lessons I learned from having cancer

It's interesting.  I tell people that I'm happy to put 2012 in the history books. This is my way of stating that I'm happy to be done with having cancer and relieved to return to health.  And that's true. I am.

But this is a massive over-simplification of the most intense year of learning I've had as an adult.   I realize I say this phrase in part because it is true but more than that...I say it because it is what people want me to say. It's what they expect me to say. It's a nice way of packaging up a serious mess of an experience and it allows them and me to move on and get back to "ordinary" life.  As I sit here writing this post, I can feel the emotion well up in my chest and eyes.  In many respects, I'm deeply thankful I had cancer. And if you talk to enough people with cancer -- you'll hear over and over again, that also don't regret having the cancer at all.

Why? Well, it's trite but I am totally down with the life is short meme. I think this could be the defining meme of the next many years of my life.  Carpe diem. Sieze the day. Tell someone you love them. Hug your kids. Don't work so much. Basically, we're all going to die -- we deny that we don't know when. That it could be any moment freaks us out too much and makes living and planning impossible. I've already started to prioritize vacations and time with friends and family in a way that I didn't before.  The thing about this meme is that I now have an emotional understanding of this concept. It's easy to say and to understand -- life is short.  But unless you've looked at a doctor as they told you that you have cancer (substitute any life threatening illness), or you've driven down the road and thought that this could be the last drive of your life, or had to tell a spouse that you have cancer (or other major illness)...then the understanding and the clarity that comes from this meme is likely illusive.

I learned how important friends are.  I was shocked at how important it was for me to hear from people who just sent an email or a facebook message and said. "heard you're not well...thinking of you...get well".  And the friends close to me who cooked dinners, dropped by the house, came to my chemotherapy, called me.  These people made my heart sing and helped me through a tough time. I am forever thankful and changed by their reaching out to check on me.  As a result, I'm much more aware than ever the importance of checking in on people. 

Lastly, at least for this post, I learned compassion and vulnerability.  I don't assume that everyone I meet in my day isn't struggling with some life event that makes them feel hurt, vulnerable, or something else.  I'm aware that people have all sorts of shit they're trying to overcome and it doesn't always look pretty or nice or calm.  I personally feel stronger in my vulnerability than ever before. I cry easily. The world and people touch me and I'm happy to be touched. I watched Jodi Foster on the Golden Globes and I cried.  I talk to my mom and she tells me she isn't doing well and I cry for her.  I carry my compassion and vulnerability with me in easily accessible pockets -- they're emotional handkerchiefs I easily can wave and wipe a tear with.  

I thought that was my last point it wasn't -- I learned how important and vital health is.  We all take it for granted and there's nothing more valuable than one's health.  I think I read this on twitter --  We spend our time building our wealth, when we should be building our health. 


Idea Paint is a great start up product

The folks at IdeaPaint were kind enough to contribute some IdeaPaint to TechStars in Seattle.  We installed the special paint which makes walls into instant whiteboards. The product is very, very cool.  We've painted a bunch of walls with it and people really like the creativity and fun of writing and drawing on the wall.  Sure whiteboards are great -- but IdeaPaint is in a whole new league of product.  Ideapaint is the iPhone of creativity surfaces!  Good stuff. Thanks to Jeff and the whole team at ideaPain!

What bothers me still about Seattle?

I've been living in Seattle for a decade now. I have grown to really like Seattle and the pacific northwest, more generally. However, I was reminded this past week of a few things that I don't like about Seattle. The following is a list of stuff that bothers me about Seattle:

  • Matzah ball soup -- there's no good place to get this soup. period.
  • Swimming pools -- I've struggled to find a world class swim center any where near Seattle. And federal way is not close enough to Seattle to make swimming there practical. 
  • Basketball -- losing the sonics sucked. I grew up watching Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish and the Boston Celtics. Professional sports seemed to be lacking. The Sounders are great! But, they don't play basketball.
  • Traffic -- and the lack of traffic solutions. Why can't we make a friggin' decision about the 520 bridge and the viaduct. 
  • Public access to the water -- I just got back from Vancouver. Why we allowed lake washington and lake union to be private spaces without making the first 100 feet of access more public was a mistake. Just imagine this city if each body of water were like Green lake!
  • Sun in the winter -- I still need more sun than I get in the winter. It's not the rain that bothers me...it's the lack of sun.  That said, this winter was great!

I love New York: a diary of my day

I arrived in NY yesterday morning after a JetBlue redeye. Landed at 6:04AM. Came out of JFK airport into a blazing sunny cold manhattan winter day.  Slept for 90 minutes. Had a productive business meeting. During the meeting, the guy said he had spent most of his career at Lehman Brothers. I recalled interviewing with the very same guy 15 years earlier when I was graduating from MIT business school and was thinking about going to wallstreet. Ate matzah ball soup. Went to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art  to see the Art of the Samurai.

I should note here that if you know me then you know that attending museums is highly unusual. But I went and had a great time. Went to dinner at Tabla for Indian food. Great restaurant with an exceptional desert to the prix fix meal.  Cab to meet with Jerry Colonna, former partner of Flatiron Partners and now good friend. Home and asleep at 10:33 PM EST. 

Today is colder than yesterday and there's a light dusting of snow on the streets. Beautiful in a different way than yesterday. Breakfast at Gramercy Park Hotel with Fred Wilson, the other partner at Flatiron Partners and now at Union Square Ventures. Ate egg whites and wheat toast. Drank 2 single shot low fat lattes.  Cab to friends home on Central Park West. Lunch at the Boathouse in Central Park. Working on a computer back at my friends house. Heading home tomorrow on Jet Blue flight out of JFK. 

NYC used to overwhelm me. It's a dense city. Today - I'm filled with love for the city -- in part because it's an amazing place and in part because my wife loves it more than any place in the world. 

wrong day, wrong floor

I just got back from the conference. Turns out I was a day early. The guard made me feel better by telling me there had been about 6 people who came too early. It felt a little like getting off the wrong floor on the elevator. You know the feeling -- You're traveling to the lobby, the elevator stops, you walk out and realize you're on floor 3. Oops.

Tuesday is theft day at our offices

I came into the office today and there were 2 police cars parked out in front. I thought this can't be good. It turns out our office building was broken into last night.  All the laptops and projectors were stolen. All the desktops were NOT taken. Guess it's an argument for desktops -- they're harder to walk out the door with and turn into cash!  The cops are in here taking fingerprints. Reminder to everyone to backup and leave as much in the cloud as possible. Bummer way to start the day.

First day back

I'm back from my month off!  I had a great time. The best part of the month off was the different relationship with time. For the past 20 years, I've been running my life with appointments and responsibilities -- both personal and professional. For the last month, I completely stepped away from that and had little to no appointments and little to no responsibilities. The resulting sense of freedom was refreshing and revitalizing. I'm excited to be back in Seattle and at work. I'm also happy to see my family again!

My jawbone is missing

Jawbones. You know the cool blue tooth headsets that actually work and may prevent you from getting brain tumors from your cell phone (they don't promise this value prop -- I've just assigned it to them). I love these devices and so do many other people. My problem is I can't seem to keep track of them. I'm on my third one and I can't find it. If you find it, please return it to my desk. Thanks.

My lunch card is filled for now

Thank you to all those who offered to accept my lunch offer. I got about 20 to 25 responses. What I'm going to do is put all the names in a hat and pick 5 -- and then schedule those lunches out over the course of the next 90 days. I say 90 days because I expect to be able to do 2 in June, I'm gone in July, and then I'll do 3 in Aug.

The people that I don't get to have lunch with -- I invite you to Open Coffee's on Tuesday at Louisa's Cafe on Eastlake Ave. E. I'm there most Tuesday (but I won't be there in July either!)

Lunch with a younger generation: I'm buying

I had lunch yesterday with a junior in college. The student, named Jeff Widmer, is an impressive, thoughtful young guy trying to figure out his path in life. He's taken it upon himself to contact people older than him and ask them to lunch and listen to see what he can learn. It's a simple gesture -- and not many people do, which makes it incredibly effective.
I've decided to follow Jeff's lead. I'd like to talk to more recent graduates: so if you are reading this post, live in or travel to Seattle, are in your twenties, and want a free lunch, I'd like to treat you the first 5 people to respond to this post to a free lunch. I promise not to bore you. I'm interested in learning your perspective on life, politics, technology, relationships, etc.  After I do the 20 something generation, I'll probably turn to some people in a later stage of life.  I'm looking forward to it!

Party Foul

This past weekend I was in San Diego for a friend's bachelor party. It is the last of my single college friends to get married. One of the nights, a group of 10 guys went to a nice restaurant in downtown San Diego. We had reserved a private room at Osetra. The food was good and the conversation engaging. There were no naked women or excessive shots of Tequila. Bachelor parties have apparently tamed with age. Unbeknownst to me, one of the guys ordered a few $500+ dollar bottle of wine. A few of the people did not have any of the wine. When the bill for the evening came it was over about $3,000.  The bill was paid for by one guy and we all planned to pay our share later.  As one of my friends at the dinner pointed out to me-- this guy committed a party foul -- if you're going to order a $500 bottle of wine, you should pay for it rather than have it go into the shared bill.

Open coffee chatter this morning

After a terrible Seattle commute this morning, I arrived at the Seattle Open Coffee at Louisa's on Eastlake Ave East and was warmly welcomed by 7 other entrepreneurs who braved the slick rodes. We had a fascinating conversation about the adoption rate of technology in general and then more specifically about the introduction of the mouse. At this point the mouse seems like a ubiquitous commodity but at some point in the 1960s it didn't' exist. I'm told it took about 20 years to move from invention and patent filing to being used by Apple in the McIntosh. And Apple only used a 1 button mouse and the patent was for a 2 button mouse. Supposedly (I'm told at coffee this AM) that the engineer couldn't understand why you'd ever want a 1 button mouse when you have multiple fingers -- go figure!  Anyway, it was a fun conversation and my take away is that inventors and entrepreneurs have a big job of getting people to use their product and it takes TIME. This is more true in some instances than others -- and as I've mentioned local online is one of those markets that takes TIME.  So everyone who's out there slugging it out -- be patient and keep putting one foot in front of the other. And remember that sometimes one button is better than two.