FF Daily #428: Taleb on body building

July 20, 2021: Ruchir Sharma on Chinese tech crackdown; Leisure time is not a hack; If you love someone

Founding Fuel

[Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash]

Good morning,

How do you grow stronger and build more muscle? It is something Nassim Nicholas Taleb was compelled to do and he talks about it, like only he can, in his very unique way in Antifragile.   

“In the aftermath of the banking crisis, I received all manner of threats, and The Wall Street Journal suggested that I ‘stock up on bodyguards.’ I tried to tell myself no worries, stay calm, these threats were coming from disgruntled bankers; anyway, people get whacked first, then you read about it in the newspapers, not in the reverse sequence. But the argument did not register in my mind, and, when in New York or London, I could not relax, even after chamomile tea. I started feeling paranoia in public places, scrutinizing people to ascertain that I was not being followed. I started taking the bodyguard suggestion seriously, and I found it more appealing (and considerably more economical) to become one, or, better, to look like one. I found Lenny ‘Cake,’ a trainer, weighing around two hundred and eighty pounds (one hundred and thirty kilograms), who moonlighted as a security person. His nickname and weight both came from his predilection for cakes. Lenny Cake was the most physically intimidating person within five zip codes, and he was sixty. So, rather than taking lessons, I watched him train. He was into the ‘maximum lifts’ type of training and swore by it, as he found it the most effective and least time-consuming. This method consisted of short episodes in the gym in which one focused solely on improving one’s past maximum in a single lift, the heaviest weight one could haul, sort of the high-water mark. The workout was limited to trying to exceed that mark once or twice, rather than spending time on un-entertaining time-consuming repetitions. The exercise got me into a naturalistic form of weightlifting, and one that accords with the evidence-based literature: work on the maximum, spend the rest of the time resting and splurging on mafia-sized steaks. I have been trying to push my limit for four years now; it is amazing to see how something in my biology anticipates a higher level than the past maximum—until it reaches its ceiling. When I deadlift (i.e., mimic lifting a stone to waist level) using a bar with three hundred and thirty pounds, then rest, I can safely expect that I will build a certain amount of additional strength as my body predicts that next time I may need to lift three hundred and thirty-five pounds. The benefits, beyond the fading of my paranoia and my newfound calm in public places, includes small unexpected conveniences. When I am harassed by limo drivers in the arrival hall at Kennedy airport insistently offering me a ride and I calmly tell them to ‘f*** off,’ they go away immediately.”

Stay safe and have a good day.

In this issue,

  • Ruchir Sharma on Chinese tech crackdown
  • Leisure time is not a productivity hack
  • If you love someone, let them go!

Ruchir Sharma on Chinese tech crackdown

Many of us look at the tech regulation in China as a fight between the Chinese government, which wants to exert tighter control on the country and Big Tech, which might have grown too big. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, connects the dots between China's economic growth and the global economy. 

He says: “The whole crackdown on the tech sector is big and regulatory policy plays a tightening effect, as we have seen historically. The digital economy now is by some estimates 40% of China’s economy. This number was 10% a decade ago. The emergence of the new digital economy has been the cash cow and golden goose. I am a bit concerned now that if you are going to crack down, what is going to be the impact on economic growth and how far will that go. That, to me, is a big concern for global economic forecasts.”

About India, he repeats his now famous comment: India is a country that consistently disappoints the optimists and the pessimists. It just carries along.

Dig deeper

Leisure is not a productivity hack

There is much research to prove that people who take time out to engage in the pursuit of leisure emerge energised and more productive when at work. In turn, this has spawned armies of consultants that advise people on how to take time out and apps that allow people to monitor how well they’ve rested. The phenomenon is global and has gained momentum once again. It compelled The Atlantic to re-examine it in the aftermath of the pandemic.  

“Over the past few months, a string of pundits and business columnists has been calling for a four-day workweek, paid parental leave, and tighter limits on mandatory overtime. Many of these thinkers rationalize proposals to give us back our time by promising that they will contribute to overall prosperity. A well-rested workforce, the argument goes, is a more productive one, and that’s a ‘bounty for bosses.’ Iceland recently concluded a much-publicized five-year experiment in which 2,500 workers from more than 100 different firms reduced their working hours from 40 to 35 or 36 a week. Earlier this year, the Spanish government embarked on a similar experiment, cutting work to 32 hours a week. In 2019, Microsoft Japan also tried out a shorter workweek. Companies reported improvements in efficiency and overall productivity; in Microsoft’s case, productivity rose by 40%.

“These experiments and the well-meaning arguments behind them illustrate a tricky paradox: Leisure is useful—but only insofar as it remains leisure… We should fight the urge to reduce it to a productivity hack.”

Dig deeper

If you love someone, let them go!

(Via WhatsApp)

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Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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