The Long Game 96: Endocrine Disruptors, Low Expectations, Obsession, Deep Work
📱 The Truth About Online Dating, 14 Peaks, Jakarta, Substack Reader, Knowledge Networks, 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:
In this episode, we explore:
Doing the deep work
Community-curated knowledge networks
The truth about online dating
Let’s dive in!
💱 Endocrine Disruptors
We talked a few times about infertility, birthrates, and endocrine disruptors in The Long Game, and I came across this great article this week about some ways to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found in almost everything these days from our water and food to the air we breathe. Other common places you’ll find EDCs:
Baby bottles and toys
It can get tricky to understand what are the best measures to reduce your exposure, so here are some ways to mitigate exposure and harms of EDCs:
Don’t use plastic Tupperware. Opt for glass
Eat organic food
Buy products from non-toxic brands, your local health food store, or make your own
Replace your non-stick and aluminum pots and pans
Avoid packaged, processed food and drinks
Filter your water (water filter & shower filter)
Use a sauna (to eliminate your body’s EDCs)
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Pair with: Countdown: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race
🧘♂️ Doing the Deep Work
Ava knows how to put words on important feelings & emotions.
On doing the deep work within yourself:
It was a deeply useful insight, but it didn’t change me overnight. I still had these entrenched patterns of behavior that I’d been recreating since I was a little kid. I’ll give you some examples: I’ve always been scared of abandonment and rejection, I never felt safe, and I wanted very deeply to be loved. These were traits that were present in me as a 4-year-old. They’ve always been part of how I’ve approached school, work, and relationships. They thrummed around me like white noise when I was trying to sit in silence. I was intellectually aware of them on some level, but they were so painful and primordial that I struggled to really touch them. For example, I would notice that I often felt fidgety or anxious when I was alone. That was because I always relied on other people to reflect “okayness” back to me—I looked to the external world for reassurance. I didn’t really know whether I was okay or not when I had no input from others. But I didn’t know how to change that—I didn’t know how to stop feeling the way I was feeling. My discomfort was a living being crushing me under its weight.
Now I realize that I needed distance. I needed the ability to look at myself without judgment, to watch myself the way I would watch someone else. Distance is the only way we can have real perspective. And that’s what psychedelics and mindfulness gave me: the ability to maintain distance. For the past two years I’ve been watching myself the way you might watch a movie. I notice which things upset me, and the coping mechanisms I turn to when I’m upset. I notice that when I’m stressed it feels like a ball of tension is expanding in my chest. I notice that for my whole life I’ve been driven by anxiety, driven by competitiveness, driven by the need to feel chosen. I notice the unrealistic expectations I have for love: the way I use it as a pacifier, the way I believe that it can solve any problem. But it could never solve my most important problem.
🧠 Better Thinking
▪️ Low Expectations
What’s the best way to always be happy? Low expectations.
Munger was recently asked an unrelated question that adds a layer to Musk’s point.
Asked, “You seem extremely happy and content. What’s your secret to living a happy life?” 98-year-old Munger replied:
The first rule of a happy life is low expectations. If you have unrealistic expectations you’re going to be miserable your whole life. You want to have reasonable expectations and take life’s results good and bad as they happen with a certain amount of stoicism.
It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try to achieve crazy things, but simply expecting that things won’t go out as expected is a better long-term strategy.
Elon is the best example of this:
He tweeted two years ago:
To be frank, in the early days, I thought there was >90% chance that both SpaceX & Tesla would be worth $0. The press & aerospace / automotive industry at the time (correctly) agreed with me.
I don’t think any of that is casual irreverence or cocky risk-taking. Purposely low expectations is the only way to survive in a world that’s not kind enough to reward every ambitious person with success.
When people say, “higher risk equals higher return” they should actually be saying, “higher risk means I’ll probably earn lower returns most of the time but there’s a small chance I’ll earn very good returns that make up for it.”
That’s the distinguishing feature of higher risk: The greater prevalence of failure, not the smaller chance of success that has the potential to offset it.
The key part is that low expectations and accepting frequent losses increase the odds of sticking around long enough to eventually be right enough to make up for it, and then some.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
Last week, I listened to MrBeast on JRE, and his obsession with his craft struck me. For the better part of a decade, he did nothing else than obsess over creating the best Youtube videos, and he still does.
I think this level of obsession and dedication to your craft is necessary to reach the highest level in the activity you’re pursuing.
When you’re building something, the biggest trap is to be in it just for the results and expect things to be quick. MrBeast manages to stay obsessed with these videos because he loves them and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. That’s the second part of the equation.
If you apply this level of obsession to something you deeply love (and that matters), that’s when the magic happens (see here, and here.)
I feel like hard work has gotten a bit out of style lately, but it doesn’t mean the recipe to achieve great things has changed.
Pair with this excellent interview of Flexport CEO:
"On some timeframe, you'll succeed, but the timeframe is super uncertain, so how do you set up your life up in a way that you can't fail."
"Success was certain because we didn't have this time horizon that it had to happen in 18 months or else we were all going to go bankrupt."
📚 What I Read
🕸 The Rise of Community-Curated Knowledge Networks
I find the space of knowledge curation fascinating. We are seeing new tools emerging with both the curation and the community in the same place. It has a lot of similarities with what we’re building at Vital: bringing the tools and the social network in the same place.
The intersection of curation and knowledge management is inhabited by utility tools like CB Insights – destinations for both reading content and organizing information. Their biggest miss is that they still function as hierarchies and have not tapped into the power of networked information and crowdsourced knowledge.
On the community side, we’re witnessing a shift towards a post-social media era defined by niche, gated communities of interest and purpose.
Some content creators, such as 2pm and Lenny’s Newsletter, are blending curation and community to inhabit a space I call: new media.
Hunter Walk writes:
I’m of the belief that “Come for the Content, Stay for the Community” will be one of the dominating themes for media this decade. As more creators break away from companies to go subscription indie, they’ll find it to be an effective and rewarding strategy to think of ways to build ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ experiences.
Most of these communities exist inside Slack, Discord, Telegram, or some other tool. But given the chat-based nature of these platforms, it’s easy to miss the best content. Without bespoke tooling to preserve knowledge, these communities will struggle with the same challenges of their early social media predecessors.
The intersection of community and knowledge management is inhabited by spaces like Genius, Stack Overflow, and other collectively maintained libraries. Wikipedia is the pinnacle example here, and remains one of the greatest wonders of the Internet age, proving the value of bespoke tooling and the feasibility of collaboration at scale
🇮🇩 Jakarta’s Transit Miracle
How one of the most-congested/polluted cities in the world is turning things around.
So just to recap: In this booming SE Asian city we have some of the world’s worst congestion and pollution, no subway, MRT, or light rail to speak of, poor cycling/walking conditions, and insufficient or unsatisfactory bus service. It’s no surprise, then, that road traffic accidents were a leading cause of death in Jakarta in the 2010s.
If you looked at Jakarta 10 years ago you probably wouldn’t have predicted it would ever grow into the transit-heavy, cycling-friendly city it is today.
But… it did!
So how did Jakarta shake itself free of this automobile-induced stupor? What really caused this mobility revolution? For my money the main reasons are simple:
The government is all in on supporting a mobility transformation that reduces traffic
Civic leaders have made significant efforts to integrate the city’s various travel modes, making sure they all complement each other
🌒 On Ambition
A great follow-up piece on last week’s hard work article:
Last week we talked about how the term “hustle porn” is often used to stigmatize working hard altogether, and how there’s been a culture shift from celebrating Michael Jordan’s perseverance despite the flu to celebrating Simon Biles’ courage to drop out of the Olympics despite potential blowback.
I heard three interesting responses that I’d like to address in this piece.
Why is ambition good in and of itself? Why be ambitious in work, as opposed to ambitious hobbies or other things?
Why work hard if you’re an employee, not a founder?
Why not emphasize work-life balance for most people, given that they won’t become the next Elon, and the Elons will become the next Elon regardless of what the defaults are?
Let’s tackle these three in order.
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week
This week in podcasts:
Hardcore History 68 – (BLITZ) Human Resources
The best podcaster, Dan Carlin, came back with a new episode on the Atlantic slave trade.
“The Atlantic Slave Trade mixes centuries of human bondage with violence, economics, commerce, geopolitical competition, liberty, morality, injustice, revolution, tragedy, and bloody reckonings. That sounds like a lot, yet this show merely scratches the surface of this enormous subject.”
Lee Cronin: Origin of Life, Aliens, Complexity, and Consciousness
Life and chemistry, self-replicating molecules, the origin of life, life on Mars, aliens, Fermi Paradox, UFOs, science and authority, pickle experiment, and much more!
🍭 Brain Food
💘 The Truth about Online Dating
As most dating has now moved online, we can understand human preferences like never before. This article is fascinating and gives a great recap of everything we now know about online dating.
First, let’s set the picture:
So now that we have all of these people feeding dating apps tremendous amounts of data, here are a few learnings:
This isn’t the only interesting learning. Here are how men rate women, vs. how women rate men:
Women rate 81% of men below average and only 7% above average. Brutal.
Then, when it comes to inequality, the dating market would be one of the most unequal countries in the world if measured with the same standards:
Aviv Goldgeier at Hinge found similar levels of inequality on that app. He calculated the inequality of likes using the Gini Coefficient, which is a common measure of income inequality in which 0 is perfect equality and 1 is perfect inequality. Here is what he said:
As it pertains to incoming likes, straight females on Hinge show a Gini index of 0.376, and for straight males it’s 0.542. On a list of 149 countries’ Gini indices provided by the CIA World Factbook, this would place the female dating economy as 75th most unequal (average — think Western Europe) and the male dating economy as the 8th most unequal (kleptocracy, apartheid, perpetual civil war — think South Africa).
I think the implications of dating going fully digital are huge. People have unrealistic expectations because now, instead of looking for mates in a smaller pool, people look at the best in a massive collection of people. That’s why you end up with women rating only 7% of men above average!
What this did in many cases was to merge what used to be independent national or local hierarchies into a single global hierarchy. This meant major change in who was a winner and who was a loser. The top global competitors became stupendously successful. Many former national or local champions found themselves in newfound competition with better or much, much cheaper competitors and took a big hit.
Online dating acts in a similar manner. It used to be that men and women met each other within various physical spaces and social circles in the real world: school, work, church, family friendship circles, neighborhoods, etc. You could certainly meet someone outside of that, even intentionally such as by looking at old school print personal ads. But the market you were in was much more limited.
Because every school, neighborhood, church, etc. was in essence its own market, that meant they each had their own local marketplace winners. And people would sort of match up within that based on their relative value in the market.
But with online dating, all those old local relationships markets have been merged. It’s not true globalization because most people don’t want to date someone on the other side of the world or the country. But in most places it’s certainly the metropolitanization of dating. Here in Indianapolis, for example, online dating means you have access to all the singles on those sites in a region of over two million people.
So in an online dating world, you are no longer just in competition with people in your social circles. You are in competition with everyone in your city or region. It may be true that your pool of prospects is also bigger. But the dynamics of these global type markets have in practice tended to produce more extremes of winners and losers.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🇨🇳 The Chinese Student Crisis
An interesting exploration of the scam of university rankings.
🏔 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible
“The biggest strength I have is, I have no fear.”
🔧 The Tool of the Week
📱 Substack Reader App
You can now read The Long Game in the new Substack app for iPhone.
With the app, you’ll have a dedicated Inbox for my Substack and any others you subscribe to. New posts will never get lost in your email filters, or stuck in spam. Longer posts will never cut-off by your email app. Comments and rich media will all work seamlessly. Overall, it’s a big upgrade to the reading experience.
The Substack app is currently available for iOS. If you don’t have an Apple device, you can join the Android waitlist here.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.
If you enjoyed this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇
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,
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.
LaCroix stopping using BPA liners in 2019.