Categories
Preparedness

Day 699 and Storms A’Coming

I love preparing for a big storm. It’s all of the fun parts of preparedness with none of the dystopian fantasies that sidle up to larger types of resilience & doomer chores. A big snowstorm is prepper-light, all the taste and none of the calories.

We’ve got a big snowstorm coming into Southwest Montana that is likely to close a few passes and drop significant snowfall. We’ve yet to map how predicted snowfall in town matches our actual snowfall. Sometimes it’s two or three times as much. If town is getting 4-6 inches, I’ve learned to expect at least a foot. I’d be thrilled if we got the 2-3 feet that is predicated for our neighbors in Big Sky & Yellowstone but it probably won’t drop that much on us.

The last time I wrote about preparing for a big storm was the day of the Marshal Fire in Boulder. I wrote about how I do all the washing and cleaning before a storm hits just in case we lose things like heat and water. Little did I know I wasn’t preparing for just snow that day but for one of the most devastating fires in Colorado history. Freakish outcomes have become commonplace and we humans adjust our hedonic treadmill to accommodate the bad and the good.

So I’m excited for the little preparations we get to make before this storm comes into the valley. I did an inventory of our fresh foods. Recipes and meal planning were done to reflect existing purchases (we’ve got a New York strip that is calling to me) as well as what could be easily incorporated into new meals if we stay snowed in.

Alex put a plowing plan in place for our driveway and parking area. We brought in wood from the cord that is stored in our hay shed. A run to to the grocery store and the dispensary is being down as we speak by my husband. The dispensary is next door to one of the cheaper gas stations so that’s a double win. Always remember to gas up before a big store. This includes diesel too if you have a tractor or snowblower that needs it.

My last chores will be doing laundry and washing my hair. As we recently had some well pump repairs I’m feeling relatively confident about water staying flowing but you never regret a fresh head of hair and plenty of clean dry socks.

Categories
Culture

Day 698 and Looking Ahead

I’ve got the sense that people are writing off big chunks of time. The long now has so thoroughly burned out everyone that who cares about achieving anything in the medium term right? December is a wash. Heck I’m talking to folks who have wrote off all of 2023 and even into 2024. The now and the long term are all that matters.

And I’m actually quite amenable to this viewpoint. I’ve still got to get things done before the end of the year. I’ve got fundraising to do and deals to close. I’m excited for how 2023 will go as a down market is a builder’s market. But I understand the frustration with trying to plan ahead when everything feels like it is crumbling. The medium term feels like a sand trap sucking in your attention and emotional energy.

It takes a guts to walk through a dark valley of despair. And we’ve got a lot to feel despairing about at the moment. But just because it is all doom and gloom doesn’t mean we’ve got no reason for optimism. People are resourceful and humans as a species are shockingly good at problem solving.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m feeling good about looking ahead. Maybe it all takes longer than I’d like. But maybe it stops me from engaging in brute force efforts that are going to burn me out. We all just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Categories
Culture

Day 697 and Chivalry for Women

I was having a conversation with one of my girlfriends today about power. We are both exploring the new ways in which we’ve become more aware of our inherent power. Not that we were not powerful when we were younger but rather we have a new consciousness about it’s responsibilities. And it’s relationship to our gender is complicated.

One of the most dehumanizing aspects of Girlboss culture was how it forced female founders into rigid standards of acceptable behavior and emotions. We were surprisingly heavily policed even though we were allowed to use femininity to allure and entice. Girlbosses were empowered. Except occasionally we were only empowered with sex appeal.

Girlbosses looked good on magazine covers and in lifestyle content. It was honestly suffocating even as it was a massive tactical advantage. Imagine being given a cheat code or a level up. Of course you are going to play it but sometimes it takes the joy out of the game.

I am less adverse to the wiles of the feminine as I get older. Now I am able to wield the benefits of mutual viewpoints and seeking common ground. Women are trained to persuade from a young age. We are trained to be accommodating and without hostility or anger. It makes it easier for us to seek out where we might come together.

But those powers of persuasion can also feel manipulative and narcissistic. Men who have felt failed by their mothers can feel particularly hostile towards feminine power. Negative family orientations towards women from siblings to parents can sit in completely irrational and reactionary places for men. I say this because men occupy a similar place for me. Mommy and Daddy Issues can often materialize in stabilizing coping mechanisms. But ultimately it’s not a healthy exchange of power if it’s not consensual.

I dislike having power that I only wield because of my gender. I would prefer to have a less charged environment to pursue my fortunes. But I am also not adverse to playing my hand. You’ve got to play it as it lays. Different women have resolved these power discrepancies in wildly disparate ways. But we are not absolved of the ways in which we hurt men just because we have been hurt by them.

One of the great oversights of the feminist movements may be our lack of a developed gentlemanly style code for women. A theory of chivalry for not playing fair in the gender wars. We certainly expected it of men. If you wield power you must do it responsibly. Peter Parker principle applies to anyone with gifts that can be used for good or evil.

Categories
Medical Startups

Day 696 and Edge

I’m enjoying a migraine this weekend that was both strong and as of yet unbeaten. Perhaps I overdid things on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. But I’ve been stuck in bed in a dark room for the last 48 hours or so.

While this sounds a bit miserable, I can assure you it is also part of my edge. When my physical works shrinks my cognitive capacity unfurls. I very much liken it to the traditional super hero dilemma of being gifted with something that makes living a normal life a challenge.

I may be stuck inside struggling with light, noise and smell but I can still do most of my core deep work. I can’t take calls or go to meetings but I can be on my phone and my Kindle. I can intake information and I can synthesize that information when I’m in darkness.

And that is 90% of my job. Be informed and make the best decision you can. Those decisions are generally done when you are calm and fast. And I get the benefit of being in rest and digest as often as possible as it’s what keeps me alive.

I’ve got a generalized theory related to finding one’s edge. It’s pretty simple. If other people perceive it as a weakness but you understand how to wield it as a strength then your got an edge. People dismiss you sure. But being underestimated is one hell of a way to get on the better end of a trade.

And so while I’m here looking like I might not be worthy because of some set of heuristics that’s have typically worked well for you I’m actually the one that has a leg up on you. You would do well to think about all the ways in which you can leverage talent and insights that trade below their value. You can make a lot of money betting off of truly underestimated viewpoints.

Categories
Culture

Day 695 and Pareto Focus

Perhaps one of the odder aspects of millennial culture is our enthusiasm for embracing middle age. The excitement of passing into one’s middle and late thirties is palpable on Twitter in particular.

Our Boomer parents still think of themselves as “young at heart”, while millennials are grasping at any semblance of stability that comes our way. Buying a house, watching your children grow up, and acquiring items like minivans are luxury life events.

As culture and civilizational mores careen towards ever more swift changes, millennials are caught between a desire for the stability of previous types of adulthood while also being forced to constantly adapt to new expectations. You are being buffeted by changes that are swift and unrelenting. It is chaotic. You wish fervently to get out of constant fight or flight to the safety of being middle aged, even as the firmaments of past social stability are going down around you.

I believe this is contributing to a serious tension in our work lives. I’m tentatively calling it Pareto Focus to synthesize two concepts. The first being that 80% of the output is from 20% of the work (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule). “Focus” because we have little incentive to grind out focus on the remaining twenty percent of refinement if the rules of the world are changing too fast for expertise to ever be rewarded.

I see this in myself to some extent. I’ve done the work to become a competent working expert in several overlapping fields. I’ve worked in the desire trades including luxury, fashion, and cosmetics.

But I’ve not seen any point in pursuing them to the logical extension of specialization because the chances that the world shifts has always felt too great. Better to understand his desire and attention drive the larger market and refine those skills so even if the winds shifts I will still find work.

This has had a lot of positive effects. I focus on inverting as it allows me to apply the vast array of Pareto knowledge I’ve acquired. And it lets me continue working to intake the 20% of the new so I can I’d enjoy the fruits of the 80% of results.

Obviously I’m simplifying this a great deal. I am genuinely expert in many areas and hold myself to high standards because I’ve met the specialists who have done the long hard road to refinement. And I know where their paths have diverged from mine. Some of it is simply personality driven. Generalists and specialists are needed in any system.

But I do think Pareto Focus might be a phenomenon that’s driving labor allocation and focus in a wider generational way. If change continues to accelerate, you cannot blame people for doing the math on what it takes to survive.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 694 and Buy Everything Day

When I was a hippie kid growing up in Colorado I was a fervent believer in a “holiday” called Buy Nothing Day. It was a campaign heavily promoted by a magazine called Adbusters which saw itself a culture jamming organization.

It felt cool and hip and maybe even a bit new to protest excess consumption in the era when globalization hadn’t yet experienced the bitch slap that are the last twenty years of history not actually ending. Teenagers are obviously a bit prone to over simplifying the world and I was no exception.

Now as a jaded veteran of the retail and luxury wars, I think it was the height of white girl naïveté that not shopping one day of the year meant shit. Now I pile all of my shopping into Black Friday. Instead of it being “Buy Nothing Day” it has become “Buy Everything Day” for me. I know how much brands are riding on my choosing to spend and I hold out the bulk of my shopping to extract maximum value.

I bought 2 tee shirts, one cardigan, 3 cashmere sweaters, one pair of silk pants, one cotton robe, 2 slips, 2 bras, and 3 pairs of tights. I bought a jumbo size shampoo and conditioner as well as travel sets. I also bought a luxury face cream, highlighter and other sundry cosmetics even though most of the cosmetics I prefer aren’t even on sale today. We also bought 4 scented candles for the house. Alex bought a pair of Chelsea boots, a new gun safe and a hunting jacket. In other words, we shopped till we dropped. We went full American on the day.

We’d hoped to buy new dishes and a few pieces of furniture as this has also been the year of outfitting the house but alas we just couldn’t figure out enough deals ahead of time. Black Friday is often a mess of confusing offers and marketing bullshit. It’s been made dramatically worse by the wave of direct to consumer brands who claim to give you better deals but often do little more than obfuscate where you are getting ripped off. It’s lowering trust by insisting that you are getting something better when you know you are not.

It’s with that knowledge in mind that I’ve come to terms with the reality of American consumption. I’ve come full circle on Buy Nothing Day. I recognize that shopping is the full contact sport that drives everything else around us. And so long as I’m embedded in that system it serves little purpose to be obstinate or contrary. But equally it serves no purpose to be taken advantage of by these brands either. Getting a deal is a very American kind of battle I’d rather win. As of yet there is no option to remain off the battlefield. But one day it may be gone for good. Until then I’ll buy my cashmere in discount.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 693 and Thanksgiving

I’ve got so much to be thankful for this year. And it’s the first time since the pandemic began that I’ve felt optimistic about where I’m going with my life. Even if I’m a bit of a doomer, I remain a believer in the human capacity to figure shit out. The road to tomorrow is long and bumpy so best plan ahead.

I’ve had a certain worldview for a while. That we may have some hard years ahead of us to earn back the heights of our boom. Nothing in life is free. And we dined out on energy and resources that had hard costs.

But I prepared for the possibility that life might be harder. I got us to our homestead in Montana this year. To think before this year we’d never owned a piece of property before. It just wasn’t a possibility for so long and then we bounded up on the flush years and found a way to realize some gains.

So I’m grateful that on this cycle of the churn I’ve played it well and fair and I’ve set my family up to work and thrive during hard times. We didn’t get over our skis but neither did we fail to prosper. And for that I am grateful. I am thankful to have been able to play to higher standards but also not gotten eaten by the bigger beasts of capitalism.

I suppose it’s also no accident that I’ve also felt I’ve been thriving in my personal life. I’m so thankful to have made progress on becoming more myself this year. It will probably in hindsight be a demarcation between some of the compromises I made in my youth and some of the boundaries that have led to maturity now.

The more I let go of old copping mechanisms and become more myself, the better I do at achieving my goals. And I hope I can remember this lesson every day. If I can do that I will always have something to be grateful for in my life. And on this turn of the wheels I am offered another chance to defy the odds.

Categories
Uncategorized

Day 692 and Managing Founders

I spent the first decade and a half of my career as a founder. I am very good at certain parts of the job like creating momentum and getting attention. I am less competent at operations and logistics management. Fortunately I’ve always had incredible teams who managed me.

That’s right, I said teams who managed me. One of the dirtiest secrets my husband kept from me is exactly how experienced operators like him manage high octane founders like me.

“ We don’t take an action until the third time an ask is made.”

Alex Miller

Alex has had to manage some of the quirkiest personalities in startup land so he didn’t just develop this strategy with me. He has been using this three asks technique for a while.

Initially I was extremely insulted when he revealed this was standard operating procedure for dealing with founders. How dare he not do what I request. I did a little ego protection. But then I realized he was right. Founders have to be managed carefully.

Momentum machines without any friction can quickly spiral out. Knowing exactly how and when to apply friction is the real trick. Too much and nothing will get built, but too little and your team can’t get a grasp on where to focus.

Many founders are extremely charismatic people. Their entire job is to get you excited about doing the impossible. And because sometimes we discover that the impossible is indeed possible we often wrongly assume if someone tells us “no” we’ve absolutely got to prove them wrong. We are always trying to generate momentum towards what excites us most.

Alex wisely doesn’t ever tell founders no. He actually encourages you to figure out if you really want what you asked for through his three asks technique. He gathers information. He asks what you are really trying to accomplish. He asks about specifics and technicalities and details. He gently coaxes out the underlying reason for an ask. He gathers information better than anyone I’ve ever known.

And what really drives me nuts is that this system works. If through the process of information gathering the founder continues to insist that something should be done Alex will organize all the details he has gathered in diligence. He will present the information and wait for the founder to ask a third time. If that third asks comes, only then with all the information will he organize the executive team together decides to proceed and make sure the founder is ready to accept the plan.

The genius in this method is that founders have an excellent gut sense for direction and momentum. But because it isn’t our jobs to actually make it happen we can often be total idiots about the resources required and the hidden land mines. By managing both the founders desire for an outcome with the realistic needs of the business, you almost always avoid pursuing the bad ideas.

If you work at a startup, especially directly with a founder, I’d strongly advise implementing the three asks method. You won’t go on nearly as many wild goose chases but so long as it’s done with empathy and tact you will still benefit from your founder’s natural momentum.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 691 and Ready to Shop

For well over a decade I didn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I was one of the “ lucky” few for whom Black Friday is the most important day of year. I did time in the trenches of retail.

When I worked in fashion and then later cosmetics, Black Friday was the all consuming event that dictated whether your year was a success or a failure. I slept in my office more than once. I pulled all nighters. And that barely scratches the surface of the long hours leading up to the main event. Having a good Black Friday is a make or break affair for brands and retailers.

I love shopping. A well executed customer experience is one of America’s crowning achievements. A beautifully merchandised store (in real life or online) that has exactly what you want along with everything you didn’t know you wanted too, is one of the great joys of civilization.

One of the downsides of knowing retailers’ rhythms intimately is that it changes how you shop. Now that I no longer work on Thanksgiving and Black Friday I am able to participate as a customer. But I know too much. I know pricing, discounting and if SKU counts are bloated or constrained. I can sense how deep a sale will go with a glance at merchandising and a quick perusal of the last 10-K. Shopping is now an exercise in arithmetic.

And this year is shaping up to be the best Black Friday since before the pandemic. For the last two years brands have struggled to keep items in stock due to supply chain crunches and pandemic era labor shortages. But this year they did not want to be caught flat footed. At the height of the stimulus that placed deep orders. Optimism has returned.

But now interest rates are rising to combat the inflationary pressures that has loomed over an economy demanding to buy more just months ago. But now no one is so sure about spending. Prices have risen. Layoffs are spooking folks. And it sure seems like brands and retailers bought way too much for the current mode of America.

I’m planning on buying quite a bit as the discounts will be steep, the inventory is available, and I don’t like to shop unless I’m getting what I want at a price I like. We will be focused on clothing and footwear as well as basics like good wool socks. We also have a few electronic gadgets we’ve been waiting to buy including a humidifier and a chain saw. I’m also hoping for a few surprises from cosmetics retailers as well. It is hunting season.

Categories
Culture

Day 690 and Status Games

Noblesse oblige. Literally translated from the French as nobility obligates. It’s commonly understood to mean that aristocracy has a responsibility to act graciously towards the civilization which has granted them status.

It’s a turn of phrase I’ve written about before, specifically how in our post modern times, we are challenged to understand who is pursuing a life of virtue and what their obligations may be to the rest of us.

No one is sure if they are nobility or peasantry. No one is noble or good. Which means nobody deserves anything they get. Which is about as close to the war of all against all as I can imagine. Hobbes would be pleased.

JFredrickson.com Day 45

Humanity has always been rather clever at inventing new classes. We need fresh blood from the bottom to keep revolutionary sentiment in church. Every century we are finding new ways to fight it out for new types of status and virtue.

Business values money. Old money values class. The intelligentsia values intellect. Hipsters value taste. The religious value faith. And around we go with status games as we trade social capital for actual capital just so we can get something to eat.

There is always an emerging new game that upsets the underlying order. The printing press destabilized the church and its priestly cast. The internet destabilized the media and it’s editor cast. You know the drill.

Right now there is a massive internecine fight over which order rules over Twitter. And depending on whose camp you fall into you are probably signaling different things. And that lack of shared cultural values is leading to some pretty silly reactions. A lot of dickriding is happening across every major faction.

Which if you take away the reactionary specifics, is totally understandable. If one class of person values money but the competing group values taste than you aren’t really fighting for the same things. Different values are different.

But you’ve got to be careful with your own reactions. Ask yourself if you are responding out of some shared cultural loyalty that is overshadowing your own common sense. Your attention is valuable and powerful people recognize your attention for the commodity that it has become.

Don’t buy into bullshit just because it’s your team. The chance that someone is making a buck off of your attention sure ain’t zero. And America being a free country and all means you shouldn’t be living enthralled to someone else’s priorities.