The Long Game 24: Stoicism and Wellbeing, Cold Exposure, Listening, Hiring, Political Extremism

🎙 The Long Game Podcast, Nuclear Risk, Long Term Stock Exchange, and Much More!

Hello everyone!

Greetings from Montenegro 🇲🇪

🎙 After writing this newsletter for 24 weeks, I’m happy to announce I just launched The Long Game Podcast to complement it!

The episodes feature long-form conversations with tech industry leaders, scientists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers. Some guests will be well known, others will be soon, but they all share a profound similarity, they have demonstrated unusual insight and see today's challenges with a unique lens.

The purpose of The Long Game Podcast is to catalyze progress and innovation to make our future better.

#1: Nicolas Colin on Making Europe Great Again (Apple Podcasts, Spotify)

#2: Anirudh Pai on Aging, Charter Cities, China, and Utopias (Apple Podcasts, Spotify)

Subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, and I would love to receive your feedback; let me know on Twitter!

Stay tuned; a lot of great guests are already scheduled.


On to the newsletter, in this episode, we explore:

  • Cold exposure

  • Stoicism and wellbeing

  • Listening

  • Hiring

  • Nuclear risk

  • Parenting

Let’s dive into it!

Men of Progress, Christian Schussele, 1862


🥑 Health

🥶 Cold Exposure

Cold exposure is very interesting in the context of health and longevity. There is a growing amount of research being done to assess the safety and efficacy of this practice.

As the morning is getting colder, cold exposure was on my mind lately.

After watching Wim Hof one year ago—and trying his method—I find cold exposure fascinating, but one might ask if it’s backed by science. Here are a few research papers that were done on cold therapy.

  • For depression: This study looked into open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder. It’s still hard to know whether it works or not.

  • For immune enhancement: Some studies have shown that cryotherapy decreases inflammation (here, and here.) Again here, it’s hard to be sure that it’s beneficial because it might blunt the beneficial inflammation post-exercise.

There are many more papers exploring cold therapies, but right now, it’s pretty hard to find real, tangible benefits to cold therapy.

However, it doesn’t mean cold therapy does not work (or that it can’t work for you.) On a personal level, I started taking cold showers a year ago, and the main benefit to me isn’t necessarily related to health and longevity; it’s related to discomfort. Having a daily practice where you do something you really don’t want to do makes everything else easier.

We can do more than what we think. It's a belief system that I have adopted and it has become my motto. There is more than meets the eye and unless you are willing to experience new things, you'll never realize your full potential.

— Wim Hof


🌱 Wellness

🏛 Stoicism and Wellbeing

When it comes to philosophy and especially practical life philosophy, I like to read the Stoics. I started listening to Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius, and it’s a great reminder of the art of Stoicism. Each letter is a powerful concept to reflect on.

Here are some ideas from the first letters:

  1. Nothing is ours except time.

  2. Reading many authors and books can make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited amount of master thinkers and digest their work. Everywhere means nowhere. (I definitely have some progress to do on this front!)

  3. It is equally faulty to trust everyone and to trust no one.

  4. Do not wear too fine nor yet to frowsy a toga.

What’s the link with wellness, you might think. I found a study exploring the link between a stoic approach to life and wellbeing; here’s the abstract:

Ancient philosophy identified a wide range of possible approaches to life which are supposed to enable wellbeing. The stoic approach to life focused on emotional restraint and an overall orientation towards meaning in life.

While few individuals are explicit adherents to stoicism, individuals can also adopt an approach to life representing a naive stoic ideology. While in the past this approach has been largely investigated in relation to ideals of masculinity, recently the focus has widened to examine how stoic ideology might be related to wellbeing across individuals.

While initial research focusing on hedonic conceptualizations of wellbeing has found substantial negative effects of stoic ideology, no study so far has examined the differential effects that stoic ideology might have on eudaimonic and hedonic wellbeing.

In this pre-registered study, 636 participants reported their stoic ideology, eudaimonic and hedonic wellbeing, as well as their orientations to happiness. Overall, we found that the recently developed measure of stoic ideology showed good measurement properties and we confirmed the negative effects of stoic beliefs on hedonic wellbeing observed in previous studies. Additionally, we found that in contrast to our hypothesis stoic ideology significantly negatively predicted eudaimonic wellbeing and eudaimonic wellbeing orientation, as well as engagement in life.

This indicates that a naive endorsement of stoic ideology might be detrimental to individuals’ wellbeing independent of the specific aspect.

This study is important because we see more and more stoicism branded as the philosophic solution to modern world problems. The risk lies in adopting a naive approach to this school of thought.

While our findings indicate that holding a naive stoic ideology has negative wellbeing effects, this does not imply that more explicit, formal endorsement of stoic philosophy would have the same effects.

On the criticism of stoicism, Simon Sarris wrote a thought-provoking piece called Stoicism is Not Enough.

I find another issue broadly across much of stoicism: it is a strictly defensive philosophy. Stoicism is always found guiding on how to endure. It does less to guide one on how to live well.


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🧠 Better Thinking

👂 Listening

Hearing happens when we’re able to recognize sounds. Listening happens when we put in the efforts to understand what it means.

Without an accurate understanding of a situation and the experiences of other people, it’s impossible to think well.

Listening is hard because it requires accepting the experience, intent, and emotions behind the words. It can be scary because by accepting experiences and emotions, we discover things we might be avoiding.

To become better at listening is to become at peace with what you might discover.

Steven Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, argues there are five levels of listening:

  1. Ignoring

  2. Pretending to listen

  3. Selective listening

  4. Active listening

  5. Empathetic listening.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

👥 On Hiring

This week, I’ve read a few things about hiring, as it’s something I’ll do very soon.

One thing that always strikes me is the importance people usually give to degrees and credentials. It can be tempting to consider them a perfect proxy for quality in a hire, but they’re not. Usually, I’m very skeptical about credentials and titles. I don’t like to use proxies. So what’s the right thing to look for when hiring?

Marc Andreessen writes that the first criteria should be the drive of the candidate.

I define drive as self-motivation -- people who will walk right through brick walls, on their own power, without having to be asked, to achieve whatever goal is in front of them.

The second criterion is curiosity because curiosity is a proxy for “do you love what you do?” You want to build a company where people love what they’re doing and aren’t here just because they needed a job.

The third and final criterion is ethics. This is hard to test, but hiring unethical people is the worst thing you could do.

As I’m learning more about hiring, I’ll write my findings and my experience here (If you have good articles and books, reply to this and let me know!). Here’s a hiring practice I liked from David Perell; it’s called the Knife Theory of Hiring:

When you first start a company, you need Swiss Army Knife people who can do a little bit of everything.

Once your company gets big, you need a bunch of kitchen knife people who do one thing very, very well.

On an inspirational note, here’s Steve Jobs talking about how to hire, manage, and lead people!


📚 What I Read

🤬 Political Extremism

I found this paper about the psychological features of political extremism very interesting. Here’s the abstract:

In this article, we examine psychological features of extreme political ideologies. In what ways are political left- and right-wing extremists similar to one another and different from moderates? We propose and review four interrelated propositions that explain adherence to extreme political ideologies from a psychological perspective. We argue that (a) psychological distress stimulates adopting an extreme ideological outlook; (b) extreme ideologies are characterized by a relatively simplistic, black-and-white perception of the social world; (c) because of such mental simplicity, political extremists are overconfident in their judgments; and (d) political extremists are less tolerant of different groups and opinions than political moderates. In closing, we discuss how these psychological features of political extremists increase the likelihood of conflict among groups in society.

A good follow up reading is Two Kinds of Moderate by Paul Graham.

Intentional moderates are similar to those on the far left and the far right in that their opinions are, in a sense, not their own.

☢️ Nuclear Risk

Reading The Precipice by Toby Ord was really a wake-up call for me. In it, he explains the existential risks we’re facing right now and establishes the risk of annihilating our civilization during this century at one in six.

Nuclear risk is one of the main risks we’re facing right now. To learn more about the topic, I started reading Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction. It’s a great place to start to understand the challenges at play.

Nuclear weapons have not been used in anger since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than 60 years ago, yet real concerns about their potential use have remained conspicuously present on the global stage.

It raises a bigger question. When we’re developing new technologies to keep progressing, there are inevitable risks that come with them. The problem is that as we become more and more developed, a single mistake on new technology could be enough to wipe out humanity from this planet. We need to get better at foreseeing the risks that will come with new technologies and pay a lot of attention to these challenges.

These topics are generally depressing at first sight, but we can do many things to reduce the existential risks we face. Expecting that nothing bad will ever happen can’t be our strategy.

More on this topic:

📈 Long Term Stock Exchange

So much of the problems of society today are a consequence of short term thinking. If we want to do better, we need better incentive structures.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, thought about the problem for years and came up with an idea: The Long Term Stock Exchange LTSE.

Here’s the problem in the words of people working the public capital markets today:

They described the immense pressure on companies to pursue short-term results over creating value for future decades and generations. They described innovation held hostage by boom-bust cycles, abrupt changes in governance, struggles to maintain constancy of purpose, and the difficulty for public companies in knowing who their long-term shareholders even are. One of the few things that pretty much everyone agreed on is that the focus on the short term undermines the building of sustainable businesses.

The challenge is real, but society is in great need of a solution to make long term thinking economically profitable.

As we adapt to a different world, a public market that offers companies the resilience of long-term governance and supports the creation of value over time can help to put our society on the path toward a sounder future. The Long-Term Stock Exchange represents, I hope, one brick in a new foundation for our civic society.


🍭 Brain Food

🍼 On Parenting

A fantastic essay by Agnes Callard on parenting. After listening to Robert Plomin on Making Sense Podcast, I understood that twin studies show that genes are significantly more influential than parenting with respect to a wide variety of factors: future income, personality traits, educational attainment, religiosity, and marital status.

However, it doesn’t solve the whole question of parenting. Here, Anges Callard explains why being a parent today is particularly hard.

Parents have always been faced with the challenge of handling rebellious, wayward, disobedient children; but at no prior time have they—have we—been so pre-committed to acceptance. At no point in the past was the parental inability to accept that which strikes them as antithetical to their basic understanding of what is true and what is good perceived as a potential failure by the parents’ own standards.

As we focused on accepting the differences between children, we stopped asking the question of what a good child is.

As acceptance parenting takes hold culturally, we find ourselves speaking more and more about what it takes to be a “good parent” and less and less frequently of the virtues of a “good son/daughter.” The more we expect the parents’ acceptance, the less concerned we are with children’s obedience.

If traditional parents tried to provide their kids with an improved version of their lives, acceptance parents don’t know what to give their child.

If I were a traditional parent, I would be trying to give my child some version of my life; as an acceptance parent, I am trying to give my child something I don’t have and am not familiar with—his life.


🎥 What I’m Watching

👩‍🚀 Mars in 4K

A beautiful exploration of the planet we might move to one day.


🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

🇪🇺 #1: Nicolas Colin on Making Europe Great Again

Nicolas is the co-founder of The Family, and he is the author of multiple books, including Hedge — A Greater Safety Net for the Entrepreneurial Age. He also writes the excellent newsletter European Straits about the European Tech ecosystem.

In this conversation, we first talk about the current geopolitical context with the rise of China, the great fragmentation, and the four internets. Then, we talk about the future of Europe and the need for a new playbook for European founders. My favorite part of the conversation was about the need for new and better institutions to keep progressing as a society.

🌇 #2: Anirudh Pai on Aging, Charter Cities, China, and Utopias

Anirudh is extremely knowledgeable about the challenges of our time; he is one of the smartest people I met. His newsletter Dreams of Electric Sheep is one of the best out there, covering topics like aging, charter cities, geopolitics, China, space exploration, and much more!

  • We start the conversation with Aging and Longevity, discussing the recent progress in the field.

  • Then we talk about charter cities and how better institutions could help society progress more and faster.

  • After that, we cover the question of utopias, why they're important for society, and why we need new ones.

  • Then, we talk about the current geopolitical context and how we should view China.

  • We finish the conversation talking about Anirudh's favorite books recently and his writing process.

The episodes I loved this week:


🔧 The tool of the Week

🏋️‍♀️ Gymnastics Rings

Gymnastics Rings are the best tool I got in the last months to overcome the impossibility of going to the gym. I enjoy training with them, and it forces me to work stability and balance, which can be easily overlooked at the gym. Here’s Alpha Destiny—my favorite fitness account—explaining why rings are essential.

Highly recommend!


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.

—Seth Godin


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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!

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Have a great day,

Mehdi

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