Lessons Learned From Nana: How to Maintain Perspective by Jenna Abdou


Nearly all of my favorite memories have occurred under the pink tiled roof of my second home - My Nana and Ghiddo’s house. 

My grandparents played a huge role raising my brother and me; 21 years later they’re the still the first people I call when I’m afraid. 

From squeezing into my tiny Fischer Price plastic house to proudly watching every 33founders episode, my nana and ghiddo are my best friends, and I can’t imagine life without them. 

My grandparents are the primary reason I wanted interview to Charlie O’Donnell, the founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures

I stumbled across Charlie’s #nanavideos on Instagram while researching BBV and immediately knew I had to meet the man who loves his Nana as much as I do. 

 

There are very few things that can cut through the noise. The practice of making time for her is just something where nothing else seems that important.

Charlie on making time for his family.

Since the second season of 33founders, I’ve become incredibly intrigued by angel investing and venture capital. 

My newfound curiosity should have led me to inquire about Charlie’s life as an investor. However, I knew that if I could walk away with a single insight from our conversation I wanted to know what he learned from his Nana. 

As a result of having an extraordinary nana myself, I wasn’t surprised when Charlie reflected on the perspective spending time with his grandmother gives him. 

I was surprised, however, by the way, that perspective lends to each part of his life. A task I continue to struggle with (Sorry Nana, I swear I try to listen). 

Whether he’s raising the next round for BBV, closing his latest investment, or working on his blog, This is Going to Be Big, Charlie’s adamant about understanding his work in the greater context of life. 

Here’s what his typical day entails: 

  • 20-minute bike ride to Brooklyn (Even in 2-degree weather - I know - Who does that!)
  • Morning meetings. Charlie takes three pitch meetings a week, adding up to 170 meetings a year. This gives founders a 6 % chance of being funded by him - Pretty good odds for your first meeting. The other meetings are monthly meet ups with his portfolio companies.
  • The remainder of the day is spent getting work done. Charlie recently started the VBCC email list: An email list to update investors on opportunities in the New York tech scene. He also spends time working on his blog which is one of the top read venture capital blogs in New York. 
  • Evenings are spent at startup and tech events, many which Charlie plays a role organizing. The day I spoke with him he was heading to a party for Bradford Shellhammer’s new design startup Bezar. 

While Charlie’s schedule may appear daunting for most, he still makes time for Sunday dinner with his family (son of the year goes to you, my friend!).

The second lesson Charlie taught me about keeping life in perspective stems from his blog post, “Turns at Albuquerque: How I Measure My Career”. 

Through his personal experiences, he highlights why we shouldn’t evaluate our lives by titles and comparing ourselves to others. 

Instead, he encourages us to measure success through the progress we’ve made, the relationships we’ve built, and the impact we’re pioneering in the community. 

This perspective isn’t to say that you shouldn’t push yourself or that you’re never going to feel down. In fact, Charlie doesn’t categorize himself as tremendously successful. He strongly believes his venture career lies ahead of him.  

The post is simply a reminder to maintain the perspective we receive from our grandparents and mentors, appreciating the wisdom we’re gaining along the way. 

You can read more about Charlie’s journey in his post, where he essentially shares that each of his opportunities - those that proved successful and those that didn’t - are the primary reason he went back to venture capital. 

The greatest lesson I've taken from Charlie is to consistently uphold a balanced perspective. Most importnatly, I admire him for making time to pursue the important things in life. 

Whether it’s your family, friends, or a personal hobby don’t neglect your passions because you’re taking life too seriously. Everything else can wait. 

To learn more about Charlie, his life as an investor, and building the NY tech scene tune into his 33founders interview and subscribe to his blog, This is Going to Be Big, here.




Further Reading
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • How to Build a Team That Aspires for Greatness — When Adam Liebman plays basketball, all he does is shoot three-pointers. “I’ll pretty much shoot three-pointers from anywhere on the court. Once we cross half court, I’m in my range. I’m never afraid to pull the trigger,” he said, reflecting on his fantasy game with Lebron James.
  • The Scientific Case For Happiness: How to Rewire Your Brain and Take Control of Your Life — In an average day, I convince myself that I have at least three disorders. I am a self-diagnosed hypochondriac. Yes, I see the irony here. Ranging from the serious - Will these voices in my head ever stop? - to the non-serious - Why did I ask that interview question? - I often engage in what Paige Craig, an investor at Arena Ventures, has identified as “Creative Destruction.”


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