Life is Good

There are a lot of “life events” about to occur in my life.  Specifically,

  • A new baby to arrive any day now.
  • A professional transition, to where has yet to be determined.
  • A probable relocation to a new city.

Many would say “Wow, you must be stressed, that’s too many “life events” happening at the same time”.  In fact a quick Google search of “life events” yields pages of articles, advice and tests associated with the stress of certain life events.  According to one test, I have had 9 life events in the past 12 months and registered an off the charts score of 302, which gives me an “80% susceptibility of stress-related illness”.  Phooey, I’ve never been healthier.

The reality is I’m filled with excitement about the various adventures and changes that are taking place.  Life is good.  Baby G is about to enter this world and join our family, it’s an exciting new chapter beginning in my life.  And while I will deeply miss TrueCar, a company I helped create from the ground floor, and the incredible team of people I’ve partnered with for the last 4 years, I’m excited about getting engaged in a new opportunity and new challenges.  Finally, while we’ve enjoyed a great quality of life in Los Angeles and may stay awhile longer, we are considering a handful of other markets where we would love to live and be closer to family.  Priorities after all.

Sure, there’s plenty of uncertainty in our future, but as an entrepreneur I’m used to uncertainty, ambiguity and chaos – the only thing certain about a startup is that it’s wrought with uncertainty!  For me, its all about perspective.  A narrow view of all these events could yield thoughts of concern and unending questions of “what if”.  What if I can’t find a fulfilling job?  What if I can’t provide for my new family?  What if we move to a new city and hate it?

A healthier, broader perspective would lead to appreciation of my current situation and a focus on creating the outcomes I want in each of these life events.  The reality is this – My family is not going to be homeless or live in a shelter as nearly 1.6M did in 2009 in the U.S. alone.  My family will not go hungry or live in extreme poverty.  We will not face genocide or live in fear of our lives as so many do in this world.  Our child will have healthcare and an education.  And Renee and I will have each other if everything else fails.  I’ll repeat, its all about perspective.

I’m happy and probably more relaxed and excited about my future than I have been in some time, certainly over the past year.  And right now I’m focused solely on welcoming Baby G into our family and spending a few months being a new father.  Everything else can wait.

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Hold On Baby G!

UPDATE!  OB/GYN appointment today went great, Mom is off bed rest, at least for now…

We had a close call over Memorial Day weekend as Baby G almost wanted to make his grand entrance 6 weeks too early.  Renee and I drove up to Pismo Beach on Saturday night, about 3 hours north of LA, for our last getaway before travel lock down.  On Sunday, after a hike that in retrospect was way too long and strenuous (those of you who know Renee are rolling your eyes now), Renee experienced some minor bleeding.  So after a quick convo with her physician, it was back in the car for a traffic-heavy, 4-hour drive back to LA and St. John’s Emergency Room.

Turns out, her cervix looked great (still closed) but she was having minor contractions, potentially due to dehydration.  After 1500ml of IV fluid, the contractions continued and we had a scary moment that Baby G was ready to fight his way out at 34 weeks, officially 3 weeks before considered “full term” and 6 weeks before our due date of July 9.   5 hours later and after a shot of Terbutaline to relax the uterine muscles, we were discharged at about 3am once the contractions subsided.

This is Renee shortly after hookup to the IV:

And, this is me:

Now for the fun part.  Renee is on “bed rest” which means exactly what it says.  Hanging out in the bed or on the couch.  No cooking, cleaning, laundry, working out, working, you get the picture.  Again, those of you who know Renee have now moved past eye rolling and are laughing hysterically.  So I’ve declared Martial Law in the Taylor-Gross household, with full-time chaperoning and supervision by General Rob “Sit that Pretty Ass Down” Taylor.   This is a military operation (dubbed “Operation Incubation”) that cannot be underestimated in its complexity and challenge.  The mental and emotional fortitude required to keep Renee on the couch would make mere mortals weep in fear.

But I’m up for the challenge!

Just 3 more weeks Baby G, hang in there!

Tragic Day in Cycling

Today was a tragic day for cyclists worldwide.  A professional cyclist lost his life during Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia, a 3-week stage race that is Italy’s equivalent of the Tour de France.  Wouter Weylandt, a 26-year old Belgium pro racer who ironically won Stage 3 of this race just one year ago, crashed on a downhill descent and died on the scene from head and facial injuries.  It’s the first death in a major pro tour stage since 1995 and even longer for the Giro since 1986.  As much cycling as I do, this story makes me sick to my stomach.  But what makes it unbearable for me is that Wouter’s girlfriend is 5-months pregnant with their first child.  The similarities between us are eerie and unavoidable to consider.

This is a sport I love.  My passion.  And it’s dangerous.  While I’m not (always) hurtling myself down mountains going 60 mph like these pros do in a race situation, cycling even for us amateurs involves mountainous descents at high speeds and even worse, traffic on busy roads.  I read this story about Wouter this morning after having spent about 7 hours on my bike this weekend and having climbed and descended nearly 10,000 ft.  And I’ve got a child on the way too.  Scary stuff that forces reflection, particularly with a baby on the way and the gravity of that responsibility for the rest of my life.

Compounding my personal struggle with personal risk taking, my father died in a kayaking accident when I was 9-years old.  Another dangerous sport, but one that my father loved.  He was and avid kayaker, known for his responsible and thoughtful risk appetite, he simply did not take undue risks even though his sport is inherently dangerous.  His death was the result of a freak accident.  And I respect his choice to pursue his passion despite the lack of his presence in my life.

So here’s the deal.  I’m not going to stop living my life and doing the things I love the most.  And I want to teach my son that same philosophy – to unwaveringly, but responsibly and thoughtfully pursue his passions.  I don’t live a particularly dangerous or adrenaline-junkie lifestyle.  Cycling is probably the most dangerous thing I do and its not clear to me that driving your car on LA freeways is any safer.  My point being there are risks all around us, however remote the probabilities may be.

Is that a selfish view?  I don’t think so.  There are endless reasons not do do something, especially if that something involves a perceived or even a real danger.  It’s the responsible and thoughtful pursuit of happiness that I try to use as my own personal barometer.

But here’s the rub – what constitutes “responsible and thoughtful” behavior in the pursuit of our passions, dreams and interests may be completely different for you than for me.

What do you think?  How much risk is too much risk in the pursuit of personal happiness?

Baby Names

Now that Renee and I are within 10 weeks of meeting Baby G, it’s time to get serious about names.  Other than my genetics, this will be one of the few things I give my son that will follow him throughout his entire life.  Man, that’s pressure to not screw this up!  What kind of name should I give my son?  A “strong” name like Thor, Magnus, Adonis, Maximillian, Bruno or Nikolai?  Or maybe a “sensitive” name like Jayden, Tristan, Emanuel or Gaston?  Not that I don’t like these names, just a bit on the fringe for my taste.

Maybe I should focus on the most common names for CEO’s as published by LinkedIn – Howard, Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce or Fred?  Or, it would be kinda cool for him to be a super-star athlete so he can make millions and take care of dear old dad in my old age.  In that case, according to LinkedIn, we should name him Ryan, Matt or Jason.

The most common 2-letter name is Ed.  The most common 10-letter name is Alessandro.

Then there are family names.  Of course, I’m partial to Robert as three generations on my side carry this name.  Renee’s dad is a Robert as well.  Mmmm, maybe a good middle name?

Christopher, Keith, Sonny, Jerry, Daniel are close family names.

Maybe we’ll choose 3 names and meet our son before we decide what name fits best?

Hey parents out there, how did you do it?

Do You Have a Disaster Kit?

I didn’t.  Never really thought emergency preparedness until it came up in a discussion group of media, entertainment and technology executives I’m involved with here in Los Angeles.  And as an expecting father I became particularly interested in this topic (and others).  An irrational and emotional response?  Maybe.

But keep in mind I live in Santa Monica in the greater Los Angeles area, the epicenter for speculation and concern regarding “The Big One” earthquake that will originate on the San Andreas Fault someday.  In fact, the USGS has a downright scary simulation of the 7.8 Big One that originates on the fault line and fans out to the coast and right up my driveway.  To give you perspective, a 7.8 earthquake involves ground movement of 3ft laterally and “shaking” at 1ft/second.  Crazy.

The email discussion thread started out rational enough among the group – if you want to be prepared for a natural disaster, there is lot’s of guidance out there on what to include in your home or auto kits, sources for purchasing supplies, recommendations on what to do when a disaster hits and there’s no road or phone access, etc.

As is typical among this intellectual group, a few of which are experts in statistical modeling for natural disasters, another an entrepreneur that sells disaster kits, a debate ensued that left most folks in 3 distinct camps:

1) Emergency preparedness is based on irrational exuberance, that statistically speaking and from a cost/benefit standpoint, is a waste of time and money, even if you live in Southern California, Southeast Asia, Japan or Florida where adverse natural events tend to occur.  Add up the cost for every human to have a “kit”, then factor in the economic benefit of lives saved and if the number is negative, it is irrational.

2) Basic survival kits for home, auto and “on the go” are no-brainers.  These include food, water, first aid and other survival gear along with a “family plan” of where to meet should roads and phones be inaccessible.

3) “Extreme” (my word) Emergency Preparedness which advocates for all of the items in #2 in addition to retaining firearms in the home and auto in anticipation of possible riots, theft and personal attack by those who were not prepared.  In some cases, underground bunkers are installed and stocked with supplies.

After taking in all the data, I fall squarely in the camp of #2, based primarily on where I live.  I’ve just ordered basic kits for home and auto, but personally I’m not a big fan of having a firearm in the house, just my personal preference.  Renee and I are working out a simple “meet up” plan should we not be able to use our cell phones or our cars.  We’re talking a hundred bucks and a few minutes of time all in here.

Seems like a reasonable cost/benefit to me.

Do you have a disaster kit or plan?  What’s in it?

What Are You Reading?

While I wouldn’t consider myself a voracious reader, I do have a habit of reading 2-3 books concurrently and they are typically of varied content.  I also have a hard time getting through an entire book unless it is very well written and engaging.  For whatever reason, I’m finding the interesting and important components in a lot of the books I’ve read lately could be communicated in 20 pages or less.  I guess I need to find better books… or get a longer attention span.

Anyway, here are the books I’m currently reading –

1. The New Dad’s Survival Guide: Man-to-Man Advice for First-Time Fathers by Scott Mactavish.  As an expecting father, I’m absorbing quite a few books in this category.  This book is laugh-out-loud funny, seriously I blurt out laughing, and easy to read, written in a quasi-military drill sergeant tone with acronyms like NFU (New Family Unit or baby), FPP (Female Parenting Partner) and BCF (Be Cool, Fool).  It’s more humor than useful, but it’s a welcome relief from some of the other father-focused books that are not only serious, but packed with more information that anyone could possibly absorb.

2. The Reason For God:  Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller.  It’s interesting how being a first time expecting parent can affect areas of your life that you haven’t given much thought to lately.  Spirituality and religion, for me, is a case in point.  I grew up in an active Catholic household, which I think provided a good foundation of values, but I’ve never really explored other faiths, faith in general, and challenged that belief system that I grew up in.  It has been easy to put off.  But now I feel some responsibility as a father to do some research, explore my own beliefs and develop a point of view on religion so I can at least provide a foundation for my son until he is old enough to do his own exploration of his beliefs.  This book by Timothy Keller is very good.  He makes an analytical case for God and takes it one step further, for a Christian God.  However, he does it with a balanced approach by acknowledging many common objections to God, then presenting arguments for both viewpoints.  I’m enjoying this read and intend on my next book in this category to be the opposing argument.

3. Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t by Jim Collins.  This is an annual re-read for me.  I’ve read this book a handful of times, it’s that good.  The leadership principles in this book are so spot on as I’ve had sufficiently varied experiences to see different leadership styles perform just as Jim predicts in his book.  This book keeps me in check.

4. Inside of a Dog:  What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz.  I’m a huge animal lover, particularly of dogs.  I know everyone thinks their dog is the greatest, smartest, most affectionate animal on the plant and I feel the same way about my dog Foster (who passed in 2008).  I really wanted to find some analytical research into the mind of man’s best friend.  Whereas most books on the subject seem to be based on opinion and experience, Alexandra, a behavioral psychologist, actually performs behavioral studies and analysis to get inside the dog.  There are nuggets of interesting facts in this book, but I’m finding it difficult to read.  At the end of the day, how can we really know what our dog is thinking?  For the most important things we long to know about what our pets are thinking, I don’t think she definitively answers them.  Probably one of those books I won’t finish.

So, what are you reading?

It’s a Boy!

Yesterday Renee and I found out that we are having a BOY!  We’re half way through the pregnancy and all is going well.  It’s exciting to think about having a boy and visualizing all the things we’ll do together throughout life.  I guess first things first.  Our final fetal testing happens in a week, the visual ultrasound that looks for physical deformities.  Not that the outcome really matters in our decision process but the peace of mind will be great.  And we’ll get to see some pretty cool close up images of Baby Giraffe.  Clearly the naming process needs to get underway, as “Giraffe” is guaranteed to get him harassed and beat up before he’s a toddler.

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