Naval Ravikant (@naval) never ceases to amaze us. We’re sure you’ll agree, his insight density is unmatchable.
Naval kicked off 2019 with a few of his classic Periscope sessions, and then went on to launch his own podcast, How to Get Rich, co-hosted with his partner in crime, Babak Nivi. Then it happened… Joe Rogan. Naval’s appearance on the podcast was one we’d all been waiting for, and it might just be the best two hours of audio ever to grace the internet.
Here are Naval’s 2019 podcast appearances, conference talks, and Periscope sessions that this post summarizes:
Let’s get to it.
Books & Reading
The Rules of Reading
- The number of books you read is a vanity metric
- “I read for understanding. So, with a really good book, I’ll flip through it. I won’t actually read it in consecutive order. I might not even finish it. I’m looking for ideas and things that I don’t understand. When I find something really interesting, I’ll reflect on it, research it, and then when I’m bored of it, I’ll drop it, or I’ll flip to another book.”
- “It’s better to go through a book really slowly, and struggle and stumble and rewind, than it is to fly through it quickly just to say, ‘Well now I’ve read 20 books.’”
- “I would rather read the best hundred books over and over again until I absorb them, rather than read every single book out there”
What Should You Read?
- “Read what you love until you love to read”
- That said, keep these two points in mind:
- “It’s far more important in life to know the basics really well across a few domains and combine that than it is to try and be a deep expert in any one domain”
- Whatever you start out reading will form the basis for your worldview (AKA the foundation). When you read new things, you’ll judge whether they’re accurate based on the foundation you’ve already built. For this reason, the foundation is critical.
- “When it comes to reading, I’d make sure your foundation is very, very high-quality”
- Here’s the best way to build a rock-solid foundation:
- Read lots of science
- Read lots of microeconomics (NOT macroeconomics)
- Read what people agree on
- Read the originals and classics (recommendations below)
- “If you start with the originals and the foundations, then you will have enough of a worldview and understanding that you won’t fear any book.”
True Wisdom Comes From Understanding, Not Memorization
- “It’s much better to know the basics from the ground up and have a solid foundation of understanding than it is to have a scaffolding where you’re just memorizing advanced concepts”
- For example, understanding basic mathematics is way more important than memorizing calculus concepts
- The best thinkers are clear thinkers; they could explain a complex topic to a 5-year-old
- “When you’re memorizing something, it’s an indication that you don’t understand it. You should be able to re-derive anything on the spot, and if you can’t, you don’t know it.”
Timeless Authors and Books That Naval Speaks Highly Of
- The foundational books:
- Science fiction:
- For some parenting-related advice, check out the book Summerhill by Alexander Sutherland Neill
- The book is about a school in England in the 1930s where they used to send troubled children, and how they used to turn them around. Naval adds – “It’s kind of a mind-blower. It’s what happens when you treat kids who are supposedly damaged as if they’re adults.”
- Other recommendations:
Quotes on Meditation
- “Meditation is the art of doing nothing. You cannot do meditation. By definition, if you’re doing something, you’re not in meditation. Meditation is a state you’re in when you’re not doing anything – physically, mentally, or consciously. You’re just making no effort. You’re literally being completely still, physically and mentally, inside and out.”
- “You’re actually in deep meditation all the time. It’s just covered up by all the noise and all the thoughts and all the emotional things that are running through you. It’s always there underneath.”
- “Every psychedelic state that people encounter using so-called plant medicines can be arrived at just through pure meditation”
- “You can meditate 24/7. Meditation is not a sit-down and close your eyes activity. Meditation is basically watching your own thoughts like you would watch anything else in the outside world and saying, ‘Why am I having that thought? Does that serve me anymore? Is this just conditioning from when I was 10 years?’”
Naval’s Meditation Practice
- Naval practices something he likes to call the “Art of Doing Nothing” meditation
- What does it involve? – “Sit down, close your eyes, get in a comfortable position, and whatever happens, happens. If you think, you think. If you don’t think, you don’t think. Don’t put any effort into it.”
- What’s the reasoning for “doing nothing”?
- “Your entire life, things have been happening to you – some good, some bad – most of which you processed and resolved, but a few things stuck with you. And over time, they stuck more and more with you, and you lost your childhood sense of wonder and happiness because you built up this personality of unresolved pain, errors, fears, and desires that are now stuck to you like a bunch of barnacles.”
- How do you get those barnacles off?
- When you’re just sitting there meditating, all the unprocessed “stuff” will start bubbling up, like a giant inbox of unanswered emails. Simply observe… without judgment, without effort, and without any goals.
- “The thoughts resolve themselves. Just sit there with them. The reason they don’t get resolved is because you’re either running away or fighting them. If you sit there with something long enough, it will get resolved.”
- Naval describes it further – “It’s self-therapy. instead of paying a therapist to sit there and listen to you, you’re listening to yourself.”
If You Want to Give the “Art of Doing Nothing” Meditation Practice a Try…
- Sit and meditate in a comfortable position for one hour, for 60 days, first thing in the morning – see what happens
- Think of it as like an hour-long break from life – no effort, no work
- After 60 days, you’ll probably have resolved a lot of your issues (yes, it’ll most likely take that long), hitting what Naval terms as “mental inbox zero”:
- “One morning, you’ll hit mental inbox zero, and that is a pretty amazing feeling. It’s a state somewhere between joy, bliss, and peace. Once you have that, you won’t want to give that up. If you can get a free hour of bliss every morning, just by closing your eyes … that’s worth its weight in gold. That will change your life.”
- “When you hit mental inbox zero, you’ll know, it’s not subtle. The meditation arrives, and when meditation arrives, it’s just a whole different beast.”
It Won’t Make You Happy
- “Most smart people, over time, realize that possessions don’t make them happy”
- “Anything you wanted in your life – whether it was a car, whether it was a girl, or whether it was money – when you got it, a year later, you were back to zero. Your brain had hedonically adapted to it, and you were looking for the next thing.”
Not Happy? Not Smart
- “If you’re smart, you should be able to figure out how to be happy. Otherwise, you’re not that smart.”
Happiness is a Choice
- “Just like fitness can be a choice, health can be a choice, nutrition can be a choice, and working hard and making money can be a choice, happiness can be a choice as well”
- “Reality is neutral. Reality has no judgments. To a tree, there’s no concept of right or wrong or good or bad. You’re born, you have a whole set of sensory experiences… and then you die. How you choose to interpret that is up to you. And you do have that choice.”
- “In every moment, in everything that happens, you can look on the bright side of something… There are two ways of seeing almost everything.”
Limit Your Desires
- “Desire to me is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want”
- When you’re unhappy about something, just look for the underlying desire that isn’t being fulfilled
- Happiness is clouded by unlimited desires. Because of this, limit the amount of desires you have.
- “Pick your one overwhelming desire – it’s okay to suffer over that one. But on all the other desires, let them go so you can be calm and peaceful and relaxed.”
- “Desire is suffering… every desire you have is an axis where you will suffer. So just don’t focus on more than one desire at a time. The universe is rigged in such a way that if you just want one thing, and you focus on that, you’ll get it, but everything else you gotta let go.”
Peace of (from) Mind
- How do you achieve peace?
- “In today’s day and age, many people think you get peace 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 the idea of having problems.”
- “If you look at all the crazy activities you do to be happy, whether it’s trying to get laid and have an orgasm, or extreme sports, or looking at something beautiful, or taking a psychedelic, you’re just trying to get out of your own mind. You’re trying to get your monkey mind to stop chattering. You’re trying to get peace from the mind, but there are other, better ways to do that… Whereas if you understand things, if you see things properly, you will naturally, slowly develop peace from mind.”
Converting Peace to Happiness
- “To me, peace is happiness at rest, and happiness is peace in motion. You can convert peace to happiness anytime you want.”
- “If you’re a peaceful person, anything you do will be a happy activity”
If You Want to Operate at Peak Performance, You Need a Calm Mind
- Here’s why:
- “A clear mind leads to better judgment and better outcomes. A happy, calm, and peaceful person will make better decisions. So if you want to operate at peak performance, you have to learn how to tame your mind.”
What is the Purpose of Life?
- There isn’t one
- “The conclusion that I’ve come to myself, when I think about what I should do with my life, is that none of it is going to matter in the end… One good mental construct I have: I think that everything I do with my life is going to be a failure.”
- Naval Explains:
- Point #1: “On the physical level, I’m going to die”
- When you die, you don’t care about anything anymore
- Point #2: “Nothing is forever. Everything goes to 0 eventually.”
- Even if you believe in legacy, the Earth will eventually fade away
- Look at your own experiences; your bliss from success never lasts, nor does your misery from failure
The Biggest Illusions of Life
- Illusion #1: The illusion of meaning
- We’re all going to die, and everything will turn to dust – how can anything have meaning?
- Illusion #2: The illusion of free will
- We’re here from an unbroken chain of particle collisions from the Big Bang until now – “free will” is just our DNA reacting to the environment
- Illusion #3: The illusion of reality
- “There are very high odds we’re statistically living in a simulation”
The Era of Too Much Abundance
Here’s the Problem
- “The human brain is not designed to absorb all of the world’s breaking news and 24/7 emergencies, injected straight into the skull with clickbait headlines. If you pay attention to that stuff, even if you have a sound mind and body, it will eventually drive you insane.”
- “You have social statisticians, scientists, and researchers in lab coats – literally the best minds of our generation – figuring out how to addict you to the news. And if you fall for it, if you get addicted, your brain will get destroyed.”
Here’s the Solution
- “We are overexposed to everything. The way to survive in modern society is to be an ascetic; it is to retreat from society. There’s too much society everywhere you go. You have society in your phone, society in your pocket, society in your ears… It’s socializing you and programming everyone. The only solution is to turn it off.”
And a Few More Quotes to Remember
- Addictions: “In a first-world society, success and failure is much more about how you control, manage, and break addictions than it is about going out and doing something”
- Guilt = Society: “A lot of what creates unhappiness in modern society is the struggle between what society wants and what the individual wants… Guilt is just society’s voice talking in your head.”
- Social Media: “This is the disease of social media – everybody is getting their 5 seconds of fame and becoming a celebrity…. but celebrities are the most miserable people in the world”
The Future of Education
- “Education should be free at this point. The idea that you need to pay half a million dollars to go to an Ivy League university and sacrifice 4 years of your life so a professor can lecture you in a lecture hall is ABSURD.”
- On the future of online education: “I think the best teacher in the world will teach everyone in the world about that given topic”
- Why would you listen to the second greatest teacher of a given topic when the greatest is available?
- Right now, Naval says we’re in the “YouTube stage” of this. But eventually, we’ll get to the “Netflix stage.” Big budgets will be provided to the best teachers in the world to create videos (and other things) that people will be able to learn from.
- We’re likely to see 2-3 gigantic “schools” which produce the content and tests for the accreditation, with a long tail of millions of tutors
- What might this look like?
- Scott Adams (or another expert as voted by the audience) would be paid to produce content teaching persuasion
- There would then be many “Scott Adams-certified” tutors available to teach people one-on-one via something like Skype
We Need a Culture of Adult Education
- “One of the myths that we have today is that adults can’t be re-educated. We view education as this thing where you go to school, you go to college, you come out, and you’re done… no more education. Well, that’s wrong.”
- Why the need?
- In the automation age, many adults in non-creative professions will be pushed out of work.
- What might it look like?
- What if, every 4 years, it was expected and socially/culturally acceptable (and there was financial support) for you to go back to school for a year to learn a new technology-related skill? You could then apply that skill to some sort of creative profession.
- Maybe instead of universal basic income or unemployment benefits, governments should hand out 1-year education stipends?
Let’s Start With Some Quotes
- Stay Focused: “You’re better off following your genuine intellectual curiosity than chasing whatever’s hot right now”
- Retirement: “Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for some imaginary tomorrow”
- Resumes: “Your real resume is just a cataloging of all your suffering
- The Guiding Principle: “When you do things for their own sake, that’s when you create your best work. That’s when it’s art.”
Work At a Small Company
- The smaller the company you work for, the happier you’ll be
- Why? – Better relationships, fewer rules, and more creative freedom
- At smaller companies:
- You have more accountability (and it’s more visible)
- You’re easily able to try multiple things to see what you’re good at
- You have more flexibility
- There’s more authenticity as to how the company operates
- “I value freedom above anything else. Freedom to do what I want, freedom from not doing what I don’t want to do, and freedom from my own reactions and emotions…things that may disturb my peace.”
- “I don’t care how rich you are. I don’t care whether you’re a top Wall Street banker. If somebody has to tell you when to be at work, what to wear and how to behave, you’re not a free person. You’re not actually rich.”
- What does freedom mean to Naval?
- Not having to wake up at a certain time
- Not having phone calls to take
- Not having to wear a tie
- Naval explains: “If you have to wear a tie to work, you’re not really free. If you have to be at your desk at a certain time, you’re not free.”
The New Age of Knowledge Work
- In this era:
- What you do, who you do it with, and how you do it is WAY more important than how hard you work
- Work isn’t linear: 8 hours of input does not equate to the same output for every single person (your output is based on the quality of work you put in)
- Instead of working 9-5 like a machine, work like a lion who hunts for food: Train hard, sprint, rest, and reassess. Then, go at it again.
The Future of Work
- We’re moving towards a gig economy
- Right now, this exists in the form of things like Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit, but give it a few more years and you’ll start to see higher quality work being offered in a gig fashion
- “There will come a day when you roll out of bed, you get an alert on your phone with a new gig, you sign up for it, you get paid in crypto, and you do your work in VR (virtual reality). You work when you want, where you want, how you want, and with whom you want.”
- “The information revolution, by making it easier to communicate, connect, and cooperate, is allowing us to go back to working for ourselves… In the not-too-distant future, anybody who wants to work for themselves will be able to work for themselves”
- You may have to make other sacrifices and take on more risks – but we’re moving towards a future where it’s more and more doable
What About Automation?
- “The question is not whether automation is going to eliminate jobs. There is no finite number of jobs that we’ve been sitting around dividing up since the Stone Age. New jobs are being created, and they’re usually better and more creative jobs. So the question is – how quickly is this transition going to happen, what kinds of jobs will be eliminated, and what kinds of jobs will be created?”
- Would you have been able to predict, 10 years ago, that people would be able to create huge amounts of wealth through podcasting? – NO
How to Get Rich
Key Takeaways (Naval’s Teachings Summed Up in a Few Bullet Points)
- “The way to retire is actually to find the thing that you know how to do better than anybody, and you know how to do it better than anybody because you love to do it. No one can compete with you if you love to do it. Be authentic and then figure out how to map that to what society actually wants, apply some leverage, put your name on it so you take risks, but you gain the rewards, have ownership and equity in what you do, and then just crank it out.”
- Step #1 – Utilize your specific knowledge (the knowledge/skill set that only YOU have)
- Step #2 – Develop accountability with your name
- Step #3 – Escape competition through authenticity
- Step #4 – Apply leverage
- If we were to apply the above to an equation:
- Your eventual outcome = (the distinctiveness of your specific knowledge) x (how much leverage you apply) x (how often your judgment is correct) x (how accountable you are for the outcome) x (how much society values what you’re doing) x (how long you can keep doing it)^2 x (your improvement rate with learning and reading)^2
Let’s expand on a few of the more critical points Naval discussed in detail on his How to Get Rich podcast.
Learn to Code and Become Knowledgeable About Computers
- “Knowing how to manipulate computers and robots is the modern equivalent of reading, writing, and arithmetic”
- “Even if you’re not an engineer, you should know a little bit about code, and you should be good with computers. It will give you a superpower edge in any profession that you end up in because you’ll just be better at using the greatest tool ever invented by humans.”
- In a way, using a computer is like using a paintbrush – “It’s a creative instrument for self-expression. It’s a blank canvas of possibilities. Just the fact that you can use this creative tool to its maximum output gives you a leg up in every possible way.”
- Coding is a superpower because it allows you to speak the language of the robots and tell them what to do
- “Coding is just thinking, thinking in a logical and structured way, that you’d then use to program a robot or a computer”
To Get Rich, Become a Perpetual Learner
- You HAVE to know how to learn anything you want to learn. There should be no book in the library that scares you.
- It’s okay if you find a book to be too difficult at first – just keep rereading it
- “When you’re reading a book, and you’re not understanding a lot of what it’s saying, and there’s a lot of confusion in your mind about it, that confusion is similar to the burn you get in the gym when you’re working out, except you’re building mental, instead of physical, muscles.”
- “If you’re a perpetual learning machine, you will never be out of options on how to make money”
- “It’s much more important that you be able to become an expert in a brand new field within 9-12 months than it is that you studied the right thing a long time ago”
What You Work On > Picking the Right People to Work With > How Hard You Work
- How do you know what to work on?
- Is there a market that’s emerging that you’re interested in? Is there a product you could build which would fall in line with your specific knowledge?
- Keep this in mind: “Today in society, you get rewarded for creative work, for creating something brand new that society didn’t even know that it wanted that it doesn’t yet know how to get, other than through you.”
- How do you know who to work with?
- Pick people to work with who have high intelligence, high energy, and high integrity – you CANNOT compromise on this
- “No matter how high your bar is, raise your bar… You can never be working with other people who are great enough. If there’s someone greater out there to work with, you should go work with them.”
- Then: Worry about working hard only AFTER you’ve picked the right thing to work on and the right people to work with
Utilize Your Specific knowledge
- Specific knowledge is the stuff that feels like play to you but looks like work to others. It’s found by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion.
- “If you’re not 100% into it, then someone else who is 100% into it will outperform you”
- Specific knowledge can only be built by spending lots of time doing whatever you’re obsessed/interested in; it can’t be taught in a book or course
- By utilizing your specific knowledge, you’re productizing yourself (creating a product out of yourself that you do naturally and uniquely well)
- A perfect example of specific knowledge: What Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has done with his career
- He’s essentially becoming one of the most credible people in the world by making persuasive arguments and videos on Periscope. What he does will NEVER be automated.
Escape Competition Through Authenticity
- In Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory, he talks about how most of your desires are mimicked from the people around you. Because of this, it’s easy to get sucked into competition.
- So… escape competition by being authentic to who you are and what you can uniquely do
- “No one can compete with you on being you”
- And here’s some good news:
- The internet enables you, no matter how weird or strange your interest are, to find your tribe – there’s an online community for nearly ANYTHING
- “We’re coming out of a factory-based industrial world that was built in the 1800s under a one size fits all model for efficiency reasons. We’re heading into a boutique artisanal world where 7 billion people will want 7 billion products.”
- Embrace accountability and take business risks under your own name
- Doing so is a risk, but it opens you to rewards (and credibility)
- Create products or media (Why? – You want to create things that are working for you while you sleep)
- Examples: Writing code, writing tweets, recording podcasts, creating YouTube videos, etc.
- All of the above are permissionless: they don’t require someone else’s permission for you to use them or succeed
Protect Your Time
- “Meetings should really be phone calls, phone calls should be emails, and emails should just be texts “
- “The cost of meetings is so high, especially given all the people who are in there… You’re literally just dying an hour at a time. You have to drop non-urgent meetings or forget them altogether if you want to do anything great.”
- Set an aspirational hourly rate for yourself and stick to it
- Then, never do anything with your time for less than that amount – whether it’s attending a meeting or returning a package from Amazon (besides things for fun and leisure, of course)
- “If I have to return something, and it costs less than my personal hourly rate, I’ll throw or give it away”
- If you need to do a task, but can hire someone for less than your hourly rate – hire them
- “I’m not a busy person, and I’m not busy because I refuse to schedule things.”
- “I would encourage everyone to be RUTHLESS about not scheduling things. You will HAVE to disappoint people, but when they want your time, that’s their problem, not yours.”
- “Busy is the death of productivity”
- “You have to get bored before you can get creative… You can’t be creative on schedule.”
- (And ALL the great endeavors in life are creative)
- “I need 4-5 hours of time by myself every day doing NOTHING. Because if I don’t have that time, I won’t be able to do ANYTHING.”
Because This is Probably More Valuable Than Business School, Here Are 15 More Teachings We Just Couldn’t Leave Out
- #1 – EVERYONE can be rich
- “I believe everybody can be wealthy. It’s not a zero-sum game; it’s a positive-sum game.”
- #2 – Wealth buys you freedom
- “The reason you want wealth is because it buys you freedom, so you don’t have to wear a tie like a collar around your neck, so you don’t have to wake up at 7 AM and rush to work in traffic, so you don’t have to waste away your entire life grinding all your productive hours away to a soulless job that doesn’t fulfill you.”
- #3 – People who are living far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyle just can’t fathom
- #4 – All the benefits in life come from compound interest, whether in relationships, life, your career, health, or learning
- #5 – You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. Aim to have a job, career, or profession where your inputs don’t match your output.
- “Everybody who really makes money at some point owns a piece of a product, or a business, or some kind of IP”
- #6 – Successful people have a strong action bias
- #7 – Productize yourself (create a product out of whatever it is you do naturally and uniquely well)
- #8 – Aim to become so good at something, that luck eventually finds you. Over time, it isn’t luck; it’s destiny.
- #9 – The 5 most important skills are reading, writing, arithmetic, persuasion, and computer programming
- “If you’re good with computers, if you’re good at basic math, if you’re good at writing, if you’re good at speaking, and if you like reading, you’re set for life”
- #10 – The number of iterations drives the learning curve (your speed of learning a field more so depends on iterations, not the hours you put in)
- For example: If you own a small business, always be experimenting. Don’t just do the same thing over and over and expect to get good at business.
- #11 – Get comfortable with frequent, small failures. If you’re willing to bleed a little bit every day, but in exchange, you win big later, you’ll be better off
- #12 – Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.
- #13 – Reject most advice (but remember you have to listen to/read enough of it to know what to reject and what to accept)
- #14 – Results take TIME. In entrepreneurship, you just have to be right ONCE. The good news is you can take as many shots on goal as you want (usually every 3-5 years, 10 at the slowest).
- #15 – Know that your physical health, mental health, and your relationships will bring you more peace and happiness than any amount of money ever will
Rapid Fire Questions
Thoughts on Attending College?
- Sure, but learn something you couldn’t learn on your own that will be foundational in the rest of your life
- It’s better to study math and not go into a math-based career, than study history and not go into some sort of history career – the foundation (math) is helpful in so many other areas of life
Should you have kids?
- “I think everybody should have kids. You’re here because an unbroken chain of your ancestors, from tadpoles all the way until now, replicated. Are you going to be the first one to miss that branch? Don’t do it; your genes will hate you.”
If Naval Had to Sell Everything He Owns, and Buy One Asset to Hold for 20 Years, What Would He Invest In?
Any Advice for Improving Sleep?
- Try meditating in bed – “Either you’ll fall asleep, or you’ll meditate. Either way, it’s a win.”
- “The reason you’re having trouble sleeping is because your mind is running, and your mind is running because it’s full in unresolved junk” – Meditation helps you sort out that unresolved junk
A Few Navalisms to Close
- The Internet: “It’s good for everybody to realize that at this point in human history, you are basically no longer a citizen of your nation. Wherever you live, whoever you are, you have one foot in the internet. The internet is the real country.”
- Belief Systems: “If all of your beliefs line up into one political party, you’re not a clear thinker. If all your beliefs are the same as your neighbors and your friends, you’re not a clear thinker; your beliefs are taken from other people. If you want to be a clear thinker, you cannot pay attention to politics; it will destroy your ability to think.”
- UBI: “The real universal basic income is cannabis and video games”
- Fairness: “Fair doesn’t exist in the world. If you’re going to obsess over fair, you’ll never get anywhere in life. You basically just have to do the best you can, with the cards you’re dealt.”
- God: “To me, god is just a fancy word for ‘existence.’ God is just a fancy word for ‘universe’… If there were a God, where would God stand? Where would God sit? Where would his home be? To me, it’s obvious that God has to be the entire universe. The universe is God…. It’s just a definition game.”
- Hobbies: “Pick three hobbies: One that makes you money, one that makes you fit, and one that keeps you creative”
- Wisdom: “A lot of wisdom is just realizing the long-term consequences of your actions. The longer-term you’re willing to look, the wiser you’re going to seem to everybody around you.”
Did you enjoy this? You might like our 2018 summary of Naval’s podcast & Periscope appearances.