Time, fast and slow

I’ve been struggling to concentrate this last week, teeter-tottering between feeling like shit as I refreshed my news feeds in the hopes that anything would change (nope, just more bad news) and feeling like shit for not being able to manage myself better. The time that passed was objectively a week, but it simultaneously felt like a month (so much happening!) and a single day (it’s all the same!). And this inability to grasp time wore on my ability to make decisions. How do I properly forecast in this new environment? How do I properly ring fence the implications for my family and friends, our community, our portfolio companies, myself? Will this be another 6 weeks or 18 months?

I don’t have an answer, but I really appreciated reading this edition of “Why is this interesting?” from Noah Brier. He explores our emotional experience of time, and presents a theory as to why it feels fast and slow all at the same time. I found it helpful to re-orient myself. Still crazy, but it makes a bit more sense.

And then I dug up some of my old writing from last July, where I explored our perception of the time it takes for things to change. (Also, another h/t to “Why is this interesting?”, y’all should subscribe to their newsletter.) I list out a few factors that could lead to a “seismic shift” and I never even thought to call out a black swan event. Ah! What a different world it was then. I’m such a blissfully ignorant millennial. But maybe now I’ll finally read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan.

(That said, I still agree with my conclusion.)

From July 2019:

It often feels to me like our world is on the cusp of a seismic shift, with the upcoming 2020 elections, with the growing nationalism, tribalism around the world, with climate change, with transformational technology like AI. But maybe not: in Bloomberg’s “5 Things to Start Your Day”, the author shared this take on how we often overestimate these inflection points:

Yesterday Tracy Alloway and I interviewed Philip E. Tetlock, an expert on forecasting and making predictions, for an upcoming episode of our podcast. […] Tetlock said people make a common error of overestimating the frequency of “inflection points” in whatever they’re studying. So for example, geopolitical forecasters are likely to overstate the odds of an imminent regime change or coup in any given country, despite those events being extremely rare. […] Anyway, I was thinking about this with respect to the market and the economy right now. The post-crisis era has been characterized by an exceptionally long, stable period of moderate growth and cool inflation. […] Right now we’re in a period where people are starting to wonder if this is coming to an end. The fact that the Fed might ease policy is one reason they’re anxious. The surge in negative-yielding sovereign debt is another. The trade war is also a huge wild card. And yet on the flipside, if you look at Friday’s jobs report, with 224,000 jobs created and wage growth failing to accelerate, it certainly looks like the stable and cool economy remains with us. While there are all kinds of crosswinds and headline risk and everything else at the moment, perhaps people should be open to the idea that really not much has changed from what we’ve seen virtually non-stop since 2009.

In other words, things perhaps change much slower than we perceive, and we’re more likely to be in the middle of any cycle at any given point of time. It was a reminder to me that real change takes time. Perhaps if more of our society accepted this slow-moving reality, we would be more willing to vote for and  invest in long-term, multidimensional solutions. It was also a reminder of the long journey for changemakers and their organizations — it’s not just one election cycle or funding round or another year of operations that will get us to the world we wish to see. And funding mechanisms like venture philanthropy are a critical piece of supporting these efforts.

Mapping the stages of intimacy to levels of digital security

I’m trying to Marie Kondo my digital life, and I’m starting first with messaging apps. tl;dr: It’s really hard to figure out what needs to go. I tried to create a decision framework to help me, and I ultimately ended up with a map that (for the most part) links level of friendship to level of security and privacy. Funny, right? Ok, well, I think it’s funny.

Reddit DM / Discord: Anonymous strangers that know you better than some of the people around you — you are who you want to be, and they are who you need them to be

Twitter DM: Strangers that you may collide with out and about in San Francisco. The more prolific they are, the more it *feels* like you know them. So there you are, the both of you standing in line for ice cream at Bi-Rite, and you say hi only to realize they have no idea who you are. Hi, I’m awkward!

Instagram DM: Strangers, mostly, and, acquaintances becoming strangers, your relationship held by a delicate thread of responding to each other’s Instagram stories with emojis

Messenger: Acquaintances, mostly. Why do people still use Messenger?

WhatsApp: Friends, mostly

iMessage: Friends that have remained friends because you’ve been in the same group thread forever. And Mom, who recently discovered emojis. 🥰💫🎉

Signal: Good friends, which include fellow activists, whose connection to you cannot be described in words. Includes friends that have upgraded to better friend status because they think you’re annoying, but like you enough to listen to you preach about Whatsapp metadata, and, uh, Facebook. Also includes your significant other, who you hope will one day respond to your eggplant emoji. He won’t, but you’ll keep trying anyway, and Signal is your best bet.

Privacy is also more than just encryption. As you design your personal threat model, consider physical risks, which include social engineering. Triple check that you trust the recipient or you could unwittingly become Internet content.

(Thanks Ryan for consenting to my shenanigans!)

Telegram: Best of best friends. You convinced two of them to join during one of your fits about encrypted messaging, privacy, and big Tech. They won’t switch to Signal because they love you enough to not give in to all your demands.

Anyway, that exercise basically got me nowhere. Back to the whiteboard. For now, I’ll just stick to asking myself what sparks joy as I stare at the 20-30 tabs that I have open at any given time.

While you’re here, here are a few related reads floating around in my head:

Interview with Negotiating the Terms

I wish Nikita Singareddy‘s Negotiating the Terms existed when I looked to enter VC. There were few female role models from diverse backgrounds, and I didn’t know of the unique range of career pathways into the industry. NTT is that resource, and I hope it inspires and helps more women enter the industry. Even as an investor now, I turn to NTT to see how other women think about our work.

I’m so excited to share my own path to venture capital on Negotiating the Terms. Who knew that starting a little online shop with Janet Nguyen in high school would spark my love of (and career in) entrepreneurship and beyond… Big thank you, also, to Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, Melissa Richer and The Ayllu Initiative, and more!

Originally posted on Linkedin.

Eat your vegetables: a reflection on meditation

I’ve never met a vegetable that I didn’t like, and I credit this to the magic of Vietnamese cuisine and my mother’s cooking.

She grew up in the cooking traditions of Huế, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. To accommodate royalty, its people had a fierce devotion to perfectionism, and you can see this conscious attention to quality in every part of its culture. When I think of food from Central Vietnam, I think of dishes that are focused on nuance and the details, with a particular gift for illuminating the flavor profile of vegetables. Take my mom’s bún bò Huế (Huế-style beef noodle soup) for example: you blanche a mixture of raw bean sprouts, mint, basil, banana flower in a steaming bowl of 12-hour lemongrass and beef broth. Vegetables were/are dank.

I remember reading books and watching Disney channel shows about American families, and was struck by how much other kids seemed to hate vegetables. Vegetables were a dramatic point of contention between kids and their parents. I remember lying to my friends about hating broccoli to fit in.

All this to say, my relationship with what is good and healthy for my mind, body, and soul started off easy. And this became my experience with self-care: mostly easy. There was nothing a good run, a face mask, or treating myself couldn’t fix.

But sometimes, the things that are good for you can be difficult and unpleasant

I joined venture capital a few years ago, and I wish I could say it’s been smooth sailing. I feel like I’m continually battling the decision fatigue and emotional roller coaster of (1) making (many) sound decisions and (2) being thoughtful about how to best support and empower entrepreneurs. And day after day of this stress and anxiety, I found it harder to recover. Things that used to get me back to baseline–like say, the sheer physical exhaustion from a run that gives you that incredible runner’s high–no longer worked. Nursing running injuries, I feared what would happen if I could no longer run.

The thing is, I didn’t even realize I was burning out until I discovered Steve Shlafman’s blog on his experience of a 10-day Goenka Vipassana meditation retreat. He writes (emphasis mine): “I was healing myself by focusing on and accepting these physical pains that I’ve been afraid of for more than a decade. Instead of running, I had no choice but to surrender and in many ways kill my ego. […] In some ways, I felt like performed surgery on my mind and body. It was a surreal and deeply moving experience. Thankfully, I was able to face some deeply rooted and underlying issues that had been bothering me for nearly two decades.”

Something clicked. I craved that mental clarity and peace, to re-orient the neurons in my brain that fired in all directions. I recognized that I had to learn new models of self-care or else I’d truly burn out. And so I texted my friend Ryan Seys a link to Steve’s blog and asked him to embark on a 30-Day Meditation Challenge with me, and hold me accountable to learning how to be healthy and well.

It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t.  But here I am, four months later, with a daily practice, to say: thank goodness for meditation. If you’re craving that clarity and peace and haven’t started, I hope you do. Here’s my hot take for you, in case something clicks to help you get started: three tips to start your practice today, three tips to sustain your practice, and three takeaways. Good luck!

Tips on starting

  • Don’t start your meditation practice on a Monday. Do you ever find yourself daydreaming about the new person you’ll become on Monday? Or after your birthday, next month, or after the New Year? We use these arbitrary benchmarks based on our time biases, but data shows that those are the worst days to start new habits. I always tried to start on Monday, and so I never picked it up. My tip for you: just start. Don’t wait for the perfect day, because it likely won’t happen. And don’t wait to try when you’re already feeling uneasy or anxious.
  • Start small, but it may take longer sessions to find your groove. Don’t let the folks on /r/meditation that finish hour long meditations and have out-of-body experiences scare you from trying. Try it right now: set a timer for 2 minutes. Inhale for one second, exhale for two, rinse and repeat. Congratulations, you just started! You may not feel anything, but that’s OK. I tried a few times to start before my 30-Day Challenge, and I’d quit because I didn’t feel anything after a 5-minute meditation. After forcing myself to sit through 10-30 minute meditations for 30 days, I found my breakthrough moment at 25 minutes. But it can be intimidating to start your practice by sitting with yourself for that long, so start small and build up.
  • Find an accountability partner. Find someone that will actually call you up and call you out. It helps if that person is committed to learning as much as you. Ryan and I kept a meditation log, which you can make a copy of and use with your partner. We also journaled about our experience, which allowed us to talk through some of the questions we had. See below for tips on sustaining. I also kept a version of this log with my friends Radha and Charlotte.

Tips on sustaining

  • Commit to trying. In the beginning, it didn’t feel like anything was happening, and I felt so uncomfortable without a framework for how it should work. Am I doing this right? How am I supposed to be breathing? Why do I breathe so weird? What is my mind supposed to do? Is it supposed to do that? Don’t worry, that’s normal. It helped that Ryan and I had our daily journal to compare notes. According to our logs, Ryan had his breakthrough on Day 18. For me, it took until Day 22. And when you first start, getting into the habit is more important than getting it right.
  • Acknowledge potential distractions, and set intentions. In my early meditations, I would suddenly remember that I had to add something to my task list and would fixate on it. I would also fixate on the deeper, less fun stuff that I’d rather not share on the Internet. I found that setting a 5 minute timer to write it all down, to verbalize to myself that I had acknowledged it and that I was committed to meditating for the sake of my health and wellbeing, helped make the meditation smoother.
  • If it’s not working, try other ways. During my experience, I switched between Headspace, Meditation Studio, setting a timer, and several YouTube videos. Before my challenge, I’d quit because I thought Andy (from Headspace) had the most annoying voice in the entire universe. Funny enough, I now use Headspace (in combination with other things, as needed) and adore Andy, but trying different things allowed me to find something that worked.


  • Yielding to the present: In reflection, I learned that I have two modes of operating: (1) rehashing the past, and giving it a narrative, or (2) rehearsing the future. It’s great to reflect and be thoughtful, but not to the point where you no longer live in the present. Slowly following each rise and fall of my breath taught me how to be singularly focused on the present. Most powerfully, I learned that it can be unproductive to rehash and rehearse. Often the past and future are out of your control, and the only thing you can impact is what’s happening right now.
  • Shifting gears from multi-tasking to deliberate action. Do you have moments in your life where you do just one thing? Probably few. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t make it this far because you’re reading the other tab open in your browser. I’ve recognized that multi-tasking doesn’t work, but couldn’t shake off years of this learned behavior. In meditation, the act of doing nothing but sitting with myself, as well as  mentally shifting my attention back to my breath every time I was distracted, was the ultimate forcing function to break from this habit. But multi-tasking is an addiction, and so meditation is a daily reminder to slow down and be more deliberate.
  • What you feel isn’t (always) real. I like to break down everything I feel, and to look at it from many different angles. Before meditation, I found peace in being able to assign narrative to my feelings, and this gave my life order and structure. In the course of watching the myriad thoughts that rushed through my brain for 10-30 minutes, I learned that much of what I feel is fleeting, and I have the ability to let emotions pass. This has been the greatest gift to manage (the volume of) stress: instead of mulling over each new feeling that pops up in my brain, I kind of let it hang for awhile, and see how it flows. And I developed a bias towards action, rather than dwelling. 

And lastly, my experience with meditation is, and continues to be, so much more about the journey than arriving at some final state where I’m more resilient, happier, and healthier. The journey hasn’t been easy, at times unpleasant, but it’s the ultimate act of self-care that I’ve learned. Eat your vegetables, kids.

Next step: tackling sleep + sleep hygiene. 

Special thanks to Ryan, Radha, Charlotte, and Steve.

You can also read about Ryan’s experience here.

Coping mechanisms

Hey, world!

It’s my first blog.

To celebrate, I’d like to share my favorite (possibly counterfeit) comic from Calvin and Hobbes. I revisit this comic every time I have a panic attack about sharing too much of my data and contributing to the inevitable AI takeover. (All this said as I purr sweet nothings into my Google Home.)

What are you doing? Why are you reading this? Go play already.