The Long Game 85: Best of 2021, the Power of Positivity, Giving Advice
🧠 Best Podcasts, Best Books, Best Tools, Muscle IQ Test, China in Africa, and Much More!
In this episode, I wanted to do something a bit different. As 2021 comes to a close, I thought it would be interesting to review and list the best content I’ve shared this year.
When it comes to health, a lot happened in 2021. The three most important things were:
Pivoting at Vital and building the ‘Strava for Health’: a health optimization social network to make the process of taking care of your health in a preventive way fun and enjoyable.
Fixing my chronic back pain: I wrote about back pain precisely a year ago in TLG 33
“I have chronic back pain for more than two years, and I still haven’t found a solution for myself. After trying to get an external solution from different therapists (I tried them all), I understand now that it must be a personal project where I put in the work to fix it. No one other than myself will solve this problem in the long term.”
I am happy to say that I’ve been living pain-free since February 2021. I am beyond grateful to my friend Ivan for recommending Healing Back Pain and to Dr. Sarno for his life-changing work (If I could give one single book to everyone, it would be this one.)
As a side note, I snapped my back last week on Thursday and thought I hurt myself. I stayed calm, re-read Sarno’s book, and the pain was gone in 72 hours. Today I went back to the gym and deadlifted as if nothing ever happened.
Going back to intense training: Because of Covid, I was out of the gym for 15 months. Restarting weight training was a highlight of my year. Everything seems more manageable when you get a hard session first thing in the morning. On top of that, focusing on strength makes it even more enjoyable because the small incremental progress is clearly visible.
Other interesting health subjects of the year:
Cold showers every morning
Starting to track HRV and trying to improve it
Learning about blood testing (still early in the process)
Monitoring blood glucose and finding the optimal diet
Training to become a hybrid athlete (strength, cardio, and flexibility) — still early in the process, but one of the goals I’m most excited about for 2022
Topics to explore in 2022:
DNA: sequence my DNA and get a comprehensive report on what health implications it has
Track and optimize testosterone
Air quality inside my house (track and find the right tool to optimize it)
Remove all endocrine disruptors from my life and my house (Cf. Countdown)
➕ The Power of Positive People
Let’s finish 2021 with the power of positive people that we covered in TLG 64:
We all intuitively know how different we feel with positive versus negative people. I loved this article because it argues that positive people in your life are an essential part of living a long healthy life.
While many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that certain health behaviors appear to be contagious and that our social networks — in person and online — can influence obesity, anxiety and overall happiness. A recent report found that a person’s exercise routine was strongly influenced by his or her social network.
There’s nothing fundamentally new here. We talked about the effects of loneliness on health a few weeks ago. It seems that the opposite is also true: being surrounded by great, positive people has beneficial health outcomes:
“I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network,” said Mr. Buettner, who advises people to focus on three to five real-world friends rather than distant Facebook friends. “In general you want friends with whom you can have a meaningful conversation,” he said. “You can call them on a bad day and they will care. Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”
For more, this research paper makes the point that optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in both men and women:
🧠 Better Thinking
💭 Understanding Advice
As the year comes to a close, many people come up with reflections, reviews, and advice they wish they had. As a general rule, I tend to be very cautious when listening to advice. I often come back to the idea that giving advice doesn’t work in many cases. It’s a mix of a survivorship bias and giving advice to ourselves that we make universal when it should not.
While listening to Bryan Johnson, I really liked his perspective on advice. He explains:
Listen to advice and see it for what it is: a mirror of that person, and then map and know that your future is going to be in a zeroth-principle land. What you’re hearing today is a representation of what may have been the right principle to build upon previously, but they’re likely depreciating very fast. I’m a strong proponent that people ask for advice but they don’t take advice.
So how do you take advice? It’s in the careful examination of the advice. The person makes a statement about a given thing that we should follow. The value is not in doing that. The value is in understanding the assumption stack they built around that body of knowledge.
We tend to love “recipes,” frameworks, and playbooks, but you can’t follow something blindly and expect it to work.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
Here are my favorite startup resources of the year:
📚 What I Read
My favorite books of 2021:
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Year
Here are the best podcast episodes of 2021:
🍭 Brain Food
🔮 The Next Big Thing
At the end of each year, Nikhil Basu Trivedi comes up with some important trends for the year to come. I think that most of these are spot on, and the one I most agree with is Balaji’s prediction on the rise of health optimization and longevity.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🇨🇳🌍 The Truth About China in Africa
An interesting and measured take on what China is doing in Africa.
🧠 The Muscle IQ Test
This is an interesting test to see where your muscle/strength training knowledge stands.
🔧 The Tools of the Year
There are a few tools I greatly enjoyed using this year:
I already shared it last week, but if you’re looking for a template to conduct your annual review, this is a great one.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
No one would dispute the essential role the laboratory has played in medical progress (witness penicillin and insulin for example). Unfortunately, some things are difficult to study in the laboratory. One of these is the mind and its organ, the brain. The emotions do not lend themselves to test tube experiments and measurement and so modern medical science has chosen to ignore them, buttressed by the conviction that emotions have little to do with health and illness anyway. Hence, the majority of practicing physicians do not consider that emotions play a significant role in causing physical disorders, though many would acknowledge that they might aggravate a .physically. caused illness. In general, physicians feel uncomfortable in dealing with a problem that is related to the emotions. They tend to make a sharp division between the things of the mind and the things of the body, and only feel comfortable with the latter.
— Dr. John E. Sarno
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