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There are no shortcuts

I once had a (virgin) mojito, and it lead to the most excruciating pain of my life. I still have nightmares about lime, mint, soda water and sugar.

I was 12 and in Cuba for a family vacation. The great thing about Cuban-all-inclusive-resorts is the ability to exploit the free drinks. I had lots (don’t take this the wrong way, I was 12).

As you may infer, I eventually had to pee. We were on the beach, and the hotel room was too far. There were no public washrooms nearby. But there was the ocean. I stared into my mojito’s soul and chugged it down my throat. Then, I ran towards the water.

It was cold, but I sprinted in. I got to a sufficient depth of water and started my deed.

I have a complicated relationship with urination (specifically in the Caribbean). A few years prior, in Mexico, I decided it would be amusing to pee on the pool deck. It felt less clever when my mom got a $1000 fine.

But this time was worse. I emptied my bladder, then I started to swim away. That’s when the pain struck me. My muscles tensed up, and I couldn’t feel my right leg. I was breathing as if I was intensely blowing out birthday candles. I thought a shark was eating me.

I was screaming in pain. I had one functioning(ish) leg, but I managed to drag myself out of the ocean.

My right leg was entirely red, scratched up and swollen.

Not one, not two, but FIVE jellyfish stung me.

For the next five hours, it felt like 12 people were hitting my leg with a baseball bat and electrocuting me at the same time.

I had several lifeguards try to help my pain. They put strange lotions, medication, and substances on there.

You don’t even understand how badly I wanted there to be a ‘one pill solution’ to my pain immediately. I wanted to pop a capsule and for all my worries to go away. Yeah, no.

When gelatinous members place their tentacles on you, several things are happening to your body at once. Your nervous system is having a spasm, your skin is itchy, and there’s a whole lot of inflammation. There are a lot of your biological pathways under attack! The situation is too involved for a one-size-fits-all solution.

FYI urinating on jellyfish stings doesn’t work, but it’s engaging (and trivial for girls specifically) to try. The reality is, when it comes to complicated, multi-variant things, there are no shortcuts. Dealing with my jellyfish sting was intricate. I had to sit through the pain which eventually went away.

I didn’t internalize the implication of this event until recently. Most things are too complicated to have a simple answer.

I had this internalization while researching the science of ageing.

Our bodies are like cars: over time, they wear out. To cure ageing, we need to make these cars live longer (often by repairing them). This field of science is so fascinating; if you want to learn more, I’d recommend this talk.

I looked into some of the leading minds in the ‘longevity’ industry. Like Laura Deming, David Sinclair and Peter Attia. And surprisingly, they have pretty normal routines — no incredibly weird health hacks. (Despite the fact that they spend every day researching about prolonging the lives of mice through science).

If you’re anything like me, you want to hear about the ‘one thing’ you can start doing to 10x your health. (In my case, I wanted it to be: ‘eat a diet consisting of only chocolate chip cookies’).

No one had any profoundly different lifestyle advice. There were no funky tips.

They all said something similar. When it comes to health and longevity, it depends. It depends on your genes, diet, metabolism, etc. There are so many factors that contribute to ageing; there’s no “right” approach. It’s impossible to determine whether (objectively) vegan > not vegan. The answer is: it depends. Alcohol < no alcohol? We don’t know, it depends.

If you chose to research longevity, you’d see there are lots of conflicts. One study says that caloric restriction is the answer to living to 200, another says that’s all a sham. Eventually, whether it’s scientific research or anything in life, all advice cancels out.

If you’re building a company, some people will tell you to raise VC money; others might give you the advice to bootstrap. You can’t do both.

We’re all lazy, and we 👏want 👏shortcuts👏. It’s important to realize they don’t exist.

I occasionally get questions about my daily routines, keeping myself motivated, networking tips, and so on. I find answering these questions unsatisfying because there isn’t a TL;DR. I don’t think answers to these questions exist.

In general, I find giving advice displeasing. People are expecting something novel and revolutionary, but what I tell them feels obvious. I can always feel the other person’s disappointment towards my ‘surface-level’ advice.

If there were an easy, quick way to do something, everyone would be doing it. Most great things are the result of doing a variety of actions and being consistent.

Our problems are multi-variant and complex (e.g., starting a company, choosing a project to work on, morning routines). There’s no one way to attack it. So, when you’re giving or receiving advice, don’t expect shortcuts.

Just like you can’t merely pee on a jellyfish sting to make it feel better, you also can’t pee on your problems to solve them. Put in the work, feel the pain, be consistent and do the simple things that seem obvious.