Can We Extend Healthspan and Lifespan with a Fecal Transplant?

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Key Takeaways

  • Abnormal bacteria in the gut have been linked to many health issues including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease

  • Both animals and people with progeria (a health disease characterized by extremely fast aging) have unhealthy changes in their intestinal bacteria. Specifically, they have increased amounts of Proteobacteria and Cyanobacteria, and a drop in their Verrucomicrobia abundance

  • Centenarians show the opposite changes: they usually have abundant populations of Verrucomicrobia and less Proteobacteria in their gut

  • Stool transplantation in mouse models enhanced health and lifespan in mice with progeria, warranting the need for human research in this field

  • Transplanting just Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria seems to be enough for a positive result

Actions to Consider

  • Taking care of the microflora in your gut is extremely important for your general health and lifespan

  • Both probiotics (healthy bacteria) and prebiotics (fiber, resistant starch, pectin) could be beneficial for promoting healthy gut microflora in general

  • Stool transplantation with Akkermansia muciniphila has been reported to improve health and lifespan in animal models. In theory, supplementing with the bacteria could have a similar effect

The Microbiome and Disease

On average, every human has around 200 g of bacteria in their body.

A great part of them lives in the gastrointestinal tract and is referred to as the intestinal microflora. Abnormal changes in one’s gut microflora may contribute to a wide range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. 

Recently, studies have reported that having the wrong bacteria in the wrong amounts may contribute to faster aging as well.

Stool transplantation could be a solution to that.

What is this study about?

A study published on July 22 in the Nature Medicine (2019) reported that both mice and people with progeria have unhealthy changes in their intestinal microflora. Progeria is a disease characterized by abnormally fast aging, and people with the condition rarely live past the age of 13. 

Stool transplantation improved health and increased lifespan in animals with progeria. Perhaps, the same approach could be beneficial for humans—not only as a remedy for progeria but also to promote longevity in the general population.

A special kind of transplantation

Also known as fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), stool transplantation consists of moving stool from a healthy donor with healthy microflora into a patient with unhealthy intestinal bacteria. The goal of stool transplantation is to normalize the recipient’s gut microflora.

FMT is still considered to be an experimental treatment. The procedure has been used to treat persistent intestinal infections, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and even Parkinson’s disease.

Non-invasive alternatives

Many people don’t have access to FMT since the procedure is still widely considered an experimental approach. So, what can you do to support your intestinal microflora and promote longevity?

The universal advice is to eat plenty of fiber, fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir, or consider taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements. The current study noted that transplanting specifically Akkermansia muciniphila was already enough to boost health and lifespan, so it could be wise to look for a supplement with this particular bacteria.

Conclusion

The multitude of bacteria living in the human gut has a huge impact on health and longevity.

For instance, it seems that high levels of Proteobacteria and Cyanobacteria contribute to faster aging. An abundance of Verrucomicrobia, on the other hand, may enhance health and promote longevity. More studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of stool transplantation in humans. For now, it seems that supplementing with healthy Verrucomicrobia could enhance health and lifespan.

Link to study: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-019-0504-5

Longevity Building Block #4: Mindfulness

F R A M E W O R K (the what)

  1. Manage and minimize stress

  2. Maintain stable, nonreactive moods

  3. Experience regular transcendence 

  4. Maintain an open curiosity and hunger for knowledge

  5. Challenge the mind and body to endure periodic discomfort 

  6. Reduce the effect of ego on thinking and actions

M Y R E C I P E (the how)

  1. Meditate for 20 minutes every morning, ideally in the sun

  2. Write and/or journal daily

  3. Read books across industries and topics

  4. Discover a creative outlet you most enjoy and practice it weekly

  5. Psychedelics, weekly/monthly microdoses and yearly guided high doses

  6. Minimize choices, put as many decisions on autopilot as possible e.g. clothing, food

  7. Appeal to minimalism with belongings. Buy things for the purpose they serve. 

  8. Keep your home, vehicle and work spaces clutter-free, clean, and organized

  9. Design the spaces you spend the most time in a way that inspires and uplifts you

  10. Learn something new every quarter, test your knowledge by explaining it to someone who knows nothing about it

  11. Travel often, experience new ways of living and thinking

  12. Seek out intellectually stimulating discussions, often with those who think differently

  13. Practice holotropic breathwork 

  14. Use the Spire to measure and improve your breathing 

  15. Cryotherapy and sauna practice weekly

R E S E A R C H (the why)

  1. PubMed: Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging?

  2. NIH: Mindfulness Training for Healthy Aging: Impact on Attention, Well-Being, and Inflammation

  3. EOC Institute: Super Longevity: How Meditation Dramatically Extends Human Life

  4. Sauna use linked to longer life, fewer fatal heart problems

  5. University of Helsinki: Research finds traveling can increase your lifespan

  6. NIH: Curiosity and mortality in aging adults

  7. NIH: Creativity and longevity

  8. These Psychedelic Drugs Show Promise for Treating Mental Health Disorders

  9. What can minimalism do for mental health?

  10. Ted: The Paradox of Choice

  11. The Anti-Aging Benefits of Whole-Body Cryotherapy

Up next:

Longevity Building Block #5: Purpose

The competition dichotomy

San Francisco is competitive. Cities are competitive. Yet more and more people are choosing to live in them. And I see why. I’m based in downtown in SF. It’s like living in a heartbeat and feeling it pulse against my walls and through my windows in a way that brings energy from the outside in. An energy that reminds me of boundless human potential, observes it being actualized right outside my door. One that pushes me to reach it myself. It sounds exciting, uplifting. Mostly it is. It’s what’s kept me here for over three years. Three years of accelerated growth that could only come from external push combined with internal drive. But I wonder what the threshold is. How strong can that external push be before it becomes a shove. Becomes a hit to the other side of self-actualization, the yin to motivation and productivity’s yang — to mental state. The ‘suffering lies in desire’ mantra that my Buddhist and stoicism books continuously remind me. I’ve learned that and have improved with internalizing it, but I wonder if I’d still be where I am today if I operated from that perspective from the beginning of these three years.

After first moving here, I felt the wave of unparalleled standards and pervasive overachieving wash over me with each new person I met, event I attended, project I worked on. I realized that I’d either step up to meet them or get pushed out like many others that couldn’t join the game and couldn’t afford the rent to allow a few more months of trying. A bit of a sink or swim situation, veiled with a soft fuzzy California filter that’s deceivingly calming and inviting. You come here and feel the sun, see smiling faces, join local meetups and engage in small talk with Blue Bottle baristas and feel welcomed into a new home. It’s part of why people love here, fight to stay here. Why the competition thrives and pulses like a heartbeat you feel in bones and fire under feet that gets you up early and keeps you at your computer in hipster cafes on the weekends. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the three years living in this. Three years of interacting with people that are changing the world and technology that the rest of the population doesn’t believe is possible. A poster child of Dale Carnegie’s you’re the average of the people you spend your time with, I look back to my east coast self like a disconnected observer looking through one-sided glass to someone I don’t know. That person feels so distant from who I am now that I’ve delineated my perception of identity to two buckets, before SF and after SF.

I remember the first year of incessant productivity that accepted nothing less. Of picking time commitments based on how much growth potential they offered. Incessant productivity that felt a pulling resistance against any mindless act. That replaced Netflix with books and music with podcasts. I grinded because of the gap I felt between current state and the new standards driven by myself and the people around me. I closed that quicker than expected but all it did was raise those standards. Raised the bar to a new higher level that my effort and output curves had to meet. I started meeting more impressive people by my standards of wealth, career impact, and intellect. Previous idols have become friends, mentors, colleagues. It's concentrated the 700,000 influencers to a smaller group that’s been a new source of inspiration and standards-setting.

This has been the year I’ve stopped to ask, to what end? How much of this helps before it hurts? An Uber driver once said to me that the average timeline for SF transients is 3 years. It was hard to imagine that during the honeymoon stages of my SF love affair, but now I’m almost at 3.5 and it’s starting to make sense. The itch has grown to get out of the bubble for a bit and see how thick of a lens this city has shaded over my eyes. To discover how much my thinking and actions are influenced by living here. I once heard SF explained as the most similarly different thinking city in the world. People here think differently than the rest of the world, but in the same ways. I don’t doubt that there’s some truth to that, the best way to test it is see what happens when I leave it for a while. We’re habitual, comparing creatures. It’s difficult to know the extent of an environment’s effect until dropping yourself into a new one. I’m leaving for LA in a week, I’ll be living there for a little over a month then doing some traveling in South America and Europe then Burning Man. Two months of different. We’ll see if the lens exists, and if so, what remains when it lifts.

Longevity Building Block #3: Movement

F R A M E W O R K (the what)

  • Move often and naturally

  • Regularly expend physical effort not simply for exercise but for the sake of a productive outcome or purpose

  • Maintain strength and muscle mass 

  • Maintain nimbleness, balance, and flexibility

  • Strengthen your core

  • Train your body to maintain a healthy, balanced posture with a neutral spine

  • Assign rest days and strenuous workout days according to recovery state

  • Get heart rate up and sweat 3-4 times per week

  • Maintain an equal muscle mass on left and right

M Y R E C I P E (the how)

  • Move often throughout the day, no prolonged sitting

  • Track your steps, maintain self-awareness and accountability

  • Walk >6k steps every day, >10k at least 2x a week

  • Functional movement training + weight lifting 2x a week

  • High-intensity interval (HIIT) training 2x a week

  • Yoga/stretching 2x a week

  • Hiking/climbing/biking 1-2x a month

  • Jiu-jitsu or boxing 1-2x a month

  • Practice tissue preparation, muscle activation, and dynamic preparation before workouts 

  • Regularly practice Pilates or core strengthening exercises that target core and lower abdominals

  • If you are a side sleeper, keep a pillow between your knees for back support

  • If you have a naturally overarched back, use a memory foam mattress

  • Consciously pull tailbone under when walking and moving, retrain muscles against an anterior pelvic tilt that’s developed genetically or by poor movement habits

  • See a chiropractor to gauge posture issues and follow the plan for retraining

  • Refer to the Oura “Readiness” score or another measure of sleep, HRV and RHR when picking the strenuosity of that day’s workout

  • Use Mirror or DEXA scans for measuring bilateral muscle mass

  • Practice one legged squats and Turkish get ups

  • Regular, fulfilling sex

R E S E A R C H (the why)

  1. BMJ: Impact of walking on life expectancy

  2. Blue Zones: Anti Aging benefits of strength training

  3. NIH: High-intensity interval training improved age-related decline

  4. NIH: Years of Life Gained Due to Leisure-Time Physical Activity

  5. NIH: Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals

  6. TED: How to live to be 100+

  7. Peter Attia: How you move defines how you live

  8. Anti-aging therapy through fitness enhancement

  9. Good posture lengthens life expectancy

  10. Flexibility equals longer life expectancy

  11. Back pain shortens lifespan

  12. NIH: Life expectancy with and without pain

Up Next:

Longevity Building Block #4: Mindfulness

Longevity Building Block #2: Nutrition

F R A M E W O R K (the what)

  • Minimize inflammation

  • Eat to live, don’t live to eat

  • Maintain diverse and healthy gut flora

  • Eat close to nature, minimize ingredients

  • Fulfill macro and micronutrient needs aligned with your personal DRIs using food first, then supplements

  • Maintain an omega-6 (AA) to omega-3 (EPA) ratio of 5:1 or less

  • Keep IGF1 and mTOR in check

    • Eat the least amount of protein to maintain and grow muscle mass

    • Reduce carbs in order to maintain the lowest possible fasting insulin

    • Fill the remainder with fat (after determining the amounts of carbs and protein based on the two above metrics)

M Y R E C I P E (the how)

  • Daily supplements sourced from medical-grade, tested manufacturers

    • Multivitamin

    • Vitamin d3

    • Resveratrol

    • Omega-3 (fish oil)

    • Biotin

    • Electrolytes

  • Ketogenic or low-carb diet, 60-70% fat, 20-25% protein, 10-15% carbs

  • Prioritize monounsaturated over saturated fat (e.g. olive oil, almonds, avocado, macadamia nuts)

  • 30-40g of fiber daily

  • 1 serving of fermented food daily (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir)

  • No dairy

  • Grass-fed, organic meat only

  • Fish 5-7 days a week, primarily those high in omegas 3 and 6

  • Organic as often as possible

  • Minimize packaged or processed foods, choose ones with few known ingredients

  • 1-2 coffees in the morning

  • Caloric restriction: daily caloric intake < (basal metabolic rate + calories burned from exercise)

  • 16/8 intermittent fasting/time-restricted feeding (eating between 10am-6pm or 11am-7pm)

  • Use an app to track food and monitor caloric intake, macronutrient ratios, and catch nutrient deficiencies. Adjust diet/supplements accordingly.

  • Regularly test biomarkers, e.g. omega-3 index, brain health (link), vitamin D, CMP, CBC, lipid panel

R E S E A R C H (the why)

Longevity isn't science fiction: why it's important and accessible today

1. The addressable market size is everyone. Not just people 65+. Longevity can and should start being solved at a young age. Everyone dies, most everyone cares and thinks about this. Warren Buffett said it right, “You have only one mind and one body for the rest of your life. If you aren’t taking care of them when you’re young, it’s like leaving that car out in hailstorms and letting rust eat away at it. By the time you’re 40 or 50, you’ll be like a car that can’t go anywhere.”

2. The market that cares the most is growing, and the concentration of wealth is moving with them. By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65, expanding the senior citizen age group to 1 in every 5 Americans. In just two decades, older people would outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. Americans over 50 accounted for $7.6 trillion in direct consumer spending and related economic activity in 2015, and controlled more than 80% of household wealth. Global spending power of those age 60 and over will reach $15 trillion annually by 2020.

3. It doesn't need to be complicated to make a difference. The levers we have to extend healthspan and lifespan are within our power now. The best strategy we have today is to delay the onset of The Big Three—cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. We’re learning that the underlying biological mechanisms for these chronic illnesses are the same, e.g. oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, changes in the microbiome, gene expression. The problem with healthcare today is that it is disease-centric. We have cardiologists for heart disease, neurologists for Alzheimer’s, oncologists for cancer, and specific treatment plans for each. What if it’s the same disease manifesting in different forms? Today, we can improve lifestyle in a way that minimizes or removes those underlying causes and delays the onset of all 3, and as a result, extending healthspan and lifespan.

4. Technology is ready. The key to developing effective technologies in this space is scalability and personalization. We're all unique, what gives you 5 more healthy years may not do the same for me. Scale is easily reached with today's software and personalization is improving with AI and consumer health data being captured from wearables, biomarker testing, Apple Health Kit, and more.

Longevity Building Block #1: Sleep

F R A M E W O R K (the what)

  • 8-9 hours of sleep per night

  • 20-25% in REM, 15-20% in NREM stage IV sleep

  • Increase sleep efficiency, i.e. time spent asleep after going to bed

  • Reduce restlessness, i.e. movement in sleep, tossing and turning

  • Reduce sleep onset latency (SOL) to 15-20 minutes

  • Maintain a Resting High Rate (RHR) below your daily average

  • Maintain a high Heart Rate Variability (HRV) above your daily average

  • Keep a cool core body temperature

  • Follow your body’s natural chronotype and circadian rhythm

  • Train an association between your bed and sleep

M Y R E C I P E (the how)

  • Track sleep health and progress with the Oura ring, calibrate behavior based on what improves or worsens sleep score

  • Maintain regular, consistent sleep and waking times aligned with your chronotype. For most, this follows the sun and the ideal sleep midpoint will fall between midnight and 3 am.

  • No caffeine for 14 hours before bed

  • No eating 3-4 hours before bed

  • Dim lighting and candles, no bright lights, for 1 hr before sleep

  • Minimize blue light from laptop, phones, and other devices (blue light glasses)

  • Blackout shades drawn on windows or use an ergonomic sleep mask

  • Read or write in a dim room for 30 minutes before getting into bed to sleep

  • Do not watch TV or work in bed

  • Memory foam mattress and pillow

  • King-sized bed if you sleep with a partner

  • Avoid hypnotics (e.g. Ambien, Lunesta), only use as a last resort

  • Take magnesium on nights you’re wired and having trouble winding down

  • Take melatonin only when needed to moderate a suboptimal circadian rhythm, e.g. during traveling and jet lag, if you’re over 50 yrs old, or when exposed to bright light before bed. Start with 0.5 mg and increase as needed, do not exceed 3 mg.

  • Only purchase tested melatonin supplements to avoid filler ingredients and expired/poorly stored products associated with the non FDA-approved supplement industry. Use consumerlab.com to find tested products (here’s one: Swanson)

  • Sauna or hot shower/bath before bed, this moves blood flow and heat from core to extremities.

  • Cooling sheets

  • Cooling pad

  • Keep room temperature to 65-68 degrees

  • Upon waking, immediately get into sunlight by windows or go outside

R E S E A R C H (the why)

Up next:

Longevity Building Block #2: Nutrition

How to live like the Blue Zones: Introducing Longevity Building Blocks

What if you could live a thriving, active life until 100, then painlessly die in your sleep? What if there were things you could do today to increase that likelihood? Would you?

Longevity, the study and practice of extending human lifespan and healthspan, has recently been gaining more attention. Not really sure why the delay, I can’t imagine a more pervasively relevant problem than death. But excited about it nonetheless. That shared sentiment has grown, especially in Silicon Valley. Some of our bubble’s favorite thought leaders, scientists, and entrepreneurs have expressed interest, investments, and/or research into delaying the onset of our shared fate. To name a few — Peter Thiel, Peter Attia, Peter Diamandis, David Sinclair, Tim Ferriss, Valter Longo, Rhonda Patrick, Dom D’Agostino, Thomas Bilyeu. There are a number of different ways to think about and approach longevity, and each of these people has their own perspective or thesis for it. Here, I’ll share my own.

The best strategy we have today to study longevity is to look at centenarians, concentrated in pockets of the world we call “Blue Zones”. When looking at individuals who live past 100, we know that most of them have a few genotypes that are associated with living longer. That’s less interesting because we can’t edit our genetic makeup (not yet at least). What’s more compelling is that these people die from the same top causes — The Big Three. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. The difference is, the onset of these chronic illnesses is delayed for the centenarians. This means that even if we’re lucky to be born with longevity genes, we face the same fate as the general populous. The best way to extend life with the tools we have today due to what we know about the most common causes of death is to delay the onset of The Big Three.

What we know about chronic illnesses are that they are always progressive and almost always preventable. Progressive in that they begin developing before we feel symptoms. Preventable in that the lifestyle factors we control today are their primary drivers. The problem with healthcare today is that it is disease-centric. Patients are treated for a specific disease, they come back for a new disease, get treated, come back for a new one, etc. What if the primary causes of these diseases are the same? What if they’re the same disease manifesting in different forms? We’re learning that the underlying biological mechanisms are the same, e.g. oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, changes in microbiome, gene expression. What if we could improve lifestyle in a way that minimizes or removes those underlying causes to delay the onset of all 3, and as a result extend healthspan and lifespan?

I’ve been an integrative health optimizer and biohacker for over 7 years now — calibrating my behavior through research and iterative self-experimentation to discover my own unique lifestyle recipe that would yield the best overall health. That was all focused on the immediacy of feeling great today, this week, this month. I’ve gotten to a solid place there — rarely get sick, no energy crashes, less stress and emotional reactivity, high Oura sleep score, and stronger workouts. I’ve naturally graduated to an interest in thinking longer term. Effectively, doing what the healthcare system today fails to do, which is approaching healthspan and lifespan in a preventative, proactive way. Making sure I’m not only optimizing my quality of life today but also for years from now by asking the questions — How can I extend both the quality and quantity of my years? What can I do today to make strides towards that?

My focus over the past few years has been determining the biggest levers that are within our power to optimize our health today and long term. I’ve been working on a way to consolidate my research and personal discoveries into useful and interactive tools. These are currently in development, two tools that will soon be available on a Longevity section of my website. In the meantime, I’ll start sharing my findings here.

The first is my Longevity Thesis. This consists of 6 lifestyle factors, Longevity Building Blocks, which we individually control and that seem to hold the greatest potential for impacting our healthspan and lifespan. For each of the 6, I provide my own recipe but include a framework that can be used to fill with your own recipe based on your unique needs and preferences. This thesis assumes the individual is neither a smoker nor suicidal, in which case living past the average lifespan would be an anomaly. Everyone will have their own recipe, but a lot of the strategies and resources I mention can be useful for everyone. I’ll post these one at a time on my blog.

Where's the Warby Parker for hearing loss?

My journey with hearing loss began 2 years ago when I was diagnosed with otosclerosis in my left ear, a genetic condition that affects the bones in the middle ear and leads to impaired or complete loss of hearing. It’s a fairly unknown condition but affects 1 in 10 Americans. It’s twice as common in females and symptoms most often begin in the early 20s. The path to a diagnosis, getting passed from doctor to doctor to ENT to radiologist to surgeon, was tumultuous to say the least but accepting it afterward was the most difficult. I was a healthy 24-yr-old who was, like many others, convinced hearing loss only affected the elderly and participated in the stigma associated with hearing aids. Learning that I’d need to wear one daily to function normally was a hit that I responded to with stubborn denial and refusal to go through with it until I realized how much my quality of life was negatively affected. But even after giving in, I never wore my hair up and only told people closest to me that I wore one, always consciously hiding it. I avoided wearing it in situations where I knew it could be exposed. This was often at events or concerts, experiences where I’d most benefit from normal hearing. The fear of being associated with this stigma held me back. The embarrassment was driven by not just the stigma but the archaic design. The software has improved greatly, with bluetooth, custom programming, mobile app remote, and more, yet the aesthetics have remained the same unsexy things that don’t flow with the body. My hearing loss is a part of who I am now, I want a hearing aid that I’m proud to make a part of my body. I’ve learned it’s actually pretty cool how much this little thing enhances my life. Not only is my hearing brought from 40% to nearly 90% normal levels, I have a mini bluetooth speaker almost imperceptibly with me wherever I go. It’s super convenient for that Uber ride where the driver’s music isn’t what I want or someone on the metro is talking too loud. When I forget my headphones and want to listen to a podcast or music, no problem. The other day I was at dinner in a busy restaurant and my sister called to update me on her wedding plans. I normally would’ve needed to leave to take the call but I could hear her voice perfectly through the little hidden speaker that directs sound straight into my left ear. My friend across from me made a comment that stuck ‘it’s like a cyborg superpower’. Hell yeah it is. I want to change the perception of hearing loss and improve the experience for the millions who suffer from it at an early age. These devices are extensions of our self and enhance our lives and communication, that’s exciting and innovative and powerful, it should be treated and designed as such.

Over 3 million Americans deal with otosclerosis, millions more suffer from early-onset hearing loss due to loud music and concerts that are increasingly common among the younger generations. The biggest problem with this is that many people don’t even know they have it. In the CDC’s analysis of more than 3,500 hearing tests, one out of four adults claimed their hearing was just fine, yet hearing tests indicated they already had noise-induced hearing loss. It’s an insidious thing, you don’t realize what’s happening until the people around you tell you they’re sick of repeating themselves. It’s difficult to know it’s hearing loss without getting an audiogram, which another study says is less common than getting a colonoscopy. This poses big problems down the line, those with hearing loss are 2-3x more likely to come down with Alzheimer’s later in life. This isn’t something we should ignore. Hearing tests should be more common and accessible and hearing loss should be as destigmatized as impaired vision. Why isn’t the hearing aid treated the same way glasses are? Glasses can be fabulous and character-defining, many creative designers compete in the market to make that the case. Who’s designing a hearing aid for a healthy, stylish 22-yr-old female? Likely not someone who gets what she cares about. We need a hearing technology company for her. One that offers innovative hearing devices not only with the newest software but with sleek and beautiful hardware that flows with the body, represents the power and innovation the technology holds, and aesthetics designed for a grossly underserved side of this market—thriving young individuals. We need to make audiograms, hearing loss treatment, and hearing technology seamless and accessible by bringing it to where people are, right on their devices. We need a community that supports these people, raises awareness of how common hearing loss is and changes the perception of it. It’s just not that big of a deal. At the time of my diagnosis, it felt like my world collapsed around me. It felt like I was flawed and disabled and imperfect in a way that no healthy eating or workout routine or mindfulness could improve, something I’ve never had to deal with and had no idea how to deal with. I imagine most people feel this shame and vulnerability when discovering they have hearing loss, and that’s a big number. Likely more than we know. It’s estimated that 40 million Americans ages 20 to 69 have hearing damage from everyday loud noise, that’s on top of the millions more who inherited it.

There have already been exciting strides in the industry. thanks to the lobbying from Doppler Labs and Elizabeth Warren, the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act signed in 2017 has made it possible for any company to go direct to consumer and compete with the costs of medically approved devices that are monopolized by a few big players. Those devices cost a few hundred to manufacture yet customers are charged thousands. Sadly, Doppler Labs fell prey to the hardware plague, but I think they did it wrong. Rather than targeting early-onset hearing loss market, they went big and broad from the beginning, vowing to build the ‘computer for your ear’ and going after any future-loving techy. The reality is, the only people who care about enhancing their hearing are those with hearing loss. And that market is big and underserved on its own, I think they missed the ball in not zeroing in on them. I think the opportunity is still wide open and desperate for disruption.

Outlines

I’m at another business talk, networking event, organized gathering of disconnected connection. I watch people. Moving torsos with arms and legs and bobbing heads that tilt and move to the one in front of them. I don’t like these for the reason they’re meant for so I make my own reason. I watch people. When someone is speaking I watch the other respond. Make guesses to their intentions, bets on the silent thoughts behind voiced stories. Stories they tell the others and stories they tell themselves, I watch to intuit the truth that the intuitee hasn’t even yet discovered. It tests my eye, my intuition. Something I’ve crafted for years, something I’m proud of. The ability to watch and conclude. To gauge the depth, understand the hidden contents of a Human by watching their bobbing moving outlines. It’s not in their words, those often are a distraction, a painted wall they unconsciously or consciously use to cover reality, cover deepest intentions. Most people don’t know their deepest intentions. They converse with a colleague, speak at networking events, bob heads through business talks from a script the world tells them fits, script written for the identity box they set themselves in or parents set them in or teachers set them in. I’m a Lawyer, I’m a Writer, I’m an Engineer, I’m an Investor, I’m an Entrepreneur. These are identity words that come with strings of tied related words that weigh identity down, keep it where it is and steer it where to go. That’s what I see here, at this event. A sea of weighted down identities and bobbing heads, rigid unflowing words to fit. I watch to find the opposite. Look for my favorite kind of Human, one that operates from blankness. From a white empty wall-less mind that’s strange and unique and misunderstood because what we understand is what already exists. I look for Humans that speak and move not from a foundation of what already exists but what can exist.

This is boundless

I used to call myself a type-A productivity-addict. The only immediate trust I’d deploy was to scientific evidence and first principles-based logic. I’d be recommended meditation and nod politely while thinking any free 20 minutes of mine will be spent doing something useful. And no way in hell could you come near me with talk of chakras, energy flows, or auras. Like any conviction, this became my identity, internally and externally. It’s what I told myself, it’s what I told others. That’s how our identity boxes start, words we tell ourselves then words we tell others lead to reaffirming cycles of behavior that make us believe this is who I am and this is who I’ll always be— a type-A, results-driven health nut who trusted science and logic only, had little belief in the power of mindfulness, would never touch psychedelics and relied on heavy weights for meditation. Thankfully, I live in San Francisco where those rigid (I’d argue, east coast-driven) perceptions are invited to smooth, expand, and grow if you let it. I let it. I continue to openly let it, eagerly embrace it. Moving here drastically changed my life in the objective sense of work, relationships, experiences, but even more drastically it’s expanded my reality perceptions and smoothed my mental grooves. Smoothed the patterns of thinking that formed boxes around my reality and self identity, that limited me to the boundless beauty that living can be. It’s invited an excited doe-eyed awareness to the endless possibilities of how I can live, how I can thrive. That’s what thriving is I think, living from the mindset that you are boundless and this experience is boundless. Now let my practical self kick in (still there), how has this presented itself? I meditate for 20 minutes every morning using Tara Brach’s guided recordings. After months of this I’ve been able to carry what I call a higher mindset (nonreactive, open, inviting, calm, present) from the morning meditation throughout the rest of my day. I did a guided 5-meO-DMT experience, that’s for another post or more likely in-person conversation. I write daily, and recently expanded that from analytical blog posts to creative fiction. I’ll save the remaining amalgam of mind-opening practices for another day. The self that moved here from DC would’ve looked at me in shock, disbelief, and likely close-minded disapproval. The stark contrast of who I am today and who I was just 4-5 years ago is refreshing evidence of our potential, and proof that we can define our lives and our identities if we choose to, that change is easy and natural if we turn towards it.

When personal growth grows sour

In cities, specifically San Francisco, there’s a pervasive focus on personal growth. I’m a big culprit of this. It’s ingrained in who I am but certainly was exacerbated by moving to SF. I’ve always obsessively focused on self optimization, making the most of my time and constantly at competition with myself to be better better in every way. It’s daunting when even ‘spare time’ is a chance to compete for productivity and improvement. Any moment spent on something mindless would feel like wasted time, a cause for internal chastising and turning off Netflix to pull out a business book or turn on a podcast. Even my introduction into meditating was rooted in a desire to improve my thinking and effectiveness. This applied to everything from mind to body to relationships, reading to expand my knowledge base and challenge my intellect, meditating and writing to improve my thinking patterns, perfecting diet, training, sleep, and supplementation to optimize my health, analyzing relationships to remove any poisonous or negative connections.

Looking back after years of this, it had the intended effect in that I experienced unparalleled rapid growth that makes my college self and current self seem like two different beings. But having recently gone deeper into mindfulness and meditation, I’ve been observing where this obsession truly comes from and what I’m aiming for. It’s difficult to nail down the deep-seated end goal that drives the fervent determination towards improvement, to every day be better than the last, so I venture to guess that it’s simply the act of improving that feels good and makes me continue.

On the surface this might seem like a great habit, a powerful trait that leads to success, but it’s more likely just a piece of a bigger puzzle. The unintended negatives come from when the effort is mostly or entirely internal. When almost all time and energy is being put towards improving, growing, adding value—for me alone. I could focus on being the most smart, mindful, well-connected, healthy being but if the internal value isn’t translated into external value, helping others, it has limited benefits. The benefits would remain limited to the direct personal effect of the optimization, and stop there.

A vital piece of human existence and a key to thriving in life is purpose and fulfillment, to which the clearest path is making others’ lives better in some way. Benjamin Franklin lived by this principle, one of his 12 Virtues was

Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful.

A legendary stoic, Marcus Aurelius, said

We were designed to live among other people and interact with them in a manner that is mutually advantageous; we will discover that human nature is very much like that of bees. A bee is not able to live alone: it perishes when isolated. Fellowship is the purpose behind our creation. Thus, a person who performs well the function of man will be both rational and social. To fulfill my social duty—to do my duty to my kind—I must feel a concern for all mankind. I must remember that we humans were created for one another, that we were born to work together the way our hands or eyelids do.

We only have so much mental energy, when the majority is put towards driving internal value, less remains for driving external value. And as both Franklin and Aurelius would tell you, driving external value, being useful, is where fulfillment comes from. But I’ll also tell you what’s perhaps equally as obvious but clearly was lost on me at the height of this obsession, driving external value is where wealth and opportunity come from. Look at the extreme examples, when Beyonce was working on one of her early albums she reported forgetting to eat or sleep for two days. When Tesla was grinding to meet Model 3 production deadlines, billionaire Elon slept on an old office couch. He has similar accounts from starting his first two companies Zip2 and X.com.

There are countless stories of entrepreneurs, executives, artists, activists who have sacrificed internal value for external value. These are people who were working on something bigger than themselves, people driven by an obsession to contribute something meaningful, useful, impactful, something that would improve others’ lives or make a difference on a bigger external scale. Albeit, some of the more extreme examples like these may tip too far in the other direction. They obsessed over external growth and neglected to take care of themselves, i.e. disregarding their health, state of mind, relationships. So I’d argue that this is a sliding scale and you want to be on average somewhere in the middle to reach peak enduring fulfillment, a healthy dose of energy towards both helping yourself and helping others. An internal/external seesaw.

TLDR, after years of rapid self growth from internal perfectionism, I still sensed a big missing piece. I started to define that missing piece and seek it out. Doing so made me realize how much time and energy was directed towards this internal growth, the shift I needed was to deploy more of that thriving energy out into the world. I’ve since tapped into the true fulfillment that comes from making a mark on other people and society in both small and big ways, and plan to continue multiplying those efforts.

An antidote to our anxiety epidemic: Going Primal

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the US and an estimated one-third of the North American adult population struggles with anxiety at one point in their lives. This is an increasingly problematic epidemic that could have a very simple answer. The origins of the emotion tie back to the earliest days of humanity when the approach of predators and life-threatening dangers were common occurrences. When faced with these potentially harmful triggers, physical alarms like a raised heartbeat, sweating, a boost in adrenaline and increased sensitivity to surroundings were set off in the body and ignited evasive action. The feelings and resulting actions of anxiety were not only normal but necessary for survival. Today, life-threatening danger is a less pressing concern than it was for early humans, yet we still regularly experience this emotion that evolution fought to keep around due to its track record for saving lives. Anxieties now revolve around work, money, relationships, health, and other issues that demand our attention without necessarily needing the anxious fight-or-flight reaction. If we were periodically reintroduced to the original and valid sources of anxiety, would this prevent its unwanted occurrence in non-threatening situations? Some of us already seek these out.

Why do people love burning man? Why do successful, wealthy individuals who can afford to live in a San Francisco penthouse and pay help to do every menial task specifically love burning man? Why do they put aside their envy-inducing luxuries for a week in the desert with scarce water, canned food, and handheld showers? The same reason Crossfit spread like wildfire and why something called the Death Race not only exists but people opt to partake. We crave getting back to our primal nature, crave a version of the hardships our hunter-gatherer ancestors were forced to endure for millennia. Civilization, organized cities and societies, didn’t become ubiquitous until a few thousand years ago. Evolution moves a hell of a lot slower than that. Our environments are near opposite to the environments hunter-gatherers faced, yet all we really are underneath the contrived layers of social acceptability are primal homo sapiens who crave food, shelter, and connection. Today, we have an abundance of options for food and shelter and we have a poverty of connection. There are two problems there, 1. we no longer have to strain to fulfill our basic needs and 2. we’re lacking a vital piece needed to thrive, quality connection. As the structure and security of civilization grows, these primal deprivations deepen and become more taxing, more attempts are made to fulfill them. We address the two problems by

  1. Seeking strained state situations. We use things like cryotherapy, cold plunges, extended sauna sessions, near-impossible races, remote escapes, and fasting to force a strained state that our privileged, abundant lives have no need to face unless we choose to. When in a strained state, the banal struggles (how you’ll double your salary, when you’ll get into that private club) that cloud our awareness are forced to dissipate because we’re brought to the core of being human, it ignites our instincts in a way that scrolling Instagram, ordering from Instacart, or sitting in an Uber does not. Why do we crave igniting our instincts? See above, evolution is slow as hell. Our innate selves are basically equal to our ancestors 30,000 years ago whose days were spent carving stones, foraging berries, hunting animals, and communing around a campfire. Our innate instincts support that sort of lifestyle, crave that sort of lifestyle, we’ve deviated worlds away from that sort of lifestyle so we’ve started finding other ways to get a dose of it.

  2. Social media. We connect with friends and family through the lens of social media. We live in overpopulated cities, surrounded with people on the streets on the bus in the uber pool and we look shyly at our phones because we’ve gotten used to the technology layer not the naked layer-less human human interaction.

Both solutions are flawed. The first is intermittent and infrequent, it’s hard to stay in a strained state for long unless we’re physically forced or we’re enlightened Stoics. The second replaces quality with quantity. We increase our quantity of social media friends and followers, hoping to fulfill the lacking quality.

So what’s an unflawed solution? I realize I’ve been unconsciously chasing that answer for years and only recently developed a self-awareness towards the interest. Through a bit of introspective digging, I realized the interest comes from my own strong internal drive I have towards primal experiences. It’s been a clear tendency in my life for years and seems to be an urge that’s strengthened in periods of time between meeting it.

As of writing this, I haven’t yet found an unflawed, lasting solution. This essay is meant to pose 3 questions, do others feel as strongly about this as I do, what can be created to do something about it, and how can we band together to actualize it. I’ve started by dissecting the experiences that satisfy this urge and finding the common threads. These are:

  1. Being surrounded by a tight-knit tribe that has common goals/drives

  2. Collaborating repeatedly with the tribe towards those goals/drives in a way that is open, supportive, and trust-filled

  3. A feeling of complete self-acceptance and embraced vulnerability

  4. Physical effort not simply for exercise/being healthy but for the sake of a productive outcome or purpose (e.g. climbing/biking/running towards or away from something, boxing/wrestling/jiu-jitsu, hunting, climbing, competitive sports, sex)

  5. Experiencing physical strain due to a forced deprivation (e.g. lack of food, water, warmth, shelter)

From these, I have a few ideas that need testing/validating. It comes down to building a community of people who are similarly preoccupied with this, providing a space to connect—physical or digital, and offering or curating regular events and activities.

After burning man, I’m effectively reset. The patterns and grooves of thinking that were slowly developed from a competitive abundant city environment seem to smooth out and are replaced with a heightened awareness toward core drives and what really matters. I’ve heard many accounts from others feeling similarly. This is powerful, an effect that could have a compelling impact if enabled more than once a year. Stay tuned for more words on this. Would love to hear thoughts — me@koriharrison.com.

Reversing my OS

I spend a lot of time thinking about thinking. I fold through my mind fabric and find patterns, analyze the patterns, decide whether it’s one that will help or hurt me, and optimize. Introspection has always been a preferred state for me and one of my levers for personal growth. It’s served well, I’ve developed a strong self awareness and understanding of my operating system. But I’ve recently decided it's time to reverse my approach. Up until now, specifically in the past few years when my dedication to personal growth skyrocketed, I’ve operated from inward to outward. Meaning that I first spend time looking inward at my thoughts and behaviors, from that I glean my strengths and weaknesses, and then decide where to allocate my energy in career and relationships to best leverage those identified strengths. I’ve recently been motivated to operate in the opposite direction, from outward to inward. Meaning that I just act, do, take on new projects irrespective of my self-defined strengths and weaknesses and allow the direct experience of the doing drive a new definition of strengths and weaknesses that become clear after trying this new thing. I’m a big advocate for action over talking, doing over thinking. It’s the only way to leverage the full power of compounded interest—get started today, do a little bit daily and have consistent discipline in order to utilize our biggest asset, time. The more talking thinking planning the less time there is to do which is where the true lessons come from. I’ve used this approach with everything except my operating system, I’m entering a new path in self growth that will be focusing on that. 

Discipline equals freedom

Jocko Willinck wakes up at 4 am daily to “beat the enemy”. He’s an ex-combat Navy Seal who now consults Fortune 500 corporations and wrote a book Discipline Equals Freedom. The title sums up a guiding theme I live by—sacrifice what you are for what you become. Do things that are hard today so you can be better tomorrow. Will Smith has an iconic interview, “You will not outwork me. If we get on the treadmill together, there are two options—you’re getting off first or I’m gonna die. The guy willing to hustle the most is going to win. Stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” These are the sort of thought leaders I look up to, I have a similar standard of living that’s been ingrained in my day to day for as long as I can remember and I choose to surround myself with people who further instill and solidify that. 

I’m often asked to what I attribute this obsessively driven mindset. I don’t know the source but I know what it is and I know it’s always been there. Discipline. Pure, intrinsically-derived discipline. Consistent, excuse-less, unfailing discipline. I’m missing the period of consideration between thought and action. I don’t ruminate over whether I should workout when I’m sleep deprived, whether I should get up to the first alarm vs. snoozing it, whether I should choose healthy whole foods over crap, whether I should go directly to the CEO vs. standard channels, whether I should skip normal career steps and go straight for what I know I’m capable of. There’s no decision-making period between option acknowledgement and doing, the decision making is unconscious and it consists of 'is this going to make me better or not'. This is a useful tactic, reducing daily decision-making time. I typically wear the same clothes (chosen by quality + simplicity), eat the same meals, order the same groceries, have consistent morning habits. It saves brain power for the important things, for brainstorming and planning and leading and executing. The more behaviors on autopilot the better, as long as the autopilot is discipline-oriented. Everyone has a portion of behavior on autopilot, these are our habits. The things we do every day, the patterns that we develop and tighten as time and consistency compounds. It’s important to periodically check our autopilot behaviors, it’s easy for them to stray into the mediocrity that would be all of our defaults if we were content with an easy, challenge-less life. If your autopilot behaviors are discipline-oriented, you have the chance to be exponential. It builds a rock-solid foundation that your conscious behaviors can build upon, a higher standard is created from automatic habits that your conscious behavior is then modeled after. 

If you want to be better than others, you must do things that others won’t. Typically, things that others don’t do are hard things, hence why they’re avoided. And doing them consistently, when no one’s looking, on hard days and easy days rainy days sunny days, consistently. Discipline. I always had this. In high school: Up at 6, school, sports practice, home, homework before dinner I sat on my floor so I could spread out my papers in order of priority. In college: study before party, hours on a Sunday dedicated to doing until satisfied before fun was allowed. Juggled two jobs and two degrees, dedicated to reaching self-sufficient as soon as possible dedicated to building credibility and experience 'before the enemy’. Productivity is my default, I’m not fulfilled without it. I’ve trained an aversion to anything that won’t make me better. I get antsy watching TV, sitting in a movie theater, listening to gossip, skipping a workout, eating outside of Keto. Exponential is what I strive for. Mediocrity isn’t an option, it never was. Some might think this isn’t a way to live, it’s my only way to live. I choose it and I’m better every day because of it. 

Skip the social bread

I view human interactions like a sandwich. In a sandwich, there are 2 outer layers of dry, flavorless fluff squares and 1 inner layer of complex, savory, nutrient-dense goodness. The outer exists just to hold the good stuff together. 

In human interactions, the deep, thoughtful, explorative discussions often only exist after a shallow, self-conscious, meaningless catch up and end before a shallow, self-conscious, meaningless closing. Why does this feel like a social obligation? Why is it perceived as unnatural or forward or socially inept when the dry outer layers are ignored? I think about most things in terms of reason. If something exists simply because of a social convention or standard practice, without having logic behind it, its lack of point for existing is enough to make me ignore it. 

This is often perceived as very east coast or direct. I’d agree, but I'd also say it’s genuine and efficient. Genuine because I don’t want you to ask me anything that you don’t actually care to hear the answer to or say anything backed by societal obligation rather than individual truth. And vice versa. Efficient because life is short. Think of how much time we spend on pleasantries when we really could’ve been opening up about a true concern or relating on a like value or convening on a common mission? And as for work, pleasantries distract from the purpose of the meeting/call/agenda, getting straight to the point saves time and mental energy for what really matters. 

This has become a useful filter. Those who shy from immediately getting real are not usually ones who I’d prioritize having around. Radical transparency and open-mindedness are values of mine, I prefer to surround myself with those who feel similarly. 

Books are my soundtrack

I’m a book addict. More accurately, a Kindle addict because it allows me to have all my books in one place, supporting my habit of reading based on my current need, which often leads to shuffling 3 at a time. I read not only for the immediate pleasure but for the subsequent outcome. The book themes and premises seem to bleed into my life in a very tangible way, impacting my thoughts and actions. There’s a window of time that begins once I start the book and lasts a month or so afterwards in which my mindset mirrors, or at least resembles, the book’s. This phenomenon is stronger and more time-enduring the more the book resonates with me. 

This is how I choose my next set of reading. What do I need to improve? What’s a flaw in my current thinking? What am I struggling with right now? What’s happening that I should be better prepared for in the next few months? Or it could be more tangential than a topic I need to learn or internalize, often it’s the author’s voice. Some authors I value for their succinct clarity in writing style (couple go tos: Ayn Rand and James Frey). It’s my favorite form of communication, precise and effectual. I realize I use ‘effective' and ‘efficient' an absurd amount in this blog, I’ve exhausted the point that they're driving standards in my life. But in the case of writing, it means a careful choice of word combinations that get an idea across in the best way with the shortest efforttime. Efforttime meaning time to read and time to understand. Best meaning the most descriptive and visual. Nothing extra or distracting, nothing missing. This style is a model for how I want to write and speak, so it’s a style I seek when I’m losing that default way of communicating.

That’s what books do, provide a new default or improve on an existing default. Applying the learnings is less purposeful and more subliminal. It’s like the quote ‘you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with’. I’d add to that calculation. You’re the average of the 5 people and 3 authors you spend the most time with.

An INTJ's First Principles

I met with a rare fellow INTJ last night, and he mentioned an interesting self-assessment practice that he did recently. He wrote down a list of First Principles he believes he lives his life by and sent them to friends and past/present coworkers asking them to provide feedback into their validity, i.e. if he truly operates from those principles and if not, how he deviates from them. I found this to be a powerful feedback practice that could offer a more incisive, deep look at how you’re perceived by others. 

I’ve taken the 16personalities test a few times and always result in INTJ. Reading through the explanation, this doesn’t surprise me. It’s frighteningly accurate and aligned with how I operate, or at least how I perceive myself. I’ve always been fascinated in personality tests, partially because my analytical mind seeks to have concrete explanations for the way I think. It provides a lot of clarity, having succinct paragraphs basically describing my operating system. It’s one of the reasons I write, putting my many thoughts to words is fabulously therapeutic and explanatory. It’s so useful that I already had my own set of First Principles written out, so after hearing about my friend’s feedback tactic I thought I should put my own out there. Here they are,

  • Be steadfastly open minded.

  • Maintain a curiosity and hunger for knowledge.

  • Take ownership whenever possible.

  • Maintain exceptionally high standards and surround yourself with those who are just as intrinsically motivated to meet them and feel similarly.

  • Never follow the prescriptive or conventional, form conclusions and decisions based on rationality, logic, and independent thinking.

  • Avoid reactive behavior and thought.

  • Be useful. Ensure that your actions contribute some value to the world.

  • Consistency and compounded interest are life's most powerful tools.

  • Assign credibility via meritocracy only, not titles, credentials, or labels.

  • Efficiency, competency, and results trump all.

  • Lack of progress is death. Regularly check in that growth is occurring and change course if not.

  • Speak ill of no one. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. 

  • Trust and respect are earned with time and repeated, diverse circumstances.

  • Acknowledge context, differing individual perspectives, and circumstance rather than taking all words as I perceive them.

  • The mind is our director in life. Change your mind, change your life.

  • Do things that are hard and uncomfortable. If it’s difficult, it’s likely good for you. If it’s easy, it’s likely not useful.

  • Health is the number one priority.

  • Value action over words.

  • Utilize intuition when conflicted. The unconscious mind often knows more than the conscious. 

  • Seek simple, elegant solutions over complex.

Your new workout motivation tactic

My favorite way to think about working out and eating for your body is to reach a ‘purpose-built’ state. There’s a primal empowerment that comes with being aptly ready to survive an apocalypse or at least have a better fighting chance than most. We’ve gotten away from optimizing our body for survival and instead care about looking good naked or emulating the newest Instagram model. I don’t find those things relevant or fulfilling. Just like the richest person at the charity gala might feel powerful, the strongest/most agile individual will be feeling pretty great when running down 30 flights of stairs in the event of an earthquake. Granted, these things aren’t likely to happen tomorrow but bear with my brain dump of shower thoughts here (all my blog really is). Prioritizing exercise and eating well can allow you to make the most of your experiences and prepare you for unexpected moments where brains and money don’t matter, just your primal skills and physical effectiveness. 

When in Berlin, I walked over 30,000 steps a day, the best way to truly see a city. In Hawaii, I jam-packed every day with surfing, wakeboarding, snorkeling, etc. I have daily walks to and from my WeWork and gym up near 90 degree classic SF hills. In Iceland, I walked miles in snow to the nearest civilization when our car broke down in the middle of no where. In Yosemite, I had to re-hike a 8 mile trail after leaving a backpack at the top. In college, I carried my inebriated best friend 7 blocks home to bed. I’ve traveled abroad over 4 times this year and I haven’t had jet lag since before starting keto. I moved my own furniture up a flight of stairs when I switched to the corner unit above me. Check out all those non-apocalypse applications.

Prior to the agricultural revolution 12,000 years ago, our ancestors didn’t have the concept of exercise. They had the concept of surviving. Their bodies were sculpted from field work, foraging, running from lions, chasing buffalo, and building huts. Imagine what a caveman would think if they were to observe an Equinox pilates class or a Crossfit WOD today…pretty amusing. But we need these things now because consumerism, delivery, ecommerce, supply chain, transportation, etc. reduce the need for us to physically do anything to survive. A freelancer today could literally sit at home, order groceries on Instacart, order laundry service on Rinse, order basic needs on Amazon, FaceTime a friend for human interaction, work on projects on their laptop and never leave their place. I don’t think that’s considered an ideal life to most people, but kind of crazy to contemplate the contrast in today’s resources vs. just 12,000 years ago. Especially considering for 2 million years, not much changed for the homo species by way of tools or technology. But I digress. Shift your motivation from being Instagram-Ready to being Purpose-Built. Much cooler. 

Why entrepreneurs should read Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Knowledge exists in layers. Studying Business is studying many layers of knowledge that have been developed over time from things that have already happened. The layers at the top represent the most recent and specific—like how to optimize your acquisition funnel or how to read a term sheet. These knowledge layers are driven by the way society exists today and the way things have been done before. If you peel the top layers back, you get closer to the foundational principles—physics, psychology, game theory, evolution, etc. 

The difference between the base layers (e.g. psychology) and top layers (e.g. marketing) is that the former is a framework for thinking and the latter is a prescription for doing. The former allows you to derive your own solution for the best way to do, the latter tells you the best way to do. But what if the prescription is not optimal or wrong? 

To innovate is to 'make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.’ Think of each knowledge layer as a Tetris piece. If you build a wall from the first pieces, you have the potential to create a new, better wall than if building on top of one that already exists. Now one might ask—what if the wall that already exists works fine as is? Well, if society was perfect as is then there’d be no sense trying to improve it with new technologies and policies. The best mindset for innovation is one of a first principles thinker, focusing on the low knowledge layers, the first Tetris pieces. 

I recommend college students pick a base layer to study—Engineering, Philosophy, Biology, Genetics...I can’t think of anything more ambiguous or tangential than studying Entrepreneurship, Business Management, or Marketing. Studying only the top layers results in paradigms being driven by the status quo, which often results in mirroring what's already been done, the opposite of innovation. 

Learn as much as you can on the foundational stuff so you can form your own paradigms and hopefully contribute something novel to the world.