The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

Eric Jorgenson
“The closer you want to get to me, the better your values have to be.”

3-Point Summary

  • Jorgenson does a great job of pulling novel insights on topics that Naval may have already touched on via twitter, blogs or podcasts.
  • Naval manages to tie in health, happiness and philosophy into the modern struggles of entrepreneurship, wealth and self-actualisation. Every line is carefully constructed, demonstrating the high level of consideration that has gone into them.
  • The one criticism I have about the book was that it felt like a transcript of what could have been a podcast. Whilst the value provided in the book was great, it would have been nice to see a biographical/autobiographical structure to the book.
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Quotes and Notes

Embrace accountability, and take business risks under your own name. Society will reward you with responsibility, equity, and leverage.

If you're willing to handle the risks of operating in the public eye, society rewards you for being one of the few who show up. Own the downside, earn the upside.

“Escape competition through authenticity.” Basically, when you’re competing with people, it’s because you’re copying them. It’s because you’re trying to do the same thing. But every human is different. Don’t copy.

As a writer and videographer, this is advice that I hear time and time again. Unless one possesses unequivocal confidence in their individuality, I've found that most people will either learn this lesson the hard way or not learn it at all. It is better to a big fish for a small pond than a small fish in a big ocean. Create your own pond through authenticity and then swim freely.

If you are fundamentally building and marketing something that is an extension of who you are, no one can compete with you on that.

Foundations are key. It’s much better to be at 9/10 or 10/10 on foundations than to try and get super deep into things.

I’m not saying don’t do the 99 percent, because it’s very hard to identify what the 1 percent is. What I’m saying is: when you find the 1 percent of your discipline which will not be wasted, which you’ll be able to invest in for the rest of your life and has meaning to you—go all-in and forget about the rest.

Through trial and error, throw things at the wall and see what sticks. It's better to get this out the way sooner rather than later, preferably before big life commitments obstruct you from doing so. Keep pivoting and iterating towards your final direction, then go all in.

If they can train you to do it, then eventually they will train a computer to do it.

This thought really scared me. With AI already creeping its way into multiple disciplines, the question arises: am I doing something that is replaceable?

Whenever you can in life, optimize for independence rather than pay. If you have independence and you’re accountable on your output, as opposed to your input—that’s the dream.

The key words here for me are 'whenever you can' - being conscious of when you're earning enough allows you to start saying no to further opportunities, carving some time into your day to do things independently, on your own terms, so that you eventually "own a share of a business".

Inputs don’t match outputs, especially for leveraged workers.

Thinking in terms of leverage has been incredibly beneficial for me. Instead of putting in 1 and receiving 2, think about how you can receive 10, 100 or a 1000 instead. With the internet and digital economy, you can create an e-product that costs a negligible amount to replicate and distribute, earning you an almost infinite upside.

If you’re looking at professions where your inputs and your outputs are highly connected, it’s going to be very hard to create wealth and make wealth for yourself in that process.

Learn to sell, learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.

Just from being marginally better, like running a quarter mile a fraction of a second faster, some people get paid a lot more—orders of magnitude more.

Just as some use the 80/20 rule to achieve a lot with little effort, marginal improvements of 1% are what make people great. There are less and less people willing to work up each interval of 1%, so by doing so, you become one of the few at the top.

The problem is, to win at a status game, you have to put somebody else down. That’s why you should avoid status games in your life—they make you into an angry, combative person. You’re always fighting to put other people down, to put yourself and the people you like up.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

On a long enough timescale, you will attract what you project. But don’t measure—your patience will run out if you count.

Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow. When today is complete, in and of itself, you’re retired.

I love this. What would you do when you retire? How would you spend the average year? Is there any way you could live like that now (whilst earning enough to sustain it)?

The winners of any game are the people who are so addicted they continue playing even as the marginal utility from winning declines.

This was an interesting perspective, but I'm not quite sure I agree. Yes, perhaps through addiction, they're more likely to work towards marginal gains in improvement, but in what way does that mean they're winning? I think the term 'winning' has to be clarified within this context.

Ways to get lucky: • Hope luck finds you. • Hustle until you stumble into it. • Prepare the mind and be sensitive to chances others miss. • Become the best at what you do. Refine what you do until this is true. Opportunity will seek you out. Luck becomes your destiny.

Naval is great at condensing down big concepts like this into well-thought bullet point summaries. Increase your surface area for attracting 'luck' and optimise for it and luck 'becomes your destiny'.

Your character and your reputation are things you can build, which will let you take advantage of opportunities other people may characterize as lucky, but you know it wasn’t luck.

“The closer you want to get to me, the better your values have to be.”

People are oddly consistent. Karma is just you, repeating your patterns, virtues, and flaws until you finally get what you deserve. Always pay it forward. And don’t keep count.

I know many very wealthy people who are unhappy. Most of the time, the person you have to become to make money is a high-anxiety, high-stress, hard-working, competitive person. When you have done that for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years, and you suddenly make money, you can’t turn it off. You’ve trained yourself to be a high-anxiety person. Then, you have to learn how to be happy.

This is incredibly important. We don't talk enough about setting ourselves up for failure. How can I succeed in the present without becoming the type of person I don't want to be in the future? How do I unlearn these characteristics now, instead of having to unlearn them after they're ingrained in me?

The direction you’re heading in matters more than how fast you move, especially with leverage. Picking the direction you’re heading in for every decision is far, far more important than how much force you apply. Just pick the right direction to start walking in, and start walking.

I don’t  believe I have the ability to say what is going to work. Rather, I try to eliminate what’s not going to work. I think being successful is just about not making mistakes. It’s not about having correct judgement. It’s about avoiding incorrect judgements.

If you have two choices to make, and they’re relatively equal choices, take the path more difficult and more painful in the short term. What’s actually going on is one of these paths requires short-term pain. And the other path leads to pain further out in the future. And what your brain is doing through conflict-avoidance is trying to push off the short-term pain.

People mistakenly believe happiness is just about positive thoughts and positive actions. The more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned, and the more I’ve experienced (because I verify this for myself), every positive thought essentially holds within it a negative thought. It is a contrast to something negative. The Tao Te Ching says this more articulately than I ever could, but it’s all duality and polarity. If I say I’m happy, that means I was sad at some point. If I say he’s attractive, then somebody else is unattractive. Every positive thought even has a seed of a negative thought within it and vice versa, which is why a lot of greatness in life comes out of suffering. You have to view the negative before you can aspire to and appreciate the positive.

What you’re left with in that neutral state is not neutrality. I think people believe neutrality would be a very bland existence. No, this is the existence little children live. If you look at little children, on balance, they’re generally pretty happy because they are really immersed in the environment and the moment, without any thought of how it should be given their personal preferences and desires. I think the neutral state is actually a perfection state. One can be very happy as long as one isn’t too caught up in their own head.

At any given time, when you’re walking down the streets, a very small percentage of your brain is focused on the present. The rest is planning the future or regretting the past. This keeps you from having an incredible experience. It’s keeping you from seeing the beauty in everything and for being grateful for where you are. You can literally destroy your happiness if you spend all of your time living in delusions of the future.

Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

The problem with getting good at a game, especially one with big rewards, is you continue playing it long after you should have outgrown it. Survival and replication drive put us on the work treadmill. Hedonic adaptation keeps us there. The trick is knowing when to jump off and play instead.

But, is endless pleasure not its own form of punishment?

There’s a line from Blaise Pascal I read. Basically, it says: “All of man’s troubles arise because he cannot sit in a room quietly by himself.”

Peace is happiness at rest, and happiness is peace in motion.

Today, the way we think you get peace is by resolving all your external problems. But there are unlimited external problems. The only way to actually get peace on the inside is by giving up this idea of problems.

Whenever the word “should” creeps up in your mind, it’s guilt or social programming. Doing something because you “should” basically means you don’t actually want to do it.

If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.

First, you know it. Then, you understand it. Then, you can explain it. Then, you can feel it. Finally, you are it.

When everyone is sick, we no longer consider it a disease.

I think about this a lot, particularly when I think about social media consumption. It takes some people without the 'disease' to give perspective on who is really sick.

“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”

The greatest superpower is the ability to change yourself.

When you really want to change, you just change. But most of us don’t really want to change—we don’t want to go through the pain just yet. At least recognize it, be aware of it, and give yourself a smaller change you can actually carry out.

I think he nails it on the head here. At the core of behavioural change is the 'desire' to change. If we don't truly want to be something, we won't make the necessary changes.

Don’t spend your time making other people happy. Other people being happy is their problem. It’s not your problem. If you are happy, it makes other people happy. If you’re happy, other people will ask you how you became happy and they might learn from it, but you are not responsible for making other people happy.

Truth is that which has predictive power.

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