I’m Back. Why I Love January

Posted on Jan 13, 2013 | 46 comments


It’s January. Happy New Year!

My last post was December 17 – nearly a month ago.

I miss blogging because it serves  as a great repository for me of my current thinking, as a way of organizing my thoughts and clarifying what I think and as a conversation started with so many of you (as Hunter Walk elegantly said, “Blog not to show how smart you are, but in the hope of soliciting feedback from smart people. That’s how you learn.”)

Where have I been? It was a particularly rough December in what proved a difficult 2012. I spent the end of December horizontal (per this NY Post headline, it seems that many on the East Coast are experiencing this!), the 1st week of January in decompression and the second week getting caught up with work.

What I love about writing is that you inadvertently say what many others are thinking and just knowing that somebody else is thinking something similar can be reassuring.

Example: Fred Wilson writing his end of 2012 post wrote

“I’ve wanted to write a year end post for days. I actually wrote one and stored it as a draft. But it comes across as a whiny complaint about the shitty year that 2012 was. And it was in many ways a shitty year for me. But the reason I couldn’t publish that post is it didn’t capture the greater picture that 2012 represents for me.”

I felt that way exactly. After all, you’d have to be a really big baby to complain about being a VC. [first world problems and all] But I did feel like 2012 was particularly tough for me having closed out 2011 losing a close family member and dealing with cancer with both family members and close friends. Some responded very well and are in recovery. And some are heart-breakingly no longer with us.

And as you may have gotten a taste in my Entrepreneurshit blog post, I spent too much of the year on the road, in random hotels, stuck in airports waiting out delays and dealing with the same stresses you deal with – fund raising. I’m so happy to have put much of that behind me.

And yet as I reflected this week on December/January board packs that highlighted the year many companies I’ve invested in have had it is pretty mind boggling. On the inside nobody felt euphoric or victorious but reading the year-over-year progress it is mind-boggling how much progress some of them have made.

So what to make of a year? Progress and shit. Huge leaps forward but stress. Celebrations and fights.

But I prefer openings rather than closings. I’m not a December guy. I’m a January one.

Overall I’m pretty proud of what has been achieved but it takes January to really feel that. To be recharged and ready to accept the results for what they are while pointing at even loftier goals ahead.

You’d imagine your favorite founder, VC, blogger, political figure, billionaire, whatever has a stress free life pontificating about how to build the next really cool, society-altering product or changing a city, state or country. But of course life isn’t like this. We all face demons and stress.

Never was that more clear than in this short, but tear-inducing post from 2007 by Aaron Swartz, who you probably know took his life last week at the full-life-in-front-of-him-but-didn’t-feel-that-way age of 26. As a society it’s clear that we need to de-stigmatize depression, treat it and be aware of our colleagues & family who may be experiencing it.

For most of us it’s likely stress more than depression that is our demon. But as an entrepreneur (and VC) you need to be aware of your own stress levels, the consequences of bottling that stress and the impact on your families & friends. I wrote a cautionary tale about that here as an entrepreneur but it equally applies to running a VC firm.

So I spent much of December with a severe flu, then bronchitis, then a pinched nerve in my neck and felt the worst I have felt in a very long time. And as I moped in self-pity the last 2 weeks of December and reflected about how much I hate December I came across this blog post by Brad Feld that really spoke to me.

I wouldn’t have written it – it wouldn’t have occurred to me to write it. But it spoke to me and spoke to how I was feeling in late December. And it lifted me up a little bit and it reminded me that writing and putting thoughts out that can do that for people. And I was glad to count Brad as a friend.

I hate Decembers. I always have. Not because of Christmas (which I didn’t grow up with) but because December is about closure. It’s about closing down activities so that you can go away on a vacation that you’re expected to really embrace and come back recharged. I’m never recharged January 1st. Never.

I hate the fact that my routine is thrown off. I hate that it’s hard to get things done because everybody else is making their plans, too.

I hate the cold. I hate the travel with everybody else in the world at the same time. And their fucking sniffles and coughs and hacks and … flus.

I hate how the news programs get super boring and the TV schedules suck. And your favorite bloggers stop writing. And nobody releases products. And in fact the whole (Western) world seems on hold. Waiting. For the year to end. So that we can start the new one.

I hate the extra chocolate around the office. I hate the 6 extra chocolate chip cookies you ate because “why the fuck not, you’re going to eat too much at Christmastime anyways?”

I always hated the expectations that you had to have a perfect and romantic New Year’s Eve. It has to be Harry Met Sally. It has to go to 11. And it never really quite does.

I love January!

It is filled with possibility. No binge eating. No obligatory cocktail parties. Back to our routines!

January is filled with planning. The year to come! January is where we find our most optimistic selves in our resolutions. Our goals of getting organized. Of doing things differently this year.

Fred Wilson touched on some of this in his post called “Home

“I’m hoping that having the routine back will lead to a burst of creativity and output. I can say for sure that I struggled mightily to keep it going the past 10 weeks.”

In Fred’s case it was the ravage of Hurricane Sandy that forced him from his home and routine.

But the sentiment of, “having the routine back will lead to a burst of creativity and output” that resonated the most with me. December is about getting out of your routine and for me that has always sapped me of my creativity and output.

And I never fail to bounce back in January with my huge leap forward.

I’m so excited about what this year is going to bring for my firm. Our plans have been underway for much of 2012 (one of the things that greatly weighed upon me) and now I see light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to share them all with you in the months ahead.

It’s January.

And I wish you a happy, optimistic, fulfilled and mostly a healthy 2013.

P.S. Maybe I unfairly love January because I live in Los Angeles ;-) Here is a shot from January 5th and my 7-year-old Andy. Who of course made me go in the water also.

But what a difference 2 weeks makes!

[top photo is with my brother-in-law, Jeff McLellan in Annapolis, Maryland]

  • http://twitter.com/robbieab Robbie Abed

    Great to have you back Mark. What I’ve noticed is once I go on vacation or am away for a while, I desperately try to get my routine back. If I’m in my “routine” for too long, I start suffering and desperately try to take a vacation. It’s a vicious circle!

  • http://www.scoutzie.com/?utm_source=disqus&utm_medium=display_name&utm_campaign=disqus_display Kirill Zubovsky | Scoutzie.com

    Wow, you guys actually went into the water? I was in LA for New Year’s and although I managed to wear shorts and a t-shirt on the beach, it was still too cold! Just like you said, xmas time sucked, since everything shut down and everyone was just waiting. Glad I am not alone. Have a great January!

  • http://getlittlebird.com/ Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Hope your January is healthy and strong Mark. Welcome back. I have similar thoughts but I feel bad saying so, family time through December is good for me and I appreciate that, but I sure do love my work and am excited to get back into the swing of it. I imagine the full year ’round with all curves and texture is important to the richness of life and the well-roundedness that helps us work better. Thanks too for that Hunter Walk quote, that’s going to help me get back into the groove of blogging too. Best to you in 2013!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, robbie. yeah, I hate getting out of a routine

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, kirill, you, too! re: water … yes. it was warm out but we froze our juevos off going into the water (but Andy wanted to, so …)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, marshall. yeah, I feel the same. but I prefer to see family in the summer. everybody’s happier when it’s warm anyways! I hope you’re business is doing well. I look forward to an update an some point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004617012581 Mischa Steiner-Jovic

    Thanks for the perspective Mark. Always appreciate your posts, openness and lack of bullshit. I too grew up with a different take on the holidays, which left confusion at times. December is just as you said, brutal travel, year end for the company, all the people you MUST see, all the far from good for you food, etc.

    Agree, January is the time to start; a breathe of fresh, albeit cold, air. We had an offsite with the exec team and board board at Awesense the very first weekend in January to hammer it right out of the gate, and it feels awesome (no pun intended, I swear).

    Glad to hear that you’re feeling better. Congrats on the 4th fund. Stay healthy!

  • James Eliason

    Great post Mark. I was just talking with some people Friday night about how end of year/beginning of the year can differ across professions. Some friends who work in corporate were just relieved that end of year projects were done and they made it through another Holiday party without any drunk co-worker stories. Meanwhile, the Entrepreneur in the room (me), was chomping at the bit to discuss what we were working on. Welcome back to your routine, and here is to a great 2013!

  • http://www.designovich.com/ Alex Tenyotkin

    One of my clients recently told me that he prefers to take vacation during the middle of the year, and then work through the holidays when no one is distracting you with endless emails. Worth trying.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks. and to you, james. hope to see you in person in 2013

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    agreed. except that I have family obligations so not really a reality for me

  • LukeGundy

    Welcome back. Time to show 2013 who’s the boss!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsuri rajatsuri

    Do you feel the same way about, say Fridays and weekends? Because I often get annoyed about people taking it easier on Fridays, and weekends breaking up some solid business momentum during the week. I feel like instead of weekends, startups should work throughout the week with highly flexible schedules (people can take time off whenever they need it, but generally work every day)

  • http://about.me/rqcg Roland van Paridon

    Glad your back! And I’m looking forward for This Week in VC aswell. If you get a chance.

    A healthy 2013 to you to!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=689987025 Jebb Dykstra

    mark – you always seem full of energy and enthusiasm. you are always seem so prolific and productive. you are a such a powerfully productive force for the LA internet and tech scene. to know that you are human and even fallible and get tired like the rest of makes you real and even more refereshing. 2012 was tough for many of us, myself included. Look forward to a great 2013 for most of us!

  • http://twitter.com/Skoussa Sherif Koussa

    Great post! I feel the same way but mine does not stop there. My misery starts every Friday afternoon when everybody start going into the weekend mode and everything just comes to a halt. That exciting sales just stops, that promising conversation just comes to a complete halt and not sure whether it is going to pick up next week, gets worse over long weekends where the winding down and ramping up is longer, and the absolute nightmare is December and then JulyAugust when every are in holidays and totally zoned out. Ah, thanks Mark, I don’t feel as weird now!

  • http://twitter.com/Holger Holger Luedorf

    Happy New Year, Mark. Glad you are feeling better and you and your family are well.
    Hoping to see more of you in 2013!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thank you

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    most people I know work and answer emails a bit on the weekend. and most available for calls. so, no, not the same. but … know that your view of weekends differs greatly once people have families and kids

  • http://avc.com fredwilson

    i absolutely hate the office full of sugar filled crap that happens every december. and the gifts i get that i don’t give a shit about and then i feel guilty for not feeling grateful for them and all i can think about is the money someone spent on this that could have gone for someone in need.

    there has to be an answer for all of this. i think i am going to blog about this next november and ask people to just give to a good cause instead of giving me stuff.

    anyway, enough complaining and whining. great post. i hope january is everything you want and expect it to be mark.

  • http://ohheyworld.com/ Drew Meyers

    I wouldn’t mind in the least if I never got another christmas present. This year I organized a fundraiser instead of buying christmas presents; was a much better use of my time and money than shopping for gifts people don’t need.

  • Gregory VandenBosch

    Thanks for the blogpost Mark. It’s just what I needed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1399239399 Andrés Ramírez Flores

    ” But the sentiment of, “having the routine back will lead to a burst of creativity and output” that resonated the most with me. December is about getting out of your routine and for me that has always sapped me of my creativity and output ”

    Absolutely true.

    You and Seth Godin are my favorites wise business thinkers.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts. Besides from Coursera.org i have always learned a lot from your advices for entrepreneurs.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, jebb. I appreciate it.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, holger. you guys still owe us that family visit to chez suster in LA!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, fred. and I hope that you’re getting settled. happy new year.

    i’ll share some of the inside baseball stuff with you over coffee next time I’m in NYC. BTW, I try not to write about Xmas and gift giving and all that stuff because I hate to sound like the grinch. but it does seem so pointless and angst-ridden and I REALLY love Thanksgiving (and Passover) which have no expectations other than family, football and fun. And it ends quickly enough that it doesn’t spoil things ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you, Andrés. I appreciate that. Happy New Year.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsuri rajatsuri

    I still think a 7 day week could work for people with families, and may even be better due to the flexibility. For example, want to pick up your kid from school some afternoons? Go ahead. Need to stay home on a Tuesday to take care of an ill relative, while your spouse is out of town? No problem. The whole idea of a weekend is purely arbitrary and is grounded in tradition, rather than rational thought…like wearing ties, or shaking hands (it’s getting more and more popular in the valley to fist-bump now…just makes good hygenic sense!)

  • http://avc.com fredwilson

    great move. i need to do something similar.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    Reading this, it makes me feel that even with hating December, you overlook the fact that January feels better *because* December sucked. You hate getting out of the routine, but the burst of joy you feel when back in the groove *required* you to be out of the groove.

    At least that’s how I view it. Be a grinch, by all means, but as I read your post, it struck me that December is still an important month in your annual routine. Without the December lull, every month would be the same and you’d have no January to uplift you.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    As someone living in the UK, under a regime of misguided austerity, I *love* the Christmas present buying thing. It may be “pointless things that no-one needs”, but it provides jobs for manufacturers, retailers, distributors and posties. And, i guess, for bin men and recyclers.

    Plus gifts are not about the physical things necessarily. They are important part of creating and maintaining relationships in pretty well all societies. Hating physical gifts is fine. Personally, I’m very cautious about ending rituals with involve some sort of exchange (buying me a pint is fine) because of the corollary risk that it weakens my relationships.

  • Lamees Butt

    Fantastic post Mark – welcome back! It’s the wind down that I struggle to digest. The moment when the corporate world starts to clock off early, in order to make it to the absurd number of Christmas parties, of which all need appropriate recovery time. Not to sound like scrooge because I love the sentiment, family time, the love that surrounds everyone especially after a very tough year.

    Your end to 2011 sounds reminiscent of my end to 2012. Dealing with the sudden illness of a loved one, in and out of hospital, which is incredibly disorientating. It was at that moment sitting in that god awful chair next to the hospital bed of my 24 year
    old partner who’s lung had collapsed that I realized life is too short to ponder and contemplate the ‘can I do it?’ “For gods sake get off your ass and make it happen!” My partner said to me. It was his push that I need every now and again that got me ripe and ready to make the necessary moves. That said as I became ready, everybody else shut down.

    2013 a year of movement, “ Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still” A year to make it happen, to appreciate how far you’ve come and
    how far you can go! I wish you and the Suster family all the Health, Happiness
    and success for 2013 Mark!

  • Chris

    Great finishing photo. Nothing like the joy, enthusiasm, creativity and unabashed self expression of a kid. More of that in 2013! —- Great blogging in 2012. Enjoyed and looked forward to your posts all year long. Inspiring … a splash of cold water when needed … and always looking forward. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • http://joeyevoli.com/ Joe Yevoli

    I feel the same way about the Dec to January transition. I really can’t stand that last week in Dec, and that first week in Jan when you come back and everything just seems to be on hold. I made it a goal of mine to not pay attention to the extra BS that comes with the holidays. This is something that’s easier for me as a single entrepreneur, with a very small family. I focused, took it easy on NYE, and at this point I feel like I’ve had 2 full, good weeks of work in 2013. So far, so good… now if only I can’t get you to return an email or two :)

    Happy New Year, Mark!

  • petermengo

    Welcome back Mark! You’re right about missing favorite bloggers over the holidays ;-) Although I generally enjoy the holidays with family – work nags (cursed Reminders in iOS6). Last year our team initiated a “last two weeks” philosophy where we focus on doing those things that are considered time killers the rest of the year, but that are important for the business. Aggregate and organize all the important legal, tax and accounting documents, clean-up DropBox, mirror our machines, etc. A surprising amount of this stuff is stuff you can do sitting by the fire with a cup of coffee while the (grown!) kids watch Elf for the 50th time. It gives us the benefit of getting our EOY tax crap done and out on time in January as well.

    I’m also fortunate to have a team in China we rotate these chores with and they keep development going and they then do the holiday routine during Chinese New Year in Feb and development is shifted here.

  • Marilyn Byrd

    Welcome back, Mark. I love January too! I love making resolutions and I’m actually good at keeping them … sometimes for a year … and sometimes beyond. However, it strikes me that one of the reasons why we love January so much is because December is so disruptive. If we never had disruptive December, we wouldn’t enjoy January as much. It’s winter/spring … death/rebirth … December/January. Happy New Year!! Let’s all make it great!

  • http://www.kineplay.com/ben Ben Milstead

    Boy can I empathize, Mark. Thanks so much for this post and welcome back! Happy January and I wish you a great year ahead.

  • Dan Bowen

    Tried a new direction this holiday season Mark and I’d strongly recommend to anyone the same path. The wife and I had a shitty 2012 and in an effort to fight off many of the same holiday BS you’ve spoken about, and, after I put on far too much weight, we decided to get a jumpstart on 2013 by committing to a healthier lifestyle…the twist was we started the day after Thanksgiving. So here we sit 40 days later, I’ve dropped enough weight to get back into my old military uniforms and my wife, well…lets just say the stuff she wore in Hawaii before the kids is now too big…our attitudes at the launch of the new year are so much further in front of the shit-curve than they’ve ever been I can’t describe it.

    The take-away…we just engaged this decision like so many business plans of the past. Wrote it down, established goals, and then lit the fire early when we weren’t supposed to be doing exactly what we did. Nothing like getting out of a routine to jump-start one’s enthusiasm.
    I not only expect a great 2013, but I’m already feeling it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004617012581 Mischa Steiner-Jovic

    Rajat, I think it depends on what expectations you set for your team. At Awesense we offer a lot of the flexibility that you’re mentioning, but as a team we expect everyone to be on deck “all the time”. Servers need attention, customers in different time zones, and other critical/important issues come.

    I’m open with new hires that they’re joining a startup, and it will be demanding on their schedules, but we offer a great deal of flexibility. So if there is something health or family related they need to attend to, that they should do so knowing that the rest of the team is there to support them. That goes back to how we’ve built our team as well, in that losing one person for a period of time won’t bring the house down.

  • david smuts

    Welcome back Mark and Happy New Year to you! I had a “mild” flu lasting six weeks and felt physically knackered over the whole of December. We’ve also been delivering on a contract with an internationally famous TV series which has been all consuming (in good ways and bad). 2012 has taken its toll on me physically, need to give my body some TLC as me aint getting any yoonga :-)

    However…, as they say; “what doesn’t kill you, makes you paranoid”. Anyway.., looking forward to 2013 and beyond.

  • http://www.whitesharkmedia.com/ Andrew Lolk

    I hugely agree with you for the most part..

    However, I love December/January for the same exact reasons that you hate December.

    It’s all about closure, thoughts and going forward. I used this december from the 18th till the 2nd of January to review the results from 2012, own up to mistakes and construct the most optimal path in 2013 for myself and the ones working with me.

    I wasn’t done with my planning when it hit January 2nd and the expectations to continue hands-on work started again. I could feel the pressure of having to “produce something tangible”. I however kept planning and today I’ve presented our yearly goals, plans and strategies with much clarity.

    The time where the world is at a standstill in cookie dough, turkey and presents I see as one of the best times to really break your routine while getting to think about the stuff that you don’t get to every day..

  • Tooraj

    That is a nice post Mark.
    But remember, if there was no December, there would not be a January.

    Happy new year to you, I always enjoy reading your posts or listening to your podcasts. Too bad twiv stopped.

  • SD

    Oh man – pinched nerve in the neck is really bad….I’ve had that and it really f’s you up…it sets you on the downward spiral- no sleep, then you get sick, and because you can’t sleep you can’t recover, and then you can’t be active because your neck, arm and back are a mess. Hope you are doing better…here is to a better 2013!

  • Jerry Davison

    Hi Mark – a reply from Dartmoor in Devon, UK. I love your blogs, and this one resonated with me – I hate all the schticky disruption and excess in December too, although I love seeing more of the family for a couple of days. I had a trapped neck nerve two years ago around Christmas and crikey it hurt like hell!
    very best wishes
    Jerry

  • Geoff Graber

    Welcome back, Mark, and glad you have recovered. I was wondering what happened to you…. I feel the same about January. New beginnings. New plans. And I always say that winters here in LA are the best time of year. Great photo of your son. Pure joy!

  • http://velocitylocal.com/ Velocity Local

    So welcome back Mark! It’s true that summing the year up is a difficult task specially if you want to appear positive without being too careful on what to write, isn’t it? The sincerity in this blog is awesome! Cheers to 2013!