What I’d like to do:
Standup Comedy – Weird huh? I signed up for an Improv class over the summer at The Comedy Spot in Sacramento. I even went to the class. I did okay and I think I could do well in this art. I’ve read a couple of book about standup comedy and have been taking notes about situations as they happen, most recently around my Christmas trip back home. I think there’s something here. I do well as a speaker with my professional work and teaching, so I consider (perhaps wrongly) standup to be a cousin to leading a workshop. And if I can learn this skill, I’ll improve my professional speaking.
Professional Speaking – Between school, workshops, teaching, conferences, live product demos, and various work-related events, I’ve led more than 1000 presentations in my life. Could easily be more – I think 1000 is conservatively accurate. A handful of these have been premier events – high school graduation, conference panels, TEDx, and technology workshops. I’m slowly improving, and I’m tired of slowly improving. I met with a presentation coach earlier this month and have been reading and learning about how to be a professional speaker. I don’t want to make professional speaking my career right now. It is something I want to get paid to do in the near term. I think that getting paid to speaking in front of at least 5000 people is a reasonable goal. Can that happen in 2014? That depends on where I shift my focus.
Writing – I’ve dabbled in writing since college. I wrote poetry my freshman year in a personal notebook. After college, I kept a journal for a few years and got to the point where I was embarrassed by some of what I wrote, so I quit.
I started blogging in 2007, posting articles on this blog (which started way back on Blogger), then with Altos Research, experimented with political writing on the Free Market Voice, then on Seeking Alpha, and now on Quora.
I started a novel in 2010, bagged it, then started another one in 2011, getting about halfway through the first draft. That’s sitting on the shelf. Over Thanksgiving weekend 2011, I began writing a book about sales – “Startup Selling” – that I eventually self-published in 2012. I self-published a second sales book in 2013 – “52 Sales Questions.” I’ve got 4-5 more business books in mind, and I still want to finish my half-finished novel.
I love blogging because of the learning it enables, and went through a spurt in 2013 when I made SalesQualia a full-time endeavor that I was blogging nearly every day. I’ve lapsed on this.
I read BrainPickings and keep a library of articles about writing. Writing is nothing more than establishing it as a daily habit – It’s always about focus and discipline, and nothing else. I’ve learned how to begin in the middle because that’s how I do best.
I tried a writing Meetup Group this year. I punched out 1500 words in a hour there, and left feeling that if I needed a Meetup Group to write 1500 words, I’m probably not serious about writing.
I still have a race report to finish from my last Ironman. That bugs me.
Reading – I keep list of books – recommended reading lists from BrainPickings, a Wish List on Amazon, in Kindle highlights of books I’ve read. I’m usually reading 5-10 books at one time so I can choose a book based on my mood and mental acuity at the time. The more I read, the better my writing. Reading before writing is best, which cramps my available writing time when I only have 1-2 hours of workable commute 3xs week, and the other mornings I’m up early with my son.
I’m an active reader – I highlight passages in my Kindle and I have visions of developing a mind map of these highlights to link related ideas. I don’t want to start this project because I won’t finish it, and I wonder how much learning and comprehension I lose because I don’t organize what I’ve read.
Fitness – A half-Ironman is reasonable and I’ve yet to complete my goal of finishing an ultra running event. The North Face Endurance Challenge in December would be a heck of a 50-miler. This always includes the qualifying disclaimer: If I’m not injured. The ultras seems to take it out of my legs. I’ve had a funky knee for a couple of months, relegating me to CrossFit workouts focusing on strength and core. I managed a short run yesterday and can definitely notice the difference. More CrossFit, less running = better results? That’s this year’s experiment.
I did an early morning run the other day. The air was cold and fresh. The stars were still out. Running in the early morning is a favorite activity. During Ironman training, I’d dash out at 5am to run 5, 10, and 15 milers. Mornings are my favorite time of day to run. I’m up and running when most everyone else is sleeping, and no matter how the rest of the day goes, I have my fitness activity complete. I eat better, sleep better, and think better. Trouble is that these early AM runs interfere with my early morning writing peaks and commute schedule. I need to figure this out, and soon. The compression is, well, compressing on my brain.
Learn another language – In 2012, I started learning Italian when I had a morning commute everyday. Then I started traveling more, working from home more, got through the first two audio programs, got into audio books with Audible.com, and left everything behind. Earlier this year, I thought about French because I’ve taken four years in high and college, and was pretty good at it. My wife and I have talked about living in France for a year or so sometime soon and it’s more functional than Italian. Again, I let this slide out of a lack of discipline.
Martial Arts – From what I know, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most practical of the martial arts for self-defense. It doesn’t look very fun on YouTube. After my last Ironman in March, the idea of martial arts became appealing because of the journey to learn a new skill in a disciplined way, an art where devotion and focus lead directly to results, and an art where there’s constant and never-ending improvement. I checked out a few classes online and never actually tried a class.
Family – My wife is getting closer and closer to her PhD. We think this will happen sometime in 2014. It’s been a rough journey for all kinds of reasons, most of which weren’t in her control. She’s also continuing her pilot certifications. In 2012, she earned her VFR. In 2013, she earned her IFR. I suspect she’ll finish her Commercial license in 2014. That is badass and opens up the opportunity for her to charge for taking people places, including me for work trips.
Our son is nearly two and we’ve started thinking about schools. We visited a Montessori school before Christmas to get a feel. It’s entirely possible he’ll be out of a regular old day care and in a more structured learning environment by year’s end. Yes, it goes quickly. Maybe he’ll have a sibling sometime soon. We don’t know and are planning anything in particular.
Grandparents all want to spend time with him, and that becomes challenging because of distance. With one pair in Idaho and the other in New Jersey, it’s not exactly a Sunday morning drive to Grandmom and Grandpop’s for a visit. Tack on my work, my wife’s research, and life in general, and visiting time
What I need to do:
Find a professional mentor or two – I’m feeling that my marginal self-learning and improvement is waning from my normal course of action. I read blogs and books.
Establish my new routine – I commute to SF three days/week now. I love the train time in the AM – I only wish I could take the Amtrak all the way to the office instead of the spell on BART that disrupts my flow after an hour. I found a good enough coffee shop near the work office where I’ve pushed out good writing at time.
This morning, I woke up at 3:45am because of jet lag from Christmas travel. I got up and started a new book. I really really enjoy reading and writing in the AM – it’s when my brain in most active.
I tried developing “10 ideas” every morning here and there, and occasionally I engage in this practice when I’m traveling and have more personal time. It’s
Vacation – The Ironman in Australia was a vacation. Kind of. I know, I know… The snobbery of that statement reeks. I feel like an idiot even typing this part. It was a heck of a lot of work. Besides the training that goes into any Ironman, I set my sights on dropping an hour from my time last race, which was another hour on top of the hour I dropped from my first Ironman. That’s a ton of time to chop off. We had a newborn at home – I signed up for the race when my son was a month old. I had my normal course of work travel. Then there was the planning that goes into international travel, then the extra planning on shipping a bike, finding the right place to stay, and dealing with diet and all of the pre-race preparation. It was a part-time job+ on its own. Then we had a one-year-old with us all the while. Blah blah blah. Then when we came home, it was back into our routine – Lena with research and me with work.
I’m picturing warm, sunny beaches somewhere. They don’t exist in California, which means plane travel again. I don’t want to do that.
What I did:
Ironman #3– Knocked down #3 then claimed that I retired from Ironman triathlons. I haven’t. I can’t. I won’t do one this year, and probably not next year. I will do another Ironman at some point in my life.
Started a personal coaching program – This is different than mentoring, and while I definitely gained from the experience, I don’t think I’ll stick with Strategic Coach for another year. My current year expires in July and I think that’s when I’ll finish with them and find something different.
Left my day job – SalesQualia became a full-time endeavor for me in September, and a profitable one (barely…). I found clients, earned real money, developed ideas, found someone to work with me for well under market rate, and generally ran a real business. I didn’t see an immediate path to scale and I…
… accidentally found a day job – I ran SalesQualia so well that I got acquired in December. Not for Instagram/Snapchat money. Instead, Blend Labs invited me to join their team on a full-time basis starting on January 1st, which I gladly accepted. I rocked it as a consultant with Blend and see huge promise with the team. We see a billion dollar opportunity with the right decisions and a little luck. I’m making less income as a full-time employee because of the upside in stick options that come with investing my time and effort in the company.
The decision to join Blend was simultaneously very easy and very difficult. The team is wicked smart. The company is well-funded. The market we’re addressing is ripe for disruption. The core technology is well-developed. My contributions are much needed. The hard part was thinking about the two years I spent building SalesQualia whilst working at Altos Research and CoreLogic, enjoying the euphoric fear of going out on my own, then realizing that the best option to reaching my family goals is working with a team instead of myself. I think this took a certain amount humility. Does claiming humility discount the humility?
Taught two MBA classes – Through a few introductions, I picked up two classes at Hult International Business School. The students rated me pretty highly, and I’ve been invited to teach three more classes in 2014. I’ve accepted two of them. The third would just be too much with my work schedule.
Watched a friend die of cancer – He went from bad to better to worse to gone.
What I might be doing:
Selling our house and moving our family – My work with Blend Labs includes the three-day-a-week commute from Davis. Definitely doable, and something I look forward to because of the train time to read and write. As the company grows (in part because my contributions), the team will grow and my responsibilities will grow, which means more time in the office, which means that moving closer to SF is a likely end state.
I’ve already started poking around various suburbs close to BART – Moraga, Lafayette, Alameda, Oakland, Marin. A three-bedroom apartment is 50% more expensive than our mortgage right now, and keeping our house to rent leaves a negative monthly cash-flow on rental income.