A new (old) hobby

I was in a few cover bands in high school and college. We played a live shows and it was super fun. After college, I picked up an acoustic guitar and took it everywhere. But soon life got busy and I was drawn to other things in my life.

These days, I found myself wanting to play again. I dusted off the guitar that was hiding in the attic, tuned it and started playing. But it’s one thing to play the same set in a cover band vs playing by yourself. So I’m trying to get better.

For now, I’ve been using Yousician on my iPad Pro for daily lessons and practice. The interface is dated and the songs aren’t my taste. But it’s fine for now.

I am hoping there are better iOS apps and/or YouTube channels out there. Send me a tweet @bijan or email me bsabet at gmail if you have any recommendations.

Many thanks!


PS: Please don’t forget all the people in your life that help you on a regular basis and are now likely out of work (ie person who cuts your hair, person who cleans your house, person who dry cleans your clothes, the lady at the coffee shop you used to visit every day….) find them and send them what you can to keep them going. Ideally it’s the same amount you used to pay them each week/month or just send them love and kindness with your words and show them that you care.

An afternoon drive

Yesterday, Lauren and I went for an afternoon drive. We had no destination and we didn’t even get out of the car as we are still in a 14 day self quarantine following our out of country trip. I think we drove for a few hours in all.

It was pretty surreal. The sky was blue. Daffodils are blooming. Folks playing with their kids in their yard. Loved ones were going for walks. People on bikes and keeping a safe distance from each other.

One one hand, it felt somber. A heaviness in the air because of the reality the world is facing with this horrific virus.

And yet, it was a beautiful sign of humanity. Every day people living their lives and living in the moment. With their kids, with each other, or just taking wonder of a crisp gorgeous day.


I have two suggestions for today.

Call someone you haven’t talked to live in a month. It could be family, a friend, a colleague. Make it a live call and not a text.

And second, Stuart Butterfield and his wife Jen Rubio are matching all donations 5:1 up to $1MM to a number of important non profits. Consider donating any amount if you are able.

Mr. Brightside, Run River North

Please forgive me if I’ve posted this song already. The days are all mixed together these days.

Some good things are happening

The first thing I read this morning in the NYT: yesterday Italy reported nearly 800 deaths on Saturday alone due to COVID-19. It does seem like Italy’s reporting system influences their fatality rate**. However it still is an overwhelming and intensely tragic number for sure.

The bad news about how this virus is rapidly spreading — causing job loss, economic suffering and loss of life — and is only getting worse. We should all be prepared. There are no quick or simple answers.

And while our federal government has responded extremly poorly (gross understatement), there are good things happening.

Companies like Apple and GM are stepping up and so are wealthy individuals. And so are every day citizens with their time, money and personal sacrifice — at gas stations, grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, factories, trucking, airlines and more. In Korea, they are developing a 10 minute COVID-19 diagnostic test. All of this effort will dramatically increase: the world has woken up and humanity is not giving up.

So, I have two asks for you today.

1/ Please sign this petition to support our health care workers. It’s free and it’s an attempt to advocate for those that are putting their lives on the line.

2/ Please consider making a donation to Feeding America. It’s a fantastic organization. I made a donation today. A little can go a long way to help feed others during this critical time.

I’ll end this post with a portion of Andrew Sullivan’s recent article, How to Survive a Plague (via President Obama’s tweet)

These weeks of confinement can be seen also, it seems to me, as weeks of a national retreat, a chance to reset and rethink our lives, to ponder their fragility. I learned one thing in my 20s and 30s in the AIDS epidemic: Living in a plague is just an intensified way of living. It merely unveils the radical uncertainty of life that is already here, and puts it into far sharper focus. We will all die one day, and we will almost all get sick at some point in our lives; none of this makes sense on its own (especially the dying part). The trick, as the great religions teach us, is counterintuitive: not to seize control, but to gain some balance and even serenity in absorbing what you can’t.

There may be moments in this great public silence when we learn and relearn this lesson. Because we will need to relearn it, as I’m rediscovering in this surreal flashback to a way of living I once knew. Plague living is almost seasonal for humans. Like the spring which insists on arriving.

Take care.


**Update: Paulo André on Twitter makes a great point: these people wouldn’t have died now if it wasn’t for COVID-19

Keeping sane these days

As we know, we are all going to be in this for a long period of time. I am hopeful that we as a society are taking this more seriously and are practicing social distancing at a new level than even just a few days ago. And I’m praying for all the healthcare workers that are putting their life on the line to save and protect.

There are many ways to try and positively respond to this crisis. I’m pretty convinced that the worst way to respond is to panic or to stay glued to the news cycle 24×7.

Joseph Goldstein, a famous mediation teacher, encourages the question we should ask ourselves when faced with stressful/intense moments: “Is this useful?”. In Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier, the author shares this insight from Joseph:

“But when you find yourself running through your trip to the airport for the seventeenth time, perhaps ask yourself the following question: Is this useful?” -Joseph Goldstein

“Is this useful?” It’s okay to worry, plot, plan, he’s saying–but only until it’s not useful anymore.

I’ve been asking myself this question as I found myself doggedly trying to stay on top of every news story, every piece of horrible reality and optimistic medical answers that will save every one of us.

But it’s not useful and in fact it’s likely causing harm to yourself. Or last least I feel that way.

So here’s something I’ve been trying since yesterday and I’m going to continue to refine it in the upcoming days, weeks and months ahead.

1/ I’m not reading any news about COVID-19 before 9am

2/ I’m being more mindful of what and how I eat each day

3/ Get outside every day

4/  Exercise (light or intense, doesn’t matter)

5/ Daily mediation (even 5 minutes helps big time)

6/ Finding a way each day to help others

7/ I’m not reading any news about COVID-19 after 6pm.

8/ Journaling and writing down three things I’m grateful for each day.

I’ll end this post with a link to Jason Kottke’s latest gem about how each of us are all going through our own set of issues and shared concerns. It’s a beautiful post and I encourage you to read it. Another good reminder to be kind to each other.

We will get through this.

 

VCs are open for business but it’s a new world

The kids are off from school so last week we left the country to a pretty remote location in attempt to isolate and frankly relax. But it was getting quite clear that with each day life was rapidly changing and I was concerned the borders would close up quickly. So we changed plans, came back home Tuesday night and will self quarantine for 14 days (I’m sure it will extend longer). So far we all feel healthy except for the occasional psychosomatic symptoms.

Our firm is open during this period. And I can see that most of my time is going to be focused on companies that we have already backed. Many/most are going through some form of crisis and will need the most support and attention.

We are also looking at new investment opportunities for sure. I was DMing with a good friend yesterday (he’s also a venture capitalist) about the idea of investing millions of dollars into new investments when the only contact has been via Zoom (ie without in person meetings). His response: we are in a new world and we need to adapt. It makes total sense and he’s right of  course. But it will be a massive adjustment for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Maybe it lead to more time, relationship building, mutual understanding and due diligence which would be a good thing (the prior pace didn’t feel comfortable either to be honest).

So the work continues. It’s actually a productive way to keep sane during such a somber and critical time.


Stay home everyone but stay connected. Being physically apart doesn’t mean we need to be socially apart.

Social media in these times

I’ve always been inspired how the internet and social media has connected us in such a meaningful way. Yes, it can be extremely messy and it has genuine flaws for sure.

But our social media is also proving to be such a vital part of life. Providing critically important news & information, the status of loved ones and allowing us to stay connected digitally during these times where we must avoid each other physically.

I’m seeing so much generosity and creativity as well. My friend Dick Costolo is providing meals to 40 families a night, every night. Others are creating apps to help local merchants stay afloat. Funds are being raised for food banks. Our shared human existence is on full display and we all need to lean in if it all possible.

The last few days I was moved by Chris Martin and John Legend‘s IG stories. They each had private live concerts from their own house. You could feel their concern about humanity and the power of music to help us in times like these. Legend’s cover of Bridge Over Troubled Waters gave me chills. What a treasure.