Drowning

I’m struggling and I’ve avoided talking about it.

I’m used to being busy and I’ve often said that what I like most about my job is the constant phase shifting – it fits my personality and, frankly, my attention span. I’m used to a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty. But lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by it. I’m not sure if it’s the constant barrage of news from a president I can’t stand and who I think is ruining our country. Or the friend who was just diagnosed with advanced metastatic stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Or the other friend who was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Or the crap that’s going on in tech and venture that makes my stomach turn. Or just the day to day busy life of a family of 5 with school, sports and everything in between. I feel distracted. I think of Matt and Reggie a lot (and at unexpected times). I’m struggling to focus.

I’ve long prided myself on always being able to take on more. But I think I’ve hit the wall. I both wanted to be open about how I was feeling – maybe others are feeling the same? – and to brainstorm a bit about what I’m trying to do about it. I always feel better when I have a “plan” and I’m trying through this post to create one.

  1. Slow down. I’m starting to take things off my calendar and say no to more stuff. Bouncing from meeting to meeting isn’t productive and robs me of time both to think and to be proactive.
  2. Spend more time with the people I love. Seems obvious but in the face of a busy schedule and travel it’s easy for this to get lost. My wife and I are taking more walks together. I’m spending more time with my kids. I’m spending time with my partners. And I’m not trying to hide it on my calendar or in email responses (“I can’t meet then – I’m going home early that night”). I don’t care if people think I’m cool or always at work.
  3. Define myself more though my relationships than my work. I love my work, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t define me. And I’ve gotten comfortable with my role in our partnership.
  4. Be deliberate. I’m not just more deliberate with my time and schedule but also with what I’m focused on. I’m really making an effort to spend time on things that really have impact – on Foundry, on our portfolio, on our investors, on our industry. At work these are my highest priorities – not the day to day bullshit that can so easily consume me.
  5. Speak out. I’m taking stands about the things that are important to me. I’m ignoring the haters. More on this in a separate post…
  6. Breathe. I’m not particularly into meditation but as part of slowing down I’m taking some deliberate time to stop, stretch and breathe. It’s helping.

Sorry for the overly personal post here. I feel better having written it. Life goes in cycles…this too shall pass.

/sjl

  • mark gelband

    be well. thanks for sharing.

  • Eric darst

    May I suggest a focus that has helped me rise above the current morass – moral stewardship. Or better yet with the circle you are part of – moral entrepreneurship. I don’t fully know yet what it entails but the conviction gives me strength.

  • Ian Hathaway

    +1

  • Jennifer and I have a shorthand for this: “crazy busy”. People say they’re crazy busy all the time, but for us it means something is wrong.

    It sounds like you’ve got a handle on it, but I have a suggestion. When you think you’ve slowed down enough, slow down some more. And then some more.

    Be well.

    -c

    • That’s good advice Charlie. I’ve long ago stopped telling people I’m “busy” in response to “how are you?”. Pretty much can take that as a given, I guess, and it feels like a thing now to show or complain how busy you are compared to the next person. Feels like a poor measure of success….

      • It’s probably true that at any time you’re either “ahead” or “behind”. For me, the goal is to be ahead most of the time.

  • Wow. Incredible! That was fascinating. Beautiful read. Thanks for sharing.

  • I have regularly tried to self-enforce news and social media embargoes. When I succeed in forcing myself to keep each to an extraordinary minimum per week, I’m consistently surprised by how little it feels like I’ve missed and how much more in control my life feels.

  • Elizabeth Kraus

    Please don’t apologize for this “overly personal” post. I think many people are struggling with the same issues. I know I am. The proliferation of the “give before you get” mentality is perhaps the most important impact Foundry has had on our community. But there is a point when giving before you get, gets to be too much. I think sharing this and continuing to talk about it might be the next most important impact you all can make.

  • Sue Kunz

    I think a lot of us can relate. THX for sharing. Something that has helped me (and which is not taught) is in line with your #4 above: decide what to do well, decide what to do poorly, and decide what not to do. It’s hard for some of us to embrace “C” work, but not every task warrants an “A”.

  • Amy Baglan

    I’m really thankful that you shared this, Seth. Like so many of us, I can relate. I’ll offer something in hopes that it will be of service here (for you or anyone reading the comments). For years I have embraced my “Type A” personality. It’s largely what’s gotten me to where I’m at, and for that I’m thankful. But I’ve noticed in the past year how much I over-schedule and over-commit in my personal life, to the point where not finishing my personal to-do list actually feels like failure. (I mean, what???) It often felt like another version of a “work week”, just on a weekend or weeknight. Which is insanity when you think about it. That time was created for us to relax and recharge — and we need that on a physiological level. I have friends who are really good at doing nothing…just chilling out for hours, reading for pleasure, or just “being”. I always admired that and wondered why it was so hard for me to do the same thing. So in the past year, I’ve made it a point to stop scheduling so much damn stuff in my personal time. I’ve noticed that creating the space for spontaneity feels both fun and FREE, free of all the shit I said I was “supposed” to do or accomplish. It was super hard at first, but it seems to get easier every time. And I also notice that I’m totally ready to go at work after one of these deeply relaxing stints, which helps to rid me of whatever guilt might be there. I’ll sign off with an Italian word that I have fallen in love with: “dolce far niente”, which means “the sweetness of doing nothing”.

    • Great observation Amy. I’m trying to get better at exactly that (but admit that it’s historically not been my strong suit to have unscheduled time). I think doing more of nothing is great advice!

    • Dan DeGolier

      I can really relate to this Amy, thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • Dave Mao

    My problems are very small next to what’s on your mind, but let me share a recent moment from my life with you. A few weeks ago, I was pushing my 2yo daughter around the neighborhood in her tricycle, and as we walked around and around, my mind wandered and I started to worry about challenges at work. The more I walked, the more I worried. The thing that snapped me out of it was my daughter starting to sing nonsense words to the tune of Yankee Doodle… that’s something she does right now.

    That moment was a rare and wonderful treat (and hilarious), and something I almost missed out on because I wasn’t really present. My worries had transported me to a different place. How much longer will she be this age? How many more walks do we have before she won’t want to be pushed or accompanied by me? Hell, summer is ending soon here in MN, so we have like 10-20 more of these excursions, tops. That helped give me perspective — it reminded me that at the end of my life, the memories that will bring me joy are these little ones, not the big deals I close or the zeroes in my bank account, but the things that are fleeting, rare, and irreplaceable. The things that can’t be bought.

    I’m not saying don’t worry, or that the scale of my problems are remotely like yours. What I am saying is that I think the things you have on your list are a great place to start.

    For me, that moment with my daughter catalyzed a change in me that helped me let go of some unhealthy ambition I’ve been holding on to, and it let me rediscover my values of balance, happiness, and joy. I am hopeful that you will find your own peace, as well.

    • Hey Dave. Totally agree. And what you’re describing is what I’m trying to capture in my “plan”. Was helpful to put it out there (i.e., to get it off my chest) and to be explicit about what actions I’m going to take to better prioritize and not always feel like I’m reacting to things coming at me…

  • Fellow Traveller

    Can totally relate to this. One little piece of advice, something that helps me a lot when I feel like drowning.

    If you don’t do that already, please do work out. Go to the gym at least 3 times a week and give it all you’ve got. Best if you get a personal trainer.

    It does help.

    At the end, we are biological machines and our psychological state depends heavily on the state of our body. Sound mind is indeed a sound body.

  • One practical suggestion that can help anytime you’re feeling this way is to go volunteer somewhere – homeless shelter, soup kitchen etc. Spend several hours of your time sharing in an unconditional way and turn your energy toward those people you are helping…You’ll walk out of there feeling 1000x better and will have revealed a lot of positive energy in the process

  • Leigh

    Hi Seth, I just started reading your blog and appreciate your insight and how candid you are. I relate to this post, and have recently found some relief by prioritizing self-care every day. I’m using an app called “STREAK” (I’m not affiliated with it) and have 6 “self-care” style tasks that I try to do each day. Happy to share them if you’re looking for ideas.

    • Thanks Leigh. I have found that being more deliberate has been really helpful. It can be hard to prioritize in life and making sure I’m more thoughtful about what I really want to be doing vs just reacting to what’s coming at me has been a very positive change for me. I’ll check STREAK out as well – I hadn’t heard of it. Which things are you doing that you’ve found most helpful?

      • Hi Seth, I’ve resurrected the old “morning pages” from the Artist’s Way book (3 pages of stream of consciousness writing) which is really a great way to start the day, followed by yoga and a morning walk. After lunch I’ve been doing a 10 minute meditation with the Calm app (also no affiliation), then an evening walk and a phone call that’s strictly social and not work-related. The phone call seems to be the hardest to accomplish, but probably the most important in terms of having a real human connection considering my nomadic lifestyle.

        The above has really added balance and sanity to my world which tends to be all work and no personal time. I hope you find it helpful!

  • Ana Henriette Lugard Cunha

    that’s was awesome. And yes, there are lots of people out there (and here) facing the same struggle, trying to find ways out, trying to make sense of losses, of the hate that seemed to find a way to become the new normal… and more. Your post made it real, made it human and made it something we shouldn’t hide… hope you (and us all) find a way to overcome and to being more human after all.

    • Thanks for your comments Ana and for your kind words. I share the sentiment in your last sentence!

  • Sean Yee

    I am so thankful to have read this article! The top three items you listed speak loudly to me. I work in cancer research and every day I am reminded that life is unpredictable and brief. Those qualities of life had created a notion that I have to achieve as much as I can in as short amount of time as possible. Burnout is common in my field and I have been feeling overwhelmed lately. Reading your candid words was calming, reminding me that I’m human and it’s okay to slow down. Thank you!!

    • Thanks for your kind words Sean. I’m greatful that the post resonated with you and was helpful.