Naval Ravikant & Shane Parrish [The Knowledge Project] Notes

Naval Ravikant: The Angel Philosopher

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On A “Typical Day”

  • Naval doesn’t have a typical day nor does he want a typical day. He’s trying to get rid of the concept of having to be at a specific place at a specific time. All he cares about is: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I being productive? Am I happy?
  • Wants to break away from the concept of 40-hour weeks or 80-hour weeks or 9 to 5s. Antiquated concepts for the modern world.

On Reading

  • Nobody forced Naval to read anything. Which made him love it more. Tendency to force children to read X or Y, which naturally makes them hate the process.
  • Does most of his reading on Kindle but books that he really likes he buys a physical copy.
  • A book isn’t an expense, it’s an investment.
  • A really good book can change your life.
  • “I don’t want to read everything; I just want to read the 100 great books over and over again”
  • What are the great books to you? Find the books that speak to you.
  • Books he’s reading (or rereading): 7 Brief Lessons in Physics, Sapiens, Jiddu Krishnamurthi or Osho (favorite philosophers), Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theories, Tools of Titans, Pre-suasion, The Lessons of History by William Durant, Story of Philosophy by William Durant, Emerson, Chesterfield, Leo Tolstoy, Alan Watts, God’s Debris by Scott Adams, Feynman, Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley, Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Naval reads when he’s bored of everything else. He’s not a disciplined person, so he doesn’t set hard and fast rules for reading. He loves it so he does it often.
  • Least favorite books: one good idea surrounded by hundreds or thousands of anecdotes. This is why he avoids business/self-help.
  • Treats books like he treats blogs. He doesn’t fill guilty about not finishing a book because he treats each chapter as a blog post.
  • Reads 1-2 hours a day, which means he’s in the top 0.0001% of readers. Real people don’t read an hour a day.
  • Make it an actionable habit. How you make it a habit doesn’t matter.
  • Just like the best workout for you is the one you’re most excited to do every day, the best book/blogs/Twitter to read is the one you’re excited to read every day
  • If you read what everyone else is reading, you’re going to think what everyone else is thinking
  • Everything people read these days are made for social approval.
  • On taking notes: he’s both lazy and believes in living in the present moment so he doesn’t take notes.
  • If he finds early on in the book he notices author making statements he believes to be factually untrue (or contradictions), then he puts book down because he doesn’t know what’s true and what’s false

On Habits

  • Human beings are creatures of habit. Young children are born with no habit looks then they find patterns to help get them through everyday life.
  • Habits are good. Allows you background process certain things so that you can solve creative problems.
  • The downside: we unconsciously pick up habits and we may not realize they’re bad for us. Our attitude in life, our happiness levels, our depression levels = habits. Do we judge people? Do we move? Do we exercise? Do we read? These are all habits.
  • You need habits to function, but we have a tendency to get attached to the identity these habits and then characterize yourself by then “I am depressed,” “I am shame,” etc.
  • Naval’s been through many habits and “failed” many habits.
  • Believes its BS “that you can’t break habits, you can only replace them.” You can un-condition yourself. You can untrain yourself. It’s just hard.
  • Usually the big habit changes come when there is strong desire to do the behavior
  • How/why he stopped drinking (or drinking, as much)
    • Availability – He realized “If I’m out at night where alcohol is being served, so stay in” …so he started a daily workout regime in the morning because you can’t workout in the mornings if you stay out late at night
    • Desire – Realized he was drinking because he was trying to survive longer in a social environment, he wasn’t particularly happy in.
    • Substitution Effect – Switched from hard alcohol to red wine
  • Doesn’t believe in “never” and “always”
  • Most positive habit that impacts his life: morning workout
  • Whenever you throw a good habit at someone, they’ll tell you “I don’t have time” which is a way of saying “It’s not a priority”
  • Made his #1 priority his health. Starts with physical health. Then mental health. Then spiritual health. Then family’s health.

On the Monkey Mind

  • A big habit he’s trying to cultivate – turning off the monkey mind.
  • Born a blank slate and living in the moment as a child. Once puberty hits, we desire for the first time. Because we desire, we form an ego/identity to get what we want. This is normal and healthy. But at some point, it gets out of control.
  • We are walking down the street talking to ourselves in our heads. If you were voicing these thoughts in your head, you’d be a madman and they’d lock you up. People are judging everything they see, living in fantasy worlds about what they desire tomorrow to look like, and they’re just pulled out of base reality.
  • What’s the monkey mind good for? Long range planning, problem solving, survival and replication machines that we are, but bad for our happiness.
  • Mind should be a tool/servant not the master. Not something that should control you.
  • People do this naturally. The people chasing thrills or flow states or orgasms are trying to get out of your own head.
  • Wants sense of self to be weaker and more muted so he can live more present in every day reality.
  • Allows him to seek happiness based on internal not external
  • When Naval was brushing his teeth in morning of podcast, he caught his mind playing a fantasy of Shane asking him questions and answering them.
  • Be completely lost in the present moment.
  • We don’t live enough in Awareness. We live in our heads. But this is programmed into you by your society and environment.
  • The mind is a muscle. You can train it to be fully focused on the present moment.
  • Goal of meditation is not to control your mental state. It’s to recognize how out of control your mind really is. From that awareness comes liberation.
  • We know intuitively we can control our mental state. That’s why people take drugs, psychedelics, smoke weed. The problem with these is external. You can control your mental state internally, but our tendency is to go to some thing or substance.
  • If you’re angry about an email or message, don’t respond for 24 hours. This is because you’re in a better mental state in 24 hours.
  • All the real scorecards are internal.
  • There is only the present moment.
  • The monkey mind will always respond with a regurgitated emotional response to what it thinks the world should be and that clouds reality. Happens a lot when people mix business and politics.

On Happiness

  • There are no answers that apply to everyone when it comes to happiness.
  • Naval’s definition keeps evolving (one year ago was different than it is today)
  • Happiness is a default state that happens when you remove the sense that something is missing in your life.
  • Happiness is the state when nothing is missing. Internal silence = content and happiness
  • People believe happiness is about positive thoughts. It’s not about positive thoughts because every positive thought holds within it a negative thought.
    • Every positive thought holds within it a seed of a negative thought (for example, if you “he’s attractive,” you’re implying that someone else is unattractive)
  • The more Naval accepts the current state of things, the less his mind is moving, the more happier and content he will be.
  • The happiness is found in the present moment.
  • Nature has no concept of happiness.
  • The complete and utter insignificance of the self. No expectation for life so you has no cause for happy/unhappy. Neutral state is perfection state. What you’re left with is not boring. It’s perfection.

On Foundational Values

  • Values = a set of things you will not compromise on.
    • Honesty. Anyone who he can’t be honest around, he doesn’t want to be around because he is forced to be past thinking or future thinking. It leads him to be less present in moment.
    • No short term thinking or dealing. Anyone who is around him who even deals with someone else in short term thinking, Naval doesn’t want to be around. All the benefits in life come from compound interest (money, fitness, relationships, etc.).
    • Peer relationships, not hierarchical relationships. Not above anyone or below anyone. If I can’t treat someone like a peer or they can’t treat me like a peer, then I don’t want to interact with anyone.
    • No anger. Good when he was young but doesn’t serve him anymore. “Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand waiting to throw at someone.” Cut angry people out of his life.
    • Freedom. Old definition for Naval: “freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want.” New definition: “freedom from reaction, freedom from being angry”
    • Everything that I did, everything that was done to me brought me to this exact moment.
  • If people are fighting or quarrelling, it’s because their values don’t line up.
  • “Praise specifically, criticize generally.”
  • Find a partner whose values line up with yours.
  • Marriage has changed his values a little but not a lot.
  • Having a child answers the question of what’s the meaning of life. Your values inherently become less selfish

On Mistakes

  • Mistakes are only obvious in hindsight.
  • Found he made the same series of mistakes by reviewing what he was doing year after year. Ask yourself: “2008, what was I doing/how I was feeling? 2009, what was I doing/how I was feeling?”
    • For Naval, everything he was doing… he should’ve been doing… but with less emotion and anger.
  • “You’re born, you have a set of sensory experiences, and then you die.” Life is going to play out the way it’s going to play out. Some good, some bad. How you interpret the experiences is up to you.

On Singularity

  • If we produce a general-purpose AI, that AI could hack its own code, make itself smarter and out evolve us to the point where we are either immortal or obsolete or something in between.
  • “Religion for nerds”
  • The people who are pushing it mostly the “armchair scientists.” Naval believes he knows enough to know how little we know.
  • There is so much complexity in nature and to believe we are going to go into a world of perfection once AI comes along is delusional.
  • On a long enough timescale, technology will advance to the point you can 3D print atomic bombs.
  • Naval believes Singularity is not going to happen in his lifetime.
  • Singularity gives you hope for the future, so you stop living in the present moment, so you start living for tomorrow.

On Education

  • Education system is completely obsolete.
    • Memorization doesn’t make sense when we have Google
    • Learning speeds are different for everyone.
    • Learning style are different for everyone.
  • Education system was created when there no such thing as self-guided learning.
  • Colleges and school come from a time period when books were rare. Knowledge was rare. Babysitting was rare. Crime was common. Violence was prevalent.
  • The Internet is the greatest web of knowledge ever created completely connected. If you actually desire to learn, everything you desire to learn is on there.
  • Schools create social relationships, but is this really the best way?
  • Other problem with schools is what do you choose to learn?
  • We don’t teach (and maybe we shouldn’t but worth considering):
    • Cooking
    • Nutrition
    • How to have happy, positive relationships
    • How keep your body healthy and fit
    • Meditation
    • Practical construction of technology
  • Kids are learning machines, they just need the tools.

On Decision Making

  • Someone who makes correct decisions 80% of the time rather than 70% of the time will be valued by the market 100x more.
    • Similar how a great baseball player might hit .300 and be worth 100x more than a .200 hitter.
  • If you can be more rational, then you’re going to non-linear returns on your life.
  • The best mental models Naval has come across have come from evolution, game theory, Charlie Munger, Nassim Taleb, Benjamin Franklin. Different models apply to different situations
  • We’re very bad at predicting the future.
  • Being successful is about not making mistakes (a Charlie Munger mental model).
  • Set up systems, not goals (Scott Adams)
  • Naval doesn’t use a checklist
  • In an ideal world, he would let no reaction pass without it being stripped, searched, examined and then let go. But the reality is that would take a lot of time. His goal is to unlearn habituated learned responses so he can make better decisions

On Money

  • Huge diminishing returns on money. When a billionaire gives away X amount of dollars, it means they “overshot.”
  • Money is a boat anchor around his neck. Because it is something you are then fearful of losing.
  • Instead of looking for money, he asks: “can I do something interesting and new? Can I create something brand new that the world needs that is congruent with my morals?” He’ll never have problems sleeping at night. He’ll never have to sell something he wouldn’t buy.

On Evaluating Integrity

  • Ways to figure out if someone has integrity:
    • Do they use long term thinking?
    • How do they treat other people?
    • Do they go around talking about how honest they are? Signal for dishonesty.
  • Negotiations with high integrity people is usually very easy.
  • Further Reading: The Art of Manipulation
  • First time, he warns them. Then, he just distances himself from them. Cuts them out of his life.
  • “The closer you get to me, the better your values have to be.”
  • To find a worthy mate, be worthy of a worthy mate (Charlie Munger)
  • If being ethical were profitable, everybody would do it
  • “Easy choices, hard life; hard choices, easy life” (Jerzy Gregorek)

On Evaluating Intelligence

  • Real knowledge is intrinsic
  • Fancy words + big concepts mean they probably don’t know what they’re talking about
  • The smartest people can explain things to a child (if you can’t explain it to a child, then you don’t know it)
  • If you are using words that your audience doesn’t know, you’re being dishonest and trying to pull one over their eyes
  • Further Reading: Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe, Thinking Physics by Lewis Carroll Epstein
  • The really smart thinkers are clear thinkers.

On Rational Buddhism

  • Try everything, test it, be skeptical, keep what’s useful, discard what’s not.
  • Buddhism + science/evolution
  • People will say, “Past lives you did this” or “chakra opening” …Naval chooses not to believe this because he hasn’t been able to verify it on his own. It may be true, it may be false… but it’s not falsifiable
  • You can map the tenets of Buddhism into a virtual reality simulation

On the Meaning of Life

  • Three options:
    • It’s personal. You have to figure out your own meaning.
    • There is no meaning/purpose of life. Nobody will remember you, so you have to create your own meaning. You have to decide if this is a play you’re just watching or is there a self-actualization dance I’m doing? Is there a specific thing I desire?
    • We’re headed towards a heat death of the universe where there’s no concentrated energy. Where everything is one. Entropy goes up. Disorder of the universe only goes up. We’re pushing towards all becoming one thing. As living systems, what we’re doing is accelerating getting to that state. “Unsatisfying if you’re looking for personal meaning in your life.”


  • On friendship: Use Buffet’s guide – “energy, intelligence, integrity”
  • On jealousy: Naval was cherry picking different traits… “I want his body, I want her money, his personality” …but you can’t pick and choose traits.
  • When you’re working on your internal stuff, people don’t get anything out of that. Because it doesn’t benefit anybody else but yourself. Only the individual transcends.
  • Big thing Naval stopped believing in: macroeconomics. It doesn’t make falsifiable predictions, so it goes against the essence of science. But he believes microeconomics and game theory are fundamental. He extends this beyond economics. Micro > Macro. Change yourself before changing your family, your neighbor, the world.
  • Identities and labels keep you locked away from the truth. If all your beliefs are able to be explained into neat little bundles, you should be highly suspicious because they are prepackaged.
  • One of the biggest ones to consider: how should society be organized? Everyone has certain beliefs. Capitalist, socialist, etc. But is there a single “right” culture? Hard to say.
  • If you’re taking information from this podcast and scribbling down notes to do other things… remember, you don’t need to do anything. All you should do is what you want to do.
  • No one is going to beat you at being you. Listen, absorb, but don’t try to emulate.
  • Each person is uniquely qualified in something. Find the business that needs you the most, find the project that needs you the most, the art that needs you the most (follow your life’s gifts). There’s something out there just for you.
  • The worst outcome in the world is not having self-esteem. If you don’t love yourself, who will?
  • There are no new ideas, but it’s the combination of Idea + Execution + Passion that makes a winner.
  • If you’re in startups… Go find the thing you can commit to for 10 years because that’s how long it will take to get a good outcome.
  • Great people have great outcomes. Follow them.
  • If he could change something about himself: Less timebound. Less greedy about signing up for things.
  • Science is the study of truth. Applied science becomes technology. Technology is what separates us from the animals. Mathematics is the language of science/nature.
  • Most common mistake: The idea or belief that you are going to be made happy by some external circumstance. We’re addicted to the desiring. We’re addicted that this external thing will bring us some happiness and joy.

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