The Long Game 140: Blueprint, Luxury Beliefs, Pleasure, Angel Investors, Duolingo
👨👩👧👦 Remote Work, The Next Wave of Social, CrossFit & PEDs, Anxiously Attached, Sexual loneliness, and Much More!
In this episode, we explore:
Let’s dive in!
Bryan Johnson’s Blueprint has repeatedly made the news over the last months. We covered it here when it was just released, but it’s interesting to talk a bit more about it as it’s gaining popularity.
Last week this article was published on Bloomberg: How to Be 18 Years Old Again for Only $2 Million a Year.
Novak Djokovic, age 35, sometimes hangs out in a pressurized egg to enrich his blood with oxygen and gives pep talks to glasses of water, hoping to purify them with positive thinking before he drinks them. Tom Brady, 45, evangelizes supposedly age-defying supplements, hydration powders and pliability spheres. LeBron James, 38, is said to spend $1.5 million a year on his body to keep Father Time at bay. While most of their contemporaries have retired, all three of these elite athletes remain marvels of fitness. But in the field of modern health science, they’re amateurs compared to Bryan Johnson.
Johnson, 45, is an ultrawealthy software entrepreneur who has more than 30 doctors and health experts monitoring his every bodily function. The team, led by 29-year-old regenerative medicine physician Oliver Zolman, has committed to help reverse the aging process in every one of Johnson’s organs. Zolman and Johnson obsessively read the scientific literature on aging and longevity and use Johnson as a guinea pig for the most promising treatments, tracking the results every way they know how. Getting the program up and running required an investment of several million dollars, including the costs of a medical suite at Johnson’s home in Venice, California. This year, he’s on track to spend at least $2 million on his body. He wants to have the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, tendons, teeth, skin, hair, bladder, penis and rectum of an 18-year-old.
In the eyes of most, Bryan’s approach is extreme.
Johnson has heard his share of criticism from people who’ve accused him of having an eating or psychological disorder or of being a delusional health zealot going about life in the most boring, restrictive way possible. The handful of doctors I’ve interviewed on Johnson’s team all say he’s breaking ground in the field of longevity and probably extending his life, but even they have questions about whether their conclusions will apply to the rest of us. “I think what he’s doing is impressive, and he has personally challenged me to be better,” says Kristin Dittmar, an interventional oncologist. “What he does is also essentially a full-time job.” She also stresses that cancer, her specialty, has genetic components that no cutting-edge science, let alone juices or creams, can yet beat.
One way to pass his gains along to others, Johnson says, might be radical transparency. He has a website where he posts his entire course of treatment and all his test results. And, now, he’s launching another site, Rejuvenation Olympics, that encourages fellow travelers to do the same. The idea is to move away from the latest fads in favor of more rigorous medical science and a dash of competition. The more popular this type of lifestyle becomes, the cheaper and more readily available some of the procedures Johnson tries might be. “If you say that you want to live forever or defeat aging, that’s bad—it’s a rich person thing,” Johnson says. “If it’s more akin to a professional sport, it’s entertainment. It has the virtues of establishing standards and protocols. It benefits everyone in a systemic way.”
I like Bryan’s dedication to radical life extension, but for some reason, I’m always conflicted when reading his experiments. Maybe it comes from the fact that I never felt better than when not obsessing over my health, so I’m biased into thinking that health obsession itself undermines my long-term health goals.
Still, I think that Bryan’s rigorous self-experiments could really provide a Blueprint for future longevity-promoting lifestyles. He’s a guinea pig of that extreme health optimization, and we’ll all benefit from his experiments as he shares them.
Many people reject this outright, but I believe we should resist this even if we aren’t a fan of it. Some of the rejection comes from scientists in the field, while other forms of rejection come from everyday people, and I believe that a lot of this is motivated by people who don’t want to feel that there might be a future where optimal health would require much more work on the side of the individual.
On a personal level, I’m not doing any extreme health experimentation anytime soon. Still, I believe that pioneers like Bryan could accelerate the era of complete health optimization with radically better outcomes than today. I’ll keep it simple for a few more years and master the basics (build a large and healthy family, train hard and become an athlete, sleep, and eat correctly.)
A last point worth mentioning is the life stage Bryan is at. He’s already extremely wealthy. That’s a point covered in this episode with Lex on the merit of an all-in approach early on in life vs. an over-optimized routine. It is very likely (certain in my opinion) that Bryan wouldn’t have had the success he’s had with Venmo if so much of his mental bandwidth was taken by his nutrition, sleep, hundred of blood tests, etc.
Pair with: The Rejuvenation Olympics
🧘♀️ Pure Pleasure Isn't What You Want
I found this piece on jhānas (jhānas are bliss states that can be accessed by meditators with a bit of practice) very interesting:
Well, I can do jhānas. I’m not the most studied jhāna person, but I’m pretty decent at them. I’ve touched all eight of the classic set, and I can reliably get up to the fifth and reside in it stably. And I can tell you that, indeed, they are pretty astonishingly pleasurable. The first time I really hit the first jhāna, I was really surprised. And, for the first two months after jhānas became accessible to me, they became the core of my meditation practice.
But I then got tired of them pretty fast. I go back to them maybe once or twice a month. And this is the story, as far as I can tell, of most people who can access the jhānas. They’re cool toys that you put away after an initial period of obsession. Why is that?
Well, it turns out that pure pleasure isn’t really what human beings want, actually. Pure pleasure in isolation, after a short period of time, is pretty boring, or even annoying. In February of this year, a lot of buzzy pleasure filled my waking life because of jhāna afterglow, and it started to get monotonous, so I inclined my practice in other directions.
Pair with: Nick Cammarata On Jhana
🧠 Better Thinking
👑 On Luxury beliefs
Another great piece on luxury beliefs, a concept that will help you understand many things in society.
Human beings become more preoccupied with social status once our physical needs are met. In fact, research indicates that sociometric status (respect and admiration from peers) is more important for well-being than socioeconomic status. Furthermore, studies have shown that negative social judgment is associated with a spike in cortisol (hormone linked to stress) that is three times higher than non-social stressful situations. We feel pressure to build and maintain social status, and fear losing it.
In many ways, it’s not about absolute metrics but relative ones:
You might think that rich students at elite universities would be happy because they are in the top 1% of income earners. But remember, they’re surrounded by other members of the 1%. Their social circle, their Dunbar number, consists of 150 baby millionaires. Jordan Peterson has discussed this phenomenon. Citing figures from his experience teaching at Harvard in the 1990s, Peterson noted that a substantial proportion of Ivy League graduates go on to obtain a net worth of a million dollars or more by age 40. And yet this isn’t enough for them. Not only do top university graduates want to be millionaires-in-the-making, they also want the image of moral righteousness. Elite graduates desire high status not only financially, but morally as well.
For our affluent social strivers, luxury beliefs offer them a new way to gain status.
Thorstein Veblen's famous "leisure class" has evolved into the "luxury belief class." Veblen, an economist and sociologist, made his observations about social class in the late nineteenth century. He compiled his observations in his classic work, The Theory of the Leisure Class. A key idea is that because we can’t be certain of the financial standing of other people, a good way to size up their means is to see whether they can afford to waste money on goods and leisure. This explains why status symbols are so often difficult to obtain and costly to purchase. These include goods such as delicate and restrictive clothing, like tuxedos and evening gowns, or expensive and time-consuming hobbies like golf or beagling. Such goods and leisurely activities could only be purchased or performed by those who did not live the life of a manual laborer and could spend time learning something with no practical utility. Veblen even goes so far as to say, “The chief use of servants is the evidence they afford of the master's ability to pay.” For Veblen, butlers are status symbols, too.
Lastly, a note on why luxury beliefs are dangerous:
The economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell once said that activism is “a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.” The same could be said for luxury beliefs. They enable the believer to display their status. Luxury beliefs are similar to luxury goods, but present new problems. Attaching status to luxury goods or financial standing meant there were limits to how much one could display. For example, fashion is constrained by the speed with which people could adopt a new look. But with beliefs, this status cycle accelerates. A rich person flaunts her new belief. It then becomes fashionable among her peers. This can take place within a week. Then a new stylish belief arises, while the old luxury belief trickles down the social hierarchy and wreaks havoc.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🏦 How I got 50 high-profile angel investors to join our seed round
This an interesting & useful piece on getting angel investors to your round.
The solution: Intro-driven fundraising
As a solo founder still in the process of building a team, boosting our company’s credibility via top-tier angels was my primary fundraising goal. One of the first things I did was to make a spreadsheet of 50 dream angels whom I really wanted on my cap table.
As I began looking for connections to those investors, I began to see that pitch quality doesn’t improve along a sliding scale. It’s much more about crossing a tipping point: Investors don’t want to waste their high-status friends’ time by passing along a weak or even merely good startup. But they very much want to do their friends a favor by getting them into a hot, oversubscribed deal.
For an intro-driven fundraise to work, you have to be so good that investors feel like they’re doing their friend a favor by introducing you.
Shortcuts make long delays
As I began reaching out to angels, I was optimistic about my chances. Our no-code pilot was going well (teaching 2-year-olds to read at a 2nd grade level) and I’d accepted a few checks from friends and family. If I could land an investment from a big-name investor it would dramatically accelerate the rest of the fundraise.
Despite a nagging feeling that it was still too soon, I reached out to a well-known investor on Twitter.
We had some friendly back-and-forth chats, but they politely declined without even a call.
I kicked myself for letting my impatience get the best of me. There was no excuse for not waiting until I had some decent momentum and a proper warm intro. On the bright side, regret over that mistake helped me avoid any other reckless shortcuts for the rest of the raise.
📚 What I Read
This is a perfect read after This is How Your Marriage Ends to understand better common relationship patterns.
An estimated 47 million Americans identify as having an anxious attachment style, which can make being in relationships turbulent and emotionally taxing for them. According to groundbreaking research in the field of attachment, anxious types are more prone to insecurity, jealousy, codependency, and other behaviors that get in the way of finding and sustaining love. In Anxiously Attached, seasoned psychotherapist and couples counselor Jessica Baum guides readers through understanding their attachment style at its core and building the inner strength and self-love that will lead them to more secure and satisfying relationships.
As a social app founder, I was very interested in this piece.
Beyond the shadow of its whales, social media teems with smaller players. Spend a little time in your phone’s app store, and you’ll discover a vibrant ecosystem of sub-scale apps riffing on established use cases and experimenting with new ones.
More interesting than the individual applications are the strategies startups are attempting. Often these approaches work in concert, but they are discrete enough to be isolated. Four, in particular, are worth highlighting:
Focusing on close friends.
Counterpositioning on ethical or political grounds.
Moving beyond advertising.
Winning the next great use case.
As discussed in last week’s piece, it is more accurate to refer to TikTok as a media company than a social network. It surfaces compelling content without needing to know who your friends are. As it has risen to prominence, others have followed suit. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat rolled out equivalent features to keep attention on-site. If you think of social media as a spectrum – from social to media – all of these companies are shifting toward the latter end.
Startups like BeReal, Poparazzi, Locket, Gas, Slay, and others are moving into the vacated space. These companies don’t try to monopolize every moment of your attention; they want to give you a better way of staying in touch with your close friends. The mechanics of each of these platforms make this focus clear.
BeReal, Poparazzi, and Locket are photo-sharing networks that constrain the content users post. On BeReal, you’re only permitted to post one photo a day at a specific time. On Locket, users push an image directly to a friend’s home screen, which appears in a widget. On Poparazzi, you’re only allowed to post photos of your friends, not yourself. Neither app offers filters or other ways to improve the quality of your post; the goal is to be genuine rather than polished. As Alex Ma, CEO of Poparazzi, said in our conversation, “You can’t fake it. It’s this much more authentic version of who you are.”
This a great piece on Duolingo’s gamification strategy.
Scores: A real-time pulse as to how you’re doing
Leaderboards: A multiplayer weekly league where you can compete with other language learners or friends. Note: I’ve written about single-player vs multiplayer in the past here
Achievements: Your trophy case for completing streaks, learning new words etc.
In-app currency: An economy that allows you to participate in different leagues and buy products
Levels: Creates a sense of status within the Duolingo world
Challenges: You need to do your challenges, because Susan has 150 more XP than you right now — and you can’t let her win
Streaks: A ritual that brings you back everyday (and makes you enable push notifications)
Sounds: Every core action comes with a sound. You feel like you’re playing a slot machine
Characters: The teachers in Duolingo are a set of fun animated characters. It makes you feel like you’re in another world
Yet commentators and politicians keep missing it:
One of my more strident “controversial” opinions, and one you might not expect, is that I think the rise of remote work is an unalloyed good. In a world of Covid, rampant social media mobs, rising ideologies, increasing risk of nuclear war, AI threatening some sort of hockey-stick growth curve, and so on, the rise of working from home is a rare bright spot. In fact, in my ideal fantasy world, everyone would use video calls and high-tech virtual reality to work, and then, like, live on farms or beside lakes. We’d all commute only via horses and, ah, electric bikes. Etc. I may, self-admittedly, be an extreme case in that my preferred aesthetic could be described as “high-tech pastoral,” but I’m definitely not alone in thinking that remote work is good.
New black pill just dropped:
While the number of young men who report having no sexual experiences is increasing, there are also men who have more sex partners than ever before. The National Survey of Family Growth data shows that in 2002 the most sexually active top 20 % of American heterosexual men had 12 lifetime sex partners while the top 5 % had 38 partners.3 Ten years later, in 2012, the most sexually active top 20 % now reported 15 lifetime sex partners and the top 5 % of men reported 50 lifetime sex partners. There was no change in the median number of sex partners.
The distribution of the number of sex partners among American heterosexual men was skewed already, but in just ten years, the distribution of sex partners among men became even more skewed. During the same time, there was no such change in the number of sex partners for heterosexual women. Sex is concentrated within a small, yet sexually active, group of people. In one study, it was reported that the 5 % of the population with the highest number of vaginal sex acts (penile-vaginal-intercourse) accounted for more vaginal sex acts than the bottom 50 % of the population with the lowest number of vaginal sex acts.
Pair with: Wheat Waffles x Chris Willx
🍭 Brain Food
🏍 The safest — and deadliest — ways to travel
This is an important reminder of the best ways to travel. It’s incredible how much more dangerous motorbikes are than all the other options.
“A motorcyclist who traveled 15 miles every day for a year had an astonishing 1 in 860 chance of dying. A person who took a 500-mile flight every day for a year would have a fatality risk of 1 in 85,000.”
It really seems smart to switch to a safer option if using a motorbike is part of your daily routine. It might be inconvenient for a few weeks, but metrics like the ones below don’t lie, and we all—unfortunately—know too many people who left too soon because of a motorcycle accident.
This isn’t to say cars are incredibly safe, but they are orders of magnitude safer than motorbikes. On top of that, if you never drink & drive, invest in a safe car, don’t speed, don’t text while driving, and avoid bad weather, it will make it even safer.
Interestingly, planes that often frighten many people are by very far the safest option.
🎥 What I’m Watching
💉 "CrossFit Athletes Are Natural" - CrossFit Coach
🎤 Ex Gang Member interview-Johnny
🔧 The Tool of the Week
I wanted to start rucking this year, but I skipped the RuckSack and bought this instead 😂
Loving it so far.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
The key to success is failure… Success is made of 99 percent failure.
— James Dyson
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