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Dhwaneet Bhatt

Book Review - The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

book-review, philosophy4 min read

cover-image-of-the-book

Introduction

Note: Text in italics are quotes from books

For those of you who don’t know, Naval Ravikant is a tech entrepreneur and an angel investor in the Silicon Valley, most notable as the founder of AngelList. He is very respected, not only because he is good at what he does, but in the words of the author:

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

Eric (the author) has written this book as a permanent home to a collection of various tweets and interviews Naval has given over the years. As the title suggests, this book talks about the nuggets of wisdom Naval has provided over the years on how to be wealthy and happy - and in my experience those two goals of life seldom ever meet. This book is divided into various chapters that cover the Wealth part first followed by happiness.

Following are the key learnings I got from the book distilled into points in my own words, followed by reflection and what I made out of it.

Learnings

Wealth

  • Wealth is not built by renting out time. It is built by owning a piece of business (equity).
  • Building and scaling good business requires leverage - and leverage comes from capital, people and products with no marginal cost of replication - code and media. Capital and people is loaned leverage, but code and media are permissions-less leverage.
  • Technology is something people want but don’t know how to get it. Once something works, it is no longer a technology but it is a utility. Some examples - car was a technology but is now a utility. Mobile phone was a technology but is now a utility. Businesses should try to convert from technology → utility at scale and then they have good leverage.
  • Gain specific knowledge that cannot be learned. You are not wealthy if you can be replaced. There should be no formal training that one can take to replace you - rather the only way to be like you is be your apprentice. That will always ensure you’re valued in the market for your skills.
  • Wealth building is a long term game. Impatience with actions, patience with results. Keep making incremental progress.
  • An excellent quote to define what is retirement - Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow. If you love what you do, you would do it even if no one paid you for it. So, you’re already retired 🙂.
  • The only way to attain financial freedom is to not upgrade your lifestyle as you make money.

Happiness

  • There is a fundamental delusion that there is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever. Desires are the true cause of unhappiness. Realize that fulfilling any number of desires will not make you happy.
  • By the time people realize they have enough money, they’ve lost their time and their health. The idea is to have a sustainable life because we’ve got only one.
  • Envy is the enemy of happiness - comparison is the death of happiness. For every achievement in your life, there are 10x others who did better and there are 100x others who cannot even dream of achieving what you did. Inspiration is different from envy. Inspiration keeps you motivated, envy keeps you anxious. Be inspired, not envious.
  • Meditation is simply sitting and doing nothing. Can start even with not closing your eyes if it makes you feel sleepy. Meditation is paying attention to your thoughts and let them run along. Eventually you will run out of thoughts when you reconcile everything in your mind.
  • Spirituality and religion are different things. You can be spiritual without being religious. Spirituality is the realization that you are part of something grander and bigger than yourself. When you surrender yourself to it, a lot of problems in life that arise due to being self-centered just go away.

Reflection

I used to despise the world of startups and how commercial it has become. Raising money, unicorn valuations, billionaires. But through this book I realized that true entrepreneurs want to solve problems at the core, and that is their mission, money is just the side effect of it. The rest around it is just marketing noise and media. Ignore it and focus on core principles and learn to appreciate it.

I’ve always had this view that time is the real thing to be mastered in this world. These days, people just say there is never enough of it. But, our mind doesn’t understand time, it only perceives it. (reason why boring lectures feel long but a party doesn’t). So, if we can trick our mind into perceiving time the way we want to - this can create a lot of good things in life.

Capitalism and consumerism are so ubiquitous that they numb the mind of people by keeping them on the hedonic treadmill. When you’re in a constant state of desire, you never really appreciate the present.

The key is to break out of it, retrospect every desire that you have and really think if that desire will really make you happy. The mental model I’ve built around it is to already imagine (when you’re meditating) that you’ve achieved what you’ve desired, and then think about the next steps of how it will make your life better than it already is. 8 times out of 10, it won’t. It makes you appreciate your present much more, and that tricks your mind into the perception that there is a lot of time.

Naval also said something that my mom has been saying all my life - to me, to my dad and to my wife after we got married - keep your requirements to a minimum no matter how much money you earn and you’ll (mostly) never feel the lack of money. There maybe such nuggets of wisdom that our family may have that we never appreciated, and this book just wanted me to connect with my family and talk about a lot of these philosophies, something that is rarely a topic of conversation on the dinner table.