The Long Game 3: My CGM Experiment, Meditation, Why Books Don't Work, Remote Work, Things at Scale, Happiness Studies
🏛 Philosophy visualization, Life advice, the new media and much more!
Hey there 👋🏼, and welcome to The Long Game — my take on health, wellness, and better living.
It has been a cloudy week in Vienna, but everyone is enjoying the regain of energy in the city!
Türkenschanz Park, Thursday afternoon, Vienna
🥑 Health | ✍🏼 What I wrote
I've been really interested in finding the optimal diet for me for years.
I tried many things, always with an open mind and ready to challenge my nutrition beliefs.
A few years ago, I started fasting and built my way up to OMAD (One Meal A Day). The meal only meal I had per day was balanced, but still very high in carbs.
I got interested in metabolic health a few months ago and started doing my research on how Continuous Glucose Monitors could be very beneficial for people without diabetes.
While doing my research, I understood how important metabolic health is for longevity and overall health.
So I got a CGM a few weeks ago and did an experiment with it to see where I stand.
I was expecting to see close from optimal levels as I pay attention to what I eat, and exercise regularly.
I was shocked by what I saw...
My blood glucose levels were far from optimal.
Among other things, I realized the healthy foods I was swearing on were skyrocketing my blood glucose levels.
Here are some other foods that skyrocketed my blood glucose:
A bowl of 200g of berries can spike my blood glucose levels to 150+ mg/dL in less than 30 minutes.
A “balanced breakfast” — crushed nuts, chia seeds, an apple & a few dates (healthy right?), spiked my girlfriend’s blood glucose to 210 mg/dL.
In the first weeks, I was constantly surprised by what I saw.
I tried many strategies to optimize my blood glucose levels:
Eat the fat source first
Increase the fiber amount
Some of these strategies were more successful than others!
This experiment really opened my eyes to how nutrition advice has little value when it's not personalized. Could I guess these results? Definitely not, I had to see them to believe them.
I think everyone could learn a lot from such an experiment.
At a time when nutrition is becoming more and more like religion, I feel these kinds of approaches help cut through the noise and empower people to find what works for them!
For more on this:
🧘🏻♂️ My 30/30 meditation challenge
As I mentioned in the article about my CGM experiment, I found out meditation has an incredible power on my blood glucose levels, and on my overall wellbeing.
It’s nothing new, but seeing the direct feedback from my body was special. I tried meditation on and off for more than three years now.
I recently started my 30 minutes of meditation for 30 days! I can already tell it has a significant impact on happiness and mindset. I will do a more extensive review once I finish it.
In the meantime, here’s a timeless thread from Naval:
🧠 Better Thinking
Have you ever read a book and realized you couldn't recall a single idea of it a few weeks later? It happened to me many times.
I came across "Why books don't work" by Andy Matuschak. It's the best essay I read so far in 2020!
Implicitly, when we start a non-fiction book, the goal is to learn something. So there's this assumption that "people absorb knowledge by reading sentences." But most of us had this uncomfortable feeling of not remembering what we read.
"As a medium, books are surprisingly bad at conveying knowledge, and readers mostly don't realize it."
Andy explores lectures first. Lectures weren't created based on the science of how people actually learn things. They're based on "Transmissionism" which doesn't work.
"Lectures don’t work because the medium lacks a functioning cognitive model. It’s (implicitly) built on a faulty idea about how people learn—transmissionism—which we can caricaturize as “lecturer says words describing an idea; students hear words; then they understand.”"
Like lectures, books weren't created as a way to convey detailed information effectively. Consuming the content of a book passively isn't going to develop a deep understanding of the concepts exposed.
Some people learn from books. But they don't just read the book, they summarize, they connect the new ideas with other concepts.
"These readers’ inner monologues have sounds like: “This idea reminds me of…,” “This point conflicts with…,” “I don’t really understand how…,”"
But this doesn't come easily, and it's a system that demands a lot of extra work, on top of reading. The problem is that this process isn't reflected in the medium. Some authors do a great job of helping the reader follow along and remember the ideas, but it's still suboptimal.
How could we solve this problem? Andy proposes we don't have to make books work. We can instead create a new medium crafted so that:
"the default actions and patterns of thought when engaging with this medium are the same thing as “what’s necessary to understand”?"
Here are a few concepts that could help:
Understand when the memory is overloaded and plan to learn accordingly.
Leveraging the power of spaced-repetition
An example of this? Andy created a "book" to apply these principles: Quantum computing for the very curious!
⚡️ Startup Stuff
The famous eponymous essay by Paul Graham is a classic.
The idea is perfectly summarized in this paragraph:
Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.
Most founders know they should start their company this way.
But how does it look in real life?
This crowdsourced list of examples is an excellent resource for early-stage startups.
A few examples:
eBay: “went to swap meets, flea markets, and garage sales all over America—especially the rural flyover states—and talked to people.”
PayPal: “Each sign-up would receive a $10 deposit in their Paypal account and a bounty of $10 for every new user they referred.”
Stripe: “Founders delivered exceptional customer support, including fixing bugs at 2 AM.”
On the same topic, this excellent piece studies how the biggest consumer apps got their first 1,000 users.
The main takeaways are:
Just seven strategies account for every consumer apps’ early growth.
Most startups found their early users from just a single strategy. A few like Product Hunt and Pinterest found success using a handful. No one found success from more than three.
The most popular strategies involve going to your user directly — online, offline, and through friends.
To execute on any of these strategies, it’s important to first narrowly define your target user.
The tactics that you use to get your first 1,000 users are very different from your next 10,000.
On the topic of scale, I found this tweet funny!
📚 What I Read
📖 Advice, by Patrick Collison
These are a few pieces of advice I wish I knew earlier. I believe we all have to learn a few things by making some mistakes. But the more we can learn from other great minds, the better!
A few advice from the list that stuck with me:
Go deep on things. Become an expert.
Make friends over the internet with people who are great at things you're interested in. The internet is one of the biggest advantages you have over prior generations. Leverage it.
Aim to read a lot.
Above all else, don't make the mistake of judging your success based on your current peer group. By all means, make friends but being weird as a teenager is generally good.
Make sure that the things you're pursuing are weird things that you want to pursue, not whatever the standard path is. Heuristic: do your friends at school think your path is a bit strange? If not, maybe it's too normal.
When everyone’s face is milliseconds away on a Zoom call, who cares where their butts are sitting? Remote workers could be anywhere in the world. They are, by default, outsourced.
With the rise of remote work due to the pandemic, we’re likely to see a drastic change in the way companies work. Hiring people in cheaper countries will likely become the norm, and it could create new problems from skilled workers living in high paying countries
Normal doesn’t mean anything anymore. What you call “normal” is now history. Your office culture has started evolving, and evolution doesn’t go in reverse.
We like to think of history as steady progress, but it’s really a series of violent shocks, each upending old systems in a process of creative destruction.
The world of media is changing fast. In this piece, Ben Smith explains how creators and celebrities are now generating revenue from tiny audiences of fans.
One of the things I find most heartening in these unequal times, though, is the creation of some new space for a middle class of journalists and entertainers — the idea that you can make a living, if not a killing, by working hard for a limited audience.
🍭 Brain Food
This visualization is a masterpiece. I believe the future of human cognition will be visualized more in maps rather than in independent pieces of content. Everything is interrelated. Fields and concepts shouldn’t be siloed.
While exploring the map, I discovered:
Sartre and Camus have opposing views on human nature:
“Existence precedes essence; by choosing our values we determine the nature of our lives and personalities, we create ourselves.”
And for Camus:
An analysis of rebellion leads at least to the suspicion that, contrary to contemporary thought, a human nature does exist.
How do we measure happiness? There’s a lot of discussion about the link between progress and happiness, and whether there is a correlation between wealth and happiness.
As an illustration of the striking disconnect between money and happiness, the average life satisfaction of Forbes magazine’s 400 richest Americans was 5.8 on a 7-point scale. Yet the average life satisfaction of the Pennsylvania Amish is also 5.8, despite the fact that their average annual salary is several billion dollars lower.
This piece also explores how this field is full of conflicting data and unreplicated surveys. The mere question “are you happy” can influence the way you feel and complicate any study.
For more studies on happiness, check out the remarkable work of Our World in Data on this topic!
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week
This episode is, without any doubt, one of the best I listened to. Here are a few points discussed in the episode:
Recency bias: Take advantage of older books, the books that have had time to fail, yet have survived.
Be careful about doing something drastically different from the status quo when designing an organization.
“Most of the experiments in this regard have failed. Most efforts to do something that is substantially different, to the best practice of the day, have failed”
On becoming a better thinker: When you see a smart person holding a strong point of view on something, try to figure out how they’re right.
On how to improve decision making: You often think you only have two options (A or B) …but look closer, there’s often an option C you haven’t thought about
“People can improve their decision making by simply choosing other people, and imagining what they would say, and then averaging over their responses”
Instead of trying to get better at decision making, you may want to try to get better at experimenting very quickly and then to undo/redo the decision.
And a powerful quote from the episode:
“If people around you don’t think what you’re doing is a bit strange, then maybe it’s not strange enough”—Patrick Collison
Morgan is a remarkable financial writer. I shared last week a moving piece on risk he wrote. I wanted to learn more about him, his world view, and his thinking.
This great conversation covers:
How feedbacks are essential for personal growth.
How to raise your children: the hard equilibrium to find between giving them the best opportunities and making them understand they’re fortunate.
The brilliant method Morgan uses to keep his confirmation biases in check.
"It's really difficult to understand that you yourself suffer from confirmation bias. Everybody knows it exists, people would say other people suffer from it, but I don't.”
What Morgan tries to do to fight Confirmation bias is to find someone smart and rational who you disagree with, and ask yourself how they’re right. They will challenge your current views.
When it’s ok to change your mind and when it’s important to double down on what you know
The process Morgan uses to generate fresh ideas even when he feels like he’s exhausted them all
🔧 The tool of the Week
I’m a huge podcast fan. But I think there’s still a lot to do to improve the way we consume podcasts. Ada Yeo, CE0 & founder of Shuffle, contacted me to introduce me to their app (doing things that don’t scale!).
I love it! The feed is very useful to discover new content you’re not used to. It gives a quick highlight of some of the best episodes, so you have an idea of the tone & energy of the conversation.
I’m excited to see where this team will go with their product!
🪐 Quote I'm Reflecting on
― Richard P. Feynman
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