The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, Eric Jorgenson (10/10)

An inspiring and thought-providing book summarising Naval's thoughts on Wealth and Happiness

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, Eric Jorgenson (10/10)

Rating: 10/10
Read More on Goodreads

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Naval is an entrepreneur and investor who’s constantly experimenting and iteratively improving, and this book is a summary of his thoughts on Wealth and Happiness
  2. An inspiring and thought-provoking book that draws upon Stoic and Buddhist philosophy
  3. Built from podcast transcripts and Tweets, this book is a very short and easy read

🎨 Impressions

I absolutely loved this book - if we can even call it a ‘book’! It reads like a conversation - and that’s pretty much what it is, having been built from a series of Naval’s podcast transcripts and Tweets.

The way Naval thinks about things is really similar to how I’ve been thinking about things since childhood. And I’ve only developed that same line of thinking further ever since becoming a fan of Naval’s after his early interviews with Rogan and Ferris.

Because of this, while some might find this book quite profound, for me, it acted as a very useful echo chamber to my own thoughts. The book put the thoughts and ideas that I already had in my brain down on paper - in black and white. This, coupled with how light and easy a read it is, makes it super useful and practical. It’s also packed with lovely visualisations from Jack Butcher.

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that I’ve already read the book twice in one month. I’ve written comprehensive notes on the book, and I can only see myself returning to these in the coming years, perhaps adjusting for my own philosophy too.

Why? Because it’s a super inspirational book. I found it almost calming and soothing - it’s like a meditation in and of itself. I think the great Stoics and Buddhists would be proud!

🔍 How I Discovered It

I discovered the book on Twitter when it first came out and added it to my reading list immediately, as a fan of Naval’s. My friend Lara read it before me, and said I’d love it - so with her subsequent recommendation in mind, I started reading it pretty quickly thereafter.

🥰 Who Would Like It?

I would highly recommend this to people between the ages of 16-22. Regardless of age, however, I think this is a great book for people who’re trying to figure things out. It also draws a lot from Stoicism and Buddhism - so if you’re into that, then this is a sure bet.

💬 My Favourite Quotes

No one can compete with you on being you.

Compounding capital is just the beginning.

Intentions don’t matter. Actions do. That’s why being ethical is hard.

Embrace accountability and take business risks under your own name.

“Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” —Archimedes

We live in an age of infinite leverage, and the economic rewards for genuine intellectual curiosity have never been higher. Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.

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.

Spend more time making the big decisions: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do.

In 1,000 parallel universes, you want to be wealthy in 999 of them.

“Be a maker who makes something interesting people want. Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.”

Sharks eat well but live a life surrounded by sharks.

Stay on the bleeding edge of trends and study technology, design, and art.

You don’t get rich by spending your time to save money. You get rich by saving your time to make money.

What we wish to be true clouds our perception of what is true. Suffering is the moment when we can no longer deny reality.

What you feel tells you nothing about the facts—it merely tells you something about your estimate of the facts.

Any belief you took in a package (ex. Democrat, Catholic, American) is suspect and should be re-evaluated from base principles.

If you cannot decide, the answer is no.

Simple heuristic: If you’re evenly split on a difficult decision, take the path more painful in the short term.

Wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order, but their importance is reverse.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re just a monkey with a plan.

To me, happiness is not about positive thoughts. It’s not about negative thoughts. It’s about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things.

Doing something because you “should” basically means you don’t actually want to do it.

You’re competing against yourself. 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.

If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.

Whenever you throw any so-called good habit at somebody, they’ll have an excuse. Usually the most common is “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have time” is just another way of saying “It’s not a priority.”

Before you can lie to another, you must first lie to yourself.

📒 Summary + Notes

Part I: Wealth

How to get rich without getting lucky.

Building Wealth

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

You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale. Pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people.

Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.

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 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.

“Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.”

Fortunes require leverage. Business leverage comes from capital, people, and products with no marginal cost of replication (code and media).


Examples of specific knowledge:

  • Sales skills
  • Musical talents
  • An obsessive personality: you dive into things and remember them quickly
  • Love for sci-fi
  • Play a lot of games, you understand game theory pretty well
  • Gossiping, digging into your friend network. That might make you a very interesting journalist

No one can compete with you on being you. Most of life is a search for who and what needs you the most.

I love to read, and I love technology. I learn very quickly, and I get bored fast. If I had gone into a profession where I was required to tunnel down for twenty years into the same topic, it wouldn’t have worked. I’m in venture investing, which requires me to come up to speed very, very quickly on new technologies. It matches up pretty well with my specific knowledge and skill sets.

The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner. You have to know how to learn anything you want to learn. The old model of making money is going to school for four years, getting your degree, and working as a professional for thirty years. But things change fast now. Now, you have to come up to speed on a new profession within nine months, and it’s obsolete four years later. But within those three productive years, you can get very wealthy.

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. You really care about having studied the foundations, so you’re not scared of any book. If you go to the library and there’s a book you cannot understand, you have to dig down and say, “What is the foundation required for me to learn this?” Foundations are super important.

Basic arithmetic and numeracy are way more important in life than doing calculus.

Being able to convey yourself simply using ordinary English words is far more important than being able to write poetry, having an extensive vocabulary, or speaking seven different foreign languages.

Knowing how to be persuasive when speaking is far more important than being an expert digital marketer or click optimizer. Foundations are key. It’s much better to be at 9/10 or 10/10 on foundations than to try and get super deep into things.

You do need to be deep in something because otherwise you’ll be a mile wide and an inch deep and you won’t get what you want out of life. You can only achieve mastery in one or two things. It’s usually things you’re obsessed about.


You said, “All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.” How does one know if they’re earning compound interest?

Compound interest is a very powerful concept. Compound interest applies to more than just compounding capital. Compounding capital is just the beginning.

Compounding in business relationships is very important. Look at some of the top roles in society, like 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.

Compound interest also happens in your reputation. 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.

This is also true when you’re working with individual people. If you’ve worked with somebody for five or ten years and you still enjoy working with them, obviously you trust them, and the little foibles are gone. All the normal negotiations in business relationships can work very simply because you trust each other—you know it will work out.

Intentions don’t matter. Actions do. That’s why being ethical is hard.

When you find the right thing to do, when you find the right people to work with, invest deeply. Sticking with it for decades is really how you make the big returns in your relationships and in your money. So, compound interest is very important.

99% of effort is wasted.

When you’re dating, the instant you know this relationship is not going to be the one that leads to marriage, you should probably move on. When you’re studying something, like a geography or history class, and you realize you are never going to use the information, drop the class. It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of your brain energy.

I’m not saying don’t do the 99 percent, because it’s very hard to identify what the 1 percent is. What I’m saying is: when you find the 1 percent of your discipline which will not be wasted, which you’ll be able to invest in for the rest of your life and has meaning to you—go all-in and forget about the rest.


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

To get rich, you need leverage. Leverage comes in labor, comes in capital, or it can come through code or media. But most of these, like labor and capital, people have to give to you. For labor, somebody has to follow you. For capital, somebody has to give you money, assets to manage, or machines.

So to get these things, you have to build credibility, and you have to do it under your own name as much as possible, which is risky. So, accountability is a double-edged thing. It allows you to take credit when things go well and to bear the brunt of the failure when things go badly.

Clear accountability is important. Without accountability, you don’t have incentives. Without accountability, you can’t build credibility. But you take risks. You risk failure. You risk humiliation. You risk failure under your own name.


We live in an age of infinite leverage, and the economic rewards for genuine intellectual curiosity have never been higher. Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.

Knowledge only you know or only a small set of people knows is going to come out of your passions and your hobbies, oddly enough. If you have hobbies around your intellectual curiosity, you’re more likely to develop these passions.

The less you want something, the less you’re thinking about it, the less you’re obsessing over it, the more you’re going to do it in a natural way. The more you’re going to do it for yourself. You’re going to do it in a way you’re good at, and you’re going to stick with it. The people around you will see the quality of your work is higher.

Follow your intellectual curiosity more than whatever is “hot” right now. If your curiosity ever leads you to a place where society eventually wants to go, you’ll get paid extremely well.

There are three broad classes of leverage:

One form of leverage is labor—other humans working for you. It is the oldest form of leverage, and actually not a great one in the modern world. I would argue this is the worst form of leverage that you could possibly use. Managing other people is incredibly messy. It requires tremendous leadership skills. You’re one short hop from a mutiny or getting eaten or torn apart by the mob.

Money is good as a form of leverage. It means every time you make a decision, you multiply it with money. Capital is a trickier form of leverage to use. It’s more modern. It’s the one that people have used to get fabulously wealthy in the last century. It’s probably been the dominant form of leverage in the last century. It scales very, very well. If you get good at managing capital, you can manage more and more capital much more easily than you can manage more and more people.

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. Now, you can multiply your efforts without involving other humans and without needing money from other humans.

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.

When you do just the actual work itself, you’ll be far more productive, far more efficient. You’ll work when you feel like it—when you’re high-energy—and you won’t be trying to struggle through when you’re low energy. You’ll gain your time back.

Forty hour work weeks are a relic of the Industrial Age. Knowledge workers function like athletes—train and sprint, then rest and reassess.


Choosing what kinds of jobs, careers, or fields you get into and what sort of deals you’re willing to take from your employer will give you much more free time. Then, you don’t have to worry as much about time management. I would love to be paid purely for my judgment, not for any work. I want a robot, capital, or computer to do the work, but I want to be paid for my judgment.

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


Value your time at an hourly rate, and ruthlessly spend to save time at that rate. You will never be worth more than you think you’re worth.

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. Even when I was young, I just decided I was worth a lot more than the market thought I was worth, and I started treating myself that way.

Always factor your time into every decision. How much time does it take? It’s going to take you an hour to get across town to get something. If you value yourself at one hundred dollars an hour, that’s basically throwing one hundred dollars out of your pocket. Are you going to do that?

Fast-forward to your wealthy self and pick some intermediate hourly rate. For me, believe it or not, back when you could have hired me…Which now obviously you can’t, but back when you could have hired me…this was true a decade ago or even two decades ago, before I had any real money. My hourly rate, I used to say to myself over and over, is $5,000 an hour. Today when I look back, really it was about $1,000 an hour.

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.

Set a very high hourly aspirational rate for yourself and stick to it. It should seem and feel absurdly high.

What is the most important thing to do for younger people starting out?

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.

We spend very little time deciding which relationship to get into. We spend so much time in a job, but we spend so little time deciding which job to get into. Choosing what city to live in can almost completely determine the trajectory of your life, but we spend so little time trying to figure out what city to live in.

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.

You have to say no to everything and free up your time so you can solve the important problems. Those three are probably the three biggest ones.

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.


What is your definition of retirement?

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

How do you get there?

Well, one way is to have so much money saved that your passive income (without you lifting a finger) covers your burn rate.

A second is you just drive your burn rate down to zero—you become a monk.

A third is you’re doing something you love. You enjoy it so much, it’s not about the money. So there are multiple ways to retirement.

The way to get out of the competition trap is to be authentic, to find the thing you know how to do better than anybody. You know how to do it better because you love it, and 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 and put your name on it. You take the risks, but you gain the rewards, have ownership and equity in what you’re doing, and just crank it up.


Why do you say, “Get rich without getting lucky”?

In 1,000 parallel universes, you want to be wealthy in 999 of them. You don’t want to be wealthy in the fifty of them where you got lucky, so we want to factor luck out of it.

But getting lucky would help, right?

The first kind of luck is blind luck where one just gets lucky because something completely out of their control happened. This includes fortune, fate, etc.

Then, there’s luck through persistence, hard work, hustle, and motion. This is when you’re running around creating opportunities. You’re generating a lot of energy, you’re doing a lot to stir things up.

A third way is you become very good at spotting luck. If you are very skilled in a field, you will notice when a lucky break happens in your field, and other people who aren’t attuned to it won’t notice. So, you become sensitive to luck.

The last kind of luck is the weirdest, hardest kind, where you build a unique character, a unique brand, a unique mindset, which causes luck to find you.

Ways to get lucky:

• Hope luck finds you.

• Hustle until you stumble into it.

• Prepare the mind and be sensitive to chances others miss.

• Become the best at what you do. Refine what you do until this is true.

Opportunity will seek you out. Luck becomes your destiny.

It starts becoming so deterministic, it stops being luck. The definition starts fading from luck to destiny. To summarize the fourth type: build your character in a certain way, then your character becomes your destiny.

One of the things I think is important to make money is having a reputation that makes people do deals through you. Remember the example of being a great diver where treasure hunters will come and give you a piece of the treasure for your diving skills.

If you are a trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term-thinking dealmaker, when other people want to do deals but don’t know how to do them in a trustworthy manner with strangers, they will literally approach you and give you a cut of the deal just because of the integrity and reputation you’ve built up.

Warren Buffett gets offered deals to buy companies, buy warrants, bail out banks, and do things other people can’t do because of his reputation. Of course, he has accountability on the line, and he has a strong brand on the line.

Your character and your reputation are things you can build, which will let you take advantage of opportunities other people may characterize as lucky, but you know it wasn’t luck. My co-founder Nivi said, “In a long-term game, it seems that everybody is making each other rich. And in a short-term game, it seems like everybody is making themselves rich.

How important is networking?

Trying to build business relationships well in advance of doing business is a complete waste of time. I have a much more comfortable philosophy: “Be a maker who makes something interesting people want. Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.”

And once you’ve met someone, how do you determine if you can trust someone? What signals do you pay attention to?

Sharks eat well but live a life surrounded by sharks.

Deep down we all know who we are. You cannot hide anything from yourself. Your own failures are written within your psyche. If you have too many moral shortcomings, you will not respect yourself. The worst outcome in this world is not having self-esteem. If you don’t love yourself, who will?

You must be very careful about doing things you are fundamentally not going to be proud of, because they will damage you.

The closer you want to get to me, the better your values have to be.


You have to enjoy it and keep doing it, keep doing it, and keep doing it. Don’t keep track, and don’t keep count because if you do, you will run out of time.

The most common bad advice I hear is: “You’re too young.” Most of history was built by young people. They just got credit when they were older. The only way to truly learn something is by doing it. Yes, listen to guidance. But don’t wait.

This is not to say it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s actually really freaking hard. It is the hardest thing you will do. But it’s also rewarding. Look at the kids who are born rich—they have no meaning to their lives.

Your real résumé is just a catalog of all your suffering. If I ask you to describe your real life to yourself, and you look back from your deathbed at the interesting things you’ve done, it’s all going to be around the sacrifices you made, the hard things you did.

Building Judgement


If you want to make the maximum amount of money possible, if you want to get rich over your life in a deterministically predictable way, stay on the bleeding edge of trends and study technology, design, and art—become really good at something.

You don’t get rich by spending your time to save money. You get rich by saving your time to make money.

Hard work is really overrated. How hard you work matters a lot less in the modern economy.

What is underrated?


Can you define judgment?

My definition of 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.

In an age of leverage, one correct decision can win everything.

Without hard work, you’ll develop neither judgment nor leverage.

You have to put in the time, but the judgment is more important. The direction you’re heading in matters more than how fast you move, especially with leverage. Picking the direction you’re heading in for every decision is far, far more important than how much force you apply. Just pick the right direction to start walking in, and start walking.


What we wish to be true clouds our perception of what is true. Suffering is the moment when we can no longer deny reality.

What you feel tells you nothing about the facts—it merely tells you something about your estimate of the facts.

Very smart people tend to be weird since they insist on thinking everything through for themselves.

A contrarian isn’t one who always objects—that’s a conformist of a different sort. A contrarian reasons independently from the ground up and resists pressure to conform.

Cynicism is easy. Mimicry is easy.

Optimistic contrarians are the rarest breed.


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?

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
—Buddhist saying

You absolutely need habits to function. You cannot solve every problem in life as if it is the first time it’s thrown at you. We accumulate all these habits. We put them in the bundle of identity, ego, ourselves, and then we get attached to them. “I’m Naval. This is the way I am.

It’s really important to be able to uncondition yourself, to be able to take your habits apart and say, “Okay, this is a habit I probably picked up when I was a toddler trying to get my parent’s attention. Now I’ve reinforced it and reinforced it, and I call it a part of my identity. Does it still serve me? Does it make me happier? Does it make me healthier? Does it make me accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish?

I’m less habitual than most people. I don’t like to structure my day. To the extent I have habits, I try to make them more deliberate rather than accidents of history.

Any belief you took in a package (ex. Democrat, Catholic, American) is suspect and should be re-evaluated from base principles.

I try not to have too much I’ve pre-decided. I think creating identities and labels locks you in and keeps you from seeing the truth.

To be honest, speak without identity.

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


The classical virtues are all decision-making heuristics to make one optimize for the long term rather than for the short term.

Self-serving conclusions should have a higher bar.


A lot of modern society can be explained through evolution. One theory is civilization exists to answer the question of who gets to mate. If you look around, from a purely sexual selection perspective, sperm is abundant and eggs are scarce. It’s an allocation problem.

Literally all of the works of mankind and womankind can be traced down to people trying to solve this problem.

I don’t believe I have the ability to say what is going to work. Rather, I try to eliminate what’s not going to work. I think being successful is just about not making mistakes. It’s not about having correct judgment. It’s about avoiding incorrect judgments.

I believe we are fundamentally ignorant and very, very bad at predicting the future.

Microeconomics and game theory are fundamental. I don’t think you can be successful in business or even navigate most of our modern capitalist society without an extremely good understanding of supply-and-demand, labor-versus-capital, game theory, and those kinds of things.

To me, the principal-agent problem is the single most fundamental problem in microeconomics.

“If you want it done, then go. And if not, then send.”
—Julius Caesar

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.

I think at a core fundamental level, we understand this. We’re attracted to principals, and we all bond with principals, but the media and modern society spend a lot of time brainwashing you about needing an agent, an agent being important, and the agent being knowledgeable.

If you’re compounding at 30 percent per year for thirty years, you don’t just end up with ten or twenty times your money—you end up with thousands of times your money.

In the intellectual domain, compound interest rules. When you look at a business with one hundred users growing at a compound rate of 20 percent per month, it can very, very quickly stack up to having millions of users. Sometimes, even the founders of these companies are surprised by how large the business scales.

I think basic mathematics is really underrated. If you’re going to make money, if you’re going to invest money, your basic math should be really good. You don’t need to learn geometry, trigonometry, calculus, or any of the complicated stuff if you’re just going into business

There’s a new branch of probability statistics, which is really around tail events. Black swans are extreme probabilities.

Calculus is useful to know, to understand the rates of change and how nature works. But it’s more important to understand the principles of calculus—where you’re measuring the change in small discrete or small continuous events.

Least understood, but the most important principle for anyone claiming “science” on their side—falsifiability. If it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions, it’s not science. For you to believe something is true, it should have predictive power, and it must be falsifiable.

I think macroeconomics, because it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions (which is the hallmark of science), has become corrupted.

If I’m faced with a difficult choice, such as:

  • Should I marry this person?
  • Should I take this job?
  • Should I buy this house?
  • Should I move to this city?
  • Should I go into business with this person?

If you cannot decide, the answer is no. And the reason is, modern society is full of options. There are tons and tons of options. We live on a planet of seven billion people, and we are connected to everybody on the internet. There are hundreds of thousands of careers available to you. There are so many choices.

If you find yourself creating a spreadsheet for a decision with a list of yes’s and no’s, pros and cons, checks and balances, why this is good or bad…forget it. If you cannot decide, the answer is no.

Simple heuristic: If you’re evenly split on a difficult decision, take the path more painful in the short term.

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.

What’s actually going on is one of these paths requires short-term pain. And the other path leads to pain further out in the future. And what your brain is doing through conflict-avoidance is trying to push off the short-term pain.

By definition, if the two are even and one has short-term pain, that path has long-term gain associated. With the law of compound interest, long-term gain is what you want to go toward.

Working out for me is not fun; I suffer in the short term, I feel pain. But then in the long term, I’m better off because I have muscles or I’m healthier.

If I am reading a book and I’m getting confused, it is just like working out and the muscle getting sore or tired, except now my brain is being overwhelmed. In the long run I’m getting smarter because I’m absorbing new concepts from working at the limit or edge of my capability.


I probably read one to two hours a day. That puts me in the top .00001 percent. I think that alone accounts for any material success I’ve had in my life and any intelligence I might have. Real people don’t read an hour a day. Real people, I think, read a minute a day or less. Making it an actual habit is the most important thing.

It almost doesn’t matter what you read. Eventually, you will read enough things (and your interests will lead you there) that it will dramatically improve your life. Just like the best workout for you is one you’re excited enough to do every day, I would say for books, blogs, tweets, or whatever—anything with ideas and information and learning—the best ones to read are the ones you’re excited about reading all the time.

Part II: Happiness

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

Learning Happiness

Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re just a monkey with a plan.


Maybe happiness is not something you inherit or even choose, but a highly personal skill that can be learned, like fitness or nutrition.

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

People mistakenly believe happiness is just about positive thoughts and positive actions. The more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned, and the more I’ve experienced (because I verify this for myself), every positive thought essentially holds within it a negative thought. It is a contrast to something negative.

To me, happiness is not about positive thoughts. It’s not about negative thoughts. It’s about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things. The fewer desires I can have, the more I can accept the current state of things, the less my mind is moving, because the mind really exists in motion toward the future or the past. The more present I am, the happier and more content I will be.

Can practicing meditation help you accept reality?

Yeah. But it’s amazing how little it helps. [laughs] You can be a long-time meditator, but if someone says the wrong thing in the wrong way, you go back to your ego-driven self. It’s almost like you’re lifting one-pound weights, but then somebody drops a huge barbell with a stack of plates on your head.

It’s absolutely better than doing nothing. But when the actual moment of mental or emotional suffering arrives, it’s still never easy. Real happiness only comes as a side-effect of peace. Most of it is going to come from acceptance, not from changing your external environment.

A rational person can find peace by cultivating indifference to things outside of their control.

I have lowered my identity.

I have lowered the chattering of my mind.

I don’t care about things that don’t really matter.

I don’t get involved in politics.

I don’t hang around unhappy people.

I really value my time on this earth.

I read philosophy.

I meditate.

I hang around with happy people.

And it works.

You can very slowly but steadily and methodically improve your happiness baseline, just like you can improve your fitness.


We crave experiences that will make us be present, but the cravings themselves take us from the present moment.

I just don’t believe in anything from my past. Anything. No memories. No regrets. No people. No trips. Nothing. A lot of our unhappiness comes from comparing things from the past to the present.

There’s a great definition I read: “Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts.” It means enlightenment isn’t something you achieve after thirty years sitting on a mountaintop. It’s something you can achieve moment to moment, and you can be enlightened to a certain percent every single day.


Are happiness and purpose interconnected?

Happiness is such an overloaded word, I’m not even sure what it means. For me these days, happiness is more about peace than it is about joy. I don’t think peace and purpose go together.

If it’s your internal purpose, the thing you most want to do, then sure, you’ll be happy doing it. But an externally inflicted purpose, like “society wants me to do X,” “I am the first son of the first son of this, so I should do Y,” or “I have this debt or burden I took on,” I don’t think it will make you happy.

I think a lot of us have this low-level pervasive feeling of anxiety. If you pay attention to your mind, sometimes you’re just running around doing your thing and you’re not feeling great, and you notice your mind is chattering and chattering about something. Maybe you can’t sit still…There’s this “nexting” thing where you’re sitting in one spot thinking about where you should be next.

It’s always the next thing, then the next thing, the next thing after that, then the next thing after that creating this pervasive anxiety.

It’s most obvious if you ever just sit down and try and do nothing, nothing. I mean nothing, I mean not read a book, I mean not listen to music, I mean literally just sit down and do nothing. You can’t do it, because there’s anxiety always trying to make you get up and go, get up and go, get up and go. I think it’s important just being aware the anxiety is making you unhappy. The anxiety is just a series of running thoughts.

How I combat anxiety: I don’t try and fight it, I just notice I’m anxious because of all these thoughts. I try to figure out, “Would I rather be having this thought right now, or would I rather have my peace?” Because as long as I have my thoughts, I can’t have my peace.

You’ll notice when I say happiness, I mean peace. When a lot of people say happiness, they mean joy or bliss, but I’ll take peace.

A happy person isn’t someone who’s happy all the time. It’s someone who effortlessly interprets events in such a way that they don’t lose their innate peace.


I think the most common mistake for humanity is believing you’re going to be made happy because of some external circumstance.

The fundamental delusion: There is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever.

Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.


I don’t think life is that hard. I think we make it hard. One of the things I’m trying to get rid of is the word “should.” Whenever the word “should” creeps up in your mind, it’s guilt or social programming. 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 enemy of peace of mind is expectations drilled into you by society and other people.

Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external multiplayer competitive game. Training yourself to be happy is completely internal. There is no external progress, no external validation.

You’re competing against yourself. 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.

Perhaps one reason why yoga and meditation are hard to sustain is they have no extrinsic value. Purely single-player games.

Buffett has a great example when he asks if you want to be the world’s best lover and known as the worst, or the world’s worst lover and known as the best?

Exactly right. All the real scorecards are internal.


My most surprising discovery in the last five years is that peace and happiness are skills. These are not things you are born with. Yes, there is a genetic range. And a lot of it is conditioning from your environment, but you can un-condition and recondition yourself.

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

When playing, surround yourself with people happier than you.

What type of skill is happiness?

It’s all trial and error. You just see what works. You can try sitting meditation. Did that work for you? Was it Tantra meditation or was it Vipassana meditation? Was it a ten-day retreat or was twenty minutes enough?

Okay. None of those worked. But what if I tried yoga? What if I kite-surfed? What if I go car racing? What about cooking? Does that make me Zen? You literally have to try all of these things until you find something that works for you.

How does someone build the skill of happiness?

You can build good habits. Not drinking alcohol will keep your mood more stable. Not eating sugar will keep your mood more stable. Not going on Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter will keep your mood more stable. 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’re being fed dopamine and having dopamine withdrawn from you in these little uncontrollable ways. Caffeine is another one where you trade long term for the short term.

Essentially, 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.

When we’re kids, we have very few habits. Over time, we learn the things we are not supposed to do. We become self-conscious. We start forming habits and routines.

Many distinctions between people who get happier as they get older and people who don’t can be explained by what habits they have developed. Are they habits that will increase your long-term happiness rather than your short-term happiness? Are you surrounding yourself with people who are generally positive and upbeat people? Are those relationships low-maintenance? Do you admire and respect but not envy them?

There’s the “five chimps theory” where you can predict a chimp’s behavior by the five chimps it hangs out with the most. I think that applies to humans as well. Maybe it’s politically incorrect to say you should choose your friends very wisely. But you shouldn’t choose them haphazardly based on who you live next to or who you happen to work with. The people who are the most happy and optimistic choose the right five chimps.

The first rule of handling conflict is: Don’t hang around people who constantly engage in conflict. I’m not interested in anything unsustainable or even hard to sustain, including difficult relationships.

If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.

There’s a friend of mine, a Persian guy named Behzad. He just loves life, and he has no time for anybody who is not happy.

If you ask Behzad what’s his secret? He’ll just look up and say, “Stop asking why and start saying wow.” The world is such an amazing place. As humans, we’re used to taking everything for granted. Like what you and I are doing right now. We’re sitting indoors, wearing clothes, well-fed, and communicating with each other through space and time. We should be two monkeys sitting in the jungle right now watching the sun going down, asking ourselves where we are going to sleep.


The obvious one is meditation—insight meditation. Working toward a specific purpose, which is to try and understand how my mind works.

Just being very aware at every moment.

I try to get more sunlight on my skin. I look up and smile.

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.

I think dropping caffeine made me happier. It makes me more of a stable person.

I think working out every day made me happier. If you have peace of body, it’s easier to have peace of mind.

The more you judge, the more you separate yourself. You’ll feel good for an instant, because you feel good about yourself, thinking you’re better than someone. Later, you’re going to feel lonely. Then, you see negativity everywhere. The world just reflects your own feelings back at you.

Tell your friends you’re a happy person. Then, you’ll be forced to conform to it. You’ll have a consistency bias. You have to live up to it. Your friends will expect you to be a happy person.

Recover time and happiness by minimizing your use of these three smartphone apps: phone, calendar, and alarm clock.

The more secrets you have, the less happy you’re going to be.

Caught in a funk? Use meditation, music, and exercise to reset your mood. Then choose a new path to commit emotional energy for the rest of the day.

Hedonic adaptation is more powerful for man-made things (cars, houses, clothes, money) than for natural things (food, sex, exercise).

No exceptions—all screen activities linked to less happiness, all non-screen activities linked to more happiness.

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


In any situation in life, you always have three choices: you can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it.

If you want to change it, then it is a desire. It will cause you suffering until you successfully change it. So don’t pick too many of those. Pick one big desire in your life at any given time to give yourself purpose and motivation.

Why not two?

You’ll be distracted.

Even one is hard enough. Being peaceful comes from having your mind clear of thoughts. And a lot of clarity comes from being in the present moment. It’s very hard to be in the present moment if you’re thinking, “I need to do this. I want that. This has got to change.

That struggle or aversion is responsible for most of our misery. The phrase I probably use the most to myself in my head is just one word: “accept.”

What does acceptance look like to you?

It’s to be okay whatever the outcome is. It’s to be balanced and centered. It’s to step back and to see the grander scheme of things.

We don’t always get what we want, but sometimes what is happening is for the best. The sooner you can accept it as a reality, the sooner you can adapt to it.

Achieving acceptance is very difficult. I have a couple of hacks I try, but I wouldn’t say they are totally successful.

One hack is stepping back and looking at previous bits of suffering I’ve had in my life. I write them down. “Last time you broke up with somebody, last time you had a business failure, last time you had a health issue, what happened?” I can trace the growth and improvement that came from it years later.

I have another hack I use for minor annoyances. When they happen, a part of me will instantly react negatively. But I’ve learned to mentally ask myself, “What is the positive of this situation?”

Okay, I’ll be late for a meeting. But what is the benefit to me? I get to relax and watch the birds for a moment. I’ll also spend less time in that boring meeting.” There’s almost always something positive.

Even if you can’t come up with something positive, you can say, “Well, the Universe is going to teach me something now. Now I get to listen and learn.

Saving Yourself

Doctors won’t make you healthy.

Nutritionists won’t make you slim.

Teachers won’t make you smart.

Gurus won’t make you calm.

Mentors won’t make you rich.

Trainers won’t make you fit.

Ultimately, you have to take responsibility.

Save yourself.


A lot of what goes on today is what many of you are doing right now—beating yourself up and scribbling notes and saying, “I need to do this, and I need to do that, and I need to do…” No, you don’t need to do anything.

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.

The combinatorics of human DNA and experience are staggering. You will never meet any two humans who are substitutable for each other.

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.

To make an original contribution, you have to be irrationally obsessed with something.



The harder the workout, the easier the day.

What habit would you say most positively impacts your life?

The daily morning workout. It’s made me feel healthier, younger. It’s made me not go out late.

Whenever you throw any so-called good habit at somebody, they’ll have an excuse. Usually the most common is “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have time” is just another way of saying “It’s not a priority.” What you really have to do is say whether it is a priority or not. If something is your number one priority, then you will do it. That’s just the way life works. If you’ve got a fuzzy basket of ten or fifteen different priorities, you’re going to end up getting none of them.

What I did was decide my number one priority in life, above my happiness, above my family, above my work, is my own health. It starts with my physical health. Because my physical health became my number one priority, then I could never say I don’t have time. In the morning, I work out, and however long it takes is how long it takes. I do not start my day until I’ve worked out. I don’t care if the world is imploding and melting down, it can wait another thirty minutes until I’m done working out.


I don’t believe in specific goals. Scott Adams famously said, “Set up systems, not goals.” Use your judgment to figure out what kinds of environments you can thrive in, and then create an environment around you so you’re statistically likely to succeed.

The current environment programs the brain, but the clever brain can choose its upcoming environment.

I’m not going to be the most successful person on the planet, nor do I want to be. I just want to be the most successful version of myself while working the least hard possible. I want to live in a way that if my life played out 1,000 times, Naval is successful 999 times. He’s not a billionaire, but he does pretty well each time. He may not have nailed life in every regard, but he sets up systems so he’s failed in very few places.


The hardest thing is not doing what you want—it’s knowing what you want.

Be aware there are no “adults.” Everyone makes it up as they go along. You have to find your own path, picking, choosing, and discarding as you see fit. Figure it out yourself, and do it.

How have your values changed?

When I was younger, I really, really valued freedom. Freedom was one of my core values. Ironically, it still is. It’s probably one of my top three values, but it’s now a different definition of freedom.

My old definition was “freedom to.” Freedom to do anything I want. Freedom to do whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like. Now, the freedom I’m looking for is internal freedom. It’s “freedom from.” Freedom from reaction. Freedom from feeling angry. Freedom from being sad. Freedom from being forced to do things. I’m looking for “freedom from,” internally and externally, whereas before I was looking for “freedom to.”

Advice to my younger self: “Be exactly who you are.” Holding back means staying in bad relationships and bad jobs for years instead of minutes.



What are your core values?

Honesty is a core, core, core value. By honesty, I mean I want to be able to just be me. I never want to be in an environment or around people where I have to watch what I say. If I disconnect what I’m thinking from what I’m saying, it creates multiple threads in my mind. I’m no longer in the moment—now I have to be future-planning or past-regretting every time I talk to somebody. Anyone around whom I can’t be fully honest, I don’t want to be around.

Before you can lie to another, you must first lie to yourself.

Another example of a foundational value: I don’t believe in any short-term thinking or dealing. If I’m doing business with somebody and they think in a short-term manner with somebody else, then I don’t want to do business with them anymore. All benefits in life come from compound interest, 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.

Another one is I only believe in peer relationships. I don’t believe in hierarchical relationships. I don’t want to be above anybody, and I don’t want to be below anybody. If I can’t treat someone like a peer and if they can’t treat me like peer, I just don’t want to interact with them.

Another: I don’t believe in anger anymore. Anger was good when I was young and full of testosterone, but now I like the Buddhist saying, “Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at somebody.” I don’t want to be angry, and I don’t want to be around angry people. I just cut them out of my life. I’m not judging them. I went through a lot of anger too. They have to work through it on their own. Go be angry at someone else, somewhere else.

I don’t know if these necessarily fall into the classical definition of values, but it’s a set of things I won’t compromise on and I live my entire life by. I think everybody has values. Much of finding great relationships, great coworkers, great lovers, wives, husbands, is finding other people where your values line up. If your values line up, the little things don’t matter. Generally, I find if people are fighting or quarreling about something, it’s because their values don’t line up. If their values lined up, the little things wouldn’t matter.


How do you define wisdom?

Understanding the long-term consequences of your actions.

If wisdom could be imparted through words alone, we’d all be done here.