.com and I’ll try to respond to it promptly.
- If you think someone else at First Round Capital might be able to help you, feel free to email my assistant, Fiona (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she’ll try to point you in the right direction.
· Otherwise, I’ll respond when I return…
From now on, I’m going to set up an account at email@example.com and leave this in your hands. Powerful – and fucking brilliant.