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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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Book: Let Your Life Speak

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I did Digital Sabbath #4 yesterday. I spent the day on Coronado with my dad at Lindzonpalooza, the annual retreat put on by Howard Lindzon. We had a nice time hanging out Friday night as people arrived and then spent Saturday morning hearing short pitches from many of the companies Howard has invested in. I went for a two hour run in the early afternoon and then read Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer while my dad took a nap and practiced his snoring.

I haven’t been reading much the past six months. Usually I’m a voracious reader – 50 to 100 books a year is not unusual for me. But for some reason I haven’t felt like reading lately. I know some of it is my general mood and some has been the mental exhaustion from writing two books, but I’ve decided to start reading again as part of Digital Sabbath.

My good friend Jerry Colonna recommended Parker Palmer’s book to me. Jerry and Parker are doing a seminar in Boulder on 4/19 called Surviving the Startup Life: The Toll of Merging Identity and Work and, while I’ve heard of Parker numerous times, I’d never read anything by him.

Let Your Life Speak was really good. I read it at a good time for me as I continue to struggle with a depressive episode. Parker covers a lot of stuff but goes deep in one chapter about his own struggles with depression. It’s powerful – and very helpful to me – to read the first person stories about other people who sort through a real clinical depressive episode. Parker covered it bravely – and openly.

I had an excellent talk on Friday afternoon with my dad about what I’ve been struggling with since October. My dad is one of my heroes and closest friends. It’s hard to really connect deeply about this stuff over the phone so we sat for two hours in the sun outside a gelato store, ate our chocolate gelatos together, and talked. I’ve been processing a lot of the root cause of what’s going on and feel like I’m getting underneath some of it, and our conversation helped me get deeper into some of the issues. Parker’s book was a good reinforcement of several of the things I was struggling with.

We finished last night with a nice dinner with everyone overlooking the water and a very lit up San Diego. I just got back from a short run on the beach and am heading out for breakfast with my dad. Then, I’m off to the airport to spend a week in New York.

Another Amazing Fitbit Weight Loss Story

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I met Andy Swan at Lindzonpalooza in San Diego this year. Andy towers over me (he’s 6′ 9″) and I’m always attracted to people who make me (at 6′ 1″) feel short. Among other things, he’s got a super creative blog and is a successful entrepreneur, so we had a great discussion. We also talked about weight loss, which I was focused on because I was squarely in the middle of my Retrofit experience (where I’ve lost a solid 20 pounds in the last six months.) Recently Andy sent me a note saying he’d lost 40 pounds with just Fitbit – I asked him to write a blog post about his story. Here it is – it’s inspiring.

It had been 6 months since my knee surgery where they replaced my busted ACL (wakeboarding).  I hadn’t weighed myself since, but I distinctly remember seeing “299.2″ on the scale in pre-op.  That was a new all-time high, and “300″ seemed really high, even for a guy standing 6 ft 9.  Just as the anesthesia started to kick in I thought to myself…. “well, this could go one of two ways.  Either you get sedentary and fat while your knee heals or you take it as a wake-up call and start kicking ass.”

I decided to start kicking ass.  I woke up from surgery incredibly optimistic and with absolute certainty that the year post-surgery was going to be BETTER than the year prior.  Funny how obstacles can motivate.

Fast-forward 6 months of no official “rehab”, but a lot of weight training and gradual but intense increases in movement. I was as strong as I was 15 years ago as a college basketball player, and my knee felt great.  Ya!

But…. I still felt big.  Too heavy.  Too soft in the middle.  This was a problem.  I’d worked really hard.  Ugh.

Then I went out to San Diego and chatted with Brad Feld.  Naturally, I looked through the companies he had invested in.

Interesting.  The fitbit tracker keeps track of your movement during the day (how?!  Who cares!).  The fitbit scale is wifi-enabled and keeps track of your weight.  Both sync online and work with MyFittnessPal, which I could use to keep track of my calories.

Tracking input.  Tracking output.  Tracking results in “real-time”.  This was a perfect storm of awesome for a guy that really loves excess in all directions– and knows that what gets measured gets done.

I bought both with expedited shipping.

Instant obsession.  3 months later, I still feel completely incomplete if I haven’t burned more calories than I’ve taken in.  I’m fixated on “doing more”.  20,000 steps is a good day.  10 miles moved is awesome.  Partly to lighten up, partly so I can eat more and drink more.  It works.

Why Don’t We Make Learning A Computer Language A Requirement In High School?

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I spent this weekend at LindzonPalooza. Once a year Howard Lindzon gets together a bunch of his friends at the intersection of financing, tech, media, and entrepreneurship, we descend on The Del in Coronada, and have an awesome 48 hours together. Many interesting and stimulating things were said, but one I remember was from Peter Pham over dinner. It was a simple line, “why do we teach languages in junior high and high school but not a computer language?” that had profound meaning to me.

When I was in high school, I had to take two years of a foreign language. I had three choices – French, Spanish, or German. I didn’t really want to learn any of them so I opted for French. I hated it – rote memorization and endless tedious classes where I didn’t really understand anything. Fortunately I liked my teacher for the first two years and I did fine academically (I got an A) and ended up taking a third year of French.

Year three was a total disaster. I hated the teacher and apparently she hated me. We watched these stupid reel-to-reel movies of french cartoons aimed at English speakers trying to learn French. Beyond being boring, they were incomprehensible, at least to me. Somehow I ended up in the front row and it was my job to change the movie when it finished. One day, when I was sure the teacher was out of the room and I was changing the reel, I muttered ” tu es une chienne” (one of the few French phrases I still remember, along with “va te faire foutre.”) I was wrong – she was in the room and, after a trip to the principal’s office (the principal liked me and let me off easy) I dropped the class and took a study hall instead.

Now, before I use the old line of “I have a hard time learning languages”, I’ll call bullshit on myself since during that time I learned BASIC, Pascal, and 6502 Assembler. I was good at learning languages – I was just way more interested in computer languages than romantic european languages.

We didn’t have AP Computer Science at my school so I taught all of this to myself. But today, schools have computer science courses. And, based on what I’ve learned from my work at NCWIT, looking at course curriculums, and talking to a lot of students, most high school computer science courses suck. Part of the problem is the word “science” – they teach computer science theory, how to program in Java, math, logical, and a bunch of other things. But they don’t teach you software development, which is much more useful, and a lot more fun.

When I compare it to French 3, I wanted to learn conversation French. I probably would have enjoyed that. But the teacher, who was French, insisted on grinding us through endless grammar exercises. The movies were sort of conversational, but they obsessed over the different tenses, and we were tested endlessly on when to use tu and when to use vous, even in French 3.

I’m not a language instructor, nor do I have any interest in figuring out the best way to teach a language – computer or otherwise – but it seems to me that we are shifting into a different period where learning how to write software is just as important – and probably more so – to a high school student as learning to speak French, at least at a two year of course level where all you remember are a few swear words.

Am I wrong? If so why. BTW – Google translate quickly tells me that is “Ai-je tort? Si oui, pourquoi.” My bable fish is on order.

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