Nothing I’ve read packs so much wisdom into so few words as The Almanack of Naval Ravikant — a curated collection of Naval’s tweets, essays and podcasts. Here are my top Kindle highlights, categorized into themes (I know, a curation of a curation) —

The importance of decision-making and being the best at what you do in the age of leverage

  • Technology democratizes consumption but consolidates production. The best person in the world at anything gets to do it for everyone.
  • Forget 10x programmers. 1,000x programmers really exist, we just don’t fully acknowledge it. See @ID_AA_Carmack, @notch, Satoshi Nakamoto,
  • Leverage magnifies those differences even more. Being at the extreme in your art is very important in the age of leverage.
  • In an age of leverage, one correct decision can win everything. Without hard work, you’ll develop neither judgment nor leverage.
  • If you can be more right and more rational, you’re going to get nonlinear returns in your life. I love the blog Farnam Street because it really focuses on helping you be more accurate, an overall better decision-maker. Decision-making is everything.

Dealing with reality, not your desire of what reality should be

  • Part of making effective decisions boils down to dealing with reality.
  • The “monkey mind” will always respond with this regurgitated emotional response to what it thinks the world should be. Those desires will cloud your reality.
  • The number one thing clouding us from being able to see reality is we have preconceived notions of the way it should be.
  • The hard thing is seeing the truth. To see the truth, you have to get your ego out of the way because your ego doesn’t want to face the truth. The smaller you can make your ego, the less conditioned you can make your reactions, the less desires you can have about the outcome you want, the easier it will be to see the reality.
  • What we wish to be true clouds our perception of what is true. Suffering is the moment when we can no longer deny reality.
  • The more desire I have for something to work out a certain way, the less likely I am to see the truth. Especially in business, if something isn’t going well, I try to acknowledge it publicly and I try to acknowledge it publicly in front of my co-founders and friends and co-workers. Then, I’m not hiding it from anybody else. If I’m not hiding it from anybody, I’m not going to delude myself from what’s actually going on.

Avoiding bad decisions instead of trying to make good ones

  • 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.
  • If you cannot decide, the answer is no. And the reason is, modern society is full of options.

Following your intellectual curiosity and doing things for their own sake

  • Specific knowledge is found much more by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion. It’s not by going to school for whatever is the hottest job; it’s not by going into whatever field investors say is the hottest.
  • 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.
  • I only really want to do things for their own sake. That is one definition of art. Whether it’s business, exercise, romance, friendship, whatever, I think the meaning of life is to do things for their own sake. Ironically, when you do things for their own sake, you create your best work.

Going all-in when you find the thing that needs you the most

  • 99 percent of all effort is wasted.
  • 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.
  • The more you know, the less you diversify.
  • 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.

Helping others, building your personal brand and optimizing for the long term

  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • The classical virtues are all decision-making heuristics to make one optimize for the long term rather than for 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.
  • Impatience with actions, patience with results.
  • Anything you have to do, just get it done. Why wait? You’re not getting any younger. Your life is slipping away. You don’t want to spend it waiting in line. You don’t want to spend it traveling back and forth. You don’t want to spend it doing things you know ultimately aren’t part of your mission. When you do them, you want to do them as quickly as you can while doing them well with your full attention. But then, you just have to be patient with the results because you’re dealing with complex systems and many people. It takes a long time for markets to adopt products. It takes time for people to get comfortable working with each other. 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.
  • “Set up systems, not goals.”
  • If there’s something you want to do later, do it now. There is no “later.”
  • 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 work on things I know have long-term payout.

Desires and happiness

  • We are highly judgmental survival-and-replication machines. We constantly walk around thinking, “I need this,” or “I need that,” trapped in the web of desires. Happiness is the state when nothing is missing.
  • Happiness to me is mainly not suffering, not desiring, not thinking too much about the future or the past, really embracing the present moment and the reality of what is, and the way it is.
  • A rational person can find peace by cultivating indifference to things outside of their control.
  • 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 most of us realize that’s what it is. I think we go about desiring things all day long and then wonder why we’re unhappy.
  • 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.
  • it’s way more important to perfect your desires than to try to do something you don’t 100 percent desire.
  • When you’re young and healthy, you can do more. By doing more, you’re actually taking on more and more desires. You don’t realize this is slowly destroying your happiness.
  • Happiness is being satisfied with what you have. Success comes from dissatisfaction. Choose.
  • 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.
  • Pick one big desire in your life at any given time to give yourself purpose and motivation.
  • The phrase I probably use the most to myself in my head is just one word: “accept.”
  • Desire is suffering. (Buddha)

Peace and the present moment

  • We accept the voice in our head as the source of all truth. But all of it is malleable, and every day is new. Memory and identity are burdens from the past preventing us from living freely in the present.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Society and expectations

  • 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,
  • The enemy of peace of mind is expectations drilled into you by society and other people.
  • A personal metric: how much of the day is spent doing things out of obligation rather than out of interest?
  • The sooner you can dash their expectations, the better.
  • Courage isn’t charging into a machine gun nest. Courage is not caring what other people think.

Death and insignificance

  • Your life is a firefly blink in a night. You’re here for such a brief period of time. If you fully acknowledge the futility of what you’re doing, then I think it can bring great happiness and peace because you realize this is a game. But it’s a fun game. All that matters is you experience your reality as you go through life. Why not interpret it in the most positive possible way?
  • Any moment where you’re not having a great time, when you’re not really happy, you’re not doing anyone any favors. It’s not like your unhappiness makes them better off somehow. All you’re doing is wasting this incredibly small and precious time you have on this Earth. Keeping death on the forefront and not denying it is very important.
  • 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.

Comparing yourself to others and jealousy

  • If you’re not willing to do a wholesale, 24 / 7, 100 percent swap with who that person is, then there is no point in being jealous.

What to read

  • Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.
  • 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.
  • Read the greats in math, science, and philosophy. Ignore your contemporaries and news. Avoid tribal identification. Put truth above social approval.
  • I would read microeconomics all day long—Microeconomics 101.
  • Any book that survived for two thousand years has been filtered through many people. The general principles are more likely to be correct. I wanted to get back into reading these sorts of books.
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