The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

A guide to wealth and happiness

Updated: August 12, 2022 Reading Time: 13 minutes rating: 10
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Naval may be one of the best living philosophers disguised as investor.

He seems to think very deeply about a lot of issues to then produce aphorisms that read like maxims of zen mantras.

What I like the most is that a lot of his advice is super actionable and this book, his almanack, condenses all that he’s said around the web into a sort of reference book that one can keep close at all times to get inspiration when one needs it.

Instead of providing summary notes, below are the best passages of the book, in bold my favorite ones.

General Notes & Comments

Naval is broadly followed because he is a rare combination of successful and happy.

Great things are accomplished through small, persistent steps, and how large an impact one individual can have.

Age 34 - Launched AngelList

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. Yes, hard work matters, and you can’t skimp on it. But it has to be directed in the right way.

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.

Pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people.

All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.

Arm yourself with specific knowledge, accountability, and leverage. 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 found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now. Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others. When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools. 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 you with responsibility, equity, and leverage.

Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.

You should be too busy to “do coffee” while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.

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.

If you’re looking toward the long-term goal of getting wealthy, you should ask yourself, “Is this authentic to me? Is it myself that I am projecting?” And then, “Am I productizing it? Am I scaling it? Am I scaling with labor or with capital or with code or with media?” So it’s a very handy, simple mnemonic.

An obsessive personality: you dive into things and remember them quickly.

I view scientists as being at the top of the production chain for humanity. The group of scientists who have made real breakthroughs and contributions probably added more to human society, I think, than any single other class of human beings.

Science applied is the engine of humanity.

Specific knowledge is found much more by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion.

Everyone is the best at something—being themselves.

“Escape competition through authenticity.” Basically, when you’re competing with people, it’s because you’re copying them.

The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner.

Knowing how to be persuasive when speaking is far more important than being an expert digital marketer or click optimizer. Foundations are key.

You can only achieve mastery in one or two things. It’s usually things you’re obsessed about.

If you look at even doctors who get rich (like really rich), it’s because they open a business. They open a private practice. The private practice builds a brand, and the brand attracts people. Or they build some kind of a medical device, a procedure, or a process with an intellectual property

The year I generated the most wealth for myself was actually the year I worked the least hard and cared the least about the future. I was mostly doing things for the sheer fun of it. I was basically telling people, “I’m retired, I’m not working.”

Whenever you can in life, optimize for independence rather than pay.

With a leveraged worker, judgment is far more important than how much time they put in or how hard they work.

The higher the creativity component of a profession, the more likely it is to have disconnected inputs and outputs.

You start as a salaried employee. But you want to work your way up to try and get higher leverage, more accountability, and specific knowledge. The combination of those over a long period of time with the magic of compound interest will make you wealthy.

Another way of thinking about something is, if you can outsource something or not do something for less than your hourly rate, outsource it or don’t do it. If you can hire someone to do it for less than your hourly rate, hire them. That even includes things like cooking. You may want to eat your healthy home cooked meals, but if you can outsource it, do that instead.

Status is a zero-sum game. It’s a very old game. We’ve been playing it since monkey tribes. It’s hierarchical.

The problem is, to win at a status game, you have to put somebody else down.

Spend more time making the big decisions. There are basically three really big decisions you make in your early life: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do.

Choosing what city to live in can almost completely determine the trajectory of your life.

If you’re going to live in a city for ten years, if you’re going to be in a job for five years, if you’re in a relationship for a decade, you should be spending one to two years deciding these things. These are highly dominating decisions. Those three decisions really matter.

Thanks to the internet, we’re going back to an age where more and more people can work for themselves.

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

If you’re not getting promoted through the ranks, it gets a lot harder to catch up later in life. It’s good to be in a smaller company early because there’s less of an infrastructure to prevent early promotion.

The single most important thing about a company is the alumni network you’re going to build. Think about who you will work with and what those people are going on to do.

Everybody wants to get rich immediately, but the world is an efficient place; immediate doesn’t work. You do have to put in the time. You do have to put in the hours, and so I think you have to put yourself in the position with the specific knowledge, with accountability, with leverage, with the authentic skill set you have, to be the best in the world at what you do.

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

It’s actually really important to have empty space. 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.

Facebook redesigns. Twitter redesigns. Personalities, careers, and teams also need redesigns. There are no permanent solutions in a dynamic system.

I would combine radical honesty with an old rule Warren Buffett has, which is praise specifically, criticize generally.

The more I got into it, the more I understand the limits of our knowledge and the limits of our prediction capability.

If you can’t decide, the answer is no.

It’s not about “educated” vs. “uneducated.” It’s about “likes to read” and “doesn’t like to read.”

Believe happiness is really a default state. Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life.

Nature follows unbroken mathematical laws and a chain of cause and effect from the Big Bang to now. Everything is perfect exactly the way it is.

What if this life is the paradise we were promised, and we’re just squandering it?

“nexting” thing where you’re sitting in one spot thinking about where you should be next.

I try not to have more than one big desire in my life at any given time, and I also recognize it as the axis of my suffering. I realize the area where I’ve chosen to be unhappy.

I find younger people are less happy but more healthy. Older people are more happy but less healthy.

The real winners are the ones who step out of the game entirely, who don’t even play the game, who rise above it. Those are the people who have such internal mental and self-control and self-awareness, they need nothing from anybody else.

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.

Doing something because you “should” basically means you don’t actually want to do it. It’s just making you miserable, so I’m trying to eliminate as many “shoulds” from my life as possible.

The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All of your interpretations are alone. All your memories are alone. You’re gone in three generations, and nobody cares. Before you showed up, nobody cared. It’s all single player.

When working, surround yourself with people more successful than you.

Playing video games will make you happier in the short run—and I used to be an avid gamer—but in the long run, it could ruin your happiness.

You have to go through your life replacing your thoughtless bad habits with good ones, making a commitment to be a happier person. At the end of the day, you are a combination of your habits and the people who you spend the most time with.

“Stop asking why and start saying wow” The world is such an amazing place. As humans, we’re used to taking everything for granted.

I try to get more sunlight on my skin.

I think working out every day made me happier.

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

We’re probably evolved to use all of our five senses equally as opposed to favoring the visual cortex. In modern society, almost all of our inputs and communication are visual. We’re not meant to walk in shoes.

We’re evolved to live in much smaller tribes and to have more family around us. I partially grew up in India, and in India, everybody is in your business.

Your breath is one of the few places where your autonomic nervous system meets your voluntary nervous system. It’s involuntary, but you can also control it.

Life-hack: When in bed, meditate. Either you will have a deep meditation or fall asleep. Victory either way.

I would recommend if you really want to try meditation, try sixty days of one hour a day, first thing in the morning.

The ability to singularly focus is related to the ability to lose yourself and be present, happy, and (ironically) more effective.

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 preferences. You’re a level of awareness. You’re a body.

Meditation is turning off society and listening to yourself. It only “works” when done for its own sake. Hiking is walking meditation. Journaling is writing meditation. Praying is gratitude meditation. Showering is accidental meditation.

The greatest superpower is the ability to change yourself.

One of the things Krishnamurti talks about is being in an internal state of revolution. You should always be internally ready for a complete change.

It takes time for great products to emerge as you polish away, polish away, polish away. Impatience with actions, patience with results. As Nivi said, inspiration is perishable. When you have inspiration, act on it right then and there.

[I] just want to be the most successful version of myself while working the least hard possible.

Value your time. It is all you have. It’s more important than your money. It’s more important than your friends. It is more important than anything. Your time is all you have. Do not waste your time.

What we do as living systems accelerates getting to that state. The more complex system you create, whether it’s through computers, civilization, art, mathematics, or creating a family—you actually accelerate the heat death of the Universe. You’re pushing us towards this point where we end up as one thing.

Whether in money, relationships, love, health, activities, or habits. I only want to be around people I know I’m going to be around for the rest of my life. I only want to work on things I know have long-term payout.

the Buddhist saying, “Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at somebody.”

The moment you have a child, it’s this really weird thing, but it answers the meaning-of-life, purpose-of-life, question.

Try everything, test it for yourself, be skeptical, keep what’s useful, and discard what’s not.

  • Happiness = Health + Wealth + Good Relationships
  • Health = Exercise + Diet + Sleep
  • Exercise = High Intensity Resistance Training + Sports + Rest
  • Diet = Natural Foods + Intermittent Fasting + Plants
  • Sleep = No alarms + 8–9 hours + Circadian rhythms
  • Wealth = Income + Wealth * (Return on Investment)
  • Income = Accountability + Leverage + Specific Knowledge
  • Accountability = Personal Branding + Personal Platform + Taking Risk?
  • Leverage = Capital + People + Intellectual Property
  • Specific Knowledge = Knowing how to do something society cannot yet easily train other people to do
  • Be present above all else.
  • Desire is suffering. (Buddha)
  • Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at someone else. (Buddha)
  • If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.
  • Reading (learning) is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else.
  • All the real benefits in life come from compound interest.
  • Earn with your mind, not your time.
  • 99 percent of all effort is wasted.
  • Total honesty at all times.
  • It’s almost always possible to be honest and positive.
  • Praise specifically, criticize generally. (Warren Buffett)
  • Truth is that which has predictive power.
  • Watch every thought. (Ask “Why am I having this thought?")
  • All greatness comes from suffering.
  • Love is given, not received.
  • Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts. (Eckhart Tolle)
  • Mathematics is the language of nature.
  • Every moment has to be complete in and of itself.