Discover more from The Long Game by Mehdi Yacoubi
The Long Game 156: Testosterone, Parenting, Own it Mentality, Pushing the Urgency
🏃 Zone 2, Dating Leagues, Good Conversationalists, Retro, Doing Great Work, Social Status, Elites, and Much More!
In this episode, we explore:
Own it mentality
Pushing the urgency
What makes a good conversationalist
Let’s dive in!
📈 Testosterone Experiments
This is a good piece by Jeff Tang about his experimentations to increase his testosterone levels. I haven’t done a blood test in longer than I should, and look forward to implementing some of these if I find out my testosterone to be lower than it could be. I think it will not be as good as before because of the poor sleep I’m getting these days 🐣.
I increased my T 300 ng/dL with sunlight, lower stress, more micronutrients, and more skin 😛
Between February and April, I increased my T from 790 to 1096 ng/dL. The biggest thing was changing my environment from San Francisco to Costa Rica, which led to many downstream changes. Changes included:
Change in diet — more fish, less chicken, way more tropical fruits and fresh veggies. Cleaner, less processed food overall
No change in supplements — Magnesium and Vitamin D
Sleep — slight improvements
In a surf town (Santa Teresa) — being around a lot of hot people wearing less clothes, and going on some dates
The 591 ng/dL test was in Utah. A few things: there was less sunlight, I slept poorly then, and I took a self-test prick. Overall, hard to know what the real factors were.
T Boosting Supplements Don’t Work
In Medellín, Colombia, I started taking most of the “T boosting” supplements:
Supplement-Maxxing. The 80/20 and my stack is Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Zinc.
In that time, my T did not significantly increase or decrease. As a result, I do not take any of the T Boosting supplements anymore (except for Ashwagandha, for the calming effects). n=1 so it’s too early to write off all of the T boosting supplements. Perhaps T boosting supplements have a greater effect if T is already lower. Will have to try to replicate and get data from others!
That said, I did take cialis a few times. More on that in another post 😉
I started training legs a lot more aggressively, and my leg girth increased noticeably. Wish I had measured the circumference. I also a few boxing sessions. I still believe there were positive effects from legs and boxing, but I am disappointed my T levels did not increase from it!
35± ng/dL variance in 4 back-to-back tests
One day I took multiple tests in a row to see how much variance comes from the laboratory testing itself rather than from me or normal fluctuations. Hypothetically, the numbers should all be the same if they were done back-to-back.
For tests 1, 2, and 3, they were all done literally within 30 seconds of one another. Same needle, same arm. All at once. 974.68, 900.51, 959.03.
When I got home 20 minutes later, I realized I had a mobile phlebotomist come that I forgot I had ordered. Result was 970.7.
Taking the average of this would get you 951. Overall, that’s reasonable variance I’d say, spanning from 900 to 975.
In the future, I’m planning on ordering a bunch of self-prick tests from different providers and doing all of them back-to-back. Subscribe if interested!
Pair with: Notes on How to Raise Your Testosterone
I found this thread about parenting very important. It perfectly describes the nuances of parenting.
It's the most beautiful thing there is.
And it's also extremely hard, and almost every part of life gets way more complicated.
It's usually unpopular to say that, but I'm glad Jay said it.
I just spent 3 days with dear friends, all of whom have kids ages 8mo to 4y.
Something I need to get off my chest about being a parent of young kids and the culture we live in:
What the culture shares and even demands you share about having kids/being a parent is that it's precious, it's a gift, it's a joy, etc.
But this is not what actual parents talk about or how actual parents feel.
We talked about the fact that our physical + mental health had gotten problematic. Our careers had taken huge hits. Our friendships were drifting. Our relationships with our partners felt strained (one person summed it up as: they're basically just the other parent I live with)
We didn't sit around writing Hallmark cards to the joys of parenting. We sat around going HO-LEE FORKING SHIRTBALLS this is impossibly hard and every dimension of our life got worse: health, finances, career, love, etc. EXCEPT a new dimension called Loving Our Kids (10/10 great).
Now, the culture (and indeed, the voice in my head) is going.. walk it back, man. Add asides like "(even though I adore them!)"
But the way the culture talks about parenting is not how actual parents talk about parenting to each other.
To understand, think about dream logic.
In a dream, you go, "I'm driving a car on the highway. Also I'm underwater and I can breathe just fine. Also this is the bike shop my dad owns."
And your brain just goes... Yes.
This is parenting. It is multiple things, fully. Terrible and great. Crushing and uplifting. At once
Parents ought to be given more permission to say multiple things are totally true at the same time, because we feel ashamed to feel bad about our experiences otherwise.
Because yes, we all feel like dogsh*t during the early stages of parenting very tiny kids. Yes, we wish we had more time for ourselves and our work. And yes, kids are the reason why every dimension of our lives took a hit EXCEPT this one amazing new dimension. BUT ALSO...
We wouldn't trade it. We don't regret it. I routinely drop everything to console or play with them. I would, w/o thinking, take a bullet for them. I'd arm wrestle The Rock -- and I promise you, I'd win -- for my kids.
But ALSO? This highway is underwater.
This is dream logic.
And people who have yet to experience the dream or for whom the dream is just a distant memory as they age -- and certainly folks who give career advice when they don't do actual parenting at home themselves -- can't understand.
Because it makes no sense.
Thank you to @sarahkpeck & @startup_parent for nudging me to talk more about parenting publicly.
To fellow parents: I see you. I'm with you. Embrace how you feel. There's nothing broken about you but PLENTY about the culture. And most of all:
Welcome to this bakery my dad owns.
@zacgarside @skstock @sarahkpeck @startup_parent Also Zac, if you have anything you've tried to prevent your kids from feeling the way you felt (that sounds very hard, btw), I'm open to learning them.
Operating at the intersection of professional ambition, personal health, and parenting well... is NOT something I'm a pro at
(I'm very happy to see after this went semi-viral that only 1 asshat told me women shouldn't work and should stay at home with the kids. The rest of you humans have been WONDERFUL and SUPPORTIVE and GRATEFUL and you receive ALL MY GRATITUDE back to you.)
Parenting is joy on tap. Every moment, every smile brings unmatched happiness. Then, on the operational aspect of things, everything gets significantly more complicated, and life can quickly get overwhelming. I think it’s better to be honest about it rather than pretend everything is always easy.
Lastly, some people read the thread as a deterrent to having kids. I absolutely don’t see it like that, quite the opposite. It’s about communicating a nuance that’s often forgotten. Without communicating some of these ideas, new parents would think they are crazy and that something is wrong with them. How can I feel like sh*t most days while everyone is pretending it’s so easy and simple all the time?
It’s not easy and it’s not simple, and you will likely not feel great on many days, and yet it’s also something you’ll be extremely happy you did, and will make your life better overall.
🧠 Better Thinking
💪 Own It Mentality
You will make regrettable mistakes, things will go wrong, these are basic facts of life. The reaction to those things is what will shape everything that comes after a mistake.
This short piece from David Perell is worth the read:
Own It Mentality
At times, I’ve taken on too many responsibilities, only to pay the price later with poor follow-through — which is ultimately more painful than saying “no” at the outset.
My poor follow-through is downstream of my ambition and my desire to people-please; both of which seem noble but can lead to consequences. When it comes to ambition, I’m like a starving guy at a buffet. Not only am I unable to eat everything on my plate, but I get sick from trying. My desire to people-please is why I say “yes” to opportunities as they arise, but I disappoint people later when I’m late on a project or have to cancel at the last minute.
To combat this, I’ve adopted a principle called “Own It Mentality.”
My goal is simple: Be a man of my word. Do what I say I’m going to do, when I say I’m going to do it. That means showing up on schedule, communicating clearly, and getting things done on time.
Being reliable is table stakes. My friend Chris, who used to run giant concerts, tells me that the most successful bands are also the most operationally buttoned-up. They run on schedule, communicate clearly, and pay invoices on time.
I want to do the same. Practically, the best change I’ve made to my own working habits is scheduling time to respond to messages every day (inbox zero, Slack zero, Twitter DM zero, text message zero). I used to wait a long time to respond to important messages because “it’s good to think about things,” only to never reply because so much time had passed that my message now had to begin with an apology, which made things even more ominous — until the whole situation turned into a monster that I was too terrified to confront. The solution is to respond fast because the faster you respond, the less energy it takes to do so.
Good executives are information routers. Much of their job is making introductions, giving feedback, and setting the tempo for the organization — all of which demand fast response times. They need an Own It Mentality because they are ultimately responsible for following up and following through on the organization’s commitments.”
Own It Mentality doesn’t just apply to executives. It’s important for all members of a team. David Ogilvy says, “In the best companies, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony and overtime.”
One core difference between low- and high-performing companies is that one wishes while the other promises. At high-performing companies, diligent follow-through is the norm. People do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it. Meanwhile, low-performing organizations are ruled by excuses. Tasks slip through the cracks. Timelines are outright ignored.
High-performing companies are the opposite. They do the simple things right. Commitments are kept, repeatedly. When deliverables are late, people communicate. When things go wrong, the blame is owned, not deflected.
Adopting an Own It Mentality
I expect an Own It Mentality from myself and from everyone I work with.
Own It Mentality means confronting conflict as soon as it arises. By not saying what needs to be said, you trade short-term comfort for long-term pain, and the longer you wait to deal with an issue, the worse it usually becomes. Avoiding conflict means borrowing time and energy from your future-self (and the interest rates are high).
For example, people avoid conflict by saying “yes” to everything and taking on too much work. Saying “yes” feels good in the moment because the expectation of achievement comes with an instant dopamine rush. All the pain of saying “no” is postponed.
One way I reduce conflict is by setting clear expectations and outlining a person’s scope of responsibilities before I start working with them. Such clarity is a way of immediately addressing conflict.
Everybody benefits from clear expectations and a high standard of excellence. Own It Mentality means that once somebody says they’re going to do something, I don’t have to worry about their ability to get it done.
That, then, gives them freedom in their work. I give people lots of autonomy. I don’t micromanage. In return, I expect people to take initiative, be proactive, communicate well, and follow through on their commitments. So long as they have an Own It Mentality, I don’t care how much somebody works, when they work, or where they work from.
Expecting an Own It Mentality doesn’t mean that you expect perfection. Life gets in the way sometimes. People get sick. Accidents happen. Projects take longer than expected. That’s fine. But when things don’t go according to plan, you have to communicate — and if people are chasing you down for information, you’re probably not communicating enough.
Own It Mentality also means that you own the fact that you aren’t able to “Own It” right now.
Do you follow through on your commitments? Is your word a wish or a promise?
⚡️ Startup Stuff
Pushing the Urgency
Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman has advice for young company leaders: Boost the intensity and get used to confrontation.
Slootman is now in his third CEO job, and each time he’s led a company to a blockbuster IPO. That includes data hardware maker Data Domain in 2007, cloud software giant ServiceNow in 2012, and most recently data warehousing company Snowflake in 2020.
One problem he’s seen with young CEOs: “They just think, ‘I hire a bunch of people, and then I sit back and wait for greatness.’ They have no idea that they have to relentlessly drive every second of the day, every interaction, and seek the confrontation,” Slootman told the No Priors podcast in an episode posted Thursday.
Look no further than a DMV office to see a lack of urgency among workers, he suggested. “This is what naturally happens to human beings,” he said. “It’s innate. We slow down to a glacial pace unless there are people who are going to drive tempo and pace and intensity and urgency. That’s what leaders need to do.”
CEOs must constantly “push the urgency,” he said, even though “it’s really hard to have the mental energy to bring that to every single instance of today.”
📚 What I Read
If you collected lists of techniques for doing great work in a lot of different fields, what would the intersection look like? I decided to find out by making it.
Partly my goal was to create a guide that could be used by someone working in any field. But I was also curious about the shape of the intersection. And one thing this exercise shows is that it does have a definite shape; it's not just a point labelled "work hard."
The following recipe assumes you're very ambitious.
The first step is to decide what to work on. The work you choose needs to have three qualities: it has to be something you have a natural aptitude for, that you have a deep interest in, and that offers scope to do great work.
In practice you don't have to worry much about the third criterion. Ambitious people are if anything already too conservative about it. So all you need to do is find something you have an aptitude for and great interest in.
That sounds straightforward, but it's often quite difficult. When you're young you don't know what you're good at or what different kinds of work are like. Some kinds of work you end up doing may not even exist yet. So while some people know what they want to do at 14, most have to figure it out.
and why we have to face up to this
Defining the “Elite'“
Since the Great Recession of 2008–2009, national media outlets and think tanks have reported on the growing income inequality in the United States. Yet, the problem is more complex and troubling than just income inequality. Regulatory or tax solutions alone will not be enough to address inequality on the scale it is now occurring. Inequality is always about far more than money—especially the kind of inequality we’re seeing now in the United States.
Being “elite” is about how you spend your above-average wealth. Being elite is about a lifestyle. It is a differentiated, non-conformist social imagination reinforced daily by even the most mundane choices.
Being elite is about rejecting mainstream choices for mundane things. This consumer rejection usually, but not always, means spending a lot more money on categories the middle-class and working classes would never do, even if you doubled their income overnight.
It is not more productive than being in an office, after all
A gradual reverse migration is under way, from Zoom to the conference room. Wall Street firms have been among the most forceful in summoning workers to their offices, but in recent months even many tech titans—Apple, Google, Meta and more—have demanded staff show up to the office at least three days a week. For work-from-home believers, it looks like the revenge of corporate curmudgeons. Didn’t a spate of studies during the covid-19 pandemic demonstrate that remote work was often more productive than toiling in the office?
Unfortunately for the believers, new research mostly runs counter to this, showing that offices, for all their flaws, remain essential. A good starting point is a working paper that received much attention when it was published in 2020 by Natalia Emanuel and Emma Harrington, then both doctoral students at Harvard University. They found an 8% increase in the number of calls handled per hour by employees of an online retailer that had shifted from offices to homes. Far less noticed was a revised version of their paper, published in May by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The boost to efficiency had instead become a 4% decline.
Intelligence, personality, Dark Triad traits, and more
I suspect that being in an environment of high achievers, with people who are pursuing education, will boost your own desire for status. This is one reason why there is so much status anxiety on college campuses. Especially at highly selective colleges. These students are already very accomplished, yet being around other highly ambitious and accomplished students can provoke feelings of inadequacy.
Can you have too much intelligence?
If you’re interested in attaining social influence and attracting a romantic partner, the answer might be yes.
The psychologist Dean Simonton has conducted research suggesting that a person is most likely to appeal to others and gain followers if they have an IQ of around 119 (roughly the 90th percentile of intelligence). This is higher than the typical college graduate, who has an IQ of about 110. But 119 is also lower than the typical graduate of a highly selective university, which is around 125.
119 seems to be the sweet spot. Interestingly, this is also the case for dating. All else being equal, people report that they are the most attracted to people at about the 90th percentile of intelligence, which is around 120 IQ. People want leaders and romantic partners who are smart. But not too smart.
Simonton and others have suggested that a person has leadership appeal if they are able to understand ideas from very intelligent people and can also communicate with ordinary people.
Very intelligent individuals have difficulty relating to the thought patterns and concerns of most people. Relatedly, I recall a psychologist who once suggested that in U.S. general presidential elections, the less intelligent candidate tends to win. This wasn’t a formal study, just speculation. But generally, it strikes me as correct. By the time you achieve the nomination of a major political party, you have already proven that you are smarter than average. But with two smart people, the one who is better able to relate to ordinary people has the advantage.
🍭 Brain Food
🗣 What makes a good conversationalist?
This is a very interesting paper exploring conversational skills.
Saloni Dattani has a great summary of it:
Surprisingly, the pandemic provided an opportunity to study this question in detail.
Volunteers in this new study had unscripted freeform conversations with strangers over Zoom in 2020, in the United States. They were asked to ‘talk about whatever you like, just imagine you have met someone at a social event and you’re getting to know each other.’
The conversations were video recorded, and analyzed for patterns of speech and behavior. Then, this was tested against people’s feelings before and after the conversation, and how they rated their conversational partner. In total, the dataset had 1,656 conversations each lasting at least 25 minutes.
Since the dataset was large and detailed, it could answer a lot of questions. First, how long are the gaps between each person speaking? Answer: Less than a second on average, which suggests that people predict when people’s sentences are going to end and how they’ll respond. Some people spoke too soon and their speech slightly overlapped or they interrupted the other person.
What are the most common ‘backchannel words’? These are words people use to show they’re following the other person’s speech. Answer: Yeah and mhm. (This study was done in the US, and it’s likely these vary in other countries.)
Were people happier after a freeform conversation with a stranger? Yes, on average! You can see this across age groups below. Volunteers were asked to rate their happiness on a 9-point scale immediately before and after the conversation.
Although I wonder how much this came from the sample – people who like having conversations were probably more likely to join the study, and it happened during the pandemic, when many people were probably very bored at home.
Finally, what makes a good conversationalist?
Volunteers were asked: ‘Imagine you were to rank the last 100 people you had a conversation with according to how good of a conversationalist they are. ‘0’ is the least good conversationalist you’ve talked to. ‘50’ is right in the middle. ‘100’ is the best conversationalist. Where would you rank the person that you just talked to on this scale?’
People who were rated higher by their conversational partners tended to speak fairly quickly, and with more emotional intensity. Also, they tended to use more head movement (nodding for yes and shaking for no) while listening, and showed more facial signs of happiness.
I really liked this paper because it described many basic aspects of conversations, and compared the analysis across different pattern-recognition software.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🏃♀️ I Tried Zone 2 Training for 3 Months. This Happened
👫 Why You Date People In Your "League"
🔧 The Tool of the Week
I’ve been playing a bit with Retro, a photo-sharing social media. It’s well done and it’s an interesting concept.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
Hard times don't create heroes. It is during the hard times when the 'hero' within us is revealed.
— Tim Grover
Thanks for reading!
If you like The Long Game, please share it on social media or forward this email to someone who might enjoy it. You can also “like” this newsletter by clicking the ❤️ just below, which helps me get visibility on Substack.
Until next week,