The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

A guide to wealth and happiness

Eric Jorgenson

Summary in 100 words or less

You will get rich by giving society what it wants but doesn’t yet know how to get—at scale. To get there, you need specific knowledge, accountability, and leverage. You become unstoppable when you learn how to sell and build—and become a perpetual learner. Stay out of things that could lose all of your capital or hurt your body (health). We pursue wealth, health, and happiness in that order, but their importance is reversed. Your goal in life is to find the people, business, project, or art that needs you the most.

Commentary

My Highlights

If you have nothing in your life, but you have at least one person that loves you unconditionally, it’ll do wonders for your self-esteem.

Making money is not a thing you do—it’s a skill you learn.

Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.

You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get—at scale.

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

Specific knowledge is knowledge you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else and replace you.

Specific knowledge is often highly technical or creative. It cannot be outsourced or automated.

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

Capital and labor are permissioned leverage. Everyone is chasing capital, but someone has to give it to you. Everyone is trying to lead, but someone has to follow you.

Code and media are permissionless leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep.

Set and enforce an aspirational personal hourly rate. If fixing a problem will save less than your hourly rate, ignore it. If outsourcing a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.

“Productize” and “yourself.” “Yourself” has uniqueness. “Productize” has leverage. “Yourself” has accountability. “Productize” has specific knowledge. “Yourself” also has specific knowledge in there. So all of these pieces, you can combine them into these two words.

Technology is the set of things that don’t quite work yet. Once something works, it’s no longer technology. Society always wants new things. And if you want to be wealthy, you want to figure out which one of those things you can provide for society that it does not yet know how to get but it will want and providing it is natural to you, within your skill set, and within your capabilities.

The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner. You have to know how to learn anything you want to learn.

It’s much more important today to be able to become an expert in a brand-new field in nine to twelve months than to have studied the “right” thing a long time ago.

Why someone is a CEO of a public company or managing billions of dollars? It’s because people trust them. They are trusted because the relationships they’ve built and the work they’ve done has compounded. They’ve stuck with the business and shown themselves (in a visible and accountable way) to be high-integrity people.

If you have a sterling reputation and you keep building it for decades upon decades, people will notice. Your reputation will literally end up being thousands or tens of thousands of times more valuable than somebody else who was very talented but is not keeping the compound interest in reputation going.

The people who have the ability to fail in public under their own names actually gain a lot of power.

Essentially, you’re working for somebody else, and that person is taking on the risk and has the accountability, the intellectual property, and the brand. They’re not going to pay you enough. They’re going to pay you the bare minimum they have to, to get you to do their job. That can be a high bare minimum, but it’s still not going to be true wealth where you’re retired but still earning.

The final form of leverage is brand new—the most democratic form. 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. All you need is a computer—you don’t need anyone’s permission.

If you have specific knowledge, you have accountability and you have leverage; they have to pay you what you’re worth. If they pay you what you’re worth, then you can get your time back—you can be hyper-efficient. You’re not doing meetings for meetings’ sake, you’re not trying to impress other people, you’re not writing things down to make it look like you did work. All you care about is the actual work itself.

Avoiding ruin means stay out of jail. So, don’t do anything illegal. It’s never worth it to wear an orange jumpsuit. Stay out of total catastrophic loss. Avoiding ruin could also mean you stay out of things that could be physically dangerous or hurt your body. You have to watch your health.

Stay out of things that could cause you to lose all of your capital, all of your savings. Don’t gamble everything on one go. Instead, take rationally optimistic bets with big upsides.

We waste our time with short-term thinking and busywork. Warren Buffett spends a year deciding and a day acting. That act lasts decades.

No one is going to value you more than you value yourself. You just have to set a very high personal hourly rate and you have to stick to it.

Wealth creation is an evolutionarily recent positive-sum game. Status is an old zero-sum game. Those attacking wealth creation are often just seeking status.

What are one or two steps you’d take to surround yourself with successful people? Figure out what you’re good at, and start helping other people with it. Give it away. Pay it forward. Karma works because people are consistent. 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.

You make money to solve your money and material problems. I think the best way to stay away from this constant love of money is to not upgrade your lifestyle as you make money.

The reality is if you’re building something interesting, you will always have more people who will want to know you. Trying to build business relationships well in advance of doing business is a complete waste of time.

Money buys you freedom in the material world. It’s not giving to make you happy, it’s not going to solve your health problems, it’s not going to make your family great, it’s not going to make you fit, it’s not going to make you calm. But it will solve a lot of external problems. It’s a reasonable step to go ahead and make money.

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.

Wisdom is knowing the long-term consequences of your actions. Wisdom applied to external problems is judgment. They’re highly linked; knowing the long-term consequences of your actions and then making the right decision to capitalize on that.

If someone is using a lot of fancy words and a lot of big concepts, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about. 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. It’s a common saying and it’s very true.

If you don’t have a day or two every week in your calendar where you’re not always in meetings, and you’re not always busy, then you’re not going to be able to think.

It’s only after you’re bored you have the great ideas. It’s never going to be when you’re stressed, or busy, running around or rushed. Make the time.

Our egos are constructed in our formative years—our first two decades. They get constructed by our environment, our parents, society. Then, we spend the rest of our life trying to make our ego happy. We interpret anything new through our ego: “How do I change the external world to make it more how I would like it to be?”

Being successful is just about not making mistakes. It’s not about having correct judgment. It’s about avoiding incorrect judgments.

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. You optimize for yourself rather than for the principal’s assets.

The smaller the company, the more everyone feels like a principal. The less you feel like an agent, the better the job you’re going to do. The more closely you can tie someone’s compensation to the exact value they’re creating, the more you turn them into a principal, and the less you turn them into an agent.

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.

The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. We live in the age of Alexandria, when every book and every piece of knowledge ever written down is a fingertip away. The means of learning are abundant—it’s the desire to learn that is scarce.

What can I do for the next sixty days to become a clearer, more independent thinker? Read the greats in math, science, and philosophy. Ignore your contemporaries and news. Avoid tribal identification. Put truth above social approval.

I have people in my life I consider to be very well-read who aren’t very smart. The reason is because even though they’re very well-read, they read the wrong things in the wrong order. They started out reading a set of false or just weakly true things, and those formed the axioms of the foundation for their worldview. Then, when new things come, they judge the new idea based on a foundation they already built. Your foundation is critical.

A calm mind, a fit body, and a house full of love. These things cannot be bought. They must be earned.

The three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order, but their importance is reverse.

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.

Peace is happiness at rest, and happiness is peace in motion. You can convert peace into happiness anytime you want. But peace is what you want most of the time. If you’re a peaceful person, anything you do will be a happy activity.

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.

Every time you catch yourself desiring something, say, “Is it so important to me I’ll be unhappy unless this goes my way?” You’re going to find with the vast majority of things it’s just not true.

A personal metric: how much of the day is spent doing things out of obligation rather than out of interest?

When you look at your death and you acknowledge it, rather than running away from it, it’ll bring great meaning to your life. We spend so much of our life trying to avoid death. So much of what we struggle for can be classified as a quest for immortality.

All you should do is what you want to do. If you stop trying to figure out how to do things the way other people want you to do them, you get to listen to the little voice inside your head that wants to do things a certain way. Then, you get to be you.

Your goal in life is to find the people, business, project, or art that needs you the most. There is something out there just for you. What you don’t want to do is build checklists and decision frameworks built on what other people are doing. You’re never going to be them. You’ll never be good at being somebody else.

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. It’s not suffering. It’s just cold. Your body saying it’s cold is different than your mind saying it’s cold. Acknowledge your body saying it’s cold. Look at it. Deal with it. Accept it, but don’t mentally suffer over it. Taking a cold shower for two minutes isn’t going to kill you.

Spirituality, religion, Buddhism, or anything you follow will teach you over time you are more than just your mind. You are more than just your habits. You are more than just your performances. You’re a level of awareness. You’re a body.

Modern humans, we don’t live enough in our bodies. We don’t live enough in our awareness. We live too much in this internal monologue in our heads. All of which is just programmed into you by society and by the environment when you were younger.

Impatience with actions, patience with results. As Nivi said, inspiration is perishable. When you have inspiration, act on it right then and there.

More book notes

I Will Teach You To Be Rich
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth
The Little Book of Stoicism
Ego is the Enemy
Unshakeable

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