1. 2020

    I had so many plans.

    My wife and I had planned an extended vacation in Hawaii to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I had millions of ideas for what I wanted to do with my business.

    None of them happened.

    Instead, we got a pandemic… and you know how that… is going.

    In March, my company leadership met and decided that our goal for the year was to survive and keep everyone employed for as long as possible.

    We planned to focus solely on helping our customers, anticipate their needs, and focus on their survival to ensure our own.

    It took an endless number of phone calls, thousands of support tickets, and a lot of impromptu “therapy” sessions for panicked, scared, and sometimes angry people, but we survived.

    Barely.

    See, before all of this, I had been going through a rough couple of years.

    My company was going through one of those transitions that begin to happen after the startup phase. You know, for years, you’re the person with all the answers (even if you don’t always have them). Then suddenly, you don’t know what you’re doing on any given day, and no one really notices — except you.

    I’ve given an Eye of Sauron level of attention to my business for nearly 20 years. It’s impossible to deny that it dominated my life and almost defined my identity.

    When you commit yourself to a singular direction for a long time, you become very absolute in your thinking, and that you often will find yourself fighting with people, instead of building with them. It’s a lonely place to be.

    I entered 2020 with a weight on my shoulders, and being the obsessive person that I am, I set a few New Years’ resolutions for myself:

    #1 Do 1Kcal+ workouts every single day
    #2 Figure out how to like me again

    The first day that I almost broke these resolutions was in early April when I drove my wife to the emergency room because she was sick and couldn’t breathe.

    I took her through the hospital door, checked her in, and was escorted out and told to leave and not return until they called for me.

    It was an incredibly dark moment that I wasn’t prepared to handle.

    I went home, turned on my stairclimber, and just worked out for two hours in silence.

    Somewhere a reset button was pushed.

    After my wife recovered, I continued my quiet workouts, just learning to enjoy the silence or chasing whatever idea popped into my head.

    When your daily mantra for ten years is “just breath,” being alone with your thoughts is a magical feeling… even if it can seem aimless.

    I began to focus on putting myself in uncomfortable situations, like asking for help, saying no, and… waiting.

    My wife started joining me on my evening walks.

    We turned our neighborhood into our own little world. We’d share podcasts and music on our headphones, and we started talking.

    Walking turned into hiking. We kept talking.

    We started finding people to help. We got better at talking.

    Somewhere along the way, my life started clicking into place. I lost 30lbs and then gained 10lbs of muscle.

    My daily workouts turned into training, and my walks with my wife turned into planning.

    I can’t wait to start building again.

  2. Mr. Electrico

    He was a real man. That was his real name. Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined Shows came to town. One of the performers was Mr. Electrico. He sat in an electric chair. A stagehand pulled a switch and he was charged with fifty thousand volts of pure electricity. Lightning flashed in his eyes and his hair stood on end.

    The next day, I had to go the funeral of one of my favorite uncles. Driving back from the graveyard with my family, I looked down the hill toward the shoreline of Lake Michigan and I saw the tents and the flags of the carnival and I said to my father, Stop the car. He said, What do you mean? And I said, I have to get out. My father was furious with me. He expected me to stay with the family to mourn, but I got out of the car anyway and I ran down the hill toward the carnival.

    It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I was running away from death, wasn’t I? I was running toward life. And there was Mr. Electrico sitting on the platform out in front of the carnival and I didn’t know what to say. I was scared of making a fool of myself. I had a magic trick in my pocket, one of those little ball-and-vase tricks—a little container that had a ball in it that you make disappear and reappear—and I got that out and asked, Can you show me how to do this? It was the right thing to do. It made a contact. He knew he was talking to a young magician. He took it, showed me how to do it, gave it back to me, then he looked at my face and said, Would you like to meet those people in that tent over there? Those strange people? And I said, Yes sir, I would. So he led me over there and he hit the tent with his cane and said, Clean up your language! Clean up your language! He took me in, and the first person I met was the illustrated man. Isn’t that wonderful? The Illustrated Man! He called himself the tattooed man, but I changed his name later for my book. I also met the strong man, the fat lady, the trapeze people, the dwarf, and the skeleton. They all became characters.

    Mr. Electrico was a beautiful man, see, because he knew that he had a little weird kid there who was twelve years old and wanted lots of things. We walked along the shore of Lake Michigan and he treated me like a grown-up. I talked my big philosophies and he talked his little ones. Then we went out and sat on the dunes near the lake and all of a sudden he leaned over and said, I’m glad you’re back in my life. I said, What do you mean? I don’t know you. He said, You were my best friend outside of Paris in 1918. You were wounded in the Ardennes and you died in my arms there. I’m glad you’re back in the world. You have a different face, a different name, but the soul shining out of your face is the same as my friend. Welcome back.

    Now why did he say that? Explain that to me, why? Maybe he had a dead son, maybe he had no sons, maybe he was lonely, maybe he was an ironical jokester. Who knows? It could be that he saw the intensity with which I live. Every once in a while at a book signing I see young boys and girls who are so full of fire that it shines out of their face and you pay more attention to that. Maybe that’s what attracted him.

    When I left the carnival that day I stood by the carousel and I watched the horses running around and around to the music of “Beautiful Ohio,” and I cried. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew something important had happened to me that day because of Mr. Electrico. I felt changed. He gave me importance, immortality, a mystical gift. My life was turned around completely. It makes me cold all over to think about it, but I went home and within days I started to write. I’ve never stopped.

    Seventy-seven years ago, and I’ve remembered it perfectly. I went back and saw him that night. He sat in the chair with his sword, they pulled the switch, and his hair stood up. He reached out with his sword and touched everyone in the front row, boys and girls, men and women, with the electricity that sizzled from the sword. When he came to me, he touched me on the brow, and on the nose, and on the chin, and he said to me, in a whisper, “Live forever.” And I decided to.

    “Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203” The Paris Review

  3. Shit_To_Remember.txt

    The oldest file on my computer is called “Shit_To_Remember.txt.” This file is over 15 years old and even survived my move from PC to Mac in 2008. Over the years, as I learned from my experiences building a business or a product, I’d add a simple note to remind myself of it later.

    Here are ten of the “truths” that I’ve learned over the years that I think are might be relevant today:

    1. No job is beneath you. Clean the bathroom, handle support issues. Some of the best ideas good leaders have come from “doing the work,” and rarely come during expensive retreats.
    2. Build a business that lasts. Stop glorifying serial entrepreneurs; they are tourists.
    3. Humility is a skill. You have to develop it through constant practice.
    4. Stop calling your customers “users.” It dehumanizes people and makes it easy to abuse them.
    5. Bootstrap your ideas. Worthwhile ideas don’t always require a VC’s money.
    6. Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a dick…
    7. The best people on your team will almost always fail whiteboard coding tests and almost certainly won’t look like you.
    8. Say “no” more, sometimes, even when you aren’t sure why.
    9. Go home at the end of the day. Not only physically, but also with your mind and spirit. You will destroy everything you care about if you don’t.

    Years later I still struggle with these at different times, but I’ve found that in most sticky situations, one of these will provide a clear answer.

  4. 2017

    This was a difficult year.

    There have been very few situations throughout the year where I did not feel that something was being taken from me, and it started to take a toll.

    I don’t mind the gray hairs, but I did begin to wonder if the feelings of stress and depression were going to be my new normal.

    After years of thriving on stress, I believe that I hit my limit and I decided I would make some changes in the areas of my life where I had some control.

    I abandoned the political hamster wheel of doom.

    I began practicing mindfulness, both at work and in my personal life.

    I chose to invest in friends that invested in me.

    I said thank you more often.

    I slept in until 7 am on a Monday.

    I learned that it was ok to sleep in until 7 am on a Monday.

    I forgave myself for my mistakes.

    Suddenly it’s December, and I’m sitting here scrolling back through the camera roll on my phone, and I see a year that has continually gotten brighter and more filled with happiness.

    This was a difficult year, and that’s ok.

  5. Last Minutes with Zeus

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    A few months ago, I lost one of my best friends and daily companion, Zeus. It’s taken me awhile to strike up the courage to put my thoughts together, but I did want to honor him by chronicling that experience.

    Gastric torsion occurs when a dog is too active immediately after eating their food. The stomach flips over, twisting both ends shut, causing horrendous bloating.

    We had no warning that this would happen. I was out for the night at a Sounders game with friends, and received a text from my wife telling me that Zeus looked bloated.

    By the time I was home thirty minutes later, it was clear Zeus was suffering from bloat. We immediately loaded him into the car and drove to the nearby animal hospital.

    Everything from that point on is almost a blur. They rolled Zeus in for an X-ray, and then the vet came in to confirm our fears. After discussing the cost and effectiveness of surgery it became clear that the best choice was to put Zeus to sleep.

    It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. Even knowing that it was the right choice, I still feel a great sense of guilt that I did not push for the surgery.

    After my wife and our other dog Stanley said their goodbyes, they left me alone with Zeus.

    When it settles on you that you’re about to lose someone who is important to you, you lose all sense of bravado. I remember the door shutting and then I just sat there holding his head and crying for a good twenty minutes.

    After awhile, the vet came in to administer the drugs to put Zeus to sleep. I didn’t want to stay, but I knew I had to. I sat and held him on my lap, talking to him and playing with his ears.

    The vet gave him the first shot to take away any pain.

    The second shot stopped his heart.

    I felt as the life left his body, and he went limp. It was one of the most intimate and crushing moments of my life.

    There isn’t a clever wrap-up to this story. It’s been five months since Zeus passed and I still miss him, but I’m grateful for the time that I had with him, even in those last minutes.

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