The Long Game 127: Chronic Fatigue & Chronic Conditions, Holiday Destinations, Region Beta Paradox, Embracing the Grind
🇺🇸 America’s 21st Century, How the CCP Works, Dating, Jump Rope, TikTok, Culture Wars, 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:
The region beta paradox
Double standards in dating
Let’s dive in!
🔂 Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue & Chronic Conditions
I saw a lot of tweets about chronic fatigue recently. This is a topic near to my heart as I had a “chronic fatigue syndrome” for a year after a virus infection.
I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but I think sharing my experience and some resources could be beneficial.
Here’s how I would advise myself if I could go back in time:
first, check with a doctor to make sure nothing serious is going on
then get blood tests done to remove the possibility of diseases or clear nutrient deficiencies
make sure your mental health is in a good place
once that’s done, and all major/dangerous causes are removed from the potential diagnosis—which will be the case for 90+% of people (my guess, don’t quote me on this)—that’s when the real problem starts for so many people
at that point, my advice is: stop thinking something is wrong with you, stop listening to yourself all day long, stop thinking that you’re tired, stop accepting this status quo of constant fatigue, and force yourself to live your life as if you weren’t tired or sick
You might start to think this is very similar to the mind-body approach for chronic back pain I’ve shared so many times already, and you would be 100% correct. I believe that most chronic pain & chronic fatigue are mind-body syndromes that can be treated as such.
I’m not a scientist studying this, but I’m also not the only one saying this. Here are some resources:
Hurts so good: how diseases can become your identity
But after she got the diagnosis, after finally being admitted to this community of fellow sufferers, she started scanning their posts. They were in hospital beds and crying. They made her feel like she'd never get better, ever. “You can get addicted to being sad, and sick, and the attention you receive,” Marshal told me. “The ‘misery loves company’ thing makes you sicker.”
Another reason for spoonies’ failure to improve may be “secondary gain,” Assaf said. “There might be something you're gaining by having this diagnosis, like that it’s keeping you from a job that you hate, or from responsibilities that you don’t want to do.”
🛫 Why we pick the wrong holiday destinations
I liked this article exploring why we routinely pick the wrong holiday destinations. I think the insights apply to more than just holiday destination picking.
By contrast Paris has the Mona Lisa and a big tower; London has a really big clock, and a bridge that opens, and buses which foreigners find odd. Combine this with young people’s weird compulsion to take selfies in front of famous places and I fear we shall see the over-concentration of tourism only getting worse.
But this mechanism does present opportunities for creative regeneration. It needn’t be a Guggenheim or a Burj Khalifa. The Japanese town of Kanazawa was widely attacked for spending more than $200,000 of Covid relief funds on a 45ft-long statue of a squid. It now turns out that, by raising visitor numbers, the squid has already paid for itself 22 times over and has created 38 jobs.
Given the returns on some of these efforts, it’s a shame they aren’t more common. I suspect that’s because they involve a degree of eccentricity, which pains conventional decision makers. Yet it’s the weirder ideas that work best. I once travelled to Newhaven solely to see its wonderfully bizarre memorial to Ho Chi Minh. It seems that as well as being a son of a bitch with blue balls, crabs and the seven-year itch (as they sang in Full Metal Jacket), Uncle Ho briefly worked as a pastry chef on the ferry to Dieppe.
Pair with: Travel Is No Cure for the Mind
🧠 Better Thinking
🅱️ Region Beta Paradox
Since I came across the region beta paradox, I can’t stop thinking about it and seeing it everywhere.
Imagine you have a rule: you always walk whenever you’re traveling a mile or less, and you always drive whenever you’re going more than a mile. If you follow that rule, you will, paradoxically, travel two miles faster than you travel one mile. That’s the region beta paradox.
This effect has largely been forgotten, and that’s a shame because the region beta paradox points out something important: if you only take action when things cross a certain threshold of badness, sometimes better things can feel worse than worse things. If you feel miserable for a month, you might go to therapy. But if you feel a little bleh for a month, you might never do anything about it—“I mean, I’m not depressed”—and a month of bleh can stretch into years.
Look around and you’ll found lots of people stuck in region beta: the guy who sticks around his just-okay job instead of ditching it for the chance of something better, the couple who should break up but can’t bring themselves to do it, the friend who refuses to get a new apartment because their current one only has some black mold. All of these people would actually be better off if their situations were worse, because they’d leave their jobs, partners, and apartments, and be glad they did. Their only regret would be not leaving sooner.
If you think about it, you’ll see many instances of region β in your own life. It could be worthwhile to start addressing problems before they cross the line and become “big problems that I must address right now.”
A trick knee hurts longer than a shattered patella because the latter injury exceeds the critical threshold for pain and thereby triggers the very processes that attenuate it.
— Gilbert et al. 2004
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🔨 Embrace the Grind
I really liked this article by Jacob Kaplan-Moss on embracing the grind when building something. It’s a simple idea, but it needs to be repeated all the time, as the “life hacks” and “work hacks” ‘get 2x the outcome in half the time’ are too tempting and too popular.
I often have people newer to the tech industry ask me for secrets to success. There aren’t many, really, but this secret — being willing to do something so terrifically tedious that it appears to be magic — works in tech too.
We’re an industry obsessed with automation, with streamlining, with efficiency. One of the foundational texts of our engineering culture, Larry Wall’s virtues of the programmer, includes laziness:
Laziness: The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and document what you wrote so you don’t have to answer so many questions about it.
I don’t disagree: being able to offload repetitive tasks to a program is one of the best things about knowing how to code. However, sometimes problems can’t be solved by automation. If you’re willing to embrace the grind you’ll look like a magician.
For example, I once joined a team maintaining a system that was drowning in bugs. There were something like two thousand open bug reports. Nothing was tagged, categorized, or prioritized. The team couldn’t agree on which issues to tackle. They were stuck essentially pulling bugs at random, but it was never clear if that issue was important.. New bug reports couldn’t be triaged effectively because finding duplicates was nearly impossible. So the open ticket count continued to climb. The team had been stalled for months. I was tasked with solving the problem: get the team unstuck, get reverse the trend in the open ticket count, come up with a way to eventually drive it down to zero.
So I used the same trick as the magician, which is no trick at all: I did the work. I printed out all the issues - one page of paper for each issue. I read each page. I took over a huge room and started making piles on the floor. I wrote tags on sticky notes and stuck them to piles. I shuffled pages from one stack to another. I wrote ticket numbers on whiteboards in long columns; I imagined I was Ben Affleck in The Accountant. I spent almost three weeks in that room, and emerged with every bug report reviewed, tagged, categorized, and prioritized.
📚 What I Read
🔫 A Psychological Theory of the Culture War
A fascinating read.
The American culture war is part of a global trend. The German far right marches against covid restrictions and immigration. In France, Le Pen wins the countryside and gets crushed in urban centers. Throughout the developed world you see the same cleavages opening up, with an educated urban elite that is more likely to support left-wing parties, and an exurban and rural populist backlash that looks strikingly similar across different societies.
What explains this? I think a good theory needs to do two main things. First, it has to explain things that are happening globally by pointing to factors that are operating across borders; otherwise we wouldn’t see the same trends everywhere we look. Second, it needs to explain why this polarization appears to be particularly bad in the United States, hopefully being able to isolate variables that exist here and not in other nations.
Pair with: The Elite Overproduction Hypothesis
☠️ Why did comedy die?
How changing culture and movie economics killed the Golden Age of Comedy
If cultural progression stopped after the 1990s, comedy died around 2012.
The age of Wedding Crashers, Tropic Thunder, 30 Rock, The Hangover, Colbert, Jon Stewart was over. The age of sanctimony, Hannah Gadsby, MeToo and Trump rage had begun.
So what happened, man?
I have a few theories:
A new age of sanctimony: feminisation and Trump
Comedy and the Great Man theory of creation
It’s the movies, stupid (superheroes and China)
Pair with: Matt Damon Reveals Why Movies Suck Today
🚷 Little Rules About Big Things
Some thought-provoking rules for life.
It’s easy to mistake “I’m good at this” with “Others are bad at this” in a way that makes you overestimate how valuable your skills are.
It’s important to know the difference between rosy optimism and periods of chaos that trend upward.
If your expectations grow faster than your income you’ll never be happy with your money no matter how much you accumulate.
Having no FOMO might be the most important investing skill.
Few things are as valuable in the modern world as a good bullshit detector.
⚠️ TikTok Parent ByteDance Planned To Use TikTok To Monitor The Physical Location Of Specific American Citizens
The crazy TikTok saga continues.
But the material reviewed by Forbes indicates that ByteDance's Internal Audit team was planning to use this location information to surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes. Forbes is not disclosing the nature and purpose of the planned surveillance referenced in the materials in order to protect sources. TikTok and ByteDance did not answer questions about whether Internal Audit has specifically targeted any members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists.
Pair with: This thread exposes the illegal tracking TikTok is doing
🍭 Brain Food
📱 The Rise of Empowered/Lonely, Single Women/Men
I recently came across two different articles presenting somewhat similar situations in radically different ways:
Additionally, I found this Morgan Stanley report on the SHEconomy very interesting and telling.
In the coming years, another demographic trend could help further close the pay gap in the U.S.: the rising ranks of single working women. Based on Census Bureau historical data and Morgan Stanley forecasts, 45% of prime working age women (ages 25-44) will be single by 2030—the largest share in history—up from 41% in 2018.
What’s driving this trend? For starters, more women are delaying marriage, choosing to stay single or divorcing in their 50s and 60s. Women are also delaying childbirth or having fewer children than in the past.
“These shifting lifestyle norms are enabling more women, with or without children, to work full time, which should continue to raise the labor force participation rate among single females,” says Zentner. Rising labor-force participation rates should put upward pressure on women’s wages and help increase overall consumer spending.
Celebrating more participation from women in the economy is great, but being so focused on the economy to celebrate single women on the sole basis that they have a higher economic output is striking.
Pair with: Many Women Underestimate Fertility Clock's Clang
Also pair with: 9 Things That Make a Man Seem Creepy
🎥 What I’m Watching
🇨🇳 How the Chinese Communist Party Works
Pair with: Why I think an invasion of Taiwan probably means WW3
🇺🇸 America’s 21st Century
🔧 The Tool of the Week
🕴 Jump Rope
I used to do a lot of jump rope during the Covid lockdowns, but less so in the last year. I restarted a few days ago and forgot how good it felt. I think jump rope is the perfect cardio — time efficient, fun, a lot of room to progress and learn tricks, low impact, and burns many calories.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.
— V. E Frankl
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Until next week,