2017 Wellness Stack

Problem : Summer is coming
Solution : A fitness plan to take me through to End of March!
Goal : 11% body fat with minimal muscle loss. 

MEASUREMENT

Apple Watch Series 1
- Useful for logging workouts.
- Filling the rings each day is motivating.
- Have yet to use social features but imagine that they would be pretty good too. 
- Feed data into Apple Health and MyFitnessPal.

Withings body scale
- Unreliable for body composition but use it for a daily weigh in.
- Ignore weight day-to-day, look at trend line.
- Make sure to weigh self at same time every day. 

Tape measure
- Take key measurements once per week.
- Good indicator of general progress.  

DIET

- 1g of protein per llb of body weight daily
- Keep to 2120 calories per day + exercise burn = slight deficit each day, track through MyFitnessPal
- Stick to a few regular meals that I like and have a lot
- Using tryfuel.com for evening meals. Customizable macro meal delivery, very cool. 
- Drink tons of water. 
- One cheat meal per week. 
- Slow carbs only.
- Limit alcohol, leads to poor eating decisions. 
- Limit salt intake, causes serious water retention which is demotivating. 


EXERCISE

- 20 mins of interval training 4x per week. (will make this 30 after 6 weeks).
- Lift heavy weight 4-5 times per week.
- 1 warmup set per body part then 6-8 sets of 4-6 reps of 85% 1 rep max = v heavy weights (over 2 exercises). 
- No special nutrition around cardio, for weight training, protein and carbs before and after workout. 

 

5 London Observations

I moved to San Francisco over 3 years ago and have been living there ever since. I come back twice a year to see my mother and friends. On my trips back, I often get struck by things that seem new, different or perhaps had just gone unnoticed previously. These are 5 things that struck me on my most recent visit (Christmas 2016).

  • Disinterest/misinformation around Trump
    Having lived through my first US election as a resident, I was totally consumed by the endless news coverage, Alexa flash briefings, polls and more. It preoccupied me, causing sleepless nights and, frankly, huge amounts of anxiety. Coming to the UK for Christmas, it felt more remote than I expected. People were  for sure upset, but there was more a sense of “let’s see what happens” than I anticipated. Even more alarming, was the false equivilance misinformation campaign had taken root and I had numerous people say to me “I didn’t really want either of them” and worse “they are both as bad as each other”. Really frightening. I think some Brits struggle with the size and diversity of American opinion and so it’s hard for them to appreciate really how divided it can be and the scale of that division.
     
  • The joy of professional diversity
    One of the truly lovely elements of London life is the professional diversity. Of course, I enjoy racing into a super in-depth professional conversion at any given SF function, but there is something nice about being in the professional minority in social settings. To be surrounded by people in different jobs, doing totally different things and having all of the stock SF opening small-talk questions done away with. I found myself learning so much from academics, financiers, pub workers and more.
     
  • The "scene" is changing so much
    The London gay scene has seen such a huge retrenchment in the past few years. Soho, once the home of quirky bars and shops, now is slowly becoming flats (condos for ye Americans) and chain stores. It’s cute but it’s not original. The raw essence that made Soho a haven for young gay boys and girls is slowly fading. Others have written extensively about this but on this trip I noticed it more than ever. It’s sad to see, but I’m hoping that what will come in it’s place is a more distributed, eclectic scene that can escape the tightening grip of the apparent drugs epidemic and become a cultural trailblazer once more.
     
  • Loss of individuality of the high streets
    London has many of the most beautiful, eclectic high streets in the world. You can wander from shop to shop, exploring the wares offered up by a range of small businesses and sometimes chain stores. Unfortunately as I come back every 6 months or so I notice a sad trend. The quirky (albeit hit and miss) small businesses, restaurants and shops are being replaced by a far more reliable chain store. A homogeneous set of restaurants, shops and bars are taking over all of the once unique rows of shops.
     
  • Obsession with property ownership
    The British love to talk about property and the accumulation of property. So many people I know have factored home ownership in their life plan as part of 4 or 5 year plan. It’s amazing how culturally embedded property ownership is in the psyche of the nation and goes some way to explaining why the bubble is so robust, despite the fears of brexit.

Thoughts on Father's day

Father's Day is an interesting time for those of us who no longer have their father's around. Mine passed away 5 years ago, after a rather unpleasant battle with depression and then cancer. The yearly Father's day "event" is no longer an entirely sad affair for me but rather a time to reflect on my dad's life, the impact it had on me and some of the new insights that have bubbled up in the time since his death. 

For context, my parents were academics, Professors at two london universities. Mother studied gender, development and Latin America and dad International Relations and the Middle East at LSE. Whilst I had no real appreciation for this at the time, i can safely say now that i grew up in a pretty amazing home. Our house was revolving door of international students, intellectuals, politicians, authors and activists. I would often come home to a heated debate in Arabic or French (my dad died shortly after learning Catalan, remarkably his 10th language) or a film crew recording dad for the evening news. 

My childhood was culturally rich but i still had all of the usual kind kid-stuff about comparing my family to everyone else's. My school was pretty materialistic and not understanding the extraordinary home life i had, i would compare my family to everyone else's with the lens of my peers at school. Giving my parents a hard time about what "everyone" else was getting for Christmas or going on Holiday or what car they drove. Mum would always say... "who is this everyone?", she was right of course. 

This is all a long way of saying how grateful i am to my wonderful parents, and as it's father's day, my dad for my diverse, challenging and intellectually nourishing home life. Whilst i may not have appreciated it at the time, i do now. 

Fred was unique in every way possible, and despite his incredible accomplishments—and all of his eleven languages (!!!)—, he never lost his humanity or considered himself too old or too wise to learn from others. I will miss him immensely, and encourage all of you, in honor of Fred, to learn a new language, explore a new country, try a new food, dance a new dance, etc. or at least learn a few good traditional Persian jokes.
— Gregory Qushair - Friend of Dad's

My dad was extremely pragmatic when it came to some of the political hot potatoes of the time. When heritage and religion are involved arguments become black and white very quickly. But dad had a great understanding of the nuances of conflict and a deep cultural understanding of the people involved. He wasn't an armchair commentator but rather someone that had spent time with the people of the middle east, in villages, trekking through mountains in Afghanistan, Israel and Yeman. That sort of deep understanding, the opposite of so much of the Fox News style Marvel action rhetoric, I think is the key to solving so many difficult situation. If you want people to listen to you, it helps massively if they think you understand them. 

Early Hipster.

Early Hipster.

Once we were at the Egyption Embassy, there was a room full of people from all over the middle east and my dad got up to give the opening talk. He spoke about how greetings were different from tribe to tribe, country to country and how the wrong greeting could be misinterpreted in the wrong context. As he went through 15 separate variations of a simple Hello, the room, bit by bit, came to life until everyone had a huge smile on their face. Bit of a party trick, but it did the job. 

Some very moving tributes to dad can be found here

What happened to LawPal?

This post originally appeared on Quora.

LawPal was an amazing journey for everyone involved which sadly did not work out. I've yet to write about the evolution of the company but here goes... 

Here is my personal experience of the 3 main stages of the company. 

1. Document Assembly 
The original idea for LawPal was  a document assembly service that would give consumers access to a wide range of largely commoditized legal documents for free. Similar to the document assembly UXs employed by Legal Zoom and Rocketlawyer, LawPal would allow users to quickly spin off a wide range of documents, execute them online and then buy related services. Our hypothesis was that the creation of legal documents usually coincides with major life events and people could be upsold related services including financial products. 

We built a rough prototype of this system and began to seek out quality content (forms). It became increasingly clear that the primary market for free forms were not people who were currently using lawyers but rather people that were currently not doing anything at all. We came to the conclusion that this was a particularly difficult audience to build a business around and a pivot was required. The output of this Q&A process was particularly poor and often left the consumer in a worse position than doing nothing at all. (Shake legal has executed well on this idea)

2. Startup Legal Services Marketplace
The idea we moved to (and launched) was a match making and workflow platform for startups and their attorneys. Startups would come to LawPal, fill out a short on-boarding questionnaire and then either pick a pre-priced legal service if eligible (formation, seed etc) or get a custom quote. They would then be given a range of lawyers to pick from. Once matched, we would introduce efficiencies in the attorney-client relationship by helping them work online through a transaction checklist (a list of documents required to complete the deal). 

This was interesting. We matched a range of startups with legal council and were successful in both getting them great fixed fees on their initial work and helping them work (a little bit) more efficiently. (Horribly difficult to monetize due to fee splitting regs).

Problems arose on two main fronts. The first was that larger firms were deferring fees for initial legal work to win clients. Founders time and time again were not seeing this credit line as a real expense as it would be called in at a time in the future when (they thought) everything would be rainbows and kittens and they could pay it with the swipe of a pen (or not at all). Experienced founders were the exception here. The lure of big firms with shiny offices also played a part here. Big firms would offer introductions to angel investors but as an inexperienced valley angel pointed out, an introduction from a lawyer is quite often one of the weakest for an early stage company and this offer rarely comes good (there are exceptions!). 

The second was that whilst we were fixing the fees for legal work, the scope of work would invariably change (undisclosed agreements, founder changes etc) and this would frustrate the relationship. The Uber for Law model we were trying to create (sorry - a cliché i know) was not just not sympathetic to the realities of the legal consumer/supplier dynamic. 

3. Trello for Law
We liked the efficiency part of the business more than the match making piece and decided to double down on that. I traveled to a small town in Germany and my co-founder Ross and I hammered out a revised version of the platform that removed the matchmaking piece of offering and focus on the efficiency part. We launched at the 2014 ABA tech show in chicago.

The idea was traffic control for legal documents, a layer top of cloud storage/DMS. From client intake to internal draft to client review and eventual execution, LawPal would give everyone involved in the transaction visibility on their piece and tasks they needed to complete (review this, sign this etc).

It was a really nice piece of software. Clean, fast - for the technically minded a Django backend with an AngularJS gui on the front. It integrated with crocodoc's document annotation tools and hellosign. 

The product launched, gained a little traction and a lot of feedback but ultimately not enough to sustain a viable business. We closed end of 2014. There were a few factors that contributed to it's closing : 

1. Email - I can't overstate this: Lawyers live in email and despite doing deeper and deeper integration into email clients we failed to ween them off this habit. If a client wants to reach their lawyer, they are going to ping them in an email, not use a platform, no matter how elegant. We contemplated getting really sophisticated and giving lawyers LawPal integrated email addresses but it felt like a unchangeable behavior (i'm sure this will eventually change). 

2. Team Fatigue - Founders are supposed to be superhuman but sometimes it's just really hard to carry on with something when there is hardly any traction. At the end of this third iteration we decided to call it a day. We couldn't, hand on heart, go back to investors for more money. I've had enough things work and enough to fail to know when there is a future in a project. 

3. The small firm//big firm casm - We found that buying behavior and mindset of big firms and small firms were totally different and there wasn't a whole lot in between. Small firms didn't (usually) view their time as a cost so efficiency was less important. They were primarily interested in attaining new business over executing existing business in less time. Big firms were interested in efficiency but had a very slow buying cycle. They also required integration with a plethora of legacy IT systems and sent us checklists of requirements for IT they were going to aquire. 

I remember sitting in a meeting at a top 5 valley law firm. We demo'd a lawyer at this firm the LawPal platform. He said, "i love it, this would save us a heap of time, but we'll never be able to use it". He looked defeated. As someone that has worked in startups all my life, the idea of wanting to adopt something but being held back by red tape and institutional convention was foreign. My co-founder Yael remembers the perplexed look on my face. 

4. Naivity - We wandered into a monster of a problem and in hindsight were pretty ill equipped to take it on. Crazy people are often the ones that solve crazy big problems but the risk is high and success is often elusive. 

What's next?
We are considering open sourcing the LawPal V3 platform. It would be nice for the codebase to be put to use. I think that big law will continue to make "we're evolving!" noises but little will change for a while. Clients will pull lawyers to use more efficient tools as they did with Blackberrys in the 90s.  True legal automation is really much further away than Richard Suskind will lead you to believe but that's not a technological issue, is a cultural one. Small firms will use Clio and co but the bulk of solo IT adoption will be in generic products like Trello, dropbox, box and co. Small firm legal specific IT is not going to set the world on fire - i'll leave that for a separate post.

As a side note, I learnt a valuable personal lesson in this journey - i need to work in space that still inspires me at 2am on Friday morning when i'm debugging code. Law was perhaps a bit too foreign for me. I have recently joined the Product team at Teespring, a company that is revolutionizing a whole category of ecommerce, it's a lot of fun, fast moving and much less serious subject matter. The LawPal experience was an amazing one and i'm truly grateful to those who supported us and to my co-founders who i hope to work with again some day.