Grit & Goals — 2019 Reflections
One of my favorite poems is Anis Mojgani’s “Shake the Dust.” Anis encourages everyone from “schoolyard wimps” to “midnight bike riders” to persevere and keep fighting the good fight. At its core, it is a poem about how much grit is required just to get through everyday life no matter who you are. I am reminded of this poem as I reflect on the year that has passed and how important grit has been in both my professional and personal life.
I moved to a new city to start a new job this year for the third time since graduating college not too long ago. Every move came with a combination of excitement for new beginnings and plenty of warnings that I was making a huge mistake. I had to learn how to navigate new streets during night-time runs, figure out how to co-exist with new housemates and co-workers, and step out of my comfort zone and be vulnerable enough to make new friends. Each move made me increasingly self-reliant and confident that I could adapt to whatever change life threw at me.
Grit, for me, however, was not just about “gritting my teeth” and pushing through tough situations (though that was part of it). What made staying sane in the face of significant change possible was having big meaningful goals that I was working towards. This gave me purpose and helped me put the difficulties that are part of life in perspective.
My three big goals in 2019 were to become a better start-up investor, progress in my triathlon journey, and be intentional about experiencing new things.
The driving force behind moving from city to city was my goal to positively impact the world through having a significant role in funding start-ups and helping founders be successful. Each step in this journey has taught me how to be a better investor and brought me closer to this goal. At Cambridge Associates, I learned about how companies that fund venture capital firms think. At SixThirty I learned about what it means to do good diligence on start-ups and how corporations think about innovation. Working on the diligence team at Cultivation Capital’s Life Sciences Fund helped me understand the similarities and differences involved with evaluating life sciences companies vs. software companies.
At Grand Ventures, I have found the autonomy and ability to have impact that I have been pursuing. Here, I have been fortunate to be involved with every step of investing from sourcing and diligence to start-up board decisions. I hope to find an amazing start-up and see it through every step of the process all the way to exit. One of the highlights from my experience so far was getting the team on board to invest in a hot mobility start-up that I found. The low point was when this deal fell through during final diligence checks. I learned a lesson my boss had been saying since day one: “Never fall in love with a deal.” There are many start-up fish in the sea and when one does not work out you have to “shake the dust” and use that as fuel to find an even better investment.
The second constant during each move was training for triathlons in hopes of getting closer to doing an Ironman. One of the hardest aspects of training has been managing injuries and knowing when to take a break and when to push through. During a half-marathon my IT Band flared up pretty badly. I pushed through the splitting pain and finished the hardest race of my life. The cost of this decision was an inability to run for several months, forcing me to push back my half-Ironman date. After sufficiently healing, I did end up finishing a half-Ironman with no injuries! This helped me realize that big goals are worth waiting for — sometimes taking things slow today can help you reach tomorrow’s goals faster. As I gear up for a full Ironman in 2020 I am aware of the myriad roadblocks that could hinder a successful finish. I am prepared for the journey being a bit more windy and long than I expect.
Finally, I wanted to make time for experiencing new and meaningful things. Life’s short and every passing year seems to go by faster. Grit and pleasure may seem like unrelated concepts, but it takes discipline and intentionality to make time to really live and not just exist. To create this time, I focused on organizing my life a bit more through charting both my personal and professional goals and developing positive habits like sleeping earlier and managing my inbox better (I am still working on this one…). I ended up taking a week long vacation for the first time in 5 years — I went to Costa Rica with my family, where I learned how to surf, went white water rafting, and experienced some awesome beaches and torrential downpours. In Michigan, I got involved with the community through mentoring and learning from military veterans who were trying to start businesses. The best decision, though, was joining a volleyball league where I met my wonderful friends.
I am excited for more change and more progress towards my goals in 2020. And I hope I will continue to have some fun along the way too!