I Go By Elle “El-ee” Now
Childhood nicknames, and other things coming full circle
Good morning from Jackson Hole! After two weeks of tropical travel with my parents, I’m so thrilled to spend a romantic weekend reading in the bath during the day and canoodling (does anyone say that word out loud anymore?) with my husband. We’re snuggled into our hotel and look forward to several spa days, dog sledding, astrophotography, and meeting up with Kevin’s colleagues from Teamshares in person.
Whew! What a week in the markets.
On January 3rd I sold all my positions held in Robinhood (cost basis $74K). Over the winter break, I took an inventory of my time use as part of my year-end review, and didn’t like how much screen time was going to the Robinhood app. As the market got more and more volatile, the data showed I was spending more and more time checking the app and reading increasingly frantic headlines.
Bye Bye Learning Portfolio
I sold at an overall loss of -1.6% ($1.2K), with just 3 positions in the red at the time ($AVDX, $GTLB, and $DOMO). After this past week, all 18 names have declined further and only my position in $NVDA would still be in the black if I’d held to today. Had I waited to sell until close of trading yesterday, my -1.6% return on that basket of names would have become a -26% return (-$19.3K).
I’m now holding just 4 stocks directly with my brokerage account:
Rainy Day Money Mindset
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the financial crisis, and the mindset and motivation I had during that time. Kevin and I got married in August 2007, I took my first startup job in September 2007, and we closed on a house on Halloween 2007 that would see us upside-down and on the edge of bankruptcy by the time the dust settled. I remember riding in the car listening to the morning news on the radio and day after day the market would close down 1% or more. Hearing drops in the hundreds of points each day became the new normal.
I was 22, and obsessed with startups. I forgot about it as soon as I got to my desk.
15 years later, I’m calling on that creative, energetic, passionate maker in me to redirect my focus back to what I know at my core: I love to build things with great people. It brings me joy, it completely consumes my attention, and I’ve realized that building things together (companies, families, dreams) is my love language.
I’ve got big plans for 2022. My diversification plans will continue through:
Expanding our single property by purchasing the house next door
Investing in my own startup
Investing in starting our family
Investing in health, learning, and longevity
Investing as an LP in several new VC funds
Investing in startups
Building my coaching practice to be a source of dry powder
I expect investors will continue to rotate away from tech stocks a bit longer, taking wins that they can offset with some serious losses that are coming for lower-margin businesses that are dependent on debt and will struggle in the higher interest rate economic environment that is coming. I’m sure there are a lot of buying and shorting opportunities out there for folks who want to churn with the market’s volatility. That’s just not for me.
Simplifying Life to Make Room for More Chaos
It’s now been 6 months since Jonathan and I made Firstparty official by incorporating the company in August, and launching our web analytics service as a self-service SaaS product in October. You thought starting another startup would make my zen lifestyle chaotic? Well, buckle up because this week I wrote about my decision to start a family this year.
I starting creating a menu of options that might support me in starting off on this 6th self-employed adventure. Knowing what I know, and hoping for many privileges (which are sometimes just not possible!) including perfect information, significant self control, and adequate financial resources — this is the list I’d try to order from this time around:
Move my DanielleMorrill.com archives to this Substack so I can stop self-managing the hosting, Wordpress, and non-existent email backend and centralize all my communications with the world in a single place
Turn on an auto-responder for my personal email inbox
Delete many apps off my phone
Set 20 minute daily time limits for Instagram and Twitter on my phone (I don’t have Facebook, TikTok, Snap, Whatsapp, etc. downloaded at all)
Hire a personal assistant (5 - 10 hours a week)
Increase housekeeper visits to 2x per week
Prioritize sleeping 9 hours per night above any other “self-improvement” activities, including reading and watching HBO’s hilarious White Lotus
Drink more water
Stop drinking alcohol (day 22!)
Stop drinking caffeine (…not sure when I’ll actually start this)
Meditate at least 20 minutes a day
Pre-make green juice 2x per week
Consume bone broth every day
Hire a personal trainer 2-3X per week
Sync my personal, Firstparty, and coaching calendars with Reclaim.AI
Start using project management tools with my husband to coordinate our travel, remodel, and other big ongoing life projects with Linear
Use 4 week sprint cycles for project management at home, 2 week for Firstparty, and 1 week reflection periods for introspection, self-improvement and self-care
coaching to 2 days per week with Calendly
non-negotiable time for family time (morning time and dinner time) HT Paul Veguen @paulveugen
daily exercise at least 30 minutes HT Paul Veguen @paulveugen
All the dates nights 3-6 months ahead
Start meal planning and scheduling time for online grocery shopping, juicing, meals, dates, and take-out
Start planning multi-week vacation cycles around major milestones, product launches and fundraising cycle events, often 6+ months ahead
Start scheduling hair cuts, blow outs, facials, massages and nails several months in advance and blocking out calendar time to make it a priority
Pay slightly more for fully refundable booking on flights and hotels (or delegate booking to Amex Travel for an annual fee)
Gifts and flowers for the year at the beginning of January HT Brian Weinberg @weisberg
Pre-order the week’s meals on DoorDash on Sunday
Continuous Learning & Documentation
Build the Firstparty company handbook, establishing culture, and continuously training the team on remote and a-sync work styles
Rotating quarterly review of various key areas of life including Self, Couple, Work, Family rolling up to an annual review process
Establish learning curriculum with a list of books for the year
Lest you think I’m bougie. Let’s just say, I aspire. After all, where do you think I learned about all the life-hacks listed above? FOUNDERS.
I don’t know about you, but this list screams Protestant work ethic to me. Can I do these things? Yes. Do I do them? Sometimes. Do I beat myself up for not doing them? Well, I used to. I used to think I could be immaculately “well behaved”.
When Jonathan joined to help me save Mattermark’s falling growth rate, we instituted something that changed my whole perspective on how a founder might spend her time: cooking, baking and talking with a friend. Leisure.
What I do know now, on this 6th time starting a business, is that I’m before I was working hard to get paycheck money, and working hard to buy my freedom. Due to a combination of skill and luck, I got that freedom. And now that my time is fully mine, my challenge becomes answering the question of how I’ll live.
How will you fill those infinite hours of freedom you have won?
For me, the answer has come full circle to 16 year old me working for my Dad. To my DOER teammates and customers at Twilio. To proposing that Kevin be my cofounder at Referly. To stargazing on the grass with Andy. To cooking and talking on rainy Saturdays with Jonathan. To snuggling with Emo and Taco laying across the pillows they stole from my husband and me. Each experience of love shows me who I could be if stopped struggling, if I just let life unfold and didn’t run away from the intensity of being completely in it with another person.
All I want in life is to feel my freedom, which required me to risk the vulnerability to feel and the resilience to recover when those feelings were overwhelming.
For me to live this out fully, I need to be making elegant things to solve complex problems, alongside people I love. Here we go again!