The Long Game 33: Fixing Back Pain, 2020 Review, Escaping Virtual Reality, Irrational Time Allocation

⚖️ The Trouble with Optionality, Historical Facts, Elites and Joe Rogan, Defonic, and Much More!

Hi there! It’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at lifetizr, and this is The Long Game Newsletter.

Greetings from Belgrade 🇷🇸

If you missed the past episodes, you could catch up here.

In this episode, we explore:

  • Fixing Back Pain

  • 2020 Review

  • Irrational Time Allocation in Decision-Making

  • Hiring Resources

  • The Trouble with Optionality

Let’s dive in!

California Spring, by Albert Bierstadt


🥑 Health

🚧 Fixing Back Pain

While reflecting on the last years, I understood I needed to change how I approach my back pain problem. After listening to Guy Raz interviewing Tim Ferriss, I realized something that made me feel uncomfortable. As Tim explained the level of obsession that went into mastering multiple skills (Tango, languages, sales, etc.), I realized that I kept fooling myself when it comes to a very important thing in my life.

I have chronic back pain for more than two years, and I still haven’t found a solution for myself. After trying to get an external solution from different therapists (I tried them all), I understand now that it must be a personal project where I put in the work to fix it. No one other than myself will solve this problem in the long term.

So I decided to adopt the Tim Ferriss approach here and obsess over this project. What does that mean? It means I will read every conceivable book on the topic of back pain. I will put recovery exercises as my top priority every day. I will note improvements and routines in a dedicated notebook, and I will stick to it for as long as it takes.

Here are the books I’m planning to read (let me know if you have other suggestions):

  • Treat Your Own Back

  • 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life

  • Foundation: Redefine Your Cose, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence

  • The End of Back Pain: Access Your Hidden Core to Heal Your Body

  • Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry

  • Break the Chronic Pain Cycle

  • Back Mechanic, by Dr. Stuart McGill

What has prevented me from doing this earlier was the refusal to accept the situation, go back down the mountain — back to zero, and rebuild from there. I’ve been doing a lot of sports my entire life, and even with the back pain, I didn’t want to accept what was obviously true: I was doing a lot of things wrong.

Some people might get away with bad exercise routines for a long time. Still, I’m happy that this setback happened early in my life, and I’m determined to use this situation to fix what needs to be fixed and start exercising in a longevity-friendly way (The Centenarian Olympics).

“The single greatest risk to my longevity is my lower back.” — Peter Attia

This quote from Naval was instrumental in realizing I was going in the wrong direction (from a physical/exercise standpoint):

Nobody wants to go back down the mountain to find the path going at the top. Everybody wants to stay on the path they’re on, maybe make a few tweaks and get to the top or like Charlie Munger jokes. You know, people always ask me like, “How do I get to be rich like you, except quicker? I don’t want to be an old rich guy. I want to be the young rich guy.”

So I think these are the hard parts. The hard parts are not the learning, it is the unlearning. It’s not the climbing up the mountain. It’s the going back down to the bottom of the mountain and starting over. It’s the beginner’s mind that every great artist, or every great business person has, which is: you have to be willing to start from scratch. You have to be willing to hit reset and go back to zero.

💬 If you experienced chronic back pain (more than a year) and you fixed it by your own means, I’d love to know your story!


🌱 Wellness

🗒 2020 Review

We can all agree that 2020 was a bad year. Still, it was a year full of learnings, and it’s always great to take the time to consolidate what was learned, understand what to do more of in 2021, what was draining your energy, and more.

I find this template by Steve Schlafman to be an excellent resource to conduct your annual review.


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🧠 Better Thinking

Irrational Time Allocation in Decision-Making

I find the decision-making research field to be fascinating. Here’s the abstract of a research paper about irrational time allocation in decision-making:

Time is an extremely valuable resource but little is known about the efficiency of time allocation in decision-making. Empirical evidence suggests that in many ecologically relevant situations, decision difficulty and the relative reward from making a correct choice, compared to an incorrect one, are inversely linked, implying that it is optimal to use relatively less time for difficult choice problems. This applies, in particular, to value-based choices, in which the relative reward from choosing the higher valued item shrinks as the values of the other options get closer to the best option and are thus more difficult to discriminate. Here, we experimentally show that people behave sub-optimally in such contexts. They do not respond to incentives that favour the allocation of time to choice problems in which the relative reward for choosing the best option is high; instead they spend too much time on problems in which the reward difference between the options is low. We demonstrate this by showing that it is possible to improve subjects' time allocation with a simple intervention that cuts them off when their decisions take too long. Thus, we provide a novel form of evidence that organisms systematically spend their valuable time in an inefficient way, and simultaneously offer a potential solution to the problem.

It makes me think of the famous “Hell Yeah! or No.” by Derek Sivers:

Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered.

If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”.

When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”


⚡️ Startup Stuff

👥 On Hiring

I spent some time gathering content about hiring and going through it—the book Who by Geoff Smart is certainly an excellent place to start.

Another interesting resource I read is this blog post from Google AI about the Lake Wobegon Strategy.

We rely on the Lake Wobegon Strategy, which says only hire candidates who are above the mean of your current employees.

I also like this post from Erik Torenberg about the hiring framework they use at On Deck.

Finally, I found this article by Alexander Wang from Scale to be excellent. He basically explains why you should focus on people who give a shit about what you’re building and who gives a shit about their work in particular.

Over time interviewing, I’ve found that I mainly screen for one key thing: giving a shit. To be more specific, there’s actually two things to screen for:

  1. they give a shit about Scale, and

  2. they give a shit about their work in general.

I took the time to compile all hiring tweets and threads I saved over the last months in a giant thread. 👇 (“Twitter is LinkedIn that works*” 😅)


📚 What I Read

⚖️ The Trouble with Optionality

This article was shared a lot in the last weeks, but it’s so good, I couldn’t avoid sharing it here. It will be particularly interesting for people just starting their careers or their studies. You hear a lot of people saying that they’ll study something or work somewhere because it “leaves all the options open.” This article deconstructs the problem and gives great arguments to explain why, for many people, leaving all the doors open is actually closing all these doors.

This individual has merely acquired stamps of approval and has acquired safety net upon safety net. These safety nets don’t end up enabling big risk-taking—individuals just become habitual acquirers of safety nets. The comfort of a high-paying job at a prestigious firm surrounded by smart people is simply too much to give up. When that happens, the dreams that those options were meant to enable slowly recede into the background. For a few, those destinations are in fact their dreams come true—but for every one of those, there are ten entrepreneurs, artists, and restaurateurs that get trapped in those institutions.

The author makes a very interesting point that when choosing to do something for a while, people fail to see that this activity will change them fundamentally.

"While the serial option and lottery ticket buyers seem like different creatures, they are, in fact, close cousins. Both types postpone their dreams and undertake choices that they think will enable their dreams. But they fail to understand that all of these intervening choices will change them fundamentally—and they are, in fact, the sum total of those choices."

Creating optionality and buying lottery tickets are not way stations on the road to pursuing your dreamy outcomes. They are dangerous diversions that will change you.

👻 Escaping Virtual Reality

This is the latest essay from my friend Anirudh Pai that I had on the podcast. It’s a call for building a better physical world instead of only building a virtual one. After decades of stagnation in the world of atoms, it seems that we’re finally going back on the path of progress in the physical realm (Noah Pinion has a great techno-optimism roundup.)

Today, we must build the future our values demand.

Most dread aging; we seek eternal life. Most gaze passively at the stars; we design the machinery of exploration. Most hope purpose finds them; we live with purpose every day.

2020 won't just be remembered for its dark moments. With courage, vision, and faith in the frontier, we can ensure that 2020 is remembered as a turning point:

The inception of a new golden age.


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

Here are some podcast episodes to finish 2020 strong!

On The Long Game Podcast:

On other shows:


🍭 Brain Food

📜 Historical Facts I Consistently Forget

I discovered Milan Cvitkovic’s blog, and it’s a great one; he has a piece about historical facts that are hard to remember. Here are my favorites:

  • Cleopatra lived closer in time to us than to the building of the Egyptian pyramids. And the pyramids were built when there were still wooly mammoths walking the earth.

  • Humans lived in small bands for most of history and only very recently found ways to live in close proximity to millions of other humans without going nuts and doing awful things.

  • Humans were basically everywhere on earth except Iceland, other cold northern islands, New Zealand, and other pacific islands by 10,000 years BCE, and then didn’t get to these islands for ages.

  • From the middle ages until the 1600s, European (and maybe other regions’) city dwellers were buzzed or drunk during basically all waking hours. Alcohol was the only safe form of hydration before water purification.

  • Reading silently was not the norm - or even something most people could do - until possibly the 1800s.


🎥 What I’m Watching

🖐 What Explains Elite Contempt for Joe Rogan

This video is a great way to understand why so many people from the American elite love to hate Joe Rogan.


🔧 The tool of the Week

🍃 Defonic — A Fabulous Ambient Noise Generator

I like to work with music, but after a while, I get tired of the same music over and over again. Defonic is great because it lets you customize your ambient noise the way you like it. In this period, I enjoy listening to the sound of fire and snow.


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. ... It is through the exploration of these opposing ideas, or uncertainty if you will, that we come to better outcomes.

— Scott Fitzgerald


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👋 EndNote

Thanks for reading!

I will see you next week. As always, if you're finding this newsletter interesting, give me your feedback; you can respond to this email or tweet at me!

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Have a great day,

Mehdi

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