Stuff That Matters Later

Why we should invest in seemingly unimportant things

Hi friends,

The Big Question

One simple question on my mind has been What can I do now that will help me 30 years down the line? So, I have been exploring ‘lifestyle habits’ and the concept of ‘investing in my future self’ for the past week. I have particularly narrowed on a few habits:

  • Ability to do deep work,
  • Capacity to preserve attention,
  • Delayed gratification,
  • Exercise + Yoga,
  • Flossing regularly,
  • Processing more than reading,
  • Healthy sitting posture,
  • An ideal running + weight-lifting form, and
  • Healthy sleep habits.

Why These Things Matter

As mundane or inconsequential as these tiny tweaks seem, I’d go very long on these, because, any complex system or any well-functioning human is nothing more than 1000s of these minor tweaks. Keith Adams has this law (which VGR wrote about here), and it says: In a complex system, the cumulative effect of a large number of small optimizations is externally indistinguishable from a radical leap.

Since I have graduated, I have been thinking hard about the things that will have a long-term impact (and that seem irrelevant to practice while I’m still super young.) Take the most mundane example, to begin with. As we spend more time working from home, finding the ideal sitting posture is critical to almost everything in the body, not to mention the backaches you’ll avoid in your 30s.

Then, flossing regularly is essentially a life-investment — You are reducing your chances of death, each time you floss. (Read this 2011 paper.) As for sleep, I need not go beyond Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep (Read Bill Gates’s notes here.)

The Philosophy

I am a big believer in the 1% improvement school of thought, that if you improve 1% every day, you will be 37 times better in a year. These tiny tweaks, irrelevant as they may seem, are an effort in that 1% improvement direction.

As we stay glued to our screens, our brains are now wired in a way that we want everything super fast, and so, one thing I have noticed that’s missing among us is the ability to patiently wait for things that have a high gestation period.

In essence, you don’t want to be in a position that you end up getting Alzheimer’s early on (if you sleep less), or that you have a higher chance of heart disease (if you don’t floss). But, the only way you will have a good shot at not ending in those positions is if you give more importance to the “discounted cash flow” of these lifestyle habits.

Sure, not flossing for a day or for a week, or even 2 months will not make a big difference, but compounded over time, it does make a huge difference.

The Conclusion

So, with the above said, I’d only like to say that tiny tweaks go a long way in the long-run. But, just because they matter in the “long-run” does not mean that they don’t matter in the short-run. You may want to check out the Tiny Habits model by BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford.

Let me know what your “tiny habits,” “lifestyle habits,” or methods to “invest in your future self” are by replying to this email.

Until next time,


The Channel

The Podcast

Listen to the latest episode on Spotify, Google, or Apple. Background here:

Last night Ali had dinner with family friends and by the end there was the iconic argument over paying for the bill. Being courteous is a necessary human behavior. However, when to use it is a question that many people have not considered nor understand fully. Whether it’s in small complements or gift giving, or paying the bill, sometimes being courteous requires you to not be courteous at all.

The Knowledge Bank

  • Book Recommendation: If you’re in for a solid, dense read on brains, intelligence, thinking, math (and basically everything), check out this book: Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter. (But if you’re short on time, see Nat Eliason’s notes here.)
  • A light, but very interesting article: A friend send me this article — It’s called A Few Rules. I absolutely enjoyed reading how simple these rules are, and yet, how profound their application is. I’d say read 2 or 3 rules and then go for a run; let your mind simmer a bit.
  • A fun podcast: This podcast by Seth Godin teaches you how to live in an age of abundance and why it’s important to put your “surplus” to good use.
  • Some life-advice / more self-help stuff: Mark Manson is an absolute genius. I love his unfiltered, honest, straight-from-the-heart advice, and here are 8 logical fallacies Mark talks about.