The seesaw of pain and pleasure

The seesaw of pain and pleasure
5. General

The seesaw of pain and pleasure

Welcome to the twenty-sixth edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let’s dive in.

🐦 3 Tweets of the week

Crafting summaries of data is a core part of what I teach – the day this is integrated into all our content (Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc.), life will be very different. I made a video about this, ICYMI.

This doesn’t really look good for China, does it? Although not sure if the data is reliable…

Some crazy stories of discovery of artificial sweeteners. Mistakes can be the stepping stones for success.

Admittedly while these were lucky accidents, the curiosity of the scientists to investigate the surprising behaviour needs to be lauded!

📄 2 Articles of the week

a. ‘How To Live An Asymmetric Life’ by Graham Weaver (Hat/tip: Swanand Kelkar and Saurabh Singh, #ROTD)

Private Equity investor Graham Weaver gives some useful advice on investing (and life). I loved how he starts with such a brilliant use of contrast and self-deprecation:

When I started my investing career, I focused almost exclusively on what I believed were the two fundamental rules of investing: Rule One: Don’t lose money, and Rule Two: Never forget Rule One.

We bought some companies at very low prices and others at a discount to their net asset values. On three separate occasions, the memo I wrote to our investment committee claimed, “It is mathematically impossible to lose money on this investment.” We lost money all three times. In fact, I personally lost money on five of my first eight investments, and we lost money on our first fund.

Here’s another good concept:

The equation for returns is X = (1+R)^N, where N is quadratic. Consider this equation where X represents your competence in any given role. The R represents everything you’re doing to improve yourself: coaching, reading, learning, writing out your goals, using your imagination, etc. The most powerful part of the equation is the N, the number of years you are in your role. If you love what you do, you will do it for a long time, and your N will be large. And if you improve at a reasonable rate over a long period, you can become the best in the world at what you do.

b. A to Z: what has changed since the last time the World Cup was in India by Sidharth Monga

The peerless Sid Monga gives us a superb preview of the upcoming cricket ODI World Cup. I love the format where he uses the letters from A to Z to talk about 26 different aspects in which the tournament would be different.

The article is a masterclass of norm-variance – showcasing both, Sid’s analytical skills and his writing abilities. For instance this one on the growing importance of wristspin:

One interesting observation: It is remarkable how frequently rules change in cricket (as compared to other sports). It seems as if cricket bodies (read: BCCI) keep tweaking rules so that India sorry, the big three nations sorry, the sport benefits.

I for in-game over-rate penalties

In their pool match against Zimbabwe in the 1999 World Cup, India were docked four overs from their chase for maintaining a slow over rate. They ended up losing by three runs. To India’s horror, Zimbabwe progressed to the Super Sixes in a tournament where teams carried forward points from the matches against teams that made it out of the first round. That was the last World Cup with in-game over-rate penalties.


P for powerplay

It always helps to brush up on the rules about them because they change so often. In 2011, we had a mandatory powerplay of ten overs, and bowling and batting powerplays of five overs each. In the 30 non-powerplay overs, five fielders were allowed outside the 30-yard circle. Now we have three phases of an innings: first ten overs with just two fielders outside the circle, the next 30 overs with four fielders outside the circle, and the last ten with five fielders outside the circle. The big difference is the 30 overs with four fielders outside the circle, which results in more boundary options through the innings and makes the job of bowlers in the middle overs more difficult.

🎤 1 long-form listen of the week

a. ‘The Paradox of Pleasure’ on Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam

Why do we get upset even during dream vacations, when we should ideally be happy throughout?

And even during tough exams, why do we laugh outside the exam hall cracking bad jokes with friends?

The answer: Homeostasis.

This set of two episodes (one called ‘The Paradox of Pleasure’ and the other ‘The Path to Enough‘) has been some of the most eye-opening content that I have heard in my 9+ years of listening to podcasts.

Shankar Vedantam (who interviews psychiatrist Anna Lembke) starts in an arresting manner – setting some brilliant contrast (emphasis mine):

Shankar Vedantam: Anna, you are a practicing psychiatrist in the heart of Silicon Valley. And I think of California, as the Bay Area, as perhaps the richest part of the richest country in the history of humankind. So a time traveler from the 17th century might assume that even if the streets were not paved with gold, at a minimum, people would be very happy with so much material success. Is your psychiatric practice empty?​

Anna Lembke: Ha. I still marvel at the gap between how people present outwardly and the truth of their inner experience. We see people every day who seem to have everything you could ever want, wealth, beauty, meaningful work, and yet when you look under the hood, they’re miserably unhappy.

The seesaw analogy is an evocative one:

Anna Lembke: This discovery was the fact that pain and pleasure are co-located in the brain. So the same parts of the brain that process pleasure, also process pain. And they work like opposite sides of a balance.​

Shankar Vedantam: So almost like a seesaw?​

Anna Lembke: Exactly, like a seesaw or a teeter-totter in a kid’s playground. And when that teeter-totter or that beam on a central fulcrum is level with the ground, it’s at rest or what neuroscientists call homeostasis. And when we experience pleasure, it tips one way. And when we experience pain, it tips in the opposite direction. And there are certain rules governing this balance. And the first and most important rule is that the balance wants to remain level, that is at homeostasis. And our brains will work very hard to restore a level balance after any deviation from neutrality.

The homeostasis explanation was very useful for me to understand why I would get upset even during seemingly pleasurable experiences…

I still get upset though (can’t change brain chemistry!) but at least now I know why I do.

That’s all from this week’s edition.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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