Six Words of Gratitude

Avthar's Weekly Wisdom #31 (11/29/2020)

Hello fellow learners, doers and curious people!

I'm grateful to write to you from New York City. Welcome to edition #31 of Avthar's Weekly Wisdom.

🔥 This newsletter is where I share practical wisdom about self-mastery, startups, health and happiness, all to help you live better. My goal is for you to discover one thing that can change your life, in a big or small way, every week.

ICYMI: You can read all previous editions of Avthar's Weekly Wisdom here and find more useful things on my website.

🙏 Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrated this past week. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and share through this email and even more grateful for every one of you who read my newsletter every week! Thank you!

Life-changing Links

Here's what I want to share with you this week:

🏆 On Self-Mastery —

The Neuroscience of Optimal Performance: What can a neuroscientist, who's experimented with Virtual Reality to stimulate fear and high stress in the brain, teach us about overcoming fear? What level of focus makes for optimal engagement? How can getting "the download" after you sleep help you be more creative and productive? These were just some of the life changing things I learned from Stanford University neuroscientist and researcher Andrew Huberman during his appearance on the Lex Fridman Podcast.

PS: Look out for timestamps in the description so you can skip to sections you're most interested in.

Here's one of the highlights, about how moving toward your fear is the most stressful thing to do, but it's also the most rewarded fear response by the brain:

The lowest level of stress (or autonomic arousal) is associated with the pausing and freezing response. Then as the threat becomes more impending...the retreat response has a slightly higher level...what was interesting to us is that the highest level of autonomic arousal was associated with the forward movement toward the threat. When one safely and adaptively moves toward a threat, it's rewarded as a positive experience...You have to confront the thing that makes you afraid.

🚀 On Startups —

Teach me about your users: I believe that customer empathy — how well you understand the people your company is trying to serve — is the driving force behind successful startups. I'm not alone in holding this belief. Jeff Bezos' has famously said that "the number one thing that's made Amazon successful, by far, is the obsessive, compulsive focus on the customer"

Paul Graham recently put out a insightful thread on the importance of customer empathy and how Y-Combinator evaluates founders based on it:

"Make something people want" is fundamentally advice about being empirical, instead of assuming you already have all the answers. The equivalent for investors would be "Let founders teach you what people want."

That has been the m.o. at YC from the beginning: that founders both should and can understand their users better than we could.

That rule cuts both ways. If we see signs founders don't understand their users as well as we do, it's a reason for rejection. But if founders can teach us things about their users, based on real data, they become very convincing.

I can remember several very vivid cases of founders teaching me what users wanted. With both Airbnb and Twitch I was initially incredulous. But they seemed to know what they were talking about, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

If I had to decide whether or not to fund a startup based on a single question, it would be "How do you know people want this?" Which is basically a more specific way of saying "Teach me about your users."

💪 On Health —

Joe Rogan and Duncan Trussell on health and habits: In this clip from the JRE podcast, Joe's close friend Duncan Trussell details his struggles with food and health issues, and how he's locked in a cycle of getting healthy but then relapsing and falling off the path. Joe's response to Duncan is both kind and firm, the sort of advice that comes from a friend who loves and cares about you, but also doesn't let you get away with your BS and wasting your life.

One of the highlights is when Joe Rogan describes how eating healthy is not a sacrifice, since he doesn’t feel less happy not eating sugar, pasta and other treats:

One thing I've learned from this diet I'm on is that I'm not less happy. I don't feel bad that I'm not getting to eat a cupcake. I don't feel bad that I'm not getting to eat a bowl of pasta — it looks amazing and I bet its great when it goes down — but it's not affecting my happiness.

But if I got unhealthy, it would affect my happiness! It will affect my recovery, my movement, my energy levels. I am more happy, I'm not less happy because I'm not eating sugar

🙏 On Happiness —

Six Words of Gratitude for 2020: One of my best friends shared this with me during our Thanksgiving lunch. It's a selection of six word memoirs from more than 10 000 New York Times readers describing what made them thankful in 2020. The responses are heartwarming, heartbreaking and made me feel more connected to the human experience.

I also took a stab at what my six word memoir of gratitude for 2020 would be. Here's what I came up with:

Grateful for health, gifts to give

The second three words have been the biggest positive for me in 2020. It's a year that's helped me uncover my gifts, and find ways to use them to help and serve people. This newsletter is one of blessings 2020 has brought me, it's an avenue for creativity and self expression and I'm grateful to share it with you every week and humbled at the impact its made in your lives.

My other attempt, was:

Alive, WFH, health, family, friends, serving

What would your 6 words of gratitude for 2020 be?

Reply to this email with your six words and I'll publish an anonymous selection of them next week!

Wishing you a week filled with happiness, peace and success,


🐦 @avthars


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