John Edwards, we barely knew ya

January 30, 2008

I just read the breaking news that John Edwards is bowing out of the presidential race. That’s really too bad–John Edwards is a great reminder of what makes this country great. John is a lower-middle class kid from the South who rose to national prominence. Stunning, really.

I had the great pleasure of sharing a flight with John Edwards a few years ago. I’ll never forget how much he struck me as “just a regular guy.” When I sat next to him, he was engrossed in a trashy beach novel. He was friendly and personable and we shared a few moments reminiscing about how our Tar Heels just beat those rascals from Dook.

After the flight, John asked if I’d like to take a picture together. I didn’t know it at the time, but John was on his way to the cancer center in Boston where his wife was about to begin chemotherapy. With all that was swirling through his head, he had the grace and awareness to stop and take a photo with me. A true southern gentleman.

John: thanks for all that you’ve done to raise the nation’s conciousness on key issues of poverty and job creation. We hardly got a chance to know you as a presidential candidate– I just hope that whoever is the eventual nominee is smart enough to choose you as their running mate.


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January 26, 2008

A few times a day, I get emails from friends or family with something amusing on the web to check out. In a typical day, I don’t have time to check it out immediately, so they usually languish in my inbox for a few days. My sister-in-law (Agee) recently sent me something that quickly ended up at the bottom on my inbox for more than a week. Boy, I wish I had seen this earlier!

I’m currently learning how to play guitar, and Agee was my first teacher. Over the holidays (which my wife and I spent in Santa Cruz) Agee showed me some basic chords and I picked it up pretty quickly. I told her that my goal was to be able to sit around a campfire and play tunes and have people sing along. I know that lots of pop songs are made up of the same basic chord structure– so I’m hoping to quickly get to the point where it is fun to play.

To hammer home the point, Agee sent me a brilliant video from a guy named Rob Paravonian. I’ve embedded the video below this blog post– and if you’re a musician, a guitar player of any kind, or even just a person who enjoys music — spend five minutes watching this video: it’s freakin hysterical.

I’m excited to see that RobP is coming to Boston on March 15th. I just bought tickets to the show (note to wife: hope we’re available that night!). Rob apparently has some time to kill when he’s on the road as well. Check out his blog for some amusement.

Thanks to Agee for sending me this fantastic video. I’m off to grab my guitar to learn the only 3 chords that matter.


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A championship for me too

October 29, 2007

This morning here in Natick, Massachusetts we are all celebrating a World Series Championship for our Boston Red Sox.

I recall an email I sent to a few friends and family right after the 2004 World Series ended. It went something like this: “I grew up a Mets fan, and although I’ve been following the Red Sox this year, while I watched the celebration tonight I realized that I didn’t feel the utter sense of joy like so many of the fans. I hadn’t suffered for 86 years — in fact, I was on the winning end of the World Series in 1986. So I’m happy for the Red Sox and all of the fans, but I realize that this championship is for all of the fans that have suffered for so long. I hope I get a chance to really celebrate a Red Sox World Series Championship in the future.”

During the celebration last night, one of the Red Sox owners proclaimed that “the 2004 championship was for our grandparents and parents and all of the people who had suffered for years. This championship is for the new generation of Red Sox fans.” That’s exactly how I feel. And it feels great to be able to revel in this World Series win.

As I’ve read blogs this morning, I’ve noticed how many people in the Boston tech community are celebrating on their blogs: Mike Hirshland, Dharmesh (as he writes a must-read article on why you should not re-write your software), and David at 93South.

For all of those who suffered for years, I’m excited to join you this time around. This championship is for me too.

Red Sox Win!

October 22, 2007

I didn’t grow up a Red Sox fan, but I’ve cheered for them as my American League team for a few years now. When they won in 2004, I hadn’t suffered for 86 years like the rest of the fans — so I didn’t feel as connected to the win as others around me.

This year has been a different story. With characters like Big Papi, Papelbon and Manny along with their young talent of Youkilis and Pedroia, how could you NOT like this team?

I was at Game 6 last night. What a scene.

I watched every pitch of Game 7 tonight. What a game. The Red Sox won because they stayed relaxed with that “who cares?” Manny Ramirez attitude. This is a true team in every sense of the word. It’s fun to watch.

Bring on the Rockies!

What I did on my birthday

October 12, 2007

          Before                           After

with-hair.jpg       no-hair.jpg

Happy Birthday to me

October 11, 2007

Well, it’s that time of year….again. The leaves are at their peak, baseball playoffs are in full swing, and I’m another year older.

Naturally, the first thing I did this morning was to head over to google and search for “Happy Birthday to me.” Apparently there is some horror movie from 1981 with that title. Interesting. Next, I looked for people who share my birthday. Let’s see, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Young, Darryl Hall, Michelle Wie, and whole bunch of other people. (Note to self: start a social network for people who share the same birthday. The world needs another social network).

It’s cloudy and rainy out, and if I remember correctly it’s almost identical weather to last year on October 11. This must be a sign of luck. Yes, a cloudy day means that the next year will be full of sunny days.  I just know it.

I’m hopeful my birthday will be a quiet and relaxing day. We’ve had some hard-core brainstorming sessions over the last few days here at Punchbowl HQ and I could use a less intense day. My wife and I are headed out to a nice dinner tonight, that should be fun.

My good friend Dan just called to inform me that my life is most definitely 1/3 over. That’s something. This reminds me that my buddy Dave will likely call later to tell me not to think that way. He’ll tell me that my life could be 99% over and I just don’t know it. Good friends.

Another year older — but you’ve had a pretty good year old chap. In this next year remember to try to live each day as if it is your last, enjoy the sunny days, and surround yourself with great friends and a caring family. Happy Birthday to me.

Need perspective? Then go on vacation

September 4, 2007

A few of my faithful blog readers noticed that I was radio silent last week (thanks for the emails!). Well, the reality is that I was about a million miles from any computer, website, or startup thought. That’s right, my wife and I took a much-needed vacation.

Those who have worked with me know that I’m a pretty intense guy. I work very hard to achieve goals and set milestones that are challenging to reach. I push myself to the point of obsession, and I’m not satisfied unless I feel like I’ve given it my all. I typically work 6 days a week, 12-14 hours a day and after several months of this I start to feel pretty burnt out. That’s when I know I need a vacation.

When I go on a vacation, I make sure that I am completely unplugged. I try to pick a place where my cell phone is out of range (it’s getting much harder these days), and I don’t have access to email (or any computer for that matter). This time, we didn’t even have access to a landline phone, and it felt great. Brad Feld wrote an great blog post a while back about how he unplugs once every quarter. Fred Wilson noted the merits of Brad’s approach, even though he’s online during his time off. My approach is even more extreme than Brad’s approach: I’m completely unplugged and unavailable for any work-related issues.

If there’s a family emergency, I can be reached. But for anything work related, I’m not available. Some of you are probably reading this and thinking, “what about the business?” or “what if there’s an important business decision to be made?” Here’s the reality: if you’re that important, then you are probably not building a solid business. As much as I like to think that I’m critical to the success of, I also know that I’m surrounded by a team of really great people. Any business issue can be handled by my co-founder Sean, and any technical issue by Gerard. I’m only gone a week; they can move the business forward. Michael Feinstein wrote a great piece about this recently: A good leader can take a vacation. I agree wholeheartedly.

I usually spend the first several days of my vacation trying to clear my head of any business thoughts. I try to deeply relax, sleep late, eat slowly, drink a few too many beers (did someone say “tequila”?), and notice all of the small things about life. If things go well, by mid-week my head is clear, and I spend an hour or so jotting some thoughts down about the business. In the last few days of my vacation, I spent a few hours each day thinking about how the business has progressed to date, and where we’re going from here. I’m able to think about aspects of the business that I rarely get to think about– and brainstorm about ideas that have been on the backburner for too long. I come back with fresh ideas to bounce off the team, and feel ready to take on the next set of challenges.

I’m a Type A personality (yes, I’m the guy who hits the elevator button three times). I need vacations a few times a year to reset my brain and give me perspective. Because of my time off, I’m more equipped than ever to lead the great team at Punchbowl Software. I can’t tell you how calm, cool, and collected I feel today– I’ve been more effective than ever and I’m able to focus on the things that really matter.

If you’re the founder of a startup who feels like you are on the road to burnout or can’t seem to shake the “I have so many things to do” feeling, then take it from me: take a vacation, unplug completely and you’ll regain perspective. It’s a great feeling.