A Few Things...

October 23, 2019

1. A lot has been written about China - about it’s economy, technology, geography, history and it’s ambitions. But little is actually written about it’s people. About their lives. What is it like being Young Chinese person growing up in China ? What are their hopes and dreams ?

This is the side of China I was exposed to at a recent talk by Zak Dychtwald, who is the CEO of Young China Group and author of a 2018 book: Young China. Zak went from being born in the US, to living in China from age 18. Over that time he learnt the language, the culture and developed an understanding for the people.

The book has been eye opening for me for many reasons and has shattered many preconceptions about the future of China.

Some amazing statistics:

There are 400mm millennials in China, in fact there are more millennials in China, then the entire population of the US. China has not always been the most populous country, in fact due to Maoist policies, it’s population jumped by 440mm from 1949-1979.

China’s outbound tourism spend has grown 765% from 2007 to 2017 while only 9% of the population has a passport (total spend of $258 bn for China versus $173 bn for USA).

China has grown its GDP per capita more than 25x from 1990 to 2017 while even India or Brazil have only 4-5x that. No wonder you have seen even 3rd tier cities be transformed to metropolis’.

All of these simple facts mean that China is going to have pretty huge impact on every part of our world.

The book also provides answers to critical questions like:

1. Why is food and conspicuous consumption so important in China ?

2. Why are apartments critical to the Chinese dating / marriage market ?

3. Why do many Chinese people making $440 a month, spend $850 on an iPhone ?

4. Why are your local Chinese friends going to be amazing at Karaoke ?

5. Why travel is critical in Chinese culture ?

You can see one of Zak’s unique’s talk here (skip to 3:50).

2. Aging & Longevity continues to be a place where I’m spending a lot of time. I’ve been reading David Sinclair’s book Lifespan. You can see a summary of his ideas here.

One amazing statistic on longevity by the way: our bodies are in a state of continuous regeneration. On an annual basis, 95-98% of our bodies are completely new.

David’s thesis combines the latest in genetics and epigenetic work with Claude Shannon’s original Information Theory (that the internet is built on top of) to arrive at the Information Theory of Aging.

To simplify something complex into a few sentences, here’s how it goes: We all start with our cells having ‘perfect’ information. Over time, you can think of the data in your cells being like a CD that has gotten scratched or covered in dust (a process called methylation).

At this point the information or instructions that was meant to be conveyed to your cells is corrupted, which leads to small mistakes, noise, differences between what the CD had on it versus then data being read. This leads to entropy and incorrect expression of genetic data.

But, we are now finding processes by which we can go clean up that CD, to wipe away the dust and return it back to it’s original state. So the instructions look like when you were younger.

They have already been able to reverse aging and restore blindness in mice.

Key terms to know:

Horvath clock - your body’s epigenetic clock (Nature article).

Yamanaka factors - ability to take our cells to their original pluripotent stem cell state.

One of the best resources I found was a podcast with Peter Attia and David Sinclair - it’s a bit heavy on the science.

In terms of just simple stuff to do if you’d like to live longer, if you don’t want to take supplements like Resveratrol, Rapamycin, NAD+ boosters or Metformin (I take the last two), and are already eating well and sleeping well (and not smoking or drinking much), then you can try intermittent fasting and some amount of caloric restriction.

The way this works, again grossly simplifying: is that when your body thinks it’s in a state of famine / starvation - it works to fix DNA breaks and do overall repair, rather than focusing on growth.

A few things worth checking out:

1. In any decision there is the “inside” view and the “outside” view. It’s easy to take the “inside” view and look at all the things that make your situation / investment / decision special, but the great decision makers take the outside view. To quote Daniel Kahneman:

“People who have information about an individual case rarely feel the need to know the statistics of the class to which the case belongs.”

There is no better way to do this then using - Michael Maubossin’s Base Rate Book.

Research in psychology shows that the most accurate forecasts are a thoughtful blend of the inside and outside views. If skills determines the outcome, you can rely more on the inside view. If luck plays a large role, you should place more weight on the outside view.

2. Esther Wojcicki, the mother of three amazing daughters - two of which are the CEOs of YouTube and 23andMe, wants you to know there is no perfect parenting….Wojcicki is the author of How to Raise Successful People, a legendary journalism teacher, and founder of the renowned Media Arts programs at Palo Alto High School. She shared her formula for raising, mentoring, and developing people to reach their highest potential. It starts with her acronym TRICK: trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. If you’re a parent, it involves giving yourself a break and finding ways to empower your children to be independent thinkers. Worth listening to her on the goop podcast.

3. The great and always amusing Rory Sutherland was on How To Academy podcast. His core thesis is that humans are imperfect, complex things and sometimes its cheaper / faster / easier to change perception than to mess with reality. If you enjoyed Cialdini, you will love this.

Quotes I’ve ben thinking about:

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.

- Mother Teresa

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.”

- John Wooden