Taking a little break… (or, Some thoughts on life, work and happiness)

If you don’t see updates for a couple of days it’s because I’m taking a little break. Some people call it vacation, but to be honest I have so much fun at my “day job” here at WIN every day feels like a vacation. I guess you could call this “away from the computer” time.

Yesterday I was talking to my friend, and former mentor, Mike Savinoabout how some people were giving him a hard time because, as a business owner, he checked his email twice a day on vacation. He reminded them that as a business owner he had the ability to attend every event his kids had over the past ten years, had turned almost every business trip into a mini vacation and had never worried about how to use his vacation days. Sure, he had to spend an hour a day on his computer, but it was a simple decision to make.

When I ran Silicon Alley Reporter I was young and aggressive. I wouldn’t go on vacationever. I saw it as a sign of weakness. My partner Gordon on the other hand seemed to always be coming or going from some vacation. Made me crazy at the time, but he was wildly effective, despite his adventure-filled life. Gordon and I came from different backgrounds, I had the blue color he had the establishment connectionsit’s why we were such a lethal team. After every meeting the established guys would talk about the Hamptons with Gordon, and the blue collar guys would talk about the Knicks or Brooklyn with me. Gordon and I always envied each others upbringing and discussed it many times. Me wishing I had it easier, him wishing he had it harder. Ironic, isn’t it? Regardless, we developed true respect for each other, our skill sets and how they developed.

Anway, for years I dumped myself into the office, networked like a freak and all of a sudden five years of my life were gone. Sometimes as CEO I would be in my office and realize that everything was done. There was nothing to do but screw around on email, surf the web and watch CNBC. Every CEO knows this experience. You worked all weekend, you’ve given everyone their marching orders and you’ve put out every fire. Now you’re just executing on the plan and you’ve done such a good job that there is really little for you to do but wait for people to get back to you with their pieces of the puzzle. I should have taken advantage of those days and done some Yoga, Tae Kwon Do or just gotten on a jet.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t regret a day of my life at SAR. However, I wish I had spent more time traveling for myself, as opposed to going away and speaking on behalf of the company. Why did I do those silly two or three days trips to Europe, or those one-day trips in the US? I could have added two to four days for myself, no problem. I had a great management team with Xeni, Karol, Keith, Gordon, Ken, Joanne, CJ, etc. back at the fort.

Then my mind starts playing tricks on me and I think “maybe what made me so successful with SAR was that I was relentless and my competitors were not.” People confirm this all the time when they talk about how I was everywhere, knew everyone and was “indefatigable” as the press profiles always described me at the time.

Very confusing this balance your life and work thing. I guess as you get older you figure out how to balance things. The best way I’ve found is to find a job that you absolutely love so that the work feel like play. Play doesn’t feel like work, so you have no regrets. SAR felt like play to me for the first half of the businessI was a 26 year old kid who was going to Nobu and sitting courtside at the Knicks with all kinds of famous, powerful and rich people. It wasn’t hard, trust me.

However, the second half of the businessduring the down turnwas pure hell at times. Laying off seven people in a day, then doing it again two weeks later with five people, was not fun. Heck, I think I laid off like 20 people over three months and frankly I should have laid everyone off immediately. I remember people saying “f- you” to my face, while others cried. Try doing that 20 timesit’s pure hell.

The toughest was the young women who started crying the second she sat down in the officeshe knew what time it was. I tried to comfort her in that she was the most recent hire and that this had nothing to do with her performance. She said she knew that, so I asked “well why are you crying,” and her response hit me like ton of bricks: “I just love working here so much. This is the best job I ever had, all my friends are here.” Still hurts when I replay that back in my mind.

I learned more during the death spiral of the Internet then I did going up of course, so I don’t regret it. Also, I was able to pull up right as Industry Standard, Red Herring and Upside crashed. We rebranded SAR as Venture Reporter, and we moved from an advertising model to a database and subscription model. Now we covered medical devices, chips and venture capital, and the readers sent us thousands of dollars to read our words. It worked, and we saved the company and 15 people’s jobs. Eventually we sold the business, andDow Jones now owns it!Many of the team members are still working there and having great success. Makes me really proud that we never gave up, we never said die.

Anyway, I guess I was talking about having fun while making a living, and having “a life.”

Weblogs, Inc. is so much fun I feel guilty that this has become my “job.” This is what I would be doing if I didn’t have a job!

I work from home with 40 amazing bloggers from all over the country, most of whom I’ve never meet f2f. I have ten great calls on the phone a day, and when we come up with a new idea we try it out almost immediately. There are no meetings, projections and politicsjust humble and relentless execution. Plus, I can work in my underwear half the day.

There are no offices, rent or payroll. I just cut checks to bloggers as we make money. They are happy, I’m happy and things are growing like gangbusters. I wonder how long this business will stay “fun.” I’m trying to keep it from becoming an institutionlike all startups eventually becometoo soon. If we’re successful we’ll have an office and dozens of employees I’m sure. However, this time around I’m committed to keeping it “light,” making sure everyone is having fun along the way, and that I take some time off the computer.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m really loving my life and feel privileged to work with great people on fun things. On this day when many folks are going to see the new 9/11 film and tempers will flair, my focus is on how lucky we all are to be in this countryas flawed as it can be at timeswhere you can do what we do as entrepreneurs.

Have a great weekend!

Leave a Reply