Image vs. Reality in a Job

May 27

In: Career management

I think there’s a huge difference between the image of someone/something and the reality of it. I think this is particularly true about jobs.

For example, I today took a call from a recent Brown graduate. I had spoken to a class on entrepreneurship, and this individual followed up afterwards.

He is about to start medical school in August and realized during the past 24 months that he also may want to be an entrepreneur. He asked for my advice.

I told him medical school is a huge investment of time and money. Before he commits to it, I told him he should shadow some physicians and see what they actually do every day. I told him that many of my doctor friends love what they do.

But, I also told him about my personal physician, who is a few years into her practice but already feels burned out from all the paperwork she has do each night until 10 pm, work for which she doesn’t get paid. I told him how some of my physician friends feel that they are working harder each year to make less pay.

Similarly, I’ve met many people who want to be VCs or entrepreneurs, but don’t know what those roles require in terms of daily tasks. The idea of being a VC or entrepreneur, or any job, is different from the reality.

So, I highly recommend tailing someone to see what they do every day. Or, doing an informational interview and have them describe a typical day to you.

You know, date before you marry.

The ‘Hammond’ Song

May 26

In: Music

My dear friend Stacy Donohue was in a singing group her senior year of college. It’s a special group, called Whim ‘n Rhythm, for which a select group of senior women are chosen each year. They sing a great deal and tour around the world. For me, I find a cappella music very moving.

At our recent college reunion, Stacy’s singing group reassembled and gave a concert. Truly touching. Among other pieces, they sang the group’s signature song, called “Hammond.” It’s really cool.

If you like music, below (or, click here) is a video of Whim ‘n Rhythm 2014 singing the song. Impressive!

Great to see you, Stacy! Keep changing the world with all you are doing in your job.


 

‘Reunion Withdrawal’

May 25

In: Brain hacking, Personal

I am transitioning back to Real Life after a college reunion. And, I’m fighting a case of The Blues. Let me explain.

The reunion was awesome. The pics and comments posted on our class’s private Facebook page really captured the vibe of the event. As an aside, my nametag got a lot of laughs (see below).

Reunion

Now, it’s about “reunion withdrawal.” A classmate posted about it, and others also are talking about feeling teary and already missing their friends.

Honestly, I feel a bit low today.

It was a very fun 25th reunion for me. It was filled with amped-up joy. When you walked down the street, turned a corner, or attended a reunion event, you’d run into someone whom you were so glad to see. Whether the conversations lasted 5 minutes or 50, you just felt great to see them, hear about their lives, and conjure up so many happy memories.

Over and over, your brain just fired up with huge boosts of feel-good neurotransmitters. You were smiling, joking, and were constantly feeling amazing. Everything seemed familiar-yet-new, fun, and pleasurable. No work, no classes, no term papers, no meals to cook, no dishes to do. You were in play mode.

You decided to have only one drink each night, so that you can absorb each detail with clarity and not accelerate time through alcohol. You realized that you are deeply, deeply blessed.

You danced until the D.J. shut it down late. You boogied to “Love Shack” (below, or click here), enjoying again being 18 years-old but without the insecurities of that age.

And, then, the event ended. IMO, your brain really does go through “withdrawal.”

For me, this morning, I feel some powerful emotions: gratitude, joy, and longing. I’m so grateful for my college experience, I’m joyful for having friends who are like family to me, and I long to see them again.

It’s hard to explain, but the reunion was a huge dose of feeling “known and loved.” Honestly, the longing part sucks a bit.

It’s why I’m writing this blog post. And, why I will cook a nice dinner for the family and make some fly fishing flies after a very long workout at the gym.

But, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. It has been worth it. And, isn’t that the double-edged sword of love?

Love and longing go hand-in-hand.

My 25th Reunion

May 23

In: Personal

When you strive to live a full life and go all-out, this happens: the days feel long, but the years feel short. And, that’s what’s happened to me. Hard to believe that so much time has transpired so quickly.

I’m at a life milestone: the 25th college reunion. So many people have traveled back to reconnect. It is an indescribable feeling to see so many friends: wonder, admiration, gratitude.

And, this: love.

Last night, about 15 or so of us crammed around a table and just shot the breeze. Jokes, banter, catch-up talk. Feels like not much time has gone by.

I was very lucky in that I had the same roommates all four years. Great guys. And, we were very friendly with two other quads of women. And, with many others in our “residential college” called Saybrook. Over the years, and, even now, those ladies are like sisters to me. None of us ever dated, but, I suspect, it easily could have happened. But, honestly, that may have ruined some friendships, and, we probably all sensed that and just wanted to keep the friendships in a safe place.

So, for me, the best part of reunion thus far has been this: meeting old friends and realizing that they’re really more like family. These friends who are like brothers and sisters to me.

And, that I really do love them.

My Sunday Pasta Sauce

May 17

In: Family life, Food

I really enjoy doing creative things.  I think it’s one reason why I like VC: no two entrepreneurs, markets, and Board experiences are the same. Rules of thumb help, but ultimately, you have to digest and discern, and then, decide.

Similarly, I think it’s one reason why I’m attracted to fly fishing, fly tying, and cooking. You can follow rules or go by your gut. As a natural contrarian, I like the latter.

So, today, when I was at the market, I saw these guys.

They’re pieces of pork shank, or “osso bucco.” So, I’ve decided to make a pasta sauce for Sunday dinner.

Pasta sauce is one of my go-to dishes. I make a pretty darn good and authentic Northern Italian sauce. I also experiment and tweak recipes over time. There are some secret ingredients, which I’ll share. San Marzano tomatoes are a must-have. Get the real stuff imported from Italy, not “San Marzano tomatoes grown in the USA.” Also, ground nutmeg. Trust me on this.

Also, pork adds a touch of sweetness to the dish. Ideally, you should get some pork on the bone, as the marrow will add tremendous unctuousness to the sauce. It, in a way that’s hard to explain, makes the sauce silky and really changes the mouth-feel of the dish.

Last, the bit of wine in the recipe really matters. One time, I changed the wine I use in the recipe. Our oldest child remarked that the sauce “tasted different for some reason.” Substituting one white wine for another really did change the sauce a bit. Crazy, but true.

Some techniques also are important. I note them below in the recipe.

I make enough so that we have a big batch and Monday dinner is an easy “heat the pot” option. This big batch will serve 12 people. You can freeze it for about a month and have a good dinner ready in a few minutes on a weeknight.

My children have been egging me to write down recipes, so here’s what I do.

INGREDIENTS
1 onion

1 celery stalk

1 carrot

2 lbs. of ground beef (I buy the organic kind, but that’s optional.)

1/2 cup of wine (You can use red or white, but use something good enough that you’d drink it and isn’t oaked like a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon. My favorites include an unoaked Italian white, such as a San Gimignano.)

1 “porky” element: 4 Italian sausage links, 4 spare or baby-back ribs, 1 lb. of pork shank, 1 lb. ground pork, or a few ounces of imported prosciutto (skip the domestic stuff and get The Real Thing)

2 28 oz. cans of San Marzano tomatoes

A few tablespoons of tomato paste

A small dash of nutmeg (grated fresh from a whole one)

STEPS
Dice the vegetables. Heat up a large dutch oven pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. (We’re using a moderate level of heat to “coax” out flavors.)

Sauté the onion until translucent. Add salt and pepper.

Add the other vegetables and sauté until soft but not brown. Take out of the pot and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the beef and tomato paste. Add salt and pepper. Sauté until the meat is just cooked and not brown. Set aside. (Cooking the tomato paste and the beef really adds a huge dimension to the dish.)

Sauté the pork. Set aside. (If you’re using prosciutto, no need to sauté–just add to the pot when you add the tomatoes.)

Dump excess fat. Add the wine and deglaze the pot. (This is really important. There is a ton of flavor in the little brown bits in the bottom of the pot. It’s called the “Maillard reaction,” and French chefs deserve a hat tip for preaching about it. Also, feel free to have a glass of wine while cooking. I think of it as the Chef’s Prerogative. In fact, drink two.)

Hand crush the tomatoes and add them and all their juices to the pot.

Add back all the meat. Add the nutmeg.

Simmer on super-low heat for 4 to 5 hours. Or, if you want, put it in the oven at 250 degrees (on a cookie sheet, in case there’s spillage). Stir occasionally to prevent burning.  After about 1 hr., taste the sauce and add salt and pepper, as necessary. (If you season while you cook, you’ll actually be adding less salt vs. if you wait until the end; that’s because the salt will really infuse the food and you’ll need less of it.)

Skim off fat just before you are ready to serve.

Serve with pasta (I like fettuccine) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. (IMO, this cheese is tough to beat. It really makes a big difference, particularly, if it’s freshly-grated.)

So, that’s what I’m doing right now: cooking pasta sauce. I find it very comforting to have a pasta sauce gently cooking and infusing the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s the smell of home for our family.

This is a pretty magical sauce, in all honesty. It will woo Significant Others and, in general, just make your world feel just right. You will taste a number of things that make your brain sit up and pay attention: protein, salt, sweet (from the carrots and onions), fat (sorry, you need it to be healthy), floral (from the celery), and umami (from the grated cheese, tomatoes, and wine).

Much love can go into this dish. It really is a “J.T. special” from our home to yours.

Hope you use this recipe. Enjoy!