Thoughts On Re-Entry

I’m writing this on a cross Atlantic flight from Paris to New York City. When we left NYC 16 days ago, I was burnt out, tired, and cranky. Year-end always does that to me. It’s not that I mind the specific year-end tasks but the totality of them does weigh on me.  And in general, this fall has been a difficult period for a host of reasons, some obvious like the market meltdown, some that I’ve not blogged about and don’t plan to.

In the past 16 days, we visited Milan, Munich, Berlin, and Paris. Only Milan was totally new territory for me. But my kids had only been to Paris before so most of the trip was new sights, sounds, and smells for them. That was great to see. They are now totally sold on Berlin, which joins Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Cape Town, Rome and Florence on their list of top cities outside of the US.

One of the bummers of the fall of 2008 was the terrorist attack in Mumbai which led us to postpone our trip to India until winter break 2009. We’ve got to get our family to Asia. The only part of Asia they’ve been to is Thailand (and Australia if you can call that Asia). It’s time for us to explore India, China, Korea, Singapore, and Japan. I hope and expect we’ll start that in 2009.

The other big milestone coming in 2009 is the departure of our oldest child for college. The college application process was certainly one of the sources of stress in our family in the fall and I am sure it contributed to my burnt out state of mind. We left the application process to our daughter and tried to stay out of the way but her hell is our hell, that’s just how it is with teenagers. Now she has all of her applications in and the chips will fall where they may. I hope she gets into the right place for her. And it’s going to be a different family dynamic starting this fall. I’m counting on these year end trips to keep our family coming back together for a couple weeks every year for at least a few more years (hopefully enough to get Asia done and the rest of our kids in college).

As our kids have gotten older, travelling with them has changed. They are more self-sufficient and can explore cities themselves. They certainly did that in Paris this summer and again this past week. They also did a bit of that in Berlin. But travelling with three teens is always a balancing act. They know what they want and they know what they don’t want. We’ve taken to having our kids help plan the trip and build the itinerary. That helps a lot because the activities we do have been chosen by them as well as us. Even with that technique, I’d say that travelling with teenage kids has taught me a lot about patience, biting my tongue, and handing over the keys to the car. For example, I used to be the navigator in the family. When we needed to get somewhere, everyone would turn to me and I’d show the way. That ended sometime in the past couple years and both my girls are much better at it than me now. So I’ve given up trying to figure what metro to get on and which direction to walk in when we get off. It’s a bit humbling (since I was always the navigator in my family growing up) but I’ve come to terms with it. Better to fall in line than get upset about it.

I used to post a lot about the places we travelled to and what I thought about them. I’ve stopped doing that for several reasons. First, the Gotham Gal does that on her blog and she’s good at it. I think her posts on this trip have been excellent and if you are planning on being in Milan, Munich, Berlin, or Paris anytime soon, you should give them a read. Second, I now prefer to shoot a photo on my blackberry and twitter it (via the flickr to twitter service) than to wait until I’m back at the hotel to post about the activity. And I’ve also been posting a bit of our travel experiences on tumblr at fredwilson.vc (usually by emailing in the post which works great in tumblr).

On this trip, my family never really got off of NYC time. They’d all go to sleep around 2-3am and get up around noon. I made the shift pretty quickly to a midnight to 8:30/9am sleeptime and so I had a lot of free time in the mornings. I’d generally go to the gym for an hour and then hang out in the hotel lobby reading all the English language papers (FT is my favorite, then Int’l Herald Tribune) and checking email, twitter, blogs, and blogging on my blackberry.

I’ve written a lot about this already, but the blogging I did on this trip was some of the most enjoyable blogging I’ve done in a long time. First, I had the time and was relaxed and eased into it. When I’m at home, certainly during the week, I generally post between 5am and 6am so I can get to the gym and home in time to wake the family at 7am. That puts a certain time crunch on my blogging and I often will bang out my daily post in 15-20 minutes once I decide what it is I want to write about.

I’ve learned this trip that having more free time, getting more sleep, and a relaxed morning schedule has a very positive effect on me. I am going to try to figure out how to carry that forward into my daily routine. If I made my first appointments every day at 11am, that could really work out well for me. I’d sleep later, go to the gym later, and have a more relaxed breakfast routine in which I could blog on my blackberry with an espresso and a yogurt in front of me.

That would mean eliminating breakfast meetings, which are a big part of my weekly schedule. It would also mean taking less meetings generally which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but is hard to reconcile with the “always available” mode of engagement I want to take with entrepreneurs. But I think I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes. I can always break the 11am start time rule when necessary but having it in place could be very good for my productivity and state of mind.
I said I wasn’t going to have a new year’s resolution this year and I meant it, but at dinner on New Years Eve, everyone in my family went around the table and made one goal for 2009. Mine is to “say no more often”. My mom always lamented that she had a hard time saying no and I do too. It’s not that I don’t say no all the time. It feels like I do it 20 times a day with entrepreneurs who send their proposals to me. But I am going to do it more. No to meetings. No to interviews. No to conferences. No to returning every email. No to investments. I think it’s something I need to do more of and will do more of this year.

But I don’t want to end this post on a negative tone. If you’ve been following this blog over the past two weeks that I’ve been away, I think you’ve picked up a very hopeful tone. I am with the majority who think that 2009 will be a difficult year on many levels. But I am optimistic because I believe in the work that I do and I believe in the people I work with and the people we’ve backed and the people that we will back this year. Starting companies, particularly technology-based companies is something we need even more of today in our country and our world and I am proud to be an active participant in the venture capital/startup ecosystem that makes this happen. And I’m happy to be re-entering that world in 2009 with a clear head and a positive outlook.