The Long Game 42: How to Take Supplements, Mental Health & Phone Calls, Advice, Startups in 13 Sentences

💒 Marriage and Happiness, Patri Friedman on The Long Game Podcast, 300 Days Alone, Tab Snooze and Much More!

Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at lifetizr, and this is The Long Game Newsletter!

Greetings from Paris.

If you missed the past episodes, you could catch up here.

In this episode, we explore:

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

💊 How to Take Supplements

There are so many things to say about supplements. Their popularity keeps increasing, but the main question around them is whether they work or not. The Fitt Insider team noted:

After conducting countless randomized controlled trials on popular vitamins and supplements, Edgar Miller III, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, concluded: “People would be better off spending their money on fruits and vegetables.”

A step further, Dr. Mark Moyad, the Jenkins/Pomkempner Director of Preventive/Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan, said vitamins can fill some gaps related to nutritional deficiencies but treating them as a cure-all is potentially harmful:

“The idea that you can take 10 pills a day and fix everything or live forever is faulty. There’s a huge disconnect between people’s perception of supplements and the reality, and that can be really destructive. 

Still, supplements can be beneficial, but here again, there’s no one-size-fits-all. There is a good way to take supplements. It consists of doing rigorous experiments on your body. You need to inform yourself about which supplements could help for the goal you’re pursuing (Examine can help here), and then, trying the compounds once at a time and taking notes about how you feel. This article by Scott Sisking outlines the right approach to supplements:

So treat every supplement you take as an experiment. Any experiment is better than nothing, but careful experiments are best of all. If you want to be careful change one thing at a time: don’t start a supplement at the same time you’re starting another supplement (or a new exercise routine, or a new job). Consider recording any subjective data (eg how you feel on a scale of 1-10) and objective data (eg how many panic attacks you have per week, how many hours of sleep you get per night) to see whether it changes before and after starting the supplement.

If you start a supplement and feel better, it could be because of the supplement – or it could be coincidence. You can certainly just accept that you’re feeling better and not change anything. But if you’re going to continue taking the supplement long-term, consider confirming your first impression by eg stopping the supplement and seeing if your problems come back, then restarting and seeing if they go away again.

More generally speaking, I think the future of health will be to enable people to do these experiments on themselves in an easy way. That’s what we’re working on at lifetizr with metabolic health, to begin with, but I’m sure a lot of other aspects of health would benefit from this approach. Inside Tracker helps people find what supplements they should be taking using blood and DNA testing, but a lot of work remains to do to make these practices more mainstream and easily part of everyday life.

Supplements kind of work, but they don’t… but they could.

What supplements do you take, and how do you approach supplements in general? Let me know!


🌱 Wellness

☎️ Depression, Mental Health and Phone Calls

What if phone calls to people you care about could be a powerful tool against loneliness and depression? Well, this may be true, as this study explains:

Design, Setting, and Participants  From July 6 to September 24, 2020, we recruited and followed up 240 adults who were assigned to receive calls (intervention group) or no calls (control group) via block randomization. Loneliness, depression, and anxiety were measured using validated scales at enrollment and after 4 weeks. Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted. Meals on Wheels Central Texas (MOWCTX) clients received calls in their homes or wherever they might have been when the call was received. The study included MOWCTX clients who fit their service criteria, including being homebound and expressing a need for food. A total of 296 participants were screened, of whom 240 were randomized to intervention or control.

Conclusions and Relevance  A layperson-delivered, empathy-oriented telephone call program reduced loneliness, depression, and anxiety compared with the control group and improved the general mental health of participants within 4 weeks. Future research can determine whether effects on depression and anxiety can be extended to maximize clinical relevance.

Bottom line: pick up your phone today, and call a friend.


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🧠 Better Thinking

💬 Advice?

As I’m growing up, I’ve been thinking a lot about advice, especially because some people younger than me now ask me for advice. I never know what advice to give as my biggest failures were actually blessings in disguise.

Advice is dangerous. Like a horoscope, advice often sounds well-crafted and relevant, but believing it is rarely productive. With clever turns of phrase and time-honored proverbs, you can turn any position into an elegant, self-evident truth. “One bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” say some, and others respond “never compromise, doubling down is the only way to succeed”. “The customer is always right” but also “sometimes you gotta fire your customer.” Warren Buffett is quoted religiously for his investment advice, and a big reason for that is that he has given so much advice in his career that you can quote him to argue one way, and quote him for the counter-argument too. What is one to believe?

That’s also something I discovered when building a company. You’ll find every single advice, and it’s contrary, both argued by legit people from the field. It’s paradoxical, but the only advice worth giving is that you’re on your own, and you need to figure it out yourself.

Life is full of noise. Advice is a combination of people’s genuine opinions and their performative signalling, repeating the tenets of their in-group. This form of noise is omnipresent, and it’ll pull you in all directions. You could spend all day listening to two business gurus give perfectly contradictory advice; it all nets out to zero. For the most part, just listening to it will muddy your thinking and lead you through all sorts of mental contortions to conform to the intellectual aesthetics of others, instead of carving the way you believe to be true. There’s a way to cut through the noise: ignore it, trust yourself, research carefully, reason rigorously.

The thread below is a perfect example of contradictory advice in the field of academia. We could write the same thread for every field.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

🔟 Startups in 13 Sentences

We just said that advice doesn’t work—and I stand bu that, mostly. But when you’re building a startup, it’s easy to get distracted with things that aren’t essential. That’s why I like to go back to the basics as often as possible. This article reminds us of the 13 most important things when building a company.

  1. Pick good cofounders

  2. Launch fast

  3. Understand your users

  4. Let your idea evolve

  5. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent

  6. Offer surprisingly good customer service

  7. You make what you measure

  8. Spend little

  9. Be ramen profitable as fast as you can

  10. Avoid distractions (raising money is one)

  11. Don't get demoralized

  12. Don't give up

  13. Deals fall through (raise more than you think you need)


📚 What I Read

🏴 Direct Truth: Uncompromising, non-prescriptive Truths to the enduring questions of life by Kapil Gupta

Simple but powerful. Read this book if you’re looking for the Truth.

🧬 Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming

Genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived. I don’t know how I feel about this…

The corresponding ethical issues are complex and deserve serious attention in what may be a relatively short interval before these capabilities become a reality. Each society will decide for itself where to draw the line on human genetic engineering, but we can expect a diversity of perspectives. Almost certainly, some countries will allow genetic engineering, thereby opening the door for global elites who can afford to travel for access to reproductive technology. As with most technologies, the rich and powerful will be the first beneficiaries. Eventually, though, I believe many countries will not only legalize human genetic engineering, but even make it a (voluntary) part of their national healthcare systems.


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

🏝 #12: Patri Fridman on Competitive Governance and Technology

In this episode, my guest is Patri Friedman, a political theorist and the General Partner at Pronomos Capital, the world's first charter city VC fund. Patri is on a mission to increase competition in government. In 2008, Patri founded the Seasteading Institute with a mission to create sovereign ocean colonies and “establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems.” We spend a lot of time talking about competitive governance and why we need it.

We also discuss the impact of technology on government and why building new institutions should be our primary focus now. We finish the conversation talking about meditation and nutrition.

Please, enjoy my conversation with Patri Fridman!

Topics we discuss:

  • How can charter cities promote progress and innovation?

  • How can new cities become a hub for innovation?

  • The place of charter cities in the developing world (the case of Africa)

  • The impact of technology on government

  • Why building new institutions should be our primary focus now

  • Diversity

  • The problem with the digital world and the importance of the physical world

  • Science Fiction

  • Nutrition

  • Patri's meditation techniques and how to maintain clear thinking in the digital age

🎧 Apple Podcasts


🍭 Brain Food

💒 Marriage and Happiness: Evidence from Taiwan

I’m very interested in studies exploring happiness. As a society, I think we have a lot of misconceptions about what will make us happier. This week, I came across this paper, and I thought it was worth sharing. Here’s the abstract:

Using Taiwan’s PSFD data and within-between panel data models, this study investigated the relation between marriage and happiness. It did not find a selection effect, indicating that there is no statistical evidence that married people were happier two or more years before getting married. There was a honeymoon effect during the marriage year. Several samples were constructed to investigate whether happiness level quickly returned to the baseline after marriage. The results of most samples showed that the happiness levels were significantly higher than the baseline within 3 years of marriage. Although the happiness level after the fourth year of marriage is not significant, its magnitude is not small, indicating a diversity of happiness status after 3 years of marriage. Marriage, on average, enhances happiness more and longer for women than for men.

And here’s another paper exploring the correlation between wedding expenses and marriage duration:

marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony...compared with spending $5,000-$10,000 on a wedding, spending less than $1,000 is associated with half the hazard of divorce

Men would be safer saving on the 💎 and investing more in other things!


🎥 What I’m Watching

🌴 300 Days Alone — The Movie

A beautiful movie about a man spending 300 days alone on a desert island.


🔧 The tool of the Week

Tab Snooze

I’ve shared a lot of productivity app here on The Long Game because, let’s be honest, I just love trying new things, even though I know most of these things won’t be a game-changer. One extension that I found myself using and enjoying a lot is Tab Snooze. It helps you resurface a tab at a specific time. There are hundreds of different ways to save things for later, but I find this easy way to be helpful.

Some of the tabs I have on Tab Snooze are Relentlessly Resourceful (weekly) and The Psychology of Human Misjudgment (monthly).


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

“Even the best psychologists will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.”

— A. de Mello


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👋 EndNote

Thanks for reading!

If you like The Long Game, please share it on social media or forward this email to someone who might enjoy it. Podcast reviews are also gratefully received. You can also “like” this newsletter by clicking the heart just below this, which helps me get visibility on Substack.

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Feel free to email me or find me on Twitter if you have any feedback or questions.

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

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