The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

A short review

Naval Ravikant is the founder of AngelList and one of the most famous early stage investors in the world.

He has a unique perspective of the world; one that I became aware of via Tim Ferriss’ podcast. His views on philosophy, health, happiness, money, achievement and ego all bear thinking about. So when I heard of a book collecting his thoughts on these and other subjects, I snapped it up.

The Almanack, written(or curated) by Eric Jorgenson, collects Naval’s tweets, essays and interviews and shapes them into a somewhat cohesive whole. It is a dense book. It covers a lot of ground in not a lot of space. Sentences shaped for tweets are left in their original form, so it bears reading and digesting in small chunks.

There’s a lot I personally liked in there. The first half of the book is around wealth, and the second around happiness.

The first chapter, on how wealth is created, is brilliant in how it is both prescriptive and broad. It is one I find myself coming back to again and again. Similarly, there’s very actionable advice on why judgement is especially valued, and what can be done to improve one’s own.

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

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.

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

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

Naval’s advice feels true. It feels like the words of someone who’s tried, measured and refined their approaches to life over time.

For a book where the first half builds upon his life as a professional investor, the second feels equally grounded in experience.

His thoughts around happiness draw from the Stoics and Buddhists, and he’s distilled some of the best advice to be found in those traditions into that section. I especially like how he’s reframed happiness as peace, and provided ways to achieve the former via the latter.

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.

Naval restates happiness as peace and takes the stoic approach to managing equanimity in a difficult world.

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

He expands on this when discussing desire.

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. I like to stay aware of it, because then I can choose my desires very carefully. 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.

One final thing - the entire book is available to read online or download for free. If you like it in dead tree form, it’s available widely via Amazon or found in your local bookstore. Naval makes no money off it, and I am not surprised.

This book is a keeper for me - I read a bit every now and then, and it reminds me of some truth I have not grasped or have let slip.