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Posted: May 30, 2013

Abstainer versus moderator

If there's bread on the table, I'll eat it

Brad Feld

I love summer – it’s by far my favorite season of the year. While the summer solstice (June 21) is the official beginning of summer, I always view summer as being bookended by Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. So – for me, summer has begun.

As I was walking Brooks this morning, I pondered the dynamic of “abstainer” vs. “moderator” which my wife, Amy, pointed out to me comes from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. I’ve never known how to moderate particularly well, in any aspect of my life, so I’ve always been an abstainer. For example, I’m afraid of drugs, so I simply don’t do them – I abstain, since I’m concerned that if I started I wouldn’t know how to moderate.

Another example is my struggle with eating. I’ll use sushi as an example. If I’m part of a group sushi experience, I don’t know how to moderate. I’ll eat whatever is in front of me until it’s gone – sometimes a legendary amount of sushi. So – the only way for me to control myself is either to have a separate order to myself (e.g. abstain from the group plate) or use extreme effort to moderate and only have a reasonable amount. Same with bread or tortilla chips – if they are on the table, I eat them all. My only way of not doing this is to abstain completely.

This applies to my work. I’ve always struggled to moderate – that’s part of why I chronically have gone through my annual boom / bust cycle where I completely wear myself out by the end of the year and have to abstain for a while. My Qx vacations – quarterly weeks off the grid – are a version of abstaining. My daily schedule is another example of this – and something that I’ve recently started approaching very differently as I’ve grown weary of being schedule from early morning to the end of the day.

Most recently, Digital Sabbath is another example of this for me. I’m now shutting down completely from Friday night at sundown to Sunday morning. I’ve been doing this for few months and think it will become a rest-of-the-life habit. It’s been fantastic for me and Amy. No phone, no email, no work. Just living for a day a week. Yesterday we slept late, wandered around Boulder a little, had brunch at Snooze, binge watched the rest of season one of Revenge, had dinner with friends, and just lived.

I know that I don’t know how to moderate, whether it’s food, work, relationships, sports, communication, or something new. I’m all in, and the only way for me to manage the total load is to abstain from some things and create specific times where I abstain from most everything.

Are you an abstainer or a moderator? How do you think about this?
 

Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for more than 20 years. Prior to co-founding the Boulder-based Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship and writes widely read and well respected blogs at www.feld.com and www.askthevc.com. He holds bachelor's and master's of science degrees from from MIT. Contact him at brad@feld.com

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Readers Respond

like someone writing about me and my life, except names are altered...times of forced abstinence are the moderation. learning to apply the principles of rest and recovery from physical training to the rest of my life has been a work in progress but worth it in endurance and performance, in all areas. great read. thanks. By Malachi O'Neill on 2013 05 30
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