Discover more from The Long Game by Mehdi Yacoubi
The Long Game 6: Radical Life Extension, The End of Gyms, Scientific Thinking, Product/Market Fit, healthOS, Intra-Elite Competition
🧬 Biology Is Eating the World, Improving Idea Flow, The Balkans, Lessons From Video Games, and Much More!
Hey there 👋🏼, and welcome to The Long Game — my take on health, wellness, and better living.
I just moved to Belgrade, Serbia, and I love it so far. I find the architecture to be a mix between Vienna, Buenos Aires, and Casablanca! I'm ready to learn more about the culture, the food, the language, and the history of the Balkans over the next few months.
Over the last five weeks, writing the newsletter has been a moment I look forward to every week! The words of Sidhartha Jha perfectly describe my experience:
"I call writing newsletters “self-therapy for infovores,” and every Sunday, I wake up, brew a fresh cup of coffee, sit in my chair, and do some therapy."
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End of the day in Belgrade
🥑 Health | ✍🏼 What I Wrote
People can live their entire lives planning their retirement, saving money, organizing their career, helping their children set up their own lives.
They do everything to make sure that when they reach the golden age, they would be comfortable and free of all those life anxieties of youth and struggle.
It is rare, however, that you meet a person that thinks the same way about health. It is the most important thing, and yet, when we start planning, we neglect it so much.
We are somehow stuck in the culture of thinking about health only when things go wrong.
How could we possibly achieve the optimal outcome on a complex system, without any organization or planning?
🏋🏻♂️ Fitness, But Make It Free, by Fitt Insider
The world of fitness has been struck in 2020. The months of lockdown and the fear of being in a small place with other people create the worst possible scenario for gyms. This has led many people to start exercising differently.
More than ever, local parks, trails, and bike lanes have become a respite from an isolated, sedentary existence.
Without gyms to exercise, this crisis showed us how important it is for a city to provide enough green places and space for its inhabitants to feel good and healthy.
Going for a walk, a run, or a workout was considered as essential during the lockdown. These activities contribute to the wellbeing of society. Why should we have to pay for them? I remember how great it was to work out on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. Giving people access to free places to exercise can change a city for the better.
Let's hope more city budgets go into this in the coming years.
The culture of fear – be it real or hyped – will be greatest in the Glitter Gym. Exercise reduces stress levels, but probably not if you think you will get infected or infect someone else.
The street workout area at the Tašmajdan park!
🧠 Better Thinking
In many cases, thinking scientifically can be very hard. Peter explains why:
Consider that for 2 million years we have been evolving—making decisions, surviving, and interacting—but for only the last 2,500 years (0.125% of that time) have we had “access” to formal logic, and for only 400 years (0.02% of that time) have we had “access” to scientific reason and understanding of scientific methodologies.
Good solid thinking is really hard to do as you no doubt realize. How much easier is it to economize on all this and just “copy & paste” what seemingly successful people are doing?
When it comes to scientific thinking, we have two problems:
We are not genetically equipped to think logically or scientifically.
The signal (truly valuable behaviors worth mimicking)-to-noise (all unworthy behaviors) ratio is very low.
So what's the solution?
We have to learn to think scientifically. We can compare thinking scientifically to the ability to play an instrument. We have to learn it.
Richard Feynman is an excellent introduction to the scientific method (this video, for example!)
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⚡️ Startup Stuff
For a founder, achieving product/market fit is an obsession from the beginning. Everyone talks about it. But very few would know how to define it, and even less can tell you whether a startup has found product/market fit or not yet.
Rahul Vohra, founder & CEO of Superhuman, worked a lot on this concept while building his company.
The product/market fit definitions I had found were vivid and compelling, but they were lagging indicators
He and his team came up with a very interesting framing:
Ask your users how they’d feel if they could no longer use your product. The group that answers ‘very disappointed’ will unlock product/market fit.
Then, the goal is to increase the rate of people who would be "very disappointed" if they could no longer use your product.
This framework to help founders reach product/market fit is compelling. To help make it easier to use, Viable Fit recently launched.
The Superhuman Product Market Fit Engine, built for any product. Collect structured user feedback, measure PMF on an ongoing basis, and use historical survey data to answer new questions instantly. Find product market fit faster than ever.
📚 What I Read
After the famous "Software is Eating the World," A16Z exposes its Bio Manifesto in this remarkable piece. The next big area of progress and innovation will be biology.
Our ability to engineer biology will fundamentally transform how we diagnose, treat, and manage disease.
While biology evolves, our therapeutics do too, by leveraging data we never had before.
All of this is powered by the ability to generate data that we’ve never had before, plus sophisticated computational tools to make sense of them.
We are at a unique moment in time where our entire healthcare system—how we access, pay for, and deliver healthcare—is being re-engineered through technology.
Bio today is where information technology was 50 years ago: on the precipice of touching all of our lives. Just like software—and because of it—biology will one day become part of every industry.
🩺 healthOS, by Nathan Baschez
A thought-provoking piece. Living a longer, healthier life because you are in the Apple ecosystem could be what Apple will be remembered for. Apple's focus on privacy was believed to be an enormous strategic mistake, given the associate weakness in AI/ML-driven services. This article challenges that hypothesis as privacy is a fundamental condition for creating the "healthOS."
On one hand, we’re seeing a proliferation of health sensors that will only continue to accelerate. Today we have connected mattresses tracking our sleep and connected watches tracking our heart rate. Tomorrow we could have the aforementioned connected toilet measuring our gut health.
On the other hand, we have a healthcare system that isn’t making use of any of this data and isn’t exposing any of the data they generate in any sort of structured or portable way.
Apple’s goal is to connect these dots by becoming a trusted broker that stands in the middle.
🥇 Intra-Elite Competition: A Key Concept for Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Societies, by Peter Turchin
Peter Turchin, the author of Age of Discord, explains how intra-elite competition can be a factor of instability in society. In the US, the main "pumps" producing elite aspirants are education (mainly Law School) and wealth (MBA to climb to the corporate ladder).
As individual elites retire, they are replaced from the pool of elite aspirants. There are always more elite aspirants than positions for them to occupy. Intra-elite competition is the process that sorts aspirants into successful elites and aspirants whose ambition to enter the elite ranks is frustrated. Competition among the elites occurs on multiple levels. Thus, lower-ranked elites (for example, state representatives) may also be aspirants for the next level (e.g., U.S. Congress), and so on, all the way up to POTUS.
Analysis of past societies indicates that, if intra-elite competition is allowed to escalate, it will increasingly take more violent forms. A typical outcome of this process is a massive outbreak of political violence, often ending in a state collapse, a revolution, or a civil war
This piece is worth it if you want to improve your ideas and your creativity. Just like food, your information diet shapes the way you think. If you consume too much content from the same types of people, you will end up copying their thinking.
One easy change is to reduce the overlap in idea sources. Go through your Twitter, Feedly, Podcast, or YouTube feed and see what sources are saying the same things in different ways. Now of those, which are your favorites. Keep one or two, and ditch the rest.
But that’s the easy part. The challenge is finding new buckets to draw from.
Finding new and original sources of ideas is very hard. I always end up reading the same things. If you have good and different sources, share them with me!
But to develop new ideas, reading and learning is not enough. You have to create something.
Creating is the final expression of an idea. Whether your ideas express themselves in articles, tweets, songs, paintings, TikToks, you must turn them into something to truly clarify them.
🍭 Brain Food
If, like me, you don't know a lot about the Balkans, this should do the job! It's is a beautiful region with a complex history and a multicultural heritage. On top of that, Croatia and Montenegro have some of the most beautiful beaches I saw.
And if you want to become an expert on the topic, the documentary "The Death of Yugoslavia" is your solution!
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week
Saying something on the race issue in the US is a dangerous task these days. In this episode, Sam Harris takes on the challenge. I highly recommend listening to the full episode. You can disagree with his positions, but the most important thing here is to be able to have a conversation. The "Cancel Culture" isn't doing any good for our society. It is essential to separate assholes from those with whom we simply disagree. Too often, we confuse the two. We keep the assholes around for too long. And we purge those with whom we disagree too quickly.
Lessons From Video Games, & The Importance of Communication| Tobi Lutke on Invest Like the Best with Patrick O'Shaughnessy
Tobi Lutke is the founder and CEO of Shopify. He is a great thinker and a remarkable CEO.
Here are a few takeaways of the episode:
Video games can be useful for you because they teach you how to transfer talent from one area to another.
Tobi started Shopify because he saw that there wasn't software to help entrepreneurs build an online store.
If you want employees to change their behavior, make it easier to perform that specific behavior.
Having a working understanding of personality tests and having an appreciation for other people's perspectives is just hugely valuable.
🔧 The tool of the Week
I started tracking my sleep a few months ago. To begin with, I wanted something easy and affordable. AutoSleep helps you track your sleep with your Apple Watch. I already learned a lot from tracking my sleep. For example, eating less than three hours before going to sleep reduces the quality of my sleep significantly. I'm learning much more about sleep optimization these days, and I will write a detailed piece once I have more insights to share!
🪐 Quote I'm Reflecting On
“In a complex system, the cumulative effect of a large number of small optimizations is externally indistinguishable from a radical leap.” Keith's Law
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,
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