The Long Game 108: Push-Ups Pull-Ups & Greasing the Groove, Raising Others' Expectations, Terrapunk Manifesto
📱 Tinder Economy, Concorde, The Carbon Offset Problem, Social Media, Your Kids Aren't Doomed, Belief over Time, and Much More!
Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at Vital, and this is The Long Game Newsletter. To receive it in your inbox each week, subscribe here:
In this episode, we explore:
Push-ups & pull-ups
The case against social media
Raising others’ expectations
I wish you bad luck
The Terrapunk manifesto
Let’s dive in!
🏋️♀️ Push-Ups, Pull-Ups, and Greasing the Groove
I’ve been talking frequently about weight training on The Long Game recently, mainly because I reactivated my obsession with strength training. However, I know we all have different hobbies, passions, and time to allocate to exercise.
Still, it’s essential for health and longevity to build and maintain lean muscle mass, so I want to talk about simple ways to do this. If you want to go all-in on strength training, you can refer to previous episodes of the newsletter (and upcoming ones, as it will be a recurring theme), but if not, here’s what I think could help.
In short: greasing the groove style push-ups and pull-ups. “Greasing the Groove” is a method popularized by Russian fitness instructor Pavel Tsatsouline. The idea is to spread a large volume of specific exercises throughout the day to minimize the recovery time needed. For example: if you get a pull-up bar at home, you’d do a set of 50-80% of your max each time you pass under the bar.
This article can help you master the push-up, and for the pull-up, you can start by getting some assistance using elastic bands. Then, you could get solid results either by taking the “greasing the groove approach” throughout the day or by doing it for just 10—15 minutes per day.
On a personal note: I used to do 150—200 push-ups just before sleep and managed to build a fair amount of muscle like that in my prep school days. And more recently, I’ve been experimenting with 100 daily pull-ups and saw significant improvement.
All that to say, you don’t need to devote hours of your day to the gym to get going and build/maintain your muscle mass to stay strong while you age. “I don’t have the time” isn’t a worthy excuse 😉
📱 The Case Against Social Media
I listened to this recent conversation with Jonathan Haidt about social media and was struck by this comment:
The conversation was excellent, and I particularly liked the part about Instagram. Haidt explains that not all social media are created equal in their impact on kids’ mental health. Instagram is the particularly harmful one, and he recommends parents prevent kids as much as possible from using Instagram.
I haven’t read all the research about this and can only talk from personal experience and observing people around me: I fully agree with Haidt's statement regarding how bad Instagram is for young girls.
I highly recommend checking the entire episode.
For more, pair it with:
Why the past ten years of American life have been uniquely stupid
Social Media and Political Dysfunction: A Collaborative Review
🧠 Better Thinking
👎 I Wish You Bad Luck
The idea that setbacks can be blessings in disguise isn’t just to make you or anyone that just had a setback feel better. It’s 100% true but it depends on how you perceive that specific setback.
I really liked this speech from Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts.
Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.
Read the full transcript here.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🥇 Raising Others’ Aspirations
I came across this great article by Tyler Cowen on how impactful raising others’ aspirations can be. It’s very much applicable in the context of an early-stage team.
Yesterday I had lunch with a former Ph.D student of mine, who is now highly successful and tenured at a very good school. I was reminded that, over twenty years ago, I was Graduate Director of Admissions. One of my favorite strategies was to take strong candidates who applied for Masters and also offer them Ph.D admissions, suggesting they might to do the latter. My lunch partner was a beneficiary of this de facto policy.
At least two of our very best students went down this route. Ex ante, neither realized that it was common simply to apply straight to a Ph.D program, skipping over the Masters. I believe this is now better known, but the point is this.
At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly, especially when they are relatively young, simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind. It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them, and to the broader world, may be enormous.
This is in fact one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and with your life.
📚 What I Read
👨👩👧👦 Your Kids Are Not Doomed
A prevalent idea is that having kids adds to the climate change problem. It’s entirely wrong.
Over the past few years, I’ve been asked one question more than any other. It comes up at speeches, at dinners, in conversation. It’s the most popular query when I open my podcast to suggestions, time and again. It comes in two forms. The first: Should I have kids, given the climate crisis they will face? The second: Should I have kids, knowing they will contribute to the climate crisis the world faces?
And it’s not just me. A 2020 Morning Consult poll found that a quarter of adults without children say climate change is part of the reason they didn’t have children. A Morgan Stanley analysis found that the decision “to not have children owing to fears over climate change is growing and impacting fertility rates quicker than any preceding trend in the field of fertility decline.”
But one thing I’ve noticed, after years of reporting on climate change: The people who have devoted their lives to combating climate change keep having children. I hear them playing in the background of our calls. I see them when we Zoom. And so I began asking them why.
“I unequivocally reject, scientifically and personally, the notion that children are somehow doomed to an unhappy life,” Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at Columbia, told me.
To bring a child into this world has always been an act of hope. The past was its own parade of horrors. The best estimates we have suggest that across most of human history, 27 percent of infants didn’t survive their first year and 47 percent of people died before puberty. And life was hard, even if you were lucky enough to live it.
🏗 the terrapunk manifesto
A must-read manifesto for what is, in my opinion, a better movement than Solarpunk:
I don't want to waste words demonizing Solarpunk, but it seems necessary. I get it, I used to like Solarpunk - the greenery, preventing climate change, and being pro-tech. But now I believe Solarpunk has its flaws. For the key tenet of Solarpunk is that humans will live in harmony with the earth, and through this vagueness and lack of vision, it was corrupted.
I have never heard the terms human maximization, population expansion, or resource creation in solarpunk - and they are not once mentioned in the original conception. For to live in harmony with the earth is to imply a reduction of growth and resource usage. Even if successful, there is always the sense that climate change is right around the corner, and if one were to use fossil fuels, the whole ecosystem would collapse. Have you ever seen any rocket launches depicted in solarpunk? One might say "but we are happy on earth, we have everything we need!".
Even in the most fantastical depictions of solarpunk, there is always the sense that they are still on earth. Yet, remaining on earth is fundamentally anti-human. Either the population expands, and we create denser buildings (human atomization), or the population declines so we can each have enough space (human minimization). Neither of these are futures I want to live in, for they are both about reducing humans for the betterment of Earth. Being constrained to earth is untenable for expanding humanity - it is stagnation, and stagnation is collapse.
✨ belief over time
A mandatory reminder that belief isn’t constant through time:
I think a lot about the fluctuations of belief—the inevitable up and downs of maintaining engagement with something over long periods of time. Most people seem to think that love is unchanging versus merely enduring, that if you’re really passionate about something you wake up excited to do it every day. I don’t believe that’s true. In fact, it sets you up for failure—you start out in a manic rush of excitement, believing that the framework or cause or person you’ve found will be your salvation, and after a while you become disenchanted. If you think disenchantment is a sign of disaster, you’ll probably abandon what you’re doing. In order to stick with anything for a long period of time, you have to believe that disenchantment is a normal, healthy part of experience. Continuity is only possible if change is factored in.
🍭 Brain Food
📱 Tinder Economy
I find Tinder experiments fascinating because they can tell us things that would have been almost impossible to tell back when online dating wasn’t a thing. This article shows how extremely unequal the Tinder economy is and gives some pretty crazy numbers 🤯
The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality where everyone has the same income (damn commies) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality where one person has all the income and everyone else has zero income (let them eat cake). The United States currently has one of the higher Gini coefficients (most income inequality) of all of the world’s biggest economies at a value of 0.41. The Tinder Gini coefficient is even higher at 0.58. This may not seem like a big difference but it is actually huge. Figure 3 compares the income Gini coefficient distribution for 162 nations and adds the Tinder economy to the list. The United States Gini coefficient is higher than 62% of the world’s countries. The Tinder economy has a higher Gini coefficient than 95.1% of the countries in the world. The only countries that have a higher Gini coefficient than Tinder are Angola, Haiti, Botswana, Namibia, Comoros, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, and Seychelles (which I had never heard of before).
And here’s more!
As I stated previously the average female “likes” 12% of men on Tinder. This doesn't mean though that most males will get “liked” back by 12% of all the women they “like” on Tinder. This would only be the case if “likes” were equally distributed. In reality, the bottom 80% of men are fighting over the bottom 22% of women and the top 78% of women are fighting over the top 20% of men. We can see this trend in Figure 1. The area in blue represents the situations where women are more likely to “like” the men. The area in pink represents the situations where men are more likely to “like” women. The curve doesn’t go down linearly, but instead drops quickly after the top 20% of men. Comparing the blue area and the pink area we can see that for a random female/male Tinder interaction the male is likely to “like” the female 6.2 times more often than the female “likes” the male.
🎥 What I’m Watching
⚠️ The Carbon Offset Problem
When it looks all good and simple on paper, you can bet that something isn’t working as intended. The example of the carbon offset scam:
🛫 What Actually Happened to the Concorde
The Concord used to do London ✈️ NYC in 2 hours 53 minutes. What happened?
Supersonic Planes are Coming Back (And This Time, They Might Work)
🔧 The Tool of the Week
⚖️ Untools — Tools for Better Thinking
A collection of thinking tools and frameworks to help you solve problems, make decisions, and understand systems.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.
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