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 (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.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Berislav Lopac

    and Australia if you can call that AsiaNo you can’t…

  2. vruz

    welcome back 🙂

  3. Tony Bain

    I think this becomes easier if you have a defined a set of core objectives for yourself (both professionally and personally). As cheesy as it sounds, after 8 straight years of working 80-100+ hours a week (don’t get me wrong, it brought me good reward) working out clearly what I was trying to achieve has helped me start to filter this down so I am spending more time on stuff that matters and much less time on stuff that doesn’t.Also feeling really positive about 2009, happy new year all.

  4. markjosephson

    I met a few weeks ago with a successful entrepreneur and when I asked him for any advice, he said, among other things, “start saying no.”He said that it was incredibly liberating and gave focus to your team and those with whom you work. Saying no can be positive.I’ve been trying to say no a lot more since, and so far so good. People and organizations seem very good at adding things to the list instead of removing them. Paraphrasing Jeff Jarvis, “do what you must do, and say no to the rest”.

  5. Steven Kane

    If you have the luxury of being able to do so, do revise the schedule, and one way or another, definitely reduce the grind.My wife says it best: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

  6. Heri

    re: Asiayou should definetely have a look at Asia, esp. South Korea, China, Japan, and South-East AsiaAsia is where the growth is, especially for the Internet. Did you know that 8 of the top 20 “most connected” countries are now in Asia. I wrote a blog post about this from collected stats

    1. fredwilson

      yes, i know that. i blogged about that too a while back. internet use in asia is going to soon be bigger than the rest of the world!

      1. davemc500hats

        fred i’m sure you have plenty of connections but if you ever have interest in visiting japan i’m happy to intro you to folks i’ve met over here… we’ve been visiting with my wife’s family here pretty much every winter holiday, and i’ve met a bunch of smart geeks in the tokyo startup scene.similarly, planning to do trips to India, China, S. Korea / SE Asia over next 4-5 years, especially once our kids get a little older (just 2 & 3.5 right now). hope to mirror your travels with family, only more pacific rim focus for us (since we’re left coast & the kids are “hapa” that’s only natural 😉

  7. aarondelcohen

    Fred, as someone who barely knows you but has been following your blog quite intensely for the past year or so, my gut tells me that saying no will be very hard for you. I also think you make a great contribution as an intellectual by having so much input to synthesize. Knowing what I know about venture capital, I bet there’s work you could use analysts/associates to backfill on. This may not fit the USV blueprint or economic model, but I think if you and Brad are serious about investing in companies that really solve the world’s problems, then your energy is wisely invested in hanging out with people.Plus it keeps you young and with kids going off to college ….

    1. fredwilson

      i might have to couple later mornings with more evenings with entrepreneurs. that has not been something i’ve been willing to do with kids at home.and i think i’ll suggest andrew and eric start taking a lot more first meetings with entrepreneurs which i largely do myself now. it will be good for them, maybe not so good for entrepreneurs

  8. publicspend

    Fred – Thanks for this post and the positive note you end on. As one of those people starting a technology company and launching this year it is great to know that people like you feel this way. I feel good about 09 too. In fact I see the meltdown as an opportunity not a burden. It would have been easy for me to just go and get a job but building something from nothing, innovating and having the chance to kick the ball out the park is just too big a pull for me. My objective this year is simple – create a product that makes a difference and start making some money. I can’t wait and am convinced I will do it!

  9. Dan Blank

    Fred,I think that is a powerful and appropriate message for 2009: “saying no more often.” When I look back at the reasons why our world is in such a mess right now, I think this could be the crux of it all. The person/business who didn’t want to say no to building mortgage and lending crisis – that they would somehow stop the wheels of profits from spinning; to consumers who didn’t want to say no to a new purchase, because it would mean they weren’t good enough – validated enough – to afford what their coworker had; that people only see the upside, and never the downside.Saying no is not negative – it is about choosing very carefully what to focus on to ensure that we create more that is positive. Saying no is taking a stand – it is being responsible – and it is doing the one thing that many have a hard time with: making a conscious choice.Have a great evening.-Dan

  10. timo

    I think it’s a great idea to start the day at 11am. Do it! 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      To be clear, I start my day at 5am and show up at the office around 8:30amI am thinking of starting at 7am and showing up at 10:30/11

      1. timo

        Okay. But still a great idea. 🙂

  11. Seenator

    I am not sure why but this blog post really resonated with me. Esp the paras 4 &5 about your kids, growing up, life and other things. I read this post half groggily at 5:30 AM (in India) on my WSJMobileReader.Somehow, after reading this, it made me really think about being attentive and focusing on relationships with my wife/parents/family instead of thinking of my startup even when I am with them physically.Something about your daughter going to college made me realize that lost time cannot be got back esp if we are always thinking about the future and tomorrow. The present is also important.

    1. fredwilson

      someone once told me that if you haven’t “connected” with your kids by the time they are teenagers, you never will. that was a big time wakeup call for me. fortunately they were all sub 5 at the time.

      1. Seenator

        Very valuable advise when I end up having kids.

  12. Brian Requarth

    Fred,I came across your blog this morning and enjoyed reading your reflections about your travels. I am excited to hear you speak at Real Estate Connect in the session “Steering Your Business through a Downturn.” Based on what I have read about you, you have been through a lot of ups and downs. Take care and welcome back home.

  13. TimWalker

    Glad you had such a rewarding trip, Fred.One quick note from my perspective: you’re not creating a “negative tone” when you talk about saying “No” more often. It’s only by saying no to more of the ancillary stuff that we have the room in our lives (minds, budgets, etc.) to say an adamant “Yes” to the things that really matter to us.More power to you as you say “No” more often!

  14. MartinEdic

    Fred, I’d add Viet Nam to your Asia list. Lots of very exciting stuff going on there including a massive investment in manufacturing infrastructure that is entirely new and state of the art. Plus there is that layer of French culture that still remains from colonial days. I’m definitely planning to get there this year.And I too start at 7 and get to the office around 10. It means I spend the busy commute time at my desk dealing with emails and then have a relaxing drive in to work.If today is any indicator, 2009 is going to be big for us. I started my day with over 20 requests for information! Amazing how the holiday ending recharges people!

  15. NICCAI

    You’ve got to look after number one – you. The rest always follows. We too often let our contributions to others define us – whether it is work or family.

  16. Keenan

    I would love to see an update Post on how saying “NO” works out. I have always struggled with that. To me, a “YES” is an opportunity. It is a door to the unknown opportunities for discovery, growth, opportunity, and more. A “NO” is just that a “NO”! Door closed! It is true, that many times, (most times) the door leads to a dead end. However, it is the optimist in me, that says the next “YES” could be the “YES” of all yes’s that keeps me sayin’ it.Without a doubt, when I am just about to adopt the “NO” approach as you have oulined here, a last “YES” proves to be an unexpected gem I would have lost otherwise.Keep us in the loop on this.

  17. John Ball

    Fred; I read you daily when you appear in my FeedDemon and follow you on Twitter. I don’t always agree with you, but I admire your focus and timing.Our oldest daughter started college this year, and like you, we allowed our headstrong and very focused daughter to work through the application process with little “guidance” from us. As a parent, you will understand what I mean when I say it was painful. I think one of should be writing about how to help new parents understand what will be required of their kids thinking about college in 3-7 years. We have 3 more to work along this route and by the time our youngest, now 7 “finds his way,” it will be a very different world. The process was eye opening and a far cry from my college experience (University of Colorado and Wharton).Our similarities don’t end there. Our family had the pleasure of living in Europe for a few years and traveled extensively. Your experiences about scheduling and letting go hit home for me; but the benefit was drilled into my head and heart when my oldest daughter, then 13 and I were visiting the Uffizi gallery. She stopped to point out a painted wood mantel and reminded me that this was the 2nd piece of three distinct pieces and that we had seen the first piece the previous year at the National Gallery in London where we lived. In short, the global experiences are powerful and make for very interesting young adults.I blathered on long enough, but I wanted to stop and say thank you for blogging/sharing and for helping your readers keep a positive view of what is possible in our industry and our country. Best wishes to you, your family, and the firm in the new year.

    1. fredwilson

      JohnI loved this comment. You¹ve shared some of the same experiences my wife andI have had and I appreciate you letting me know.Thanksfred

  18. scottfromshanghai

    Let me know if you make it to Shanghai, happy to show you round.Happy New Year!

  19. RAM1

    Yes, as a financier myself, I know the stress of year-end or yearround. Found that travel like yours is therpeutic but also everyday, as part of my workout regime, I spend time with thinking, planning and study time just for myself and my life. Then when stress or worldy obligations stuffle the muse, I spend some time “sitting for ideas”. Just mindlessness which then brings on the inspiration and answers I need.Just my thoughts.

  20. jaymeydad

    Fred,Great post. I read it and imagined how in just a few more years my family will be able to go on long bonding trips. Right now the boys are too young but I can’t wait to take my 3 boys to Stadio San Siro for the derby of Milan.BTW, What is the Flickr to Twitter service you are using?

    1. fredwilson

      I use twittergram to post my flickr photos to twitter

    2. fredwilson

      JameyHere¹s the link to twittergram

  21. fredwilson


  22. Ada

    Noticed you mention your first child heading off to college in 2009. I know the economic crisis is about so much over the past few years. But one notable thing that is also going on, starting this past fall: kids born in the 90s are entering university! I think that’s pretty big!!!