What was supposed to be just a few months turned into a much needed and brilliant year off.
And by off, I mean really off. No consideration of what to do next, no planning a next venture, no networking, nothing.
But it’s time to put on that uniform again, get out of the house and get back to work.
This month I started a new role as a VC with the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.
As the first institutional money in Bering, I’ve always loved the role the IAF plays in the community helping early stage companies and couldn’t be more excited to join the team.
The best part of the last year was actually just the time to reflect. It’s been incredible to finally have the time to stop, think and start learning from the experiences over the last 10 years of running a startup. Something I wish had started sooner but just didn’t have the energy or mental capacity.
I’m also excited to put some of that knowledge to good use advising other companies on effective product processes and continue to refine my skills.
On a personal level, I think what I’m looking forward to most is simply being more deliberate with my time, a first for me. It no longer feels like a badge of honour answering crazy busy when someone asks how are things? Now, it just feels like lack of direction.
Up until this point I’ve largely taken the brute force approach. If I only worked harder and longer I’ll be sure to get ahead was the strategy.
I had never taken the time to rest, recharge or reflect. I’ve always been focused on the next step, the next opportunity to grow, lest I fall behind in my career.
I’d put four hours of coding in every night at Nortel during the week. Rolling my after school program into full time summer jobs three years in a row, working until the day before leaving for university.
Every four months I’d start my work term the first day possible and work until the very last before heading back to Waterloo.
Impatiently left after 2nd year to try my hand at a startup, knowing absolutely nothing, only to shut Octium down eight months later.
While waiting to pick up where I left off in my degree, I joined Sandvine as a sales engineer just before the launch of the first product. Fell in love with the people, the energy, the drive, the success, the growth and the venture game as a whole.
Went back to school to complete my degree but kept working during classes to keep my foot in the door. Twenty hours a week the first term, forty the second and then fifty with some travel sprinkled in the last term taking vacation in order to take exams. I loved it.
After graduating, took a weekend trip to celebrate, had my new luggage shipped to a friends house, threw out my old carry on and was on my first business trip as a new grad Monday morning.
Two years, 200 flights later and only taking vacation to sleep, I was tired… so I quit.
I told myself the plan was to truly take a break but in reality I was itching for a second shot at the startup game.
Fortunately, the excitement and adrenaline kicked back in and I got to work on what would become Bering.
Ten years, two financing rounds, a bridge round, no salary, salary, half salary, hirings, firings, no sleep, can’t eat, anxiety ridden, a merger, dissenting shareholders, brute force everything and finally an exit later I was completely burnt out. So I quit again.
Something needed to change, my approach (or lack thereof) to work-life balance clearly wasn’t sustainable.
Though I was itching to get going on something new, I promised myself I would actually take the time off and wouldn’t start to think about anything career related for at least the summer.
I figured the best place to start was to spend the whole month of May to do nothing but watch Netflix. It was glorious. And surprisingly hard by the end. To binge watch like it’s your full time job takes commitment. But I succeeded. I managed to burn through all of Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Hatfields & McCoys, Narcos and Game of Thrones. Absolutely glorious.
Next, I trained for and finished my latest Tough Mudder. This time we went to Kentucky so we could drink bourbon at the same time, obviously. My favourite was definitely Jefferson’s Ocean.
By this point, my wife had put together a honey-do list for our recently renovated, yet not fully finished because I hate spending money, hundred year old house. It was a spreadsheet, with thirty odd jobs in a 1 to 5 priority scheme. Apparently she didn’t find my month of still being in my pyjamas watching netflix when she got back from work and then flying to Kentucky to drink bourbon as wonderful as I did.
So I became a carpenter, painter, electrician, plumber and general contractor for the next three months. I’ve never worked harder. Hats off to everyone who does that for a living and makes money because I’m laughably inefficient. That being said, working with my hands was a wonderful distraction for my anxiety fueled mind. I slept better than I had in years.
I had always said that if I did have time off, I would travel through China with my Dad. It was an incredible three week tour of the Great Wall, terracotta warriors, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Avatar Mountains), Huangshan Mountains, pulled noodles, dim sum, our family temple and the city of Shanghai. I can’t wait to go back.
By now I had been off for six months, filling my time with as many distractions as possible, enjoying every minute yet still plagued with anxiety. Naively, I had hoped that by removing the stresses of work I would rid myself of my anxiety. I guess hope isn’t a strategy after all.
It was time to start facing the problem. In the last few months, I’ve restarted reading regularly, getting back into journaling, meditating, goal setting, exercising, stretching and going back on an information diet.
While I’m nowhere near rid of my anxiety or sleeping well consistently, I’ve finally started to unwind, decompress and finally ready to head back to work.
Which is why I can finally say and actually mean it that I couldn’t be more excited for the chance to work with, learn from and help where I can other founders in the community.