Blog Post

Off Topic: What the Past Three Months Have Taught Me

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

It’s exactly three months to the day since I had my heart attack. What has followed has been a life-altering experience, forcing me to learn some hard lessons about life, myself and of course being a first-time entrepreneur.

I have had to institute numerous behavioral changes over the past 90 days. But what I found was that some of my worst and most deep-seated habits were among the easiest to overcome — smoking, for example, as well eating a meat-rich diet and avoiding exercise. It’s the little things that have proved to be a challenge.

Simplification Through Elimination

I was reading a review of the Macbook Air over on Macworld when I realized that the machine and post-recovery me have a lot in common. I have to be very careful as to how I use my mental and physical resources, for there is a high risk of relapse. Similarly, the Macbook Air comes with miniscule amount of storage space, so one needs to be careful about how to use it. The machine’s battery power limitations remind me of how much time I have to devote to work on a daily basis.

It has been hard to use the Macbook Air as my primary computer, just as it’s been hard to change all those pesky “little things.” Indeed, the Macbook Air is an acquired taste. It’s also an apt reflection of an effective “simplification through elimination” strategy.

Three months on, I am looking to eliminate a number of things from life: excessive public appearances, too much travel and many, many RSS feeds. I am going to cut down the effort I spend on certain projects and focus on making the most of what we have at hand. Stay tuned for more details.

Empower To Power Up

One of the upsides to my health setback was that I discovered the amazing abilities of my team. When faced with adversity, each one of them picked up whatever they felt comfortable with and ran with it. From editorial to sales to the company and everything in between — the team executed on our strategy. Batteries Om not included.

I think one of the biggest problems I had as a first-time entrepreneur was an inability to let go; I was always second-guessing every decision not made by myself and was obsessed with minutiae. Three months on, having seen the Giga Gang at work, I realized what a mistake that was. You empower people, and in turn they power you to do good things. Now I am finding more time to focus on writing, reporting and spending time on projects like our upcoming conference, Structure 08.

Anyway folks, thanks for reading — and please don’t forget to get your cardiac check-up. Many of us in Silicon Valley refuse to acknowledge that we live a high-stress existence and are prone to all sorts of problems that stem from an 18-hour-a-day, non-stop lifestyle. Cardiac disease is one of the deadliest silent killers of the modern age, and I urge you to learn from my mistakes. (More information on this @ the American Heart Association web site.) Please let me know if you want me to post information about symptoms of heart disease and other heart-related problems. And if you need help, I am just an email away.

59 Responses to “Off Topic: What the Past Three Months Have Taught Me”

  1. Bill Camp

    Thank you for sharing your experience and lessons. Your posts help remind me that taking care of ourselves is most important and that work, while important and satisfying, does not define who we are.

  2. Om, what a great reflection. My dad dropped dead at 65 several years ago from an aneurysm of the aorta; that was my wake-up call to enjoy every day and live life to the fullest. We’re all human, and then we’re gone. Glad you got a second chance!

  3. Falguni Bhuta

    Om, Great to hear that you are recovering and that your lifestyle has changed so much for the better. Since you have kicked the dangerous smoking habit, might make sense to remove the cigar from your avatar! :)


  4. Glad to hear your back. It is amazing how much we can eliminate from our lives and focus. I have just quit my job to focus on doing “my thing”. It is challenging to do that when you are working from and one has to learn to eliminate the unecessary distrations. I posted about some of my techniques to help me focus on doing what I should be doing. You can read my post on my blog.

  5. Om, it’s been six months since my open-heart surgery (a chance X-ray showed an aortic aneurysm about to burst so I got a new artery graft, a value job and minor by-pass) and rest assured it gets better from here on out. The first three months were a bitch (got pneumonia around week six) and then I started to have major turns for the better. If you’re offered a cardio-rehab exercise program find a way to do it. You’ll be better than before in ways you might never have imagined. Best of luck and good health. FYI I blogged my experiences at – Peter

  6. Om
    Firstly, good to hear you are on the road to recovery. I wish you peace and good health.

    I too suffered a similar fate, 2 1/2 yrs of a start up, 18 hour days, always saying I need to cut back and do the right thing, but never doing it, and then traveling.

    Mine was a little worse as I had the attack while traveling to Hungary. Good care, but a long way from state of the art that our beloved insurance allows for here in the USA.

    Diet change, soccer twice a week, 14 bhour days 4 days a week, sleep a lot on sunday and donot go near the computer until 8pm to try and get a head start on thw week.

    It is the little things that will make a difference mate.

    Take your time, GigaOm has a good team and you will succeed.


    Ritesh Patel

  7. Martha Feingold

    This is a nice and important follow up. It’s just too easy when you’re balancing work and family to neglect yourself, thanks for the reminder.

  8. Personalizing the website is never a problem. I recommend it – even if it tweaks a few readers. Maybe they haven’t a personality that survives direct communication with other human beings?

    Glad to see you’re back – and your doctor agrees. Changing lifestyle is something we should do – our whole lives. Sedentary minds are as dangerous as sedentary bodies.

    GigaOmTV downloaded, last night. We’re looking forward to watching that part of your life, tonight.

  9. It has been good to see your team, keeping this site as useful as it was before. Congrats to each one of them.

    and on a sidenote, I sent an email sometime back, asking you about redesigning your avatar to omit the cigar at hand. did you get that?


  10. Om I read your past as I get ready to come back to Palo Alto from 4 great days skiing in Tahoe with my wonderful family. You nailed it. Taking the time to savior the things that matter like family and health.

    ongrats for having a great team over at giga media :-)

  11. @ grfx…. my friend, thanks for your words of encouragement. And right back at you. Hope your recovery continues well. We are going to be cheering for you and let us know if we can help. I hope this message of moderation is one others take to heart (no pun intended.)

  12. @ Mike, thank you for sharing your story. If you tell that to one friend in SV a week, you know we could almost get people to take this whole overwork/stress/health problem issue seriously.

    Please rest up and do things that make you happy – not obsessive. Thanks again for reading and sharing.

  13. Great post Om. Understand where you are coming from. It’s creatively doing less and getting more done.
    Battling cancer, I have found that life indeed is boiled down to just the essentials. The essential people, the essential sustaining life activities, the essential work.

    Moderating activities is more or less forced upon you, but helps to make things more clear.
    All the best in your recovery and your ventures.

    Keep doing what you are doing!

  14. Lars and I had the shock of our life in the middle of the Australian dessert, when we heard the news about your heart attack. Only a few days before we had a merry dinner in Paris…and every now and then we still have a laugh about it, it was just too great! :)

    Good to hear that you´re not back on (old) track and that you´ve chosen a new way in and for your precious life!

  15. Michael

    Hey this is a really nice reflection on process (as opposed to substnce. Long ago, Drucker had a lot to say about such process and the issues you raise in particular. Interesting that delegation and empowerment problems still haunt us!

  16. Om, my Air too has inspired me to eliminate. There’s something about simplicity. It’s becoming a huge meme (perhaps partly Jobsian inspired). Further, a down economy helps. Glad to hear you are on the mend. Hope to see you soon – in your hometown, not mine.

  17. Om, the shock of the news of your heart attack is at least partially responsible for a major lifestyle change of my own. After having been at a high-octane startup for 3-1/2 years, working long hours over nights, weekends and holidays, I began to feel past the point of burnout. No longer was I just feeling mentally fogged – I was damned fatigued and the symptoms weren’t pretty. Recuperative sleep was rare, my joints ached, my acid reflux had flared up, digestive issues abounded and, to top it off, I was having chest pressure and numbness in both arms. Feeling I was having or about to have a heart attack, I ended up in the doctors office, scared shitless that I might have overdone it. Fortunately, it wasn’t a heart attack, but, rather, several minor conditions that added up to what was seeming like one. But all of them were caused by the stress of carrying what felt like the world on my shoulders.

    Well, that pretty much did it for me. You never fully internalize the phrase ‘nothing can replace your health’ until you start to feel it slipping away; I resigned and am now taking a brief hiatus while I decide which opportunity to pursue next.

    I feel that with every startup you get to a point where there probably isn’t much more you can contribute and feel as if it’s time to move on. In my case, it was that, combined with my health issues and the shock of reading about yours that pushed me to stop and smell the roses.

    Take comfort in knowing that at least one person who was headed down the same path as you has diverted himself as a result of your experiences. I sincerely wish you the best in your recovery.

  18. There is a Buddhist axiom about Crazy Wisdom. Sometimes from standing on the edge and staring into the abyss, there is a moment of clarity and understanding; a new set of muscles manifest, and through skillful means, the recipient is suddenly able to carve new paths that heretofore were sight unseen.

    It sounds like you have embarked on such a journey.



    My Blog: