The Long Game 39: The Upside of Stress, Choice vs Commitment, Effective Executive, Thinking & Doing
🏦 Why Starbucks is a Bank, India and Bitcoin, Kindle, Aspirational Pursuit of Mates in Online Dating Markets, and Much More!
Greetings from Paris 🇫🇷
If you missed the past episodes, you could catch up here.
In this episode, we explore:
The Upside of Stress
Choice vs Commitment
Thinking and Doing
The Effective Executive
Why Starbucks is Bank
Let’s dive in!
🤯 The Upside of Stress
A friend of mine recommended me the book: The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at it by Kelly McGonigal. At first, the title sounded so wrong that I didn’t understand what the author could have to say to title the book this way. I tend to enjoy finding information that contradicts my prior beliefs, so I read the book.
I must admit, I was completely wrong about stress.
Here are some ideas from the book:
First, a definition:
Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.
The author then covers all the misconceptions we have about stress and explains that what’s really harmful is the belief that stress is bad and not the actual stress. Another key element explained in the book is the importance of your mindset. A different mindset can change your reality, and multiples studies mentioned in the book show it’s the case with stress. A mindset intervention is a catalyst. It helps you change over the long term.
The Most effective mindset interventions have three parts: 1) learning the new point of view, 2) doing an exercise that encourages you to adopt and apply the new mindset, and 3) providing an opportunity to share the idea with others.
The concept of stress is very misleading because it includes a lot of very different feelings. This book will help you understand all the positive behind this emotion/sensation we feel so often.
Rather than being a sign that something is wrong with your life, feeling stressed can be a barometer for how engaged you are in activities and relationships that are personally meaningful.
⚖️ Choice vs Commitment
This week, I read an essay by Ava that resonated with me:
There’s too much going on all at once: things to do, things to buy, friends to compare yourself to. People getting new jobs, getting engaged, getting married, having children, moving to Hawaii, moving to Colorado, moving back to SF; people starting new diets, starting Substacks and OnlyFans, asking you to watch their Youtube videos. We’re ruled by the constant obligation to create and consume and keep up with our peers. It makes feel vaguely nauseous. You could describe it as the nausea of modernity: too much information, too much optionality and not enough focus.
A lot has been said on the importance of choosing what to focus on—we talked about the Trouble with Optionality a few weeks ago—but in a world driven by stimulation, it’s worth repeating once in a while. There are just too many things to keep up with, and if you’re not careful, your attention and focus will end up on things that don’t matter or will just get lost in the ocean of stuff happening online & offline.
Something that helped me a lot is to deliberately say to myself that I don’t care about some things, and don’t engage in some activities. I find the concept of ‘selective ignorance’ liberating.
You don’t need to be on every social media, know about everything, or pretend knowing everything. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand this and make fun of ignorance instead of celebrating genuine curiosity from people who don’t know it all.
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🧠 Better Thinking
🎬 Thinking and Doing
Something needs to be said about people who usually think a lot. It may seem like an obvious advantage to be thoughtful, read and think a lot, but, as often, what sounds obviously good is not. On a personal level, the most successful people I know aren’t necessarily very reflective.
Most decisions we make are reversible and would benefit from speed more than from additional thinking.
I am definitely guilty of overthinking, and something that helped me is the 70% Rule.
The 70% rule is this: Once you’re at 70%, just do it.
The book is 70% done? Launch it.
The project is 70% finished? Ship it
You’re 70% sure about the decision? Make it.
One possible reason for this bias toward too much thinking is that the big business figures sound so smart, always talk about books, and their message is always thoughtful. In this interview, Sriram Krishnan gives an insight I find powerful:
Secret #1: What a lot of people think of as raw IQ from CEOs is actually a) access to information from smart people b) the compounding effects of (a). When you’re the founder/CEO of an iconic company, you can tap into the knowledge/expertise/raw intellect of the top percentile in any field of your choosing. The compounding effect of that is remarkable because you can sit at the intersection of many domains and see patterns very few can.
Before they became who they are today, these CEOs had a bias for acting fast more than anything else. We shouldn’t forget that.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🎯 How to be an Effective Executive
I found this essay very interesting and worth mentioning. It’s inspired by a talk that Keith Rabois gave to Founder Fund’s portfolio companies. It advises on how to be an effective manager. (The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker is on my work-related reading list, but I have other priorities before getting to it.)
Here’s the summary:
Lead, don’t manage: Be proactive rather than reactive. “Lead” your team as opposed to “manage” a situation.
Understand your output: Your output is how much your team gets done + how much neighboring teams get done divided by how many people are on your team. Only add someone if they bring up the ratio of output to people.
Focus on inputs: Spend time on judging your team’s inputs, i.e. the quality of ideas, not on whether you can move revenue 3x this quarter, i.e. outputs.
Spend time on high leverage activities: Do things that have the most impact. Preparing one thing that affects many, like all-hands and dashboards, or do one thing with a lot of impact on one person, like a performance review.
Optimize your most valuable resource, your time: Actively manage your calendar and audit it by categorizing how you spend your time. Is it on top priorities? Is it on high leverage activities? Show your team real examples of great calendars. Batch tasks. Focus on the limiting step.
Running your team
Gather information: Your job as an exec is to make the 4 right calls a year. Can’t do that without all the information so spend time gathering info. Get around filtering mechanisms by wandering the office.
Simplify the metrics and objectives: Find indicators as close to the inputs as possible. Make those and your team’s objectives as simple as clear as possible. Make sure the team understands the logical jump from achieving that objective to having a large impact.
Meetings and Decisions: 4 types of meetings, 1:1s, staff meetings, decision meetings, operating reviews. Clarify what type of meeting you are having. Make decisions by knowledge rather than position as much as possible and at as low of a level as possible.
Peak Performance: Identify whether it is motivation or capability hindering performance. Extend rope to junior people when the downside is low. Always increase their scope.
📚 What I Read
Balaji makes a case for why India should embrace the crypto revolution and buy Bitcoin. A message that many other countries should follow.
Morgan Housel is one of my favorite writers. He came up with a few rules I find compelling.
The person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not the best idea. Just the story that catches people’s attention and gets them to nod their heads.
Behavior is hard to fix. When people say they’ve learned their lesson they underestimate how much of their previous mistake was caused by emotions that will return when faced with the same circumstances.
People learn when they’re surprised. Not when they read the right answer, or are told they’re doing it wrong, but when their jaw hits the floor.
The only thing worse than thinking everyone who disagrees with you is wrong is the opposite: being persuaded by the advice of those who need or want something you don’t.
📖 On Reading and Rereading the Classics
Lately, I’ve been considering switching a little bit the books I read, at least for a few months. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I used only to read classic novels (mostly French literature) then I switched to mostly non-fiction.
I may switch back a little bit and revisit some of the classics I read when I was younger. I will most likely discover that I didn’t understand at all what the authors were trying to say!
I remember my literature teacher repeating this quote time and time again:
“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.”
Maybe it’s time for some rereading.
🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week
I started to feel I’m getting too much content from the same sources—the sources that most people around me are listening to. There isn’t any particular problem with this, but I thought it was time to change the shows I listen to. I haven’t found new ones yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.
If you enjoy a podcast that I never mentioned here, let me know!
🍭 Brain Food
📱 Aspirational Pursuit of Mates in Online Dating Markets
With dating shifting online, I find the studies that are now possible to be fascinating. Here’s a study that I came across recently.
Romantic courtship is often described as taking place in a dating market where men and women compete for mates, but the detailed structure and dynamics of dating markets have historically been difficult to quantify for lack of suitable data. In recent years, however, the advent and vigorous growth of the online dating industry has provided a rich new source of information on mate pursuit. We present an empirical analysis of heterosexual dating markets in four large U.S. cities using data from a popular, free online dating service. We show that competition for mates creates a pronounced hierarchy of desirability that correlates strongly with user demographics and is remarkably consistent across cities. We find that both men and women pursue partners who are on average about 25% more desirable than themselves by our measures and that they use different messaging strategies with partners of different desirability. We also find that the probability of receiving a response to an advance drops markedly with increasing difference in desirability between the pursuer and the pursued. Strategic behaviors can improve one’s chances of attracting a more desirable mate, although the effects are modest.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🏦 Why Starbucks is Actually a Bank
I really enjoyed this video explaining why Starbucks and its fidelity program could be considered as a bank. Studying legacy food chains is fascinating, as they’re often in businesses completely different than most people think. Another example is McDonald’s, which isn’t really a fast-food company, but a real estate one.
🔧 The tool of the Week
Ok, this week the product is well-known. Still, I know a lot of people resisting the switch to e-books. I get it, physical books are beautiful objects, they smell good, the sound of the page turning is hard to replace. Yet, the Kindle's convenience (both the Kindle Tablet, or the app on your phone/iPad) is unbeatable. It reduced a lot the friction to start a new book and helped me read much more. Plus, if you’re a ‘highlight type of person’, you can sync everything with Readwise, which I find fantastic to remember what I read.
My favorite way of reading right now is to split the iPad screen in two, with Kindle on the left, and Notion on the right to take some notes.
🪐 Quote I'm Pondering
“Integrity is the only path where you will never get lost.”
— Mike Maples Jr.
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