Precisely

Marc Andreessen: “Do you know the best thing about startups?”

Ben Horowitz: “What?”

Marc Andreessen: “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.”

Pooped

For the most part, having a dog is wonderful. As I told my brother David, who just got an adorable cockapoo named Brooklyn, having a small dog is like having a stuffed animal that climbs onto you. Observe the two of them, passed out on their couch:

davidbrooklyn

Of course, there are downsides to them, too. One of which is trying to get your dog to poop. And then scooping up that poop in a little plastic bag.

Gem doesn’t really like to poop, so even if he needs to go badly, he’ll walk a good way before finally squeezing it out. Cold weather be damned, he’ll drag me block after block after block while sniffing for a place to drop anchor. Then, once he does, it’s sort of a hit and run: post poop, he sprints off in the opposite direction as fast as he can. When he’s on leash, he doesn’t make it far, though I’m usually stuck bagging with one hand, while trying to resist his pulling through the other.

Normally, Gemelli has a pretty robust stomach. He’ll eat his dog food or his favorite treats, alongside bites of whatever meat or cheese Jess or I might be consuming ourselves, and digest it all like a pro. But on occasion, something doesn’t sit well. Then, when he ‘does his business’, it’s less like building a proverbial log cabin, and more like watching a soft-serve machine dispense frozen yogurt. In the worst case, he simply leaves a brown liquid puddle spreading on the sidewalk. And, of course, by Murphy’s Law of New York Dog Ownership, he only drops those liquid dooces directly in front of expensive co-ops, as the doormen eye us both angrily from inside.

In that situation, however, I’m never certain the correct etiquette. Do I take my little baggie and sort of smoosh the liquid around a bit? Ask to borrow a hose? I’m not sure there really is a good answer. So I usually follow Gemelli’s lead: after the last spurt, we both turn and book it as fast as we can.

Neck Deep

Sorry for the radio silence. Helping launch the NPFL has eaten waaay more of my time than expected. In parallel, Dobbin’s counting down to the launch of the Spring ’14 line, and CrossFit NYC is taking over two more floors of our 28th St location. Plus I’m neck-deep in a bunch of structural / fund management stuff at Outlier, which should help us better keep up with and support our portfolio companies, and am trying to help my brother wrangle a brand new puppy (his first dog, as Gem is mine).

In short, not much time for blogging. Though I am strongly considering stopping sleeping and going to the bathroom, which would definitely free me up a bit. Either way, hoping to get more up here, more regularly, soon.

Sporting Life

One year in high school, I worked as a little league umpire. The kids were great; the parents, terrible. At least every other game, we had to throw a parent out of the park. Swear at me all you want, but swear at a ten year old and you’re gone.

At CFNYC, I get to see grown-up versions of those kids. Some had great experiences, come in the door as competent athletes. But many more show up convinced that they’re just not good at sports at all. Which, invariably, isn’t really the case. After a few weeks of coaching, they start to realize they’re capable of things they never imagined, begin thinking about themselves in totally different ways.

One of our coaches told me that when she went home for Christmas not long after we hired her, she spent most of her week trying to help her confused family make sense of her new job. “I don’t understand,” they’d say. “You coach at a gym? Where people work out? Doing exercise? You?” But, indeed, she does coach at a gym. Very well. And despite growing up believing she was hopeless at anything physical, she’s on her way to becoming a formidable CrossFitter and a competitive Olympic lifter.

The thing I hear most from those athletes, the ones who surprise themselves and everyone else, is that they wish they had figured it out sooner. That they missed out on all kind of experiences, tormented themselves needlessly along the way with that wrong sense of who they were and what they could do. And if you press them a bit further, you can usually trace things back to a handful of bad early experiences. A couple of missed soccer goals with embarrassed parents shaking their heads from the stands.

I thought about that, and about my high school umping experience, when I saw this great article from the Fuller Youth Institute.

As they put it:

Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as [kids] perform are:
Before the Competition:
Have fun.
Play hard.
I love you.
After the competition:
Did you have fun?
I’m proud of you.
I love you.

Along with this gem:

researchers Bruce Brown and Rob Miller asked college athletes what their parents said that made them feel great and brought them joy when they played sports. Want to know the six words they most want to hear their parents say?

“I love to watch you play.”

Great advice for parents and coaches at any age. But an especially good reminder for anyone working with kids in sports, or anyone with kids of their own. It’s all too to easy to forget that what you say and do really can have a lifetime of impact.

Roc-a-fella

Late in his life, the writer and social critic Edmund Wilson admitted in an interview that he no longer read history books. Asked why not, he explained, “I already know more or less the kind of things that happen.”

I feel similarly about business books. Having read too many in the early days of my startup career, I now very rarely find one that actually says something new, or that warrants reading past the first chapter.

There is, however, one big exception: The Rockeller Habits, by Verne Harnish. I recommend the book to all of our portfolio company CEOs, and would recommend it equally to anyone building a company. While none of the content is revolutionary, it’s both comprehensive and specific; unlike most business books, which are too hand-wavy to put into real-world action, The Rockefeller Habits is an approach you can immediately put to work as the core of running your business. For CEOs and entrepreneurs, definitely worth the read.

Starting Early

When I was two years old, on my first day of preschool, the teacher asked if I’d like some apple juice and crackers.

“Actually”, I replied, “I’d prefer a croissant.”

Relax

by Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

[via]

Picante

While we were shooting the Israeli documentary, we spent a bunch of time in the village of Sakhnin. Almost every day we shot there, we ate lunch at the same restaurant. The place served lunch Arab style: a first shared course with plate after plate of salads, breads, dips, pickles and olives. followed by a second course of grilled meat or fish.

Each lunch, we’d eat the all pickles and olives they’d brought out. But we’d leave behind the single pickled pepper that always sat on the same plate. After a week or so, the owner of the restaurant started ribbing us about the pepper.

“Too hot for you?” he’d ask, and laugh.

Four or five days later, just to shut the guy up, I ate one of the peppers.

“See,” I said. “Not so bad.”

“Oh,” he replied, “those peppers are only hot to Jewish people. I’ll get you the real peppers.”

He headed to the kitchen, reemerging a few minutes later with two small, green peppers on a plate. They weren’t more than an inch long, but they were the brightest colored food I’d ever seen.

“I’ll do it,” I said, “if Denny will eat one, too.”

Denny was our sound guy, about forty-five years old. He raced motocross, and he had done sound for TV news front-line war reporting. He was the guy sitting in the midst of gunshots and mortar fire, holding a boom mic overhead. If anybody else was stupid enough to eat one of these with me, it was Denny.

“Okay,” he shrugged.

So we toasted each other with the peppers, and then each took a big bite.

I chewed. I swallowed. It was hot, but not so terrible.

And then, about five seconds later, somebody set off an atomic bomb in my mouth.

I looked over at Denny, who was turning redder and redder. My eyes started running. As did my nose.

“Drink milk!” somebody yelled. “Eat some bread!”

But nothing helped. At some point, Denny and I started laughing hysterically about the whole thing. What else could you do?

We laughed and snotted and laughed for about fifteen minutes of searing pain, after which things started to cool down. About ten minutes later, I tried a bite of the original, less spicy pepper. It tasted like vinegar, a sign, apparently, that I’d temporarily blown out my ability to perceive spicy.

Over the following few weeks, the owner of the restaurant treated Denny and me better than the rest of the group. For at least a day, I think my core body temperature was up a degree or two. And, spicy as that pepper was on the way in, it was just as bad on the way back out.

Cupped

About a decade ago, I was producing a documentary in Israel, shooting in little Arab villages up in the north of the Galilee.

The hospitality in the villages was intense, and if we were shooting within a hundred feet or so of someone’s home, the woman of the house would come out with a tray of cut fruit, homemade dessert and Turkish coffee.

On our first day of shooting, we had fruit and coffee in front of one house. We had fruit and coffee in front of a second. But when a woman came out from the third house we had moved in front of, the director and I – both Americans – politely declined.

After she headed back inside, however, our Arab Israeli producer pulled the two of us aside. We had, apparently, badly offended the woman by not accepting her fruit and coffee, he explained. For the good of the group, he made clear, we should certainly accept all such offers going forward.

So, later that day, we had fruit and coffee in front of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh house. After seven or eight straight shooting days, we were probably averaging 15–20 stops, sliced fruit and exceedingly strong shots of coffee at each.

At that point, we broke for a weekend, and the director and I headed back to Tel Aviv. Given our early call times while shooting, we took advantage and slept in. Until, at 11:00am or so, we both awoke, feeling absolutely terrible. By noon, we were curled on the floor in fetal positions. It took us until 1:00pm or so to realize that the terrible, terrible migraines were simply symptoms of severe caffeine withdrawal.

Post fix – a few shots of espresso later – we were totally fine. Once we tapered down our daily dose over the next week, all was well. But, to this day, when people tell me they ‘drink a lot of coffee’, I think, you have absolutely no idea what that really means.

Snow Shoes

For the first year and a half of Gemelli’s life, when it snowed, we were stuck inside. I’d take him downstairs, and he’d gamely head off towards the corner. But after a few steps, the combination of ice and salt would leave him pinned in place, holding up a frozen, burning paw while looking at me accusatorially.

A few weeks ago, we discovered Pawz. Unlike the more structured boots we’d tried before – which Gem removed as quickly as we’d put them on – he at least tolerated the Pawz. And with his feet covered, he didn’t mind the weather. Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stayed us from completion of our appointed rounds.

This morning, as after the last few big storms, we headed to Riverside Park. On the surface streets, the combination of shoveling, snowplowing, subterranean pipes and foot and road traffic prevented snow from really accumulating. But down in Riverside, eight inches of snowfall yielded eight inches of snow piled on the ground. Which, if you’re a foot tall, is basically shoulder height.

So, today, Gem took about an hour to slog through a half-mile loop of park we can normally clear in a matter of minutes. Undeterred by the difficulty, he trudged happily along, marking trees and garbage cans, and trying to put the moves on the female dogs also out for a stroll.

Unfortunately, most of those hot ladies were much taller than he was today, and it appears “neck deep” is a relative measure. So while he’d run furiously to reach them, just a few of their steps would leave them out of butt-sniffable reach. Apparently, even across species lines, short guys have to work that much harder to kill in on the dating scene.