The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

A Guide to Wealth and Happiness

by Eric Jorgenson

244 pages, ★★★☆☆
Finished on 12th of April, buy here.

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. The successful pursuit of wealth and happiness are closely linked, but mostly you should go for professional activities which feel like play to you, because that’s where you can put most of your effort into it.
  2. Be a lifelong reader (i.e. learner) and play the long term game in every aspect of your life. All of the gains come from the effect of compounding.
  3. Work on your happiness, you alone are responsible for it growing. Habits like meditation and non-screen activities will help.

🎨 Impressions

After listening to Naval talk on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, I went into it with high hopes, expecting some truth bombs from this successful and highly praised guy, which would help frame life’s challenges in a clearer way. But I came out the other side with nothing much to show for. The setup of the book is unusual in that it’s written by another person, Eric Jorgenson, who compiled a bunch of Tweets by Naval and also sat down to do an interview with him. Big parts of the book are just a written down version of that interview, not really an “almanack”, at least not what I think of when I think of an almanack.

The outcome of this method is a real oddball. The sentences are short and easy to read, which would in some cases actually be an advantage. But it’s not for the right reasons, here. They are short because it’s written down direct speech, not much edited. A good amount of sentences are direct repetitions, which isn’t a stylistic decision. The advice bits or quotable pieces are eighty percent platitudes, unfortunately. Many times, Naval talks about influential people or books he has come across, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but when the most quotable parts of your book are quotes you pulled in from others, I’m not so sure writing a book was the most fitting idea here.

There are some gems, and he clearly is a capable guy who has a lot of worthy ideas to share, as he does on Twitter. But this book just isn’t what it could have been. Maybe that’s why they are giving it away for free.

🍀 How the Book Changed Me

  • After reading a bunch of books which highlighted the societal problems which arose in this age of self-interest, capitalistic Neoliberalism, reading a book by a Silicon Valley Angel Investor was a contrasting both world views and made me realize again the (at least) two sides of the story.
  • Do people lie to themselves when they say all the work they did in order to become rich was worth it? Or is it an excuse from the lazy ones to argue that wealth won’t bring happiness? Naval certainly makes a good case that both is possible, and that the smart work you could put into ways to become wealthy and helpful to society is a good way to improve happiness indirectly.
  • This book was hammering down a few insights I had already gained from other books, most notably that screen-time is just plain bad for us, that time alone with our thoughts is important for decision-making, that forming habits will lead to the compounding effect, and that the more long term we think, the better.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

  1. Be a maker who makes something interesting people want. Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.
  2. Read what you love until you love to read.
  3. The world just reflects your own feelings back at you. Reality is neutral. Reality has no judgments.

📔 Highlights & Notes

Part I: Wealth

Understand How Wealth is Created

  • Getting rich is about knowing what to do, who to do it with, and when to do it. It is much more about understanding than purely hard work.
  • Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.
  • Don’t partner with cynics and pessimists. Their beliefs are self-fulfilling.
  • Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others.

Find and Build Specific Knowledge

  • Society, business, and money are downstream of technology, which is itself downstream of science. Science applied is the engine of humanity.
  • The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner.

Play Long-Term Games with Long-Term People

  • Intentions don’t matter. Actions do. That’s why being ethical is hard.

Find a Position of Leverage

  • Whether it’s business, exercise, romance, friendship, whatever, I think the meaning of life is to do things for their own sake.
  • It is: “products with no marginal cost of replication.” This includes books, media, movies, and code. Code is probably the most powerful form of permissionless leverage.
  • Forty hour work weeks are a relic of that Industrial Age. Knowledge workers function like athletes – train and sprint, then rest and reassess.

Get Paid for Your Judgment

  • Warren Buffett spends a year deciding and a day acting. The act lasts decades.

Prioritize and Focus

  • [..] money is not going to solve all of your problems, but it’s going to solve all of your money problems.
  • [..] to win at a status game, you have to put somebody else down. That’s why you should avoid status games in your life.
  • Figure out what you’re good at, and start helping other people with it. Give it away. Pay it forward.

Find Work That Feels Like Play

  • Loving somebody, creating something, playing. To me, creating businesses is play. I create businesses because it’s fun, because I’m into the product.
  • Lusting for money is bad for us because it is a bottomless pit. It will always occupy your mind.

How to Get Lucky

  • Become the best at what you do. Refine what you do until this is true. Opportunity will seek you out. Luck becomes your destiny.
  • Be a maker who makes something interesting people want. Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.

Be Patient

  • It takes time – even once you have all of these pieces in place, there is an indeterminate amount of time you have to put in.
  • You have your four limbs, your brain, your head, your skin – that’s all for granted. You have to do hard things anyway to create your own meaning in life.
  • What making money will do is solve your money problems. It will remove a set of things that could get in the way of being happy.

Judgment

  • My definition of wisdom is knowing the long-term consequences of your actions. Wisdom applied to external problems is judgment.

How to Think Clearly

  • I think the smartest people can explain things to a child. If you can’t explain it to a child, then you don’t know it.
  • The number one thing clouding us from being able to see reality is we have preconceived notions of the way it should be.
  • I also encourage taking at least one day a week (preferably two, because if you budget two, you’ll end up with one) where you just have time to think.

Shed Your Identity to See Reality

  • “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” – Buddist saying.
  • We each have a contrarian belief society rejects. But the more our own identity and local tribe reject it, the more real it likely is.

Learn the Skills of Decision-Making

  • Charisma is the ability to project confidence and love at the same time. It’s almost always possible to be honest and positive.
  • I love the blog Farnam Street because it really focuses on helping you be more accurate, an overall better decision-maker.

Collect Mental Models

  • 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.
  • When you are the principal, then you are the owner – you care, and you will do a great job. When you are the agent and you are doing it on somebody else’s behalf, you can do a bad job. You just don’t care. [..] The smaller the company, the more everyone feels like a principal.
  • Least understood, but the most important principle for anyone claiming “science” on their side – falsifiability.
  • If you can’t decide, the answer is no (if I’m faced with a difficult choice, such as: Should I marry this person? Should I take this job, buy this house?) And the reason is, modern society is full of options.
  • 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.
  • As you know, most of the gains in life come from suffering in the short term so you can get paid in the long term.

Learn to Love to Read

  • Read what you love until you love to read.
  • You almost have to read the stuff you’re reading, because you’re into it. You don’t need any other reason.
  • I could not tell you specific passages or quotes from books. At some deep level, you absorb them.
  • I probably read one to two hours a day. That puts me in the top .00001 percent. I think that alone counts for any material success I’ve had in my life [..]
  • A calm mind, a fit body, and a house full of love. These things cannot be bought. They must be earned.

Part II: Happiness

Happiness is Learned

  • Today, I believe happiness is really a default state, Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life.
  • The world just reflects your own feelings back at you. Reality is neutral. Reality has no judgments.
  • We think of ourselves as fixed and the world as malleable, but it’s really we who are malleable and the world is largely fixed.

Every Desire Is a Chosen Unhappiness

  • You’re a living creature. There are things you do. You locally reverse entropy. That’s why you’re here.

Success Does Not Earn Happiness

  • Happiness is being satisfied with what you have. Success comes from dissatisfaction. Choose.
  • [..] working more on my internal self and realizing all real success is internal and has very little to do with external circumstances.
  • 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.

Envy Is the Enemy of Happiness

  • Doing something because you “should” basically means you don’t actually want to do it.

Happiness Is Built by Habits

  • I was reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which is a fantastic introduction to being present, for people who are not religious.
  • Essentially, you have to go through your life replacing your thoughtless bad habits with good ones, making a commitment to be a happier person.
  • No exceptions – all screen activities linked to less happiness, all non-screen activities linked to more happiness.

Find Happiness in Acceptance

  • Pick one big desire in your life at any given time to give yourself purpose and motivation.
  • You’re going to die one day, and none of this is going to matter. So enjoy yourself. Do something positive. Project some love. Make someone happy. Laugh a little. Appreciate the moment. And do your work.

Choosing to Care for Yourself

  • It has been five thousand years, and we’re still arguing over whether meat is poisonous or plants are poisonous. Ditch the extremists and any food invented in the last few hundred years.

Meditation + Mental Strength

  • [..] most of our suffering comes from avoidance. Most of the suffering from a cold shower is the tip-toeing your way in. Once you’re in, you’re in.
  • Another method I’ve learned is to just sit there and close your eyes for at least one hour a day. You surrender to whatever happens.
  • The mind itself is a muscle – it can be trained and conditioned. It has been haphazardly conditioned by society to be out of our control.

Choosing to Build Yourself

  • Impatience with actions, patience with results.

Choosing to Grow Yourself

  • Social approval is inside the herd. If you want social approval, definitely go read what the herd is reading.
  • Nature speaks in mathematics. Mathematics is us reverse engineering the language of nature, and we have only scratched the surface.

Choosing to Free Yourself

  • It is more important than anything. Your time is all you have. Do not waste your time. This doesn’t mean you can’t relax.
  • 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 others happy.

Live by Your Values

  • “To find a worthy mate, be worthy of a worthy mate.” – Charlie Munger

Rational Buddhism

  • Buddhism, which is the oldest, most time-tested spiritual philosophy regarding the internal state of each of us.

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