Full week. I'd meant to comment on Tom Brokaw's Stanford commencement speech. This Monday's San Jose Merc front page reads, "STANFORD CHEERS: Seek a life away from keyboard, Brokaw urges graduates."
Seek a life away from the keyboard. Hmmm, I'm finding myself doing just that more and more. If and when I am online I'll take my laptop out to the garden (thank god for Wifi). These days I spend much more time with folks that have absolutely no interest in being the first to know what's new from Google and neither are they obsessed creating the next Google-killer.
And I've never ever been happier.
It's not exactly that I'm a Luddite. I have a BSEE and been a CTO. Yet I totally understood the woman (and there's not that many women here) who snuck out of the dark conference room on a beautiful yesterday in downtown San Francisco to stroll into an art gallery.
I'd left the windowless room early Wednesday myself to hit the nearby Ferry Building's vibrant marketplace with local producers of fresh fruit, caviar, wild mushrooms, artisan confections, wine, and even organic chocolate madeleines. I sit outside at the lovely cafe, Boulettes Larder, and nibble on brioche soaked in orange blossom water and almond cream with an iced hibiscus drink and feel the breeze off the waterfront and watch the people.
Call me crazy, but I want my technology to enrich my life, not complexify it nor drag me away from life. And if not, I simply cannot get excited about gadgetry and bytes anymore.
The strange thing is I'm finding I now have more common ground with 'regular' people - those folks that don't have a clue how to code in Java (yup, they think it's a drink) or Ruby (yup, they think it's a gem).
On page two of that Monday paper, there's a blurb from Johnny Depp taken from this week's Newsweek that resonated deeply for me. Depp explains why he spends more time at his home in France (I'm living an European lifestyle myself without leaving Silicon Valley):
"The phones don't ring as much. Movies are never brought up in conversation. I'll take the kids and we'll go out to the trampoline and the swing set, and we'll stop by the garden and see how our tomatoes are doing. You know, old-fart stuff. Good stuff."
Depp says he life was irrevocably changed when his daughter Lily-Rose was born in 1999. Jack was born three years later. He continues: "I was never horribly self-obsessed or wrapped up in my own weirdness. But when my daughter was born, suddenly there was clarity. I wasn't angry anymore. It was the first purely selfless moment that I had ever experienced. And it was liberating. In that moment, it's like you become something else. The real you is revealed."
After the Ferry Building, I decide to visit the Hotel Vitale, which I've heard a lot about. It's a "post-hip" boutique hotel. "It's a concept that we sum up in two words: luxury, naturally," says Chip Conley, founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality. (A review of my impressions sometime, later.)
I love the idea, "luxury, naturally" which is all about happiness, joie de vivre, well-being and time for tomatoes, strolling, slow food, intimacy, family, friends, simple joys.
I don't think it's a concidence that "this year’s most popular class at Harvard is Psych 1504, also known as “how to get happy." You'd think this would mean I'm spending less money, but I'm finding as I'm awakening to that which brings joy, a sense of life's abundance is inextricably woven in and I'm buying more without the guilt. $10 for lilac soap? Oui! $1.50 for a miniature bar of spring jasmine tea chocolate! Oui! Oui! An overnight trip to Seattle? Why not!
Next door to the Supernova conference room is the breakfast area and coffee service. There a large painting covers the entire side wall: a throng of colorfully-clad village children mesmerized by the Pied Piper. It must be the scene just before they're lured by his siren call of his music, all one hundred and thirty boys and girls following lockstep out of town. Whether they march straight into the river, into a cave to be sealed to their fate, or where they disappear to, you can speculate your own ending to the legend. A reminder to be mindful of the lure of Pied Pipers and following the throng.
To cut my commute into SF, I'm staying at a friend's place in Pacifica (the pinks - smoky roses, lavenders, mauves - come into being after the sun like a burning boat slinks into the blues of the summer solstice) and I read this as I flip through his book:
"Have you ever, in moments of deep silence, heard the song of your soul? Can you recall a time when the beauty, the sweetness of life, welled up in you by surprise? One day, perhaps, you fell in love. Or for one blinding instant, lovemaking called you back to an ecstatic relationship with life. Perhaps it happened for you with the birth of a child. Suddenly you were filled with an overwhelming, all-encompassing love such as you had never experienced. Perhaps you glimpsed ecstasy in the spaciousness of meditation; during a five-mile run; or while contemplating a clear mountain stream, listening to a symphony, walking in a thunderstorm, or dancing or singing through the night. Perhaps you were propelled beyond your mind and body into a transcedent moment when life, which had seemed ordinary, became suddenly mysterious, poignant, and filled with grace, and time seemed to stop as you stepped into eternity." - The Art of Everyday Ecstasy, Margot Anand
Update: I mentioned I'm back to reading a few (very few) VC blogs. Two years ago because of my work (for instance, clients using their blog to raise their profile/buzz with VCs, analysts, press) I read all of the VC blogs. Feld's Thoughts is one of them. Here's a clue why from a recent post (Brad's Art category is another good reason):
At some point in the conversation, we started discussing the ever present “introduction” question that comes up often, which is “What Do You Do?”
We decided the best answer – inspired by one of Amy’s friends – is “I’m Happy.”
In Sri Lanka, the "What do you do?" question might come up fifth or sixth (maybe not) after Where are you from? Are you married? How many kids? Would you like tea? Have you taken lunch (a no brings out dishes)? What brings you to Sri Lanka? Are you Christian, Buddhiist, or a 'free thinker'? Needless to say, I fell in love with the Sri Lankan people.
image from The Five Best Things to Eat This Summer at the Ferry Building, a plate from Recchiuti's