Kicking Off My 4th of July

Jul 3

In: Fly fishing, Personal

Hope everyone is having a good 4th of July weekend.

I decided to fly fish and hit a river in Western Massachusetts. Landed 15 trout, including a 17″ one (the second photo, if you scroll down).

When fish come out of the water, they glisten with bright colors. It’s momentary, as I release all the fish I catch, and if you keep a fish, its colors fade quickly. It’s really hard to capture on film how stunning a trout looks, but here’s a video that tries (below, or click here).

The bite really picked up around 5 pm, and I decided to stay until dark. An amazing scene. Mist rose from the water. Bugs rose everywhere, like a huge snowfall, but in reverse. Fish splashed all around me. Trees looked sinister as darkness cloaked everything. I reeled up and started to walk back. Fireflies greeted me, lights pulsating from their bodies. An early preview of fireworks.

Drove away at 9 pm, wishing there was more daylight.

A safe holiday for all….

 

The Young Woman at a Balinese Tree Park

Jun 28

In: Personal, Philosophy

(BestPropertiesInBali.com)

It has rained or drizzled all day today, on Sunday. It feels like autumn, with the coolness from a storm and the sounds of car tires whooshing through the streets. An introspective day. Even the birds are quiet.

It makes for a leisurely afternoon, during which to cook Sunday Dinner (a beef ribeye roast) and stream Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

I’m a big fan of his, since back when he published an essay in The New Yorker, to his book Kitchen Confidential, and the subsequent plethora of TV shows focused on travel and food.

I just watched his show on Jamaica. In it, he focuses on locals and the resorts that are displacing them. High-end properties are buying beaches and erecting large fences and employing guards that keep out Jamaicans.

Within the resort’s walls, wealthy tourists come for sun, sand, and Slurpee-like cocktails. Their contact with locals is very limited. The tourists bring much-needed spending that boost the local economy.

I am from, and have traveled extensively in, the Third World. There’s a tremendous amount of crushing poverty just yards away from most resorts. I’ve seen a great deal of it.

We “went home” a few times during my childhood to visit family in Indonesia. Many live very simply. The few who did accumulate wealth live in houses surrounded by big fences.

Moreover, after business school, and before my job at Bain Singapore, Mrs. T and I spent a month traveling in Indonesia, mostly in Bali.

There were some great memories, such as eating fresh pineapple at Lovina’s beach, as bats streamed out at dusk from a cave. The beautiful music and artwork in Ubud. The seductive smells of sweet fruit, verdant leaves, and pungent flowers everywhere.  Insanely-lush rice fields (see up top).

But, everywhere, there were vendors competing fiercely to give you a ride, sell you a trinket, take you to a hotel, etc. They all seemed to sell the same stuff and had the same sales pitch with the same few token words of English.

It was very common to see light-skinned tourists absolutely surrounded by dark-skinned vendors. Class, race, business, and tourism all wrapped into one.

In particular, I will never forget the young woman who was our guide at a tree park. It offered free guides. She spoke perfect English and was very kind.

At the end, she took us to a souvenir stall and invited us to look around. We declined to buy anything. She then seemed on the verge of tears and very politely asked us to consider seeing if something caught our eye.

Suddenly, it clicked in my head. This was her stall.

“How many groups do you guide a day?” I asked.

“One,” she said.

“You wait all day?”

“Yes.”

I offered to give her some money as a gift. She said that wouldn’t give her “good luck.” We bought two t-shirts and gave her some money.

The young woman looked so happy. She walked around her small stall, touching the money on her merchandise, uttering a prayer of thanksgiving.

We said our goodbyes and left her shop. As we walked away, I looked back. Her stall was one of dozens, literally, all next to each other. Each one sold virtually identical goods.

I’ve not thought of this young woman in a long time. But, when I hear of Third World travel, I often remember her. Her look of desperation, and then, profound gratitude.

Outside of the four walls of most resorts, there is a lot going on. I’d encourage you to leave such a place and walk around. And, if you buy something, let them keep the change.

They really need it.

Leaving the Nest

Jun 28

In: Family life, Personal

I’ve entered a new phase of parenting. Frankly, it can be a struggle.

A majority of our children are now teenagers. Their needs for independence and personal freedoms are understandable. For the most part, that for me has been pretty easy. I try to bite my tongue, I try to be less judgmental.

What’s been hard has been the physical separation. We’re not taking a family summer vacation this year, as schedules are pretty hectic. Here is one child’s summer:

  • Music composition camp in Illinois (1 week)
  • STEM classes in Colorado (3 weeks)
  • Service project in New Orleans (1 week)
  • Running camp (1 week)
  • Sleep-away youth conference (long weekend)

Oh, and there’s driver’s ed. and studying for, and taking, two SAT Subject tests.

So, you get the idea.

It most definitely is rewarding to see a child grow up, develop, and be more independent. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself, as I choose to look at The Bright Side.

Making Memories

Jun 27

In: Family life, Fly fishing

(Learning how to fish wet flies)

I this morning guided one of my children on a local river.

We caught some bass, panfish, and chubs, about 15 in all. Hooked a brown trout that fell off after a good battle. Trout were rising and jumping around noon. We saw only one other angler.

I enjoy fly fishing with my children. But, I now know myself well enough to bring only one fishing rod. The child fishes, and I guide. Otherwise, I’d be too focused on my own fishing.

We had a great time this morning. Making memories together.

Remaining Calm through ‘The Cycle’

Jun 25

In: Entrepreneurship, Sports, Technology and VC

I had coffee with a friend who has been at a few VC firms. We talked about today’s frothy environment and how some of the Unicorns’ valuations are at risk. They’re in a race to go public, raise more VC money at a higher price, or face a painful “down round.”

Eric and I ran into the head of marketing at one of the Unicorns in town; he asked us about the state of the IPO market and whether we are in a Bubble or not. He admitted his company does not yet have the revenue predictability to go public.

So, I’m guessing here, but this probably means that his company is in a race to get to revenue predictability before it runs out of cash and before the IPO window shuts.

My answer to him: I don’t know about a Bubble, but The Cycle is real. Markets go up, down, then up again. These cycles often last five to 10 years. The IPO window is binary: it’s either open, or it’s shut–it is never half-way open, IMO. So, when it’s open, race to go public.

The thing about The Cycle is this: the slope of the line is always changing, and you don’t know where the line is going. Will the markets be up six months from now? Or, will there be a market correction?

The hard part of venture is to be steady during The Cycle: keep investing steadily in start-ups about which you develop high conviction, even if others give up. When other firms are investing at a rapid pace, control your own. When a global recession freezes most investment activity, keep investing.

Be consistent, have faith, persist. Don’t get too high when things are rocking, don’t get too low when obstacles occur.

One of our CEOs and I had a long call the other night about a particular challenge with a strategic partner. He was very frustrated. He was down. I told him: “Remember the Malcolm Butler interception? Play to the whistle. Don’t give up.” (Video up top, or click here.)

In other words, remain calm and keep going. If you keep persisting until the end, anything can happen. It’s how I deal with the vagaries of The Cycle.

And, wouldn’t you know it, through the CEO’s persistence, the above issue with the strategic partner appears to be resolved.