Emotional Work Startups

Day 176 and Bias Against Action

There is a phrase popular amongst early stage startups meant to encourage faster problem solving; bias for action. It gained popularity as one of Amazon’s core principles.

Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Generally speaking this is a straight forward positive principle that individuals and organizations benefit from. It’s easy to become paralyzed by overthinking. The average person overweight risk and organizations are even more prone to this. Action is good when faced with external friction. And startups in particular can be killed by friction. I think a bias towards action is default good. I regularly use this methodology to make decisions for my life. In the face of uncertainty acting is often better than not.

But I’m learning that my tendency to “just do it” has some downsides. If I’m always trying to fit in more action, more decisions, more outcomes, then I can easily burn myself out. I can waste precious energy by always saying “yes” let’s do it. My enthusiasm can and does get the best of me. In other words, I’ve got a bias towards action that needs to be balanced out.

It’s hard for me to emotionally recognize that I need more of a bias against action. But I’m not saddled with the traditional issues that make a bias towards action necessary. I don’t struggle with willpower. I don’t struggle with meeting my commitments (short of being physically unable to work say 80 hour work weeks). Hell, I just decided on January first I would write something every day no matter what, and here I am almost halfway through my first year. When I commit to taking an action I generally mean it. Sometimes to my detriment given my workaholism.

So I’m reassessing when I personally need a bias towards action. Maybe I need to have a bias towards inaction so I do not let my enthusiasm for getting shit done set me back. I need to have a bias towards rest. I need to have a bias towards naps. I’d encourage you to ask yourself which side of the issue you come down on. Maybe it’s a bias towards action. That’s great! Do more and faster. But it’s also possible you are like me. Less can be more.

Emotional Work Startups

Day 174 and Easy for You

I’m not normally the type that reads business books. I’m pretty disinterested in management techniques and organizational structures because I suck at it. And I bring up sucking at MBA style topics because as I was doomscrolling I came across an older article from the Harvard Business Review. The headline was “why do talented people not play to their strengths?” I clicked.

It begins with fairly standard case study chit chat about the NFL and I’ll admit my eyes glazed over. Why had I bothered to click when I’m so not the business school type. And then I spotted a nugget that rang so true I swear I’ve got a little tinnitus from the “ding ding ding” bell that rang in my head.

We often undervalue what we inherently do well.

I’ve written in the past about my struggle to accept things that come easy to me. I have had a self limiting belief about the necessity of struggle and it’s inherent morality. Maybe I’m rationalizing pain and hardship because emotionally I need there to be a “why” for having fought through a chronic illness. Surely suffering through and taming a spinal disease has made me a better person right? Or maybe shit just happens.

And maybe I’ve been downplaying all of the many super power and talents I have. I’ve spent so much time grieving the loss of the hard things like working long hours and always hustling that I’ve been ignoring that i can win doing things that feel easy. Because they might just be easy for me but not easy for everyone. Quoting the article.

Often our “superpowers” are things we do effortlessly, almost reflexively, like breathing. When a boss identifies these talents and asks you to do something that uses your superpower, you may think, “But that’s so easy. It’s too easy.” It may feel that your boss doesn’t trust you to take on a more challenging assignment or otherwise doesn’t value you — because you don’t value your innate talents as much as you do the skills that have been hard-won.

Working long hours were always hard for me. I fought to stay up late because I would find myself fatigued and in pain. I really valued that because it hurt me. It was hard for me. Whereas I never valued being at being ahead on news and trends, or my facility at gaining media coverage, or how easy I found it to spot when the market was going to move. I distrust the skills I can do effortlessly.

But I realize now that those are valuable skills. It makes me a good investor, especially in private markets where seeing where the market is going and alerting people to potential is very well remunerated. So next time you scoff at a compliment from somewhere on you work ask yourself if what you did is easy or just easy for you. You might be surprised to find you have a superpower you never noticed.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 173 and Waves

Humans crave linear narratives. We do something. It has an effect. We see an improvement. I don’t know where we got this logic of clear cause and effect and simple logic arcs, because it doesn’t seem like it matches reality. Horizontal thinking has a much longer history. In antiquity no one insisted on a 3 act play. We wandered through the Odyssey.

Maybe this is why we impose routines and rhythms on our daily lives. I personally require a lot of external routines to tame my physical body. Most of my days are dedicated to simple repeatable patterns. It gives me strength. Humans look to seasons and the festivals we have labeled on top of changes. We plan our lives according the angle of the sun.

But I’m skeptical that the pattern recognition my mind lays out for me of linearity is real. Life is fully of squiggly lines. Biology resists straight lines like unpredictability is some kind of dogma. We spent all pandemic resisting exponential growth because it just didn’t make sense to our little minds.

I get lost in cause and effect every day. The insistence of my emotions that because I did “good” responsible things (like workout, meditate and therapy) means I should feel good afterwards is part of my linear bias. But it’s not true that because I was good in my activities that I should feel good afterwards. Sometimes I don’t. I can have a perfect day and feel like shit. Because fuck it cause and effect isn’t that clean. And everything is multi-causal anyways.

Life comes in waves. It builds and pulls back and then crests and crashes. I’m sure we can map some of it but I’m getting much more comfortable simply riding the waves of kids as they come in.

Emotional Work

Day 172 and 3 People

I recently heard in my therapy practice that there are three distinct people being juggled inside of you at any given moment. The person you want others to see you as. The person others see you as. And finally the person you actually are. The hope is that you find a way to be at peace with all three.

I am not at all congruent on this matter. I’m not even sure I can articulate the distance between who I am and external reality. In my head, I’m introverted, cerebral and not very interested in other people. In my head I prefer to keep to myself.

That doesn’t match at all with the person who others see as cultivating and thriving on attention. The person who enjoys spending hours on social media doesn’t seem introverted. I think that’s the person others see me as. They see me as an extrovert who intuitively gets attention.

And that sure as shit doesn’t match the person that is smart, hard working and well connected. Thats the person I want to be seen as. That’s the “brand” I think I should have to be respectable in the eyes of others. I want to be seen as the person you turn to who can help you solve a problem. I want to be seen as the person you turn to if you need an introduction. And then I want the people I send introductions to to trust that I will only send them the best people.

Of course, the truth of the matter is I am all these people. I am an introverted cerebral person that likes to spend time alone with her thoughts. I am also the person who thrives on attention and knows how to cultivate it. And I am a hard working person who you can count on to make good introductions and steward your social capital well.

So next time you get worried that the world thinks you are someone completely different from who you see yourself as just remember you are 3 people. You are different. You are the person you want others to see you as. You are the person others see you as. And finally you are also the person you actually are. It’s all you. And it’s wonderful.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 168 and Red Queen Running

On a typical week I spend about 8 hours on health care appointments. This doesn’t include basic human maintenance like good nutrition, exercise and sleep. These are straight up hours I spend with health practitioners. It’s a lot.

I feel a little bad complaining about it as most people don’t have the opportunity to pursue some of the things that hold me together. The American medical system is built for those with spare money and time. But I’m envious of people who don’t spend all their spare time and money on healthcare. I cannot even imagine what I would get done if I was as healthy as the average person.

Regular people have the luxury of emotional dramas, personal hobbies and families. I on the other hand get to go to the doctor. I don’t get to stay up all night obsessing over men. I don’t have the capacity to raise children or parent. I don’t get to train for marathons. I’ve written before about the envy I feel for the lives of the fully able.

But mostly I resent that I have to spend so much time on my health just to maintain my progress. I feel like I’m trapped by the Red Queen in like Alice in Through the Looking Glass.

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

Lewis Carroll

Some might argue that having a disadvantage like this focuses you. I’ve become quite a charmer over the years to offset my physical disabilities. I do more in less time because I have to in order to compete. I’ve found ways to thrive in late stage capitalism. It’s entirely possible I’m not standing still.

There is a whole theory of evolutionary biology that these pressures just to maintain your place in the world are adaptive. In fact, it is called Red Queen theory. I guess just needing to work your ass off just to stand still is pretty normal.

Emotional Work Startups

Day 166 and Safe Advice

Mistakes are expensive in the moment but priceless long term. This is why failed founders are so respected and sought after in the startup ecosystem. Their advice is the best money cannot buy. Money literally cannot buy the experience that comes from having utterly fucked yourself.

Sure maybe you lost a couple million bucks but you will never make the same mistake again. And because it hurts so god damn bad you will go out of your way to help others to avoid your fate. I’ve found that founders with failures are generous. They have seen the ways even the best laid plans can implode and want to help you from doing the same.

This is why it’s all the more frustrating for these operators watch a startup struggle to take advice. Speaking as a founder with failures, I know when someone else is about to make the mistakes I’ve made. I feel it in my bones. But it’s not always easy to help people help themselves.

Getting someone to an emotional place where they can hear that they too are about to fuck up their professional life takes love. Psychological safety is crucial to hearing someone else.

I have a theory that it feels safer to hear a hard piece of advice when it comes from someone you know is delivering it without ego. Someone who never seems to have struggled a day in their life tends to evoke our own feelings of inadequacy. Their advice could never work for us because we aren’t as smart, rich, connected or sexy as they are. But someone with scars? Sure maybe they get why this is so hard for us.

Emotional Work

Day 165 and Somebody Wants You

Yesterday I asked why I wasn’t doing anything to cultivate an audience. I asked for feedback on why I wasn’t seeking attention when, well, writing in public leaves open the possibility of getting attention.

As it turns out I have a complicated emotional relationship to attention. Because I’m really good at it. I get paid to get attention. But I resent it. And I resent it because I felt unwanted as a child. Which is how I got so good at getting attention.

I have to remind myself feeling wanted as a child isn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was a kid. It’s not even really my parents’ fault. Kids just pick up on shit and then they learn how to get what they want. And I wanted to feel wanted. So I developed a knack for being the center of attention.

Which is a long winded way of saying the second I put on external expectation on this writing from others, especially the expectation of having the attention of others, I’ll put myself into a cycle of feeling unwanted. I’ll perform to get attention. Then I’ll resent the attention. Then I’ll feel pressure to keep the attention.

And that’s not why I started writing. I did it for me. I’m afraid if there are days where I don’t have something to offer then I’ll revert back to being a useless kid who isn’t wanted. Then I’ll dive into ways to get attention. I will make content that is wanted. I’ll resent it when I get it because I should be wanted without performing. And well you see where I’m going with this.

Nothing ever fills the hole of those early childhood emotions. And I absolutely do not want this space to turn into something performative to get love and attention. If it gets attention just for existing then that’s ok.

But the pressure to give something to others is work. I can make spaces for work. Twitter is half workspace for me. But this blog isn’t for work. I talk about things I work on but that’s not the point really.

This is a space for the somebody that wants me. And I’m the somebody that wants me. And if you want me too that’s great. I’m glad you are here. I want you too. But no pressure or expectations. We can just have fun with it.

Chronicle Emotional Work

Day 164 and Building an Audience

I’ve been writing this blog with complete disregard for whether I’m building an audience. I come every single day and I put down my thoughts on this metaphorical paper and sometimes it’s worth reading and sometimes it’s shit. The rule is simple. I write every single day. And I’ve been enjoying it for six straight months. I value this habit and this space for codifying my thoughts.

Because of the personal nature of the insights and the daily routine pace of the content, I’ve been hesitant to do anything to build an audience. All the strategic things one does – have a theme, give them value, cater to their interests – will force structure into my writing. I’m not sure I want structure. If I add in rules like stick to valuable content on a broad theme I’m not sure I can do that everyday.

This means I’ve stayed away from any of the tactical audience building tactics as well. I don’t encourage signups to read this in your inbox. I don’t have any pop-ups to capture your email. I don’t promote my writing anywhere but a single link on my Twitter account once a day. I rarely out older links to past pieces even if I think it’s a terrific post with insights worth sharing. There are dozens of ways I could be increasing my reach and growing my audience that I am just not doing.

I think it feels like too much pressure. As soon as I make any promises about what content you can find here it will add friction to my one simple writing rule. And friction eats eat away at momentum. I don’t want to do anything to slow or break a successful streak. I’m proud that I’ve written something every single day for 164 days. A lot of it has been genuinely good too!

And maybe I think that my one rule isn’t good enough for anyone but me. Why should anyone else care that I write every day? Daily content that must adhere to rules is practically a guarantee for regular “meh” posts. Sometimes I just won’t be inspired. That happens. I accept that as part of the process but if I cultivate an audience will they?

Of course I could do more to promote the content with the caveats that it’s a personal site with a rule that means you will get a variety of content. If you know what you are getting into than I’m not breaking any promises. I could post to more platforms with clear indications of what I do here. That wouldn’t put any pressure on me and would be transparent with any potential readers. But I’m still hesitant. I’d love to know why.

Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 161 and Phone Calls

A meme came across one of my group chats yeh other day that my friend said contained “strong Julie energy.” My response was oh yeah “phone calls are violence” and promptly turned it into a tweet.

Obviously I’m leaning into another extremely online joke with “thing is violence” which made for a good viral moment. But I really do hate having phone calls on my calendar. Not everyone agrees with me. I heard a lot from folks who insist that the human connection of one to one phone calls is superior to the written word.

Honestly I call bullshit on this. It is some Luddite nonsense to insist that written communication platforms are inherently inferior to voice. We thought phone calls were dangerous and weird when they were invented.

Unless I’m speaking with an entrepreneur (or my mother) I try to encourage folks to communicate with me asynchronously. Voice communication is slow and lossy. It lets you ramble and insist that tone and human emotion are more crucial than you being a crisp thinker. Which is maybe true in certain situations. Emotions and tone and context are important. But it’s not a substitute for you being a shitty communicator.

I’m not going to waste 30 minutes on something that can be communicated in a few sentences if you just think ahead and collect your thoughts. Call me an asshole but it’s not worth me slowing down my day so I can listen to someone struggle to organize their point.

And I get it, folks want to think things through together in a group. You know how much that sucks if you are the one pulling all the weight in the call? A lot! It’s exhausting. Stop expecting other people to think for you. It’s a dick move. Honestly fuck that noise.

I’m not getting on a damn phone call until I’ve exhausted all over ways of communicating and organizing a topic. Only then is all this nuance and emotional context shit a worthwhile endeavor. Do your homework before you insist on scheduling a call. It will be more productive and take less time.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 158 and The Mondays

I feel like Garfield but I don’t like Mondays. After two glorious days of reprieve, on Monday I restart the constant parade of medical appointments, biohacking activities and other habits and routines I maintain to keep my body healthy. And even with all that effort, my health is still bottom decile. The routine I lay out below can feel overwhelming with the amount of time it takes and yet if I don’t care of my body…well it won’t take care of me.

Garfield the grumpy cat falling out of his bed as he realizes it’s Monday

I woke up at 730 and made myself a breakfast of berries and homemade yogurt from raw milk. I used to be an intermittent faster but now I have to take medications with food so breakfast is back.

At 830 I read the news headlines and top articles from Bloomberg, New York Times, and the WSJ as well as listen to NPR’s morning edition. Then I need to do my physical therapy and stretching.

At 9 I go for an hour long walk. In order to keep inflammatory conditions under control, it’s recommended that I do at least an hour of low impact walking to keep limber. During my walk I will listen to more financial news and podcasts. Today I treated myself to Exit Scam by Aaron Lammer. Normally I listen to Odd Lots or something more specific to my corners of finance like Flirting with Models. I decide to go with Exit Scam as Aaron Lammer impressed me so much in Odd Lots a few weeks ago with his episode on yield farming.

At 10am I organize my supplements for the morning. I take Ray Kurzweil levels of stuff that is monitored by not one but two functional medicine doctors. This doesn’t include the slurry of powders I drink in water, just the nice easy pills.

Then I am hooked into a EEG for an experimental “brain training” protocol called dynamic neurofeedback. The best metaphor I’ve got is to defrag your mind and reorganize your pathways. It’s basically CBT with an EEG. The session lasts for 33 minutes I also sneak in a meditation during this time.

Electrodes hocked up to my head for an EEG as I do dynamic neurofeedback

11am means it’s time to lift weights. I can’t do much and I need long rest intervals but I did a full squat cycle.

1130 has me showering and doing doing cold therapy. Yes I stand under a freezing shower for 5 minutes and do Wim Hoff breathing. Somehow I also manage to wash my hair.

At noon I have a banh mi (the pork and short rib from Daikon are quite good) and finish an episode of Mythic Quest. It’s wonderful and I recommend you get Apple TV just for this and Ted Lasso. I needed the break to just hang with Alex and do nothing for a minute.

Finally at 1pm I am able to get some work done. Getting emails out, checking on deals, reading some pitch materials and checking in on portfolio companies. I should have a straight shot through to 3pm to work before therapy but my mother and I ended up on the phone.

3pm is a full hour with my therapist. Arguably the most important hour of the week, especially for getting my mind right for Tuesday’s productivity.

4pm I have a brief break to take more supplements before I go back for two hours of group therapy.

Yes you read that correctly. On Monday I have 3 hours of back to back therapy. What else can I say? I’m committed to my emotional growth. We do family systems work and group work is particularly helpful for seeing your reactive patterns and how they are or are not mirrored back. As much as I sometimes resent how much time I sink into this work I do believe it’s the best ROI on time. We repeat the patterns of our childhood unless we clear them.

Finally at 6pm l have time to do things that are not explicitly for my mental or physical health. So yeah I’ve got mixed feelings on Monday. I want to live life beyond treatments and working on myself. I wish I could live without meds, supplements, physical therapy, walking, lifting weights, meditation, and therapy. But I guess that is what Tuesday’s are for. Monday is just Monday. And yes I repeat some of those activities every single day.