Categories
Emotional Work

Day 188 and Space

I over scheduled my day today. I figured it was fine as I left some half hour blocks between calls, pitches, errands, workouts and chores. That’s what most lives are like right? You get up, shower, exercise, get the family fed, go to work, have a short lunch break to eat at your desk, go back to work, then you’ve got errands and then it’s back to family obligations.

If that’s what most people’s lives are like it’s no wonder we are in the midst of a rebellion. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a moment to think or self reflect at all. I feel so far away from myself after the parade of obligations. And I actually meditated and did thirty minutes of “brain training” on my at home EEG. And I went for an hour long walk! So why do I feel like I haven’t had any space today? Those things are restorative right?

It sounds incredibly luxurious when I put it down on paper. I’m doing shit to improve my brain function and I got 10,000 steps (I like to take calls while walking) so why do I feel frazzled? As it turns out I’ve actually faced this problem before. And thanks to my daily exercise of writing I put it down on paper. I can learn from myself.

I benefit from unstructured unencumbered time at rest. It’s not that I need it to be alone time or quiet time as much I need full on rest. I thrive when I have no reason to get out of bed. I do my best reading and synthesizing when my mind is free to wander without any obligation to anything but that space.

When I wrote that I meant it in the context of devoting enough time to active rest. But as it turns out I don’t just need rest on weekends. I need to give myself time in between tasks. I need to let my mind wander off instead of forcing it on to the next activity. I need to take some space to myself between each activity, even if it’s a nice one like a walk, to absorb and synthesize.

I’d encourage you to consider if you are giving yourself enough space to let your experiences integrate back into your mind and body. Sure we all have our obligations but maybe you’d be more efficient at them if you have yourself the space to breathe in between them. On that note I’m going to put on some television and go shit post on Twitter. I need to integrate my learnings from the day.

Categories
Aesthetics Background

Day 184 and Enthusiasm

Nothing great was ever done without enthusiasm!

Some Waldorf classroom recitation

I went to a type of school called a “Waldorf” school for primary education. It’s a pedagogy that believes education should balance intellectual pursuits with artistic and physical ones to develop a well rounded human. A popular coinage is “head, heart and hands” but that’s honestly way too hippie dippie for what is a very practical and grounded approach to learning to be a human that has need for physical, spiritual and cerebral training.

Instead of staring at books all day you spend quite a bit of time on more classical pursuits to balance out traditional subjects like math and histories with music, drama, and a wide variety of physical education. Now you may think ok that’s just gym or music class right? Well, sort of, in the same way learning the alphabet is useful for reading. You need building blocks first. Small children aren’t particular good with javelins, Greek tragedy or the flute so they start you out small. Think “Sound of Music” Do-Re-Mi but for every subject.

One of the techniques Waldorf uses to help children learn to manage their bodies (likely also emotions & mind) is regular recitations. You memorize poems, chants and pieces of drama. You then physically practice run in a group or individually. Often a sequence of rhythmic clapping, chanting, stomping or other ways of integrating your body to the mental act of memorization is part of the process. It can be as complex as a portion of the Bhagavad-Gita (yes I’ve done this) or as simple as a sports chant.

Nothing great was ever done without enthusiasm!

I’ve got a fond memory of a classroom teacher insisting we start the day with energy and enthusiasm by using what is basically an arena chant that would be suitable for cheering on a sports team.

She’d have us get on our feet and in unison recite back “nothing great was ever done…..without….EN-THUS-IAAAASMMMMM!

We’d repeat it over and over again with a 1-2-1-2 beat upfront and then a pause between done and without, and then a great push to pull out the word enthusiasm, with well, as much enthusiasm as we could muster.

By the end the entire class would be all smiles taking huge breathes to push out all the air they could through their diaphragms to put as much emphasis on “enthusiasm” as they could deliver. We’d be standing tall with our shoulders pulled back to give us the maximum advantage for our breath work. I swear these kids had a better grasp on Wim Hoff breathing than an Olympian. For a 5th grader it made use of multiple lessons we’d been taught over the years on diction, posture, physical presence, poise, timing, control and energy. Lessons that then served us well as we went on to sing Handel’s Messiah or learn Greek wrestling.

Plus it was a terrific reminder that all great things require our full selves. Enthusiasm is the path to greatness. Sure hard work and intelligence matters but if you love something with enthusiasm that puts you in the right path. So I try to remember that if I want a big outcome for something I need to feel real enthusiasm for it. And I’ll recite that chant in my head. Because that’s one of the building blocks I use to create success.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Chronic Disease

Day 156 and Social Accommodations

One-on-one synchronous communication requires energy and commitment. If you have plenty of energy and few health problems maybe this isn’t intuitively obvious to you why it’s tiring for me. To understand I highly recommend the Spoonie theory of living with chronic disease. A Lupus patient Christine Miserando explains to a friend using “spoons” as a prop/metaphor.

So, she laid out a handful of spoons on the table and explained that the spoons symbolize all of a patient’s daily energy reserves. Every activity, no matter how thoughtless and automatic, depletes from the energy supply. Getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, eating, and any number of mundane tasks threaten to deplete energy at any given time. When you run out of spoons, you can choose to borrow against the spoons of a future date, but there are consequences. When you deplete your spoons, you are bedridden. Unable to manage the simple activities of life.

I work with a limited set of “spoons” each day. If I manage my energy budget well you would never guess I’m any different than you. But I optimize my day around accommodating my firm energy budget realities. I think of it as a wheelchair or a crutch. It’s a tool that helps me extend my capacity. I can do more with less energy and thus I need fewer spoons.

One area that makes a huge difference is digital asynchronous communication. Written documents or presentations, text messages, email, Slacks, heck even voice memos are all great ways to reach me as long as you don’t expect an immediate response. Asynchronous communication means respond when I have the energy. I rarely feel overwhelmed by those as there isn’t a need to respond right that moment. I don’t have to use a spoon to get you a response. If you need FaceTime or a phone conversation then I have to work around your preferences (which might not be strictly necessary for the information it’s just what you happen to link) and then you are also asking me to prioritize your preferences over my limited energy banks. Which can feel disrespectful if you don’t suffer from strict energy budgets. You are asking me to take a double hit. Accommodating me makes me more likely to budget more energy and time on you in the future if you respect my energy now.

This means you may need to reach out more. If you expect a synchronous back and forth you may end up waiting on me. Please don’t wait on me to reach out and have energy & free time at the same time as you. You will wait a long time! Reach out and we will work it out asynchronous style.

This is why I love social media. It is easy way to connect people to what I am doing on my own tike frame I have extremely limited energy and capacity to express that one on one. If I had to I’d end up limiting my entire world to like 3 people. My energy for one to one communication is limited. As someone who is disabled and chronically ill, I feel lucky that I have access to technology that allows me to expand my capacity to connect and communicate. If I didn’t have these tools my world would be severely limited as each conversation and interaction I have takes significant resources.


Like a myriad of writers who have been sick before me (Walker Percy, Virginia Wolf to name a few) I use this tool to extend my life and influence beyond the bed in which I spend 12 hours a day. So please understand I cannot always communicate in real time or in person for everyone. It’s the highest energy usage thing I do. Let me use technology to expand my world beyond my bed. We will both get a lot more out of it and you will find that thanks to technology I can can as much done as you.

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.

Categories
Biohacking Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 120 and Naps

I’ve always been prone to energy dips in the afternoon. I wake up immediately ready for the day but after lunch and another of work or activity and I’m heading off an energy cliff. If I allow myself a burst of sleep I’ll be back and feeling as energetic as I was in the morning right as my body insists on an energy dip as it is dinner time. Two hours later and it’s basically bedtime just as my second energy burst is coming on. Not great timing if I’m honest.

I used to force myself through afternoon lulls with caffeine or attempting to slot in a workout to push for energy. Neither really worked well for my rhythm or energy. Once I went on medical sabbatical I was able to test out the afternoon nap. The Mayo Clinic agrees it has proven benefits for cortisol levels and stress. WebMD has a long roundup of benefits like lowered blood pressure. The only thing you have to look out for is if you are an insomniac then late afternoon naps might push your bedtime back.

This is a concern for me as I regularly get too worked up to fall asleep easily. I practice all the sleep hygiene best-of hits like blue light blocking, dark cool rooms aand magnesium and still I find myself longing to find my phone and doomscroll Twitter. My biohacking efforts on the most restful night of sleep are easily derailed by the need to dunk tweet or reply guy.

I long to find the ideal balance of nighttime rest and day time napping to make my ideal circadian rhythm shine. I wonder if I should be one of those types that breaks their sleep pattern into two blocks. Biophasic or segmented sleep always seemed like a cool hack for maximizing energy. I just don’t know if it would accidentally break me.

As much as I want to go on some sort of sleep optimizing spree my gut tells me I just need the sleep that I need. I probably need the eight hours at night along with an hour during the day. It’s just fine that I sleep more. It’s literally the best thing anyone can do for their health.

The tricky workaholic part of my brain fantasizes about having an even block of productive work that shifts my bedtime so I have a six hour evening block to match my six hour morning block. I get indignant that after my nap in the afternoon instead of rising into a second workday my energy is consumed with practicality like dinner and sleep hygiene routines. I should not push my body for my workaholic fantasies but the bio hacker in me really wants to try.

Categories
Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 115 and Physical Rehabilitation

As part of my commitment to quantified self and biohacking I have a physical rehabilitation protocol I cobbled together. Two years ago at the start of my autoimmune my journey I couldn’t walk easily. The ankylosing spondylitis manifested in my upper spine meaning I would struggle to get from my bed to the bathroom. I had to shower using a stool. I walked with a cane. This was not great for my cardiovascular health or my muscle tone. I was in this state for well over a year.

As the inflammation has become controlled in the past six months, I’ve been faced with a long rehabilitation. How do you build back stamina when even minor exertion was beyond one’s capabilities? As it turns out you do it one step at a time.

I’ve kept it simple. I get up out of bed every hour and take 250 steps. You’d be surprised how much a commitment to small consistent movements builds on itself. Once I got used to regular “get up” movements and pacing the room, I focused on adding small increments. Add in a hundred more steps at a time and now I’m comfortable hiking for an hour a day on flat or slight inclines. Thanks to a totally inconsistent stretching routines (a mix of Pilates and Alexander Technique) my muscles have retained mobility so that adding in more mileage has always felt comfortable.

I don’t have a program that is specific to rehabilitation though I suspect I should. I just committed to adding 5% a week more steps till I was able to walk 3 miles at a time or about 7,000 a day steps with a small amount of activity every hour. I suspect the regular activity each hour helps more than the steady state work but both add up to fitness gains. I have been adding in weight lifting and found that my strength is reasonably good. The real issue is that if I go to my full strength capacity I find myself struggling afterwards as healing and natural inflammatory processes are still a challenge for me. It’s as if the actual fitness isn’t the issue but rather my capacity for recovery.

Today I was able to successfully hike the NCAR trailhead in South Boulder. It’s a moderate intensity hike with some scramble and a gain of about 750 feet over a 3 mile circuit. What surprised me the most was that I didn’t have any perceptual issues with fitness. The exertion felt fine. The challenge was the occasional spike of pain. I wasn’t entirely sure if discomfort was a function of not being capable of managing the trail or simply that I’m still prone to system cascades. I can’t explain it any better than that. The trail was muddy and I lost my footing sending me into a fight or flight cycle that I needed to let pass.

Now that I’ve reached a point where normal activity is possible I need to find the next step in my cumulative rehabilitation program. The area where I can add 5% gains each week. If anyone has suggestions I’m open to it!