Categories
Emotional Work

Day 291 and Self Control

Self control is a form of self abuse for me. Early in life I learned that I could control others by controlling my emotions. Instead of showing my feelings, I’d distort my emotions into whatever got me attention from adults. That’s pretty clever for a child, but is the road to misery once you’ve grown up.

Alas I’ve kept up the habit of self control. It might not look like it from social media or press narratives, but I self censor a lot. I’m often conscious of what others will like or dislike and I will edit my feelings if I feel it isn’t to my benefit. What can I say, I am still hurting from feeling like I wasn’t loved as a child by my father. Same old story that everyone has in their lives (well maybe for you it was your mother but same idea).

But it hurts to keep your emotions inside. Eventually it will turn into pain or sickness. Not that I’m saying all pain or illness is caused by emotions (that’s some bullshit) but the mind body connection is real. The point is it’s only hurting myself to exert so much control over my emotions.

I need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable with other people and how they feel about me. The control I have is largely a fantasy. It’s not that it’s not possible to change how others perceive you. Hell I’ve picked professions where that’s practically the main skill set. I love the perception game. Public relations, fashion, even venture capital are all games you win by building a good reputation.

Having a good reputation doesn’t mean turning off honesty. If anything reputations are built on being trustworthy. And that generally means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. So I’ve got to stop abusing myself by choking off emotions I don’t think others will like. Maybe it’s a gender thing. I learned pretty quickly no one likes an angry woman. But sometimes I get angry. Whatever excuse I’m using for hiding unpleasant emotions has got to go.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 279 and Takeout

I’m not entirely sure when or even how it happened, but I’ve been eating nothing but takeout. I think it’s some “emotional exhalation” around food. When the pandemic first hit I was in Manhattan. As wasn’t yet clear how Covid spread, we locked down in our apartment and cooked every single meal for three straight months. Probably a record in my life for going without ready made meals. But boy did I miss takeout by the end of it.

I’m sure both facts say something about the privilege I have. I can afford to have someone prepare all of my food in restaurants. And when disaster struck I had the time and ability to stay home and cook. Most folks chose their food based on budgets, literal and time.

As I’ve been concerned about the looming supply chain crunch I now think it might be time to flex the cooking at home muscles again. Letting fresh food linger in the fridge without a plan is wasteful. Whether or not I can afford the waste isn’t the point. It’s offensive to the energy and work of the many people who put their livelihood into feeding others.

I feel this especially acutely as my milk and produce come directly from local farmers. I feel like I’m letting down Daphne if our milk isn’t turned into yogurt or ricotta (or at very least put into my morning coffee). Although I will say I have no good plans for the sheer volume of peppers and chilis my farm share produced. In Colorado it is the chili that’s the crop that goes overboard in your CSA box not zucchini or some other squash. I genuinely have no clue what to do with some of more exotic peppers so send me recipes!

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 272 and Small Steps

I talk a lot about pacing and routines and rhythms but it’s mostly because I struggle with it so much. As soon as I notice something is going in a direction I dislike, rather than course correct a little bit, I love to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. Why be steady when chaos begets creativity?

Silicon Valley success myths are tied heavily to people that go their own way. We’ve coined terms like contrarian and narrative violation to add a high gloss to the basic truth that we just don’t like having our hands forced. Not even by ourselves. We like being able to pick and chose our direction.

This isn’t just truth of institutions or common knowledge. I get pissed when I’m forced into something by my own body. Heck, I especially dislike having my hand forced by my own biology. There is no authority more unforgiving than my own flesh.

Which has sometimes meant if I can overcome a biological reality my ego finds painful I’m inclined to do it. I love imposing brute force on myself. Naturally this habit isn’t the sort of thing that makes for a comfortable or pleasant life. But it’s a huge comfort to know that if you simply apply a little willpower you can undo the sins you’ve spent too much time accumulating.

Just look at some of the habits that have gained popularity in startup culture from intermittent fasting to overnight work sprints. Those techniques work. Some are arguably even sustainable for people. But it’s important to remember no matter how much we like to make things happen quickly, decisively or in new directions that sometimes the reality of being human cannot be ignored. On those days remember it’s ok to take small steps.

Categories
Startups

Day 243 and Delegation

One of the funniest aspects of hustle culture was its insistence on always being “on!” This maxim fought mightily against that other successful management truism; a successful CEO delegates. But how can you always be working if you have also successfully delegated your workload to a top notch team? Which one is it guys?!?!

I guess the logic was that you should always be working on whatever new horizon you has discovered in your perch as visionary founder but also be continually recruiting the best possible people to take on work as you should never be doing that work yourself. But those two directions are in obvious tension.

I think this tension ended up creating founders who exercise control of their anxiety through constantly searching for new ways to show off they were hard at work. We got addicted to busywork. Or at least the appearance of always being hard at work finding a new problem and then hiring talent to own it.

You’d always be finding new blockers at every turn, justifying it as growth and then you’d balloon your team hiring people for the work that you’d just found. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if this was the driving force behind the trend of showing off your headcount growth.

“Oh we hired 50 people this quarter!” Sure but like were you actually blitzscaling or were you caught in the hustle/delegate hamster wheel? How many of those people actually materially moved your roadmap forward? I would bet at least some of them were just there to give you the emotional safety of claiming to yourself that you’d satisfied both hustle and delegation culture.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics Startups

Day 232 and Human Being & Citizen

There is a famous line from Plato’s Apology that sums up the central dilemma of human organization. It’s also the title of my favorite college course at UChicago.

Who is a knower of such excellence, that of human being and citizen

Socrates asks us to consider how an individual’s highest calling conflicts with the group. We actually haven’t made a ton of progress on resolving the issue since antiquity.

I’ve been watching crypto struggling with the Human Being and Citizen Problem as governance in decentralized systems because a pressing issue. Much of crypto doesn’t really have philosopher kings, despite startup land’s affection for the willpower driven CEO, because a lot still happens in the commons. Open source and all.

I’ll be curious how we proceed and resolve these issues of individual versus group intensives as DAOs get explored. The corporation with its board and executive structure is being pushed back. But we haven’t figured out how to coordinate yet.

Vitalik has been exploring moving beyond coin voting for decentralized projects in recent posts. The incentives for public goods has generally been economic in the crypto space. We coordinate on commons by being driven by selfish incentives.

Gitcoin is working through shared governance structures beyond itself with a DAO of DAO concept emerging out of Kevin Owoki’s Egregore metaphor. Though I’d personally avoid using occult old Enochian terminology (egregore is a shared manifestation come from the minds of multiple people) as no one wants to accidentally manifest an elder god

Speaking of elder gods, we are all fighting Moloch the god of coordination failure. In popular imagination Moloch is usually defeated by a world historical great man. We love the great man theory of history. One visionary dude leader slays Moloch. Humanity gets coordinated! Hooray! Historians generally agree that great man theory is too simplistic. So however these problems get solved it’s probably not going to be one great savior.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 228 and Recurring Nightmares

Chances are you have some kind of recurring nightmare that your subconscious tosses up for processing regularly. Some blend of math tests or being naked at a big meeting seems pretty popular. I used to regularly have a dream where I was told I wouldn’t graduate from university as I had forgotten to take some core requirement. But by far the most consistent and upsetting nightmare I have is packing.

I moved a lot as a child. A fun (sad) fact about me is I changed schools every two years for my entire tenure as a student. These moves were generally coupled with moving homes while some just were just me moving by myself. I did first and second grade in Orange County in California, 3rd and 4th in Sacramento, 5th and 6th in Niwot Colorado, 7th grade I was homeschooled (somewhere in there my parents got divorced so my mom and I moved out), 8th was a prep school outside of Boulder, 9th grade was boarding school in Connecticut, 10th was half at prep school and half in France, 11th grade I dropped out and took classes in Manhattan, then for 12th I was back to Colorado and remote classes and prep school. The first and only time I had a consistent schooling experience was at University of Chicago. I did it in three and a half years to save money.

Just writing it out makes me anxious and sad. I wish I could condense it for purposes of the narrative. It feels too long reading it over. It wasn’t just moving schools and houses. It’s actually worse than I’m letting on. My father loves travel. I was put on an airplane at six weeks old for a flight to Hawaii. Many of my childhood memories are of airplanes and cruise ships and motor homes. You name a form of traveling and we did it. We were always going somewhere. I fucking hated it.

Now as an an adult I loathe packing. It brings back all my childhood memories of never feeling stable. Boxes and suitcases take me back. And I don’t just dislike it, I loathe it so much I dedicated several years of my life to making it more convenient to carry your cosmetics with you. I called the line Stowaway. It was all travel sized. I hate packing so much I went to years of trouble to make one core routine easier to take with you. I wanted one thing about travel to be less scary. Less overwhelming. One less thing you leave behind. Childhood trauma sticks.

Maybe only people who love travel should try to improve the experience. Working from a place of childhood trauma is often the road to riches. I guess it worked out fine for me. But I don’t have the fondness for travel that many millennials of my generation have. I only have nightmares. Maybe if I had realized that before I started it would have gone better.

A common theme in my recurring nightmare is trying to find all the basics I will need for some trip. I’ll be searching for underwear or prescription medication. As the dream unfolds I’ll find a key item only to have it disappear. There is always a countdown. Some reminder that a flight is taking off soon. But it’s usually much more dramatic than that. It’s often some kind of unspoken crisis. I won’t remember it when I wake up. Maybe it’s apocalyptic. But it’s rarely a go bag or a bug out situation in my nightmares. It’s just a suitcase or a box or a bag never being filled up.

I never leave on the trip. The dream never lets me finish packing. I guess my unconscious hasn’t figured out how to proceed that it wasn’t the packing that scared me, it was leaving behind the life that I thought was safe. Maybe I’ll get there eventually. I don’t want to be stuck in a nightmare, packing up my life, being afraid of being dragged someplace I don’t want to go.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 222 and OOO

I’m out of the office. I’m OOO. I’m not available. I’m off the grid. I’m on vacation. I’m on leave. I’m out sick. I’m out for family.

Whatever your reasons, the idea of being unavailable, actually being unavailable is increasingly at odds with reality. It’s rude to not be available. People notice if you are on social media dicking around after all. And I’m always fucking off on Twitter. And that means I am default available right?

I have an app that allows people book time with me without the hassle of checking in called Calendly. The theory is you maintain times you are available and you avoid a bunch of back and forth. The reality is I don’t maintain it. Virtually no one ever uses it except a couple close business partners. Because of that lack of integration into my workflow, the app is rarely ever booked unavailable. I don’t really use it or maintain it but a few folks have the link and being polite and nice, they try to use it rather than bother me asking if I’m around. Then it’s a comical back and forth of me explaining that no I again forgot to alert the app I wasn’t available. Again. Exactly the sort of interaction the app is supposed to help you avoid. It’s fucking embarrassing and it’s happened a half dozen times.

This happened again this week when I had explicitly intended to take off all of it as I’m recovering from a medical procedure. My brain is a bit foggy and I forgot to ask my husband, who more often than not is forced into managing my ineptitude with logistics, to make sure the damn app knew I wasn’t available. He’s got an elaborate system of multiple calendar applications that all talk to each other and sync up and if I just put “OOO” into one of them then all the apps would know. I’m too stupid to actually manage any of it. I figured eventually I’d hire an administrative assistant I deal with it when my schedule became more complex. But it isn’t that complex yet and I didn’t think to block the calendar after my procedure. Which makes me feel like an idiot. Why is it so hard for me to manage a damn calendar?

And such is my emotional block with being unavailable that I am literally writing a post about it rather than simply deleting the app entirely and texting my friend and partner back that I’ve fucked up again and the app was incorrect. Again.

Maybe it’s because I really want to be the kind of person who is available. That I’m the sort of person who is consistent and has routines that can be relied upon and thus has calendars which reflect the reality of my availability. That I am the kind of person who manages their application layer, personal data and thus has promptly corrected for any changes that may have occurred to my routines and seen to it that it percolates into the operating system of my life. Maybe this is why I’m obsessed with manners and class this week. It’s just a Freudian unconscious embarrassment that I’m bad at manage a calendar.

Alas it doesn’t really matter. I’m not the sort of person with a calendar. I’m the sort of person who will write a thousand words about the culture of availability, the way we mediate we our time and attention with technical applications, and my own emotional relationship to the acronym “OOO” rather than text back “actually I’m out this week!”

I’m counting on this being amusing rather than irritating in this particular instance as despite it seeming like I’m around and available, I’m actually extremely out this week and depending on my recover the next two. I hope it will be funny when I tag them on Twitter and share this post. Because it’s actually extremely embarrassing for me.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 195 and Waiting on Hand & Foot

I’m embarrassed that I need help with minor physical tasks. I’ve got an infection of the self sufficient Americana myth that seems to have taken root right in my very marrow. If you need something done you’d better do it yourself right?

When I was much sicker and undiagnosed two years ago, it felt easier to accept help because surely it must be temporary. There is no harm in needing help if you know you can pay it back tenfold? There is no harm in being unproductive for a time if you can pay it it back with interest.

But what will if can’t pay it back? What if I must rely on the kindness of others forever? Early on I struggled with little things like needing to use a wheelchair in the airport. I told myself stories like“I could walk if I just tried harder and accepted more pain” as I went through the concourse on the way to a hospital stay. I couldn’t pay back fellow travelers for slowing them down. And maybe no one minded that I was sparing myself pain for little inconvenience on their end. Perhaps I could accept small types of kindness.

But what if it’s not temporary? And what if it’s a significant amount of help! What if I do need help with basics for the rest of my life? Thanks to a recent trip my husband took I learned his running of the household increases my capacity by a full 30%. I could do everything just fine on my own but it would make my life much smaller. And it doesn’t seem to make his life any less enjoyable. On the contrary he shines when showing off his excellence in operational matters. It’s possible what I see as an undue burden is something he quite enjoys.

But I can’t quite convince myself it’s a good thing. The self audience myth has a deep hole on me. But if a third of my capacity disapates into tasks like cooking, cleaning, errands, and logistics but I’m enriched and energized by work like writing or working with the media then shouldn’t the choice be obvious?

And yet I still find myself embarrassed and angry about my limitations. . Why did it exhaust me so much to stand and wash lettuce? Or require so much rest to recover from a short run to the pharmacy. Those are small, albeit physical, tasks. My soul feels broken and my body a traitor with these small physical limits.

Whereas other pursuits can be done from bed. And even though it sometimes makes me sad it’s not always my choice, I don’t mind that my world is often limited to lying flat for hours on a mattress. I don’t resent it. In fact, it makes me rather happy. I’ve got the whole world available to me thanks to the internet. I can invest as easily in bed as from a fancy office. Twitter is just as good a connection to the networks of ideas and power as conferences or clubs. Better often.

The only part I resent is feeling like I’m a burden. Like I need to be waited on head and foot like some aristocrat or an ailing relative. Well not like an ailing relative. I am ailing. That part is the. But I can thrive in it with help. I just hope I’m not to embarrassed to take it.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 186 and Broken

I’m coming up on my two year diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. I’ve had two years of feeling broken as I waded though the long haul from being bedridden to now being reasonably healthy. But I’ve yet to let go of the feeling that I’m broken.

Being a productive worker has been a part of my identity for my entire work life. To experience two years of not contributing financially to anything nearly broke me. What value did I have? How could I ever recover?

But I’m not broken. I’ve got more limits on my time as I just focus on health and wellness to avoid a repeat of my medical leave. But I doubt most people would know or care. I’ve been doing some of the best work of my life recently. So why does this feeling of brokenness persist?

Some of it is tied to me making some mistakes as I transition back to workout full time. I feel I owe people my time and work as I let them down. I feel I have a debt to pay off (not a literal one but more emotional for having stuck with me when I wasn’t useful). So I’ve been tolerating some people and work that I should probably let go. It takes as much energy to work on small potatoes and worry oneself about as it, as it does to aim for the big projects and goals.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 147 and Over My Skis

For a Colorado native (let’s ignore that I was born in Silicon Valley) a number of our most cherished pastimes are kinda “meh” for me. Skiing is a sport that I can take or leave. That apres ski life is much more appealing than cutting it up on the slopes. But one key metaphor from ski culture gets used lot. “I’m over my skis.”

To be over one’s skis is to risk crashing. Being over ones skis happens out of enthusiasm. An inexperienced or unfocused skier lets their center of gravity tilt forward over their knees. Best case scenario, you are simply going too fast and you better “pizza” your skis to slow down. It’s a endearing but slightly awkward experience which is what makes the metaphor so appealing. It’s never a bad faith metaphor merely a goofy oops.

I got over my skis this week. I’ve been so excited for my workload (new investments, new startups to advise) and some new structures forming in my life (chaotic.capital is coming into focus) that I’m leaning in and finding myself going too fast. A friend of mine, who is my favorite person to “over do it” with, was on the phone with me a lot. I was excited to talk to her. But all this added up.

I realized oh shit I need to slow down. I haven’t crashed yet but I’m french frying. There is still time for me to “pizza” or in the immortal words of South Park’s ski instructor Thumper

If you french fry when you should pizza, you’re gonna have a bad time

I love french frying, the food, the ski position and the metaphor for speed. I want get over my skis. But if I don’t pizza “I’m going to have a bad time.” So with true Colorado wisdom it is time to kick back, get some THC and pizza. May this edition of Rocky Mountain wisdom aid you in finding balance on the slopes and off.