My PRK eye surgery

Since I was a teenager I started having myopia. At first it wasn’t a big deal, I’d just get closer or squint and that’d do.

I got glasses and hated them, because it meant having to carry them everywhere with me. And honestly, it wasn’t the same.

Then I discovered daily contact lenses. That was as good as it got, so far. After I got used to them, I could see perfectly. All I had to do is put them on in the morning and everything was crystal clear again. But that meant carrying around supplies every time I traveled, and keeping some in my pocket in case I slept somewhere else.

Finally at age 27 (a few months ago), I looked into all the pros and cons and decided to take the step. I underwent myopia reduction to eliminate completely my -4.5 prescription.

Here’s how it went.

Initial evaluation: Lasik vs PRK

At first I visited a doctor at Clínica Baviera in Barcelona.

They gave me a few eyedrops and after an hour, Dr. Manuel de la Iglesia told me he had good news and bad news:

  • Because of my thin cornea, I couldn’t use the Lasik procedure, which has a very quick recovery time and is painless.
  • … but I could do PRK, an older procedure, which takes about a month recovery time, but that’s better in the long term.

Apparently, in Lasik they are opening the eye, performing the laser cuts (which are very fast and you can’t even feel) and then closing it right away. That means your healing process is simply healing from a cut.

However, in PRK they are dissolving a layer of your eye to flatten the surface and perform the laser surgery. Your eye essentially loses that layer of cornea and you have to rebuild it.

Because PRK is a very aggressive procedure, you’re practically unable to see the days after and you need to use eyedrops for weeks until you can fully recover.

After reading other people’s PRK experencies, I decided it wasn’t that bad. After all, I’d get clear vision for the years to come!

So I paid 50€ for the initial examination and decided to get the surgery.

The day of the surgery

The room was full with a bunch of people, ready to fix their eyes. The nurse gave each one of us a few numbing eyedrops and a tranquilizing pill. Both of those were really effective. Soon we all felt very sleepy and had no feeling whatsoever in our eyes.

One by one, our names were called and we went in. The procedure didn’t seem to take more than 5 minutes per patient.

Finally, my name was called. Thanks to the Xanax they gave me I felt unusually calm.

I laid down in something like a dentist chair. Above me there were a few scary devices for the doctor and nurses to operate.

First they applied some instruments to my eyes to fix them. This was uncomfortable, but not painful. First they took one eye and applied alcohol and chemicals to it, kept it for a few seconds and then washed it with water. That meant the outer layer was dissolved and gone.

"Now we’ll turn on the laser. Please don’t move", I remember hearing. I had to stare at a red light ahead of me, which would make zillions of microcuts to my eye and carve it to remove my myopia. That lasted for a few seconds and it was completely painless. More water, and the doctor placed a protective contact lens over my corrected eye. They did the same to my other eye.

Immediately after they applied a few eyedrops and I was taken to a dark room, where I should stay with my eyes closed for ten minutes. My eyes felt like I had gotten some sand in them, and I had an urge to scratch them which I had to resist.

After that was over, I went out to each something. My head hurt a little and I felt weaker than usual, but there was nothing major. Light bothered me incredibly and I could barely open my eyes, even with my sunglasses on.

After that I went home with patches on both my eyes, and stayed like that for a full day. Audiobooks and friends kept me company.

Recovery

The first week, as anticipated, was pretty bad. I couldn’t see at all and I couldn’t use my phone or computer at all for the first 3-4 days. I could, however, go for walks when it was dark or meet with people.

My vision was bad in the way that it felt dirty or blurry. It was a different kind of problem than myopia: at some moments I could see very clearly (especially after wetting my eyes, or after sleep), but it would deteriorate quickly.

The biggest problem those days was that my eyes felt very dry. I used wetting eyedrops as frequently as I could, as that helped healing.

The second week I was already able to do email for a couple hours a day, and I recovered much faster in the 3rd and 4th week. After a month, I already felt like that was one of the best decision I’d ever taken!

Closing thoughts

The full surgery cost me 1800€. That’s not cheap, partly because PRK is pricier than Lasik, but also because I chose a clinic that’s been doing the same procedure for over a decade. I figured it was worth it.

I’m no doctor, and you shouldn’t take this as medical advice, but if you’re considering getting eye surgery, I would totally recommend going for an evaluation. My experience with it hasn’t been pain-free, but it’s been totally worth it.

Now, almost half a year into it, I’m still very happy! Being near-sighted seems like something that happened in a past lifetime. The dryness in my eyes is gone completely, I can do exercise, swim and even surf.

That’s great preparation to keep doing the workout programs we’re preparing for 8fit, which you should totally check out if you’re looking to get in shape!

Focus

A lot of brilliant folks get caught up in trying to do much.

They’ll usually tell you it’s because they are ambitious: “Why do only one thing at the time, if you’re capable of so much more?”. It’s the illusion of complexity. Then, little by little, these gifted ones are seduced by new ideas, projects and partners. And that takes over all their productive energy.

The problem with doing too much..

.. is that you will eventually find a roadblock in your projects. Something that exceeds by far your natural ability, and that requires a huge effort compared to what it took to get there before.

When that moment arrives, the two typical outcomes are:

  1. The main project becomes your only project, and everything else you’re doing suffers, gets delayed or fails.
  2. You try to balance everything and do a mediocre job at best, and choose to not solve the roadblock that’s holding you back.

I know this from experience, because I have also spread myself thin over too many client or sexy projects.

An experienced player learns it’s important to follow some rules early in the game. She knows difficulty will increase and take over, and saves herself for it.

Project monogamy

Over the years, I’ve become a project monogamist. At first it felt like a compromise, but now I can say it’s paying off.

By focusing on one project (Teambox these last years, 8fit nowadays), it becomes my default “top idea in my mind”. I think about how to improve it when I’m taking a long walk or working out. I wake up to ideas to solutions to problems we’re trying to solve. It becomes the topic of conversation with other folks around me.

Yes, there are times when the workload is very low. Before I’d use that time and energy to pick up new projects. Now I use them to live a little, relax, get new ideas. Trying to fill that free time with other projects was killing my creativity and making me very unhappy. Sticking to one project, calm times become what winter is to agriculture.

Although I try to meet people who I can help, I never engage in active work with others anymore. I avoid notworking events and spend that time working or polishing what we’re doing.

That doesn’t mean I give up on self-actualization, on the contrary! Because there’s far less that’s “urgent”, I get more space to read and learn things in new fields, which are often inspirations for my current project.

Even a simple project like 8fit, which is “just a fitness app”, becomes huge when you start considering doing everything properly: content, user acquisition, retention, device support, analytics…

Honestly, when something is meaningful enough, it deserves your full attention and time.

Focus is the mother of creativity

When you focus 100% of your energy on one thing, all your results start adding up to reaching the same goal. Instead of half-assing a dozen things, you’re building something great.

You have the capacity to come up with great ideas, ideas that’ll make you feel like a genius. But the creative process is fragile, and needs space to take place. The less actual things you’re doing, the better results you’ll get, because you’re unstoppable when your entire world revolves around creating something.

Storywriters and movie directors block months or years for each movie. Your favorite band didn’t multitask. Even Steve Jobs focused on one big company or product at the time. You’re not any different!

Become a risk taker

Doing multiple things at the time seems brave, but it’s limiting. At the end it’s just a consequence your aversion to failure: You are doing many things because you are afraid that some might not succeed. And while the shotgun approach (shooting at everything) is good to try new things, it’s not sustainable in the long run.

Be brave enough to say no.

Be a risk taker.

Focus.

Leaving Teambox: back to square one

I went to find the pot of gold
That’s waiting where the rainbow ends.
I searched and searched and searched and searched.
And searched, and searched, and then
There it was, deep in the grass,
Under an old and twisty bough.
It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine at last… What do I search for now?

Shel Silverstein, The Search

This last month has felt like an end of chapter in many ways.

This note is going to be personal, but I’m posting it because I feel you all are part of the story. Expect stories and thoughts.

Five years ago

Five years ago I was completely lost in life, after studying in Madrid and Paris. My only goal was to create something self-sustainable and fun. Something to save me from having to wake up early. A few thousands in monthly revenue would do, and I dreamt of making a million before I’d turn 30.

Following my gut, I dropped out of my last college year, moved to Barcelona and founded Teambox. Doing something was better than doing nothing. Being new to the city I signed up to Couchsurfing and the nightly adventures were a blast. If you’ve ever partied thirty nights in a row, you know what I mean.

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In the daytime, I’d work on the project: meet people, learn how to code, try to ship something and struggle with traction. I had no idea of what I was doing, but I’d put over 10 hours on it every single day. Saturday could be any day, and it didn’t have to be Saturday if you decided it felt more like Tuesday.

I owned nothing but a laptop and it was great in every way. I was broke, rootless and happy.

Growing Teambox

But no startup is a one man show. The strangers and business contacts evolved into co-workers, partners and friends: Jesús, Albert, Jenny, Andrew, Mislav, Jordi, Juanjo, Charles, Manel, Marcos, Inés, Jack, Pau, Pedro, all the new guys… at some point, the city and the project gave me a sense of belonging.

At first, I’d even go to events to hand out business cards trying to sell Teambox to users. I spent my days coding and learning about product design and growth. Sometimes the world was our oyster, and sometimes we’d lose everything. It felt like a group of friends having fun.

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Then things started happening pretty quickly: angel investments, press mentions, a couple amazing trips with the team to San Francisco (a hacker’s dream!), going freemium, user traction, hiring the first sales reps, investment forums, trips to events (Argentina, Moscow, Mexico!), VC meetings, hiring a CEO, launching Teambox 4, hitting the first million dollars, signing up world-famous brands as customers, moving the company to the US… and it hasn’t slowed down since.

The desire to make things happen was contagious and it keep gaining momentum.

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The first “Strategy Meeting” in SF

Teambox has just been rebranded as Redbooth, releasing all new web, iOS and Android apps, a project which took us a full year. Our revenue passed the million dollar mark a long time ago and it’s doing great.

As we approach 40 employees, I’ve seen us move from generalists like myself to specialists, and every single function I’ve had has been upgraded by somebody way more skilled than myself. Redbooth is now available to all users and I’m honestly impressed with the level of polish it has.

There’s someone better than me in every area today: better developers, more creative designers, full-time sales reps, more organized managers… and that’s great! I wouldn’t like being the smartest person in the room.

It makes me think about where my skill set lies, and that’s in creating something self-sustainable from nothing. The team has outgrown me and it’s now time for me to step out and start something new.

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Our new Barcelona offices

Startups and identity

Starting a company is rewarding at a level that can’t ever be matched with money alone. You get to play your dreams, change the world as we know it and connect people that wouldn’t have met otherwise.

The lives of everybody who came onboard are different because of Teambox, for better or for worse. And that works in reverse too: I am who I am because of you. Because you’ve used it for your projects, because you invested money, because you told your friends, because you decided to join a crazy startup, because you’ve been following our story… I can only thank you for it. I hope I’ve been able to give you back at least a fraction of that in return.

The company is in great hands. I remain a fan, a shareholder and a board member. But personally for me, it’s time to undo this mandala.

Like a writer whose identity is associated with his book, this company has greatly shaped the image I have of myself. I’m now looking for the essence of it again.

Back to square one

I’d like to feel as free as I felt five years ago, but carry back the weapons I’ve built. I bring my skills and contacts with me. I have enough money that I don’t need to worry about it for over a decade. All I need is to get rid of anything that could weigh me down.

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As I read recently, true wealth isn’t owning money – it’s being able to generate the revenue you need consistently.

Over these years I’ve accumulated responsibilities and things, almost as a convenience: two flats in Barcelona, four laptops at home, a scooter, a large stock of daily contact lenses, picture folders, cooking gear, boxes full of memories and piles of documents.

Here starts my journey of pre-nomadic elimination: owning less, needing less, and finding reliable sources of revenue.

1. Reducing the “bus factor” risk

In great companies, everybody’s valuable but nobody’s essential. I was essential for a long time, but as we onboarded a CEO and a skilled team of developers and designers, I became replaceable. And this means the company is strong enough to go on without me – maybe it’ll even do better with the fresh talent.

2. Fixing my eyes

If you are near sighted, you know how disabling it can feel to be without your glasses. I was always dependent on my contacts and that felt like another limitation to my freedom.

Last month I got over my fear of it and got laser surgery. My sight is now perfect, even at night. Probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.

3. Selling my flat

A year ago I bought a flat in Barcelona. We remodeled it and made it sing, and just this week we listed it for sale. It sold in only 24 hours for a large profit, which I guess I’ll reinvest in the future. It’s exciting to be looking for a sunny rooftop as the next place to call home.

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4. Getting in shape

Being weak is another way of missing out on the good stuff, and I decided to fix that. Why wouldn’t you go for your full potential?

I stopped eating crap and stuck to meat, fish and veggies. I was never hungry. I worked out at home three days a week doing bodyweight exercises. Over the course of three months I lost 20 lbs of fat and built up visible muscle mass. I’ll probably post how I did it sometime soon.

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My progress after 3 months

The effect on my energy and self confidence has been so positive I’ve decided to build a fitness app to help others. If you’d like to be a beta tester, email me!

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For the first time in my life I was able to pull myself up!

5. Throwing away my old clothes

I had too much crap I wasn’t wearing, and losing weight only made it easier (I lost 6 clothing sizes). I bought new clothes that’d fit my style and body, and threw away everything else. It was liberating.

6. Giving away my scooter

Lately I keep active and walk. If I’m far, I take a metro. If I’m late, I take a cab. I gave my scooter to a friend who’ll use it, and that’s one less thing I own.

7. Computers and phones

I won’t work in an office anymore, so all I need is a laptop and my phone. It’s outstanding that I can get work done while taking a long walk in the street and just use my phone and headphones to stay in touch with everyone through email, calls, Twitter, Whatsapp and Teambox.

I sold my old iPhone and the computers I didn’t use. One step closer.

8. The email monster

Emails weigh me down and I want to get rid of them as soon as possible. I use Mailbox to reschedule them, Redbooth to file them as tasks and Unroll.me to block the newsletter spam.

All there’s left nowadays are a few connections asking for help or having a coffee. Besides that, it’s all inbox zero. Check.

9. Dropbox

Whatever’s scattered around your filesystem or mail is hard to find and can be lost easily. I moved all my team stuff to Teambox, and moved all my personal files to Dropbox.

My Dropbox looks like this: Accounting, Books, Fitness tracking, Personal documents (ID, insurance, certificates, contracts, deeds), Photos, Recipes and Writing.

I hated looking for invoices or keeping warranty documents around, so I saved pictures to Dropbox of the ones I could, and put the rest in a second shoebox.

I organized all my folders by date, like “1312 Tickets Restaurant” and shared them on Dropbox with whoever’s on the pictures. Facebook just didn’t cut it for what I wanted (just JPGs, thanks).

10. The memories shoebox

I went through the house collecting every memory I could. For some, I just took a digital picture and threw the original away. Only genuine moments were allowed to stay in a single, small shoebox.

It was heartbreaking to go through some: notes from college, the fine from the night I spent locked up behind bars, the polaroids couchsurfers would leave on my wall, some concert tickets… but it’s liberating to confine them in a shoebox where they’re not ever present nor lost.

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I couldn’t throw these away

11. Security and passwords

I store a few business related things on my laptop, so I enabled Filevault and installed theft-tracking software. I installed a password manager so I can use stronger passwords without needing to remember them. I got the iPhone 5S to use the fingerprint sensor. Another small thing taken care of.

12. Proximity based relationships

Staying in touch with too many people was spreading me thin. Now I try to have real moments with the people I’m close to in that moment, and keep the rest for later. Weak ties remain ephemeral while strong ones are still there no matter how long you’re gone.

Sorry for not writing that often, nothing personal. Let’s have a bottle of wine together sometime soon.

13. Money, taxes and chores

I kept only two bank accounts that’d allow me to take money in any ATM in any country without charging me, and where I could personally call the account manager anytime I needed something. I use debit cards so I can track expenses with Wallo, and an American Express for the perks.

I’ve tried to diversify investments but keep them fun and low maintenance: a few conservative funds, stocks, one angel investment and a few bitcoins. I hired accountants to take care of taxes.

Some things are just a pain to do: call the hairdresser for an appointment, or find prices for flights. I signed up for Fancyhands and they take care of whatever’s a headache.

14. Visa for the US

Finally, I need to be able to stay in the US. This is the only one I’m still working on, but I hope I’ll be able to renew my visa and stay for extended periods of time there as I build my new fitness startup.

Will I move to the US? No idea, but I’ll need the freedom of being able to be there.

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Next steps

It’s been an amazing journey and I have nothing but great memories of everybody who’s been part of it.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to build something like Teambox, but I’m really excited about the idea of going through that magic process again. Now I’m back to building something. If you’d like to beta test 8fit, my fitness startup, shoot me an email.

Now my life fits in a suitcase and there isn’t much tying me anywhere. It’s a good time to travel, spend some time on an island or discover Asia. Wealth should be a mean, not an end.

Here’s to a new beginning with sharper skills and new adventures.

You should follow me on Twitter: @micho

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When was the last time you played with Legos?