The average 60-something today has ~$195K in their 401(k) retirement account. What if you could make one lifestyle change, which would cost you about 2 hours of meal prep every 40 days (~18 hours per year), and would in turn bring your $15/lunch* habit into < $2 per meal? If you invested the savings each year for 32 years (assuming you’re 35 like me, and retirement age is 67) at an average return of 5% compounding each year, you’d have ~$400,000 in additional retirement money at the end of that time.
I realize this isn’t the only reason to do meal prep, but it’s a pretty strong argument for making incremental changes to any habit of convenience. You can do similar calculations for other categories of discretionary spending, like ordering a $5 latte at coffee shops versus making coffee at home, using ride-sharing versus public transportation and walking, and many more habits which are ultimately optional choices we each make about how to spend. For me, looking at these analyses (even when I splurge and choose the more expensive option) really drives home the power of habits to shape outcomes. On such a long timeline it can be difficult to keep what matters most in focus.
Even if you don’t put the money into investments, with the benefit of compounding returns to get you to the full $400K, this is still $160K of direct savings that can be re-allocated to other things you value you more in life than what you ate for lunch today.
This kind of frugal thinking is a cornerstone of the book “Your Money or Your Life”, and whether you’re interested in financial independence or just stuck at home with some time on your hands, these burritos are delicious.
Making Delicious < $2 Steak Burritos
For this recipe, I’ll propose one meal plan so you know exactly what the ingredients are, what the nutrition facts are, and how to put it all together. From here, you can adjust the flavors and macros using vegetables, spices, or a different/more protein for a variety of options, while still staying below the $2 mark.
I’ve also done a bit of research to break down the nutrition facts of the underlying ingredients in this recipe, to give you a sense of how this performs on macros (fat, carbs, protein) as part of a balanced diet:
Bringing It All Together
Saturday night before bed: Coat the steak in salt, pepper and spices (paprika, cumin and oregano is good mix) and place in a slow cooker on low for 10 hours (or sous vide at 135 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.
Sunday morning after breakfast: Remove the steak from the slow cooker or sous vide and shred with two forks or dice into small pieces and set aside to cool. Dice the white onions. Get out the other ingredients and set up an assembly line of on the kitchen table, starting with your pop-up foil.
Place two sheets of foil on the table side-by-side overlapping a couple inches. Lay a tortilla on the foil and apply a thin coat of olive oil (so it won’t stick to the foil when reheated later) and flip over, oil side down on the foil.
Put your driest ingredients in first, to avoid sogginess. The green chili salsa should be the last thing you put in.
Roll it up, and freeze it right away!
Reheating the Burritos
We’ve wrapped them in foil, so the microwave isn’t an option unless you completely unwrap. For the best flavor, remove a burrito from the freezer and put it into the fridge the night before to thaw or remove it from the freezer in the morning and put it out on the counter to thaw. Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit, and bake for ~1 hour.
The spices and salsa should make the burrito flavorful and moist enough on its own (the raw onions and black beans will steam in the oven), but if you want to make the meal feel a bit fancier garnish with hot sauce, sour cream, limes, salsa, diced jalapeÃ±os or even an egg over-easy. Enjoy!
P.S. Going Beyond Burritos
Am I seriously suggesting you eat a burrito for lunch every day for the next 32 years? Well, yes… but also no. One of the biggest challenges to saving money is that frugality is often boring and low status. You might get made fun of for brining a bag lunch to work, but the odds that you will be hanging out with the people you work with in retirement (or even 2 years from now) is low. How much do you actually care?
There are lots of lunch meals you can enjoy for $2 or less that will give you the macros you need. One of my favorites is good old PB&J.
Check out my previous spreadsheet trying to construct < $10 day meal plan that felt yummy and not restrictive here for more ideas.
Not everyone spends $15 on lunch, but I am basing this off of my own spending while living and working in downtown San Francisco. Some example lunch menus include SOMA Eats, Uno Dos Tacos, and Deli Board.
In 2015, Sam Altman wrote a post titled “Bubble Talk” which lamented the “boring reading” of ongoing press coverage of a bubble in tech valuations, and laid out 3 scenarios he believed would be true by January 1, 2020. To win, Sam has to be right on all three propositions laid out in the post and reviewed in detail below. Sam also invited a VC to take the other side of the bet and Michael de la Maza obliged. The loser will donate $100,000 to a charity of the winnerâ€™s choice.
Proposition 1: On January 1st, 2020, the top 6 US companies at http://fortune.com/2015/01/22/the-age-of-unicorns/ (Uber, Palantir, Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, and SpaceX) s will be worth at least $200B in aggregate (from just over $100B in 2015).
Outcome: Not true. The group is collectively worth $30-40B less than $200B, based on publicly reported valuations of private companies and market caps of publicly traded companies.
- Uber = $50.73B Market Cap on Jan. 1, 2020
- Pinterest = $10.41B Market Cap on Jan. 1, 2020
- Dropbox = $7.44B Market Cap on Jan. 1, 2020
- SpaceX = $33.3B private valuation as of May 31, 2019
- Palantir = $20-30B private valuation as of September 2019
- Airbnb = $35B private valuation as of March 2019
Proposition 2: On January 1st, 2020, Stripe, Zenefits, Instacart, Mixpanel, Teespring, Optimizely, Coinbase, Docker, and Weebly will be worth at least $27B in aggregate (from just under $9B in 2015).
- Stripe alone is valued at $35B as of September 2019
Proposition 3: The current YC Winter 2015 batchâ€”currently worth something that rounds down to $0â€”will be worth at least $3B on Jan 1st, 2020.
- GitLab* = $2.75B private valuation as of September 2019
- Razorpay = $450M private valuation as of June 2019
- Atomwise = $150M private valuation as of March 2018
- Chariot = acquired by Ford for $65M
*Disclosure: I work for GitLab.
In December 2017 my husband, myself, and the remaining cadre of Mattermarkers who remained moved to Denver as renters and “short-timers”. Given how we started out, I didn’t put odds on staying long. We started out fresh from California in the middle of winter, as part of an acquisition capping off a long M&A process that had left me pretty burned out. We hadn’t planned to move, but it was what we needed to do to close the deal so we did it. Alighting on a new city in the midst of the holiday season, we didn’t have our support network built up over the past 10 years (basically my entire adult life) in the Bay Area, let alone the right clothes to weather the initial shock of change.
After spending years building something that’s no longer yours, especially if as in my case you have nothing (at least economically) to show for it, can raise questions about whether it was worth building at all. I spent 5.5 years, from early 2012 to mid 2018, on the Referly/Mattermark/FullContact rollercoaster with an average annual salary of $120K and net negative personal savings rate. In the sale of Mattermark, the purchase price did not clear the amount invested by preferred shareholders and common stock (including all the founders and employees) was wiped out. There was no success fee for completing the deal, just my honor and self esteem + a job offer at the acquirer with a relocation bonus.
I’m not complaining (and doing the deal was ultimately my choice and the best option available to the company), just laying it out in a bit more detail because sometimes I think people try to leave things vague to create an aura of mystery when founders have these types of exits. Despite all the work I’d done to separate my identity from my role as startup CEO, I felt quite shitty about this outcome… and it took a lot longer to work through those feelings than I could have predicted.
Where Am I?
Initially, we lived out of an Airbnb in Washington Park with our 4 month old puppy (Emo) while scouting for a pet-friendly rental in the neighborhood, but ultimately ended up finding a brand new duplex in Cherry Creek North renting for less than our portion of our former 3 bedroom apartment with roommates in San Francisco.
Moving into this tony old neighborhood of Denver was funny, mostly because we constantly felt like the youngest people around. After starting to feel “old” among our eternally 20-something tech startup peers in San Francisco, the average age of 65 was refreshing. Older Denverites of relatively good health are super active with their dogs, their gardens, and myriad outdoor sports and we met a lot of friendly people very quickly. Even at -1F (New Years Day) we relished the walkability of our 16-block shopping district and the mostly sunny climate with 2-4 inches of snow every week or two.
I started learning about the neighborhood’s history, and discovered it was founded as the township of Harman in the 1880s by Edwin P. Harman and his wife Lou, and annexed to Denver in 1896. As neighborhood folkore goes, Edwin was a decorated Confederate veteran and former lawyer and judge who became disillusioned with post-bellum life in Mississippi and decided to head West. I love that the original town hall still stands, always has the best flowers in summer, and has been tastefully renovated to host fancy community events. The city of Denver was founded in 1858, and Colorado did not become our 38th state until 1876, so this was all happening in a very short window of frontier history.
Beyond the local history, I also started to familiarize myself with the surrounding natural environment (Red Rocks, Front Range, Loveland Pass, Aspen, Durango, Mesa Verde and so much more… I took a week-long solo road trip through the Southwest), plants, animals (prairie dogs!), birds, bugs (cicadas!), weather (tornado warnings!). At first, I was still too burned out to do much socially, so I held off on engaging with the startup community or making an effort to find new friends beyond whatever happened naturally through day-to-day life. Through my responses to the warmth and outreach of others, I felt myself become nicer, less hard, less guarded. I started hosting small get togethers at our house. I was still pretty overwhelmed with my inner monologue, and didn’t really know how to explain myself if asked, “so who are you? what do you do?” but angel investment opportunities started to come my way, impressive local female founders.
Little did I know, time passing was working its subtle magic on me. Simply by existing, I was working through a lot of things during my experiment with retirement, which I branded as “professional sabbatical” since I didn’t know if it was going to be permanent. I felt myself becoming more stable and comfortable with my identity not being tied to my work.
How Am I Going to Pay for This?
I wrapped up the Mattermark transition in May 2018 and decided to use some of my savings to take the rest of the year off. To satisfy my need for an incremental spreadsheet to constantly iterate on, and because I finally had the time, I took over the “CFO of household” role from my husband for the first time in our 11 year marriage.
After an initial audit, which included calculating our net worth and IRR for the first time since 2012, I began thinking through how to diversify away from concentrated positions in startups and public stocks, and replenishing our retirement savings (Kevin had cashed out his 401k for a previous failed startup, so we were pretty behind where we should have been). I re-read “Your Money or Your Life” (thanks Dad for having that on the shelf when I was a teenager!) and began to engage with the FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early) community to find more people like me.
When I say “people like me” I mean people for whom working or not is a choice, because they’ve accumulated the wealth required to deliver economic freedom. Living the lifestyle I want (which is not particularly frugal) entirely off the compounding returns of my investments, even at a fairly conservative growth rate on the principal, is an option for me now.
Can These Numbers Really Be Right?
Being young and in a position to never work again (at the 4% withdrawal rate, with some tweaks to my spending habits) sounds great and is literally the millennial dream if you spend much time on Instagram. I’m incredibly grateful that the stock I received for my work at Twilio ended up generating my wealth, but it’s also terrifying in the sense that it is all new and feels like it could disappear tomorrow.
After making my detailed spreadsheet it was undeniable: at a relatively conservative compounding growth rate, I could stop working and cover my expenses with my investment income and I would have more money than I’d ever need to spend in my life. It was very disorienting to have my net worth climb from something I hadn’t worked on since 2012, while my current efforts were amounting to nothing in economic terms.
I wondered if the math could really be right, and checked it a ton of times. I found it difficult to figure out who to discuss these questions with, since its taboo to talk about money in general, and retirement in your 30s specifically can trigger all sorts of reactions. Most of us have been fed the idea that retirement means we work until 65 and then take it easy playing golf, going on vacations, and buying a beach house, and never questioned that. As I reached out for advice I was surprised to find many people who are high earners but have very little savings. For them, talking to me about my plans brought up a lot of uncomfortable comparisons about life choices. I’ve included a list of resources at the bottom of this post for anyone who is curious to learn more about thinking through questions like this.
What Do I Do With All This Time?
Being on sabbatical gave me a taste of what retirement would look like for me right now: I had few friends or hobbies, no kids, and no long term goals or vision for my life. I had put pretty much all of this off while working on my startup, and then had moved away from my established community, habits and routines. I struggled to explain myself outside of my work, and even the creative things I had become good at didn’t ring true and I struggled to say, “I’m a writer” or “I’m an analyst” or “I’m an investor” or even “I’m an inventor” even though any of these answers is right. All this meant meaning-making was extremely difficult each day, and I started to wonder, “what do I do with all this time? is this all there is in life?”
For anyone who has ever suffered a bout of depression, these thoughts are warning signs. For me, I immediately began to build out lists of things I wanted to do, and fill my days with activities to stave off these thoughts. I spent a lot of time and money getting my hair done, working out, cooking, traveling extensively, and reading even more extensively. Each day I would write down everything I had done that day, and recite it to my husband. Thanks to a lot of time spent doing mindfulness training over the past few years, within a few months saw all this manic movement without purpose for what it was: a way to paper over my anxiety about my direction in life.
This is loosely written in chronological order, but for any reader who has made it this far I want to reassure you *I regressed many times* and it is still happening. It is not a linear path from not feeling okay about your life to feeling okay again, and I still have mornings where I wake up in a funk that takes me hours to shake off.
Why So Much Focus on Money?
Economic freedom is a powerful thing, and I growing up in the household of an entrepreneur I lived by the ebb and flow of the business and its income. When I started working as a stablehand at 13, for my Dad as an analyst at 15, at McDonald’s at 16, as a receptionist at the tennis club, as a tennis instructor for the Parks & Rec Department, as a barista, as a freelance website consultant… each move was a step toward freedom from the strings that came attached to my parent’s money, a step away from the financial precariousness that shaded my childhood.
Money isn’t something I hate, but I’m also wary of loving it. I don’t think it is a good idea to love tools you didn’t make yourself, or at least to love anything that is as fungible as money. What I love is freedom to live the way I want to live, do the things I want to do and also NOT do other things, and to be able to adapt to the world quickly and face the reality and consequences of my own choices. I’ve done several significant of “off script” things in my life including skipping the 4-year college checkbox, getting married really young, starting my own companies, and deciding to be childfree. There are many more that are too personal to share here.
Because of my tendency to do things that are at odds with what society tells us to do, I have assigned an additional level of responsibility to myself economically to always be able to protect myself from the potential fallout of being “weird” or different. Regardless of the fact that I enjoy a long marriage, I feel it is extremely important that I don’t need to rely on anyone else for money (or the protection it provides) and that I not subject my partner to a situation where he is carrying out the role of “Good Provider”.
So to simplify all this, I am focused on having money because it confers economic power, and economic power can be used to purchase freedom. Having the Freedom to live my life as I choose is my highest value.
But What About… You Know, Denver?
Denver’s great, but I can hardly claim to know it yet! It has been an excellent cocoon for me as I figure out what I’m doing with my life. The next chapter likely involves getting much more involved in the local community, doing a ton more outdoor stuff, finally learning to ski (lifelong snowboarder but I broke my ribs when I was early on at Referly without healthcare… long story) and so much more.
It took me at least 3 years to start feeling really at home in San Francisco, so I am expecting the pace for this will be about the same here. If you want to see the cool places I’m exploring, eating, hanging out etc. check out my Instagram – it’s public now so everyone can follow along as our puppies grow up!
Consciously Choosing Goals for Life in 2019
Given how much I love my freedom to live as I choose, you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that I am very into thinking through just what I should do with all this freedom I’ve earned. As 2018 came to a close I did my yearly exercise of writing down goals for the coming year. I chose 3 themes:
- Establish Creative Work Routine
- I would like to be writing and painting (~4 hours per day), and I also want to explore startup ideas.
- Grow BuriedReads.com
- Launch paid associate-as-a-service newsletter
- Start coding on personal CRM project
- Continue XFactor partner role + angel investing
- Improve Physical Fitness & Appearance
- I would like to have a slender, healthy, attractive body.
- I would like to be comfortable on the floor with the dog, falling asleep, and doing athletic activities.
- Prioritize Making Memories
- I would like to have a year filled with memorable experiences that honor my values, including outdoor exploration, live music, eating and drinking out and other fun stuff.
What you might notice is that nowhere in here did I say “I want to get a job”, “I want to get another dog” or “I want to buy a house”. Arguably, the three biggest decisions I’ve made in 2019 weren’t on my list. Thematically, I’d say the dog aligns with physical fitness and the job aligns with creative routine. But the house? The house is awesome, both emotionally and as an investment, and is totally the right choice. But it also reveals something about a hidden theme, perhaps the “why” behind these other themes.
The bigger theme is that I want to build a life. I am actually motivated to build my life up again, even though one lesson I’ve learned is the impermanence of it all. I found it a painful lesson to discover that sometimes good things (like startups you love or lifestyles in cities you love) do come to an end. I’ve realized that it doesn’t make the world a dark, bad, or hostile place and it doesn’t mean I’ve lost my freedom. Perhaps this is 1999 or 2006 in terms of market cycle, but this time I have so many more resources, and so much evidence that I can weather whatever storm comes.
Lead by Mary Oliver (listen to this poem read aloud)
Here is a story to break your heart. Are you willing? This winter the loons came to our harbor and died, one by one, of nothing we could see. A friend told me of one on the shore that lifted its head and opened the elegant beak and cried out in the long, sweet savoring of its life which, if you have heard it, you know is a sacred thing, and for which, if you have not heard it, you had better hurry to where they still sing. And, believe me, tell no one just where that is. The next morning this loon, speckled and iridescent and with a plan to fly home to some hidden lake, was dead on the shore. I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world
Best Resources to learn more about FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early):
There are a TON of resources for FIRE now that the movement is spreading, but these are the ones I found the most valuable.
“Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up” by Jerry Colonna
“Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez (this is the original source of the movement, written in 1992!)
“The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Blogs: Mr. Money Mustache (+ he has a coworking space here in Colorado!)
- Establish Creative Work Routine
I caught up with a long-time friend this week, someone who has known me since I was 19, since before I was â€œin techâ€, since before I had my first job worthy of going on my LinkedIn profile. Heâ€™s a writer and a filmmaker now, and I love to talk to him about ideas I have for stories and hear about his parallel world to software — heâ€™s creating movies, commercials, storyboards, and other artifacts while Iâ€™m creating software, specs, spreadsheets, and so on.
But this week, I described my writing as â€œnot real writingâ€ because Iâ€™m not publishing much of it. In fact, Iâ€™m slowly and regularly erasing my tweets, which used to be such a fun outlet for self expression, when they get older than one week. Iâ€™ve considered making all these blog posts private, or just removing this website from the Internet, but talked myself out of it. In life, Iâ€™ve folded myself into a little cocoon to let something new germinate. Iâ€™m not sure what that is yet.
â€œIâ€™m not really doing anything creative,â€ I told him. â€œIâ€™ve become a reader, not a writer. A consumer of tech, not a producer.â€ But he wouldnâ€™t let me diminish myself like that and said so. â€œWhy do you think it isnâ€™t â€˜real writingâ€™? Whatâ€™s wrong with being a reader, or a consumer?â€
It’s hard to be confident as I slowly emerge from my cocoon. I feel so raw, so vulnerable and soft, so easily reached right to my core. Whatever I was using to protect myself, to keep myself above reproach, isn’t there anymore.
I also feel like the work I’m doing right now, building software, somehow doesn’t “count” as creative because it isn’t something I’ve founded (even though it is remarkably similar to past projects like UnicornDB and GitSheet, which is why I chose to join the team even before my sabbatical was officially over). I know this isn’t true, and not even rational, but it’s part of my inner monologue that I’m working through.
Sitting in the couch with my dogs this morning, reading The Paris Review and sipping my coffee, I was suddenly reminded of a CEO coaching session where I admitted my compulsive need to make thingsâ€¦ even on the weekend. When I was still CEO, this often took the form of cooking elaborate meals, but I also have a long string of projects including paintings, short stories, poetry, journal entries, all sorts of investment analysis and theory backtesting that came from this compulsion. When I compare my creative productivity now to what it was then, I would say the person I am today is super lazy! It’s intentional, but sometimes I still judge myself harshly.
After selling the company and moving to Denver, I have been working on a lot of personal projects but with a more long-range and less manic and compulsive nature. A major part of my journey has been learning to sit still, to waste time, to make a little room to be with my inner voice and not just jump as the first â€œyou shouldâ€ it throws out to me. You should cook. You should clean. You should take the car to the car wash. You should start a startup. You should take piano lessons. Shouldâ€¦ shouldâ€¦ should.
Itâ€™s not that these arenâ€™t good ideas. In fact, Iâ€™d like to do all those things. But thereâ€™s an issue of motive that I didnâ€™t examine for a long time. Why should I? What drives me to choose to spend time this way versus that, and will that motivation sustain me long enough to see it through? In part I wonder this because of how tired I got at the end of Mattermark. Partly thatâ€™s because M&A is a brutal process that is far less about building new things than selling what youâ€™ve already created. But partly I did get tired, and from April 2013 to April 2017 is only 4 yearsâ€¦ which makes me question my endurance. I know startups take longer than that, I knew it going in, and yet I just could not find the motivation to take it further.
â€œYour life is the creative thing youâ€™re building now, your beautiful house you just bought, training your young dogs, the year of the burger, your personal project to read the Western canon of literatureâ€¦ it sounds like like youâ€™ve gone from CEO to philosopher.â€
I smiled at this, and tried not to think about how much less epic it seemed than building a billion dollar company. Where did I pick up this need for the epic anyway, was it a borrowed belief that didnâ€™t get much consideration or something actually important to me now?
But then this morning I woke up and checked my sleep quality with my new Oura Ring, plus the AutoSleep app, plus Gyroscopeâ€¦ all to plan how active Iâ€™ll be today, what Iâ€™ll need to eat and what kind of workout Iâ€™ll do. It sounds so trivial, but stringing together days of good sleep, good diet, and good exercise is one of the things Iâ€™m finally taking care of in life. And this is something that millions of people (billions, though most donâ€™t have the privilege of these tools yet) struggle with every day.
And for the first time Iâ€™m starting to think about maybe all these people building all these products are building them for me. The founders of these products/companies may have varying aspirations, but I am the **user** now instead of the system (to borrow from Tron) and these things that are being to sold me to make my life better are pretty incredible. Some of them are crap, or at least a waste of money for what they deliver, but Iâ€™m not really interested in spending time complaining about them on my blog.
Iâ€™ve become heavily invested in understanding how to use these tools to construct the modern Good Life. Iâ€™ve also taken the time to survey a lot of the timelessly good things, like books and travel destinations, and made an intentional plan (curriculum?) for incorporating them into my life.
Iâ€™m writing this down mostly to capture it for myself, for when I forget and want to start another startup simply to gratify my ego or silence my anxiety. I remember how meaningful my life felt as I worked on my startup and look forward to feeling that degree of meaning again, from daily life.
Super excited to share that I will be a mentor for the @techstars Sustainability Program in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (@nature_org) in Denver this summer! Excited to work with Managing Director Zach Nies (former CTO of Rally Software) and Program Director @Hannah Davis.
I am deeply interested in water rights, and looking forward to using this opportunity to learning about other categories of conservancy as a business through my involvement in the program.
This post was originally a tweetstorm from June 20th, 2019. I delete and archive my tweets older than 7 days (using an app called Jumbo), and want to retain thoughts shared below. These tweets have sparked a widespread discussion, with more than 1.8K likes, hundreds of retweets and comments, and about 400K total impressions. It has been lightly edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
I finally decided to be child free, after nearly 12 years of marriage. Would it help anyone out there for me to share my long and thoughtful process?
A few people said yes, so I guess Iâ€™ll just share here. For starters, I got married at 22, so there was zero time pressure to have kids then. Ended up getting pregnant and having an abortion in the first year of marriage, which woke me up to reality of this choice.
Super grateful to Planned Parenthood, and I am a donor and customer (for my birth control) to this very day.
So then my career took off, and it was easy to put off thinking about kids. And then San Francisco was astronomically expensive, and then I was a founder and it seemed impossible to imagine… so I put it off, I had an IUD, no period, so no reminder.
So I was just kind of happily 20-something and then 30. Btw the pressure from my parents was non-existent, after some gently questions in my first couple years being married. I realize now how lucky Iâ€™ve been, after reading r/childfree on Reddit for 5 minutes.
Then my younger sister had her first son just over a year ago, and I realized the time to think through this and start working on a more conscious decision had come. So I started reading parenting books, so so SO many parenting books.
And I also began processing a lot of my own experiences as a child, my issues with my parents (most of us have some) and then… we sold Mattermark. I was totally free to write whatever new chapter of my life.
Which was scary af but also awesome in the true meaning of the world. Full of awe. But also a void of meaning… and this is where it was so tempting to have a kid, to give my life meaning in the face of this yawning void of an unknown future.
So I didnâ€™t, because that seemed like a really unfair reason to make a new human.
But that scared me because I started to wonder if everyone was secretly doing this whole due diligence process, not talking about it, and coming to some conclusion that I just could not figure out.
So I started something different, taking an inventory of the things I liked and didnâ€™t like about my life, my self, my relationships, and anything else I could come up with. And I started to map out the underlying things that enable and hinder those things.
And I realized that I have a lot of things that I havenâ€™t given enough time to over the past 10 years (like making art, writing fiction, traveling in non-Western culture) that I want to prioritize now.
I also got really into the American Time Use Study (Iâ€™m a data nerd) ans camr to the conclusion that I would not be able to maintain the time allocations to reading 100+ books per year, working out 3-5 times a week, cooking most of my own meals and meditating 20-50 minutes per day.
And I know this is probably where some people will mention Iâ€™m selfish. But I am starting to think that is okay, that I can chose anything. If I didnâ€™t write this, youâ€™d never know or care about my choice and my little life over here. And that got me thinking…
Self help books make people think there is â€œone right wayâ€ to do X. Parent, exercise, eat, date, fuck. But the reality is that you only have to care about that if youâ€™re caught up on being â€œgoodâ€. Iâ€™m so tired of performing the good role. Iâ€™m going to chose something different.
I donâ€™t know what to call it. â€œHappyâ€ seems like what the Instagram quotes would say… but thatâ€™s not quite the right word
So this is the amazing thing, to me at least. At the end I just am choosing the risk of missing out on one experience, in favor of the other experience I am having now. When we are kids we can pick endless choose your own adventure options, but eventually doors start to close
Can i still have kids at 40, 50, 60? Yes. The technologies are incredible from drugs to surrogacy (remember I read like 50 books!) but also adoption. Thatâ€™s not the point. For me, I needed to come to an answer so I could plan the next phase of my life.
I never felt super angsty about this choice, but I realize now I have had the immense privilege of a mostly secular family without much judgment, and wonderful friends who have never acted like â€œoh you must not like kidsâ€ and they never kept theirs away from me.
So yeah, thatâ€™s my story of my choice. I enjoy nurturing many people (mostly adults, a few kiddos) and a couple dogs, and those who know me in that role know it is a passion of mine. I hope this helps a few other people feel more seen. Btw, child free is a choice men face too.
So if you read this and it got you thinking, thank you!
P.S. some of you asked about my husbands role in this, and he was supportive of the exploration but put zero pressure on me to have kids. This was more about my inner journey to peace with my choice, and he helped me imagine how life together would be good either way.
I also want to acknowledge my friends with kids who have heard me think this through and been so real and loving with me, the respect you showed my process is so incredible and I am so grateful.
Whenever I go back to San Francisco, I like to walk by all the old startup office spaces I’ve worked in. Pier 38, 501 Folsom St, 425 1st St, 425 Folsom, 3130 20th St, etc. All these spaces have the energy (and sometimes even the curtains) we left behind, combined with the energy of many other startups before and after. But nothing is quite like visiting the space where we spent the most time, where we held our most important meetings.
Walking Emo this morning, I noticed the lyrics of this sound by MUNA really captures what it’s like letting go of Mattermark. The idea in these lyrics that it’s like driving by an old lover’s house, and realizing no one else can ever know how this physical space means so much to me and “something massive happened here”. And then the part where you realize life has moved on, and that despite something being as beloved and sacred as a “holy rite”, time has passed and “I no longer revolve around you”.
All the feels.
“Around U” by MUNA
I would swear I’d never plan again
But I can see the irony
I’m humbled by the passing of time
I am brought down onto my knees
An Arizona half and half
A half a pack of cigarettes
A vacant lot, my tangled thoughts
Suburbia give me my God again
All senses say, nothing has changed
The soft lines from the streetlights fall the same on my face
But something massive happened here
I can feel it in the atmosphere
Something false that once was true
I no longer revolve around you
I no longer revolve around you
And the house still stands where it was built
I know ’cause I drove by tonight
A candle in the bedroom
Where I once performed a holy rite
And I did stop to hang my head
Just for a moment at the light
‘Cause now the altar is a bed
And now you’re just a friend that once was mine
Oh civilian, idling along
How can you understand that there’s a whole world gone wrong?
But something massive happened here
Can you feel it in the atmosphere?
Something false that once was true
I no longer revolve around you
I no longer revolve around you
How can I try to be civilized
When inside there is a shift in paradigm
And everything we built, we built on our love
Everything spinning on one assumption
How can I try to say sorry
When my words don’t carry the same gravity
And everything I say, I say it knowing
Full well you still don’t want to believe
Something massive happened here
But you can feel it in the atmosphere
Something false that once was true
I no longer revolve around you
Something massive happened here
But you can feel it in the atmosphere
Something false that once was true
I no longer revolve around you
I no longer revolve around you
Songwriters: Catherine Gavin / Naomi Mcpherson / Josette Maskin
Around U lyrics Â© Universal Music Publishing Group
Each year, I set goals for many books I read as well as adding new themes. This year, the goal is 100 books and the theme is “Acts of Love”. Previous themes, which you’ll still see in my selections, include “Time Travel” and “Me and My Brain”. I also work to read more by female authors and authors of color, and to stay on top of award winners and the new cannon.
The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss by Jason Fung — A diabetes doctor explores the possibility that obesity could be a hormonal disorder, using research to support his theory that a diet and lifestyle regime that stabilizes insulin is the key to obesity reduction. I noticed a lot of similarities to the diet recommended in Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body.Thank you to Ashley Mayer for the recommendation.
Becoming by Michelle Obama — the much loved former First Lady shares her life story, reflecting on navigating the many layers of privilege and class she saw as a young black girl trying to figure herself out. I especially appreciated her thoughts on marriage counseling and the struggle to balance her ambitions with those of her husband.
The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli — This author has been referred to as “the new Stephen Hawking” for his poetic writing style and work on a potential “theory of everything” In this book, he explains time from the perspective of a theoretical physicist who is integrating general relativity with quantum mechanics, and has dedicated his life to exploration of a theory of loop quantum gravity.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (re-read) — Guilty pleasure alert! I loved this book so much that I had to read it again, because I love the delicious sweaty sexy coming of age in a world of amazing food stories. After I finished reading this, I booked a trip to New York City to eat (and Iâ€™m waiting for my delayed flight as I write this)!
The Help by Kathryn Stockett â€” An inside look at the beginning of the civil rights movement through the lense of a community of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi and the families they serve. Iâ€™ve reflected on what Aibileen constantly reminds her young charge, â€œYou is kind, you is smart, you is importantâ€ â€” crucial words for any child to hear daily. I canâ€™t wait to see the movie!
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke â€” A near-future science fiction story that asked: what will humans do when they discover theyâ€™re not the center of the universe? Hauntingly beautiful writing. Thank you to Andy Sparks for the recommendation.
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks â€” I started asking around for female POC intellectuals, and bell hooks came highly recommended. She notes that although women are stereotyped as being much more obsessed with romantic love, most of the intellectual writing on it is from menâ€™s perspectives.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz â€” Explore Toltec wisdom and what it really means to be free in a society that can rob us of our wildness, if we let it. Thank you to Maran Nelson for the recommendation.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff â€” A gutting tangling of two life stories. Dramatizing the loss of glossy youth, the struggle to create truly unique art, and the complexity of a life lived all the way through to the end. I needed a hug after finishing this one.
Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Schuzman â€” Youâ€™ve probably read by now that couples who effectively split household chores, or pay someone else to do them, have more sex. While Iâ€™ve certainly seen this play out as true in my own life, this book digs into the economic principles behind why this is so and unlocks what is at play behind many other interesting relationship dynamics.
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman â€” Always love when a soon-to-be-newlywed recommends me a newlywed murder mystery. This isnâ€™t a genre I read often, so it was a fun diversion while on vacation in Hawaii. Thank you to Ashley Mayer for the recommendation.
Last year, I set a goal to finish read 100 books and blew it out of the water. After realizing that there are more worthwhile books than I’ll ever be able to finish in my lifetime, I decided to allow myself to stop reading anything that I’m not enjoying guilt free, and my completion rate is about 50%. This means to reach 100 books per year I need to have roughly 200 in progress at any time. Fortunately, I’m currently at 190 total!
I attended a life changing CEO retreat in Tuscany a couple years ago, and the passing of poet Mary Oliver yesterday has me reflecting on what turned out to be an auspicious moment. This was not my first time attending an event lead by Reboot, so when I was invited to pick a koan (or short quote) that spoke to me I knew it would be something I read aloud to the group.
As I wandered around the room I glanced at this poem, passed over it for being “too sad for me” but then, as time ran out I, returned to it. Holding the paper in my hand and reading it over and over, I felt it was powerful and also like I was turning over words in another language. It spoke to me, but at first I hardly understood what it was saying:
(Excerpted from Mary Oliver’s poem Lead)
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
At her passing, I can’t help but imagine Mary Oliver herself as this beautiful bird. I am so grateful to her for bringing me this lesson, which I have both learned and am still learning.
In October, I went home to where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and visited some of my favorite beaches. On a solo hike out onto Dungeness Spit in the rain no one was around, and the mist hung all the way down to the water so you could only see 20 feet out from shore. There were flocks of arctic diving ducks harvesting snacks from seaweed and a lone seal, probably a pretty young one, swam along following me from a distance as I walked. I was feeling a bit melancholy, lost in memories and dreams, and I recited this poem for him.
Dungeness Spit Hike
I’m feeling ready to get back in the swing of blogging, and generally dialoguing with people around the world about ideas, products, and (eventually) another startup. In order to do that, I feel like a little recap of 2018 is in order. Overall, it’s hard to simplify it down to an “awesome” or “challenging” year because it was both, and much more. We moved to Denver in December 2017 coinciding with the sale of Mattermark to FullContact and spent Q1 just settling in and working a lot. After 10 years of apartment life in which we moved 8 times we didn’t have much stuff, and in our new 3-story 3-bedroom townhouse we were awash in empty square footage. Our puppy loved it!
Initially I thought I would take it a bit easier on myself after the M&A slog, and we had even discussed 3 months off before stepping into the full-time gig, but my role ended up being much more central to the company operations as I stepped into the shoes of a departed VP Product. Despite how it was reported in the news, Mattermark was very much operating and there was a long integration checklist to complete. Â set myself back into the rhythm of endurance, Navigating a couple legacy product shutdowns, GDPR, and shoring up process around roadmap and requirements writing was beyond a full-time gig but thanks to the incredible PM team and the relationships we formed, it happened and for the first time since early 2012 I was back on the exec team of a startup rather than running it, and had hit all my OKRs. That felt great.
At the end of Q1 I also started to work through my list of neglected relationships with a trip to Disneyland with Kevin’s family, including my two adorable nephews and spunky niece, and then headed to Austin to visit my sister and meet her newborn baby son (my 3rd nephew!) for the first time.
As Q2 began, I prioritized re-connecting with the women in my life, friendships that have been incredibly durable and sustaining the face of my crazy founder life. In early April I hosted the first partner meeting for XFactor Venures at my house in Denver and then headed out on a two-week birthday trip, planned over 6 months in advance, to cook in Julia Child’s home in the South of France and explore romantic spots on the French Riviera with my husband (and former cofounder/CTO). When I returned to Colorado I was tan, relaxed, and ready to make the leap into the unknown. My last day at FullContact was May 4th, and we enjoyed some Frozen themed cupcakes to say goodbye to the working world for awhile.
After ~20 years of uninterrupted work (with over 10 of those years in startups), I embraced the freedom to do whatever and be whoever I wanted with enthusiasm. I pierced my belly button, I got hair extensions and dyed them various shades of pink and rainbow, I spent 2-3 hours a day working out and walking my dog, I (gasp!) didn’t worry about who was looking at my social media posts of concerts, clubs, trips, and other fun. I also got a marriage counselor we love, bought myself a nice car, got a Peloton, lost 20 pounds, had more sex, slept like a baby, and lost track of time. For Kevin’s 40th birthday in May about 20 of our friends came to Vegas and we saw David Guetta perform an incredible set, honoring Avicii, from the best table in the club. We saw the final show in Paramore’s tour at the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater and watched Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco float above our heads playing a white baby grand piano for his stadium show at the Pepsi Center. I spent all of my 20s married, working hard, happily being a nerd… and I’d just turned 33. It was time to live a little, so I decided to live a LOT.
I addition to playing hard, I also worked quite a bit on my inner life and personal projects. I read over 100 books in 2018 spanning science fiction, popular fiction, philosophy, relationships, business, biographies, history, and many more titles that were queued up in the backlog. I took a significant step back from posting on Twitter and Facebook, and archived and deleted my entire history of tweets (I’ve since started tweeting again, but far far less). I outlined a handful of book ideas (2 fiction, 4 non) and began playing around more seriously with the personal CRM startup idea as well as a recruiting one, and also worked with my husband to curate a new newsletter of startup links called BuriedReads. I re-watched every single episode of Star Trek – The Next Generation with Kevin. I made a few angel investments and lead my 3rd deal for XFactor (not yet announced) and continued to deepen my interest and knowledge in aerospace and space exploration investing.
Also, life just kept happening… which meant weddings, visiting family in the Pacific Northwest, visits to Denver from friends (thank you so much, you helped with my homesickness immensely!), helping my sister with her family’s move back to our home town, health issues, managing day-to-day chores which I had pretty much forgotten how to do for myself while working (we had 2x-week help as married cofounders to eliminate any risk of tension, now we’re back down to every other week). The “errand paralysis” Anne Helen Petersen writes about in “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” began to ease up, just a little bit, as I started to build my days out of a series of more simple tasks like hanging the outdoor lights or assembling a piece of furniture (I still don’t have a Colorado driver’s license though).
While all this was going on, I was also quietly scouting around for things I might do next. A handful of venture capital firms had reached out immediately upon the sale of the company with partnership openings, and I explored those leads but the timing wasn’t right. A non-profit I’ve long wanted to improve reached out about an executive role on their team. Several of my angel portfolio companies let me know I’d be welcome to get more involved in day-to-day operations. Long-time friends who had started new companies offered challenging and deeply interesting roles. But I kept saying no, not yet, because nothing felt quite right…
Right now the life of an employee is still not something I yearn for. I’m a creator, an artist in my own way, and a maker of things and ideas. So far, this is what I have planned for 2019:
2019 curriculum is shaping up to be about how to build a good life 1) in a new city 2) making adult friends 3) maintaining long distance friendships 4) starting to lean into child free lifestyle as I turn 34 5) starting a new company outside the Bay Area
â€” Danielle Morrill (@DanielleMorrill) November 5, 2018
Happy New Year!