Posts from life lessons

Creative Prompts

The Gotham Gal and I listened to the recent Howard Stern interview of Paul McCartney yesterday on a drive from long island to NYC.

It’s a great interview, about 1 1/2 hours long, with incredible stories and lots of music.

Howard picks out songs, plays them, and Paul talks about how each one came about.

If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, you can listen on the web or SiriusXM mobile app.

I highly recommend it.

Near the end (1 hour 17 mins into the interview), Paul tells a story about being challenged by Dustin Hoffman at a dinner party to write a song “about anything.”

Paul accepts the challenge and so Dustin and the other guests decide Pablo Picasso’s last words should be the thing to write a song about.

Those words, as Picasso was heading to bed, were “drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore.”

And so Paul wrote this song to those words.

And as he was telling this story to Howard, Paul says “I kind of like it, it puts you outside your comfort zone for an hour.”

I can totally relate to that.

This blog is that way.

I wake up every morning not knowing what I am going to write and before heading off to the gym or work, or both, I have written something and posted it.

Most frequently I wake up with something on my mind that leads to the post of the day.

Which, coming back to Paul McCartney, is how many of Paul’s songs happened. He would wake up with a song in his head and then he’d get out the guitar or sit at the piano and play it.

The creative process is hard to comprehend, but working with what is on your mind, challenging yourself, and getting outside of your comfort zone are three tricks that have worked for me and apparently also Paul McCartney, arguably the greatest songwriter of our time.

Marathon Man

The New York Times has a piece up on Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s best marathon runner.

I read it with interest yesterday as I like to think of startups as marathons and I am always on the lookout for ideas and insights that can help entrepreneurs and investors.

Eliud is an impressive person and, as you might expect, he is extremely disciplined.

He says in the piece:

Only the disciplined ones in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions.

That rings so true to me.

It is true in investing, where I like to have a framework and stick to it and not let my emotions get in the way.

But it is also true in building companies.

Being focused on the long game and what you want to achieve is the best way to get there.

I see many teams looking around at what others are doing and it makes them crazy.

And I see a few teams heads down, executing their plan, and it makes them calm.

In the short run, it can often seem like nothing is getting done, and your competitors are passing you by.

But, like the marathon runner, it is never the sprinter that wins the race, it is the dogged and determined that is there at the end with the trophy in hand.

Eliud just broke the world record in Berlin today. He finished in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds.

He’s an inspiration to all of us.

Remembering 9/11

On Sunday morning, I rode my bike by the memorial in lower Manhattan where the twin towers used to stand.

They have done a wonderful job rebuilding that area and the memorial itself is inspiring in just the right way, somber and reflective and serious.

Seventeen years is a long time.

Children, like ours, who were just old enough to know what happened and why, are now adults, living their own lives, going to work every morning.

Life moves on, the wounds heal.

But the scars are still there, in our hearts, our minds, and on the ground where it happened.

I am taking some time today to remember that day and the people we lost.

This post is part of that.

Farsighted

My friend Steven Johnson has a new book out called Farsighted.

After attending a book talk he did on Thursday night, I put it on my Kindle and started reading it last night.

The book is about decision making, specifically “life-altering decisions” with long-term consequences.

In classic Steven fashion, he combines a detailed look at academic research and science on the topic with stories and real-world examples.

For example, he kicks off the book with the decision NYC made to fill the Collect Pond in 1811, which ultimately led to the creation of one of the most famous ghettos, the Five Points neighborhood.

We all make big and important decisions in our lives and in our business. So this is a topic that should be relevant to everyone.

I am already enjoying reading it and I suspect you all will too.

Retaining vs Deleting Emails

Conventional wisdom is that deleting old emails regularly is the best way to avoid issues down the road.

My experience has been different.

I’ve been involved in a few legal matters over the years where email discovery has been done.

Going back and re-reading emails you sent years ago is a pretty enlightening experience.

What I have found is if you have the right intentions and act reasonably and responsibly, old emails often show that to everyone and can be valuable.

Being able to go back over old emails is also a great way to jog a foggy memory.

So while I understand the challenges with having a lot of written and discoverable emails “on file”, I would argue they they often can be quite valuable.

Back To School

Growing up, I always enjoyed the up and down patterns of work and play.

Back to school in the fall, a solid winter break, back to school for winter and spring, and then a long summer break.

Just as you were getting burnt out on school, a break would come along.

By the end of the summer, you were ready to go back to school and there was an excitement about it.

That doesn’t exist so much in the adult work environment unless you live in parts of the world where a long summer break is part of the picture.

As The Gotham Gal and I have moved beyond our child-rearing years, and found a way to work from wherever we are, we are recreating that childhood rhythm for ourselves.

We are wrapping up our summer today and heading back to the fall season in NYC.

It’s a bit like that back to school feeling, with a new lunchbox, some new clothes, the possibility of some new friends, and an excitement about all of that.

Panic Attacks

I read the ESPN piece on Kevin Love and other NBA players’ mental health issues this morning. My son had sent it to me yesterday.

The bit about his panic attack during an Atlanta Hawks game, initially disclosed in this piece Kevin wrote on The Players Tribune, was particularly hard to read.

Kevin Love started out his Players Tribune post with this:

It came out of nowhere. I’d never had one before.

That’s how it happened to me too.

I was on a flight from NYC to DC in my mid-thirties, trying to close an important acquisition of a portfolio company by a publicly traded company.

I had no idea what was happening to me, but I couldn’t breathe, and I was freaking out.

Anyone who has had one of these things knows how it feels.

Right after it happened I went to see my regular doctor and got a prescription for medication that can calm me down in that situation.

I have carried that medication with me when I travel ever since.

But the real solution has come from many years of trying to understand the root causes of the panic and anxiety and working to deal with them.

Kevin also describes another aspect of his personality (and mine too):

“I’m a type of guy who has a very long fuse,” Love says. “I try to be as nonconfrontational as I can, but when that fuse breaks, I explode. 

Understanding things like that about yourself and working to change that kind of behavior is hard work. It takes years and you are never really done.

But I have found that admitting that you have an issue and need help is the hardest and most important part.

Once you do that, you can get help and eventually get better.

I really admire Kevin Love and the other NBA players who are speaking up and talking about this.

It is hard when you are a superhuman to admit that you really aren’t.

Fifty-Seven

I am fifty-seven years old today.

As I have done for the last twenty years, I plan to spend the day at the beach surrounded by family.

Birthdays don’t bum me out. I look forward to them. They are a time to celebrate life.

And that is what I plan to do.

I will make time today for myself, my work, and my friends and family.

Which is a microcosm of where I find myself in mid-life, seeking and largely finding a balance that keeps me healthy, happy and engaged.

And this blog is a big piece of that and I appreciate the role that all of you play in my life.

Video Of The Week: Getting Water Out Of A Flooded Jeep Wrangler

We had torrential rains last night and around 3am, I woke up and realized that I had left the soft top open on our Jeep Wrangler.

The lighting was coming down hot and heavy so I waited it out and eventually went outside and put the soft top up.

But the damage was done.

When I went out for coffee and bagels this morning, I was driving a lake.

I was texting with my friend Kirk and he told me that the Jeep has plugs to get the water out of the car.

So when I got home I googled “Getting Water Out Of A Flooded Jeep” and found a video that shows how to do it.

I then recorded this video and posted it to YouTube. I am a believer in paying the favor forward.

Strike When The Iron Is Hot

I introduced a young friend of one of my children to a colleague in the tech business last month. The young friend took a day to reply to the email introduction and by then the introduction had gone cold.

Happily the introduction resurfaced this week and something may still come of it.

That story reminds me of another.

It was 1996 and Flatiron Partners had just relocated to the Flatiron district of NYC (we really had no choice but to locate there). A friend invited me to lunch at Gramercy Tavern which had opened a couple years previously and was one of the most happening restaurants in NYC.

We sat down to lunch and Danny Meyer, the owner of Gramercy Tavern, comes into the restaurant and starts working the lunch time crowd.

When he gets to our table my friend says to Danny “please meet Fred Wilson, founder of Flatiron Partners who has just relocated his business to the neighborhood.” Danny reached into his pocket, took out his business card, and said to me “Welcome to the neighborhood. If you ever need a table please give me a call and we will take care of you.”

That night when I got home I told the Gotham Gal “I met Danny Meyer today and he gave me his card and said I could call him whenever I need a table.” To which she replied “go there for lunch tomorrow.” And I told her “I don’t have a lunch tomorrow.” She said “Get one. He will remember who you are tomorrow but won’t next month.”

So I got a lunch, called Danny, got a table, and he again said hello when he worked the lunch crowd (something he used to do whenever he was in town). I became friends with Danny and still call him when I need a table at one of his restaurants and can’t get one on Resy.

Striking while the iron is hot is so important. I often thing of the Gotham Gal saying “get one.” It was absolutely the right thing to do and always is.