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Super Mario, Opioids, & Silence

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” 

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we discuss the “super mario effect”, opioid addiction, functional fitness, and the power (wisdom) of being silent. Our challenge is for you to add a bit of physical activity to your daily routine. 

Also, we hit 1,000 subscribers last week and we just wanted to say THANK YOU for signing up! We take your joining seriously and it inspires us to keep going.

Now let’s dive in!

The Super Mario Effect

How does failure — or rather, your perception of failure — impact your effort? 

Former NASA and Apple engineer turned YouTube science sensation, Mark Rober (< that’s his YouTube channel), set out to answer that question a few years ago. 

He created a game where players try to organize simplified blocks of code in such a way that a car on the screen would follow the rules and navigate to the end of a maze. 

He released this game to his followers and encouraged them to try it. 

50,000 people did. 

But what he didn’t reveal is that there were two different versions of the game randomly (and evenly) distributed across all players, with just one key difference. 

When a player’s code failed to get the car through the maze on the first version, a message popped up that said, “That didn’t work. Please try again.”

On the other version, the message said, “That didn’t work. You just lost 5 points. Please try again.”

(In Rober’s words, these were “completely fake internet points”)

The results were very interesting. 

Players who were penalized tried an average of 5 times before quitting and had a 52% success rate. 

Players who weren’t penalized tried an average of 12 times and had a 68% success rate. 

Unsurprisingly, more tries equals more success — repetition is the foundation for mastery. 

Perhaps more surprising, however, this implies that being penalized for errors — even if the penalty is arbitrary — discourages people from continuing to try (which naturally decreases the chance of success). 

It’s a human quality to dislike being punished for failure, and it’s a human response to quit in the midst of that. 

It’s also human to enjoy the process of trial and error when it’s gamified, when there isn’t a penalty for failure, and when persistence is encouraged.

Fittingly, Rober calls this discovery “The Super Mario Effect” — and you can watch his full 15-minute TEDx talk about it over here

Functional Fitness

Hour- or two-hour-long gym workouts that leave a person exhausted have merit; for athletes and even for normal people looking to challenge themselves. 

But for everyday functional fitness, simple things also make a big difference, especially if they’re done consistently over a long period of time.

Things like: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking for 30 minutes per day, riding your bike to work, stretching, and at-home workouts.

Building a habit of doing one or several of those things every day can increase your quality and quantity of life. Even though they seem small, they have a compounding impact on your life when done consistently. 

And these compounding habits aren’t only physical — they can also be related to your faith, your community, or your diet. Here are 20 lifestyle habits that Blue Zones recommends building for a happier, healthier life

Our favorite ideas from that article were… 

  • Get a dog (hell yes)
  • Enjoy wine at 5
  • Create stress relieving habits
  • Eat with family and friends
  • Get out every day
  • Make new friends


It’s a problem that too few people talk about — opioid addiction. 

In 2019, it was estimated that over 10 million people in the U.S. misused opioids (and we’re primarily talking about prescription pain relievers; only 745,000 of that total used heroin) and nearly 50,000 people died from opioid-involved overdoses. 

It’s tragic — many people go to the hospital seeking relief from chronic pain and within a couple of weeks, become addicted to the medication they’ve been prescribed. 

So we thought it might be useful to provide some alternative pain relief ideas that are worth trying… 

  • Cold Water & Warm Water
  • CBD Oil
  • Massage Therapy
  • Magnesium
  • Cats Claw
  • Acupucture
  • Yoga

And here’s a direct link to get help if you’re struggling — you’re not alone and recovery is possible. Click that link to find help. 


We recently found (and ‘liked’) this Tweet from Shane Parrish

Consistency is important for success — that’s clear and the truth of it has been popularized by books like Grit by Angela Duckworth.

But there’s also truth to the 2nd part of Shane’s Tweet:  “…without convincing yourself that you’re smarter than you are.”

Success is great, but success sometimes bolsters the ego. And when a person’s ego gets bolstered, all sorts of problems arise. Egotistical behaviors can halt the learning process, reverse growth, and squander the goodwill of others.

(Of course, some egomaniacs do become successful in their own right… but we’re aiming higher at The Tonic)

Of course, we are all trying to succeed in our own ways. And so we must keep a close eye on our egos and we must take every opportunity to remain humble. Often, as explained by Ryan Holiday in Ego is the Enemy, silence is a wonderful antidote for a bolstered ego…

“And that’s what is so insidious about talk. Anyone can talk about himself or herself. Even a child knows how to gossip and chatter. Most people are decent at hype and sales. So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.”

This Week’s Photo

Andreea Campeanu / Getty

“Participants march during the Bucharest Pride parade on August 14, 2021, in Bucharest, Romania. Thousands attended the annual event, which has been celebrated since 2005, but was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” via The Atlantic

Extra Stuff

Here are some other articles that caught our attention this week!

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

What is always in front of you but can’t be seen?

Weekly Challenge

The mind and the body are connected. The more that we train our bodies, the more that we train our mind — period. So we want to challenge you to add a simple exercise to your everyday routine. Maybe it’s walking for 30 minutes, maybe it’s running, maybe it’s rock climbing, or maybe it’s just taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Be realistic with yourself and choose something that makes you think, “Oh hell yeah, I can totally do that.” Then reply to this email and let us know what you chose!

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Answer: The future

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