Category Archives: lifestyle

Living in Yellow

There are about a million and one “productivity hacks” out there for your reading pleasure today, so far-be-it from me to deny you yet another. I’m not sure this even qualifies, but it may be helpful in some way.

Photo by PixaBay User: Alexas_Fotos

Here’s the 150th way to optimize your life, your work, your relationships, or none of it. This strategy is working well for our partnership at Techstars Ventures, and its working at home too (when we get to do it!).

First, a nod and thanks to Jerry Colonna and, an amazing CEO/Founder/Investor coaching organization for the fundamental framework that this stems from.

Here’s how it works… We do regular check-ins with each other and ask if we are Red, Yellow, or Green at work and at home. The color coding should be obvious cues to the state of things and I won’t spend a ton of time here going deep on that here. If you want to learn more, call Jerry.

I was doing office hours at one of our programs not long ago and I asked a founder how they were doing. What transpired was a pretty convoluted conversation about workload, stress, progress, excitement, etc that became hard for me to parse. Thus, I asked if they were red, yellow or green at a high level w.r.t work and personal life, and the entrepreneur chuckled and said “I pretty much live in yellow”. On its face this isn’t earth shattering, but stay with me for a minute here.

A short while before this encounter, I was in a conversation with my partners as we talked about our “stoplight status” and we had discussed the idea that hanging out in yellow wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I was an entrepreneur myself, I would have identified that way often. Something struck me about all of this and it just resonated. I realized there was something to this and spent more time thinking about the why.

We, as humans (and endless optimizers?), often feel a basic and primal need to always make things better or improve (as least most of us Type-A, high strung folks). The knee-jerk reaction to being in a slightly uncomfortable state (yellow) would be to work on fixing the things that prevented you from being green (everything is great, or as good as I want/need it to be) and get back to that state. For some, that’s the desired state. I’m realizing that for me, living in yellow is actually working and I’m more focused, productive, and satisfied here. When I heard this from another entrepreneur it brought back memories from when I was running a business and I realized I’d maybe always been operating out in a yellowish zone. As an investor I’m still wired that way, it turns out. The discomfort is motivating!

This is not about being “busy” to the point of burning out, or having such a packed calendar you can’t get any actual work done. It’s not about high stress levels and feeling like you are drowning either. There is a lot of data out there about the importance of taking care of yourself, exercise, and mental space. We often work better when we disengage for a minute! The yellow state is that you don’t feel quite at ease and feel some amount of stress/pressure/workload, but you aren’t sitting in a dumpster fire where things are in constant chaos either.

What if you just hung out in yellow? Could you accept a latent amount of stress, anxiousness or discomfort and made it work for you? In working through this, I have realized that different personality types will react to this state differently, and that it may not work for many people. Could it work for you? Are you already there? I’d love to hear about it…

One observation about myself is that I get a little complacent if I’m truly Green/Green. I might have a high level of contentment in that space, but I’m not doing my best work and I’m more easily distracted. I like a little forward tension, it turns out.

So, I’m going to accept that “Living in Yellow” is a thing for me and that its ok if I’m there. I’ll have episodes of other shades in both directions for sure depending on workload, travel, family life, etc but if I’m like other entrepreneurial types out there, yellow means GO!

The Traveling Spouse Relationship Hack

My line of work requires me to travel all around the world. I’m on the road constantly, and life is busy at home. As a result, my wife and I don’t get nearly as much time together as we’d like.

I don’t claim to be a couple’s therapist. But I do know from living the life of a traveling spouse and watching what seems to be a solid half of our community get divorced that together, life, work, kids, stress, and time all conspire to erode the quality and depth of what should be our best and strongest relationship.

My wife and I have come up with what we think is a pretty slick plan to combat all the stress in our lives while helping us grow closer together and reconnect. We try to get away, just the two of us, 2-3 times a year—something I like to refer to as the traveling spouse relationship hack. (Sorry kiddos!)

The key is always having what I’d call a “carrot” on the calendar that is just for you and your partner. The next several weeks might very well suck. Work obligations might seem overwhelming, and the kids have a zillion things to do with school, sports, and extracurricular activities. When the calendar is a brick wall for weeks or months on end, I start planning the next getaway.

Commit to a Getaway

It’s not enough to just have a vague plan of what you might do a few weeks from now. My wife and I have found that putting events down on the calendar as we head into tough stretches of time helps us overcome any obstacles. Our getaways become little rewards we’ve earned by persevering through difficult and hectic periods—like that beer at the finish line after running a marathon.

The getaways are strategically placed on the tail end of super busy or stressful blocks of work and family life. When we’re in the middle of it and want to scream our lungs out, my wife and I both know that there is something to look forward to—a time to reconnect, fall deeper in love, and have some fun.

It’s a lot more fun than therapy (although that’s a good investment, too!).

Planning a Trip

We’re definitely fortunate that both of our parents are still around to watch the kids from time to time. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Not everyone has that luxury and I realize that. We’re also super lucky that our kids can handle hanging with their grandparents and they all have a good time together!  Not everyone has the same arrangement and this “hack” could get expensive if you have to pay for child care, so perhaps the solve is weekends or stay-cations more than getaways in that case.  Many families also have two working spouses, where both getting time off on the same schedule is challenging. So, take all of this as inspiration for your own version of the hack. The key is that you have something on the calendar for just you two and it’s scheduled at the end of a crazy busy schedule.

No matter your specific situation, you can almost certainly make something work. You might just have to get a little bit more creative.

One solution we have come up with that only works once in awhile is to tack on a few extra days to one of my business trips. For example, I recently spent a few awesome days in Lisbon at WebSummit and in Berlin for work. I was lucky enough to have my amazing wife and favorite companion by my side. I got a lot of work done, and spent some quality time with my wife in-between.

More often than not, however, it’s near impossible for my wife to join me on a business trip. Life happens. Someone has to hold down the fort, make lunches, and run carpool. That’s okay, too. A random weekend away somewhere special will do the trick or even a surprise stay-cation has worked in some cases.

When it comes down to it, there aren’t that many people in our lives who have our backs 100% of the time. Our spouses and partners are supposed to be our top advocates, supporting us in all our endeavors.

While work, kids, and the rest of life might stress us out, we shouldn’t let them blind us to what’s really important in life. Don’t let your career ruin one of best and most rewarding relationships you’ll ever have. Give the traveling spouse relationship hack a try. You’ll be happy you did!

2015 – The Future is Here

I woke up this morning with the thought “I can’t believe its 2015!”, but truthfully I can and I’m actually super excited about the year to come. In many ways, I feel like the future is here, now. We are always in a state of evolution, improvement, optimization, etc. with technology, but 2015 feels like its going to be like a tipping point.

On the personal front I’m committed to getting my body and heath put back together. My recovery from the back surgery almost two years ago is in a good place and I’m able to ride a little, swim and lift again. However I’ve put on almost 15 lbs since my bike racing days so I’ve got real work to do. I’m fired up about it though, and you can bet that technology will help keep me focused on my goals. I’m using LoseIt, Withings scale, my Garmin & Strava for starters.

On the work front I couldn’t be more excited about where we are taking Techstars next. Our recent announcements around the new Mobility Accelerator in Detroit and the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars are super forward-leaning programs that aim to bring tomorrow’s tech into the hands of consumers and businesses today.  These two markets, Mobility and Robotics specifically, are places where innovation means better safety, utility and environmental responsibility.  Its going to be a big year and I can’t wait to see what the companies come up with!

When I think about the state of the art in terms of IoT, home intelligence, and just sheer cool-factor, its hard to believe where we are when you stop and think about it. A few years ago when things like Nest and Dropcam were just hitting the mainstream we knew it was all coming, but its happened fast.  Sure, we don’t have jetpacks, hyperloop, and sadly there is no light rail between Boulder and DIA yet (cough, cough), but a 3.2 second electric sedan, AI for drones, touch-surface headphones, smart HVAC vents, smart sensors for your home and the like all tell me we are hitting a tipping point where the groundwork laid over the last few years in these areas of tech-driven efficiencies are going to reach a point where we really see the benefits as consumers. In fact, you don’t have to look much further than our holiday gift guide to see some really cool innovations that are hitting the market.

What’s also got me inspired is that I’m going to CES for the 1st time next week. I’ve always wanted to go and am excited to check it out, although I know its crazy and exhausting.  A good number of Techstars companies will be there, and I’m speaking on a panel on Wednesday about raising capital for your company, alongside some great folks from Qualcomm Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Silicon Valley Bank.

Bring on 2015! Perhaps I’ll get that jetpack after all.