6 weeks ago I decided to improve my quality of life. I was good before, but I felt it could be better. Since then I’ve taken a series of proactive steps to improve it and have a few more planned. Here’s what I ’ve done:
Decided to work a reasonable amount. Working a lot was ruining my work life balance. Since identifying this, I’m not getting less done, I’m just more focused at work. My days are still long by many standards, but an extra hour or two for myself each evening is great.
Get better sleep. I have over-eager gardeners. This meant that I would be awake as soon as they started cutting and blowing. A simple investment in earplugs has allowed me to get an extra hour of quality sleep two times a week. I also invested in an eye mask – this allows me to sleep in well past sunrise in the summer. I had forgotten what a lazy sunday really felt like.
Quit coffee. Coffee is awesome, but I had become addicted to it. I hated the lethargy that was present every afternoon. I quit 3 weeks ago. I’ve been waking up more refreshed and eager since then.
Got Lasik. Glasses and contacts are a pain in the ass. Sure my hipster frame looked good, but they got smudges and needed to be adjusted many times per day. They were suboptimal for sports and sun. Contacts were no better, they were a pain to put in and take out, depending on the duration of my day they could make my eyes tired, on top of that they ran >$500 a year.
Found a workout plan that I can follow.7 minute miracle sounds gimmicky but it works for me. Working out makes me feel better about myself. I might start the Flo if I get bored.
Removing unnecessary cognitive burdens. The paradox of choice is tough, I have tons of shirts but can never find the right one. I’ve simplified this by replacing my set of shirts with ones that fit well in solid colors from Everlane. It makes choosing easy everyday. This might seem like a silly thing to put on this list, but not having to worry, even for a minute, is very nice.
There’s a few more things on my list that I need to start knocking off:
Better sex life. This one is pretty self explanatory. It’s amazing how working your tail off for a startup can affect this.
Better diet. Depending on stress my diet changes. I think I prefer to healthier food over all else, but occasionally slip. I’d love to make eating healthy a habit.
Allergies. Wheezing, sniffles, red-eye, etc. I’m on a mission to remove allergens from my house. I’d love to wake up with clear sinuses.
Community. I’m not entirely sure how to solve this one, but I only feel loosely connected to the greater Silicon Valley community. My ties to technology are strong, but I feel like I’m missing a large swath of what is available in the greater area.
If your company isn’t growing it’s dying. Growth is the natural byproduct of a successful product or service. It presents a plethora opportunities and potential pitfalls. One of my favorite companies, MeUndies seems to be going through these very problems right now.
MeUndies makes great basics for men and women. They offer a subscription service that deliver their boxes, briefs, tees and socks to your door once a month. While I’m not in love with the subscription model, I love their product.
Unfortunately they seem to be suffering from supply and customer service problems. My monthly subscriptions often don’t arrive due to lack of inventory. While this would probably be acceptable if I got a nice email about it, but for some reason I haven’t received that.
Even more annoying, it seems that they charge my credit card each month and credit me with MeUndies store credit. Today I found 4 months worth of credits in my account. I tried to cancel my subscription this morning and spend the rest of my credit, but found that the wanted me to call to cancel.
I understand why they might create a barrier to canceling my subscription but I find the practice of make me call to be backwards. I’m offended that they’re charging me, not sending product, using my credit as working capital, then making it hard for me to quit.
BTW – they make great products, they just haven’t aced their operations yet.
I woke up excited this morning. I’ll do the same tomorrow and I did the same the day before. I’m excited for the future and what might lay ahead for us. I feel like we’re living in a sort of technical renaissance . Opportunity seems almost endless as large marco trends have combined to make technology more usable and accessible than ever. I want to keep this feeling of excitement, possibility, and optimism for as a long as possible.
Yesterday I was driving home from an excellent concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. Riding with me for the 80+ minute journey was a friend, albeit one I don’t know terribly well yet. In (misguided?) effort to learn more about each other we asked a series of questions. My favorite question, and the one that was on my mind when I woke this morning was thus:
If you could go into the future and tell your 40 year old self something, what would that be?
I thought about this for a while, and while unable to exactly articule my feeling of excitement I was able to explain that I wanted my 40 year old self to take risks.
With major technology trends like usability (Apple, etc), organization and accessibility of information (Google, etc), low threshold high scalability infrastructure (Amazon, etc), common identification schemas and access abstractions (Facebook, etc), and understanding and intelligence from disparate data (Palantir, etc), only accelerating, the opportunity for innovation will only increase. Each one of these trends not only empowers what comes after it, but it creates a sort of abstraction layer allowing others to focus on continually higher level problems. As I age the barriers for innovation should continue to diminish.
I want to tell my 40 year old self to take risks. I want to live my life in a manner that will enable judicious risk taking 2 decades from now. In the future the inability to take risks will be more expensive than taking a ‘safe’ route.
I gave up something that I loved; I stopped drinking coffee daily. Everyday for the past 6 years I had enjoyed at least one cup, and lately significantly more than that. I decided to quit last Monday. I simply got tired of needing to rely on a foreign substance to provide me with the energy to get through the day. Caffeine had lost it’s luster; it went from magical energetic high to something almost akin to some other daily necessity. Coffee had jumped the shark
I’m not sure when my caffeine addiction got out of control. In retrospect it seems like a gradual process. At first I had one cup a day, then a few cups a day, then an entire french press in the morning, and then a few Aeropress’d shots throughout the day. Eventually I started to bring my own beans and Aeropress when I travelled – I didn’t want to risk having an inferior cup of coffee.
My bean purchases followed a simular pattern. I started with generic Kirkland brand coffee and eventually found my way to trending micro-roasts. I had beans delivered to my house and office, all in the name of a better cup of joe.
Quitting caffeine has been painful. I’m still suffering from headaches, cravings, constipation, lack of concentration, and general irritability. Substituting green tea with plenty of exercise and water has helped slightly, but it hasn’t come close to satiating my desire.
I hope to get to a place where I’m comfortable using caffeine as a strategic tool. I want to leverage it for when I really am tired and when I really do need a boost of energy.
The #humblebrag of Silicon Valley might be the down fall of us all. The humble brag consists of that rare type of consumption that isn’t so extravant that Robin Leach would cover it but more the type that might be found in the back of an Uber headed to trendy restaurant before then attending a startup launch party. It’s not that there’s a completely unhealthy type of consumption going on, it’s the type of consumption – it’s non-conspicuous conspicuous consumption.
What’s so bad about this you ask? I think it screams of mediocrity. It reminds me of decaying dreams and missed opportunities.
What happened to the traditional brag? The brag that was so extreme that it truly seemed special. I miss those Tony Stark and Batman type brags, the ones where it takes a double take to confirm.
You’re probably thinking that I’m asking for some douchey #RKOIG type brag. That’s not the case. I simply want something to aspire too. I want everyone to want to build the next billion dollar company. I want the smartest people in the smartest area of the world to focus on solving really hard meaningful problems (finance, healthcare, education, the economy, etc).
This non-conspicuous conspicuous consumption is a joke. It seems like everyone is content at the upper middle class lifestyle that the Bay Area, and the current tech renaissance, has afforded us. Large tech companies and their brethren are taking the edge off of our smartest and most talented individuals and replacing it with a soft #humblebrag-y center.
I worry about this because I think that the Bay Area needs to be audacious. We need to try to tackle our big ideas and come up with the needed solutions for today’s pressing issues. We have a duty, a sort of implicit agreement, that we’ll return and improve the systems that got us here. Some have called it a “Culture of Duty”.
Regardless of the semantics, getting to a place where we can #humblebrag seems like it’s not enough.
Noyce, Moore and Grove were super heros. Separately they were incredibly impressive, but together they were an force to be reckoned with. Over their time at Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel they learned how to both accentuate their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. By effectively limiting their downsides and maximizing upsides they became something truly great.
This might seem logical and simple, but it’s much harder in practice. Knowing thyself is truly challenging and being able to accurate recognize other’s talent is equally hard. Today there are few stellar examples of this in Silicon Valley, partially because we tend to focus on products and technology above all else, typically at the expense of good management and sound business practices.
Now, it isn’t easy to identify talent and weakness, it requires both careful analysis and deep introspection, but the effort will be valuable in the end. Being able to put employees in positions where they can succeed and not be burdened by their weakness will lead to higher production and generally more happiness.
The days seemed to take weeks and the weeks felt like months. It seemed like an eternity would pass before I went back to school that fall.
I had a similar feeling when I joined my current company as the first business hire. Time was again elongated, it seemed that the first 6 months in the startup world were more than equivalent to the previous 4 years in the normal world.
I’ve thought a lot about this perception of time, what it means, and how to harness it. The explanation for the perception is simple, each time period seems like it’s more meaningful at the beginning of the period because the denominator is smaller. As the denominator rises, the effect of an individual period lessens.
This lines up well with my perception of value at a startup. The incremental value created early, will have time to compound and grow as your company matures. Finding product market fit, building an minimum viable product, securing your first customers, and generally laying the foundation for the future are all incredibly important activities. The relative value of these activities is amplified if you’re operating in a market that might be construed as winner-take-all.
This will seem paradoxical later when you start supporting millions of users or you’re busy signing huge contracts, but remember, the foundation for those activities was laid much earlier.
Why bring this up? I find solace in the idea that working hard today will have compounding effect in the future. No where is this more clear than in a growing company.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso
The tools we have today are a bridge to nowhere. I’m talking about Lift, TaskRabbit, Exec, and the rest of their brethren.
On the surface these look like great services that connect the wealthy to those looking for supplemental income. While this is true, I don’t think it matters. At least not in the grander scheme of things.
If it does matter, we have larger problems. I see our current unemployment as a structural mismatch between the skills that the unemployed have (or don’t have) and those that employers are demanding. Sure this mismatch can be filled by the service sector, but it would be much preferable to create additional higher paying manufacturing and construction jobs.
I think the first few companies to really address this chart will be wildly successful.
How can we use technology to get manufacturing and construction jobs back?
I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. There are a bunch of management team meetings where somebody on the team will say, “Dick, what do you think?” And I’ll say, “You know, I really have no idea, so you guys are going to have to keep talking about this for awhile. If it’s still not resolved, I’ll make a decision.
A good leader should be fat and stupid compared to their deputies. Fat in the sense of having a broad and wide knowledge base and stupid when compared to the functional and domain specific knowledge that their team possess. A good leader should be humble enough to defer but confident enough to make a decision.
Chaos is the natural state of a successful startup. There should always be a feeling of uncomfortableness that results from pushing yourself. It happens when the systems and processes that sufficed until today begin to breakdown and fail. If you’re going fast enough, this should happen relatively regularly. And if this isn’t happening, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough.
Why is chaos a good thing? If you’re pushing yourself, things should be breaking. This causes chaos and results in a need to redefine processes and methods. If you never experience chaos, it’s most likely because: 1) you spent too much time or energy pre-optimizing solutions; 2) you’re not going fast enough.
Chaos is messy. It’s uncomfortable and it can easily cause doubt. Chaos without focus is simply disorder. Disorder breeds excess friction and friction by another name is waste. When building you have to recognize that chaos is an acceptable by product and a potential indicator of success.
Things change; risk, input, outputs, scale, money, customers, complexity, expectations, etc all bring varying degrees of complexity. It’s impossible, and in fact inadvisable to try to pre-optimize for this complexity. If you spend too much time thinking about what could be and not enough thinking about what is, you’ll find yourself living in a dream world with infinite complexity. If you’re selling your goods at a yard-sale, you shouldn’t be worried about national distribution.
As a startup, it’s essential that you’re always evaluating yourself. What’s working today? What’s not? Spending time to critically evaluate yourself is of paramount importance to avoid excessive chaos. You want to identify areas of chaos before the risk of failure becomes too high (understanding asymmetrical risk is incredibly important here). Knowing your business, or business model, will help you identify what you should be evaluating. For example, knowing your conversation ratios will allow you to know how many leads you need in order to make X amount of profit.
Chaos is uncomfortable, unknowing is not for the faint of heart, but it is natural. You should be pushing yourself and be seeking to constantly redefine yourself, your offering and your company. Don’t be afraid of chaos, embrace it.