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A Personal Note: Pause & Read

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The passing of Tim Russert, a man I greatly admired, came as the result of a massive heart attack, an event that cannot be predicted. Having suffered a heart attack myself earlier this year, I know this firsthand — the heart is no match for the high-stress, multitasking lives that so many of us lead. And before we know it, our poor habits catch up with us. It’s why I urge you to get yourself to the doctor and get your much-delayed physical. You would be doing yourself, your family and even your startup a favor.

As part of my recovery process, my cardiologist Dr. Eduardo Rame of UCSF suggested that I take some time out of my busy life and spend it on projects that are focused on helping others. It is the best and most effective way to de-stress – doing good and breaking your routines. So I decided to get involved with UCSF and help them raise some funds. (If any of you would like to help, please drop me a note.)

Some of the encouragement to help UCSF came from Ron Conway, a well-known angel investor who is as passionate about charity work as he is about startups. He helped build the cardiology ICU facility at UCSF that helped save my life. (He is on the board of the UCSF Medical Foundation.) Today he unveiled another effort that I urge everyone to support.

UCSF along with YouTube have launched a comprehensive Internet video channel dedicated to the improved understanding of incurable neurodegenerative brain diseases. The YouTube channel is part of an overall Internet campaign that will help UCSF’s researchers and clinicians reach out to a global audience.

It was inspired by the “Fight for Mike,” an initiative by Silicon Valley leaders to save the life of former Apple/Netscape marketing ace Mike Homer, who was diagnosed last spring with CJD and is being treated at UCSF. Since June 2007, the Fight for Mike has raised more than $7 million for CJD research at UCSF. Maybe you want to join hands and help support the cause.

24 Responses to “A Personal Note: Pause & Read”

  1. Thanks for another inspirational and clearly very sincerely written article Om. Such advise is so needed when we are stuck at our machines. As much as this I love this Mac, or that it enhances my (working) lifestyle, regular activity is critical towards our achieving a work life balance and clearing the mind.

    We have an £8bn deficit in the UK that is directly attributed to our lack of activity. Half an hour of activity a day, even walking could add ten years. These issues remain a central inspiration to my working life, and the idea of helping others also makes our stressful prototyping sessions a pleasure. Guy Kawasaki talks about making meaning in your company, and this along with bloggers like yourself continues to inspire and consolidate our thoughts, and our ethos. Thanks again Om.

  2. Good points about life balance and taking a break; I work doing nonstop consulting in Silicon Valley, where of course everything is intense, changing, dynamic. I have to break away at times from it. But what’s scary is (according to one of the NBC medical reports) that 1/3 of heart attack victims have none of the classical problems associated with hear attacks–overweight, high cholesteral, etc. My favorite uncle died in the mid 70s when he was 56. Despite advances since then, there are still mysteries about this disease which kills so many. Thanks for this personal note and posting.

  3. Thanks Om. I didn’t mean to push you to post more about it, but I couldn’t pass up mentioning “question dodging” to a journalist and “chapatis & ghee” to an Indian. ;-)

  4. @ Brian,

    I hope you can spread the message as well.

    @Dempsey I didn’t mean to dismiss your comment. Of course I love what you had to say and even admonish me. I am glad my readers are keeping me honest. I will post a bigger piece on how I have changed my life and continue to do so on a daily basis. I will try and make those changes be part of this blog going forward.

  5. Om,

    Thank you for sharing these comments about Tim & your own experience with heart problems. Exercise & eating right are two obvious things we can all do to improve our health. I like that your doctors introduced you to the need to relieve stress as well. You are right to mention how we all can be guilty of pushing ourselves (our bodies) to hard & that we need to give ourselves a break every now & then. As you mentioned, what better way to relieve stress than to give back.

  6. Nikhil Mungikar

    very well said OM…
    Anything in life if u taken for granted..then it will knell u down one or other day…and we all do the same mistake…took our health condition taken for granted..incurable mistake…
    I have been living in japan for last couple of years and only realized this issue when my doc warned me abt my health..priorities must be decided b4 they become necessities..take care

  7. Thanks Om. You inspired many thoughtful comments here and I thought I’d mine as well because like so many of us who are driven and managing multiple feeds and endless channels of information it’s rare that we get time to reflect. We seem to speed along in a response mode and constantly move faster and faster just to keep up and get things done. But in truth we can’t, because there’s always more to do and it’s the moment that we have to seize and live in because it’s gone before we know it. I took time yesterday to go for walk with my family. It felt great, and I need to do that more often. We need to take care of ourselves too so we can be better able to help others. Thanks again for getting our attention and giving us a reason to pause.

  8. Dempsey

    “But exercise, not smoking and eating sensibly to keep your cholesterol down can help greatly. Are you doing those things Om?”

    Om, did you learn how to dodge a question from the people you interview? ;-)

    Everyone knows slipping back into bad habits is easy. Chapatis without ghee aren’t as nice as ones with! So speaking on behalf of the community of GigaOm readers: Are you eating right, not smoking, and exercising? (I guess you indirectly covered the last one) You won’t let someone dodge a hardball question and neither will we. We’ll be using “the conversation” part of you growing empire to keep you in check.

    I will put one useful comment in this post: Use stairs! I’m a slim man and the developers at my job all ask me what my workout routine is. Well, I don’t have one except walking up to the 5th floor (that’s the 6th floor over there) once a day. Sometimes twice. When the world offers you an opportunity to exercise, take it.

  9. It is so very hard to step away from the buzz of things around us. So many of us in the tech field obsessively seek out novelty and complexity. EMail, Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, and whatever comes next all cry for our attention on top of the several layers of multi-tasking that is already our lives. I am on EST. It’s almost 2 AM. I am responding to this one thoughtful post by Om, because I saw it on Friendfeed as I was getting ready to shut down my newly installed FF3 for the night. When finished, I will lay myself down and think about how I can squeeze 12 hours of work into the 6 hours of readily available time tomorrow and still have time to smile at my young children. If you’re not careful, this life can grind you into a nub. I’ve figured out that for me to make it work, I have to schedule my kids first and work second. (Your priorities may vary.) My next rule is to make sure that whatever I am doing, I am focused on only it at the time. No wishing I were working on something else. As long as I can figure out how to always “Be Here Now” I reduce my stress by an order of magnitude. I hope everyone else figures out what will give their lives meaning and maximize it for themselves. What else is there?

  10. Very nice post Om!

    Yes, you are right you should spend time taking off and helping others.

    Just taking time off to go to Hawai! Will not help. There are lot of people around the world who need help. Helping the needy gives us lot of inner satisfaction and helps us in return.

    I am really touched by your post, never thought that such a famous person would think like a normal person like us.

    I am hoping you are taking good care of your health, and working out regularly.

    Keep writing those good posts… we all love ..

    Cheers, Nag

  11. @Omfut

    three things you can do to do that easily: get low cholesterol cereal and have it in the morning with some kind of berries. For lunch, make yourself walk somewhere. For dinner, make sure you eat before 7.30 and don’t watch too much television. Instead walk for 15 minutes. So even if you don’t go to the gym you will see a slow change in your cholesterol level. If you drink restrict to two days a month – moderation is much easier than elimination and that is what you can do instantly.

  12. Om:
    Thanks for that good reminder. Yep, we techies always try to solve every problem in the world ingnoring our own problems. My cholestrol is way too high :-). Trying my best to bring it down.


  13. @ All,

    I just don’t want anyone and I mean anyone to make the mistakes I made. I think in the end we think about everything except our own health and our families’ happiness. That you realize when it is taken away form you.

  14. @ Doug,

    Well, there is two ways of dealing with this – not doing anything like not going to the doctor or doing something about it. I learnt the hard way that doing nothing can be seriously injurious to your health, and now I am making amends – making massive lifestyle changes which at my age are still patchwork repair because at the end of the day, I am trying to keep something which malfunctioned going. So if I had gone to the doctor a year earlier, my actions to save me from myself would have started sooner. Just a different perspective.

  15. Was touched by this. It’s amazing how we relentlessly have to be shocked, essentially, into taking a time out or at minimum a momentary redirection, isn’t it? I called my dad when I saw the news. He’s Tim’s age and of a similar work ethic (and likely many other similarities). I’m glad, too, Om that you brought the message of giving to this post. -p

  16. “I urge you to get yourself to the doctor and get your much-delayed physical.”

    That’s great but Tim Russert’s heart attack, and many others would not be prevented, nor detected by getting a physical. Plaque could break off anytime and clog your artery causing a heart attack. This cannot be predicted when it will happen. But excercise, not smoking and eating sensibly to keep your cholesterol down can help greatly. Are you doing those things Om?