The Long Game 116: Electrolytes & Hydration, Digital Sabbath, Productivity Tools, Being Positive
🤖 Reject the Algorithm, The Nova Effect, LMNT, Reading Ourselves to Death, Homework, 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:
Electrolytes & hydration
Reject the algorithm
Let’s dive in!
🧂 Electrolytes & Hydration
After seeing the topic of electrolytes and hydration from afar for months, I decided to dive in a learn a bit about it. This was motivated by the extreme heat in Europe and my thinking that my hydration was far from optimal.
A brand that kept coming back in my research was LMNT, and they have some great blog posts explaining everything you need to know on the topic. I particularly like this one.
Why you need electrolytes
Along with water, your body also needs sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride. These minerals—called electrolytes—regulate a staggering number of processes in the human body. For instance:
Sodium helps with fluid balance and muscle contraction
Potassium helps with blood pressure and the beating of your heart
Magnesium helps with muscle contraction, heart function, and even anxiety
We absorb electrolytes through food and drink, and excrete them through sweat, urine, and feces. If one side of this equation becomes skewed (from heavy sweating, diarrhea, etc), an electrolyte imbalance can result. Electrolyte deficiency in particular leads to symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps.
If you don’t take electrolytes after sweating, you’re prone to feel lousy. This is especially true if you practice fasting or follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Why? Because your kidneys excrete more sodium in a low-insulin state. And a low-insulin state is consequent of not eating carbohydrates. Many folks don’t realize this.
I only realized it myself relatively recently after my coaches at Ketogains—Tyler and Luis—helped me dial in my electrolytes. When I added more salt to my low-carb diet, not only did my jiu jitsu performance increase, but my everyday energy increased too.
Here’s LMNT’s founder protocol when it comes to hydration:
I train Brazilian jiu-jitsu three to five times per week. Before each session, I take a stick of LMNT electrolytes in 16-24 ounces of water. This replaces the sodium, potassium, and magnesium I know I’ll lose through sweat.
Most of the time, I only take electrolytes. Totally fat-fueled. But depending on my competition and training duration, I occasionally use targeted doses of glucose to augment my performance. (You can easily find glucose powder or tablets online.)
Pair with: Using Salt to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance | Huberman Lab Podcast #63
🚫 Digital Sabbath: the Partially Offline Society
I really liked the idea of a Digital Sabbath in The Network State. I think this is the future.
Cars are on balance a good thing. But you can overdo them. Mid-century America did. It obscured the San Francisco waterfront with ugly elevated highways, impeding the walkability of this beautiful area. That highway was removed in the late 20th century. And the removal was an acknowledgement that sometimes we can have too much of a good thing.
24/7 internet connectivity is like that. It’s good that we’re doing things like Starlink, to bring internet access to the entire world, to provide free online education, and to get them into the global economy.
But it’s bad if you can never disconnect from the internet. That’s why apps like “Freedom” are so popular. That’s why people use commitment devices like timed cookie jars to hide their phones. That’s why apps like Twitter and Snapchat got popular on the basis of artificial constraints, like limited characters or disappearing messages, because they were optimizing for fallible humans rather than infallible machines. That’s why Tsinghua cuts off the internet at night, why Apple now provides screen time metrics, and why books like Atomic Habits and Indistractible sell so well.
What if this optimization for fallibility didn’t have to be an individual thing? What if there were a society that helped you with internet distractions and self-control, that recognized that the internet was good, but that times and places without the internet were also good — just as cars are good, but a San Francisco waterfront without cars is also good?
One way of accomplishing this would be a Digital Sabbath society where the internet is just shut off at night, from 9pm to 9am. Some buildings and rooms would furthermore be enclosed in Faraday cages, to put them offline on purpose. Areas would start to be flagged as online and offline areas, a bit like smoking and non-smoking areas on planes. All internet use would be conscious and focused, as opposed to unconscious and involuntary.
Over time, such a society could even try to build apps to give individuals back control over their internet use, with open source machine learning tools running locally on devices in a privacy-protecting way to prioritize notifications, block distractions, and encourage productivity.
The Digital Sabbath society is an example of a network archipelago that’s focused on improving self-control around internet use. For obvious reasons, you’d need a physical footprint, and wouldn’t be able to do this purely digitally.
🧠 Better Thinking
🛠 On Productivity Tools
If you’re on Twitter, you might have seen a productivity backlash happening:
It started with this meme:
If you’re a long-time reader of The Long Game, you know I had my “productivity phase.” I tried and used most apps at the center of the bell curve (and others), and I still use some productivity apps. I’m not relying entirely on Apple Notes (yet?). However, I totally agree with the general sentiment of this meme.
A ‘productivity porn’ era was started a few years ago by some Youtubers and people selling courses on how to create a second brain and optimize your note-taking. I think that at first, watching a few videos like this does no wrong. Still, for some mysterious reasons, many people seem to get caught up in trying to constantly have a perfectly optimized note-taking, personal knowledge management system.
Paradoxically, people who get the most things done don’t seem to think about this problem nearly as much as the growing productivity niche. Why is that?
I think it’s because, for the most part, focusing on productivity is the perfect procrastination. It feels good, it feels like progress, it feels like you’ll be able to unlock a superpower once your Roam graph is all filled with knowledge, but this just isn’t the reality. I’m not against note-taking and productivity per se. I just can’t ignore that this isn’t the key to outstanding output and insights. It’s just an irresistible trap, at least at first.
Right now, I’m way less focused on the tools I use and always ask myself, “isn’t this new tool a form of procrastination?” whenever I’m about to fall into the trap again.
In the words of Sam Altman:
Also, don’t fall into the trap of productivity porn—chasing productivity for its own sake isn’t helpful. Many people spend too much time thinking about how to perfectly optimize their system, and not nearly enough asking if they’re working on the right problems. It doesn’t matter what system you use or if you squeeze out every second if you’re working on the wrong thing.
The right goal is to allocate your year optimally, not your day.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
📱 Musical.ly's Alex Zhu on Igniting Viral Growth and Building a User Community
I came across this great interview with Alex Zhu on how they built a viral machine at Musically (the older name of TikTok.)
Here are some notes:
Content has to be extremely light. Content creation has to be possible within SECONDS!
Mobile phones are used to communicate & entertain, follow human nature with the product you’re building, and don’t try to change it.
It’s better to have young people as early adopters; they have a lot of time and are creative.
Before you have enough users, you need to focus on utility.
Building a community is very similar to running a country/economy. There are a lot of economic policies you can learn from. Building a community from scratch is like discovering land, and you want to build an economy and a population, and you want people to migrate to your country. In existing countries, social classes are already established. Now you have a new land. At first, you have to build a centralized economy, meaning that you need to distribute wealth to a small percentage of people to make sure these people get rich first. Then these people become role models to other people, and then a lot of people come to your country. Very importantly, you have to do decentralization at the same time.
Music isn’t the end goal of theirs, just raw material. Ex: Jason Derulo launches a song, millions of TikToks, helps the singer a lot.
The app's usage needs to be daily: they made video production a habit. A major shift happened when the content didn’t come from the camera roll. It became something you do in-app.
You have to change the value prop to get major growth.
Before signing up, show onboarding videos to change the perception of the product if needed. A lot of experimentations are required here.
Initially, When you landed on Musically, you got a hand-curated feed.
Make sure people “invest” in your product directly, for example, making users post as quickly as possible.
Tiktok, Emergent Creativity, The Limits of Social Graphs, and whatever else Eugene talked about (E1)
📚 What I Read
🤖 Reject the Algorithm
I find the Twitter feed has changed for the words lately, promoting way too many useless, growth-hacky threads.
This article is good at explaining why you shouldn't play this game and focus instead on the long game:
Instead of publishing news based on principles, the mainstream media have resorted to click bait and supporting fringe beliefs in order to attract more eyeballs. The algorithms have consumed them like everyone else.
But you don’t have to blindly follow the algorithms to get ahead. Consider Paul Graham or Morgan Housel. Both have never spent any time engaging in “growth hacks” or “engagement bait,” yet they are some of the most successful writers on the internet.
What’s their secret? They focus relentlessly on the quality of their writing and ideas. Because quality never goes out of style. And when you focus on quality, you don’t have to play by the rules of the algorithm at all. You can reject the algorithm altogether and create success in your own way.
☠️ Reading Ourselves to Death
A thought-provoking piece on reading too much:
Every minute, humans send 220 million emails, 70 million WhatsApp and Facebook messages, 16 million texts, 530,000 tweets, and make 6 million Google searches. The journalist Nick Bilton has estimated that each day the average Internet user now sees as many as 490,000 words — more than War and Peace. If an alien landed on Earth today, it might assume that reading and writing are our species’ main function, second only to sleeping and well ahead of eating and reproducing.
Our immersion in the written word is but one ingredient in a cocktail of changes we have experienced thanks to cell phones and the Internet, and filtering out all the other factors and isolating the consequences of just text is impossible. Even if we could, we would have to account for the quality of reading too, as much of it involves skimming and darting around the page. But the sheer quantity matters. As both literacy theorists and neuroscientists attest, reading and writing have a profound effect on the way we think.
👍 How to Talk to People: Econ vs. Psych
On being positive:
You want to get the most out of the people you deal with. Prudentially speaking, what’s the best way to treat them?
Basic economics has a fairly clear-cut answer: Be negative.
If they’re selling you a gourd, say, “What a crummy gourd. Why would I want this piece of junk?”
If they’re working for you, say, “What do I pay you for? You’re practically useless.”
If they’re married to you, say, “You’re no prize. I could easily find someone better than you.”
The reasoning is simple: When you express negativity, you signal a low willingness to pay.
Before you embrace ultra-negativity, however, you should pause and reflect. Yes, expressing negativity sometimes prods people into offering you better deals. But another common effect of expressing negativity is to alienate others. To sour amicable relations. To lose friends. To get divorced.
What’s the alternative? Basic psychology typically says: Be positive. Smile. Be friendly. Talk nicely.
How, the economist would ask, is all this positivity supposed to help the speaker? Simple. Positivity makes other human beings like you. Maybe even love you. When you spread sunshine wherever you go, psychologically normal humans don’t have to wonder how to respond. They impulsively yearn to reciprocate: You smile; they smile back.
🍭 Brain Food
📝 Fewer students are benefiting from doing their homework
No one really liked doing their homework, but it used to be clear that doing them would help you become better. It’s still the case, but we should specify doing them without copying the internet…
Here’s an interesting paper:
Performance on homework questions was compared with performance on related exam questions querying the same fact or principle, was used to assess the effect of answering online homework questions on subsequent exam performance.
A distinctive pattern of performance was found for some students in which superior performance on online homework questions resulted in poorer exam performance.
When assessed over an eleven-year period, for 2433 students in 12 different college lecture courses, the percent of students who did not benefit from correctly answering homework questions increased from 14% in 2008 to 55% in 2017.
During the most recent two years of the study, when students were asked how they did their homework, students who benefitted from homework reported generating their own answers and students who reported copying the answers from another source did not benefit from homework.
🎥 What I’m Watching
📣 The case against woke culture | Brian Armstrong and Lex Fridman
Brian goes into detail to explain his Coinbase is a mission focused company piece.
Pair with: Shopify is a sports team, not a family.
🃏 The Nova Effect II - The Blessing of Bad Luck
🔧 The Tool of the Week
I started taking an LMNT stick right after waking up, and just before training, I can already feel the effect of it. It had a strong taste at first, but I’m already used to it. I like the watermelon flavor.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
Your biggest enemy is the version of yourself that wants to settle for comfort.
Thanks for reading!
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Until next week,
Productivity Porn is another aspect of the "Collectors Fallacy", the idea that you're smarter because you collected one more thing: you read a book, heard a podcast, clipped an article. You don't really own something until you *do* something with it.