Ideas From Naval Ravikant

7 Jul, 2020 (updated 9 Jul, 2020) | People Notes, Career


The internet is letting people go back to working for themselves (smaller teams, on their own schedule, defined roles, etc). Niches are large and everywhere.

Accountability = risk = credit = leverage.

It’s most important to work in the right area with the right people. Then work hard too.

Find the thing which feels like work for others but easy for you.


Only around 2014 did he start talking about philosophy - he took a risk by doing so, and now he is reaping the rewards. Accountability allows you to take credit when things go well, or take the blame when things don’t. When you are accountable, you amount credit on your name. You take a risk when you put something to your name, so there is also possible downside. A lot of our social training tells us not to stick our head out. But a well functioning team is very accountable for what everyone does. If someone screws up, you know exactly who is responsible. Only when you become accountable can you build a reputation and when you build a reputation you can build leverage e.g. Investors can raise capital because they were accountable to their investment decisions (Embrace Accountability to Get Leverage).

On Careers

Career possibilities are vastly more broad with the internet. The internets super power is that it makes markets bigger and people within them more findable. Previously, your unique skill was sellable only locally. Now you can do your unique skill for everyone. As long as you can get your message out, you can make something of it. The internet enables that (Possible Careers, Startup Boy).

If choosing to work at a startup, research is important. Try to figure out if they are a good company. But specifically, try to workout if the network is any good. Who are the people there already and what will they go on to do? (First Job In Tech).

On Success

To be successful you need leverage. The oldest form of leverage is people - more people is better. Think about people in an army, people in a company. But this is perhaps the worst form of leverage now (people can revolt). Ideally, you want the minimal amount of people working for your to benefit form other forms of leverage. The second form is capital. This has been the dominant form of leverage in the last two decades. But people dislike this a bit more - it feels less fair as it passes through generations. Capital is powerful as it can be converted into labour. It scales very well - you can manage more capital more easily than you can manage more people. It’s hard to attract capital though. You need some specific skill (Labour & Capital).

First part of career should be aimed at gaining leverage (building skill, attracting capital). Once you have acquired leverage though, you need to slow down. At this stage judgement becomes far more important. Correct decisions matter. If you are correct 20% more often, those wins compound and dwarf competition. That is why Warren Buffet is successful. He has a reputation of having good judgement, high integrity and high accountability. When you’re highly leveraged, thats really important. How to define judgement? It’s knowing the long term outcomes of your decisions/actions. Wisdom is judgement in the personal domain. People with good judgement often have better control of their emotions. Emotions are what frequently cloud our judgement. Investing is mostly about having good judgement. It’s a highly uncertain real-world field with multi-variant decisions. Therefore you don’t become a better investor by reading investing books, you learn it by improving your judgement and that requires reading broadly (Judgement).

Work as hard as you can. But more important is to work in the right area and with the right people. Product-market-founder fit. Right area. Right people. (Hence his advice - Pick the startup whose alumni have highest energy, integrity and intelligence). Only once you have the above, then work as hard as you can. No one works 80 hr weeks the whole time. In reality, the way people work most effectively is they sprint, then they rest, reassess, then they sprint again. Be impatient with actions and patient with results. Do things right away when you have the energy and inspiration (as inspiration is fleeting). But results may take a while to follow as its complex systems and people to follow. So the order of operations: First, figure out what I should be doing. Second, figure out who I should be doing it with (as best as possible). Third, work as hard as possible (Work As Hard As You Can).

Even when you have learned hard skills, gained leverage and done all of that - things still take time! The world is an inefficient place. But you need to stick with it. Over a long enough timescale, you will get paid. In a model, the more estimated variables you have, the greater the error in the model. So sometimes it’s best to focus on the one or two most important things and just decide based on that e.g. what are you good at x what the market values (You Will Get What You Deserve).


Naval on Joe Rogan

  • 7 - we have a model of specialisation. He prefers the idea that everyone can do everything over the arc of their life. The great creatives have the ability to reinvent themselves and start again and again (see Elon with his different companies or Paul Simon with his music).
  • 10 - when my kid asks me, I have questions I can’t answer. Or I realise I that I have thought through some things, but there are other things I just have some copy pasted answer for.
  • 12 - on reading I’ll flip for ideas and then when I find an idea that’s interesting I’ll reflect and research and delve in. No need to finish and read from front to back.
  • 22 - Happiness is a choice. It’s just something else you have to figure out. When you are unhappy, ask yourself what desire is currently being unfilled. Is it worthy? Don’t gave too many. Make sure they are yours. Only fret over big ones. You want to stay happy and clear-minded so you can make optimal decisions.
  • 25 - output is non-linear. If we put in 8 hrs of work we don’t get 8 units of money back. Warren Buffet and the corner shop owner probably work just as hard. But what you do and who you do it with are far more important. Knowledge workers should perform like athletes. That means: train hard, then compete in the sprint, then rest recover and recalibrate (that’s the feedback loop). Machines work 9-5, not humans. But Obvs this is limited by working for someone else. Hence you need to work for yourself (have equity). 
  • 32 - Atomisation of Work (optimal size of a firm is shrinking). Startups shave off work from big brands (internal cost vs external cost - Ronald Caose theorem). And soon that will be available for smarter work too, not just Uber’s. More like Hollywood were you work on project basis working for yourself.
  • 37 - automation debate is a non solution to a non problem (UBU). We have always suffered from automation. And we have always evolved. The question is rather which jobs will be replaced and how fast can we re educate people. We are always creating new jobs (e.g podcasters). The problem with UBI is it doesn’t solve the status and meaning problem. Also, we don’t need to give rich people money. So it looks more like welfare anyway. Instead, we should provide basic better like healthy foods cheaper housing and smartphones. That way people can participate better. Also, we can re-educate people en masse at a later day. Look at bootcamp etx. 
  • 45 - creativity is the last frontier.  All other jobs (non creative) will be taken by automation. But that’s a great thing! It means our basic needs are taken care of and we can all be creative. 
  • 48 - if course there are problems with capitalism (monopolies, crony capitalism). But the real critical of capitalism is lack of opportunity, not lack of output. Output in a free world will obviously be different, we make different choices. The only way to enforce is equal output is violence and socialism. That destroys the engine of growth. Borrowing from Nassum Taleb - at the family level communist, at the community level socialist, federal capitalist and so on. Basically the larger the group of people, the further you tend to capitalist. Why? because for socialism to work you need trust and that only happens in small groups, in bigger groups there are cheaters. 
  • 51 - income inequality comes from output inequality (effort inequality, thought inequality, etc)..
  • 53.30 - most of the people who claim racist are white themselves. White collar vs blue collar. Calling white privilege is racist itself (but people think it’s okay because it’s against white).
  • 1 - The ancient struggle was tribal. You had a tribe but you were at war with others. Now we are atomised. We all live alone and independently but when we are attacked, we are alone. In many ways: social media we get addicted, food we get addicted by sugar, porn we get addicted and it stops us going outside, drugs have been created to keep us going, video games etc. People are working to addict us and we stand alone. The modern struggle is to form boundaries against these addictions. 
  • 1.04 - There is no such thing anymore as objective media. Media is just signalling for different tribes. It’s war. Each represents their own tribe and battles. 
  • 1.06 - The Internet gets rid of middle people. We have huge aggregators and then a long tail of individuals. Examples: there used to be many movie studios, now their is Netflix and a few individuals. Their used to be many retailers, now their is amazon and everyone else. There used to be lots of media, now there is Facebook/Twitter and everything else. 
  • 1.16 - Technology generally leans left. Abortion, contraception for example both diminish the family unit. Only more recently with encryption do we have tech supporting right. Universities were validated for the hard science as thought leaders. But then social sciences and other academia snuck in and Science itself was corrupted. So Universities today are at war between hard sciences and social sciences. E.g. gender - transgenders physiology vs biology. On most topics people can’t even have proper discussions. Take climate sciences - it’s too politicised. Or take Immigration - they talk about let them all in vs don’t but the reality is how many and what criteria, but they talk past each other.
  • 1.22 - The diseases we have are diseases of abundance. Not lack of. We have too much of everything in society and the appropriate response is actually to retreat. A super power is to be on your own, with your own thoughts and enjoy it. 
  • 1.30 - people think you get peace by resolving your external problems. But there are infinite external problems. The way to actually get peace is on the inside, by giving up these problems. It’s easier to change yourself than to change the world. 
  • 1.33 - Environmentalists have the right diagnosis (we have one world, let’s not ruin it) but the wrong diagnosis (stop growth!). People aren’t going to stay in poverty. We need to empower people and technology to enable green growth. 
  • 1.38 - when you think to yourself you have gaosbin your thinking and you just jump them. You are kind yo yourself. When you write them or say them out loud other people will call you on those gaps ornleaps. So it causes you to fix them and think better. It’s much better to know the basics of all concepts than memorise the deeper stuff. If you have strong foundations your reasoning is generally very good. When you are memorising, it’s an indication you don’t understand. You should be able to logically compose your ideas again and reason to them.
  • 1.55 - we want to get everyone to retirement. Not old retirement though. Let’s redefine it as - when you stop sacrificing today for some imaginary tomorrow. So how to get there? Have enough saved up and invested that you can survive on your passive income (burn rate low). Or drive your burn rate down to 0 (like monks). Or do something you love daily (so it’s not about money). The most common though is making more money. In today’s society we are most rewarded for creative work - individual brands. People who create something, leverage it, put their name on it and have it work whilst they sleep. It’s about having a skill set.
  • 1.59 - working for things as rewards (lifestyle creep) is a real trap. That upgrade mentality kills people and forces them to stay working. You have to get good at ignoring that stuff.
  • 2.04 - Confucius “every man has two lives and the second starts when he realises he has just one”. Every desire is an axis by which you will suffer (whilst you don’t get it). And realise that there are two ways of seeing everything. Train yourself to see the positive (or lesson) in everything. Do it forcibly at first and then it will become second nature.
  • 2.14 - You should only do things that are complete in and of themselves. If you’re doing it because of some side effect in the future, most likely it won’t happen and you will be disappointed.

Naval on Tim Ferriss Show

  • 5min - variety is human nature and specialisation is something out into us my work demands 
  • 11m - success and happiness can be opposed. Happiness is an internal choice and a characteristic you develop.
  • 18 mins - on lying. It takes you out the present and to be happy you have to be present . 
  • 22m - on the future of work and independent actors and how we’ll rank jobs and choose. 
  • Tim - create yourself vs finding yourself 
  • energy as an affirmation
  • 29 mins - gave feedback back to Naval in a folder as if he’d need the data 
  • 1hr - successful people step out the game completely, they don’t need anything from anyone else
  • 1.03 - meditation walking around and non judgmental - most thoughts are fear based rather than anything else n
  • 1.10 - habits and how to change them 
  • 1.40 - I think there are 10 or 15 skills everyone should learn at college that we don’t… 
  • 2hr - alarms are terrible. Natural lights. 
  • 2.08 - all learning is personal. So teaching as part of a curriculum is incorrect. Instead, expose people to different ideas and let them learn themselves. Links: Melting Asphalts, The Day You Became A Better Writer, Dilbert 

Naval on Tim Ferriss Show (2)

  • 12 mins - what he would replace in school expanded 
  • 20 mins - happiness is a skill and a choice. You decide you want it and then work at it. Real old books on this. 
  • 32 mins - power of habits 
  • 47mins - amunger incentives are like super powers if you can work on them you shouldn’t be doing anything else

Naval on The Knowledge Project

  • 1.05 - “the means of learning are abundant and infinite, it’s the desire to learn that is incredibly scarce” 
  • 1.25 / on mental models “I try to rig the game, I believe in a set of systems, not goals” inputs vs outputs  Anazing how much Charlie sumner is quoted in pidcasted 
  • Richard Feynman- 6 easy prices lecture

Naval on Twenty Minute VC

  • halfway - vc money is a commodity which is why they get paid a lot 
  • but further - how tech changes human behaviour
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