Category: Personal Thoughts

A Covid Crossroads in the US

In the US, Covid has gotten much worse in the past four weeks, especially in the Upper Midwest. While there’s some good news, the odds of a non-linear disaster are the highest they’ve been since New York’s first surge.

In the past two weeks, the number of people I know with Covid in the US has gone up massively. As I write, 10 people in my close group of friends or their direct families have active Covid. Most of them took precautions. Luckily, most look like they will escape serious primary health issues. Two look to be pretty sick.

Since March, I’ve been lucky to be able to isolate during this pandemic. The longest I’d spent in one location in a row since from June 2015 until March 2020 was six weeks. Now I haven’t moved in 8 months.

I was going to fly to spend winter in a warmer location. I saw the new numbers, especially the sobering Covid Risk Map, which said that in Wisconsin, there’s a ~95% chance there’s at least one active Covid case in a random group of 25 people, implying ~3-5 active Covid cases on my flight. My friends parents got Covid flying from Florida to Wisconsin. I stayed in Wisconsin.

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No Call Wednesday

Ever since the pandemic, I’ve been “always on.” I can take calls, video conferences, texts at all times. People are available, without many constraints on time. Remote work detractors think that people will watch Netflix all day. But we should really be worried about people working too much, not too little.

I’ve instituted No Call Wednesday so that I can actually get things done. Some of the Magma team has started do it too. It’s been a long battle of experiments, dating back to 2017. No Call Wednesday, and its more powerful cousin Airplane Mode Wednesday, have been life changing.

The Path to No Call Wednesday

In 2017, I was the only full time Magma Partners team member and things started to get away from me. I had too many things on my plate, but we didn’t have the budget to hire anyone new until we did the first close on our fund, in January 2018.

I found myself taking walks to my favorite cafes in Bogota, Medellin, Mexico City, Guadalajara or Santiago every Saturday morning and spending 4-6 hours catching up on writing, emails and the big projects that I never had the brainspace to do during the week. These 4-6 hours were my most productive of the week.

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A Privacy Checkup

From data that we freely give up to private companies like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Amazon, to data brokers and ad networks that track us around the internet, not to mention government surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, most of our most personal data is being collected by many different entities. Like any tool, data can be used for both good and bad. And companies that store our data can be hacked to embarrass us, just like politicians and tech people have been recently.

I operate online as if everything I do will be public some day: my search history, my texts, Facebook messages, location data. I think about what data I’m freely giving away to data companies and weigh whether the benefit is big enough to give up privacy. Most people don’t even think about this bargain.

I recognize that anyone who really wants to get my data can probably do it. But I like to make myself a smaller target.

I urge you to take some of these steps to minimize your personal data exposure. Here’s my personal security checkup:

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My 2016

Ever since I started writing here, I’ve done a year end post summarizing what I’ve done in the past year. These posts are mostly for me, so that I can look back and remember what I did, what I was thinking and what was important to me each year. Previous versions (2000s200920102011201220132014, 2015). Here’s what I did in 2016.

2016 followed on from 2015’s main two themes: focus and growth. In 2015, I started the process of eliminating distractions from Magma Partners and Andes Property and in 2016 I focused even more. I took Derek Sivers’ mantra of Hell Yeah! or No! that I started to implement at the end of 2015 to heart and said no to things that I wasn’t 100% excited about.

I not only implemented this framework for deciding to invest in new Magma portfolio companies, but also for speaking engagements, events, press opportunities, writing opportunities and more. Along the same lines, Tim Urban’s Your Life in Weeks helped me revalidate that time is my most precious resource. Thanks Derek and Tim.

I spent ~5 months in Chile, ~1 in other Latin American countries and the rest in the US. 6 months is the most I’ve spent in the US since 2010. It was good to be back more than a few months per year and I really enjoyed getting back to doing more business in the US. It was also great to see my family and friends more than I have for the past few years. My Mom finished a book project she’d been working on for multiple years and I was happy to be able to help her get it designed, edited and printed. (more…)