The Long Game 2: Centenarian Olympics, Normalcy Bias, Michael Jordan, Long walks, Tobi Lutke, Irrationality

❓ Questions for life, emotions, great coffee and much more!

Hey there 👋🏼, and welcome to The Long Game — my take on health, wellness, and better living.

Things started to warm up this week in Vienna! Life is slowly getting back to more "normality". On my side, I'm getting used to social isolation!

If you missed past episodes, you can catch up here (Episode 0 & Episode 1); otherwise, let's dive into all the exciting content this week had to offer!

Austrian morning workouts at the park!


🥑 Health

I struggle with back pain for almost two years now. It comes and goes, but I didn't manage to fix it yet. I tried almost everything I could: chiropractor, physio, yoga, you name it. But I started to think that the solution to my problem lies within me. There's no quick fix, no 1-hour consultation that's going to fix it.

Very often, the pain went away. But it came back a few weeks later.

Why is that?

I think it's because I didn't implement a daily routine of stretching and flexibility.

When I think about exercising, the last thing I want to do is stretch or work on my flexibility.

But as I started being interested in longevity, I understood there's no way to cut it. You just can't expect to be here for the long game, if you're not working on all aspects of your physical fitness.

So what are those aspects?

It constitutes what's called the Centenarian Olympics, and consists of:

  • Stability

  • Strength

  • Aerobic efficiency

  • Anaerobic performance

For me, the focus these days is on stability and flexibility. I feel I need a daily practice targeting just that. I found a few resources; I'm currently exploring them:

The big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton has a quote I'm pondering a lot recently:

“All you flexible people should go bang some iron, and all you big weight lifters should go do some yoga. . . . We always gravitate toward our strengths because we want to be in our glory.”


🌱 Wellness

Last week we talked about the high-performance lifestyle. An approach to life where optimization has a central role. Sleep, nutrition, recovery, social life, the principle is the same: an intentional life where you put your energy where it matters.

It has a lot of benefits, but the right balance can be hard to find.

What’s the right “dose” of optimization, and what’s the right “dose” of letting things be?

I don't have the answer, but I'm trying to figure this out!


🧠 Better Thinking

The Normalcy Bias

The crisis we're currently going trough made me obsessed with the normalcy bias. It's a cognitive bias that leads people to disbelieve or minimize threat warnings. Individuals underestimate the likelihood of a disaster and its potential adverse effects when it might affect them. There are multiple examples in world history:

  • When the volcano Vesuvius erupted, the residents of Pompeii watched for hours before evacuating.

  • Thousands of people refused to leave New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached.

  • Hundreds of people working at the World Trade Center stayed in the tower after the first plane hit the Tower, gathered their things, and made some phone calls.

The danger of this bias can't be overstated. I picked up the excellent book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why, by Amanda Ripley.

“The human brain works by identifying patterns. It uses information from the past to understand what is happening in the present and to anticipate the future. This strategy works elegantly in most situations. But we inevitably see patterns where they don’t exist. In other words, we are slow to recognize exceptions. There is also the peer-pressure factor. All of us have been in situations that looked ominous, and they almost always turn out to be innocuous. If we behave otherwise, we risk social embarrassment by overreacting. So we err on the side of underreacting.”

I saw this happening in February for Coronavirus when people started explaining how big of an impact it will have; most people couldn't believe it, and here we are.

On this topic, investor and writer Morgan Housel wrote an incredible piece on Risk and long-tail events, sharing a personal tragedy. He writes:

Once you go through something like that, you realize that the tail-end consequences – the low-probability, high-impact events – are all that matter.

In investing, the average consequences of risk make up most of the daily news headlines. But the tail-end consequences of risk – like pandemics, and depressions – are what make the pages of history books. They’re all that matter. They’re all you should focus on. We spent the last decade debating whether economic risk meant the Federal Reserve set interest rates at 0.25% or 0.5%. Then 36 million people lost their jobs in two months because of a virus. It’s absurd.

The Thinking of Tobi Lutke (Shopify)

Here's a first-class thread worth a read:


⚡️ Startup Stuff

Ideas Are Just a Multiplier of Execution, by Derek Sivers

When you start working on a project, there's this first phase where you're protective of your idea. But very soon you realize ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier:

AWFUL IDEA= -1
WEAK IDEA= 1
SO-SO IDEA= 5
GOOD IDEA= 10
GREAT IDEA= 15
BRILLIANT IDEA= 20
-----------------
NO EXECUTION= $1
WEAK EXECUTION= $1000
SO-SO EXECUTION= $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION= $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION= $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION= $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.


📚 What I Read

The Great Asshole Fallacy, by M.G. Siegler

Just like everyone else, I'm watching The Last Dance — ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary, and I'm loving it. However, there's a central question I've been reflecting on a lot: "Do you need to be an Asshole to be Great?".

This clip puts the context:

The connection drawn between being a jerk and achieving greatness is misleading in this docuseries. Siegler writes:

The focus should be on the insistence of excellence, both from yourself and from those around you. The wisdom from experience. The work ethic. The drive. The dedication. The sacrifice. Jordan hits on all of those.

Why Long Walks Will Change Your Life, by Harry J. Stead

I am a huge fan of long walks, and this article is an excellent call for more of them. I think walking is the single best physical & mental activity one can do, it's medicine.

A long walk is a rebirth of consciousness; one never returns quite the same, and is always better off for it.

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely

I loved this book. Dan Ariely is an incredible behavioral psychologist, and this book is going to change how you perceive your thinking and your rationality.

For example, he shows people will jump for something free even if they don't want it.

Here’s a quote I loved:

“Standard economics assumes that we are rational... But, as the results presented in this book (and others) show, we are far less rational in our decision making... Our irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless- they are systematic and predictable. We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains.”

Another big takeaway is:

“People are willing to work free, and they are willing to work for a reasonable wage; but offer them just a small payment and they will walk away.”


🍭 Brain Food

Current questions I find interesting, by Graham Duncan

I think open questions are an underrated form of content. Just the question. Without any answer. It’s a thinking catalyzer.

Here are a few of them:

  • "How do we accelerate the process of building mutual trust?"

  • "How do I see people more clearly?"

  • "How do we build anti-fragile human systems and mindsets that benefit from volatility?"

  • "How do we prepare our children for the increasingly chaotic future, which may or may not have jobs, a stable climate, or democracy?"

  • "What are the best tools to quiet the nervous system and ego and see reality clearly?"

Millions of words and only six emotions, by Seth Godin

This post is one of my favorites from Seth's blog!

“The intellectual part of the human mind can spin delightful or frightening stories, can compare features and benefits, can create narratives that compel us to take action.

But all of these words are merely costumes for the six emotions built deep in our primordial soup:

Anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.”


🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

Thriving in a Digital World: My Conversation with Stratechery's Ben Thompson, on The Knowledge Project

I started going back in older episodes of The Knowledge Project, and this one with Ben Thompson from Stratechery stands out.

  • What are the implications as technology continues to become ubiquitous in our lives?

  • You need to consistently and repeatedly start with new assumptions. Ask what is the controlling assumption in this industry, and what happens if that controlling assumption completely changes?

  • The internet has a barbell effect: There are returns to the most prominent companies and returns to the smallest companies. If you are stuck in the middle, it is a very dangerous place to be.

  • Strengths are Weaknesses: the Microsoft example, and why it will also likely be the reason that our current tech behemoths also fail when the paradigm shifts.

Sam Altman on Loving Community, Hating Coworking, and the Hunt for Talent on Conversations with Tyler

An excellent conversation on:

  • How to spot talent?

  • Network effects.

  • The characteristics of a great founder.

  • Why should we strive to be intentionally driven?

  • How to build a startup hotspot in a city that has lost its attractiveness? The example of St. Louis.


🔧 The tool of the Week

I was missing working at coffee shops and getting good coffee. When the quarantine started, I went from perfect coffee to the horrible supermarket instant coffee.

That was until I discovered the Aeropress. It's a small and cheap device to brew coffee, and the result is 100% worth it. To complement it, I have Indonesian coffee beans from Sumatra. Now I look forward every morning to my cup of coffee!


🪐 Quote I'm Reflecting on

How successful you are is a function of how you deal with failure.

Bill Ackman


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EndNote

Thanks for reading!

I will see you next week; If you're finding this newsletter interesting, I would like to hear your feedback, you can respond to this email.

If you're enjoying The Long Game, I'd love it if you shared it with a friend or two! I try to make it high signal, low noise, and I hope you're enjoying it.

Have a great day,

Mehdi

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