The Big Idea: Take Naval seriously because he…questions nearly everything, can think from first principles, tests things well, is good at not fooling himself, changes his mind regularly, laughs a lot, thinks holistically, and thinks long-term.
Books make for great friends, because the best thinkers of the last few thousand years tell you their nuggets of wisdom.
Part I: Wealth
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.
Ignore people playing status games.
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.
All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.
Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.
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.
There is no skill called “business.” Avoid business magazines and business classes.
Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.
Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.
You should be too busy to “do coffee” while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.
Who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.
When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place.
Technology democratizes consumption but consolidates production. The best person in the world at anything gets to do it for everyone.
Society always wants new things.
You can improve sales skills.
Society, business, & money are downstream of technology, which is itself downstream of science. Science applied is the engine of humanity.
Focus on the thing that you are really into.
Specific knowledge is found much more by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion.
Escape competition through authenticity.
The most important skill for getting rich is becoming a perpetual learner.
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.
Play Long-Term Games with Long-Term People.
Embrace accountability and take business risks under your own name. Society will reward you with responsibility, equity, and leverage.
If you don’t own a piece of a business, you don’t have a path towards financial freedom.
If they can train you to do it, then eventually they will train a computer to do it.
Code is probably the most powerful form of permissionless leverage.
The new generation’s fortunes are all made through code or media.
Forget 10x programmers. 1,000x programmers really exist.
Learn to sell, learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
We waste our time with short-term thinking and busywork. Warren Buffett spends a year deciding and a day acting. That act lasts decades.
Always factor your time into every decision. How much time does it take?
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.
There are basically three really big decisions you make in your early life: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do.
What you really want is freedom.
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.
To me, creating businesses is play. I create businesses because it’s fun, because I’m into the product.
Even when I invest, it’s because I like the people involved.
Money is not the root of all evil; there’s nothing evil about it. But the lust for money is bad.
The best way to stay away from this constant love of money is to not upgrade your lifestyle as you make money.
For me, freedom is my number one value.
Build your character in a certain way, then your character becomes your destiny.
You are a trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term-thinking dealmaker.
In a long-term game, it’s positive sum. We’re all baking the pie together. We’re trying to make it as big as possible. And in a short-term game, we’re cutting up the pie.
I think business networking is a complete waste of time.
Show your craft, practice your craft, and the right people will eventually find you.
Karma is just you, repeating your patterns, virtues, and flaws until you finally get what you deserve.
Always pay it forward. And don’t keep count.
What making money will do is solve your money problems.
Amazing how many people confuse wealth and wisdom.
Hard work is really overrated.
Judgment is underrated.
“Clear thinker” is a better compliment than “smart.”
If you can’t explain it to a child, then you don’t know it.
The really smart thinkers are clear thinkers. They understand the basics at a very, very fundamental level.
Clear thinkers appeal to their own authority.
What we wish to be true clouds our perception of what is true.
The more desire I have for something to work out a certain way, the less likely I am to see the truth.
What you feel tells you nothing about 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.
I think creating identities and labels locks you in and keeps you from seeing the truth.
Optimize for the long term rather than for the short term.
I never ask if “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” I think “this is what it is” or “this is what it isn’t.”
Praise specifically, criticize generally.
The more you know, the less you diversify.
Collect Mental Models
The best mental models I have found came through evolution, game theory, and Charlie Munger.
Author and trader Nassim Taleb has great mental models.
Benjamin Franklin had great mental models.
I think being successful is just about not making mistakes.
Microeconomics and game theory are fundamental.
If you do not understand the principal-agent problem, you will not know how to navigate your way through the world.
“If you want it done, then go. And if not, then send.”
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.
If you can’t decide, the answer is no.
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.
Reading science, math, and philosophy one hour per day will likely put you at the upper echelon of human success within seven years.
The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower.
Reading a book isn’t a race — the better the book, the more slowly it should be absorbed.
Real people don’t read an hour a day. Real people, I think, read a minute a day or less.
“As long as I have a book in my hand, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time.”
The number of books completed is a vanity metric. As you know more, you leave more books unfinished. Focus on new concepts with predictive power.
Explain what you learned to someone else. Teaching forces learning.
It’s not about “educated” vs. “uneducated.” It’s about “likes to read” and “doesn’t like to read.”
Because most people are intimidated by math and can’t independently critique it, they overvalue opinions backed with math/pseudoscience.
The best way to have a high-quality foundation (you may not love this answer), but the trick is to stick to science and to stick to the basics.
Mathematics is a solid foundation. Similarly, the hard sciences are a solid foundation. Microeconomics is a solid foundation
Don’t begin with Richard Dawkins (even though I think he’s great). Read him later; read Darwin first.
If you want to learn macroeconomics, first read Adam Smith, read von Mises, or read Hayek.
There is ancient wisdom in books.
Any book that survived for two thousand years has been filtered through many people.
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.
Whatever happiness means to me, it means something different to you.
Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life.
It’s about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things.
To a tree, there is no concept of right or wrong, good or bad.
This is what I mean when I say happiness is a choice. If you believe it’s a choice, you can start working on it.
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.
A rational person can find peace by cultivating indifference to things outside of their control.
Happiness, love, and passion – aren’t things you find — they’re choices you make.
We crave experiences that will make us be present, but the cravings themselves take us from the present moment.
Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts.
For me these days, happiness is more about peace than it is about joy.
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.
Happiness is being satisfied with what you have. Success comes from dissatisfaction. Choose.
Confucius says you have two lives, and the second one begins when you realize you only have one.
The problem with getting good at a game, especially one with big rewards, is you continue playing it long after you should have outgrown it.
All of man’s troubles arise because he cannot sit in a room quietly by himself.
The enemy of peace of mind is expectations drilled into you by society and other people.
The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone.
Perhaps one reason why yoga and meditation are hard to sustain is they have no extrinsic value. Purely single-player games.
My most surprising discovery in the last five years is that peace and happiness are skills.
When working, surround yourself with people more successful than you.
When playing, surround yourself with people happier than you.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a fantastic introduction to being present, for people who are not religious.
The obvious one is meditation — insight meditation.
I try to get more sunlight on my skin.
I think dropping caffeine made me happier.
I think working out every day made me happier.
Recover time and happiness by minimizing your use of these three smartphone apps: phone, calendar, and alarm clock.
Use meditation, music, and exercise to reset your mood.
Politics, academia, and social status are all zero-sum games.
Increase serotonin in the brain without drugs: Sunlight, exercise, positive thinking, and tryptophan.
We don’t always get what we want, but sometimes what is happening is for the best.
Death is the most important thing that is ever going to happen to you. When you look at your death and you acknowledge it, rather than running away from it, it’ll bring great meaning to your life.
Whenever I get caught up in my ego battles, I just think of entire civilizations that have come and gone.
You’re going to die one day, and none of this is going to matter. So enjoy yourself. Do something positive. Project some love. Make someone happy. Laugh a little bit. Appreciate the moment. And do your work.
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.
Nothing like a health problem to turn up the contrast dial for the rest of life.
We’re still arguing over what the optimal diet is.
The combination of sugar and fat together is really deadly.
The harder the workout, the easier the day.
What habit would you say most positively impacts your life? The daily morning workout. That has been a complete game-changer.
In the morning, I work out, and however long it takes is how long it takes.
One month of consistent yoga and I feel 10 years younger.
Taking a cold shower for two minutes isn’t going to kill you. Having a cold shower helps you re-learn that lesson every morning.
Life-hack: When in bed, meditate. Either you will have a deep meditation or fall asleep.
I recommend meditating one hour each morning because anything less is not enough time to really get deep into it.
The advantage of meditation is recognizing just how out of control your mind is.
Awareness alone calms you down.
The ability to singularly focus is related to the ability to lose yourself and be present, happy, and (ironically) more effective.
Meditation is turning off society and listening to yourself.
Hiking is walking meditation.
Praying is gratitude meditation.
Showering is accidental meditation.
Sitting quietly is direct meditation.
The greatest superpower is the ability to change yourself.
When we’re older, we’re a collection of thousands of habits constantly running subconsciously.
Impatience with actions, patience with results.
Scott Adams famously said, “Set up systems, not goals.”
Science is, to me, the study of truth. It is the only true discipline because it makes falsifiable predictions. It actually changes the world.
If you read what everybody else is reading, you’re going to think what everyone else is thinking
Grind and sweat, toil and bleed, face the abyss. It’s all part of becoming an overnight success.
Number one: read. Read everything you can.
Read to develop skills of mathematics and persuasion.
Courage is not caring what other people think.
Value your time. It is all you have. It’s more important than your money.
Anger is its own punishment. An angry person trying to push your head below water is drowning at the same time.
People who live far below their means enjoy freedom.
What is the meaning and purpose of life?
Answer 1: It’s personal. You have to find your own meaning.
Answer 2: There is no meaning to life.
Answer 3: We globally accelerate entropy until the heat death of the Universe.
What are your core values? Honesty, long-term peer relationships.
I don’t believe in anger.
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.
The older the question, the older the answers.
Try everything, test it for yourself, be skeptical, keep what’s useful, and discard what’s not.
Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now, and we will never be here again.
Naval’s Recommended Reading
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
Skin in the Game by Nassim Taleb
The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Taleb
Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher by Richard Feynman
Thinking Physics: Understandable Practical Reality by Lewis Carroll Epstein
The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant
The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg
Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger by Charlie Munger
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant
Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living by Bruce Lee
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers, by Will Durant
The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Rick and Morty