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Decadence vs. Dedication

Last week I was invited to an all expense paid, five-star trip to Vail, Colorado to attend the American Ski Classic with my wife. The company that invited me is wooing venture capitalists and CEO’s of fast growing technology companies (i.e. prospective clients) on the trip for five nights and four days.   We would get paired with an Olympic skiing legend on a team that will compete in two days of racing, enjoy five days of dinners with the Olympians, catered slope-side lunches after racing, tickets to watch the pros race, and a free pair of race skis. OMG!

2011 Korbel American Ski Classic

They had invited a good friend of mine and his wife a few days before me and he declined. I told him he was nuts – “how on earth could you turn down such an amazing opportunity”, I said.  When they invited me I agonized over it for 24 hours, but ultimately so no as well.  So why did we have to turn them down? Was it conflict of interest or moral obligation? Hell no! If someone wants to offer me an all expensive trip to a five-star ski resort with absolutely no strings attached other than the common courtesy of considering them when we are in the market for their services then we are free and clear to accept.  No, the reason wasn’t nearly as complicated as that.  In fact, the reason is simply that we are too damned busy building and running our companies to take advantage of the many perks people dream about when they are working their way toward the top.  Oh, and here’s the thing about those fancy lunches and dinners we get invited pretty much every day of the week – they are work!  You are almost always entertaining clients or being entertained, which is really just an elegant way of saying you are selling or being sold. When you are “on” all day it is exhausting to be “on” all evening as well.  Of course we do these events at night because its our job to see and be seen, but truth be told most CEO’s just want to go home with their significant others, climb into their PJ’s and veg in front of the TV. Sure, we absolutely appreciate the invites and the people, but after a while fancy dinners aren’t so special anymore as the novelty quickly wears off.  Ultimately there is a pay-it-forward obligation affect to being invited to these things, so everyone gets what they want in the end.

Am I sitting here writing this post eating my heart out that I am not going to the American Ski Classic to be paired with an Olympic skier, sip Champagne, and hobnob with a bunch of other CEO’s and fancy people wearing my brand new race skis?  Oh God yes!  But I take comfort in knowing that if I continue to keep my head down and execute on our plan now my investors and I will have lots more opportunities like this to turn down in the future. So in the end its just a matter of delayed gratification.

In the meantime, I’ll study the itinerary below, close my eyes and imagine myself slope-side eating fancy food with fancy people and then live vicariously through my friends that did go on the trip when they get back (and yes, I blacked out the name of the company hosting the event in the hopes of getting invited again next year). Please feel free to join me on my imaginary trip to Vail.

American Ski Classic Itinerary

American Ski Classic Itinerary 2 of 2

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Snowday in New York

I ran around Manhattan with my new Canon SLR for several hours during the first big snow storm trying to capture the amazing sites of New York in the snow. I hope these photos do it some justice.

Time Warner

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India: The Long Road to Agra

We arrived in New Delhi on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  This was our first trip to India, so we would only stay the night in New Delhi and leave the next morning with the entire wedding party for Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  Obviously, we  heard India was poor, backward and that traffic in New Delhi was terrible, so we expected the worst.  A car had been arranged to pick us up at the airport and whisk us off to the hotel.  As we drove off, the first thing I saw through the smog of the airport was cows walking directly toward us in the middle of an incredibly busy highway. I wanted to panic, but looked around for cues only to see no one even blinked indicating this was totally normal. I would later learn that cows are sacred in India and they share the streets with cars, dogs and pedestrians in every major city in India.

As we pulled up to the hotel guards checked under the entire vehicle with mirrors for bombs before letting us through the large rot-iron gate.  On the other side of the gate we found The Orchid, a very Americanized business hotel sitting on a beautiful green compound in the middle of otherwise barren, polluted area outside the airport.  The hotel was so nice I immediately thought this wasn’t going to be so bad after all.  Just as I let my guard down we got on the bus to Agra.

We were 17 people in a bus with no toilet, but since it was only a two hour trip we all figured it wasn’t a bid deal.  When the two hour trip turned into seven of the bumpiest hours of our lives we thought again.  Below are some pictures taken from the side of the road on my seven hour journey to see the Taj Mahal.  What we found, what you see in the pictures below, was both depressingly and beautiful. People living in absolutely horrid conditions without clean water, food or toilets. However, these same people were incredibly beautifully dressed in the most amazing colors I had ever seen.

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Isn’t this kid amazing looking?  He looks like he should be on a Gucci billboard ad.  His clothes lay on him just right and his hair perfectly coiffed. After taking this shot I wanted so bad to go back and find this kid, get him to Paris to become a model and escape the life he was walking back toward, which from what I could tell was a wooden hut on the side of the road.

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This picture is actually the perfect one to round out the series, as it sums up the people of India in one shot. Despite horrid living conditions, a lack of clean water and never knowing where their next meal is coming from, they seem genuinely happy.  While this might be an oversimplification, I can guarantee you that these people seem exponentially happier than the hoards of wealthy New Yorkers walking the streets of Manhattan each day who, despite wearing $3000 suites, $500 shoes and $10,000 handbags, look completely miserable!

Next stop, Agra!

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