The Long Game 61: Changing Your Mind, Non-Sleep Deep Rest, No Rules Rules, Alan Watts

🌌 The Edges of Our Universe, Efficiency vs. Resilience, Rat-Race, Building in Public, Terraforming Venus, and Much More!

Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at Vital, and this is The Long Game Newsletter. To receive it in your inbox each week, subscribe here:

📣 We are hiring at Vital, help us build the future of health optimization.

In this episode, we explore:

  • Non-Sleep Deep Rest

  • Changing Your Mind

  • Thinking is Working

  • No Rules Rules

  • The Edges of Our Universe

  • The Philosophy of Alan Watts

Let’s dive in!

🥑 Health

💤 Non-Sleep Deep Rest

I heard Andrew Huberman talk about Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) so many times that I had to check it out—it’s a different term for Yoga Nidra (because a lot of people seem to be allergic to anything that has to do with Yoga!) This is a tool for rapid, deep nervous system relaxation. Non-Sleep Deep Rest is supported by many scientific studies and can be done any time of day or night to rapidly reset our ability to calm, focus, and, when needed, ease the transition to sleep.

I tried it a few times, and I really liked it. I will practice it more in the next few weeks and report more about my experience.

Find a guided way to practice it in the video below:

🌱 Wellness

🔁 Changing Your Mind

“When was the last time you changed your mind about something important?” is one of my favorite interview questions.

“It allows you to see how — and if — the candidate's belief system or set of core values has changed. How did a powerful experience or impactful person shift the candidate’s worldview?” she says. “Follow up with more questions to find out what they felt before, during and after the experience of being challenged — that will tell you a great deal.”

On top of that, I learned this week that changing your mind could make you less anxious.

Rethinking your opinions—and changing your views when your facts are proved wrong or someone makes a better argument—can make your life better. It can make you more successful, less anxious, and happier.

In this 2016 study, researchers created a humility score by asking people about their openness to advice, their honesty about their own strengths and weaknesses, and whether they tended to be excited about a friend’s accomplishments. They found out that humility was positively associated with happiness and life satisfaction and negatively associated with depression and anxiety.

As is often the case with social science, the data on humility and happiness reinforce what philosophers have long taught. Around the turn of the fifth century, Saint Augustine gave a student three pieces of life advice: “The first part is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility: and this I would continue to repeat as often as you might ask direction.” About a thousand years earlier, the Buddha taught in the Dutthatthaka Sutta that attachment to one’s views and opinions is a particular source of human suffering. These ancient ideas could not be more relevant to modern life.


🧠 Better Thinking

💭 Thinking is Working

I always find it hard to bring together activities and tasks with a very different pace and temporality. There are tasks with a clear goal, a clear expected outcome, and others that aren’t like that. For example, strategic thinking and thinking generally are hard to put on a schedule because the lack of immediate output makes it look like wasted time.

Of course, thinking is not wasted time, and Bryce Roberts is completely right: normalize thinking as working, and find space for deep thinking on your schedule.

⚡️ Startup Stuff

🚷 No Rules Rules

I read No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer this week. I really liked the book. It gives great ideas to implement in your company.

Here are a few notes on the book:

  • According to Hasting, Netflix has become so successful because of its unique company culture.

  • The first crucial point is to create a high talent density in the company because it encourages team members to perform at their very best.

  • Each B player will drag down significantly the performance of the whole team. That’s why Netflix has a very strict policy: a low performer will be given a generous severance package and leave the company.

  • Another reason for high talent density is that it creates a virtuous cycle: a company with really dense talent is one where everyone wants to work for because high performers thrive in an environment with other high performers. Everyone is excellent, and the performance spirals up.

  • There’s no secret to attracting and retaining rock-star talent: pay rock-star salaries. Given that some people radically outperform others, it makes more financial sense to hire one amazing person and pay them a huge amount, rather than a couple of decent people and pay them normal salaries. According to Bill Gates, the best software engineers add 100 times the value of a normal one.

  • The second point is about giving and receiving feedback: Radical candor helps employees improve, even if it can be difficult to hear. People at Netflix never hesitate to give feedback, but always with candor and with a growth mindset.

  • Once you get those first two things: you can get rid of useless policies and make employees more accountable. For example, Netflix removed vacation policies and many other policies. Ultimately, Hasting learned why giving employees more freedom promotes accountability: it signals that you trust them.

  • Maintaining a talent-dense team requires a lot of effort. An important point: the company is not a family. It’s a high-performance team (Tobi Lutke of Shopify recently explained the same idea.) It means that merely adequate people need to be fired.

  • Once you have a high talent density: dispersed decision-making is most efficient. At Netflix, managers lead with context, letting employees use their own judgment to choose what they feel is best for the company.

📚 What I Read

🌌 The Edges of Our Universe

A fascinating paper by Toby Ord:

How large is the universe? What exactly is the observable universe? Will we ever be able to detect things that are outside it? If so, what are the ultimate limits of observability? Are there fundamental limits on how far we could travel through space? How far away does something have to be such that it is completely causally separate from us? How do these relate to each other? And how do they change with time?

Some of the more unexpected things in the paper include:

  • Many galaxies that are currently outside the observable universe will become observable later.

  • Less than 5% of the galaxies we can currently observe could ever be affected by us, and this is shrinking all the time.

  • But we can affect some of the galaxies that are receding from us faster than the speed of light.

  • There is a fundamental split in the long-term history of the universe in 150 billion years’ time between an era of connection and an era of isolation.

💻 The Inner Ring of The Internet

Building in public is all the rage right now. I believe there’s some good in getting outside exposure, challenging your thinking, and meeting great people along the way. Still, there are also some obvious downsides that Ali Montag outlines perfectly:

The desire to be likeable—to win entrance into the upper echelons of the attention marketplace, to be noteworthy and taken note of, to make a hit movie or write a best-selling book—provokes the same reaction from anyone who harbors it: inescapable mediocrity.

So what’s the solution?

Just work. That’s it. Focus on what stirs you up inside, what is beautiful and true. Work on making something good—not something that is liked. Take responsibility. The work will lead you home.

👌 Casualties of Perfection

An important article on the tradeoff between efficiency and resiliency. In today’s world, we’re going after 100% efficiency, creating very fragile systems.

So species rarely evolve to become perfect at anything, because perfecting one skill comes at the expense of another skill that will eventually be critical to survival. The lion could be bigger; the tree could be taller. But they’re not, because it would backfire.

So they’re all a little imperfect.

Nature’s answer is a lot of good enough, below-potential traits across all species. Biologist Anthony Bradshaw says that evolution’s successes get all the attention, but its failures are equally important. And that’s how it should be: Not maximizing your potential is actually the sweet spot in a world where perfecting one skill compromises another.

Evolution has spent 3.5 billion years testing and proving the idea that some inefficiency is good. We know it’s right.

So maybe the rest of us should pay more attention to it.

🇨🇳 China Isn’t Going to Take This Lying Down

Chinese officials are concerned by a new movement from its younger generation to opt-out of the rat race.

The phenomenon, which has gripped social media in recent weeks, describes the growing tendency of urban youths to opt out of the rat race and take unambitious, low-paying jobs or not work at all, eschewing conventional goals in favor of a minimalist, subsistence existence.

🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

This week:

🍭 Brain Food

📉 The Diminishing Share of People Believing in God

I found this graph on the steep decline in the faith of Gen Z to be important and worth sharing.

The first question that came to my mind is: what will be the second-order effect of this? Qiao Wang had some good suggestions:

I think the parts about new religions and the fragmentation of society are essential to note. We are already seeing online communities behaving more and more like cults.

This is a good example of how UFOs are becoming similar to a new religion (although I strongly believe we should carefully study the sightings.)

For the fragmentation of society, Paul Graham wrote an excellent essay a few years ago:

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.

In a way mid-century TV culture was good. The view it gave of the world was like you'd find in a children's book, and it probably had something of the effect that (parents hope) children's books have in making people behave better. But, like children's books, TV was also misleading. Dangerously misleading, for adults. In his autobiography, Robert MacNeil talks of seeing gruesome images that had just come in from Vietnam and thinking, we can't show these to families while they're having dinner.

🎥 What I’m Watching

📜 The Philosophy of Alan Watts

I’ve been listening to the Endel x Alan Watts collaboration for the last few weeks, and I loved it so much I had to learn more about the philosophy of Alan Watts. This video is a good starting point.

👩‍🚀 How to Terraform Venus

One thing is certain, if we want humans to survive for many more millennia, we’ll need to leave Earth at some point. The video below explains the steps to make Venus habitable for human beings.

🔧 The Tool of the Week

👤 Ahead — Self Awareness

Giving and receiving feedback is both very tricky and potentially instrumental in one’s progress. I found the concept of Ahead very compelling:

Ever wondered what others think of you?

Let's get cracking with your personal growth. Rate your own social skills, then let your friends, family and co-workers (anonymously) rate you.

🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

Viktor Frankl

If you enjoyed this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇

👋 EndNote

Thanks for reading!

If you like The Long Game, please share it on social media or forward this email to someone who might enjoy it. Podcast reviews are also gratefully received. You can also “like” this newsletter by clicking the heart just below this, which helps me get visibility on Substack.


Feel free to email me or find me on Twitter if you have any feedback or questions.

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

PS: Lots of newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it in there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a big difference.

Leave a comment