The strength in my marriage with Alex has always been our commitment to working through our emotional journeys together. He was able to be reassuring my through slow climb back from the depths of my health challenges. He helped me turn it into a source of strength. Next year will be ten years together and Alex really got the “in sickness” portion of the vows a little earlier than anticipated.
This is the first time in both of our lives we’ve ever truly been stable. And that’s a strange thought. That our lives have been so chaotic for so long. We finally have money and a home we own and good health and it’s all at the same time. All of the instability of startups and limited resources and bad health are over. And only really in the last six or seven weeks has that been true. As we just finally bought our first home. We moved to Montana in August.
We climbed through the aftermath of the Great Recession together, made our first angel investments together, raised venture capital together, and now finally thanks to the pandemic we’ve been able to secure a place to live and a wide horizon to plan how to use our resources and time. I am responsible for talking this blessing and letting it provide the foundation for our long term goals. Millennials might just accelerate in middle age just yet! I know it feels like I am.
The best part of committing to therapy and emotional work is taking responsibility for your feelings. This is also the worst part of doing any kind of emotional growth. I suppose this is how you know therapy is a worthwhile use of your time.
Emotional work has a bit of the “wherever you go, there you are” tension of acceptance. I’ve also come to appreciate the truism that having is evidence of wanting. We are always living exactly the lives we want. Attachment and delusions and self limiting beliefs are all part of the way we protect our ego.
I’ve got a lot of my identity wrapped up in my coping mechanisms. I’m sure this is quite relatable to many people. If you are willing to be a vulnerable you start to see just how many habits and behaviors are built to protect yourself.
For me I have found comfort in overworking. If I crash and fail I protect my ego by saying little stories like I’m fragile or have high standards or whatever else seems acceptable. When of course, I could have simply made different choices to accommodate my physical state or the expectations I had for quality.
But accepting that I am ultimately responsible for my strengths and weaknesses in equal remains elusive. Personal enlightenment is a minute by minute experience. Ego destruction isn’t easy.
I try to remind myself that any traumas I may have experienced that enabled the development of these coping mechanisms are in the past. I am now the parent to my inner child. And no one is responsible for her happiness but me.
I think I might have a case of the yips. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s most commonly referred to as type of performance anxiety associated with experienced athletes. They suddenly find themselves unable follow through on techniques they otherwise know well.
Though as it turns out it’s not actually a form of anxiety at all, but rather a failure to consistently execute on muscle memory in experienced professionals which manifests as a loss of fine motor skills or a struggle to follow through on common chains of decision making, especially ones that are subconscious.
You might also associate it with analysis paralysis, a phenomenon in which someone has access to all relevant information but gets lost in decision making rather than simply acting on their reasonable informed instinct. One’s ability to simply execute what is in front of them is diminished not through lack of knowledge of experience but rather inaction.
I am an experienced startup operator. I am also a competent angel and early stage investor in private markets with a speciality in technology driven businesses. At this point, I’m not only well into my career with a number of concrete successes (I’ve built and sold companies) but I’ve also got generational memory from being the daughter of a startup operator. And yet I’m still nervous about swimming into the deep end of my investing career. I’ve got the the yips.
I hadn’t noticed that I had the yips till I came back from a wilderness medical incident technician certification course. I was doing a hands on course meant for front line first responders in rural and back country scenarios. It was heavy on scene and scenario execution so you could build muscle memory and quick response times.
The more chaotic the world, the harder it is to act with confidence as complexity builds.
Only by getting outside of my own skill set and professional world did I finally see how much I’m holding myself back from acting. Whether it is out of fear or analysis paralysis I do not know. But I do know that if one does not act the consequences can be dire. We are all default dead unless we make decisions to remain alive. There is no safety or progress to be found by staring at your problems and becoming overwhelmed by the challenge. If there is a cure for the yips it is to simply keep playing no matter how hard the game becomes.
My hands are stained blood red. Despite a good scrubbing, my cuticles definitely show that I spent time packing wounds today. Ok, fake wounds. And it’s fake blood. I am taking a wilderness medical incident certification course. And it is very hands on. Literally.
And I’m so glad I did. Not because I anticipate needing to apply a tourniquet in the back country of Montana. Or that I’ll be faced with packing a groin wound to stop someone from bleeding out when they are hours away from the hospital. Though I am glad I now know how. But because I think hands on experience with a rougher world is experience I need to do my job investing in an increasingly complex, chaotic and unstable world.
I was absolutely enthralled by the first day. It was me and a bunch of other much more experienced EMTs, paramedics and wildfire fighters. I also met a number of extremely savvy folks who special in fire and emergency incident response.
I was very much thrown into the deep end of first responder world and I’m not ashamed to say I “died” on the very first scenario test as I’ve got no idea what I’m doing. But I’m soaking up as much information as I can as fast as I can. Though not quite as fast as arterial blood gushes. Yet. Ask me on Friday if I’ve improved.
I couldn’t tell you precisely why I think this kind of hands on exposure to emergency response is so crucial but something deep in my gut says that I cannot possibly invest in a changing world without having some on the ground exposure.
The folks who are fighting our worst wildfires and responding to our most intense natural disasters know something visceral about chaos and the fragility of modernity that the rest of us do a lot to suppress.
Just casual conversations as we went through lessons and practice opened up my mind to new areas of opportunity. I found half a dozen blind spots I didn’t know I had. The world is much more chaotic than the media and our social channels let on. But it’s also possible to tackle them head on. We are not helpless. And it’s not hopeless. And I’m feeling fully empowered to deepen my relationship to chaos as I learn just when and where I have more agency.
If I haven’t yet recommended it to you, my favorite sit-com is called Letterkenney. It’s about a group of young Canadians living in a small town in farm country. It follows the hicks, skids, and hockey players as they go about their lives of mostly manual labor and occasional drug dealing. This premise dramatically undersells the show which has the smartest writing and quippiest dialog this side of an Aaron Sorkin drama. Except it’s about ten times as vulgar and much less pretentious.
One of my favorite ongoing bits in the show is how everyone is always “choring” as a background. Or if you aren’t choring you need to get back at it. Want to go out? Pitter patter, let’s get at her by getting back to choring.
Feeling invigorated by the success of the mornings planting and by the nutrients in the head of butter leaf I harvested, I turned to other overdue bits of choring.
I unpacked and organized some of the books I keep on hand for reference materials. You might spot preparedness & resilience topics. Also my library on consumption, class & money. My capitalism meets Marxism meets political theory books. And then of course a lot of Greeks.
I then tackled the organization of the pantry. That’s got a long way to go but at least I took it from a bunch of stuff Willy Nilly into a basic organization. We’ve got shelves dedicated to dried fruit, an entire shelf for nuts, and other sundry spots for grains and sugars and the like. Shockingly there are drawers under this where I’ve put beans and lentils to keep the onions and potatoes companies.
I’ve got so many chores that listing out all the choring for one day both motivates me to keep at it but also reminds me that we get a lot day each day around the homestead.
I’ve been obsessed with a movie called Margin Call this summer. If you haven’t seen it, well it’s on Netflix, and it’s an exceptional piece of cinema with a top notch cast reflecting on why finance is so prone to boom and busts. It’s a great office drama even if you have no interest in banking. And it’s only an hour and forty odd minutes w two key Pete Davidson SNL skit criteria. It is both Tucci Gang and a Short Ass Movie.
One of the clincher scenes is Jeremy Irons explaining his job as the bank’s CEO to Zachary Quinto the young rocket scientist turned risk analyst.
I’m here for one reason and one reason alone. I’m here to guess what the music might do a week, a month, a year from now. That’s it. Nothing more. And standing here tonight, I’m afraid that I don’t hear; a; thing. Just — silence
I found this particular scene rather riveting as it reflects both the seeming ease and intense dangers of being in charge. Your entire job boils down to making a few big calls exactly right over a time horizon your average working stiff doesn’t even have the luxury to consider.
I’ve been considering my own preferred time frame on which to make decisions. I’m no Jeremy Irons. I don’t make exceptional calls on what will happen in a few months. I do however have quite a nose for what will unfold over much longer time horizons. I’d trust myself to make the right call over a decade. I scan the horizons.
Which if you are following along with some of my life choices should be modestly unsettling. I moved to Montana to a rural homestead. I invest in early stage startups that fit my chaotic thesis. I am comfortable being labeled a doomer and a prepper because catastrophic emergencies are in inevitability in complex systems.
And it’s hard to imagine a time when complex systems like climate change, geopolitics and macroeconomic trading pressure held more sway than now. Like Jeremy Iron’s character I am listening for the music. And my ear is trained on the silence coming down the pike.
I’ve been procrastinating on two core projects for the fall. Both of which involve making a modest investment between $100 and $250 depending on how fancy I want to get. So it’s not a throwaway amount of money but it’s also not money I should be hesitating on.
I’ve been in my head about it for two or three weeks even though I regularly need to make decisions about much larger sums of money for projects with much longer time horizons. I finally got myself over the hump on clicking order after going over my plans with my husband Alex for an hour. Which we’d definitely bill at more than we spent.
PROJECT ONE: TEST APPLE ORCHARD
The first project is getting in a few apple saplings in a fall planting to test out where we want an orchard. It’s not a full orchard with a big wiz-bang multi-year permaculture plan. We literally just want to get in four to six dwarf trees in the soil as soon as possible as we’ve been told it’s feasible to do fall plantings of heartier Zone 4 varietals.
We did a soil sample and the results came back with very encouraging results. Our back pasture has excellent quality soil despite being compacted by horses.
And yet I struggled to make a purchase. I made a trip to the nursery. I fucked around on a bunch of websites. I ordered catalogs for next year’s spring plantings. Finally this afternoon we threw caution to the wind and bought six dwarfs from Stark Brothers. The total came to about $250 and if it all fails well I’m glad I spent the money on fruit trees instead of a disposable consumer good.
PROJECT 2: SEED STARTS
The second purchase was seed starter supplies for our winter hydroponic crops which we plan to cultivate in the barn. We got a LettuceGrow system early in the pandemic and absolutely loved the quality of greens we got out of it. We’d been able to buy starts (aka seeds that have sprouted and begun to grow) for it in Colorado but this winter I wanted to do my own growing from seeds up into starts.
The goal was to have constant rotation of red and green leaf lettuce along with romaine and kale by staggering seed tray starts. It would be easier and have fewer failure points if we did a new batch of seed starts once every couple of weeks for consistency and move them from one grow light seed tray to the LettuceGrow once it fully sprouted.
Here were all of my friends and colleagues just out there doing the work. And I was too scared to experiment myself. Finally today we bought everything we needed from Amazon and purchased six or seven seed types from Johnny’s hydroponic collection. All told for everything it was $86 for a set up that should work for many seasons.
While I’d never tell anyone to just go nuts putting shit in the ground without some research, I do think it’s possible to be too in your head about growing. I’ve been reading so much about fancy techniques like permaculture that I had neglected the most basic lesson of both startups and gardening. Execution is exponential. Just start doing something. Make it small. But you have to just start. Just plant. Just make things.
I never had a wedding so I missed out entirely on “you did a big thing” gifts. City hall weddings don’t inspire Boomers to open their wallets as it turns out. But buying our first home seems to have triggered a celebratory mood amongst our nearest and dearest. People are happy for us.
While we don’t have a gift registry (though maybe we should), I’ve been impressed by the thoughtfulness with which our friends have approached our house warming.
One of our friends sent a card that perfectly captured the intensity and joy of the situation.
“There is no better feeling in the world than than going from ‘wondering if you can do it’ to realizing you’ve just done it.”
I assume this was some kind of Hallmark graduation card but it really did capture some of the awe of the moment. Having spent 18 month searching for a homestead I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sure when we’d actually graduate to the “just done it” phase. It sort of happened all at once when we stumbled onto a property that met every single one of our criteria.
We took a very research intensive approach to deciding on where to live and what to invest. Maybe it was the founder mindset that plagues both my husband and, I but we just couldn’t help but do an aggressive deep dive into all the variables. Some people move on vibes but we needed the numbers to back up the feeling. Checking the math is probably a good habit.
It’s a relief to get to the “we just did it” phase though as with any long play you find yourself wondering if it’s all just an elaborate fantasy. In an age of quick fixes and instant gratification, the slow roll isn’t that glamorous. Trusting that your preparedness will positive yield action is hard. Trusting that you will act when your preparation are needed feels even harder. But here I am. Having done the thing.
Apparently women prefer to be in relationship with men who are good communicators and emotionally available. That common sense piece of wisdom naturally caused the internet to erupt in mirth because I guess last week someone’s husband ate a peach. Women be asking for men to do more than be a paycheck and this has had mixed reception.
I struggle to understand some of the feminine discourse around husbands that don’t do any emotional or housework. My husband does most of the cooking. But I do worry about the fact that men don’t seem to be aware that you can fix not getting laid or struggling to keep a woman around just by learning some social loops. The pick up artist community wasn’t completely wrong that some aspects of dating are just techniques anyone can learn and it does help you build confidence.
I am happily married and missed the worst of the dating apps so my advice might be for shit but I do want help any lonely men out their with their up- skilling if they feel lost. I’m happy to help as your favorite male-brained autist that happens to be packaged as a cute but accessible girl. I’m basically a honeypot for right coded shape rotators. Except you can’t have me so I’m definitely safe to talk to. You too can learn how to communicate with women and even participate in hypergamy.
I hadn’t bothered watching any of the numerous Netflix documentaries on how Americans love a beautiful fraud until this weekend when I made an attempt to watch Inventing Anna. I can’t tell if I regret the decision. I’ve avoided any glamorizing of the various grifters that we love to hate.
I don’t love stories about hustles gone bad because I fundamentally believe the difference between success and failure is a lot thinner than than the average person knows. “Fake it to you make it” is part of the great Pentecostal American prosperity gospel. You can come from nothing and become someone in America. We worship the idea of social mobility even if we don’t always like how people gained their fortunes. It’s an entire aesthetic in America.
This is particularly true because sometimes we actually do let the fraudsters win. Especially if we admire their hustle. And let’s be frank it’s a lot harder to tell who is a fraud these days because decades of publicly being a fraud doesn’t stop you from sitting in the Oval Office anymore.
Is it any wonder we aren’t quite sure how to feel about wealth and privilege and the black magic required to obtain it? We act like fraud is a temporarily embarrassing discovery on the way to respectability. Because it often fucking is.
Being in startups has given me a front row seat to just how much talent and capability matter. Except when they absolutely don’t. It’s genuinely hard to reconcile how little effort and outcome can be correlated occasionally.
And this absolutely lends itself to people being willing to take shortcuts. Mistaking that some hard doesn’t pay will kill you if you aren’t able to stay one step ahead. If you get caught, well that is clearly bad but who is to say you couldn’t have kept it up? It’s not like Americans trust cops or prosecutors (except for the line blue line fetishists). Maybe you were just too much of a loud mouth.
I will say the Inventing Anna series has shown me Americans are genuinely confused on how the rich stay rich. In so far as I can tell it boils down to gambling on who might be the real deal and simply writing off the frauds.
Cost of doing business. It happens to everyone. And the worse your boundaries are, well, the worse off your percentages. If your bullshit radar is bad that’s how generational wealth disappears unless you can figure out a way to rig the system (which is always an option).