📡 The Long Game #14: Strava for Health, Think Weeks, Personal Mental Models, Exclusivity and Hype

🌏 How Asia Works, Inequality, The Great Filter, Deep Medicine, Airr, and Much More!

Hey there 👋🏼, and welcome to The Long Game — my take on health, wellness, and better living.

If you missed the past episodes, you could catch up here.

In this episode, we explore:

  • Strava for Health

  • Think weeks

  • Building your own mental models

  • How Asia Works

Let’s dive into it!

38°C in Paris 🥵


🥑 Health

🚥 Proof of Health — Strava for Health Optimization

It all started with this tweet.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we could promote healthy behaviors and a healthy lifestyle. If we managed to create a product that people love using and where using it means engaging in a healthy life, it would be a big win. As an exploration of the landscape, I thought there was a lot to learn from the extremes: the health enthusiasts and the people who pay no attention to their health. 

Health Enthusiasts

The behavior of health enthusiasts is very interesting because their health is a system, and the ultimate goal is to optimize the system. They will try new things, think about their health, it’s a top priority. They talk about health with their friends, they’re always on the hunt for an area where they can improve. They’re playing a game where their health is the playground, and winning at this game means both feeling great and feeling you’re doing everything you could for your health.

The only limiting factor for this group is that there is no place dedicated to their passion. There are some Subreddits, but it lacks a community behind the movement. There’s only so far you can go by only sharing your experiences on Twitter and with people around you (they might also get annoyed if they’re not as passionate as you are 😅.)

The second problem that happens is that, after using a health tool for a little while, once the early enthusiasm is gone, there is nothing that makes all the health activities stick together. Let’s say you start to monitor your heart rate. After tracking these metrics for some time, you will know your values and potentially even improve them. But it’s hard to see how this habit could stick with you for your whole life, and not be just a gadget for a few months.

People With no Interest in their Health

Now, let’s look at the people who pay little to no interest in their health. A lot of different people fall into this group, but they share one thing in common: they don’t see the point of all these efforts, and it’s unclear to them what would be the benefits of this constraining lifestyle.

The First “Aha Moment”

I recently had a discussion with Robert Miller about this topic, and he shared with me his experience of getting an Oura Ring a few months ago. At first, it was to track potential early signs of COVID-19 infection, but after a little while, he started to understand how beneficial health tracking and health optimization could be. This “aha moment” is crucial in the health optimization journey, and improving the health and life of people at scale will require creating more of these “aha moments.” 

I believe a lot more people would embark on the health journey if they had the first moment like this where they understand that their body is a complex system with inputs and outputs, and if they learn how to make it function better, they’ll be the big winner.

So how can we make this happen? 

Shifting From “Health as a Burden” to “Health as a Sport”

I believe the solution to make a lot of people invested in their health over the long term is to switch from health as a burden to health as a sport. 

Only an activity with a positive perception from the community can infuse the right amount of passion and engagement from a big enough pool of people. We can already see the first sign of this happening with the early adopters of this lifestyle (the High-Performance Lifestyle by Joe Vennare is a good description of it). Still, it will need a clear quantification and definition to expand outside of the world of health enthusiasts.

I found the idea of Strava very promising because its status game reinforces good behavior (physical exercise). Could we apply the same principle to health in general? Is it possible to create a “Strava for Health”?

As Julian Lehr described is his excellent piece “Proof of X”:

What’s great about Strava is that it reinforces a behavior that’s actually good for you: While the status game that initially got you into the app might be zero sum, the actual physical exercise you have to put in to compete has a very positive, compounding effect.

The first step is to create a meaningful “proof of health.” Strava works because it leverages the basic human need for signaling. In our case, the users will want to signal their good health.

Health is harder to measure than physical exercise because there’s no clear definition of it. Let’s see how we could still create a good indicator.

The idea is to create a health score based on multiple verticals that people can track and improve on.

For example, these verticals could include:

  • Sleep

  • Nutrition

  • Mental health

  • Physical activity

  • Heart monitoring

  • Blood testing 

In each of these verticals, we can determine what’s optimal depending on your sex and age, and then divide the range of values from 1/10 (bad) to 10/10 (best).

In a second step, we can create a global health score composed of the scores on each vertical.

The Benefits of This Approach Are Far-Reaching

Having a dedicated place to share health-optimization related content will build and grow a community of health evangelization. If we want to push the boundaries of what’s possible regarding healthspan and lifespan extension, we will need a strong community advocating for more efforts in that direction. Building this community around what’s currently available for healthspan optimization can be a good first step.

Right now, we’re still in the awareness phase of the health optimization movement. When people realize how bad most of the “normal life” habits are for their sleep, health, and well-being in general, it can be unsettling, because there is no clear alternative. These alternative lifestyles will be created in the years to come, with more and more people wanting to trade health-unfriendly activities for health-friendly ones. 

A Strava for Health will promote the right behaviors. Some people are already very motivated when it comes to their health, but most of us could use some extra motivation. Seeing friends and other people share their health journey will contribute to placing health at the center of people’s real and digital lives, and it will promote activities aligned with the health outcomes people from the community are seeking.

The other benefit is on the learning vertical. It’s very hard to find the right content to learn about your health. Having a community of people interested in those questions in one place creates a huge opportunity for providing health-related learning materials. Right now, if you’re not a doctor, society considers that you don’t need to learn about health. With the growing interest of people in their health, this will have to change. From nutrition to sleep, there’s no reason not to learn the basics and apply them in your life.

What Do You Think?

Do you agree that a Strava for health could be the solution to push more people to be healthy in the long-term? What other ideas do you have to solve this problem? 

Let me know in the comments! 

Leave a comment


🌱 Wellness

🍃 Think Weeks

One of the big highlights from Netflix’s docu-series on Bil Gates was the concept of “Think Weeks.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen plenty of new companies selling modular shipping container homes. Modern life is based on over-stimulation, so I can easily imagine a unique concept where a new company buys some of these container homes, place them in beautiful locations in nature (forest or lake), and organizes everything so you can book a “think week” with everything included.

The Growth Equation: Stress + Rest = Growth

Here’s how I imagine it!


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🧠 Better Thinking

🔨 Building Mental Models on Your own

I love reading about mental models to try to improve my thinking and be less prone to biased thinking, but there’s a limit to what reading alone can do.

It takes both reading about mental models and real-life experience to improve your thinking.

It’s much better to learn from the mistakes of others, but there is a minimum amount of errors we can’t skip. These mistakes then serve as motivation and learning for the future.

Daniel Kahneman explains that:

If you really want to improve the quality of decision-making, use algorithms… wherever you can. If you can replace judgment by rules and algorithms, they’ll do better.

Decision-making algorithms are created from trial and error. For example, if you feel bad one day and you make a terrible decision, you will learn never to make important decisions when you don’t feel good.

Your brain is designed such that you need to explore and build mental models on your own. You’re not really designed to passively sit by and try to store received knowledge.

— Andy Hunt


⚡️ Startup Stuff

⭕ Hype and Exclusivity on Launch Strategies

What makes the difference between a very good product, and a product that creates a cult following? I’ve been thinking about this question for a while, seeing the launch of multiple cult products in the last months (Roam Research, Clubhouse, 👄👁👄 and more).

I enjoyed reading The Value of a Velvet Rope: Effects of Hype and Exclusivity on Launch Strategies by Gaby Goldberg on how companies can create hype around their product launch.

The main strategies she outlines on the piece are:

  • The waitlist

  • The blue check phenomenon

  • Building in public

  • TestFlight

  • Moneybags

The one that particularly resonates with me is ‘building in public’. I’ve been following Domm, founder and CEO of Fast, sharing his journey on Twitter.

What does this “building in public” phenomenon actually look like in action? For both Allred and Domm, it looked like vulnerability and authenticity.

Here’s an example of Domm building in public!

The playbook to build something in public looks like something like this:

  • Share real quotes & screenshots of feedback from users

  • Propose interesting product ideas and ask the community for feedback

  • Share “sneak peeks” and vague product updates for things to come

For more about working in public, Nadia Eghbal wrote a book, Working in Public, and she talks about it in this podcast episode where she explains how the evolution of online communities — really, social networks — are shifting the focus to reputation and status as a service.


📚 What I Read

🌏 How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell

Coming from Morocco, I’m particularly interested in understanding how Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea managed to transform into economic powerhouses.

This book is a great read to understand the steps a developing country could take to improve its economy.

The main takeaway of the book is that to kick-start economic advancement in developing countries, governments should promote household farming, build a competitive manufacturing industry and harness the power of the financial sector to benefit the economy as a whole.

⚖️ Inequality and Risk, by Paul Graham

This one is an excellent essay by Paul Graham on inequality. On topics like this, it’s easy to get to the wrong conclusions and not foresee the consequences of such ideas.

The first thing to understand it that to reduce inequality, we must give more to the poor and take from the top.

If you don’t let people get rich, people will stop taking risks and investing their time in startups.

Decreasing economic inequality means taking money from the rich. Since risk and reward are equivalent, decreasing potential rewards automatically decreases people's appetite for risk. Startups are intrinsically risky. Without the prospect of rewards proportionate to the risk, founders will not invest their time in a startup. Founders are irreplaceable. So eliminating economic inequality means eliminating startups.

A better idea would be to go after corruption instead of wealth, to prevent wealth from translating into power.

💊 Deep Medicine, by Eric Topol

I finally started this book, and it doesn’t disappoint. Eric Topol explores the future of medicine in the age of AI.

This quote resonated with me. We have to stop aiming for what’s average and help people achieve what’s optimal.

Today, lab scores are also considered against population-based scales, relying on a dumbed-down method of ascertaining whether a given metric is in a “normal” range. This approach reflects the medical community’s fixation on the average patient, who does not exist.

Some other facts in the books are concerning and show how much we still have to go for better healthcare:

Shockingly, up to one-third of medical operations performed are unnecessary.


🍭 Brain Food

🌌 The Great Filter: Humanity’s Final Exam

This beautiful short clip describes the “great filter” from the Fermi Paradox.

Did we pass the great filter, or is it waiting for us?


🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

🏥 The Infrastructure of Total Health, on a16z Podcast

I’ve been interested in the US healthcare system for some time now. The most significant outlier in the insurance market seems to be Kaiser Permanente.

I asked on Twitter what’s the best way to learn more about Kaiser, and @Nicolas_Colin suggested this great episode.

What’s different about Kaiser is that they’re a complete end to end system, they take care of the patient from start to finish. That enables them to align their incentives with the patient entirely.

At Kaiser Permanente, hospitals, for example, are expense centers and not revenue centers. Their competitors are trying to get the most amount of money from a patient, sometimes leading to useless interventions, while Kaiser Permanente optimizes for the efficiency of care.

After listening to Marty Makary on The Drive, I’m very interested in following business model innovations in the US healthcare system. I recently talked with Brennen Hodge, founder & CEO of Citizen Health, who is building an affordable healthcare economy to tackle this challenge.

📡 Technology and Freedom with Mike Solana, on Venture Stories

If you like thinking about life extension, UFOs, nuclear fusion, and utopian visions for the future, Mike Solana is the right person to get inspiration from.

I don’t agree with all his positions (especially coming from France, and having free healthcare and almost free education, it’s hard to buy into the full-fledged libertarianism thinking). Still, Mike has very interesting opinions on many topics.

I liked, for example, his idea of creating Hereticon, a conference for ‘heretics’ or people that aren’t usually invited to conferences. The idea behind this is that heretical people will be wrong 99.9% of the time, but it’s this 0.1% that will make us progress as a civilization.

They are on the frontier, and that's the only place where new knowledge is happening. If it's not scary to talk about, if you're not facing backlash, you're necessarily not working on something new. If it's universally loved, it can't be new.


🔧 The tool of the Week

🎧 Airr — Highlight and Share the Best Moments from Podcasts

I find podcasts to be an excellent way to learn new things, but it’s always hard to save and remember audio content.

Airr solves this problem by making it super easy to highlight moments from an episode and having them saved in a text that you can reuse later on.

They just added the integration with Readwise, so it can fit in your current productivity setup if you’re already using Readwise as a tool to manage your highlights!


🪐 Quote I’m Reflecting on

It takes many hours to make what you want to make. The hours don’t suddenly appear. You have to steal them from comfort. Whatever you were doing before was comfortable. This is not. This will be really uncomfortable.

Derek Sivers


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EndNote

Thanks for reading!

I will see you next week. As always, if you’re finding this newsletter interesting, give me your feedback, you can respond to this email or tweet at me!

If you’re enjoying The Long Game, I’d love it if you shared it with a friend or two! I try to make it high signal, low noise, and I hope you’re enjoying it!

Have a great day,

Mehdi

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Reach Out

I’m very curious, and I love meeting new people. Feel free to connect with me on:

I started The Long Game to share my thoughts. I’d love your feedback, questions, and comments!

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