The Long Game 72: Air Quality, the Cream of Life, Science Fictions, Getting Luck on Your Side

🎰 The Bet, India's Plan to Counter China, MET Gala, Saudi Arabia's Oil Problem, App Fuel, 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 “Strava for Health.” We are currently looking for:

  • Senior Backend Engineer

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  • Senior Designer

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Find all our openings here.

We are offering $1,000 in Bitcoin if you refer to us a candidate we end up hiring.


In this episode, we explore:

  • Air quality

  • The cream of life

  • Science Fictions

  • Getting luck on your side

  • The Bet

  • India’s plan to counter China

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

🌬 Air Quality

There are so many things in our environment that impact our health and wellbeing. I’ve been focusing on diet, exercise, and practices one can do to optimize their healthspan. I haven’t been thinking much about ambient things like air quality.

I recently came across this article about air quality, and I learned many things that can be valuable to all.

What do you worry about more: Getting exercise, eating vegetables, or the air you breathe?

While most things that clearly improve health are well known, one is insanely underrated: Fixing your air. I suspect this is often the most effective health intervention, period. Nothing else is so important while also being so easy to address.

The crazy thing is that even if it’s the most critical health factor, air quality isn’t covered as much as diet, exercising, etc.

I didn’t know how harmful small particles can be for health:

We worry about tiny particles because they seem most harmful, particularly in terms of how chronic exposure leads to long-term health problems.

Tiny particles do cause lung cancer, but that’s one of the smaller harms. More than half of harms don’t come from the lungs at all, but from diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Here are the DALYs lost in the US in 2019:

The article is long and detailed, but the author was kind enough to provide a TL;DR for the busiest of us. Here’s what you can do to optimize your air quality:

  1. If you have an ultrasonic humidifier, kill it.

  2. Monitor local air quality like the weather.

  3. No incense.

  4. Extinguish candles with a lid.

  5. Be careful about smoke when cooking.

  6. Get a particle counter.

  7. Use an air purifier at home all the time. (Move this to #1 if the outdoor air has high particulate levels where you live.)

  8. Install a HEPA cabin air filter in your car.

  9. Avoid aerosols.

  10. Use a mask very carefully when in dirty air.

I was surprised that Barcelona, where I just settled, has very poor air quality. I will be paying much more attention to this topic in the coming months, expect air quality to be a recurring topic on The Long Game.

If you have experience in this topic, let me know the tools you like and the habits that helped you!


🌱 Wellness

🍦 The Cream of Your Life

I found this framing from Murakami simple and beautiful.

Your brain is made to think about difficult things. To help you get to a point where you understand something that you didn’t understand at first. And that becomes the cream of your life.


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🧠 Better Thinking

🧪 Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype in Science

I found Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype in Science in a bookshop this weekend, and I had it on my list for a while, so I picked it up. It’s an attempt at describing the biggest problems in science right now and their solutions. The book also covers how to read a scientific paper.

I linked to many resources examining the problems with science and academia over the weeks because it’s the meta-problem that, if fixed, would lead to very big improvements in our understanding of the world.

I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’ll cover it more in the future, but here are some interesting resources if you’re interested in the topic of good vs. bad science, and how to read scientific papers:


⚡️ Startup Stuff

🎲 Getting Luck on Your Side

We’ve talked multiple times about the question of luck vs. hard work in the newsletter. This topic quickly shifts to politics, but in short, I believe that although initial conditions (family, genes, etc.) matter a lot, a person still has a significant amount of agency to make things happen.

I found this piece about the four kinds of luck by Marc Andreessen worth sharing.

Luck is something that every successful entrepreneur will tell you plays a huge role in the difference between success and failure. Many of those successful entrepreneurs will only admit this under duress, though, because if luck does indeed play such a huge role, then that seriously dents the image of the successful entrepreneur as an omniscient business genius.

Then, the article describes the four different types of luck, from random events happening, to things that happen because of a specific attitude a person adopted.

In short, Marc Andreessen explains that there is a roadmap to getting luck on your side, and it depends on:

  • How energetic are we? How inclined towards motion are we?

  • How curious are we? How determined are we to learn about our chosen field, other fields, and the world around us?

  • How flexible and aggressive are we at synthesizing—at linking together multiple, disparate, apparently unrelated experiences on the fly?

  • How uniquely are we developing a personal point of view—a personal approach—a personal set of “eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors” that will uniquely prepare us to create?

I experimented with those over the past two years, and I can confirm that those general points work and lead to a luckier life.

Finally, I find this tweet thought-provoking 👇


📚 What I Read

🏦 Glenn Greenwald on the MET Gala

On the hypocrisy of AOC’s dress:

Fortunately, many of AOC's most devoted socialist supporters stepped forth with passionate defenses of their leader. As they pointed out, AOC had painted onto the back of her pristine white gown — in perfectly proportioned and tastefully scrolled red ink highlighting the stunning virtues of the designer dress' silhouette -- a leftist phrase, Tax the Rich, that not only assaulted the Biden-supporting liberal celebrities in attendance but made them feel endangered in their own habitat, as if their wealth and privilege were being imperiled not from afar but from one of their own, from within. Far from being what AOC's dirty and petty critics tried to malign this as being — an attention-seeking, celebrity-building, branding opportunity in which AOC yet again lavished herself in the multi-pronged rewards of the very economic and cultural hierarchies she claims to despise and vows to combat -- she was actually engaged in a revolutionary and subversive act, injecting into aristocratic circles a beautifully artistic yet hostile message.

🎰 The Bet, by Anton Checkhov

I loved this short fiction story by Anton Checkhov.

Here’s how it starts:

It was a dark autumn night. The old banker was walking up and down his study and remembering how, fifteen years before, he had given a party one autumn evening. There had been many clever men there, and there had been interesting conversations. Among other things they had talked of capital punishment. The majority of the guests, among whom were many journalists and intellectual men, disapproved of the death penalty. They considered that form of punishment out of date, immoral, and unsuitable for Christian States. In the opinion of some of them the death penalty ought to be replaced everywhere by imprisonment for life. “I don’t agree with you,” said their host the banker. “I have not tried either the death penalty or imprisonment for life, but if one may judge a priori, the death penalty is more moral and more humane than imprisonment for life. Capital punishment kills a man at once, but lifelong imprisonment kills him slowly. Which executioner is the more humane, he who kills you in a few minutes or he who drags the life out of you in the course of many years?”

“Both are equally immoral,” observed one of the guests, “for they both have the same object – to take away life. The State is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to.”

🛣 Sticking With the Plan

A necessary reminder by Fred Wilson:

Managing a business is about having a plan, sticking with it, and not panicking or looking for hail mary passes. There are no silver bullets or shortcuts to success in life. You need to have a five to ten-year plan and you need to stick with it and execute against it day after day, week after week, year after year.


🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

This week in podcasts:


🍭 Brain Food

🥩 Lab-Grown Meat

Almost every month, some news about lab-grown meat makes the headlines for a few days, but it seems that the whole industry always fails to deliver.

This is a great article to understand what’s currently happening in the industry and what the challenges are:

For years, the former pharmaceutical industry executive watched from the sidelines as biotech startups raked in venture capital, making bold pronouncements about the future of meat. He was fascinated by their central contention: the idea that one day, soon, humans will no longer need to raise livestock to enjoy animal protein. We’ll be able to grow meat in giant, stainless-steel bioreactors—and enough of it to feed the world. These advancements in technology, the pitch went, would fundamentally change the way human societies interact with the planet, making the care, slaughter, and processing of billions of farm animals the relic of a barbaric past.

I know Joshua March is tackling the problem with a new approach at Artemys Foods. I look forward to tasting their products soon.


🎥 What I’m Watching

🇮🇳 India’s Masterplan to Counter China

I’m ‘long India’ for the 21st century. It will be a major power and a source of innovation. This video is an interesting explanation of how India plans to counter China by developing new trade routes and alliances between Asia, Africa, and Europe.

🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia’s Oil Problem

Similar to most countries with huge oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is struggling to diversify its economy. Following the example of the UAE, Saudi Arabia is trying to modernize its society to attract foreign investment, but the Jamal Khashoggi murder is a massive obstacle in the country’s PR efforts.


🔧 The Tool of the Week

📱 The App Fuel

If you’re building an app or thinking of building an app in the future, the App Fuel is an excellent resource for UX/UI inspiration and examples.

What’s your favorite mobile app, and what apps do you think Vital could get inspiration from? Let me know!


🪐 Quote I’m Pondering

“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.”

David Goggins


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👋 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.

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Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

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