Varieties of Human Experience | #26

A link roundup of

Hello dear friends :-)

These days I find myself thinking a lot about how others see the world. I haven’t written much about it (yet), but that’s been the theme in my recent reading. Here are some things you might find interesting.

How Not To Let Work Explode Your Life. This one’s pretty long (11K words) and worth it. A look at how people used to work in the past, the role work played in their lives and relationships, and how society in general felt about work. Our perspectives on life are often limited by our experience. It’s hard to imagine living in a world very different from ours and being ok with it. So it’s always good to be reminded that there are many ways to live that we haven’t even considered.

Let The Others Find You. Make a deep connection with someone, and you’ll have one friend. Invite others to make deep connections with you, and you’ll never be lonely.

The Hawk. A lovely short story.

Hoist the Colors. I wrote last fall about how pirates were the startups of the 1700s. Here’s a longer, deeper, and more colorful version of that story.

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics. Oldie but goodie. I’ve been noticing more and more that a big part of decisionmaking is avoiding blame. That leads people to take less initiative and ignore problems they could be fixing.

Weirdo Subcultures Are No Longer Producing Great Art. A back-and-forth discussion about why there hasn’t been much “great” art created in the last twenty years. I’m not sure I buy the premise (look at scenes like improv, standup, graffiti, NFTs) but its provocative. My best theory to support this claim is that “great” means something like “critically acclaimed”, and the critics are old-media elites who’ve become less relevant in recent times (do people still care about the Oscars?). So the art is still good (in fact there’s more of it than ever before) but there’s less consensus on what counts as great.

The best is yet to come 🚀

Grin

Year of Health Checkin | #25

Hello dear friends 👋

We’re a third of the way through the year. In the spirit of working with the garage door up, I want to talk about how I’m playing this year of health on Easy Mode and what’s next.

Quick refresher: Year of Health is my theme for 2021. It’s a global intention to guide my choices and efforts. There are no rules to break and no targets to miss. Setting the bar low is my One Weird Trick™️ to long-term success. It works because consistency is more important than intensity when you’re starting out. Doing something regularly, even something simple, builds evidence that you’re the kind of person that does that thing. Over time, you progressively increase the effort, but it never feels like a huge change from what you’re already doing.

Lifting 🏋

I’ve been lifting on and off for over a decade. Since having kids, it’s been hard to lift consistently. Since everything was closed over the winter, I decided it was the perfect time to bring this back. Now I’m happy to report I’ve been lifting 2-3 times a week consistently since February. There’s no specific program. I just alternate a few major lifts I like.

Lifting is a keystone habit. When I lift, everything else gets better too. Besides the primary goal of being healthy and strong, I sleep better, have more energy, feel accomplished, practice doing something hard, get in shape to play at Masters Nationals in July, and stay anchored to physical reality.

Meditating 🧘‍♂️

My friend Misha (a Unicycle reader 👋) introduced me to the Waking Up app a few months ago. The intro is free and I kinda just stuck with it. Now I do 10 minutes most days in the morning before work.

So far I’ve found that practicing meditation helps me feel my attention more clearly. It’s like I’ve developed a new sense. When I’m playing with my kids and my phone rings, I literally feel my attention pulled toward it. That feeling prompts me to ask myself “is this what I want to do right now?”, which helps me get distracted less and spend more time doing what I really want. It’s kind of magical, and for me it’s totally worth the effort.

Food 🍣

I did six weeks of Clockwork Nutrition, a new experimental service that puts your diet on autopilot. They send you two meals a day (skipping breakfast because fasting is good), tailored to your dietary preferences. They handle the calorie counting, macro- and micro-nutrient balance, delivery, etc. This paired nicely with my lifting, as I’ve always had trouble gaining weight and they helped make sure I was getting enough (I’m at 172lb now, my heaviest ever). In the end Clockwork wasn’t right for me because it didn’t fit with the rest of the family, but it was fun to give it a try.

At the same time, my wife has been focusing on her diet too. Since she’s mostly in charge of food in our family (thanks dear ❤️), I’ve adopted her changes — cutting out added sugar and reducing meat and dairy.

Going Outside 🌄

Inspired by Fery (also a Unicyclist 💪) and the warm weather, I’ve been eating lunch outside. So far that’s been sitting on the porch and watching kids run around in the field. But now that local cafes have been opening up their outdoor areas, I’m planning to broaden my dining options. Getting in early, eating slowly, and doing some writing feels like a great once-a-week treat.

To spend even more time outside, the Grin family has upgraded our biking setup. My daughter got too big to sit on the back of my bike, so I sold it and got a cargo bike instead. It’s the minivan of bikes, with room for two in the back. We’ve been biking to school, soccer, and just going for rides on the bike path by our house.

Next: Microdosing 🍄

I’m considering doing a month of microdosing psilocybin or LSD. It should be fun and interesting, and if the stories are true it’ll do all sorts of positive magical things. I’m somewhat skeptical and very curious (and that’s the Unicycle sweet spot).

I have a lot of experience with psychedelics but I’ve never tried microdosing. If you have experience with microdosing or single-subject research, I’d love to talk to you.

The best is yet to come 🚀

Grin

Unicycle #24 - Plus Minus

Hello dear friends 👋

Look at this Lego building. There’s the main building (the 3x3x3 cube), then a single pillar support block in the corner, and then a roof over the whole thing. On top of all this, you’re going to place a concrete brick. How would you change this structure so the brick won’t crush the Lego figurine when you put it on the roof? Keep in mind that every block you add costs you $1.

Think about it for a moment before reading on.

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Ready? You’ll never again have the chance to do this without knowing what I’ll say next.

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OK here we go:

Most people who do this will answer by adding blocks to better support the roof. But a simpler and cheaper solution is to remove the one block in the corner so the roof rests on the big cube 🤯

That’s the takeaway from this article. People tend to solve problems by adding rather than subtracting. And it’s not because we don’t see the value in subtracting. We just don’t think of that option at all.

Why? It could be that we’re used to “creating” things instead of removing them, so that’s what comes to mind first. If you work on a team, removing something that someone else made can feel like a slight to them. There’s also loss aversion — we lose twice as much satisfaction from giving up a thing as we gain from getting that thing in the first place. So we’re not inclined to give things up.

This means there’s opportunity to make things better simply by getting rid of something that already exists. It’s often cheaper and easier (physically, if not psychologically). You just have to remember that it’s an option.

Taking that one level up, we can build systems that encourage us to subtract. Thinking of launching a new initiative at work? Add a sunset clause to wind down that project after some time unless you actively decide to renew it. On a personal level, buy a smaller backpack to keep your back from hurting.

What can you subtract from your life or work that would improve the whole?

The best is yet to come 🚀

Grin

Unicycle #23 - Fantasy Intellectual Draft

Hello dear friends :-)

Last week I asked you to check off the people you know or follow from a list of ~150 influential people. Thanks to everyone who replied. The list came from Arnold Kling’s Fantasy Intellectual Draft. 10 “team owners” each drafted 15 people for their team. The team scores points when the “players” create and spread memes, make testable bets about the future, and argue well for a point of view that they disagree with. Kling’s goal was partially to come up with a scoring system to evaluate public intellectuals on their ideas. Notice that there are very few politicians or news anchors on the list, and the ones that did get drafted tend to only score high on memeing.

This game caught my eye for a few reasons. First, it’s fun to consider who you would pick. Are there people you follow who didn’t get drafted but would score well? What about the ones you follow closest - how would they do in the draft? How about the scoring system — does it do a good job of rewarding good ideas, and how might it be improved (full scoring details here)?

Second, I recognized a lot of the people on the list, including some of my strongest influences (Cowen, Taleb, Callard, Alexander, Haidt, Thiel, Zvi, Balaji). I spend a lot of time reading online (more than I should, perhaps) and many of these people come up time and again (my list, if you’re curious). How common is that, and how much is my taste? So I asked you.

To be fair, the people who’d do well in this draft don’t overlap exactly with the people who’ve affected me the most. The draft is primarily about public intellectuals who are active today, whereas important ideas come from all over. Even within that narrow focus, your particular history comes into play. In one response from last week, a friend wrote:

I don't think the people whose ideas I see the most often are the ones that influence me the most. Nassim Taleb for example has a lot more influence on my thinking than Trump, even though I hear about Trump's ideas more often and I only read Taleb maybe 8 years ago. Those ideas are still more important to me / more influential.

Highlights and lowlights:

  • Everyone has at least heard of Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Joe Rogan, Rand Paul, and Condoleezza Rice. However — apropos my earlier point about politicians — only Musk and Rogan got any stars.

  • Paul Graham got 5 stars, the most of anyone. Musk and Balaji Srinivasan each got 4. Twelve others got 3 stars.

  • Graham and Balaji also got stars from everyone who listed them. I guess that makes them the most compelling thinkers on this list. Once you pop, you can’t stop.

  • Three people listed Megyn Kelly, but I had no idea who she was (I don’t watch the news). Back to my hermit cave now…

Thanks for indulging my curiosity. The best is yet to come 🚀

Grin

Unicycle #22 - Climb The Mountain

Hello dear friends :-)

This week’s newsletter will be short. My mind is mostly on work. We started the next stage of our legal battle with the SEC on Monday when they filed a formal complaint against us in court. I’m delighted to finally get this out in the open (we’ve been talking to them for over three years but couldn’t discuss publicly). It’s been a frustrating, expensive, and Kafkaesque ordeal. Hopefully we’ll finally get some concrete answers on how blockchain companies can legally do business in the US. Details at https://helplbrysavecrypto.com.


Small Experiment

I have a small favor to ask. It’s simple and will take you 5-10 minutes. Here’s what to do:

  • Open this list of names.

  • Hit Reply on this email and copy-paste the list of names into the reply.

  • Go down the list, deleting every name you don’t recognize. If it sounds vaguely familiar but you’re not sure who the person is or what they do, delete them.

  • For everyone who’s left, put an asterisk next to their name if you consume their content regularly. Maybe you read their tweets or blog posts or articles, or listen to their podcast, or pay attention to a business they run and what they say about it, etc. This one is kinda vague, so do your best. Maybe ask yourself “what have I seen/read/heard from this person in the last month or two”. If you can’t think of anything, don’t star them.

I’ll tell you what this is all about next week. I’m very curious how it turns out.


A Story

Here’s a story I heard recently:

A man decides to climb a mountain. To prepare, he asks a friend what it’s like at the top. The friend describes it in detail.

Then he asks another friend what the peak is like. This friend gives her own description.

The man goes on, asking twenty friends and receiving twenty responses.

Finally he says to himself “Now I know so much about what the peak is like. There’s no need for me to climb the mountain at all.”

source

The best is yet to come 🚀

Grin

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