The Long Game 74: Vital, Knowing Yourself, Narrative Distillation, Biology, Endurance

📈 Axie Infinity, Peloton, Sand, Oil, Conscious Leadership, Curiosity, DAMN, 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

  • Senior Frontend Engineer (Flutter)

  • Senior Designer

  • Growth Associate

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:

  • Vital Update

  • Knowing yourself

  • The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

  • Narrative distillation

  • Peloton

  • Axie Infinity

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

👀 Vital Updates

We shared a few design updates this week for what’s coming at Vital. More updates are coming soon. Let me know what you think!

🧬 Current Reading Theme

Following Hacking Darwin last week, I wanted to stay on this theme for the next few weeks. We’ll be exploring:


🌱 Wellness

📖 Knowing Yourself

Ava has one of the best substacks out there. It’s always a pleasure to read her. I found this piece on knowing yourself important:

I don’t like being told what to do and I can’t change to please someone else. I’m resourceful and I pick up new skills quickly. I like loopholes, secret knowledge, cutting corners. I prefer asking questions to answering them. I take my own desire seriously—I can be self-centered and uncompromising. The dreamy, idealistic side of me coexists comfortably with the pragmatic side. I’m comfortable with large amounts of risk. I’m experimental, creative, open to new experiences.

These qualities, good and bad, have been constant in me for a long time. I can modify my behavior and edit all sorts of things about my everyday routine—improve how I handle conflict, try and become a morning person, work out five times a week instead of two—but my deepest traits are linked to my beliefs about the world and how I want to operate within it. To the extent to which I believe we have individual selves, they constitute my self and point to my values. Values create boundaries: they help us make decisions, decide what to prioritize, accept and reject feedback. They help us hold on to our integrity.


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🧠 Better Thinking

1️⃣5️⃣ The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership is one of the three books we give to every new team member at Vital. It’s a book that requires more than reading. It demands re-reading and practice. I listened to Diana Chapman this week, and it pushed me to re-read the book and revisit some of its essential ideas.

Here are the commitments:

Commitment 1: Are you taking 100% responsibility right now? (no more and no less) Are you blaming or complaining about anyone or anything?

Commitment 2: Are you wanting to be right about anything right now?

Commitment 3: What feeling/s are you feeling right now? Where do you feel them in your body?

Commitment 4: Is there anything that you’re concealing right now from anyone? Do you have any withholds right now?
Are you willing to tell the complete truth right now?

Commitment 5: Are you gossiping instead of communicating directly to the person with whom you have an issue?
Are you asking others to communicate their issues directly?

Commitment 6: Do you have a whole body yes to what you’re doing right now? Are there any agreements that are not clear, that you’ve broken, or someone has broken with you?

Commitment 7: What do you appreciate right now? Who do you appreciate right now? Consider sharing it with them right now.

Commitment 8: Are you in your zone of genius, excellence, competence, or incompetence right now?

Commitment 9: How can you get into a state of play right now? How can you rest for at least 30 seconds right now?

Commitment 10: How could you see the opposite of a story you’re believing right now?

Commitment 11: Are you willing to source your approval, control, and security from within right now?

Commitment 12: Are you experiencing enough of everything right now, especially time? Reminder: Keep your attention out of the past and future.

Commitment 13: Are you willing to see everyone and everything in front of you as an ally right now? How are they
perfectly suited for your learning and growth?

Commitment 14: How can you create a win-for-all right now with no compromise?

Commitment 15: What do you see as missing around you? Are you willing to be that right now?

The first one is the most important to me. Taking radical responsibility is life-changing. Of course, reading those commitments won’t ensure you become a conscious leader. To do that, you can set up a daily reminder asking you: “are you leading above the line or below the line?” this will force you to remember the commitments every day and to apply them even when the week gets crazy!


⚡️ Startup Stuff

⚗️ Narrative Distillation

Kevin Kwok recently published a new essay, and it’s excellent, as always. It explains that building your company's narrative is extremely important and may be the distinguishing factor between companies on the top and the others.

The best founders have figured out that owning their narrative gives them meaningful leverage. Founders and companies can increasingly communicate their narrative in a direct and compounding way to investors. And the roadshow is a progressively smaller component of investors’ views on the company.2 What makes SPACs and Direct Listings notable is not their cost structure, but that they allow companies to much more directly market their IPOs.

In the current market, capital is abundant (although always remember that as an early-stage founder coming from nowhere, it won’t necessarily be abundant for you in the beginning 😅)

When the multiple range is so high, the difference between an alright and amazing IPO is a function of people’s belief and confidence in the future potential of business. It can be speculation. It can be based on traction. But also can be on the founders competence in explaining how to think about business today and why that sets it up not just for consistency and predictability but for continual compounding.

As a founder in a world where capital is easy to get, what matters is how to explain yourself, distill the company, and get public markets to understand you in the right way.

Then Kevin gives a few examples of pitches companies can have:

There are three types of fundraising pitches: narrative, inflection, and traction raises:

  • Narrative pitches are driven by a compelling story of what could be

  • Inflection pitches are driven by secrets discovered. The company has hit some inflection point that, if investors were astute enough to understand, would make them realize now is the ideal risk-adjusted time to invest

  • Traction pitches are driven by the results of what’s already been done. The company could be a black box and investors would invest solely off the metrics

The most important takeaway of the piece as a founder is that narrative distillation is a core part of company building:

Those shaping the narrative must intimately understand how employees, investors, and customers think about the company. Refining and expanding the narrative is entwined with the company’s progress. Narrative is shaped by each iteration of a company’s processes and products. And in turn a company’s evolving narrative shapes how it focuses its processes and builds its products.

The Collison brothers at Stripe and Tobi at Shopify are great examples of this. Through their narrative distillation, they manage to have an excellent reputation amongst engineers and hire the best talent:

Historically, capital was the scarcest resource. Venture capital as an industry was built and structured around capital scarcity as the most important blocker on company success.

But increasingly it isn’t scarce anymore. And it certainly isn’t the main blocker for many of the top companies. Talk to top tech companies today and raising capital is ironically one of the easier aspects of building and derisking the company. Hiring and retaining a talented team is far harder. Acquiring and retaining customers is harder. Understanding and getting the team coordinated on what to build is harder. Oh, and did I mention that hiring and retaining a talented team is far harder?

This is the CEO’s job: to raise and allocate the capital needed, but also to build a team capable of building the product needed and getting distribution. All while understanding what the company needs to build and helping the team understand and orient around it.


📚 What I Read

🌳 Nature Shows How This All Works

A necessary reminder to play the long game:

So much focus in investing is on what people can do right now, this year, maybe next year. “What are the best returns I can earn?” seems like such an intuitive question to ask.

But like evolution, that’s not where the magic happens.

If you understand the math behind compounding you realize the most important question is not “How can I earn the highest returns?” It’s, “What are the best returns I can sustain for the longest period of time?”

🌐 DAMN

A good example of how future projects will start:

TLDR: We are crowdfunding 15 ETH to support the creation of the very first DAMN: a decentralized autonomous media network. If this sounds interesting to you, or something you’d like to be a part of, read on.

no, this isn’t a Kendrick Lamar album review

🚴‍♀️ The Counterintuitive Mechanics of Peloton Addiction

A fascinating read on why Peloton has been so successful:

There’s this thing that Christine D’Ercole likes to say to riders at moments when they might be tempted to obsess over their placement on the Peloton leaderboard, which shows users their current overall performance in comparison to others at the exact moment in the ride.

“Take that leaderboard,” she says, “and flip it on its side. Now imagine you’re all out there, riding alongside one another.”

Christine has a lot of strategies to get people to stop looking at the numbers or compete: she encourages riders to find a pace, get comfortable, then close their eyes; she refers to the high fives you can give other riders as “hands on each other’s backs.” And she’s not unique: other instructors invite users to hide the leaderboard, to put a towel over the metrics, to “double tap to hide metrics and let’s have some fun.” Alex clowns on anyone trying to juice their stats during warm up, cool down, or rest periods. It’s cool, instructors say, to compete during competition times. It’s cool to use others’ presence as a way of experiencing some sort of community and motivation. But it’s not cool, in Peloton world, to be a leaderboard rat.


🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

This week in podcasts:


🍭 Brain Food

📈 The Economics Behind Axie Infinity

If you want to understand the economics behind Axie Infinity, this is the article you need.

First, some definitions:

1. Axie Infinity - The game we are talking about
2. Axie NFTs - The characters used in the game mentioned above
3. SLP and AXS - Two tokens used within Axie Infinity for incentivizing users and charging them.

The economic activity in Axie infinity currently relies on two functions - battles and breeding. A battle requires players to hold an Axie team (involving 3 Axie NFTs) to play. They are rewarded what is known as a "Small love portion" token for winning. The game has a ranking mechanism that rewards the best-ranking players with a small chunk of Axie tokens each month.

And here are the key take-aways if you want the tl;dr:

Key Take-Aways

Axie Infinity is first and foremost a game. There have been attempts to financialise components of the play to earn model rapidly, but it comes with its restrictions caused by market forces. If Axie Infinity were a country, the average person's salary would be north of $2000. This ranks the network higher than Kuwait and slightly lower than Korea (at rank 25) in average income per person. A lot of what drives interest to Axie Infinity today is rising asset prices in crypto, and the economic design may be prohibitive to the average user. Sky Mavis has already been aware of these challenges and had rightfully released Ronin (a scalability solution) to tackle expense-related challenges for the average user. The market's auto-correcting is one way of ensuring the system is most attractive to gamers first. What we found intriguing is the counterbalance between the assets on the network. For ventures that are releasing in the play-to-earn model, understanding how changing prices of each asset affect players will be instrumental to finding scale.

For more:

Why Web3 Matters:

Web1 (roughly 1990-2005) was about open protocols that were decentralized and community-governed. Most of the value accrued to the edges of the network — users and builders.

Web2 (roughly 2005-2020) was about siloed, centralized services run by corporations. Most of the value accrued to a handful of companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

We are now at the beginning of the web3 era, which combines the decentralized, community-governed ethos of web1 with the advanced, modern functionality of web2.

Web3 is the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens. 


🎥 What I’m Watching

🇳🇴 Why Oil Doesn’t Corrupt Norway?

We saw how oil corrupted Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago. Here’s the counterexample with Norway.

⏳ The Next Conflicts Will Be Fought Over Sand

I had no idea that sand had become such a scarce resource. Initially, I thought: “good for developing north African countries,” but it turns out that the sand used for constructions can’t be desert sand. It needs to be sea sand because desert sand was too polished by the winds.

A quote to make you think: “between 2011 and 2013, China consumed 6.6 gigatons of concrete - that’s more than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century.


🔧 The Tool of the Week

📱 Matter — Social Reading

I already shared Matter in The Long Game, but they have improved a lot in recent months. It’s a social reading app that tries to bring a better solution to the existing ‘read it later’ apps like Pocket and Instapaper. I really like the social dimension. Once again: verticalized social apps are incredibly compelling. This is a strong belief we hold at Vital.


🪐 Quote I’m Pondering

People prefer their sources of information to be highly correlated. Then all the messages you get are consistent with each other and you’re comfortable.

— Daniel Kahneman


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

Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

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