Sunday, February 23, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 75 and 76

February 9th to 22nd. Life... am I right? Is everyone stressed out? Just when you think another person is doing just fine, no he's stressed out and she's stressed out too.

For the first time in a long time, let's start with running mileage! Week 75 was 25 miles, and week 76 was a whopping 35 miles! (Part of those 35 miles are skiing downhill after skinning uphill, so I'm keeping them. Some miles of skiing are just a tiring as running a mile. Most are harder than walking a mile. Friday night I ran eight miles, it's the longest run I have done yet in my 11 month long ankle recovery, just a few weeks after doing seven miles for the first time. It was amazing! The way my body has recovered in 2020 so far looks like this might be a really exciting year!

Work has been stressful. Outside of work has been stressful. So I'm going to do something I haven't done in 15 years (to the month actually) go to therapy, like the mental health counseling kind. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to talk about this publicly, because not many people do. It's still a bit of a taboo, people will admit to going (admit being an emotional word there indicating failure) and talk about it in private, but there is more talk about the dentist or how you do your taxes than your mental health.

What else? I did backcountry skiing the last two weekends, first from A-Basin up to Loveland Pass on the 15th, and second on Mt. Elbert February 22nd. Mt. Elbert was hard enough that my friend, who had his first time skinning uphill on skis said it was the physically hardest thing he had ever done. I love pushing people to new limits! That puts me at seven successful calendar winter 14er summits for 21 attempts. Since getting alpine touring skis I'm probably getting over 50% success, before that I wallowed in deep snow frequently.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Compassion Fatigue?

The other day I called my parents, and after saying "hello" they talked for ten minutes about some little hike they took. After a few minutes I started to tune them out. I debated telling them “nice talk” and hanging up. I’m feeling a little lonely, a little depressed, and like I don’t have much influence over my life at the moment... and no one is listening.

I love helping people. I love introducing people to new things and pushing them further than they have done before. However, it can turn into an obligation, especially at work when someone has yet another Creo question. I read most of the Five Love Languages by Gary Champman this weekend. Despite being a fan, and reading the workplace book he wrote, I had never actually read the original. He mentions babbling brooks and dead seas, as talkers and listeners. I think I’m a listener. I feel like I talk all the time, but I don’t really. I’ve been considering some of my relationships lately, looking for the person to tell all of these recent inner struggles to, but no one person seems to fit the bill. I don’t mean that negatively against any of my good friends, more so against myself. I trust most of these people with my life, why can’t I trust them with my ridiculous emotions? Why the reservations?

There are so many people in the world struggling. I have the best life in the world, it is objectively awesome. Yet I still feel like I’m searching for something to fill a void. I’ve prayed about it a lot. I feel in a way that no one knows me. And yes, I realize that blogging about this will be seen as radical transparency by some people and a deep emotional revelation, but it’s really just talking about talking, not the actual conversation. Sure blogging and writing is a good way to work out my feelings, but it’s not the really deep stuff. 

I was asked recently what the most emotional or memorable moment on Everest was for me, and my answer wasn’t totally truthful. There was a moment my mind flashed to that was quite emotional for me, and I don’t actually think I have told anyone about it, almost four years later. But like the movie “Inside Out” it’s a complex emotional memory. I could tell the facts, and that moment would seem insignificant, even to the people that witnessed it, but in the context that it happened, it was totally unique for me. It was the kind of moment I want more of. While not a word was said, the message was clear.

So I don’t know. I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm this Monday because I haven’t been sleeping great lately. Please pray for me. Pry at me, try to get me to talk, and then actually listen. I’ll surely push back, because I can sit in silence with the best of them. I’ll even try to get the conversation back to you, despite the fact I do want to talk. 


While this post is about me, it’s also not about me. There are many others like me, with the same thoughts and reservations. Maybe I just plain won’t talk to you, but that other person in your life will. That other person needs you to listen. For me being in silence with another person is totally okay. It’s a way of bonding and building trust. When the words do come, there is a trust there that I won’t be humiliated by your reaction, but that my words will be listened to and thought about, not just reacted to. Again, I’m not the only person like this. I realize it can be hard for people to have a silence, but I think sometimes that’s what’s needed to build trust. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Comfort to the Disenchanted

Friday night I went climbing and out to dinner with a good climbing partner. Saturday I went backcountry skiing with another one of my good climbing partners. In both interactions, politics came up and the conversations were similar. 

We are living in a strange world, where asking a foreign government to dig up dirt on your political opponent is okay. Why don’t we just ask the foreign governments to run political adds for the candidate they support? (That is in fact what Russia actually did on Facebook in 2016.Among my peers, which is relatively rich, white males in their 30s and 40s, there is despair about the state of our country. We aren’t up in arms or building fall out shelters, but we all seem to have relatives that are. 

Both of my climbing partners had different issues with both parties. And I totally get it. We can't combat extremism with extremism. 

I told both people essentially the same thing, hey it's not that bad. And your relatives that seem to think the world is ending, maybe it is, but just look at history, it's been way worse before now. This isn't Germany in the 1930s or 1940s. This isn't Rwanda in 1994. People in the USA aren't being "disappeared" now. Sure, the news is crazy, and yes people are probably dying from not getting healthcare, but when you really look at the statistics of poverty and disease, the world is getting better. It's going to be okay. And regardless of what happens, Jesus still loves you. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 60-74

October 27th, 2019 to February 8th, 2020. I haven’t blogged much in the past few months, for a few different reasons. Fear, insecurity, depression, the usual suspects. Okay that’s not very specific at all… Let’s put some numbers to it. Since step count is a great measure of activity, and since my physical activity can sometimes be a microcosm for my whole life, here are my monthly step count totals for the last year (rounded to the nearest thousand):

March: 117,000
April: 164,000
May: 330,000
June: 394,000
July: 413,000
August: 464,000
September: 477,000
October: 338,000
November: 347,000
December: 353,000
January: 355,000

My ankle recovery kept going better and better, after all I did 20 14ers in 2019. However when October hit and it started snowing, but my ankle still wasn’t good enough to run on consistently yet, so overall I took a big step back in the amount of physical activity I was doing. Frequently, when running is going well, everything else is going well, and running wasn’t going well. I would run or climb and tweak my ankle. That happened frequently in the summer, but I could simply take an easy day or two and then go hike a mountain and get 30,000 steps, but in the winter it’s much harder simply to walk outside. Each step takes more effort.

Other things, my parents lived with me for three and a half weeks back in November. I love my parents, but it was cramped in my 950 sq. ft. apartment and I wanted some alone time, and going out to a coffee shop to blog doesn’t really count as alone time for me at this point in my life, it's like semi-social. Plus, this blog started way back in 2009 as a way to express myself and tell stories once instead of seven times to seven different people. Being in such close proximity to people that were curious about my every day made it less relevant to blog about my week, when I had already discussed it. 

Along the lines of the step count, there is an interesting article on inc.com about Hubspot and the dip that employees between 1 and 2 years there were facing. I had never heard of such a dip, yet as I passed a full year and entered my second at work, I felt (and maybe am feeling) a bit of a dip too. If I look back I think that I had these dips in previous jobs too. I’ve never actually held the same role for three years. I’ve passed two years in two different roles, but I wonder if the seeds of my moving to a new role after two years were set in that one to two year motivation dip. I don’t know. Also, since mid 2011, I have held every role (and I’m in my fifth since then) for at least a year, perhaps suggested I entered the dip in all five roles. Again, I don’t know. 

Another work related issue that has frustrated me the past few months is my own ego. We are a company of young people, which is to say we’re still figuring things out, our processes and our communication and even our decision making. I come from a very different industry at a super established company where we had processes for everything, including our decision making, and communication was generally very clear. I get frustrated when I see things being done in a very different way than I am used to, or things that are simply not being done at all. Yet I honestly don’t know if the way I am used to is better, or that I was simply used to it and change is hard? Also, things that I perceive as not being done might not need to be done, or just aren’t communicated to me that they are being done. On top of all that, I feel as an individual contributor, new to this industry, that my voice has almost no weight, so I don’t always speak up. But! Feelings are not fact. As I look around at our company where I will shortly have more seniority than two thirds of the people in the company, if I am afraid to speak up, there is no hope that the younger people, with less experience and less confidence will speak up. …which also stresses me out because frankly I don’t want to be the grown up in the room who is obligated to speak up, like Conrad Anchor deciding to turn his younger partners around on Meru. I couldn't finish one of Dietrich Bonhafer’s books because he speaks quite a bit about speaking up, and the guy was killed by the Nazis in April 1945 because of his speaking up. 

Where I was trying to go with that paragraph is to say that speaking up requires a certain amount of confidence, and I can have the unfortunate result of coming off arrogant and not humble when speaking up, and how do you thread that needle? As I’ve said before about running, and it applies to mountain climbing and also business, confidence can be mistaken for arrogance, even within myself. I might think it’s just my confidence but maybe it’s arrogance and ego thinking I am better than I am. In other words, speaking up carries the risk of being labeled an egotistical trouble maker, but not speaking up carries the risk that the people at the top are blindsided by the happenings on the floor.

The difference between my life now and in the past at work is that there is an urgency about our business, a feast or famine possibility for us. As in, we (and that definitely includes me) have to succeed or we’ll get acquired by a giant company and our dreams dashed. I want to help, but I’m not sure how, and frankly as a very sinful human it’s entirely possible I’m hurting more than I’m helping. #depressiontalking

Sigh…

So, in other news I’ve been out ice climbing seven days and skiing eight days this winter. I checked off Culebra Peak leaving me with eight 14ers in Colorado to go. I led a ten person trip to Ouray, and had a great time! Everyone there had quite a bit less ice climbing experience than me. It was interesting, I went with friends and coworkers, and we grew to know each other better, which to be honest was a little intimidating. For example, I bought a 2008 BMW X5 in December for $6,000 and unfortunately on the drive back it was low on coolant, but we couldn’t open the hood to add more. So on Sunday afternoon in Grand Junction we took it to a mechanic, and he spent an hour taking some panels off and told us that based on the size of the leak, he really really didn’t recommend driving it back to Denver. So I rented a car and we drove back. It was somewhat humiliating. My friends had the opportunity to see how I handled a stressful situation like that, and I got to see their reactions as well, and while it was overall a very positive and relatively minor travel delay, getting seen in that way, being a little more vulnerable is hard. My friends are amazing! I just didn't want them to see that side of me. I keep lot of people at arms length emotionally, especially coworkers, because again it’s hard to open up and be vulnerable and admit how imperfect our lives are. I’ve cried a lot recently. I have the best life in the world. I’m sitting on my couch now looking at my other couch with six different jackets draped over it, all for slightly different things, what great wealth I have! Why me?

I went to Minnesota and saw many relatives at a funeral. Don’t feel bad about it, she was 91, a Christian, a widow, and had severe Alzheimers the last three years so it was very expected. I took a trip to Canada to ice climb in November, the highlight being climbing Murchison Falls. I went to Moab in November and did some rock climbing, which included me taking a 30 foot lead fall on the first pitch of the North Chimney on Castleton tower when my .75 green Camalot which was only retracted 20-30% pull out of the rock. That day Brad Gobright was doing a 5.13 right beside with his posse and filming drone, and three weeks later he died in a rappelling accident. 

In December I took a short trip to Red Rocks, but it rained so we drove 3.5 hours to Joshua Tree and climbed two days there, where my climbing partner took a 20+ foot fall on a “5.5” slab… which was more like 5.8 or even 5.9 slab if you ask me, it was hard! For Thanksgiving my parents rented a condo at Copper Mountain and I skied three days and we hung out with my sister’s now husband. It was really nice to spend that time together. We even tried ice climbing at Vail one day, but didn’t make it up the approach.

That’s all out of order, there is a variety of Facebook evidence out there if you want to know actual dates. 

I’m blogging now because of the week I had. About two weeks ago I bottomed out emotionally, cried a lot. I’m on the upswing now, which still involves a fair amount of crying. However I had some moments this week that were really really good. A coworker of mine, a new program manager was vulnerable with me and admitted his inexperience in one small particular matter, and it was something we frequently did at my old job. So I spent a couple hours quantifying a process (just one tool, not the ultimate one, but another tool) and gave it to him. Two different coworkers pulled me aside and asked in short “how’s it going?” I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I’m not the best in the world at hiding my emotions. Plus, a number of my friends lately have been struggling with different issues, and as I try to empathize with them, I take on a little of their struggle, and that combined with a $2,700 BMW repair bill, a funeral, and everything I’ve mentioned in the last 1800 words, whew, I’ve been better. But those gestures by my coworkers made me feel better. Then Friday night I did some indoor climbing and had dinner with a close climbing partner friend of mine, and we had good conversation. Saturday I went skiing with another close climbing partner friend of mine who I had not seen in years, and I’m pretty sure I committed to doing Denali in May of 2021 (and maybe actually leading the expedition). Which I’ve been meaning to do for some time now, but I’m guessing I could get six, maybe even eight people together to do it, we’re already at three. If you want to go, contact me and if you’re qualified and I am ready to spend three weeks on a glacier with you, you can come. Only requirement is that I’m skiing, I’m not snowshoeing. 

Point being, all that vulnerability in the past week refilled my well of motivation to blog and it off loaded some of my stress. And confirmed, again, that being vulnerable is a good thing, it leads to deeper stronger relationships. I am not alone. And it’s encouraged me to seek out a little more vulnerability, even if that means more stressful empathizing again in the future.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Year in Review

I haven’t blogged much the last few months because it’s not as easy to see progress as it used to be in my life. Running 18 miles in a week doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, despite the fact that it is for me now. Similarly, having a part I design work the first time we physically assemble it isn’t as exciting as the first 500 parts I’ve worked on. However, I have been doing these for nearly a decade so a year end review seems like a really good way to update the world.

Work

This was a fascinating year for me. I am at a startup that has gone through several phases just this year. Phases that I would not have guessed a year ago, but are actually common to startups. We started 2019 on a high note achieving a number of milestones, but near the end of the winter we had a set back and morale started to deteriorate. There were a few moments where we had minor victories but in general there was a slow grind down in motivation among the more experienced employees who had been at other companies. The people new out of college might have been a little oblivious, and frankly, at the time I tried to keep it that way. There is a positivity spiral and a negativity spiral. Once you get on either one it’s a lot easier to keep going in that direction than it is to stop and change course. 

This summer we changed course. We had some management turnover, and some public fighting. I questioned wether this was the place for me long term. Maybe the company wasn’t headed in the direction I wanted to be a part of. Some actions are not okay. As I told a coworker on a walk at work one day, we have the opportunity every day to burn the bridges of our relationships. It can take a very long time to build a bridge, brick by brick or casting the concrete, but burning one down, destroying it, it just takes a few hours, maybe even minutes. In short, we had some emotional moments this summer. Moments that no one really likes discussing, but they are lessons we shouldn’t forget. A few people had to take apology tours to rebuild relationships. It was rough. I think it was a very definitive year for the company. 

After the drama settled down we reorganized for the second time of the year and had the chaos of trying to certify our product at the same time in the late summer. When I lit out and spent that week in September climbing mountains we essentially did it, certified our product (to our own internal standards) and shipped one to a customer. Whew that was not easy. But! It actually went pretty well. I’m quite happy with the amount of documentation that we put into it, and while we have a long way to go, we’re not in a bad place. 

The fall we settled back into fewer weekend work and just one shift instead of two. However, for our second product, or product line you could say, we are building a new test facility, and we designed the whole thing in house. It’s roughly three times as many parts (thus three times as complicated) as our product, so needless to say it’s a big project. And to be honest, we are almost done and we basically did the whole thing in just over a year from just one guy working on initial design and sizing to a team of over a dozen people at times bolting stuff together, and more people ordering parts, kitting stuff, and designing random stuff. It’s interesting how as a project gets more complicated you need to spend more time communicating the designs and assembly. In other words, when the entire team can sit in one room and just turn around in their chairs and talk about it, you can move super quick, however, somewhere between 10 and 20 people working on the same thing and that’s just not possible any more. I’m employee 27, four of the people who started before me have left, and still we are up to 59 full time employees and we have two different locations 30 minutes apart, so it’s harder to communicate than it used to be. 

Point being, we know we need to put in effort (human time, engineering time) into how we communicate to all the necessary people, but we don’t always know who needs to know, or what information those people need. With any communication it’s rare that the person trying to convey the information will give 100% of the story. If it takes me three weeks to come up with a new design, I’ll usually be able to describe it technically, and the work done on it in maybe 10 minutes, but that leaves out all of the design work that I tried that didn’t work or the many little iterations that I had to make to get it all to fit together and pass analysis. 

Also as we grow we run into different problems. We work with mostly young (or perhaps I should say still maturing) people who are exceedingly bright, have great educations, but step on others toes and many are still trying to prove themselves. To boil it down to three general scenarios we have situation one where person A screwed up and person B caught the mistake, situation two where person C thinks that person D screwed up but actually didn't, and situation three where person E and person F simply have different opinions about how to handle a situation, and neither one is clearly better. In situation one, person B should try to handle the situation so that it allows person A to keep his or her dignity, instead of publicly eviscerating person A’s work. In situation two person C would do well to check a fact or two before confronting and accusing person D about the mistake. By the same token, person D could stand to be a little less defensive, because it’s likely that person C doesn’t have all the information (because again we are learning how to communicate as a company). Also, people frequently don’t know if they are in situation one or two at the onset of a confrontation! Finally situation three, if it isn’t super important it can be nice to not make a decision until you have to. Spreadsheets exists to make decisions like this. That’s one of the things I did multiple times at my old company and it helped me get my Six Sigma Greenbelt in 2018. I mean situation three is basically peace in the middle east or nuclear weapons in emerging countries. However, going into situation one, two or three, if you think it might possibly be situation three then going in with humility is a good idea because it could be situation two and you are person C. Both person E and F would do well to go in with the attitude that he or she might be wrong and the other person might have a better idea about how to handle the situation. Unfortunately I see more of these three types of confrontations in the future for us. 

In short, despite the last paragraph, we’re actually in a pretty good place now, as a company overall. However because of a number of issues related to situations one, two and three above, I think we are at risk of several people leaving in 2020. In 2019 a total of six people left the company. Whatever the case, I did exercise my first batch of stock options so now I’m a part owner in the company too, roughly .01% to .02% of the company. I'm bullish for our future, and I expect that while 2019 was a year where we figured out things as a team, as humans who work with each other and about our culture, 2020 will be all about executing and delivering. We'll probably have another fund raising round after we hit a couple milestones, and I'm guessing it will be a big one which will take my stock options from valued at a small vacation in Colorado to a nicer used car.

Running

I don’t want to talk about it. It was pretty bad. After getting over the pulmonary embolism, I broke my ankle and now I have a whole new appreciation for a sprained ankle because the ligaments healing (one is the deltoid ligament I forget the other one) is going so very slowly. I am at 677.7 miles run (and hiked) for the year. Just this month in December have I ran three days in a row and been able to do five mile runs consistently. I’m thinking about making it a 2020 goal to run 1800 miles (and that would including hiking miles too). That’s only five miles a day and I have been over 2000 miles for something like 15 years including a year high of 3640 miles.

Climbing/Mountaineering/Skiing

From my perspective I basically didn’t push my limits at all. But that needs some clarification. I’ve done so much that between my sickness and injury it’s been hard to get to the point where I’m really going for it. I did lead a number of grade 3 ice climbing pitches and mock led a grade 4. In my mind, leading grade 4 ice is the clear next step for me. Also trad leading 5.10 is also on the list, which I have done before. It’s what I need to do to feel ready to go climb K2 or go to the Charakusa valley and do K7. The other skill I need to work on is steep skiing. There is a good argument that skiing is not necessary at all in mountaineering, but it opens up so many opportunities for easy access. I’m reading the biography of Voytek Kurtyka, and up through 1984 it doesn’t mention anything about skiing, but it talks a lot of deep snow, avalanche conditions, and some very slow progress at times when skis might have sped things along.

By the numbers, I climbed 17 Colorado 14ers for the first time and that leaves me only 9 to go, and I added maybe eight 13ers to the ticked list. I did Mt. Rainier in a day again, about 14.5 hours round trip and added on Mt. Hood two days later. I climbed Sharkstooth finally in RMNP, did a bunch of simple crag climbing, and did the third flatiron three times, twice just after work. I went ice climbing in Canada twice this year, and Mt. Murchison Falls is super cool I’d like to go do it again, but lead all of it next time. 

What’s on tap for 2020? Finish the Colorado 14ers, perhaps go climb and ski Mt. Robson in Canada in the spring, another Rainier trip, maybe Liberty Ridge finally, and there is a chance of a Pakistan trip, looks like Charakusa Valley is the most likely to do some technical rock climbing on 6000 meter peaks. (If you are interested let me know, I might be organizing the logistics and we have room for more people.) Plus the usual local weekend trips to places like Ouray.

Dating

Ugh, I’ll put this down because I get asked about it, frequently. I dated seven different women this year. That seems like a pretty big accomplishment for me, but I am confident that there are people who read this who have dated seven different people in one month. It’s a statistics game, looking for the one that can check a few boxes. To be fair to the all of the women I have ever dated, I’ve dated some pretty awesome women! As I think about the relationships that have been the most successful for me there are some themes that make me scratch my head, which I’m not going to put down in writing for the world to judge because my thoughts on them are like 'really?! that can't be a criteria or even a thing.'

Point being, it’s fascinating how I can sit across the table from a woman, an objectively awesome woman, and not really be attracted to her, and then be around a woman who is debatably awesome or perhaps even clearly radically different than me and I am totally enthralled. 

My dating has kind of hit the skids the last few months (I’m just not getting any dates despite a few swipes most days) and there is a part of me thinking that I just need to take more time off the apps and go climb and run more. But to be honest, I'd like to be in a romantic relationship at least for a little bit.

Financially

I had the best year I've ever had in terms of investment increase and net worth increase. Wow, I did so well in the stock market this year. I mean, basically everyone invested in index funds did too, the difference is that unlike in 2013 when we had this kind of massive year, I have a lot more money in the stock market now. In other words, my gains were almost triple my contributions for the year, and I contribute a lot. On that note, I bought a BMW X5 used from 2008 with 148,000 miles in cash. I finally have all wheel drive! And still I've never had a car loan.

This year I reached the point where I could potentially retire in a relatively undeveloped place, like Pakistan or Rwanda. Another way to put it is that I could not save any more for retirement, and at age 65, between the pension from my former employer, social security and my probable investment gains, I would be just fine. Of course, that's 32 years in the future, hard to say what is going to happen between now and then.

With this great increase comes guilt. Financial wealth is complicated, we hate people that have it, and yet we want to have it ourselves. I've dealt with my guilt by donating a little more to charities, like Give Directly, supporting a basic income experiment in Kenya. As I look forward to what my possible career looks like the next 30 years, and subsequent earnings, I feel it's not fair. Sure, I have worked hard, but not especially hard. Sure I have skills, but not especially extreme skills.

I realize talking about my fortunate financial situation makes people uncomfortable, but not talking about it, even in these abstract terms, confers advantages to those that already have wealth. In other words, there is essentially no limit on investment gains. I read a quote recently in the book "Born on Third" that essentially said, 'to turn $100 into $110 takes work and saving, but turning $100 million into $110 million is all but assured.' I've railed in the past that Bill Gates made something like $73 million in dividends from his John Deere stock in one year alone, for doing essentially no work, while the CEO made a mere $20 million. I will probably not make $20 million dollars in my whole life, let alone $73 million, let alone in one year, and my lifetime earnings are likely far higher than millions of Americans.

So, while I have honestly considered taking a vow of poverty for the next decade, moving to Pakistan, specifically the Hushe valley, and climbing mountains while living on a handful of dollars a day and being the only American or Christian within 500 miles nine months of the year, I'm staying and working. I do have some engineering talent, however minor. I'm paranoid that I would lose all of my wealth from a cyber attack (please more two factor authentication!) or an illness or injury. Plus, while I don't really understand how, I want to give back, even more than I am. Right now I essentially fund a small neighborhood, what's next a whole village? Maybe.

In other news…

Two family members died and one was actually a suicide, my sister was married, two of my climbing partners were married, a famous climber who was actually on the route beside me in Utah in November when I took a 30 foot fall died in a rappelling accident a few weeks after I saw him. I renewed my lease for another year. My parents moved in for three weeks with me while their new house was being built (that was rough). I will be losing my silver status on United because I don’t travel much for work any more. 

I’m not sure I will ever have a traditional job again after I leave my current company. Meaning when I do finally leave, hopefully many years in the future, I’ll likely start my own little company, buy a company, work some little part time or seasonal outdoor job, or who knows what. While it's nice to have the stability of being an employee, I'd like to try the adventure of building not just a product, but an organization.

My social circle has expanded a little to include a neighbor (like we actually hang out), a retiree from church who makes home cooked meals for me, and a random climber I met who was dirt bagging it until he ran out of money and moved to Boulder, among others such as new employees at work and my sister's friends. I'm quite happy with the size of my social circle, I get the sense some people aren't, especially after they move to a new place. That being said, I have a spare bedroom (with a bed) and I invite people to visit and stay a couple days so we can catch up in person.

Finally, as we go into 2020, and maybe head toward war with Iran (and I've hung out with Iranians on 8000 meter expeditions, they have always been very nice and generous to me), I'll leave you all with a Bible passage from 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7, that I read at my sister's wedding, because the world could use more love (and patience) and less hate (and self-seeking). 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.