As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste

I bought a pair of jeans yesterday.  Just a basic Gap replacement pair for some worn-out favorites.  I got home with the new dungarees only to find they were two sizes too big.  No, I have not lost weight.  I actually forgot my jean size.

How is that even possible?

This was on top of a streak of:

  • Losing half of four sets of earrings in so many weeks
  • Repeatedly asking for the same exact data from Jeanne, our Chief Marketing Officer
  • Forgetting what I was saying midstream in two videos
  • Leaving the keys in the ignition
  • Watching my kids open presents I had no memory of buying

I could go on, but my ego could not handle any more embarrassing confessions.

I know the holidays push many people to their limits. In addition, Daily Grommet grew exponentially–causing all the mostly happy (but some not-so-happy) growing pains you would expect for a young e-commerce company at the holidays.

It’s tiresome to friends and family to repeatedly play the “Forgive me–I am a startup CEO” card.  So I try not to.  But forgetting my own jeans size seems to sum up a lot for me.  The unsustainable “tilt” of my recent existence.  (And it’s even harder knowing that my team members are experiencing their individual versions of this.)  Not complaining.  Just the facts.

January has always been my favorite month.  Other than the year when my oldest son was born, 2011 may be the best January ever.

8 Responses to “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”

  1. Victor K

    Hi Jules,
    Happy New Year!!!
    I know I have at least a few years on you so I say this with some authority (I guess)…

    Your post reminds me of 1986 when a fellow architectural student and I started our own construction company in Miami and were building a 62 town home complex plus designing another architectural project. Edgar and I were forgetting our pant sizes as well.

    Lucy, my then sweet girlfriend sternly told me to ‘stop and smell the roses’. I did not understand what she meant…today I do. I miss Lucy and cherish her advise quite often as I smell anything and everything.

    I do not think I will be able to ‘smell’ life as well as Lucy did but I am having a good time trying.

    Take care and my best for your coming January+11.


  2. Karl Eberhardt

    I have to agree with Victor. 2yrs ago I got back to my roots as an entrepreneur after a brief 13yrs hiatus “real job” as an industrial engineer in Biotech… I’m home now.

    I have a fair amount of experience with “losing” my mind. First time I experienced this phenomenon was building a sailboard manufacturing plant and manufacturing sailboards…16hr days – 7days a week…lived and worked a stone’s throw from the beach…and never went in the water for 4 years …this after surfing my entire life up to that point…just couldn’t “find a single hour” in my day to enjoy a simple pleasure I had now taken for granted. At one point driving into work each morning with the beach on my left…I didn’t even “see” it anymore…much less smell it. A scary comparison is its similar to being intoxicated…you do things on auto pilot with little or no memory of them the next day.

    However I am now in act 2 as an entrepreneur, with a start up internet company, I have recently (with the help of my wife) learned a trick to get back into the present (which is what is not happening for you – thus you are on auto-pilot with routine things and don’t even remember doing them). She creates awesome guided meditations so I grab the iPod…and in less than 10minutes I take a brief mind vacation, focus on breathing and when I come back, I am in the present… I not only smell the roses once again I actually “see” them.

    By no means do I have the smelling and seeing mastered, but I now occasionally catch my self actually enjoying, smiling and being in the moment during some ordinary activity…rather than being on auto pilot and thinking about “more important” things. Heck what could possibly be more important than fully participating in each and every moment you are awake? Easier said than done.

    A toast, to all Start Up CEO’s; May we all be present and in the moment in 2011


  3. julespieri

    @ Viktor and Karl,
    Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I can certainly relate to your story Karl, and it makes me feel somehow better, but also forewarned. The HBS professor Nancy Koehn studies entrepreneurs and she says that they experience their businesses and associated demands as somehow larger/brighter than the rest of life. Makes sense to me, even if it has a pretty awful side (not seeing the water, for example). All I can say is I am forewarned by those who have gone before me. And that I am acutely aware of the times I am on “autopilot” as it is still a mode that I find deeply disturbing.

  4. Carolyn Porter

    My favorite recollection of your non recollection was when you asked me if you had driven over the Golden Gate Bridge on your journey from Marin County to the San Francisco airport. Could be you are just deeper in thought than the rest of us.

    • julespieri

      I remember that moment all too well Carolyn. Here is my most recent lapse. I hosted Thanksgiving this year, and in a conversation today it took me MANY minutes who I had around the table. And it was a lovely day!

  5. Barbara

    Jules, I’m not a CEO of an exponentially growing start-up, but I share your pain! Among other things, I totally forgot to book our holiday airline tickets, left kids hanging without rides home from activities, and generally lost my head in December. Also glad it’s January. Happy New Year.


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