Categories
Culture

Day 686 and Code Switch

The social contract in America is breaking down but none of us have agreed on the new rules yet. Of course, some populations have never lived within the consensus social contract in America.

And yes there are a lot of Americans that don’t live inside our social contract. Being black or queer (or god forbid both) even in 2022 means speaking a foreign language in your own land. If you aren’t familiar with the term code switching I’d encourage you to look it up.

I’ve almost always lived within consensus norms. At least appearance wise. I pass as a nice white lady with a nice seems white husband. He’s Jewish so only the incredibly woke or the incredibly racist disagree. Though eventually even that protection may give way if we don’t have children.

Code switching isn’t cost free. You’ve got to think about your audience constantly. You adjust who you are based on the acceptable norms of discourse. And it’s an exhausting exercise if you’ve never had to do it.

One of the reasons Twitter has been such a combustible place is that people code switch all the time. If you get caught in a context collapse situation where what you said is fine in one community and heresy in a another you might find yourself getting canceled. Speech norms have always been context dependent.

I’ve recently become more aware of how much code switching I do because I’ve been trying to solve a problem that isn’t considered polite to have in rich stable white American society. If you follow me closely you know it’s related to immigration.

I really need to fix this problem so I’ve been asking around quietly and obliquely trying to sense my way around adjacent communities with rules that won’t turn me into a pariah. And it’s a ton of work. It requires the kind of sensitivity and social graces I’ve previously prided myself on only to discover it’s just the rules for the Western upper class whites. Everyone else knows justice isn’t for them.

As you might imagine plenty of people live with entirely different contexts and social graces than the Eurocentric worldview. And they are all fully and completely aware of the indignities of my problem and the varied ways in which one solves for it. And no one is judging me for it. But it’s been a bit shocking to me. I fully believed playing by the rules would eventually reward me. And of course that’s the real reasonable we code switch. Because different rules apply to different people.

Categories
Emotional Work Finance

Day 683 and Goverance

I’m not a big fan of early stage venture investors meddling too much in the day to day of their portfolio companies. Asking for too much reporting and too frequent board meetings can be a huge source of momentum friction.

But I am a big fan of corporate governance. Even right from the very start. You should have agreed upon avenues for settling issues and disputes from the moment you have assets bigger than an Ikea couch let alone a 32 billion dollar valuation company. A lack of governance structures can lead to deeply destructive behavior even if you aren’t a sociopathic rich kid bent on committing fraud.

As much as it may seem irritating to set up formalities like a full board and agreed upon voting rights structures, you will regret not having it if something goes wrong. And something will go wrong. I’d go so far as to say Murphy’s law is an immutable law of the universe. What can go wrong will go wrong.

The intense pressure of a startup is what turns the lump of coal that is your vision into the diamond that will be worth something in the open market. And pressure is often destructive. People who otherwise respect and trust each other can slowly find themselves deeply at odds.

Just think of your worst breakup and imagine that intensity playing out in ways that impact everything you’ve worked to build. If you’ve ever gone through a divorce I’m sure you understand. Let me tell you a little story about one of my breakups to illustrate why you should set up governance right form the start.

My easiest personal breakup was also one of my worst. We’d moved in together and devised an elaborate set of budgets and savings protocols. We’d combined belongings. We even set up a shared bank account. He was a corporate governance lawyer at a very aggressive firm. I was working a lucrative corporate job but preparing to go back to startups.

While he wasn’t a contract lawyer, he did have enough common sense to suggest we write up a relationship contract complete with dissolution protocols. I thought this was absolutely brilliant which I’m sure tells you a lot about how I operate. Absolutely all of our friends thought we were nuts. Including a colleague and friend who would go on to be one of my board members down the road.

I was in Colorado for my mother’s wedding. I’d expected my boyfriend to join me. But we’d been discovering that all our good faith attempts to arrange the perfect relationship structure was nothing in the face of widely disparate personalities and risk tolerance. No amount of mitigating structure could overcome those differences.

When I came home he’d triggered our breakup clauses and moved out. Everything was done by the governance protocols we’d set out. If I’m absolutely honest I was relieved. My biggest annoyance was losing the Vitamix blender that was his property. As furious and heartbroken as I was at the time, I didn’t have any avenue to engage in my worst most defensive reactionary emotions. Neither did he. Which was extremely valuable as I hadn’t at age 26 gone through the therapy that helps me productively channel negative emotions now.

My ex-boyfriend and I are still friends to this day. Sure it took a few years for us to come around but we’d avoided a scorched earth situation despite the significant risks we’d engaged in by moving in and combining our lives and fortunes after a relatively a brief period. The damage was mitigated by a shared understanding of how we’d manage downside protection and whose rules we’d consider binding.

While I’m sure this sounds a bit weird, I do think it’s a helpful illustration of why even the most optimistic scenarios benefit from guardrails and mutually agreed upon avenues for pursuing a dissolution or change in status.

No matter how calm and rational you think you are, there will be scenarios that trigger deep emotional patterns. If you vomit up those childhood coping mechanism emotions, you need to clean it up even if it feels shameful and embarrassing.

I’d also say it probably tells you a lot that I’m telling you a deeply personal story about a breakup in a personal relationship and not my actual board experiences. There are some secrets you take to the grave and how you failed your business partners tends to be one of them. How they failed you is another. I’ve had reason to be grateful for corporate governance guardrails at all of my companies. Because that is human nature.

So no matter how early it is in your startup journey you should be considering how you’d handle tough times. Set up a board to help you work through and arbitrate disputes. I know you cannot imagine it now but you won’t regret it.

No one is ever fully immune from disagreement (or even disaster) and you owe it to yourself and your partners to set up fair resolution issues from the start. Plus if you happen to have partnered with a sociopath you will appreciate the modicum of protection offered by binding contract law or consensus mechanism contract execution. And if you really want a Vitamix make sure you put that in the contract.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 682 and Almost

My original handle. The very first one I took into social media. Which today couldn’t function as a signifier in 2022 given the acute gender essentialism culture war. The handle was AlmostGirl.

I began writing in university (maybe 2005) about my deep deep deep ambivalence about adopting any culture or identity symbol of consensus success. How I continued to be offered entry into luxury spaces and class identifiers I couldn’t stay. I continued to fail at being part of the status quo. I could only ever be “almost” the thing. As you can tell I’ve been painfully earnest most of my time online.

When I was younger I regretted my inability to fully commit to what I was supposed to want. I’ve really always failed at attempts with adopting conventional status symbols. I always craved being at the norm of whatever was high status. But I just won’t commit to the bit.

Categories
Emotional Work Finance

Day 680 and History Repeating

I found myself crying my eyes out to my therapist this morning. Just full on sobbing. Nothing bad actually even happened to me during this week’s chaos. In fact, I’ve spent the last year or so preparing Alex and I for a downturn. I wouldn’t be much of a doomer if I didn’t swing into this downturn prepared.

It just all felt too familiar. It felt like the worst days of fear and insecurities from my childhood playing out all over again. My family went bankrupt during the great Web 1 unraveling. And I’ve never forgotten it’s lessons.

I remember feeling like I was in a secure situation and then learning in dramatic fashion that it was all gone. That all the hopes, dreams and aspirations that my father had done so much to prepare me to reach for (including a lot of very expensive colleges) would likely be out of reach. We’d be starting from scratch again. I hadn’t really had a lot of time to enjoy being a poor little rich girl. It was over too fast.

My father is a truly entrepreneurial man. When I was born the family lore is that he was pitching a edtech company. We were a startup family. We lived in Fremont which is (was) the shitty poor town. I suspect it was a lot harder than I even remember.

But dad found a way to realize his Silicon Valley dreams. He brought software to millions of people. He really did do the thing. And for a few years during the boom times it felt like we might be wealthy forever.

But finance is tricky. Lock ups can fuck you up. So can leverage. We had both. And then of course regular old fraud happens too. Yay.

But it wasn’t in vain. I learned those lessons well. I swing big and I bet on the future like my dad. I believe in people and in genius. But I also keep a balanced portfolio and back up plans.

I believe in exponential growth. But I also believe in the cost of capital. Sometimes money is cheap. Too cheap. And you need to prepare for when capital is expensive again. Because the laws of physics tell us that energy cannot be created or destroyed. And until someone smarter than me proves the laws of thermodynamics wrong, I will operate based on them.

And I am ready for the dark days. Both because it is literally November but also because I believe we’ve got chaos ahead. And if I’ve learned one thing from my childhood it is that you can survive it. It just takes a little bit of preparation. Which I’ve done. Everything else is just a case of history repeating.

Categories
Aesthetics Politics Preparedness

Day 679 and That Escalated Quickly

My week started out great. I was focused, energetic and on my game. And well, I think we all know how the last 72 hours have played out. Chaotic as hell.

Twitter is having a meltdown. Crypto keeps discovering how badly centralized over levered balance sheets can go. Fuck you very much Sam Bankman Fried for setting back the cause. Really the only bright spot is America’s swift decline into a regressive reactionary right wing state is in its entropy and reversion to the mean phase. Guess no one felt like rewarding Republicans even though we all kind of hate Joe Biden.

And lest you think I’m happily sitting pretty having mostly predicted we’d be entering a newly chaotic age, I woke up this morning covered in hives. That haircut I was so excited about yesterday? Turns out I was allergic to all the styling products.

And because we had some as yet unresolved issue with our well pump, I couldn’t even shower it off immediately. I woke up to the water being out. Neat. Thankfully a hacky solution got me a hot shower before noon to rinse off all the itch inducing salon products. I might still be a little high from all the Benadryl

The funniest part is I knew I might have some trouble with products at the hair salon. I just didn’t want to be that white lady that comes in with all her own products and a sob story about allergens.

I thought how bad can it be if I just let the stylist use the salon products? And boy do I regret that. Let that be a lesson to everyone to always take up the space and resources you need to stay healthy. It may be cringe as fuck to explain an allergy but you know what is even more cringe? Giving yourself hives and Benadryl brain because you didn’t have the energy to be a little bit of an asshole and insist on protecting yourself.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 676 and Fall Back

I was up and out of my bed like a shot at 6am. Fall back time chances were in full swing and I was excited to hit then the ground running. My trackers told me I was about 90 minutes short of my average sleep and warned me I would need a nap as I was only partially recovered.

But my overall recovery felt fine. I went about my business of making a cup of fancy coffee and filling out my to do list. I felt motivated and enthusiastic. I was excited for Monday energy.

I had one of those mornings where my focus was total. I knew my priorities and I was excited to feel like my goals were achievable. Maybe it was the change in schedules. But I was ready.

I plowed through my morning like I was young, healthy and full of joy. Which is a bit ironic as a number of my goals were explicitly designed to bolster any weaknesses in my physical body. I take supplements and remedies. I meditated. I did some movement and mobility work. I did the work in my body so my mind could be sharp and fast.

I had three full blocks of deep focus work where I didn’t even feel a moderate temptation to open my phone or check social media. My energy went into shaping my work to the desired outcome.

When I looked back over my to do list I realized I’d been working for six straight hours. It was time for lunch. I could feel hunger and a bit of fatigue come over me.

I was lucky enough to have my afternoon block cancel on me. I climbed back into bed seven hours after waking and promptly fell asleep. My joy and focus were rewarded with the kind of perfect deep sleep nap you wish were possible all the time.

Maybe I’m too sad to be on Twitter and I’m having to do more of my zeitgeist work by hand through each newspaper and blog. But falling back into a deep work slow pace actually speed me up.

Categories
Aesthetics Preparedness

Day 674 and Small Delights

I had a fantastic Friday. My husband was home after a week away. I drove to the airport to pick him up and we decided to make a low key date night of it.

I am focusing so much on little pleasures recently. I’m a teetoler for my health but there was a winter ale on Nitro and I just said fuck it I’d like to experience it. It was creamy perfection. The frothy texture giving way to a smooth dark ale.

We came home to a clean house and fresh sheets. Sinking into our recently improved linens was a perfect moment. Who doesn’t enjoy being extremely pleasant with smooth long fiber cotton? The texture of it alone.

It has been these little pleasures that remind my endocrine system that there is still a life to be lived. It reminds me to be present because if I give myself up the apocalyptic hum I am already living it. The Jackpot has already started. So I am giving myself these absorbing moments of presence.

Without them I’m not sure how I’d be without mindful recognizing the delights I still have. I feel like I’ve been ahead of doomer beat for a while and yet it’s all unfolding within the expected models. Sometimes a little bit worse. You see the scenarios and wonder which will unfold. Which careening variable sets off the Jackpot to a narrowing of humanity we can barely fathom.

I’m keeping my limbic system in check. I am working on not setting off my central nervous system into a sympathetic fight or flight pattern. I’d much prefer to be in rest and digest. I see so much energy being dedicated to fruitless ends. And I will not be lending those ends my energy or focus. Neither should you. Your mind is your own.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 673 and Balance

A boyfriend who loves to game once called me a glass cannon. I didn’t know what he meant at first. A glass cannon is an archetype in gaming representing a character with high offensive status but little to no hit points or HP.

When a class cannon goes crit they go off. Boom! When facing a glass cannon you’d better hope you kill them before they rock your world. They hit so hard that if they cycle back for another hit you are fucked. Glass cannons are hard to kill despite the appearance of weakness.

Day 409 and Glass Cannon

I like to hit hard and I like to hit fast. And I’d really prefer to recover quietly by myself to bring back my stats.

There are, of course always, things you can do to recover your capacity. If you are in a game they will find little ways speed up your energy bar. Maybe it’s special armor or equipment you need to wear or training branch that improves your stats once you’ve researched it. But what about in real life?

When I have gone “crit” I like to sleep it off. But I also find that time with my therapist speeds up my process. Activities like meditation and mobility work like stretching and yoga also help. Watching trashy tv rests my mind. Taking a short walk outside near our mountains. Reading quietly in bed helps.

There are things that don’t recover me quickly. Having our with friends is only restorative if we share some of the same interests. I love to go down an autistic interest rabbit hole. Going to event like concerts or sporting activists is exhausting. Doing things is my nemesis.

I am being gentle and affirming with myself this week as I recognize that balancing my recovery is important. And I’m proud of myself for not giving in to the desire to go faster. I’m not criticizing myself for impossible standards. I am balanced between my intensity and my recovery. And wouldn’t you know it I’ve gotten a lot done.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 672 and Self Confidence

My therapist yelled at me this week.

How are you so good at being objective about business but so bad at being objective about yourself?”

Dagmar

My therapist is not what you’d call the warm fuzzy type. She’s more of an old school “dig deep into your childhood trauma to overcome your self limiting beliefs” type. She’s also in her mid-eighties. They really don’t make them like they used to.

My inner child is still fighting the battles of pre-rationalism where everything is about core emotions. Do I feel love? Do I feel fear? Do I feel shame? And my adult needs to parent her with the comforting objective reality that she has nothing to fear and is deeply loved.

I did not feel loved as a child. Without getting into my parents particulars, there was a belief I absorbed that that the path to secure love was through improving myself. I wanted authority figures to see how hard I worked and how dedicated I was to fixing my flaws. It’s hard to imagine someone as brash as I am as a good girl archetype but I was a Daddy’s Girl.

Nevertheless it is true that I get caught in self improvement loops. I’ll fixate on my trackers and personal data and fuss and futz about how things could be better. And I have to consciously remind myself that outcomes are what matter not “trying really hard.” Ironically I have no problem with reaching challenging specific outcomes. I have problems rolling back my inputs to only what is necessary to achieve my outcomes.

Now my therapist is no slouch. She’s one of the smartest and best connected women I know. She is more than qualified to rate my mental acuity and processing power. And she’s now on a mission to remind me of the fact. She wants me to have self confidence in the objective reality that I can achieve my desired outcomes.

And she is correct. I am not being rational in my assessment of my own capacity and talents. I let my inner child’s fears well up and her illogical viewpoints do my adult no favor. In reality I’m competent, capable and absolutely good enough to compete in the arena.

I have an uncanny sixth sense for future market moves and social trends, a numerate mind with a literate education, and all of the skills necessary to source and invest in early stage startups thanks to years in the trenches as an operator and angel investor. If you’d like to invest with me I am objectively very good.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 670 and Vinegar

One of the nastiest tricks we play on women is teaching them to be nice. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar turns out to not even be true literally let alone as a metaphor. That explains why my fruit fly traps all contain apple cider vinegar. Attracting others is just as much about being firm, and even unkind, as it is about nice.

I got the “nice” beaten into me in the workforce in my twenties. I got lots of advice about being more nurturing. I was told you will only succeed if you are well liked. And I tried adapting myself to be more accommodating. I suppressed a lot of my natural personality, and not terribly well, in an attempt to conform to the strictures of being perceived as nice. Nobody bought it and it made me miserable.

I’ve spent the back half of my thirties learning to get it back. As it turns out being nice is mostly in the eye of the beholder and has little to do with if you are actually an asshole. I learned slowly that having firm boundaries is important in both life and business and if someone reads that as you being mean or unkind well that says more about them than you.

I’m doing more to take care of myself so that I can approach every situations with as much empathy as possible. That way if I have to tell a hard truth and be “mean” at least I can do it with as much emotional presence as possible. I don’t have to be liked or even cater to someone’s emotions. That was always a lie. Being too nice might just end up babying someone.

Now I take care of myself so that others can take care of themselves. There is no attracting with honey or vinegar. There is just taking care to be truthful about who you are and what you offer.