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It’s Sunday morning. Take a deep breath. It’s summer time. Go for a walk. Or a run. Play with your family. Take a nap this afternoon. Read a book. Go to a movie. Chill.
Last week, I had two close friends tell me some version of “I’m too busy.” One insightfully said “I have no time these days. I’m doing too much.” The other simply said “sorry I didn’t call back – I have no time.”
I too am intensely busy. And anyone who knows me knows that I eventually hit a wall, have short term burnout, need to rest / recover, and then get back at it. However, as I’ve gone through this cycle throughout my life, I’m getting smarter about how to handle it. My week a quarter off the grid helps. July in Alaska helps (although this summer has a fun, European twist). Running helps. Time with Amy helps. And recognizing that as one gets busier, more crap creeps into the schedule, is important.
I’ve deliberately slowed down in June. I’ve cancelled a bunch of unnecessary things. I’m rethinking how I approach board meetings which are a massive time suck for any VC. I’ve been a lot more hesitant to say yes to a trip somewhere to do something. I’ve been aggressively using Skype and Google Video Chat for meetings. And I’m scheduling a lot less throughout the day – trying to have more adhoc time to work on whatever I feel like or whatever comes up.
Basically, I’m trying to slow down. If I do this right, I believe I’ll be able to cover even more ground. I think this applies to any entrepreneur, or anyone involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Being really busy” is seductive – it has nothing to do with getting things done, or actually accomplishing your goals. But there’s something satisfying, or at least addictive, about being so busy that you don’t have time to think or reflect on what is going on around you. This is a big mistake long term as you’ll ultimately make crummy decisions.
Slow down to speed up.
Last night I had dinner with my brother Daniel, one of the partners at Slice of Lime, a Boulder-based web design and development firm. He and I were at TechStars at the end of the day where I gave a talk on “How To Be A CEO.” Afterwards, we had a nice dinner together at The Cheesecake Factory (his choice – I don’t think I’d been there in a decade – and it was surprisingly good), a great talk, and dynamite brother hang out time.
We do this once a month and have committed to each other to try to do this every month for the rest of our lives. For the first 25 years of my life we weren’t that close. While I don’t remember being an asshole older brother, I’m periodically reminded by Daniel about things I did that, while they fall in the “typical older brother” category, also could be consider major asshole moves. We became very close when he moved to Boulder 15 years ago (less than a year after I did) and we’ve never looked back.
We’ve modeled our relationship after our father (Stan) and his brother (Charlie). I’m very close to both my dad, who is one of my best friends, but also very close to Charlie who introduced me to computers when I was 11 and has been a great mentor to me, always inviting me along to meetings with major companies like Lotus, Microsoft, IBM, and DEC when he was the CIO at Frito Lay in the 1980′s. In 2000, Charlie and I became business partners when Mobius Venture Capital invested in The Feld Group and I joined the board. Over the next four years, I worked closely with Charlie and his partners at The Feld Group as they built the company before selling it to EDS in 2004.
While I’ve always viewed my relationship with my dad and Charlie as special, part of what drives that is their incredibly close relationship. My dad is older by about the same amount that I am older than my brother and, while there is the typical older brother / younger brother entertainment, these two guys completely have each other’s back, no matter what. Whenever my dad tells me he’s heading out to Charlie’s farm to hit baseballs (Charlie has a baseball diamond on his property), I can hear the joy and excitement of the kid from the Bronx who taught me how to hit a baseball in his voice.
So Daniel and I try hard to emulate the relationship and take it to another level. While we talk plenty about business stuff, we also spend a lot of time talking about our lives, what is driving us, what stresses us out, and what we strive to do better. We talk about things that only brothers can talk about and instinctively know when the other needs help and support. Often – we just hang out.
As I sit at my desk at my office in Boulder at the end of a Friday of another intense week, I think about how lucky I am to have role models like my father and his brother, both for themselves as individuals and for their relationship. Daniel – thanks for being an awesome brother. And dad and Charlie – thanks for leading the way!
This morning, as I cranked through my 5am – 7am routine (which ends at 6am today because I have to leave the house at 630am to get to CU Boulder to give a keynote at the 2011 Boulder Economic Summit) I kept thinking to myself “deep breath.” If you do yoga you know exactly what I’m talking about – it’s part of Amy’s mantra for each of us to relax, slow down, and concentrate.
I’m in a particularly intense work phase that I expect will run through the end of June based on a few things that are going on that will happen between now and then. On top of it, I’m trying to run two marathons in May (Cincinnati, which I did already – and it sucked, and Madison, which is coming up at the end of the month.) Between all the work and travel, I’d probably already be pretty tired, but layer the running and the marathons on top of it and I’m physically exhausted.
While I contemplated punting on the second marathon, there are a few things driving me to do it, including really understanding my own recovery dynamics. I have a hypothesis about how I recover from a marathon (quickly) but I haven’t tested it. By adding a second marathon on top of everything else within 30 days, I’m suddenly learning some new stuff about rest, sleep, and weight. I’m also experiencing an interesting emotional spectrum that I haven’t experienced in a while (some good, some not good) that is clearly a function of the intersection of my physical activity and my work activity.
What popped out this morning is the need for more “deep breaths.” With my normal work / life rhythm, I get these on the weekend and then once a quarter when I go off the grid for a week. But given the daily work intensity combined with the physical fatigue, it’s become very obvious that I need something different during the week to sustain things at this level. Last night I blew off a dinner with a friend to just go home and lie on the couch with Amy all evening. That helped, although I spent almost all of it with an iPad in my lap sort of watching The Hangover, sort of catching up on email, and working on a few things that I knew I couldn’t jam into today.
Tonight, Amy and I have dinner alone. I’m going to shut off completely for a few hours and reflect on what I’m going through and learning about recovery. Fortunately I have a partner who puts up with this and lets me use myself as my own laboratory for these experiments.
Amy and I spent the last week at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. It was awesome.
I was tired and needed a break. I also needed a focused week to finish the final draft of Book #2 (Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and VC) that I’m writing with my partner Jason Mendelson. The submission date is March 31st and I think we are going to be three days early.
While I wasn’t completely off the grid last week, I hid behind a different email address and didn’t check my email, or the web, or any of my traditional news and info services. It was fascinating to be able to quickly catch up using Gist as I could look at the last seven days of news for the people I cared about in the Dashboard view (they prioritized). There were a few interesting things but like most weeks there was a lot more noise than signal.
So I got to spend my entire week on signal, which consisted of three things:
- Spend a lot of time with Amy.
- Finish the final draft of the book.
- Run and exercise (I rediscovered pilates).
I had huge success on all three fronts, I’m refreshed, and ready for Q2.
After reflecting over the past few weeks on Turning 45 as well as Death and Dying, I’ve reached a conclusion that I’ve said out loud several times: “My life is most likely more than half over.” The singularity not withstanding, the chances, at least today, that I’ll live to be over 90 aren’t great.
Over the weekend, I saw two blog posts from friends – one from Joanne Wilson about her mom passing away titled Judy Solomon, Entrepreneur and one from Ken Smith (I’m actually close to Ken’s brother Keith, the CEO of BigDoor) titled A Eulogy for Elmer Smith. Both are beautifully written – Judy was 73 and Elmer was 97. Joanne starts off with a very insightful statement:
“Old enough to have lived a full life yet young enough to have had her life cut short. I always thought she would live to the ripe old age of 90 something, but life doesn’t always turn out as expected. “
Several of you recommended that I read Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond. It was one of the books I read during my week off the grid the first week of December and I enjoyed it a lot.
It had two key graphs in it. The first is the normal “human being decay cycle.” Basically, at the age of 45, most humans start a long, slow, gradual decay ending in death.
The second is the “desired decay cycle.”
The book talks about how to live your life from 45 forward so you experience the second curve. As Amy likes to say, there are usually only a few things you need to do to accomplish physical health (e.g. if you want to lose weight, (1) eat less and (2) exercise more.) In this case, it’s (1) don’t eat crap and (2) exercise six days a week, at least two of them with weights.
There’s a lot more in the book, including plenty of real medical, health, and physiology explanations from Dr, Harry Lodge (the co-author). But just internalizing these graphs along with the two tips from the book have enabled me to re-commit to the six-day a week exercise approach (at least two of them with weights).
I sure do like the second graph a lot better than the first graph.