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


If you enjoyed this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇


👋 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.

Share The Long Game by Mehdi Yacoubi

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

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

PS: Lots of newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it in there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a big difference.

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The Long Game 41: Wellness Programs, Woo Science, Commenting vs Making, Work-Life Balance

🛰 The Engineering of Perseverance, Identity, The Most Intolerant Wins, Exploding Topics, 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:

  • Wellness programs and “woo” science

  • Meditation and losing the edge

  • Commenting vs. Making

  • Work-life balance

  • Identity

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

🥗 Wellness Programs Don’t Work & “Woo” Science

In theory, a program aiming at helping employees feel better at work and engage in preventive medicine should have very beneficial results, right? Well, things don’t always pan out the way you’d think. That’s what this article showed: to understand the impact of an intervention. We need to study this intervention the right way. Randomized control trials are the gold standard here because it enables to isolate only the intervention's effect.

One element that’s potentially dangerous for the long-term success of preventive health and wellness is that many claims aren’t supported by science. Marty Makary mentioned this in The Price We Pay, where he showed that companies often spend a lot of money on wellness programs with no proven benefits. Vinay Prasad explained a similar idea on the preventive medicine side in Malignant. He showed that early screening of some cancers doesn’t improve survival rates.

More generally, what I take from this is that the interventions you think will obviously work and be beneficial sometimes are not. It doesn’t mean we should stop trying to make employees feel good, and people prevent diseases, but it means we—as actors of the health & wellness industry—should have the honesty and rigor to back our claims.

This debate is actually more complicated than it seems. The reason is that many health interventions come with a significant psychological component. For example, early screening can help you find a disease early, but it can also significantly increase your anxiety. These positive and negative effects could average out over the long term, or the increased anxiety could even make the outcome worse. A corporate wellness program may be very beneficial for some employees and not for others.

A lot of wellness activities are dubbed “woo” right now. I will eventually write more about this concept, but the idea is that things like cold showers, breathing techniques, meditation, psychedelics, and so on aren’t yet part of the medical establishment. These things may be overhyped, just as it’s possible that we don’t yet understand the extent to which they’re valuable for our health. For example, I’m extremely happy I fixed my debilitating chronic back pain in 6 weeks—after two years of pain and thousands of euros spent on multiple physical therapists—thanks to what most people would consider “woo” science: basically reading a book and understanding that the pain is emotional and not physical. I’m currently writing a detailed piece about this, but it’s—by far—the most important book I read in my life. Some “woo” practices may be onto something serious.

The way forward will be to tailor the right interventions for each individual. However, before getting there, we need to start with less than perfect interventions. The line between going from something OK to something personalized and great and straight fraud and BS is often thin in this fast-growing industry that health & wellness represents.


🌱 Wellness

🧘‍♀️ Meditation and Losing the Edge

One of the main objections I hear from people who don’t meditate is that they’re afraid reaching a more meditative state of mind will make them lose their edge.

You often hear things like:

“I just don’t want to lose my edge, and I’m afraid I’m going to become complacent. I don’t want to lose my edge.”

In my experience, this edge that people have, and that’s so important to them, is a double-edged sword. That intensity and that edge that they view as a pure advantage, which helps them most often professionally, usually has a lot of consequences personally.

Meditation will not cause you to "lose your edge." It will rather cause you to see your life clearly, what your values and wishes truly are, and when you have a clear intention towards a goal, it will make your focus and edge even sharper when directed towards it.

In my experience, when I found myself caring less about some things in my life or even some of my own shortcomings, it was because they were actually not that important. But then I discovered other goals that were much more worthy of my time and energy, and then I got my edge back.

But… of course, there are no one-size-fits-all!


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🧠 Better Thinking

🔁 Commenting vs. Making

Last week I shared a great article about the tragedy of legible expertise, and it also covered some aspects of the discussion around ‘commenting vs. making.’ This week, I came across this piece on the same topic. I think it’s worth mentioning because I see a lot of people repeatedly forgetting this element. Once you start building, you understand how hard things are, and you also understand that commenting on what others are doing or building isn’t hard nor particularly constructive.

I gained a lot of appreciation for people who make things, and lost a lot of tolerance for people who only pontificate. I found myself especially frustrated with my past self, whose default was to complain and/or comment, then wonder why things didn’t magically get better.

Making stuff is no easy task, and the only way to learn and get better is… you guessed it: to make stuff. You’re not going to learn everything in books or from other people (although it’s a big part of it.) When you see people not taking the ideal route or not doing the ideal thing, they often thought about it, but they have constraints that you can’t imagine. It shouldn’t be an excuse to justify bad management, but it should be a call for all the people commenting to start putting their insights into action!

I realize it doesn't sound like it, but I'm trying to excuse the CDC here. I'm not just saying they're corrupt. I'm saying they have to deal with the inevitable amount of corruption which it takes to be part of a democratic government, and they're handling it as well as they can under the circumstances.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

⚖️ Work-Life Balance

I came across Waze's ex-CEO Noam Bardin’s piece on why he left Google, and it’s a must-read. He explains his decision to leave and covers more generally a few things that are wrong in tech right now.

The whole piece is great, and I highly recommend reading it, but here I wanted to share the work-life balance section:

Work life balance. When I was growing up in Tech in the ‘90’s - there was no such thing as work life balance. We loved what we did and wanted to succeed so we worked like crazy to achieve great things. As I had kids, I learned the importance of being at home for them and that's how I understood Work Life balance - its a balance, sometimes you need to work weekends and nights or travel, sometimes you can head out early or work from home - we balance the needs of the employee and the company. Today, in Silicon Valley, work life balance has become sacrificing Work for Life - not a balance. Young people want it all - they want to get promoted quickly, achieve economic independence, feel fulfilled at Work, be home early, not miss the Yoga class at 11:00am etc. Having trouble scheduling meetings because “it's the new Yoga instructor lesson I cannot miss” or “I’m taking a personal day” drove me crazy. The worst thing is that this was inline with the policies and norms - I was the weirdo who wanted to push things fast and expected some level of personal sacrifice when needed. I don't believe long hours are a badge of honor but I also believe that we have to do whatever it takes to win, even if its on a weekend.

I totally agree with his take. The ideal workday is to finish early and have time for other activities, but the reality as an early-stage startup is that it will require more than that. The way I see it is that you need to find the maximum output that’s sustainable over the long term.

For people like Elon, it’s 18 hours of work per day, every day, without holidays. For others, it’s going to be less than that. There is no easy recipe here, but some non-negotiable elements are that your team needs to be 100% aligned with the company's mission, and they should give a shit.

Many more things need to be said about this work-life balance debate. I’m not going to cover them all today, but here some of them:

  • Many people who already made it call for more work-life balance often forgetting that they themselves needed to put in the hours in the path to figuring things out.

  • On the side of more work, many people worship long hours for the sake of them, almost like a new religion of Workism. Working a lot is not a badge of honor. What matters is what this amount of work helps you achieve. More work doesn’t always equate to more results.

  • When you’re working on something you love, the lines between “work” and “life” tend to get blurry. If you manage to work on what you’re passionate about, you’re fortunate, but when pushed too far, this can backfire (less family time, less time for personal health, etc.) When studying people who achieved great things, obsession and lack of balance are very common. Feature or bug? I don’t know. However, it’s good to mention figures like Tobi from Shopify, who seem to be a one-of-a-kind leader, very different from his peers.


📚 What I Read

👥 Identity, Francis Fukuyama

Fukuyama is a great thinker, and I enjoyed reading The End of History and the Last Man a few months ago. More recently, Fukuyama wrote identity. It’s a key book to understand our current political landscape where political parties founded on recognizing a group’s identity are created and thrive all over the world. Sadly, identity politics is here to stay.

Demand for recognition of one’s identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today.

Identity grows, in the first place, out of a distinction between one’s true inner self and an outer world of social rules and norms that does not adequately recognize that inner self’s worth or dignity.

⛔ The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

This week, I revisited this article from Nassim Taleb about why the most intolerant ends up winning.

It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority. If it seems absurd, it is because our scientific intuitions aren’t calibrated for that (fughedabout scientific and academic intuitions and snap judgments; they don’t work and your standard intellectualization fails with complex systems, though not your grandmothers’ wisdom).


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

The Long Game Podcast is back!

🌇 #11: Mwiya Musokotwane on Building the Future of Africa, Charter Cities, Innovation and Institutions

Mwiya is the co-founder and CEO of Thebe Investment Management, a Zambian private investment firm that is the developer of Nkwashi, a 3100-acre satellite town that will be home to up to 100,000 residents. Thebe Investment Management has US$1.5bn of project pipeline under development.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Topics we discuss:

  • Why Mwiya came back to Zambia and left the UK

  • Why Mwiya is building a new city in Africa

  • Why charter cities lead to more progress & innovation

  • The African tech ecosystem

  • Building a Pan-African culture

  • Wakanda

  • The benefits of low tech businesses


🍭 Brain Food

🌳 The Social Life of Forests

I found this article to be very entertaining. I knew nothing about forests, and this story about Suzanne Simard, a professor of Forest and Conservation Sciences, is captivating. It’s a fascinating story exploring Suzanne’s discoveries about how trees communicate with each other.

Underground, trees and fungi form partnerships known as mycorrhizas: Threadlike fungi envelop and fuse with tree roots, helping them extract water and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen in exchange for some of the carbon-rich sugars the trees make through photosynthesis.

Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors.

I also learned how coal was formed 👇


🎥 What I’m Watching

👩‍🚀 Perseverance

This week was a fantastic week for space exploration: the perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch the landing live. The video below explores the insane engineering of the Perseverance Rover.

For more: read this great piece by Venkatesh Rao on the value of money on earth.


🔧 The tool of the Week

📈 Exploding Topics

I’ve already mentioned Exploding Topics here, but I think it’s worth checking this website regularly if you want to be aware of the latest trends. The concept is simple; it surfaces rapidly growing topics before they take off. I like to keep an eye on the “Health” and “Fitness” categories.


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”

— Søren Kierkegaard


If you enjoyed this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇


👋 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.

Share The Long Game by Mehdi Yacoubi

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

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

PS: Lots of newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it in there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a big difference.

Leave a comment

The Long Game 40: Mental Health & Robots, Aging Research, Incentives, Secrets of Sand Hill Road

🤖 The Simulation Theory, the New Old World, the Tragedy of Legible Expertise, Illusions of Time, Superpowered, 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:

  • A new era for research into aging

  • Mental health and robots

  • Getting the incentives right

  • Secrets of Sand Hill Road

  • The simulation theory

📣 Before we get to today’s newsletter, I wanted to share a message from a friend at On Deck about their new Health Fellowship:

The On Deck Health Fellowship is a 10-week program for startup and healthcare experts looking to found, join, invest in, and advise health tech companies. The program combines a world-class curriculum with top industry speakers, unique access to investors, and a pre-vetted pool of potential hires to help ambitious builders create the future of the healthcare ecosystem.

During the 10-weeks, you and 120 healthcare innovators will come together to:

  • Navigate the healthcare ecosystem and identify opportunities for innovation

  • Build, join, or invest in cutting edge health tech startups

  • Deepen your expertise through fireside chats and panels with industry experts

  • Collaborate with a group of talented peers to reshape the healthcare system

ODH is like a rolling industry conference, only better: it’s a space for fellows to deepen their industry expertise, accelerate their careers, and build impactful health tech startups — together.

The inaugural cohort kicks off on April 10, 2021. Access to the program, including lifelong access to the community, is $2,480 or five instalments of $500. 

Limited scholarships are available, so apply early! Link.

Apply to On Deck

I share this because I know many of the folks at On Deck, and think it is a great opportunity. If you apply for a scholarship and want a good word put in for you let me know.

Now, let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

🧪 A New Era for Research into Aging

One of the positive changes that might occur during this pandemic is the mainstream understanding of the connection between aging and disease. Why is this important, you might ask. Right now, there are still many scientists who study individual diseases without recognizing the impact of aging biology.

It is still common, for example, to see research studies in cancer, neuroscience, metabolism and other fields where young animal models (such as 4–6 month old mice) are used to study disease processes that almost exclusively occur in old people. ‘Mice are not people’ is a standard refrain when explaining why so many preclinical therapies fail in human trials. Perhaps the mouse isn’t the problem. Failing to account for the physiological changes that occur during aging, both in mice and in people, may be a much bigger reason why so much preclinical research fails to translate to the clinic.

We are at a pivotal moment in the field of longevity and anti-aging research:

Another important advance in aging research has been the development of a concept called geroscience: researchers in this area seek to understand mechanistically how the hallmarks of aging cause age-related disease and functional decline (Sierra and Kohanski, 2017). The growth of the geroscience concept also reflects a recognition that aging research is much closer to clinical application than it was twenty years ago.

As I repeated so many times here, the future of aging depends on us. It’s inevitable (if we don’t eradicate ourselves before that) that we will eventually live much longer than our current lifespan. Whether it happens in the 21st century or the 25th depends on us.

The future of aging research is brighter than ever before, and the pace of discovery is only increasing. We look forward to major breakthroughs over the next few years that will revolutionize the way we think about aging biology and have the potential to significantly impact human healthspan and longevity.


🌱 Wellness

🧘‍♀️ Mental Health & Robots

Our mental health has taken a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, while social distancing means it's harder to meet in person with therapists. That has opened a space for machines to help us.

In a survey published by Oracle, 68% of people reported they would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work. ⚠️

  • 80% said they were open to having a robot as a counsellor or therapist.

  • "Workers said that robots can support their mental health better than humans because they can provide a judgment-free zone."

Many startups are jumping on the opportunity. Maslo is one of them.

  • Maslo uses signal processing techniques to "read" voice, text and even the body language of a human user to identify a baseline level for mental health.

  • "We can extract the linguistic aspects of what a person is saying, but we can also look at acoustic elements as well — volume, loudness, intonation," says Ross Ingram, Maslo's CEO.

  • That data can help Maslo's partners build better executive performance coaches, for example, or even help with online dating.

I don’t know how I feel about this; on the one hand, the mental health crisis requires all of our attention and potentially new tools like this. On the hand, I can’t help but think these solutions further worsen our social skills and ability to feel supported and support other human beings.

What do you think?


If you enjoy this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven't!


🧠 Better Thinking

🎯 Get the Incentives Right

Good thinking often follows the right incentive structure, just as wrong thinking follows the wrong incentive structure. This problem is particularly visible in science & academia. Here’s a paper that outlines how competition to publish first creates a race to the bottom in science:

This paper investigates how competition to publish first and thereby establish priority impacts the quality of scientific research. We begin by developing a model where scientists decide whether and how long to work on a given project. When deciding how long to let their projects mature, scientists trade off the marginal benefit of higher quality research against the marginal risk of being preempted. The most important (highest potential) projects are the most competitive because they induce the most entry. Therefore, the model predicts these projects are also the most rushed and lowest quality. We test the predictions of this model in the field of structural biology using data from the Protein Data Bank (PDB), a repository for structures of large macromolecules. An important feature of the PDB is that it assigns objective measures of scientific quality to each structure. As suggested by the model, we find that structures with higher ex-ante potential generate more competition, are completed faster, and are lower quality. Consistent with the model, and with a causal interpretation of our empirical results, these relationships are mitigated when we focus on structures deposited by scientists who – by nature of their employment position – are less focused on publication and priority.

I’ve already mentioned on multiple occasions here how the problems of academia are dangerous for long term progress, this is another example.

I also enjoyed this article from the latest edition of Work in Progress about the speed of science. It’s a call for more data sharing and collaboration between scientist, and it sums up many of the other problems affecting science.

The practice of sharing data is also the norm in the neighbouring field of genomics. The tradition largely stems from the Human Genome Project, which began in 1990 and aimed to determine the entire code of the human genome. During the project, a group of scientists developed protocols called the Bermuda Principles, which recommended that labs working on the project should upload the details of any new genetic sequences that they discovered onto public data repositories on a daily basis.

The common problem of these problems seems to be a psychological one: ego and wanting to be better than the other.

I think this also applies outside of science. In life and business, sharing your ideas and adopting positive-sum thinking is a much better approach than being concerned by the competition.

There is never any competition with the outside world, only with yourself.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

🔏 Secrets of Sand Hill Road

This week I read Secret of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It by Scott Kupor after a friend in VC recommended it. I’m happy I took the time to read it because of two reasons. First, it’s a great book, straight to the point and enjoyable. Second, I think it’s a must-read for every entrepreneur building a company.

If you’re building something for the long term, want to do things the right way and avoid the many traps along the road, this book is for you. From my experience, building a company is hard because you have so many different things to do. You need to learn fast. One of the dangers I often see is not knowing what you don’t know.

For example, you can’t expect to understand VC as a VC does. However, you can understand the important parts you should pay a lot of attention to, so when they arise, you pause, make sure you understand the extent of your decision thoroughly and then continue.

Speed is great, but when the decision is irreversible, you need to be careful. I took many notes, but all I would say here is that you can’t skip on this book, or just read the summary if you’re building a company.

“Live to fight another day” is another great startup mantra to always keep front and center in your mind.


📚 What I Read

🌐 WebMD, And The Tragedy Of Legible Expertise

Maybe the best article I read so far this year:

The second reason I'm writing this is because people keep asking me "should we listen to experts"?

As usual, the answer is "it depends who you mean by we".

Here's a story which is very flattering and which I hope is true: Zvi gives better advice than the Director of the CDC. This isn't a very legible fact - it's not obvious from the titles each one has - but due to various personal advantages, like having known Zvi for ten years and thinking in the same idiom he does, I'm able to recognize this. I can take Zvi's advice instead of the Director's advice, and benefit from it.

(if you trust me, you probably also trust Zvi now that you’ve read this. But you only trust me because you’ve read me for years, think in the same idiom I do, etc, etc.)

Even if this flattering story is true, it doesn't scale. My personal tendency will be to always trust Zvi. But someone else will decide to always trust *their* friend, a guy in a MAGA cap who says coronavirus is fake and Dr. Fauci is a Satanist. Compared to the median person who disagrees with the experts, the experts look pretty good.

🗺 The New Old World

I’ve developed an increasing interest in geopolitics lately. I tried to read as much as possible about it in the last months, mostly about China, India, and the role of the US in this century.

This week, I particularly enjoyed this piece from Radigan Carter about the current geopolitics of the world. It’s a long article, so here are some highlights I found worth mentioning:

People who don’t think social unrest can spread to systemic risk in the west don’t have experience with real violence.

They think it is edgy and cool to call for violence on twitter and never think it could actually come to their home.

Anyone who has seen instability and conflict is under no illusions.

Is this years away? Yeah probably, but we’re already seeing signs of the changes and the best time to be thinking about things is when most others aren’t.

However this game of global risk plays out, no way most people are understanding the changes that are taking place around them as the new world becomes old again.


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

Here are some episodes I enjoyed lately:

  • The Buddha

  • Francis Ngannou (a 3-hour conversation when Francis tell his story from Cameroon to the US, how he crossed the Gibraltar Strait, leaving Morocco on an inflatable boat after having tried 6 times and being deported back each time to the Sahara Desert, how he became an MMA fighter while being homeless in Paris, and how he finally got to where he is today, fighting for the Heavyweight MMA title. One of the most fascinating stories I ever hear, and a lesson on tenacity and perseverance.)

  • Brian Armstrong on the Crypto Economy


🍭 Brain Food

🤖 The Surprising Appeal of Believing in the Simulation Theory

We’ve talked many times about the Simulation Theory on The Long Game. If you’re not familiar with it, you can read the paper from Nick Bostrom, and here’s the abstract:

This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

This week I read this interesting interview of Rodney Ascher, the director of a trippy new documentary about simulation theory.

Did you find that most people who believe they are living in a simulated world are excited by this idea, or are they terrified?

The ones that I've talked to, most find it an endlessly fascinating idea. But it also raises questions of: What's the simulation for, and what's my role in it? When people make goofy jokes on Twitter when something crazy happens in the news again [about how] that must be a sign that the simulation is buggy or glitching or messed up, in a way, that lowers the stakes. This world is falling off the rails, but it's not the real world any way, so it's not worth getting that upset about.


🎥 What I’m Watching

⏳ Illusions of Time

Thanks to my cousin, I just discovered Vsauce. I can only recommend the channel. Illusions of Time explores why time seems to be passing at different speeds throughout our life.


🔧 The tool of the Week

📅 Superpowered Calendar

I have always been reluctant to try new calendar apps because the cost of switching habits is very high when it comes to calendars. This week, I came across Superpowered, and the simplicity of it looked compelling. In short, it’s one-click quick access to your Zoom & Meet links in the menu bar of your MacBook. I really like it so far.


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

"I am the end or the beginning."

— Franz Kafka.


If you enjoyed this newsletter make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇


👋 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.

Share The Long Game by Mehdi Yacoubi

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

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

PS: Lots of newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it in there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a big difference.

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The Long Game 39: The Upside of Stress, Choice vs Commitment, Effective Executive, Thinking & Doing

🏦 Why Starbucks is a Bank, India and Bitcoin, Kindle, Aspirational Pursuit of Mates in Online Dating Markets, 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:

  • The Upside of Stress

  • Choice vs Commitment

  • Thinking and Doing

  • The Effective Executive

  • Why Starbucks is Bank

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

🤯 The Upside of Stress

A friend of mine recommended me the book: The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at it by Kelly McGonigal. At first, the title sounded so wrong that I didn’t understand what the author could have to say to title the book this way. I tend to enjoy finding information that contradicts my prior beliefs, so I read the book.

I must admit, I was completely wrong about stress.

Here are some ideas from the book:

First, a definition:

Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.

The author then covers all the misconceptions we have about stress and explains that what’s really harmful is the belief that stress is bad and not the actual stress. Another key element explained in the book is the importance of your mindset. A different mindset can change your reality, and multiples studies mentioned in the book show it’s the case with stress. A mindset intervention is a catalyst. It helps you change over the long term.

The Most effective mindset interventions have three parts: 1) learning the new point of view, 2) doing an exercise that encourages you to adopt and apply the new mindset, and 3) providing an opportunity to share the idea with others.

The concept of stress is very misleading because it includes a lot of very different feelings. This book will help you understand all the positive behind this emotion/sensation we feel so often.

Rather than being a sign that something is wrong with your life, feeling stressed can be a barometer for how engaged you are in activities and relationships that are personally meaningful.


🌱 Wellness

⚖️ Choice vs Commitment

This week, I read an essay by Ava that resonated with me:

There’s too much going on all at once: things to do, things to buy, friends to compare yourself to. People getting new jobs, getting engaged, getting married, having children, moving to Hawaii, moving to Colorado, moving back to SF; people starting new diets, starting Substacks and OnlyFans, asking you to watch their Youtube videos. We’re ruled by the constant obligation to create and consume and keep up with our peers. It makes feel vaguely nauseous. You could describe it as the nausea of modernity: too much information, too much optionality and not enough focus.

A lot has been said on the importance of choosing what to focus on—we talked about the Trouble with Optionality a few weeks ago—but in a world driven by stimulation, it’s worth repeating once in a while. There are just too many things to keep up with, and if you’re not careful, your attention and focus will end up on things that don’t matter or will just get lost in the ocean of stuff happening online & offline.

Something that helped me a lot is to deliberately say to myself that I don’t care about some things, and don’t engage in some activities. I find the concept of ‘selective ignorance’ liberating.

You don’t need to be on every social media, know about everything, or pretend knowing everything. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand this and make fun of ignorance instead of celebrating genuine curiosity from people who don’t know it all.


If you enjoy this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven't!


🧠 Better Thinking

🎬 Thinking and Doing

Something needs to be said about people who usually think a lot. It may seem like an obvious advantage to be thoughtful, read and think a lot, but, as often, what sounds obviously good is not. On a personal level, the most successful people I know aren’t necessarily very reflective.

Most decisions we make are reversible and would benefit from speed more than from additional thinking.

I am definitely guilty of overthinking, and something that helped me is the 70% Rule.

The 70% rule is this: Once you’re at 70%, just do it.
The book is 70% done? Launch it.
The project is 70% finished? Ship it
You’re 70% sure about the decision? Make it.

One possible reason for this bias toward too much thinking is that the big business figures sound so smart, always talk about books, and their message is always thoughtful. In this interview, Sriram Krishnan gives an insight I find powerful:

Secret #1: What a lot of people think of as raw IQ from CEOs is actually a) access to information from smart people b) the compounding effects of  (a). When you’re the founder/CEO of an iconic company, you can tap into the knowledge/expertise/raw intellect of the top percentile in any field of your choosing. The compounding effect of that is remarkable because you can sit at the intersection of many domains and see patterns very few can.

Before they became who they are today, these CEOs had a bias for acting fast more than anything else. We shouldn’t forget that.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

🎯 How to be an Effective Executive

I found this essay very interesting and worth mentioning. It’s inspired by a talk that Keith Rabois gave to Founder Fund’s portfolio companies. It advises on how to be an effective manager. (The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker is on my work-related reading list, but I have other priorities before getting to it.)

Here’s the summary:

  • Running yourself

    • Lead, don’t manage: Be proactive rather than reactive. “Lead” your team as opposed to “manage” a situation.

    • Understand your output: Your output is how much your team gets done + how much neighboring teams get done divided by how many people are on your team. Only add someone if they bring up the ratio of output to people.

    • Focus on inputs: Spend time on judging your team’s inputs, i.e. the quality of ideas, not on whether you can move revenue 3x this quarter, i.e. outputs.

    • Spend time on high leverage activities: Do things that have the most impact. Preparing one thing that affects many, like all-hands and dashboards, or do one thing with a lot of impact on one person, like a performance review.

    • Optimize your most valuable resource, your time: Actively manage your calendar and audit it by categorizing how you spend your time. Is it on top priorities? Is it on high leverage activities? Show your team real examples of great calendars. Batch tasks. Focus on the limiting step.

  • Running your team

    • Gather information: Your job as an exec is to make the 4 right calls a year. Can’t do that without all the information so spend time gathering info. Get around filtering mechanisms by wandering the office.

    • Simplify the metrics and objectives: Find indicators as close to the inputs as possible. Make those and your team’s objectives as simple as clear as possible. Make sure the team understands the logical jump from achieving that objective to having a large impact.

    • Meetings and Decisions: 4 types of meetings, 1:1s, staff meetings, decision meetings, operating reviews. Clarify what type of meeting you are having. Make decisions by knowledge rather than position as much as possible and at as low of a level as possible.

    • Peak Performance: Identify whether it is motivation or capability hindering performance. Extend rope to junior people when the downside is low. Always increase their scope.


📚 What I Read

🇮🇳 Why India Should Buy Bitcoin

Balaji makes a case for why India should embrace the crypto revolution and buy Bitcoin. A message that many other countries should follow.

📏 A Few Rules

Morgan Housel is one of my favorite writers. He came up with a few rules I find compelling.

The person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not the best idea. Just the story that catches people’s attention and gets them to nod their heads.

Behavior is hard to fix. When people say they’ve learned their lesson they underestimate how much of their previous mistake was caused by emotions that will return when faced with the same circumstances.

People learn when they’re surprised. Not when they read the right answer, or are told they’re doing it wrong, but when their jaw hits the floor.

The only thing worse than thinking everyone who disagrees with you is wrong is the opposite: being persuaded by the advice of those who need or want something you don’t.

📖 On Reading and Rereading the Classics

Lately, I’ve been considering switching a little bit the books I read, at least for a few months. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I used only to read classic novels (mostly French literature) then I switched to mostly non-fiction.

I may switch back a little bit and revisit some of the classics I read when I was younger. I will most likely discover that I didn’t understand at all what the authors were trying to say!

I remember my literature teacher repeating this quote time and time again:

“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.”

Maybe it’s time for some rereading.


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

I started to feel I’m getting too much content from the same sources—the sources that most people around me are listening to. There isn’t any particular problem with this, but I thought it was time to change the shows I listen to. I haven’t found new ones yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

If you enjoy a podcast that I never mentioned here, let me know!


🍭 Brain Food

📱 Aspirational Pursuit of Mates in Online Dating Markets

With dating shifting online, I find the studies that are now possible to be fascinating. Here’s a study that I came across recently.

Abstract:

Romantic courtship is often described as taking place in a dating market where men and women compete for mates, but the detailed structure and dynamics of dating markets have historically been difficult to quantify for lack of suitable data. In recent years, however, the advent and vigorous growth of the online dating industry has provided a rich new source of information on mate pursuit. We present an empirical analysis of heterosexual dating markets in four large U.S. cities using data from a popular, free online dating service. We show that competition for mates creates a pronounced hierarchy of desirability that correlates strongly with user demographics and is remarkably consistent across cities. We find that both men and women pursue partners who are on average about 25% more desirable than themselves by our measures and that they use different messaging strategies with partners of different desirability. We also find that the probability of receiving a response to an advance drops markedly with increasing difference in desirability between the pursuer and the pursued. Strategic behaviors can improve one’s chances of attracting a more desirable mate, although the effects are modest.


🎥 What I’m Watching

🏦 Why Starbucks is Actually a Bank

I really enjoyed this video explaining why Starbucks and its fidelity program could be considered as a bank. Studying legacy food chains is fascinating, as they’re often in businesses completely different than most people think. Another example is McDonald’s, which isn’t really a fast-food company, but a real estate one.


🔧 The tool of the Week

📚 Kindle

Ok, this week the product is well-known. Still, I know a lot of people resisting the switch to e-books. I get it, physical books are beautiful objects, they smell good, the sound of the page turning is hard to replace. Yet, the Kindle's convenience (both the Kindle Tablet, or the app on your phone/iPad) is unbeatable. It reduced a lot the friction to start a new book and helped me read much more. Plus, if you’re a ‘highlight type of person’, you can sync everything with Readwise, which I find fantastic to remember what I read.

My favorite way of reading right now is to split the iPad screen in two, with Kindle on the left, and Notion on the right to take some notes.


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

“Integrity is the only path where you will never get lost.”

— Mike Maples Jr.


If you enjoyed this newsletter make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇


👋 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.

Share The Long Game by Mehdi Yacoubi

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

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

PS: Lots of newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it in there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a big difference.

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The Long Game 38: The Oxygen Advantage, Efficiency, Writing, Truth Over Ego, Existential Risks

📈 r/WallStreetBets, Fluent Forever, Beauty, Forest App, and Much More!

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

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

In this episode, we explore:

  • The Oxygen Advantage

  • Is Efficiency Dangerous?

  • Thinking in Bets

  • Writing like the great entrepreneurs

  • Learning a new language

  • Existential risks

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

🔗 Assorted Links

I currently have two ongoing projects related to my health:

  • Fix my back pain

  • Improve my breathing

These two projects aren’t finished yet (I’m happy to say that the back pain is 95% fixed—I’m preparing a detailed article to share how I did it) but I thought I’d share some resources about breathing today.

After reading Breath by James Nestor, I got really interested in improving my breathing because let’s be honest, what activity is more important than breathing? None. So it seems like a great idea to get good at it. I picked up The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown, and it’s a great follow up reading after Breath. It gives exercises you can practice to improve your breathing efficiency. I’m at the beginning of the journey, so I won’t say more for now, but I already tried to go for runs breathing only from the nose (as recommended in the book), and it’s very hard!

The purpose of the book is to return you to how you were meant to live and breathe. The author will teach you simple methods that will counteract bad breathing habits, unearthing a new well of cardiovascular fitness that will improve your overall health and well-being. Serious athletes will achieve new performance levels, fitness enthusiasts will unleash untapped potential, and those still trying to manage their health will overcome barriers to a more healthful lifestyle.

Modern living gradually increases the amount of air we breathe, and while getting more oxygen into our lungs might seem like a good idea, it is in fact light breathing that is a testament to good health and fitness. Think of an overweight tourist and an Olympian both arriving for the Summer Games. As they picked up their luggage and carried it up a flight of stairs, whom would you expect to be huffing and puffing? Certainly not the Olympian.


🌱 Wellness

🏎 Is Efficiency Dangerous?

As a society, we worship efficiency. Being more productive, doing more with less, multitasking, same-day delivery, everything around us seems to be geared towards efficiency and tries to remove inefficiency.

This pursuit comes from economics:

Economists teach us that increased efficiency is the major way to improve our standard of living. If your company gives you a pay rise without becoming more efficient, it will also have to raise its prices to make up the shortfall.

We already saw the limits of efficiency at all costs in financial markets:

If the financial crisis taught us that we had become too efficient with our transactions, what of the COVID-19 pandemic? Why hadn’t we stockpiled key supplies and machines, built up hospital capacity, or ensured the robustness of our supply chains? The reason, of course, is that it would have been seen as inefficient and profit-robbing.

Now the question is: what about the individual level? Is all this frenzy around productivity leaving us feeling worse than ever?

This question is one of the rare occasions where I hold two seemingly contradictory beliefs simultaneously. As you might know by now, I like productivity, and I dream of things like life extension and space exploration, which will require an insane amount of work and productivity to reach meaningful results. At the same time, I see some beauty in taking things easy, slowing down, and accepting the necessary frictions in our lives and the system.

I don’t know exactly how to reconcile these life philosophies yet.


If you enjoy this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven't!


🧠 Better Thinking

🏇 Thinking in Bets

Recently, I read Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke, and I loved it. It’s a great book to help you improve your decision-making process and avoid bad decisions. I already mentioned the book last week, but it deserves more than that.

Here are some notes about ideas I found particularly interesting and important:

  • Distinguish the quality of a decision and the result of it.

  • Information that disagrees with us is an assault on our self-narrative. We are wired to protect our beliefs. The smarter you are, the worst it is.

  • The more we consider decisions as a bet, the closer we can get to the truth. We make things explicit.

  • By thinking in terms of % of certainty, it helps consider the information that contradicts our beliefs because we don’t have to go from right to wrong, but only from 55 to 48, for example.

  • Be careful not to assess the process depending on your results.

  • A great tip to improve our decisions: Instead of feeling bad when we made a mistake, what if the bad feeling came from the thought that we might be missing a learning opportunity just to avoid blame.

  • When you’re after the truth, it can be complicated to be around people that aren’t seeking the truth. Not everyone around you needs to take the red pill— truth-seeking is not a cult. Some people in your life can play a balancing role.

  • In the echo chamber era, truth-seeking is hard work.

  • Use backcasting: imagine you reach your goal, how did you do it? Then, walk backward from there.

  • Use premortems: imagine you didn’t achieve your goal, what went wrong? Plan for these setbacks to improve your odds of success.

Many of these ideas are similar to what we already covered in the “Better Thinking” section of this newsletter over the last months. The reason is that the ingredients are not complicated. The application is.

  • It’s very hard not to dismiss immediately something coming from a person you have a very low opinion of.

  • It’s very hard not to take full credit when something turns out particularly well.

  • It’s very hard not to blame a bad outcome on others or on a “black swan event.”

My biggest takeaway is that if you want to make better decisions, you need to leave your ego at the door and retrain yourself to be obsessed with the truth. For example, in a debate with friends, look for the opportunity to change your mind on some ideas instead of looking to “win the debate.”

Enjoy being wrong, and quickly update your views once proven wrong.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

✍️ How to Write Life the Great Entrepreneurs

When teams are more global and distributed, and in-person meetings almost non-existent, writing is more important than ever. It helps communicate clearly, and perhaps above all, think clearly. Chances are, if you can’t write it well, you can’t think it well.

If you can’t write, you can’t raise money. Or recruit. Or sell.

Nivi gives great writing advice in this article, inspired by the writings of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet:

  1. Writing is a customer service problem.

  2. Pretend you’re sending an email.

  3. Sum it up in a tweet.

  4. Read it on your phone.

  5. Don’t write your thought process.

  6. Start with a summary.

  7. Writing is rewriting.

  8. Delete half the words.

  9. Avoid adjectives.

  10. Scrutinize every word for bias.

  11. Kill your darlings.

  12. Don’t apologize.

  13. Use persuasion checklists.

  14. Skim Strunk & White.

  15. Break the rules once you learn the rules.

  16. Writing is a design problem.

My favorites from this list are “Avoid adjectives” and “Scrutinize every word for bias and rhetoric.” Instead here’s what you can do:

  • Use numbers. An adjective is an admission that you don’t know the number.

  • Are they an ‘unruly mob’ or ‘patriots’? Perhaps neither—just call them by their name. Argue the other side of every word, at least to yourself.

Here are other great writing tips from Amazon.


📚 What I Read

🌍 Learning a New Language: Fluent Forever

One of my goals for this year is to learn Serbian. As I started laying out a learning plan, I asked for recommendations on Twitter, and the book Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner was recommended to me. It gives a great method to learn a new language and avoid wasting time on useless learning techniques.

A good method to quickly master a language is:

  • iTalki Classes — for pronunciation and conversation.

  • Anki Flashcards with ~ 3000 words — to have enough vocabulary. Frequency dictionaries are handy to find the most important words to learn.

  • A textbook — for grammar.

On the same topic of language learning, I went down the rabbit hole and found other great resources:

Let me know if you successfully learned a new language recently!

📈 /r/WallStreetBets is trying something unprecedented in history

Most of us followed the crazy events around r/WallStreetBets and Game Stock this week. This is a great write up by Eliezer Yudkowsky explaining what happened and why it’s very important for the future of finance.

The last I heard, Gamestop had 130% short interest outstanding. That is, short-sellers have collectively borrowed, and now collectively owe, 130% as much Gamestop stock as exists anywhere.


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

Here are some episodes I enjoyed lately:


🍭 Brain Food

🌞 The Greatest Privilege We Never Talk About: Beauty

There have been a lot of discussions around privilege and inequalities lately, mostly about race, gender, or sexuality. One dimension that’s very rarely mentioned is beauty. This article does a great job at showing that beauty might be the single most important privilege there is.

Of course, beauty has a lot of importance in dating—that won’t surprise you—but it goes far beyond that:

Attractive people are more likely to be seen as competent and be hired for a job (Busetta, 2013). They are perceived as smarter and having more social grace (Kanasawa, 2010). They are perceived to have better personality qualities like trustworthiness (Dewolf 2014). They are perceived as kinder (Snyder, Tanke and Berscheid 1977). They are more persuasive. They are more likely to benefit from acts of kindness from a stranger. They have greater self esteem (Thornton, 1991).

This bias for beauty can cause real harm. For example, a meta-analysis of the role of attractiveness in criminal sentencing showed that unattractive people received 120—320 % longer sentences than attractive people.

Why aren’t we talking more about this? The first reason is a generalized denial when it comes to physical beauty.

Another explanation is that our biases towards attractive people are so ingrained in our animal brains that we can’t actually change them. Things like racism, sexism, homophobia are mostly socially constructed, and social mores can evolve. Prejudices of the past can become celebrated points of pride. Gen Z children are more sensitive to transphobia in a way that millennial children were not. Millennial children were more sensitive to homophobia in a way that Gen X were not. And so on. But when it comes to physical beauty, has much changed?


🎥 What I’m Watching

☢️ Existential Risks

Since I read The Precipice by Toby Ord, I can’t stop thinking about existential risks. He estimates that nuclear war and climate change each pose more risk than all the natural risks combined and that risks from emerging technologies are higher. Altogether, Ord believes humanity faces a 1 in 6 chance of existential catastrophe by the end of the century.

Most people I know don’t like to think about this, and I totally get it—imagining a doomsday scenario isn’t the most appealing activity—but if no one does anything, how can we avoid the potential large-scale catastrophes resulting from our increasing technological power?

One thing I find concerning is that most people don’t think long term and at the civilization level as this paper suggests:

We conclude that an important reason why people do not find extinction uniquely bad is that they focus on the immediate death and suffering that the catastrophes cause for fellow humans, rather than on the long-term consequences. Finally, we find that (d) laypeople—in line with prominent philosophical arguments—think that the quality of the future is relevant: they do find extinction uniquely bad when this means forgoing a utopian future.

Why are existential risks more important now than ever before, you might ask. Well, that’s because our destructive capacity grew exponentially since the industrial revolution, but our wisdom didn’t.

This video is a great way to understand the risks, both natural and, human-made we’re facing.


🔧 The tool of the Week

🌳 Forest — Stay Focused Be Present

I started using Forest this week. It’s a simple app that gamifies the process of not using your phone. All I can say is that it works for me. My screen time is down 50%. Each time that I’d automatically check my phone, I see a tree growing, and I just put my phone back where it was! Simple and powerful.


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur's indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be-and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.

— Steven Pressfield


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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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Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

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