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Off Topic: What the Past Three Months Have Taught Me

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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. Historically and culturally, consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids, otherwise known as fish oils, has been thought to help the human body fight off heart disease and heart attacks. Today, more and more studies are showing that there is a strong correlation between Omega-3 fatty acids and markedly lower instances of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart attacks, among many other health benefits.

  2. Om, a great piece. Having gone through the stress of several startups, and of “commuting” to Microsoft in Seattle from NYC for several years, luckily without a cardiac incident, I sympathize with you. I think you’ve found a wise path. Your site is still great, you have great people working with you, and one of these days we’ll be at a Coburn ventures dinner together :-)

  3. Jim Hassinger

    I had my heart attack 7 years ago now. I owe it a lot. One thing that really astonished me was the final and total end of any interest I had in smoking. Now, I had been a pack-a-day guy for maybe 30 years, except for periods ranging from two weeks to five years one time where I quit successfully, only to start again. But this was different. I had always battled with the demon nicotine to quit. But this time, on my way out of the hospital, there was a guy having a cig by the door. It sickened me so much I nearly vomited. Suddenly, I was intensely aversive, and I never spent a moment yearning for a smoke. Still smoke-free, but it’s not even worth mentioning. Previous periods of abstinence had required will power. This did not.

  4. Hampus Jakobsson

    Almost dying was the biggest learning experience of my life too. Keep dying to keep living. Om, your blog is wonderful, but make it survive you, and not kill you.

  5. Olivier

    Great read. I am so thankful for bloggers I highly respect who share personal insight.

    Regarding delegating I adopt a simple rule. Two types of problems, the urgent ones, I delegate, and the important ones, I take the time to think through. What is urgent is rarely important and vice versa.
    Food for thoughts…

  6. Om,
    As someone close by who saw a lot of you before and after, I can say that your energy, clarity and perspective are higher now than at any other time I’ve known you. It is fantastic to see you so driven and rested (!!!!). Don’t ever lose that balance.

    Great to have you back, my friend, and anytime you need a run in those groovy GigaOm-embossed Nikes, just give me a ring.


    PS: And yes, you do have a world-class team. they rock.

  7. I think the problem that many of us have is that we feel that we are indestructible, until something major goes wrong with either our bodies or minds. I suppose realising that we all can’t keep on pushing ourselves to the limit and expect that nothing is going to break. Finding time to exercise, meditate and rest are things that must be done in order to stay mentally and physically healthy. I wanna live for ever!

  8. Well, Om, when I was in my 40’s I owned a big PR firm and I was always stressed and miserable. I missed much of my children’s growing up, and only when the heart palpitations took me to the ER did I decide it wasn’t for me. So I got out of the biz and went to Intel. That was even worse. Luckily, I always exercised, but I was stressing myself out by running marathons in the middle of all the other stress.

    Then my husband died.

    Bereaved and depressed,I quit my job, and that moderated my life. I have never felt better. Anyone who doubts the connection between mind and body is crazy.

    No one is irreplaceable. Joyce does a great job on the GigaOm show, and the blog is great. So who cares about anything else?