The Long Game 154: Holistic Fitness, State of Men Report, Liabilities of Success, Willingness to be Low Status
👫 Hypergamy, Semaglutide, Fashion Substacks, Indian Religious Chatbots, Neck Training, Looksmaxxing, and Much More!
In this episode, we explore:
State of men report
Liabilities of success
The willingness to be low status
Let’s dive in!
I found this piece from General Catalyst was a good summary of where fitness as a whole is heading.
Imagining the future of fitness
We are looking to partner with the next generation of ambitious founders that want to help empower the digitally native generation on their holistic fitness journey. We are tired of lackluster solutions that help track fitness activities. Instead, we are excited about digital tools that will inspire and guide users to become holistically healthy on their own terms.
From immersive experiences to social fitness, these are some of the attributes and distribution channels that we think will make the best future for fitness for Gen Z and beyond.
For Gen Z, the definition of physical health contains multitudes of factors—stress, mindset, nutrition, and sleep are as important to our bodies as movement. Studies have shown that getting proper rest is just as important to our overall health as getting exercise—an area our portfolio company, EightSleep, has explored. The rise of companies like Noom and Sweetgreen is a testament to consumers’ increasing spend in the nutrition category.
We also believe that stress management and mental health are crucial to a holistic view of fitness, if not equally as important as physical health. Mental health conversation is fully normalized for Gen Z—dialogue about mental health among top athletes reinforces this point of view.
We see a need for fitness apps that appropriately include mental health, nutrition, and sleep to become an all-in-one solution. While Calm and Headspace only focus on mental health, and traditional fitness apps only focus on physical fitness, our generation views fitness holistically and should have digital tools to help us manage these considerations together in one place. Our portfolio company, Imagine Golf, recognizes that mental health is important for physical output and has developed a holistic app to reflect this. We think more companies that link mental health and physical output are set up to capture a large mindshare of Gen Z.
Though #FitTok has its problems, it points to Gen Z being inherently digitally native. Instead of asking a trainer at their local gym, Gen Z is seeking advice from people online. Unsurprisingly, fitness micro-influencers see the most success in engagement metrics on Instagram compared to any other influencer sizes (by follower count). With the rise of Peloton through the pandemic, Peloton instructors built massive fan bases online to capitalize on the opportunity to grab the digitally native populations’ attention.
Basic exercise tracking like running and nutritional tracking has already become digital. However, for more complicated movements during strength training, martial arts, or CrossFit (a GC portfolio company), automatic rep count and exercise recognition are still difficult. As the industry continues to evolve, we hope to see some of this mental tracking move to a more digital interface.
We believe Gen Z yearns for fitness to be a social experience more than any previous generation. Fitness is a journey where users might have to overcome mental and physical challenges. Once we embark on the journey, the path to “success” is rarely linear. Why struggle through this alone? As a generation used to sharing successes and failures with our digital network, in our opinion, the future of fitness will optimize for individuals to pursue their separate goals together. Virtual communities can give our digital generation extra support during times of need but also provide a sense of community to celebrate accomplishments as well. We’re seeing a great start in this vein from GC portfolio company Fitmint, which encourages users to walk and run with their friends online.
Building community in a digital space is important, and we believe there is room for “old-fashioned” in-person gatherings too! Fitness companies like Barry’s have gained a devoted following where consumers attend classes and have become part of their “weekly ritual” to congregate with others. Community tools or digital sports clubs can bring together those in a local area to participate in health and wellness activities like running, yoga, and recreational sports, and help them form relationships with people who share their goals and interests.
Data-driven & personalized
With Gen Z leading all other generations in purchasing wearable fitness products (like WHOOP, Apple Watch, Oura Ring, etc.), the amount of health data collected on each individual will only continue to grow over time. Luckily, Gen Z and Millennials actually want companies to leverage their personal data to customize their experience with products, services, and apps. Our portfolio companies, Breakaway and Terra, do this for individuals and businesses. Overall, our wearables are collecting troves of data that can be used to tailor workout plans, nutrition goals, and sleep patterns.
Generative AI (Gen AI) can help scale this type of personalization. Users could potentially input their goals and upload past data to use Gen AI and produce personalized recommendations instantaneously. This could also democratize access to personalization even further.
Quite a lot of similarities with how we see the future of health & fitness at Vital, as we’re building the “Strava for Health.”
A recent report came out about the state of American men in 2023. I found it very interesting and concerning.
Some elements of it:
• 40% of all men show depressive symptoms.
• 44% of all men had thoughts of suicide in the prior two weeks; younger men show the highest levels of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation.
• 40% of all men say they trust one or more “men’s rights,” anti-feminist, or pro-violence voices from the manosphere; nearly half of younger men say they trust such voices.
• Men aged 18 to 23 have the least optimism for their futures and the lowest levels of social support.
• 65% of men aged 18 to 23 say that “no one really knows me well.”
And here’s the new geography of men’s social lives:
I recommend reading the whole thing if you’re interested in this topic.
As we’re on the topic of mental health, I thought a good counterbalance to this report is this article: What if we’re talking about teens’ mental health too much?
This goes against articles from Jonathan Haidt that we shared here over the last few weeks, but it’s nevertheless a hypothesis worthy of more research.
Some of these people are seriously unwell and badly need help. But there’s another, rather more subtle problem happening at the moment: I think the current conversation about mental health might be encouraging people to interpret their difficulties as mental health problems when they’re not, in a way that’s actively unhelpful for the individual.
Take the example of anxiety – both the physical symptoms (also known as panic) and the cognitive symptoms (worry). The tendency to experience anxiety lies on a continuum throughout the population. Some people experience it very occasionally or not at all. As you move up the spectrum, you find people who experience it more frequently and more severely. Gradually, anxiety causes more distress and becomes more difficult to control. Up at the extreme end, anxiety becomes so destructive that it affects someone’s ability to function in their life at all. At that point, we would say the person has an anxiety disorder.
🧠 Better Thinking
This a great article on an underrated topic.
Bryan Johnson is spending millions of dollars each year towards a singular ambition—to slow his aging. His meticulous morning routine begins with light therapy during meditation. He follows this up by consuming The Green Giant, a pre-workout drink concocted from a blend of six diverse supplements, and strict regimen of over 50 different pills. All of this before his 1-hour workout, his skincare protocol, and, finally, breakfast.
Johnson lays out his entire system, which he calls Blueprint, online for all to see. Not only does he share what supplements he consumes and in which amounts, but he also discloses his biomarker data as proof of his success. According to his website, Johnson is aging (biologically) at a rate of around 9 months every year. And though he is technically 45, his biomarker data suggest that his biological age is around 42.5.
I am a bit torn on Johnson’s pursuit to slow his aging. On one hand, I am impressed by his dedication to learn more about his body and share his findings with the world. On the other hand, I am skeptical as to whether it will be worth it in the end. After all, what’s the point of living longer if you have to spend all that extra time following an elaborate longevity routine? Even if you succeed, you have very little freedom around how you get to live your life.
Johnson’s experiment demonstrates an important point about the hidden costs of achievement, or what I call the liabilities of success—for every public accomplishment, there is a private sacrifice that is often overlooked. If we view accomplishments as assets, then the sacrifices made to achieve them can be seen as liabilities. More importantly, these sacrifices aren’t just made once, but over and over again.
In Johnson’s case, he sacrifices his time, money, and biological impulses (i.e. eating a less restrictive diet) to pursue his longevity goals. And he will need to keep making these sacrifices if he wants this to continue. But, Johnson’s case isn’t unique. Many ultra-successful people make similarly extreme sacrifices when chasing their goals as well:
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has to work out 3-4 hours per day, six days a week to maintain his physique.
Danielle Steel, the world’s best-selling living author, regularly works 20 hour days to continue her publishing cadence of around seven books per year.
Tim Bergling, better known by his stage name Avicii, performed 813 shows in 8 years to become one of the most popular DJs on the planet. Sadly, the accumulated stress from constant touring eventually led him to take his own life.
It’s easy to idolize the accomplishments of those who are more successful than you, but it’s hard to understand the price they paid for that success.
This is why you have to think deeply about what liabilities you are willing to take on prior to embarking on a new project. For example, before starting a business, you should ask yourself, “Do I want to own the successful version of this business?” Because envisioning what the successful version looks like will make it easier for you to determine whether you should start at all.
This idea comes from my friend and fellow content creator Khe Hy and can be applied in many domains. For example:
If you want to be a partner at prominent law firm, are you willing to be online “24/7” and regularly work 70+ hour weeks?
If you want to have ultra-low body fat, are you willing to say goodbye to alcohol and most high calorie foods for the foreseeable future?
If you want to have the best financial newsletter, are you willing to publish five articles per week with an average length of 4,100 words?
Success comes with liabilities, choose yours wisely.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
💪 The Willingness to be Low Status
I think about this great tweet by Will Robbins very often.
📚 What I Read
““Female hypergamy” (from now on, just “hypergamy”) is a supposed tendency for women to seek husbands who are higher-status than themselves. Arguing about educational hypergamy (women seeking husbands who are more educated than themselves) is especially popular, because women are now (on average) more educated than men - if every woman wants a more-educated husband, most won’t get them, and there will be some kind of crisis.”
Educational hypergamy has gone into reverse. Now that women dominate education, they’re actively seeking less educated men, and vice versa. This seems to be because educational imbalances in favor of women have become normative; education is now a “proper” “feminine” trait.
In contrast, income hypergamy is still widespread, important, and causing problems for non-compliers. Is the norm weakening over time? It’s hard to tell.
Despite this, men and women display an equal and stunning degree of class homogamy. Men may use their class-based market value to purchase a little more education in a mate, and women to purchase a little more income, but both genders consider class first and foremost.
Looks don’t seem to figure into this at all. There’s not much trade of better looks for higher income. Instead, each quadrant in the (rich, poor) x (pretty, ugly) matrix pairs off with itself.
“Shopping-centric newsletters have won loyal followings, but are now looking to scale while maintaining the intimate feel that drew readers in initially.”
This latest generation of shopping newsletters began in response to the sheer amount of product on the internet, as well as people on social media branding themselves as experts on what to buy.
“The internet was becoming this massive supermarket and there was no clarification about where you could get what,” said Leandra Medine Cohen, who launched her newsletter The Cereal Aisle on Substack in January 2021 a few months after shutting down her site Man Repeller.
These shopping newsletters offer ultra-curated product recommendations, with suggestions ranging from a vintage opera coat on The RealReal to a deal on a Lemaire croissant bag on Ssense, which are then contextualised with more in-depth writing. Reilly, for example, interviews downtown cool girls on their wish lists and compiled a Black Friday Google spreadsheet that she updated daily with new deals.
“It reminds me a lot of the audience that early Man Repeller was, where it genuinely feels like a bunch of people who just want to talk about clothes and our feelings,” said Medine Cohen.
However, the newsletter offers a simpler business model. Michael Williams of the menswear blog A Continuous Lean pivoted his blog to Substack in July 2020 and gained a following without the headaches of handling a website and trying to manage advertisers. Similar to Cohen, he notes the feeling of community is more present than in the later years of his blog, where he saw a dropoff in advertising opportunities as viewers spent more time on social media. It’s also in part because of the added paywall — 1,458 of his total 13,714 subscribers pay $8 monthly to access additional posts as well as a podcast.
“It really is just like a blog,” said Williams. “There’s just a lot of things that make it feel like 2010.”
“Claiming wisdom based on the Bhagavad Gita, the bots frequently go way off script.”
In January 2023, when ChatGPT was setting new growth records, Bengaluru-based software engineer Sukuru Sai Vineet launched GitaGPT. The chatbot, powered by GPT-3 technology, provides answers based on the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu scripture. GitaGPT mimics the Hindu god Krishna’s tone — the search box reads, “What troubles you, my child?”
In the Bhagavad Gita, according to Vineet, Krishna plays a therapist of sorts for the character Arjuna. A religious AI bot works in a similar manner, Vineet told Rest of World, “except you’re not actually talking to Krishna. You’re talking to a bot that’s pretending to be him.”
At least five GitaGPTs have sprung up between January and March this year, with more on the way. Experts have warned that chatbots being allowed to play god might have unintended, and dangerous, consequences. Rest of World found that some of the answers generated by the Gita bots lack filters for casteism, misogyny, and even law. Three of these bots, for instance, say it is acceptable to kill another if it is one’s dharma or duty.
By 2021, Spotify had paid to sign some of the biggest names in podcasting, and it was ready to start squeezing its competitors.
The Swedish audio streaming giant had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase podcast production companies and big name creators in the hopes of luring new subscribers to the platform. Now, Spotify chief content officer Dawn Ostroff — a TV veteran most famous for bringing Gossip Girl to the CW — was ready to stop many of these creators and companies from sharing podcasts on Apple and Amazon, and keep the content exclusively on Spotify.
Then Bill Simmons sent an email to her boss.
Simmons had sold the sports and pop culture audio empire The Ringer to Spotify a year earlier for $200 million. Now he wrote Spotify CEO Daniel Ek to argue for keeping the Ringer’s mass audience on Apple and its advertising revenue, driven by the explosion of sports betting.
🍭 Brain Food
This is an interesting paper about psychopathy.
The manuscript surveys the history of psychopathic personality, from its origins in psychiatric folklore to its modern assessment in the forensic arena. Individuals with psychopathic personality, or psychopaths, have a disproportionate impact on the criminal justice system. Psychopaths are twenty to twenty-five times more likely than non-psychopaths to be in prison, four to eight times more likely to violently recidivate compared to non-psychopaths, and are resistant to most forms of treatment. This article presents the most current clinical efforts and neuroscience research in the field of psychopathy. Given psychopathy’s enormous impact on society in general and on the criminal justice system in particular, there are significant benefits to increasing awareness of the condition. This review also highlights a recent, compelling and cost-effective treatment program that has shown a significant reduction in violent recidivism in youth on a putative trajectory to psychopathic personality.
Most psychopaths are actually behind bars in the US:
Psychopathy is a constellation of psychological symptoms that typically emerges early in childhood and affects all aspects of a sufferer’s life including relationships with family, friends, work, and school. The symptoms of psychopathy include shallow affect, lack of empathy, guilt and remorse, irresponsibility, and impulsivity.
The best current estimate is that just less than 1% of all noninstitutionalized males age 18 and over are psychopaths. This translates to approximately 1,150,000 adult males who would meet the criteria for psychopathy in the United States today. And of the approximately 6,720,000 adult males that are in prison, jail, parole, or probation, 16%, or 1,075,000, are psychopaths. Thus, approximately 93% of adult male psychopaths in the United States are in prison, jail, parole, or probation.
🎥 What I’m Watching
💅 LOOKISM...and how "LOOKSMAXXING" is destroying everyone
💊 The Dark Side Of Semaglutide...
This an important video to understand how to avoid losing muscle instead of fat.
🔧 The Tool of the Week
🏗 Neck Harness
Lifting friends, you don’t want to be neglecting your neck training. Even more, if you’re into martial arts.
There are many ways to train it:
with plates: neck curls (what I used in the past, gets pretty uncomfortable/ impractical as you get stronger)
with bands (what I primarily use right now)
and with a neck harness
Try adding, 1, 2 or more inches to your neck, and report the results to me ; )
Anything above 18 inches is 🔥, and it grows pretty fast, went from 17.3 to 19in about a year. High frequency, low volume is best (like 3x/week, 3—4 sets per session).
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
For those who think you can't get to the top unless you beat the crap out of everybody-you're wrong.
When you're a repeat player, when your world is your business and your business is your world, it's all about long-term relationships.
In any negotiation I believe in leaving a little bit on the table. And in any relationship I believe in sharing the stakes.
I've been doing deals with many of the same people for decades because the goal is for us to all come out ahead.
— Sam Zell
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