The word “lifestyle” is used in a few ways. It sometimes is a euphemism to articulate a high-spend consumption rate. For me, I’m using it to write about what I do to strive for optimum productivity.
I’m no Tom Brady, of course. But, I too believe that physical and mental preparation is required to do well and do good. VC is a great job. But, as I’ve written before, early-stage VC is a calling. That is because portfolio companies go through many ups and downs, and so, a VC is witness to some successes, but, also, quite a few car wrecks.
Moreover, because only one-third of a VC portfolio produces a gain, most of the calls a VC gets every day is about things not going so well. I love what I do. And, I know I’m fortunate, as I have a diversified portfolio while the entrepreneur does not. He/she is single-threaded.
So, after nearly two decades in VC, here’s what I do to try to be prepared for my job and the entrepreneurs who rely on me to give them clear and objective advice and empathy:
- Sleep. I’m not very fun at a party. I’m in bed most nights by 9 pm. I get up very early, naturally, usually between 4 am and 5 am. When I worked at Bain & Co., I felt chronically low on sleep, due to very long hours and extensive travel, much of it internationally. It took a toll on my health and relationships. I didn’t like that
- Diet. I avoid simple carbs. I’m increasingly avoiding meat and rely more on a plant-based diet. During Lent, I give up alcohol. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, fortunately. I have a lot more energy at the end of the day, as a result
- Exercise. I exercise for an hour every day. I then do some stretching to loosen my perpetually-tight back. I skip only in the summer on the days when I leave before dawn for a full day of fly fishing
- Few distractions. I’ve touched a golf club twice in three years. One time was shooting three holes with a friend and the second involved a 30-minute outing with a few of my kids. They like driving a golf cart more than golfing. It’s against the rules, to let kids drive a cart, but, some rules are meant to be broken when I see the kids’ big grins. We don’t have cable TV, and I earlier this year broke down and bought a TV antenna. I gave up my Red Sox tickets. Eric and I do not own second homes. We budget our vacation time. We are in the office during the summer. People are free to do what they want. But, this system works for us
- Friends. Eric, Ed and I are not just business partners, but we are real friends. I learn a lot from them and care very much for them. As I’ve written before, every other Friday morning I gather with some guys from my parish. We have a discussion group, and those friendships have become very important to me
- Charitable giving. As I’ve blogged before, we since the beginning of marriage have given away 10% of our pre-tax income. It means that my current marginal tax rate, all-in, is higher than what you find in Sweden. We give the money to a family giving fund, so that we get the tax deduction in the current year and take our time to select charities. We’ve given to many causes over the years, preferring to make major gifts to a handful of causes, such as anti-sex trafficking, education, the environment, our kids’ schools, Catholic clergy retirement funds, addiction treatment centers, and others. Honestly, it also is selfish, as it makes me feel good. Moreover, it also periodically reminds me to think of others, so that my “lifestyle” can include others
- Transparency. This is a tough one to articulate, but I’ll try. We’re very open with our investors, so much so that some folks at Cambridge Associates tell us that we have the most honest reporting in the early-stage VC world. We share all the good and bad stuff about the portfolio with each other at Kepha–we circulate board decks, and so, don’t filter the bad news from each other. On the personal side, Mrs. T. knows all of my passwords. There’s nothing in my emails that is “secret.” She can look at all of my social media accounts. It’s hard to explain why transparency is important to me, but it really is
So, that’s what I do.