20VC It’s Time To Talk About Drinking; How To Stop, The Impact It Has, How Life Changes PostAlcohol and The Biggest Misconceptions on Drinking with Ryan Petersen, Founder @ Flexport, Justin Kan, Founder @ Twitch, Matteo Franceschetti, Founder @ Eight

Summary Notes


In a candid discussion on the 20 Minutes VC podcast, host Harry Stebbings and guests Ryan Peterson, Matteo Franceschetti, Justin Kan, and Steve Schlafman explore their personal journeys of giving up alcohol. They delve into the reasons behind their decisions, ranging from family history of addiction, the desire for improved performance and health, to the realization of alcohol-induced anxiety. The guests share insights on societal misconceptions about sobriety, such as the belief that one's social life will end or that others will care about their drinking choices. They also discuss the positive life changes post-sobriety, including better sleep, sharper focus, and authentic living, while offering advice for those considering a similar path. The episode also touches on the importance of community support in the recovery process and the ease of transitioning to a sober lifestyle contrary to popular belief.

Summary Notes

Personal Decisions to Stop Drinking

  • Harry Stebbings shared his decision to stop drinking and the overwhelming support he received from the community.
  • The episode features four individuals who stopped drinking for different reasons: Ryan Peterson, Matteo Franceschetti, Justin Kan, and Steve Schlafman.
  • Each guest shares their personal realization moments and motivations for giving up alcohol.

"I decided today that alcohol was just not something that I needed in my life anymore and something I was relying on too much."

  • Harry explains his decision to quit drinking, indicating a dependency he no longer wanted.

The quote highlights Harry's self-awareness and determination to change his relationship with alcohol.

Impact of Alcohol on Personal and Professional Life

  • Steve Schlafman discusses how addiction in his family and the opiate crisis affected his perspective on substance use.
  • Despite being a high-performing individual, Steve felt the need to drink or smoke to feel normal.
  • His meditation practice led to the realization that alcohol was impeding his potential, prompting him to stop.

"I had to have a smoke or a drink just to sort of make me feel normal."

  • Steve describes the habitual use of substances to achieve a sense of normalcy.

This quote underlines the role of substances in Steve's routine and the shift in awareness that led to his decision to quit.

Cultural Influences and Health Realizations

  • Matteo Franceschetti speaks about the cultural norm of drinking in Italy and his personal habit of drinking gin tonics as a way to decompress.
  • A vacation characterized by overindulgence led him and his wife to question their drinking habits.
  • They decided to stop drinking for a week, realized they didn't miss it, and replaced the habit with alcohol-free drinks.

"The only thing we were missing was a habit, the habit of having something in your hand once you go back home."

  • Matteo expresses that the act of drinking was more about the ritual than the alcohol itself.

The quote illustrates the role of habit in alcohol consumption and the possibility of replacing it with healthier alternatives.

Emotional Escape and the Role of Meditation

  • Justin Kan shares his extensive history with drinking and how it became intertwined with his startup culture.
  • Meditation helped him recognize that alcohol was negatively affecting his mood and serving as an emotional escape.
  • He decided to quit cold turkey and has been sober for over a year.

"Drinking was tied to just, like, feeling pretty bad during the day. And it was also an emotional escape that I was going to."

  • Justin connects his drinking to poor daily well-being and its use as a coping mechanism.

This quote connects the dots between alcohol consumption, emotional health, and the decision to quit.

Anxiety and Health Concerns as Catalysts for Change

  • Ryan Peterson talks about the anxiety he experienced after drinking, which worsened with age.
  • Despite recognizing the link between alcohol and anxiety, it took him months to fully commit to quitting.
  • The desire to avoid the negative feelings associated with drinking ultimately led him to stop.

"I would have terrible anxiety tomorrow, but fuck it. And then the next day, there's the anxiety."

  • Ryan recounts his internal struggle, knowing the consequences of drinking but doing it anyway.

The quote captures the challenge of breaking a harmful cycle even when one is aware of its detrimental effects.

The Journey from Realization to Action

  • Harry Stebbings and Ryan Peterson discuss the common delay between realizing the need to stop drinking and actually taking action.
  • Excuses and justifications often prolong the continuation of drinking despite awareness of its negative impacts.

"For me, it was like I always found an excuse to keep going."

  • Harry reflects on the excuses he made to avoid confronting his drinking problem.

Harry's quote emphasizes the mental barriers that prevent immediate change, even after acknowledging a problem.

Substance Use and Excuses for Consumption

  • Individuals often make excuses to justify their substance use.
  • Substance use can serve as a numbing effect to cope with stress or escape reality.
  • It can take years for someone to acknowledge the need to quit and to take action.

"For me, I had known that I was using substances more than the average person for most of my adult life. And like you, Harry, I would always make some sort of excuse and punt it."

This quote explains that the speaker, Steve Schlafman, was aware of his higher-than-average substance use and would make excuses to defer addressing the issue.

Social Habits and the Absence of Desire

  • Social habits can lead to substance use without a genuine desire or need.
  • One may stop consuming substances and surprisingly not miss it at all.
  • This can lead to questioning the reason behind previous consumption.

"The most surprising thing to me is since day one, since when I stopped outside. The obvious benefits, but I never miss it again."

The speaker reflects on the surprising lack of desire for substances after ceasing use, highlighting that the habit was not as deeply rooted as expected.

Coping Mechanisms and Escapism

  • Drinking can be used as a coping mechanism for dealing with pressure and stress.
  • It can serve as an escape from responsibilities and insecurities.
  • Individuals may use substances to feel more carefree and to temporarily forget about their problems.

"My drinking was always like this, just escapism of, like, I can actually just be me and be young and be kind of carefree and bluntly get shit faced and forget about it all and do something stupid and laugh at stupid jokes."

Harry Stebbings discusses using drinking as an escape to avoid the pressures of his position and to experience a sense of youth and carefreeness.

Insecurities and Substance Use

  • Substance use can mask insecurities such as impostor syndrome and anxiety.
  • It may initially help with calming nerves or slowing down an active mind.
  • Over time, substance use can exacerbate the very issues it was meant to soothe, causing more anxiety.

"I've also had anxiety most of my adult life. And what I found towards the end and something that Ryan said really landed was, for me, the anxiety, like drinking and smoking actually ended up causing a lot more anxiety than it was reducing."

Steve Schlafman discusses how substance use initially helped with his anxiety but eventually led to an increase in anxiety levels.

The Role of Alcohol in Social Confidence and Avoidance

  • Alcohol can be seen as a tool to gain social confidence and popularity.
  • It can be used to avoid confronting negative feelings or situations.
  • Some people may rely on alcohol to feel comfortable in public speaking or social settings.

"Drinking was like a magic know for me. I would just be able to be and say whatever I wanted, be the person that I thought I could be."

The speaker admits to using alcohol as a means to overcome lack of confidence and to avoid confronting personal issues.

Perception of Alcohol in Social and Professional Settings

  • There can be a misconception that not drinking will negatively impact one's social and professional life.
  • Many people do not care if someone chooses not to drink, and those who do may not be ideal company.
  • Being sober can lead to more meaningful conversations and connections.

"Zero people cared whether I drank or not, especially at my age. And with my friend group and the one or two people who did pressure me to drink, it was like a heat seeking map for who I shouldn't be friends with."

Ryan Peterson emphasizes that most people are indifferent to others' drinking habits, and those who pressure others to drink may not be suitable friends.

Selectivity in Social Engagements

  • Sobriety can lead to being more selective about social engagements and the people one chooses to spend time with.
  • It allows for a more discerning approach to social events, leading to better use of time and more fulfilling interactions.

"What it's allowed me to do is actually be more selective on the things that I say yes to and the people that I want to spend my time with."

Steve Schlafman explains how not drinking has enabled him to be more intentional about his social choices and the company he keeps.

Personal Growth and Sobriety

  • Sobriety can lead to discovering new self-confidence in social situations without relying on alcohol.
  • Activities previously associated with drinking, like dancing or attending concerts, can still be enjoyable sober.
  • Sobriety requires adapting to "normal mode" instead of "easy mode" and finding comfort in one's own skin in various settings.

"And I would never have thought that I could have fun without being hammered at nightlife before. But it's kind of like having to actually just live your life in normal mode instead of easy mode and figure out how you can have the confidence and be okay with yourself in the situations, even if you're sober, which has been probably pretty good for me."

This quote highlights the positive impact sobriety can have on personal confidence and enjoyment of social activities without the crutch of alcohol.

Strategies for Transitioning to Sobriety

  • Utilizing tools like a streak tracker helps in building the habit of not drinking.
  • Reading books and adopting a holistic approach to recovery can aid the transition.
  • Combining various lifestyle changes such as better sleep, meditation, and intentional living supports sobriety.

"I used a streak tracker. So I downloaded streak tracker, and I just started tracking the days that I wasn't drinking."

The use of a streak tracker is mentioned as a practical tool to monitor progress and reinforce the habit of not drinking.

"I am also a user of streaks. Big fan of that app. But someone recommended a book that was called Integral Recovery by this author, John Dupui, who takes sort of Ken Wilbur's integral theory and applies it to recovery."

The speaker talks about using the Streaks app and reading "Integral Recovery" to take a comprehensive approach to sobriety, indicating the effectiveness of combining technological tools with educational resources.

Life Changes Post-Sobriety

  • Improved sleep quality is a common benefit of sobriety.
  • Challenges include finding non-alcoholic drinks without sugar.
  • Sobriety can lead to better overall health and reduced anxiety.

"For me, obviously, biggest improvement in sleep. I think this is probably something that everyone sees."

The speaker emphasizes the significant improvement in sleep as a direct result of stopping drinking, suggesting a common experience among those who become sober.

Misconceptions about Sobriety

  • There is a misconception that social life ends when one stops drinking, which is not true.
  • People often misunderstand the health effects of alcohol and its classification as a poison.
  • It can be easier to quit drinking than anticipated, with societal pressure being less influential than expected.

"Well, yeah, I mean, I think the biggest misconception is that alcohol is not that it's healthy."

The speaker addresses the misconception that alcohol is not harmful due to its legal status, despite it being a poison.

"I actually think the biggest misconception that I had was that it would be difficult."

The speaker discusses the personal misconception that quitting drinking would be challenging, which turned out to be easier than expected.

Societal Perception and Sobriety

  • There is a growing acceptance of sobriety, especially in communities focused on performance optimization.
  • Being sober is increasingly seen as a positive lifestyle choice rather than a sign of a problem.

"I think former drinkers tend to be kind of badass."

This quote suggests that there is a positive perception of those who have successfully quit drinking.

"Not drinking is pretty clear and obvious. One, it's probably like the easiest optimization for anyone to do."

The speaker remarks on the acceptance and benefits of not drinking within certain communities, noting it as a simple yet effective way to improve one's lifestyle.

Advice for the Sober-Curious

  • For those considering sobriety, it's important to reflect on the benefits of being one's true self without alcohol.
  • The speakers encourage sober-curious individuals to explore the positive changes sobriety can bring.

"Me. You know, it's interesting, Harry, you had said something earlier that really landed for me, which was this idea of, like, if you're not drinking, then can you really be your full self?"

The speaker counters the notion that alcohol is necessary to be one's full self, suggesting that true self-discovery and authenticity can be achieved through sobriety.

Authenticity and Personal Growth

  • Embracing one's true self leads to authenticity and courage for others to do the same.
  • Open discussions about personal struggles and strengths can inspire others.
  • Personal growth leads to becoming a version of oneself that is a source of pride.

"I'm way more authentically myself. Right. Which goes to why, when someone's like, why don't you drink? And I'm pretty open with them is because I'm owning who I am as a person."

This quote emphasizes the importance of owning one's identity and how personal choices can reflect and reinforce authenticity.

The Journey of Self-improvement

  • Starting with small goals, like a week of change, can lead to significant personal insights.
  • Noticing the positive effects of change, such as feeling better in the mornings, can motivate further improvements.

"Start with a week, and then from there maybe you extend and you see if you miss it or not."

This quote suggests that taking small steps towards change can make the process less daunting and more manageable.

Daily Life Adjustments

  • Having children can drastically alter daily routines and priorities.
  • Adjusting to new life circumstances requires flexibility and reevaluation of one's time and routines.

"Having kids completely turns everything about the way you think and operate on its head."

This quote highlights the profound impact that life events, like having children, can have on one's daily habits and thought processes.

Leadership and Business Management

  • Deep understanding of business details is crucial for effective leadership.
  • A culture of documentation aids in learning and decision-making for leaders.
  • Being generically right but specifically wrong is a danger in leadership.

"Being generically right and specifically wrong is extremely dangerous as a leader."

This quote captures the essence of the need for leaders to be well-informed and precise in their understanding of their business.

User Behavior Insights

  • Lockdowns have influenced changes in user behavior, such as sleep patterns.
  • Weekend and weekday routines have become more similar during the lockdown.

"Now they are waking up at 7:15 a.m. So on average, our users are sleeping 30 minutes more per day."

This quote provides an example of how external factors, like lockdowns, can affect user behavior, in this case, sleep patterns.

Transitioning from VC to Coaching and Investing

  • Personal experiences and relationships can influence career transitions.
  • Moving to coaching and investing can offer a more direct and personal impact on entrepreneurs.

"I'm not necessarily working for big lp base and other partners that I can show up and just purely work for them."

This quote reflects the speaker's desire to have a more personal and direct impact on the entrepreneurs they work with, rather than being driven by institutional pressures.

Overcoming Addiction with Support

  • Overcoming addiction is challenging without support.
  • Connection and community support are critical for success in overcoming addiction.

"The opposite of addiction is connection."

This quote, referencing a saying by Johann Hari, underscores the importance of community and support in overcoming addiction.

The Importance of the Podcast and Community Feedback

  • The podcast aims to share inspiring stories and valuable insights.
  • Audience engagement and feedback are encouraged to shape future content.

"If you'd like more real, open, honest, vulnerable show is like this, do let me know."

This quote invites the audience to engage with the content and provide feedback, indicating the host's openness to shaping the podcast based on listener preferences.

The Role of Technology in Business

  • Technology companies, like HelloSign and Zoom, contribute to business efficiency.
  • Digital signatures and video conferencing have become essential tools for modern businesses.

"Hello Sign is an effortless esignature solution used by millions to securely send and request legally valid digital signatures and agreements."

This quote exemplifies how technology can streamline business processes, in this case, through the use of digital signatures.

  • Cooley is a law firm specializing in services for startups and venture capital.
  • The firm has a history of working with VCs and venture-backed companies.

"Cooleys form more venture capital funds than any other law firm in the world."

This quote highlights Cooley's expertise and experience in the venture capital sector, positioning them as a leading legal service provider for startups and VCs.

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