The Long Game 28: Metabolic Health, Digital Pause, Storytelling, Digitizing History, Up and Down
🇪🇸 Spanish Tech Scene, Being Exposed to Different People, An American Sickness, and Much More!
Greetings from Montenegro 🇲🇪
If you missed the past episodes, you could catch up here.
In this episode, we explore:
Being exposed to different people
Let’s dive into it!
Photo of Instruments of Power from America Today by Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975), from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
👨⚕️ Metabolic Health
Imagine owning a car and neglecting to maintain the engine. Shortsighted, right? Well, that’s the equivalence of neglecting your metabolic health. Yet, it’s extremely common. According to one study, 88% of Americans have suboptimal metabolic health. With lower rates of obesity but higher smoking rates, Europe has also seen a marked decline in metabolic health. Finally, recent studies from China have shown that widespread declines in metabolic health correlate with higher death incidences due to Covid-19.
For a long time, metabolic health was defined as the absence of disease. But it is so much more than that. Optimized metabolic health is like an orchestra where every instrument plays in tune and on time. Blood pressure is like the percussion section. The strings and wind sections consist of glucose levels, triglycerides, and good cholesterol in the blood. Overall, body proportion measurements are like the conductor. Metabolic health is like a symphonic balance among all the parts.
Your metabolism breaks down the food you eat, the beverages you drink, and the air you breathe and turns that into energy. Most of this energy is spent on the less flashy functions of simply being alive: breathing, circulating blood, repairing cells, to name a few. The thyroid then regulates the rate of your metabolism with a complex set of hormones. These hormones then produce sensations of hunger and cravings and affect what foods you seek out, and the process begins anew!
💌 If you’re interested in taking your health, nutrition, and metabolism seriously, and start reading the messages your body tries to tell you, sign up for lifetizr early access!
⏸ Digital Pause
The relationship we have with technology is a recurring theme in The Long Game because it’s still a widely under-discussed and understudied topic. It has only been a few decades that technology came into our lives. We still don’t know the long-term effects it will have on society's health and mental health, even though some indicators already suggest negative mental health consequences.
To curb the addiction to screen that I have and that most of us have (the average American spends eleven hours a day interacting with media), I’ll do a digital pause before the end of the year to reset my energy. Hopefully, it will be in the forest or the mountain, where the landscape is particularly prone to reflection.
In the words of Steve Schlafman:
By late last week, I had reached the point where I was approaching digital burnout and craving a break. I had enough. My mind needed a respite from social media, technology and screens. Given the sense of overwhelm and desire to become fully present, I decided the best remedy would be to take a digital pause. In other words, ditch hyperspace for a few days.
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🧠 Better Thinking
👥 Being Exposed to Different Types of People
As I was doing dozens of user interviews for our product at lifetizr, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the users about talking to radically different people. When you’re starting a product, it’s totally fine (and recommended) to focus on a niche, but the idea that most people around me are thinking similarly and interested in the same things was disconcerting.
Of course, we tend to enjoy being around like-minded people and discuss the topics we’re interested in, leading most of us to be confronted only with similar people. Being in a bubble is comfortable, but it comes with some problems. While communicating in a bubble is easy, the disconnect with people outside of the bubble tends to grow over time, leading to a fragmented perception of the world, where you can’t understand other people's perspectives.
Paul Graham writes in the Refragmentation:
One of the most important instances of this phenomenon was in TV. Here there were 3 choices: NBC, CBS, and ABC. Plus public TV for eggheads and communists. The programs that the 3 networks offered were indistinguishable. In fact, here there was a triple pressure toward the center. If one show did try something daring, local affiliates in conservative markets would make them stop. Plus since TVs were expensive, whole families watched the same shows together, so they had to be suitable for everyone.
And not only did everyone get the same thing, they got it at the same time. It's difficult to imagine now, but every night tens of millions of families would sit down together in front of their TV set watching the same show, at the same time, as their next door neighbors. What happens now with the Super Bowl used to happen every night. We were literally in sync.
The new technologies we developed exacerbate the tendencies we have to bond with like-minded people. Once you’re in a group, it becomes almost impossible to get confronted with content the algorithms know you won’t enjoy as much. It creates a society where there's less homogeneity, where you can have some people who believe in the devil and angels, and in other parts of America, you can have people trying to get to Mars.
So what can we do about it? Voluntarily go digging after different perspectives, people from other countries, people from opposing political beliefs… It’s the only way to stay connected with the reality of the world we live in.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
I listened to this episode of Starting Greatness with Nancy Duarte a few months ago, and her approach to storytelling was very compelling to me. Why is storytelling so important? It’s because storytelling is the primitive that’s going to cause people to join your movement.
I came across her book, Resonate, while reading this article. I dived a little bit in the book, and it’s excellent. It gives a lot of practical advice on crafting a story and a message that will help your brand succeed.
Here are some parts I found worth sharing:
It’s important to know what makes your audience tick in order to connect with them. So how do you get to know them and really understand what their lives are like? What makes them laugh? What makes them cry? What unites them? What incites them? What is it that makes them deserve to win in life?
Presentations should have a destination. If you don’t map out where you want the audience to be when they leave your presentation, the audience won’t get there.
Create a moment where you dramatically drive the big idea home by intentionally placing Something They’ll Always Remember—a S.T.A.R. moment—in each presentation. This moment should be so profound or so dramatic that it becomes what the audience chats about at the watercooler or appears as the headline of a news article.
📚 What I Read
I’m still in my US healthcare phase. After The Price We Pay by Marty Makary last week, I started An American Sickness. Here are some of my main takeaways so far:
A poorly written law is one of the worst things that can happen to the healthcare sector.
The salaries of “nonprofit” hospital CEOs are outrageous.
A system where the incentives are misaligned will give very bad results — just like it’s happening when doctors are paid to practice expensive surgeries and not to ensure optimal health outcomes for their patients.
I’m spending some time studying healthcare systems because if we want to improve healthspan at scale in the foreseeable future, the systems in place need to be ready for it. So far, it’s far from being the case.
Jorge Conde from a16z writes:
As our medicines become programmable, we will need to reprogram our healthcare system to absorb them—otherwise, our innovations will overwhelm our infrastructure.
For more on healthcare, Brennen Hodge that I recently had on the podcast, recommends the following books:
📡 Left and Right are Over — The Future is Up and Down
The political compass to understand elections, ideas, and policies has been Left vs. Right for decades, but it seems that it’s not the right compass anymore. This article gives a great alternative prism to understand the world.
F M Esfandiary...predicted an axial shift to ‘up-wing’ and ‘down-wing’ political priorities. The directional associations in this new scheme were quite literal: ‘up‑wing’ meant looking toward the heavens, and ‘down-wing’ was looking toward the Earth."
This new way to perceive people’s aspirations reflects reality much more than the outdated Right and Left model.
Nowadays, Black Sky researchers at the Lifeboat Foundation in the US and at the Icarus Interstellar foundation worldwide aim for something considerably more flesh-and-blood: to incorporate aspects of Earth’s natural habitat into vessels capable of an indefinite journey through space. This goal is almost the exact opposite of the aims of the Greens, who want to curb human aspirations to fit within what nature, in its Earthbound form, can reasonably be expected to sustain.
🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week
🎙 I’ve published one new episode on The Long Game Podcast this week.
Samuel is a partner at JME Ventures, a Spanish Venture Capital firm that invested in Flywire and 21 Buttons, to name a few. He is also the founder of the excellent newsletter Suma Positiva that covers technology and how innovation can be positive-sum.
I discovered Samuel through his series on longevity and his interests in health, and I wanted to get him on the podcast to discuss his perspectives on investing, founders, longevity, and more!
We start the conversation by exploring the Spanish tech ecosystem, the opportunities and the challenges, and how it's related to international tech hubs. Then, Samuel explains his investing philosophy, how they help founders build successful companies at JME Ventures, and what makes a great founder versus a bad one. After that, we talked about longevity, what got him interested in the field, and other health optimization opportunities right now. We finish the conversation talking about the two books Samuel loved recently.
🍭 Brain Food
⛓ Digitizing History
History can be deleted, and this is what’s currently happening in Hong Kong. To make sure records are kept, Hong Kong activists and academics are hurrying to digitize historical records and artifacts under threat from creeping censorship.
With the rise of fake news and authoritarian technological regimes, maintaining a trusted source of truth will become even more important. This can be done with the ledger of record that Balaji S. Srinivasan mentions here 👇
🎥 What I’m Watching
🧬 Behavioral Biology Course P.2
The one and only Robert Sapolsky.
🔧 The tool of the Week
I subscribed to Audible a while ago, but I wasn’t listening to any audiobook. I reached 10 book credits, so I decided to either start listening to audiobooks or cancel my subscription.
So I started listening to audiobooks a few weeks ago, and I love it. I reduced my podcast consumption for now, and I listen to books instead. It’s great because you can do it while walking; this way you exercise (walking is the best activity to lower your blood glucose levels) and learn at the same time.
Let me know if you have some good audiobook recommendations!
🪐 Quote I'm Pondering
"Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind... We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates."
— Maria Popova
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