Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I idolize Brad Feld. What’s not to like? He lives in a beautiful place, he contributes generously, Hawaiian shirts- unbuttoned three down, successful as a founder and a VC, respected by respectable people, he seems honest and grounded with just the right amount of DGAF. He also seems to laugh and love a lot. He shares this with his wife of more than 20 years, Amy Batchelor. A relationship like that is an impressive achievement for both of them. I would love to have that record for myself and my wife.
So when Brad and Amy said they were writing a book about relationships in the context of startups and entrepreneurs I was was very interested. So was my wife. So was the other founder at the dinner table. It was unanimous- this was a hugely important topic.
The problem with idolization is the Supplication; the part where I expect answers from on high. Where I plop down with their book looking for a roadmap to get from where I am to where they are, then get bitchy because the directions are not very specific. This expectation is not fair to them as people or authors, and for that, I’m sorry guys.
The book does a good job describing where they are. They are humming along together. After all this time, their relationship is still special and growing. The example of their current relationship points in a direction, and the book mentions useful sign posts along the way, (personality differences that can rub, make sure to communicate, look for traditions) but it’s not a roadmap.
I think much of it is just how memory and hindsight works. The book opens with the bad times (which always imprint, unfortunately) and then skips across what they figured out from the view of now. Much of this is enlightened self awareness and acceptance of the other. So A -> X, where A is memorable because it sucked and X is familiar because it’s now. The gory sausage making in-between is mostly left out or wrapped up in tidy vignettes of a page or two.
I’m sure it is healthy. I believe Brad when he says he lets things go annually. It makes sense that neither of them hold on to the specifics of the half-enlightened sort-of-insights that built up the scaffolding supporting their now, but those are often the pieces that are needed by anyone looking to build similar scaffolding.
All this seems like a normal dynamic. Books and blogs are so often written from the space and confidence that comes from success. The basic problem being that when one is all the way at X, it’s very hard to remember how they got from C to D.
I don’t know where I am on my personal path between challenges and enlightenment. It’s supposed to be that way – the unknown is most of the journey:
The facts of my timeline are stable enough. I’m in love with a wonderful woman who I have been married to for almost three years. I’m on my fourth company.
But my judgement varies: sometimes I’m impressed with myself, other times, not so much. Sometimes in my view I’m a decent husband, other times, not so much. I wouldn’t claim to have it figured out. I’m pretty sure that means I’m in the sausage making phase.
It’s tricky to write from this phase. Anything I publish in the middle of figuring it out stands a good chance of being judged by tomorrow me as not too impressive, but I like an honest risk. I also think it’s important to leave notes on getting from C to D, just in case I ever want to write my own book from my own X. And these early steps are important to the community – sausage making is messy business for everyone involved.
I am grateful that Brad and Amy took on this project. I’m grateful for them opening up an important conversation.
It’s a conversation I want to contribute to from my, more limited, experience. So I’m going to take a crack at sharing a few of the tactics, the big epiphanies, and the half-insights too.
By way of public commitment, tomorrow me will write posts in good time (summer project?) with titles like: