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Naval Ravikant, The Angel Philosopher

personal-development, nfwyt58 min read

Naval Ravikant

Turnoff the monkey mind

When we are born, we are blank slates pretty much living in the moment. Don't get lost in the thoughts and play movie in the head. Planning is good but too much thinking and planning destroys happiness. Mind is a tool, you should be driving and controlling it, not the other way around.

Within a positive thought there is a little seed of negative thought. When someone says they are happy at some point they were sad. To me happiness is a absence of desire especially absence of desire of external things. Fewer desires i have I can accept the current state of things, less my mind is moving, mind is always in motion towards future or the past. More present I am more present and content I will be.

Children live in neutral state as they don't have personal preference or desires. Neutral state is the happy state until one get caught up in their heads.

My Foundational values

Values are something you don't compromise on.

  • Honesty is a core value. I want to be in a environment where I can just be me. I don't want to be in a environment where I have to watch what I say then I am not in the moment either I am future planning or past regretting. I don't want to be around anyone who I cant be honest with.
  • I don't like short term dealing or thinking as I think everything in life comes from compound interest whether it's money, love, health or habits. I want to be around people I know I am going to be around for rest of my life.
  • I believe in peer relationships not hierarchical relationship. I don't want to be above anybody or below anybody.
  • I don't want to around angry people, I just cut them out of my life.

If the values lineup little things don't matter

Radical honesty

I would combine radical honesty with old rule that Warren Buffett have. Praise specifically, criticize generally.

Praise by name, criticize by category
-- Warren Buffett

what would you say to your younger self exercise?

  1. 2008 What was I doing ? How was I feeling ?
  2. 2009 What was I doing ? How was I feeling ?

By doing the above there was remarkable consistency emerged, Everything I was doing I should have still done but with less emotion. I was lot angry then.

People do drugs to control their mental state or how they react.

Awareness about your mental state at present moment alone can calm you down. Why am I so out of control this awareness alone is enough.

Tools of learning are abundant and infinite but desire to learn is incredibly scarce.

Life is mostly about applying basics and only doing the advanced stuff in what you truly love and understand basics inside out.

Almost everything people read these day are designed for social approval. All best sellers are for social approval and social conditioning. Of you are looking for successful, happy such things you are looking for non average outcome, so you. Ant be reading the average thing. Returns in life are out of the heard.

People with high integrity are easy to deal with in business, they do give you some information which you don't need they do it because it's fair.

How to identify people who pretend they have knowledge

  • Real knowledge is built ground up
  • When people use fancy words and big concepts they don't know what are talking about
  • Mark of a genius is to explain complicated things in simple ways

If you cannot rederive from basics as you need it, you are lost.

When you are suffering and you are in pain, that’s the moment of truth that’s the moment you forced to embrace reality actually the way it is then you can make meaningful change and progress that you can do only when you start with the truth. Harder thing here is seeing the truth, to see the truth you have to get ego out of the way, smaller you can make your ego, less conditioned you can make your reactions, less desires you can have about the outcome you want the easier it is to see the reality. Clearer example of this you can see during difficult times(break up, job loss, business failure). Same situation you are good advising your friend, so you know the correct answer is but at that moment you can't see it. The problem is desire colliding with reality preventing them from seeing the truth.

Same is when making decisions, more desire that I have that I worked out a certain way less likely I see the truth.

Two-factor code against my calendar.
  • Current me always making promises for future me but current me is tired, exhausted, want to sleep, read some book and be with family
  • Future me is always this dynamic individual who always show up to every meeting and have lots of energy want to get lots of things done.

I need to two-factor my commitment may I should write it down and revisit it after 48 hours with clear mind and say do I commit to doing this.

Specialization is for insects

At some levels, all humans are broad, multi-variate but we get summarized but at deep level we know thats not true.

I like the model of life that ancients had, the Greeks, the Romans where you start out, when you are young you are going to school then you are going to war then you are running a business then you are supposed to serve in a senate or government then you become a philsopher. Here you try your hand at everything.

Everyone should be able to do everything. I don't belive in model, you should try to focus your life on one thing, you got one life just do everything you are gonna do.

Desire is a contract

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

So when i am unhappy, i look to see what is the underlying desire that i have thats not being fulfilled. But dont have too many, don't pick them up unconsciously, don't pick them up randomly, don't have thousands of them. Like my coffee is too cold, i wish it was warmer.

Pick your one overwhelming desire, its okay to suffer over that one but on the others you want to let them go so you can be calm, peaceful and relaxed then you perform a better job.

Correct criticism of captialism

Correct criticism of captialism is when it does not provide equal opportunity and so we should always strive to provide equal opportunity but people confuse with equal outcome. When you have equal outcome that can only be enfored through violence. Free people make different choices and when they make different choices they get different outcomes. If you don't let them suffer the consequences of bad choices or reap the rewards from good choices then you forcibly redistributing through violence.

Everybody should have equal opportunity and outcomes can be different due to different choices but equal opportunity should be given.

This create income inequality as it comes from outcome inequality and thats because you have made different choices.

Socialism comes from the heart

We are all socialist at heart, capitalism comes from the head. Nassim talebs says

I am, at the Fed level, libertarian; at the state level, Republican; at the local level, Democrat; and at the family and friends level, a socialist. If that saying doesn’t convince you of the fatuousness > of left vs. right labels, nothing will -- nassim taleb

Basically, larger the group of people you have mashed up together who have different interests, the less trust there is the more cheating there is, the better the incentives have to be aligned the better the system has to work the more you go towards the capitalism and smaller the group you are a socialist

Collection of Naval Ravikants tweetstorm

Came across Naval Ravikant accidently as one of youtubes random recomendations after listening for a few minutes, i was hooked to listen to his multi-hour podcasts. Good thing is some of his podcast had transcript available.

Here are the actual links,

  • Youtube here - Playspeed 1.5x.
  • Transcript of the podcast is available here

I have not copied the entire thing, just the part, i liked. I copy stuff i like because i know saving links like bookmarks doesn't work, when you need it.

Here is Naval Ravikants Tweetstorm collections

Seek Wealth, Not Money or Status

Wealth is assets that earn while you sleep

Wealth is the thing you want. Wealth is assets that earn while you sleep; it’s the factory of robots cranking out things. Wealth is the computer program running at night that’s serving other customers. Wealth is money in the bank that is reinvested into other assets and businesses.

A house can be a form of wealth, because you can rent it out; although that’s a less productive use of land than running a commercial enterprise.

My definition of wealth is oriented toward businesses and assets that can earn while you sleep.

Wealth buys your freedom

You want wealth because it buys you freedom—so you don’t have to wear a tie like a collar around your neck; so you don’t have to wake up at 7:00 a.m. to rush to work and sit in commute traffic; so you don’t have to waste your life grinding productive hours away into a soulless job that doesn’t fulfill you.

The purpose of wealth is freedom; it’s nothing more than that. To get the resources to do what you want, you have to stand out.

Money is how we transfer wealth

Money is how we transfer wealth. Money is social credits; it’s the ability to have credits and debits of other people’s time.

If I do my job right and create value for society, society says, “Oh, thank you. We owe you something in the future for the work that you did. Here’s a little IOU. Let’s call that money.”

That money gets debased because people steal the IOUs; the government prints extra IOUs;

Status is your rank in the social hierarchy

There are fundamentally two huge games in life that people play. One is the money game. Money is not going to solve all of your problems; but it’s going to solve all of your money problems. I think people know that. They realize that, so they want to make money.

At the same time, deep down many people believe they can’t make it; so they don’t want any wealth creation to happen. They virtue signal by attacking the whole enterprise, saying, “Well, making money is evil. You shouldn’t do it.”

But they’re actually playing the other game, which is the status game. They’re trying to be high status in the eyes of others by saying, “Well, I don’t need money. We don’t want money.”

Status is your ranking in the social hierarchy.

Wealth is a very positive-sum game as you always create wealth. On the other hand, Status is a zero-sum game meaning for number three to move to number two, number two has to move out of that slot. So, status is a zero-sum game.

For example, when journalists attack rich people or the tech industry, they’re really bidding for status. They’re saying, “No, the people are more important. And I, the journalist, represent the people, and therefore I am more important.”

The problem is, to win at a status game you have to put somebody else down. That’s why you should avoid status games in your life—because they make you into an angry combative person. You’re always fighting to put other people down and elevate yourself and the people you like.

Realize that most of the time when you’re trying to create wealth, you’re getting attacked by someone else and they’re trying to look like a goody-two shoes. They’re trying to up their own status at your expense.

They’re playing a different game. And it’s a worse game. It’s a zero-sum game, instead of a positive-sum game.

Make Abundance for the World

I think there is this notion that making money is evil, right? It’s rooted all the way back down to “money is the root of all evil.” The history of the world, in some sense, is this predator/prey relationship between makers and takers. There are people who go out and create things, and build things, and work hard on things.

Then there are people who come along with a sword, or a gun, or taxes, or crony capitalism, or Communism, or what have you. There’s all these different methods to steal.

Even in nature, there are more parasites than there are non-parasitical organisms. You have a ton of parasites in you, who are living off of you. The better ones are symbiotic, they’re giving something back. But there are a lot that are just taking. That’s the nature of how any complex system is built.

Most of the wealth in civilization, in fact all of it, has been created. It got created from somewhere. It got created from people. It got created from technology. It got created from productivity. It got created from hard work. This idea that it’s stolen is this horrible zero-sum game that people who are trying to gain status play.

Everyone can be rich

But the reality is everyone can be rich. We can see that by seeing, that in the First World, everyone is basically richer than almost anyone who was alive 200 years ago.

200 years ago nobody had antibiotics. Nobody had cars. Nobody had electricity. Nobody had the iPhone. All of these things are inventions that have made us wealthier as a species.

I don’t think capitalism is evil. Capitalism is actually good. It’s just that it gets hijacked. It gets hijacked by improper pricing of externalities. It gets hijacked by improper yields, where you have corruption, or you have monopolies.

Making Money Isn’t About Luck

A lot of people think making money is about luck. It’s not. It’s about becoming the kind of person that makes money.

I like to think that if I lost all my money and if you drop me on a random street in any English-speaking country, within 5, 10 years I’d be wealthy again. Because it’s a skill set that I’ve developed and I think anyone can develop.

There’s four kinds of luck that we’re talking about. This came from a book. Marc Andreessen, wrote a blog post about it.

1. Blind luck

The first kind of luck you might say is blind luck. Where I just got lucky because something completely out of my control happened. That’s fortune, that’s fate.

2. Luck from hustling

Then there’s luck that comes through persistence, hard work, hustle, motion. Which is when you’re running around creating lots of opportunities, you’re generating a lot of energy, you’re doing a lot of things, lots of things will get stirred up in the dust.

It’s almost like mixing a petri dish and seeing what combines. Or mixing a bunch of reagents and seeing what combines. You’re generating enough force and hustle and energy that luck will find you.

We, as a group, you could argue, got together because of that. Nenad had put up these great videos online, I saw them on Twitter. In that sense, he generated his own luck by creating videos until people like me keep finding him.

3. Luck from preparation

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

4. Luck from your unique character

Then the last kind of luck is the weirdest, hardest kind. But that’s what we want to talk about. Which is where you build a unique character, a unique brand, a unique mindset, where then luck finds you.

For example, let’s say that you’re the best person in the world at deep sea underwater diving. You’re known to take on deep sea underwater dives that nobody else will even attempt to dare.

Then, by sheer luck, somebody finds a sunken treasure ship off the coast. They can’t get it. Well, their luck just became your luck, because they’re going to come to you to get that treasure. You’re going to get paid for it.

Now, that’s an extreme example. The person who got lucky by finding the treasure chest, that was blind luck. But them coming to you and asking you to extract it and having to give you half, that’s not luck.

You created your own luck. You put yourself in a position to be able to capitalize on that luck. Or to attract that luck when nobody else has created that opportunity for themselves. When we talk about “without getting lucky,” we want to be deterministic, we don’t want to leave it to chance.

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

Nivi: Do you want to elaborate a little bit more on the idea that in a 1,000 parallel universes you want to get rich in 999 of them? I think some people are going to see that and say, “that sounds impossible, it sounds like it’s too good to be true.”

Naval: No, I don’t think it’s impossible. I think that you may have to work a little bit harder at it given your starting circumstances. I started as a poor kid in India, so if I can make it, anybody can, in that sense.

Now, obviously, I had all my limbs and I had my mental faculties and I did have an education. There are some prerequisites you can’t get past. But if you’re listening to this video or podcast, you probably have the requisite means at your disposal, which is a functioning body and a functioning mind.

And I’ve encountered plenty of bad luck along the way. The first little fortune that I made, I instantly lost in the stock market. The second little fortune that I made, or I should have made, I basically got cheated by my business partners. It’s only the third time around has been a charm.

And, even then, it has been in a slow and steady struggle. I haven’t made money in my life in one giant payout. It’s always been a whole bunch of small things piling up. It’s more about consistently creating wealth by creating businesses, including opportunities and creating investments. It hasn’t been a giant one-off thing.

Wealth stacks up one chip at a time, not all at once

My personal wealth has not been generated by one big year. It stacks up little bit, chips at a time. More options, more businesses, more investments, more things that I can do.

Same way that someone like Nenad, illacertus, he’s building his brand online. He’s building videos. It’s not like any one video is going to suddenly shower him with riches overnight. It’s going to be a long lifetime of learning, of reading, of creating that’s going to compound.

We’re talking about getting wealthy so you can retire, so you have your freedom. Not retire in the sense that you don’t do anything. But in the sense that you don’t have to be any place you don’t want to be, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, you can wake up when you want, you can sleep when you want, you don’t have a boss. That’s freedom.

Make Luck Your Destiny

Build your character so opportunity finds you

One of the things I think that is important to making money, when you want the kind of reputation that makes people do deals through you. I use the example of like, if you’re a great diver then treasure hunters will come and give you a piece of the treasure for your diving skills.

If you’re a trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term thinking deal maker, then when other people want to do deals but they 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 or offer you a unique deal just because of the integrity and reputation that you have built up.

Warren Buffett, he gets offered deals, and he gets to buy companies, and he gets to buy warrants, and bailout banks and do things that other people can’t do because of his reputation.

You have to be a little eccentric to be out on the frontier by yourself

Nivi: Yeah, the two quotes that I’ve seen that express this kind of luck in addition to that Benjamin Disraeli one, are this one from Sam Altman where he said, “extreme people get extreme results.” I think that’s pretty nice. And then there’s this other one from Jeffrey Pfeffer, who is a professor at Stanford that, “you can’t be normal and expect abnormal returns.” I’ve always enjoyed that one too.

Naval: Yeah. And one quote that I like which is the exact opposite of that is, “play stupid games win stupid prizes.” A lot of people spend a lot of their time playing social games like on Twitter where you’re trying to improve your social standing and you basically win stupid social prizes which are worthless.

You Won’t Get Rich Renting Out Your

Nivi: Next you go into more specific details on how you can actually get rich, and how you can’t get rich. The first point was about how you’re not going to get rich: “You are not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity, a piece of the business to gain your financial freedom.”

Naval: This is probably one of the absolute most important points. People seem to think that you can create wealth, and make money through work. And it’s probably not going to work. There are many reasons for that.

But the most basic is just that your inputs are very closely tied to your outputs. In almost any salaried job, even at one that’s paying a lot per hour like a lawyer, or a doctor, you’re still putting in the hours, and every hour you get paid.

So, what that means is when you’re sleeping, you’re not earning. When you’re retired, you’re not earning. When you’re on vacation, you’re not earning. And you can’t earn non-linearly.

If you look at even doctors who get rich, like really rich, it’s because they open a business. They open like a private practice. And that private practice builds a brand, and that brand attracts people. Or they build some kind of a medical device, or a procedure, or a process with an intellectual property.

So, essentially you’re working for somebody else, and that person is taking on the risk, and has the accountability, and the intellectual property, and the brand. So, they’re just not gonna pay you enough. They’re gonna pay you the bare minimum that they have to, to get you to do their job. And that can be a high bare minimum, but it’s still not gonna be true wealth where you’re retired.

Renting out your time means you’re essentially replaceable

Replaceable because you’re now doing a set role. Most set roles can be taught. If they can be taught like in a school, then eventually you’re gonna be competing with someone who’s got more recent knowledge, who’s been taught, and is coming in to replace you.

You must own equity to gain your financial freedom

So everybody who really makes money at some point owns a piece of a product, or a business, or some kind of IP. That can be through stock options, so you can be working at a tech company. That’s a fine way to start.

But usually the real wealth is created by starting your own companies, or by even investors. They’re in an investment firm, and they’re buying equity. These are much more the routes to wealth. It doesn’t come through the hours.

You want a career where your inputs don’t match your outputs

You really just want a job, or a career, or a profession where your inputs don’t match your outputs. Businesses that have high creativity and high leverage tends to be ones where you could do an hour of work, and it can have a huge effect. Or you can do 1,000 hours of work, and it can have no effect. An engineer who is working on the wrong thing, or not quite as good, or just not as creative, or thoughtful, or whatever, can work for an entire a year, and every piece of code they ship ends up not getting used. Customers don’t want it.

Take example of an lumberjack, the best lumberjack in the world may be like 3x better than one of the worst lumberjacks, right? It’s not gonna be a gigantic difference. So, you want to look for professions and careers where the inputs and outputs are highly disconnected. This is another way of saying that you want to look for things that are leveraged. And by leveraged I don’t mean financial leveraged alone, like Wall Street uses, and that has a bad name. I’m just talking about tools. We’re using tools.

Tools and leverage are what create this disconnection between inputs and outputs. Creativity, so the higher the creativity component of a profession, the more likely it is to have disconnected inputs and outputs.

Live Below Your Means for Freedom

People living below their means have freedom

Its very important, just to not upgrade your lifestyle all the time. To maintain your freedom. And it just gives you freedom of operation. You basically, once you make a little bit of money, you still want to be living like your old self, so that just the worry goes away. So, don’t run out to upgrade that house, and lifestyle, and all that stuff.

The most dangerous things are heroin and a monthly salary

Let’s say you’re getting paid $1,000 an hour. The problem is, is that when you go into a work lifestyle like that, you don’t just suddenly go from making $20 an hour to making $1,000 an hour. That’s a progression over a long career.

One subtle problem is that as you upgrade your lifestyle as you make more money is you get comfortable and fall in wage slave trap which will never make you wealthy.

Give Society What It Doesn’t Know How to Get

Society will pay you for creating what it wants and delivering it at scale

Money is IOUs from society saying, “You did something good in the past. Now here’s something that we owe you for the future.” And so society will pay you for creating things that it wants.

Almost everything that’s in your house, in your workplace, and on the street used to be technology at one point in time. There was a time when oil was a technology, that made J.D. Rockefeller rich. There was a time when cars were technology, that made Henry Ford rich.

Technology is just the set of things, as Danny Hillis said, that don’t quite work yet. Once something works, it’s no longer technology. So, society always wants new things.

If you want to be wealthy, you have to figure out which one of those things you can provide for society, that it does not yet know how to get, but it will want, that’s natural to you, and within your skillset, within your capabilities.

And then you have to figure out how to scale it. Because if you just build one of it, that’s not enough. You’ve got to build thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, or billions of them. So, everybody can have one.

Steve Jobs, and his team of course figured out that society would want smartphones. A computer in their pocket that had all the phone capability times 100, and be easy to use. So, they figured out how to build that, and then they figured out how to scale it.

And they figured out how to get one into every First World citizen’s pocket, and eventually every Third World citizen too. And so because of that they’re handsomely rewarded, and Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

Entrepreneur’s job is to try to bring the high end to the mass market

It starts as high end. First it starts as an act of creativity. First you create it just because you want it. You want it, and you know how to build it, and you need it. And so you build it for yourself. Then you figure out how to get it to other people. And then for a little while rich people have it.

Like, for example rich people had chauffeurs, and then they had black town cars. And then Uber came along, and everyone’s private driver is available to everybody. And now you can even see Uber pools that are replacing shuttle buses because it’s more convenient. And then you get scooters, which are even further down market of that. So, you’re right. It’s about distributing what rich people used to have to everybody.

But the entrepreneur’s job starts even before that, which is creation. Entrepreneurship is essentially an act of creating something new from scratch. Predicting that society will want it, and then figuring out how to scale it, and get it to everybody in a profitable way, in a self-sustaining way.

Diversity that becomes a creative superpower

Given that each person has different skillsets, different interests, different obsessions. And it’s that diversity that becomes a creative superpower. So, each person can be creatively superb at their own unique thing.

Escape competition through authenticity

when you’re competing with people it’s because you’re copying them. It’s because you’re trying to do the same thing. But every human is different. Don’t copy.

I know we’re mimetic creatures, and René Girard has a whole mimesis theory. But it’s much easier than that. Don’t imitate. Don’t copy. Just do your own thing. No one can compete with you on being you. It’s that simple.

Play Long-term Games With Long-term People

Longterm 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.

Pick Partners With Intelligence, Energy and Integrity

From Sam Altman a while back, where he was talking about delegation, and he was saying, “One of the important things for delegation is, delegate to people who are actually good at the thing that you want them to do.”

Integrity is what someone does, despite what they say they do

Reading signals is very, very important. Signals are what people do despite what they say. So, it’s important to pay attention to subtle signals. We all know that socially if someone treats a waiter, or waitress in a restaurant really badly, then it’s only a matter of time until they treat you badly.

If somebody screws over an enemy, and is vindictive towards them, well it’s only a matter of time before they redefine you from friend to enemy, and you feel their wrath. So, angry, outraged, vindictive, short-term thinking people are essentially that way in many interactions in real life.

People are oddly consistent. That’s one of the things you learn about them. So, you want to find long-term people. You want to find people who seem irrationally ethical.

For example, I had a friend of mine whose company I invested in, and the company failed, and he could have wiped out all of the investors. But he kept putting more and more personal money in. Through three different pivots he put personal money in until the company finally succeeded. And in the process, he never wiped out the investors.

And I was always grateful to him for that. I said, “Wow, that’s amazing that you were so good to your investors. You didn’t wipe them out.” And he got offended by that. He said, “I didn’t do it for you. I didn’t do it for my investors. I did it for me. It’s my own self-esteem. It’s what I care about. That’s how I live my life.” That’s the kind of person you want to work with.

Self-esteem is the reputation that you have with yourself.

good people, moral people, ethical people, easy to work with people, reliable people, tend to have very high self-esteem because they have very good reputations with themselves, and they understand that.

It’s not ego. Self-esteem and ego are different things. Because ego can be undeserved, but self-esteem at least you feel like you lived up to your own internal moral code of ethics.

And so it’s very hard to work with people who end up being low integrity. And it’s hard to figure out who is high integrity and low integrity. Generally, the more someone is saying that they’re moral, ethical, and high integrity, the less likely they are to be that way.

It’s very much like status signalling. If you overtly bid for status, if you overtly talk about being high status, that is a low status move. If you openly talk about how honest, reliable, and trustworthy you are, you’re probably not that honest and trustworthy. That is a characteristic of con men.

Partner With Rational Optimists

Essentially, to create things, you have to be a rational optimist. Rational in the sense that you have to see the world for what it really is. And yet you have to be optimistic about your own capabilities, and your capability to get things done.

There’s a classic military line, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.” And these people want a fourth option, where they don’t want to lead, they don’t want to follow, but they don’t want to get out of the way. They want to tell you why the thing is not going to work.

And all the really successful people I know have a very strong action bias. They just do things. The easiest way to figure out if something is viable or not is by doing it. At least do the first step, and the second step, and the third, and then decide.

So, if you want to be successful in life, creating wealth, or having good relationships, or being fit, or even being happy, you need to have an action bias towards getting what you want.

Rational optimists

You have to be optimistic about it. Not irrationally. You know, there’s nothing worse than someone who is foolhardy and chasing something that’s not worth it.

That’s why I say rational optimist. But you have to be rational. Know all the pitfalls. Know the downsides, but still keep your chin up.

You’ve got one life on this planet. Why not try to build something big? This is the beauty of Elon Musk, and why I think he inspires so many people, it’s just because he takes on really, really big audacious tasks. And he provides an example for people to think big.

And it takes a lot of work to build even small things. I don’t think the corner grocery store owner is working any less hard than Elon Musk, or pouring any less sweat and toil into it. Maybe even more.

But for whatever reason, education, circumstance, they didn’t get the chance to think as big, so the outcome is not as big. So, it’s just better to think big. Obviously, rationally, within your means, stay optimistic.

We descended from pessimists

Historically, if you go back 2,000 years, 5,000 years, 10,000 years, two people are wandering through a jungle, they hear a tiger. One’s an optimist, and says, “Oh, it’s not headed our way.” The other one says, “I’m a pessimist, I’m out of here.” And the pessimist runs and survives, and the optimist gets eaten. So, we’re descended from pessimists. We’re genetically hardwired to be pessimists.

Adapting for modern society means overriding your pessimism, and taking slightly irrationally optimistic bets because the upside is unlimited

It made sense to be pessimistic in the past. It makes sense to be optimistic today, especially if you’re educated and living in a First World country. Even a Third World country. I actually think the economic opportunities in Third World countries are much larger.

Think about it, if you fail, what’s the big deal? You lost a few million dollars of investor money, and they’ve got plenty more, and that’s the bet they take on the chances that you will succeed.

The one thing you have to avoid is the risk of ruin. Ruin means stay out of jail. So, don’t do anything that’s illegal, physically dangerous and things that can cause you to lose all of your capital, all of your savings.

Don’t gamble everything on one go. But take rationally optimistic bets with big upside.

Arm Yourself With Specific Knowledge

If you want to make money you have to get paid at scale. And why you, that’s accountability, at scale, that’s leverage, and just you getting paid as opposed to somebody else getting paid , that’s specific knowledge.

So, specific knowledge is probably the hardest thing to get across in this whole tweetstorm, and it’s probably the thing that people get the most confused about.

The thing is that we have this idea that everything can be taught, everything can be taught in school. And it’s not true that everything can be taught. In fact, the most interesting things cannot be taught. But everything can be learned. And very often that learning either comes from some innate characteristics in your DNA, or it could be through your childhood where you learn soft skills which are very, very hard to teach later on in life, or it’s something that is brand new so nobody else knows how to do it either, or it’s true on the job training because you’re pattern matching into highly complex environments, basically building judgment in a specific domain.

Later in life, let’s say your post 20, 21, 22, you almost don’t get to choose which specific knowledge you have. Rather, you get to look at what you have already built by that point in time, and then you can build on top of it.

The first thing to notice about specific knowledge is that you can’t be trained for it.

So, you really want to pick up specific knowledge, you need your schooling, you need your training to be able to capitalize on the best specific knowledge, but the part of it that you’re going to get paid for is the specific knowledge.

So, 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 for going into whatever field investors say is the hottest.

Very often specific knowledge is at the edge of knowledge. It’s also stuff that’s just being figured out or is really hard to figure out.

So, if you’re not 100% into it somebody else who is 100% into it will outperform you. And they won’t just outperform you by a little bit, they’ll outperform you by a lot because now we’re operating the domain of ideas, compound interest really applies and leverage really applies.

Also note that your specific knowledge is observed and often observed by other people who know you well and revealed in situations rather than something that you come up with. Eg:- Parents and other people who were close to you know, what skills/talent comes naturally to you.

Specific Knowledge Is Highly Creative or Technical

Specific knowledge is taught on the job or through apprenticeships. And that’s why the best businesses, the best careers are the apprenticeship or self-taught careers, because those are things society still has not figured out how to train and automate yet.

The classic line here is that Warren Buffett went to Benjamin Graham when he got out of school. Benjamin Graham was the author of the Intelligent Investor and sort of modernized or created value investing as a discipline. And Warren Buffett went to Benjamin Graham and offered to work for him for free.

And Graham said, “Actually, you’re overpriced, free is overpriced.” And Graham was absolutely right. When it comes to a very valuable apprenticeship like the type that Graham was going to give Buffet, Buffet should have been paying him a lot of money. That right there tells you that those are skills worth having.

Specific knowledge is built over the year, theres a lot of practice and one would read a lot of books on the topic and you should have employed it in everyday life. Some specific knowlegdge works are highly creative, has elements of some technicals in it and its never going to be automated.

Specific knowledge can only be built by obsession, interest, and time spent in that domain. It can’t just be read straight out of a single book, nor can it be taught in a single course, nor can it be programmed into a single algorithm.

I actually think the best way is just to follow your own obsession. And somewhere in the back of your mind, you can realize that, actually, this obsession I like and I’ll keep an eye out for the commercial aspects of it.

But I think if you go around trying to build it a little too deliberately, if you become too goal-oriented on the money, then you won’t pick the right thing. You won’t actually pick the thing that you love to do, so you won’t go deep enough into it.

Also build specific knowlege where you are a natural and you want to double down on that.

Learn to Sell, Learn to Build

This is a very broad category. It’s two broad categories. One is building the product. Which is hard, and it’s multivariate. It can include design, it can include development, it can include manufacturing, logistics, procurement, it can even be designing and operating a service. It has many, many definitions.

But in every industry, there is a definition of the builder. In our tech industry it’s the CTO, it’s the programmer, it’s the software engineer, hardware engineer.

The other side of it is sales. Again, selling has a very broad definition. Selling doesn’t necessarily just mean selling individual customers, but it can mean marketing, it can mean communicating, it can mean recruiting, it can mean raising money, it can mean inspiring people, it could mean doing PR. It’s a broad umbrella category.

The Silicon Valley model is a builder and seller

In Silicon Valley startup model, you have two founders, one of whom is world class at selling, and one of whom is world class at building. This works.

Examples are, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak with Apple, Gates and Allen probably had similar responsibilities early on with Microsoft. Larry and Sergey probably a little different there because that was a very technical product delivered to end users through a simple interface.

But generally, you will see this pattern repeated over and over. There’s a CEO and CTO combo.

The ultimate is when one individual can do both. That’s when you get true superpowers. That’s when you get people who can create entire industries.

The living example is Elon Musk. He may not necessarily be building the rockets himself, but he understands enough that he actually makes technical contributions. He understands the technology well enough that no one’s going to snow him on it, and he’s not running around making claims that he doesn’t think he can’t eventually deliver. He may be optimistic on the timelines but he thinks this is within reasonableness for delivery.

Marc Andreessen was also in this domain. He may not have had enough confidence in his sales skills, but he was the programmer who wrote Netscape Navigator, or a big chunk of it. So, I think the real giants in any field are the people who can both build and sell.

Building is a thing that a sales person can’t pick up later in life. It requires too much focused time. But a builder can pick up selling a little bit later, especially if they were already innately wired to be a good communicator. Bill Gates famously paraphrases this as, “I’d rather teach an engineer marketing, than a marketer engineering.”

I think if you start out with a building mentality and you have building skills and it’s still early enough in your life, or you have enough focused time that you think you can learn selling, and you have some natural characteristics or you’re a good salesperson, then you can double down on those.

Sales skill could be seen differently than traditional like you may not be good at selling to mass audiences but you are good at one-to-one. So could use that while meeting investors, fund-raising or even recruiting. If you are good at writing, you could use that as well.

Long term, people who understand the underlying product and how to build it and can sell it, these are catnip to investors, these people can break down walls if they have enough energy, and they can get almost anything done.

Building is exhausting, it is a focus job and it’s hard to stay current because there’s always new people, new products coming up who have newer tools, and frankly more time because it’s very intense, it’s a very focused task. Sales skills on the other hand actually scale better over time and builds reputation.

If you had to pick one, you can start with building and then transition to selling. This is a cop-out answer, but I think that is actually the right answer.

Read What You Love Until You Love to Read

The most important thing is just to learn how to educate yourself and the way to educate yourself is to develop a love for reading. Read what you love until you love to read.

Read original and foundational books like

  • Instead of business book, pick up Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.
  • Instead of book on biology or evolution that’s written today, pick Darwin’s Origin of the Species
  • Instead of reading a book on biotech right now, pick up The Eighth Day of Creation by Watson and Crick.
  • Instead of reading on cosomology from todays, pick pick up Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces and start with basic physics.
Dont fear any book

All of us have that memory of when we were sitting in class and we’re learning mathematics, and it was all logical and all made sense until at one point the class moved too fast and we fell behind.

In todays world, means of learning are abundant; the desire to learn is scarce.

Children have a natural curiosity. If you go to a young child who’s first learning language, they’re pretty much always asking: What’s this? What’s that? Why is this? Who’s that? They’re always asking questions. In todays world, in raising children and education system replaces curiosity with compliance and basically you get an obedient factory worker, but you no longer get a creative thinker.

The Foundations Are Math and Logic

Foundational things are principles, they’re algorithms, they’re deep seated logical understanding where you can defend it or attack it from any angle. And that’s why microeconomics is important because macroeconomics is a lot of memorization, a lot of macro bullshit.

If you understand logic and mathematics, then you have the basis for understanding the scientific method. Once you understand the scientific method, then you can understand how to separate truth from falsehood in other fields and other things that you’re reading.

Be very careful about reading other people’s opinions and even be careful when reading facts because so-called facts are often just opinions with a veneer around them.

What you are really looking for are algorithms. What you are really looking for is understanding. It’s better to go through a book really slowly and struggle and stumble and rewind, than it is to fly through it quickly and say, “Well, now I’ve read 20 books, I’ve read 30 books, I’ve read 50 books in the field.”

It’s like Bruce Lee said, “I don’t fear the man who knows a thousand kicks and a thousand punches, I fear the man who’s practiced one punch ten thousand times or one kick ten thousand times.” It’s that understanding that comes through repetition and through usage and through logic and foundations that really makes you a smart thinker.

To lay a foundation for learning for the rest of your life I think you need two things,

  1. Practical persuasion
  2. Get some deep understanding of some complex topic

I would say that the five most important skills are of course, reading, writing, arithmetic, and then as you’re adding in, persuasion, which is talking. And then finally, I would add computer programming just because it’s an applied form of arithmetic that just gets you so much leverage for free in any domain that you operate in.

There’s No Actual Skill Called “Business”

There’s no actual skill called business, it’s too generic. It’s like a skill called “relating.” Like “relating to humans.” That’s not a skill, it’s too broad.

Business schools teach/show case studies they are actually anecdotes, and they’re trying to help you pattern match by throwing lots of data points at you, but the reality is, you will never understand them fully until you’re actually in that position yourself.

In learning, you have to optimize learning curve. A lot of people think they can become really skilled at something by watching others do it, or even by reading about others doing it. In the business school case, they study other people’s businesses, but in reality, you’re going to learn a lot more about running a business by operating your own lemonade stand or equivalent. Or even opening a little retail store down the street.

Learn to put thousands of iterations across different things not on the same. If you do the same thing thousands of times, you are not going to learn anything new. Say if you start a retail market down the street, try new marketing experiments in the store all the time. It will mean you will be changing inventory, changing brands, changing offers, changing customer reaching channels, changing being open at different hours and all this will drive foot traffic.

Message is, the learning curve is across iterations [not iterations]. The more iterations you can have, the more shots on goal you can have, the faster you’re going to learn. It’s not just about the hours put in.

The world offers opportunity to do the same thing over and over and over again. But really, we’d be better served if we went off and found ways to do new things from scratch. And doing something new the first time is painful, because you’re wandering into uncertain territory and high odds are that you will fail. So you just have to get very, very comfortable with frequent small failures.

Most people want to make little bits of money every day and in exchange they’ll tolerate lots of blow-up risk, they’ll tolerate going completely bankrupt.

We’re evolved for small victories all the time but that becomes very expensive. That’s where the crowd is. That’s where the herd is. So, if you’re willing to bleed a little bit every day but in exchange you’ll win big later, you will do better.

They’re not making money, they’re losing money, they’re constantly stressed out, all the responsibility is upon them, but when they win they win big. On average they’ll make more.

Embrace Accountability to Get Leverage

To get rich, you’re going to 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 or assets to manage or machines.

So to get these things, you have to build up credibility and you have to do those 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.

Accountability is quite important, and when you’re working to build a product or you’re working in a team or you’re working in a business, we constantly have drummed into our heads how important it is to be part of a team. Absolutely agree with that.

A lot of our training socially is telling us to not stick our necks out of the crowd. There’s a saying that I hear from our Australian friends that the tall poppy gets cut. Don’t stick your neck out, but I would say that actually a really, really well-functioning team is small and has clear accountability for each of the different portions.

You can say, “Okay, this person’s responsible for building the product. This person’s responsible for the messaging. This person’s responsible for raising money. This person’s responsible for the pricing strategy and maybe the online advertising.” So if somebody screws up, you know exactly who’s responsible. While at the same time if something goes really well, you also know exactly who’s responsible.

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

Take Accountability to Earn Equity

If you have high accountability, you’re less replaceable

Accountability is important because that’s how you’re going to get leverage. That’s how you’re going to get credibility. It’s also how you’re going to get equity. You’re going to get a piece of the business.

When you’re negotiating with other people, ultimately if someone else is making a decision about how to compensate you, that decision will be based on how replaceable you are. If you have high accountability, that makes you less replaceable. Then they have to give you equity, which is a piece of the upside.

If you look at the hierarchy of capital in a company, the employees get paid first. They get paid the salary first. In legal [bankruptcy] proceedings, the salaries are sacrosanct. If you’re a board member and the company spends too much money and has back salaries to pay, the government can go after you personally to pay back the salaries. The employees get the most security, but in exchange for that security, they don’t have as much upside.

Next in line would be the debt holders who are maybe the bankers who lend money to the company for operations and they need to make their fixed coupon every month or every year, but they don’t get much more upside beyond that. They might be making 5, 10, 15, 20, 25% a year, but that’s what their upside is limited to.

Finally there are the equity holders. These people are actually going to get most of the upside. Once the debt holders are paid off and the salaries are paid off, whatever remains goes to them.

Labor and Capital Are Old Leverage

Society overvalues labor leverage

The oldest form of leverage is labor, which is number of people working for you.

This is why your parents are impressed when you get a promotion and you have lots of people working underneath you. This is why when a lot of naive people, when you tell them about your company, they’ll say, “How many people work there?” They’ll use that as a way to establish credibility. They’re trying to measure how much leverage and impact you actually have.

Or when someone starts a movement, they’ll say how many people they have or how big the army is. We just automatically assume that more people is better.

I would argue that 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.

You really want to stay out of labor-based leverage. You want the minimum amount of people working with you that are going to allow you to use the other forms of leverage, which I would argue are much more interesting.

The second type of leverage is capital. 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.

Capital is a powerful form of leverage. It can be converted to labor. It can be converted to other things. It’s very surgical, very analytical. 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.

Product Leverage is Egalitarian

Status goods are limited to a few people

If you look at something like buying a Rolex, which is no longer about telling time. It’s a signaling good. It’s all about showing off, “I have a Rolex.” That’s a zero-sum game.

If everybody in the world is wearing a Rolex, then people don’t want to wear Rolexes anymore because they no longer signal. It’s canceled out the effect.

Rich people do have an advantage in consuming that product. They’ll just price it up until only they can have Rolexes. Then poor people can’t have Rolexes and Rolexes resume their signaling value.

Best products tend to be targeted at the middle class. Rich has weird products which signal their value.

Pick a Business Model With Leverage

Media products, have this great quality where they have zero marginal cost of reproduction. Creating another copy of what you just created is free.

When somebody listens to this podcast or watches a YouTube video about this, it doesn’t cost me anything for the next person who shows up. Those zero marginal cost things, they take a while to get going because you make very little money per user, but over time they can really, really add up.

Joe Rogan is working no harder on his current podcast than he was on Podcast number 1, but on Podcast number 1,100 he’s making a million dollars from the podcast whereas for the previous one he probably lost money; for the first one. That’s an example of zero marginal cost.

Network effects: value grows as the square of the customers

Then, the most subtle but the most important is this idea of network effects. It comes from computer networking. Bob Metcalfe, who created Ethernet, famously coined Metcalfe’s Law, which is the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in the network.

If a network of size 10 would have a value of a 100, a network of a size 100 would have a value of 10,000. It’s not just 10 times more, it’s 100 times more, because of the square; the difference is the square.

You want to be in a network effects business, assuming you’re not number two. If you’re number one in network effect business, you win everything. Example: if you look at Facebook, your friends and family social networking protocol. Who’s their competitor? Nobody, because they won everything through network effects. Which is why when people say, “Well, I can just switch away from Facebook,” they don’t realize that network effects create natural monopolies. They’re very, very powerful things.

Accountability gives them some form of additional potential income.Then, they also have labor leverage because they have a bunch of people working for them. But it probably tops out right there.

Judgment Is the Decisive Skill

In an age of nearly infinite leverage, judgment is the most important skill

you can get leverage permissionlessly by learning how to code or becoming good communicator and podcasting, broadcasting, creating videos, writing, etc.

That’s how you get leverage, but once you have leverage, what do you do with it? Well, the first part of your career’s spent hustling to get leverage. Once you have the leverage, then you wanna slow down a bit, because your judgment really matters.

Warren Buffett is so wealthy now because of his judgment. Even if you were to take away all of Warren’s money, tomorrow, investors would come out of the woodwork and hand him a $100 billion because they know his judgment is so good, and they would give him a big chunk of that $100 billion to invest.

Demonstrated judgment, credibility around the judgment, is so critical. Warren Buffett wins here because he has massive credibility. He’s been highly accountable. He’s been right over and over in the public domain. He’s built a reputation for very high integrity, so you can trust him.

A person like that, people will throw infinite leverage behind him because of his judgment. Nobody asks him how hard he works; nobody asks him when he wakes up or when he goes to sleep. They’re like, “Warren, just do your thing.”

Judgment, especially demonstrated judgment, with high accountability, clear track record, is critical.

Without experience, judgment is often less than useless

Judgment is very hard to build up. This is where both intellect and experience come in play.

Intellect without any experience is often worse than useless because you get the confidence that the intellect gives you, and you get some of the credibility, but because you had no skin in the game, and you had no real experience, and no real accountability, you’re just throwing darts.

The real world is always far, far more complex than we can intellectualize. Especially all the interesting, fast-moving edge domains and problems, you can’t get there without experience. If you are smart and you iterate fast, it’s not even you put 10,000 hours into something, but you take 10,000 tries at something.

The people with the best judgment are among the least emotional

If you are smart and you have a lot of quick iterations, and you try to keep your emotions out of it, the people with the best judgment are actually among the least emotional. A lot of the best investors are considered almost robotic in that regard, but I wouldn’t be surprised if even the best entrepreneurs often come across as unemotional.

There is sort of this archetype of the passionate entrepreneur, and yeah, they have to care about what they’re doing, but they also have to see very clearly what’s actually happening. The thing that prevents you from seeing what’s actually happening are your emotions. Our emotions are constantly clouding our judgment, and in investing, or in running companies, or in building products, or being an entrepreneur, emotions really get in the way

Philosophy also makes you more stoic, makes you less emotional, and so you make better decisions; you have better judgment.

The more outraged somebody is, I guarantee you, the worse their judgment is. If someone’s constantly tweeting political outrage, and just see like an angry person getting into fights, you don’t want to hand this person the keys to your car, let alone the keys to your company.

Set an Aspirational Hourly Rate

Outsource tasks that cost less than your hourly rate

No one is going to value you more than you value you. Set a high personal hourly rate, and stick to it. When I was young, I decided I was worth a lot more than the market thought I was worth. And I started treating myself that way.

Factor your time into every decision. Say you value your time at $100 an hour. If you decide to spend an hour driving across town to get something, you’re effectively throwing away $100. Are you going to do that?

Say you buy something from Amazon and they screw it up. Is it worth your time to return it? Is it worth the mental hassle? Keep in mind that you will have less time for work, including mentally high-output work. Do you want to use that time running errands and solving little problems? Or do you want to save it for the big stuff?

The great scientists were terrible at managing their home lives. None of them had an organized room, or made social events on time, or sent their thank-you cards

My aspirational rate was $5,000/hr

Fast-forward to your wealthy self and pick an intermediate hourly rate. Before I had any real money and you could hire me, I set an aspirational rate of $5,000 an hour.Of course, I still ended up doing stupid things like arguing with the electrician or returning the broken speaker. But I shouldn’t have. And I did a lot less of it my friends. I would make a theatrical show out of throwing something in the trash or giving it to Salvation Army, rather than returning it or trying to fix it.

If you can outsource something for less than your hourly rate, do itAnother way to think about this: 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 includes things like cooking. You may want to make your own healthy, home-cooked meals. But if you can outsource it, do that instead.People say, “What about the joy of life? What about getting it right, just your way?” Sure, you can do that. But you’re not going to be wealthy, because you’ve made something else a priority.

Paul Graham said it well for Y Combinator startups. He said you should be working on your product and getting product-market fit, and you should be exercising and eating healthy. That’s about it. That’s all you have time for while you’re on this mission.

Work As Hard As You Can

Even though what you work on and who you work with are more important

If getting wealthy is your goal, you’re going to have to work as hard as you can. But hard work is no substitute for who you work with and what you work on. Those are the most important things. Marc Andreessen came up with the concept of the “product-market fit.” I would expand that to “product-market-founder fit. The combination of the three should be your overwhelming goal.

You can save a lot of time by picking the right area to work in. Picking the right people to work with is the next most important piece. Third comes how hard you work. They are like three legs of a stool. If you shortchange any one of them, the whole stool is going to fall. You can’t easily pick one over the other.

When you’re building a business, or a career, first figure out: “What should I be doing? Where is a market emerging? What’s a product I can build that I’m excited to work on, where I have specific knowledge?”

Second, surround yourself with the best people possible. If there’s someone greater out there to work with, go work with them. When people ask for advice about choosing the right startup to join, I say, “Pick the one that’s going to have the best alumni network for you in the future.”

And no matter how high your bar is, raise it.

Finally, once you’ve picked the right thing to work on and the right people, work as hard as you can.

Nobody really works 80 hours a week

This is where the mythology gets a little crazy. People who say they work 80-hour weeks, or even 120-hour weeks, often are just status signaling. It’s showing off. Nobody really works 80 to 120 hours a week at high output, with mental clarity. Your brain breaks down. You won’t have good ideas.

The way people tend to work most effectively, especially in knowledge work, is to sprint as hard as they can while they feel inspired to work, and then rest. They take long breaks.

It’s more like a lion hunting and less like a marathoner running. You sprint and then you rest. You reassess and then you try again. You end up building a marathon of sprints.

Inspiration is perishable

Inspiration is perishable. When you have inspiration, act on it right then and there.

If I’m inspired to write a blog post or publish a tweetstorm, I should do it right away. Otherwise, it’s not going to get out there. I won’t come back to it. Inspiration is a beautiful and powerful thing. When you have it, seize it.

Impatience with actions, patience with results

People talk about impatience. When do you know to be impatient? When do you know to be patient?

Anything you have to do, get it done. Why wait? You’re not getting any younger.

You don’t want to spend your life waiting in line. You don’t want to spend it traveling back and forth. You don’t want to spend it doing things that aren’t part of your mission.When you do these things, do them as quickly as you can and with your full attention so you do them well. Then be patient with the results because you’re dealing with complex systems and a lot of 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.

If I discover a problem in one of my businesses, I won’t sleep until the resolution is at least in motion. If I’m on the board of a company, I’ll call the CEO. If I’m running the company, I’ll call my reports. If I’m responsible, I’ll get on it, right then and there, and solve it

Be Too Busy to “Do Coffee”

Ruthlessly decline meetings

Be too busy to ‘do coffee’ while keeping an uncluttered Calendar

First, I keep a very clean calendar. I have almost no meetings on it. When some people see my calendar, they almost weep.

Second, I’m busy all the time. I’m always doing something. It’s usually work-related. It’s whatever high-impact thing that needs to be done, that I’m most inspired to do.The only way to do that is to constantly, and ruthlessly, decline meetings.

People want to “do coffee” and build relationships. That’s fine early in your career, when you’re still exploring. But later in your career—when you’re exploiting, and there are more things coming at you than you have time for—you have to ruthlessly cut meetings out of your life.

You have to be utterly ruthless about dodging meetings. When you do meetings, make them walking meetings. Do standing meetings. Keep them short, actionable and small. Nothing is getting done in a meeting with eight people around a conference table. You are literally dying one hour at a time.

“Doing coffee” reminds me of an old quote, I think from Steve Jobs, when someone asked him why Apple didn’t come to a convention. His response was something like, “Because we wouldn’t be here working.”

Busy people will take your meeting when you have something important or valuable. But you have to come with a proper calling card. It should be: “Here’s what I’ve done. Here’s what I can show you. Let’s meet if this is useful to you, and I’ll be respectful of your time.”

You have to build up credibility. For example, when a tech investor looks at a startup, the first thing they want to see is evidence of product progress. They don’t just want to see a slide deck. Product progress is the entrepreneur’s resume. It’s an unfake-able resume.

A busy calendar and a busy mind will destroy your ability to do great things in this world. If you want to do great things—whether you’re a musician or entrepreneur or investor—you need free time and a free mind.

If someone wants a meeting, see if they will do a call instead. If they want to call, see if they will email instead. If they want to email, see if they will text instead. And you probably should ignore most text messages—unless they’re true emergencies.

Keep Redefining What You Do

Become the best in the world at what you do

Keep redefining what you do until you’re the best at what you do

If you really want to get paid in this world, you want to be number one at whatever you do. It can be niche—that’s the point. You can literally get paid for just being you

Keep changing your objective until it arrives at your specific knowledge, skill sets, position, capabilities, location and interests. Your objective and skills should converge to make you number one.

When you’re searching for what to do, you have two different foci to keep in mind. One is, “I want to be the best at what I do.” The second is, “What I do is flexible, so that I’m the best at it.”You want to arrive at a comfortable place where you feel, “This is something I can be amazing at, while still being authentic to who I am.”It’s going to be a long journey. But now you know how to think about it.

Escape Competition Through Authenticity

Nobody can compete with you on being you

It’s both a search and a recognition. Sometimes when we search our egos, we want to be something that we’re not. Our friends and family are actually better at telling us who we are. Looking back at what we’ve done is a better indicator of who we are.

Peter Thiel talks a lot about how competition is besides the point. It’s counterproductive. We’re highly memetic creatures. We copy everybody around us. We copy our desires from them.

If everyone around me is a great artist, I want to be an artist. If everyone around me is a great businessperson, I want to be a businessperson. If everybody around me is a social activist, I want to be a social activist. That’s where my self-esteem will come from.

You have to be careful when you get caught up in status games. You end up competing over things that aren’t worth competing over.

Sometimes you get trapped in the wrong game because you’re competing. The best way to escape competition—to get away from the specter of competition, which is not just stressful and nerve-wracking but also will drive you to the wrong answer—is to be authentic to yourself.

Authenticity naturally gets you away from competition. Does it mean that you want to be authentic to the point where there’s no product-market fit? It may turn out that you’re the best juggler on a unicycle. But maybe there isn’t much of a market for that, even with YouTube videos. So you have to adjust until you find product-market fit.

Specialize in being you

But people are multivariate. They have a lot of skills. As you go through your career, you’ll find you gravitate towards the things you’re good at, which by definition are the things you enjoy doing. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be good at them. You wouldn’t have put in the time.

Other people will push you towards the things you’re good at, too. Because your smart bosses, co-workers and investors will realize you’re world-class in this one thing. And you can recruit people to help you with other things.

Reject Most Advice

Most advice is people giving you their winning lottery ticket numbers

The best founders listen to everyone but make up their own mind. They have their own internal model of how to apply things to their situation. And they do not hesitate to discard information. If you survey enough people, all of the advice will cancel to zero.

You have to have your own point of view. When something is sent your way, you have to quickly decide: Is it true? Is it true outside of the context of how that person applied it? Is it true in my context? And then, Do I want to apply it?You have to reject most advice. But you have to listen to enough of it, and read enough of it, to know what to reject and what to accept.

I think the most dangerous part of taking advice is that the person who gave it to you isn’t going to be around to tell you when it doesn’t apply any more.

A Calm Mind, a Fit Body, a House Full of Love

When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place

Money will solve all your money problems. But it doesn’t get you everywhere.The first thing you realize when you’ve made a bunch of money is that you’re still the same person. If you’re happy, you’re happy. If you’re unhappy, you’re unhappy. If you’re calm and fulfilled and peaceful, you’re still that same person. I know lots of very rich people who are extremely out of shape. I know lots of rich people who have really bad family lives. I know lots of rich people who are internally a mess.

Even if you have all the money in the world, you can’t have those three things.

A lot of external battles happen because your internal state is not good. When you’re naturally internally peaceful you’re going to pick fewer fights. You’re going to be more loving without expecting anything in return. That will take care of things on the external-relationship front.

Productize Yourself

Figure out what you’re uniquely good at, and apply as much leverage as possible

Productize has specific knowledge and leverage. Yourself has uniqueness and accountability. Yourself also has specific knowledge. So you can combine all of these pieces into these two words.

Another tweet I really liked was, “Find three hobbies: One that makes you money, one that keeps you fit, and one that makes you creative.”I would change that slightly. I would say: One that makes you money, one that makes you fit, and one that makes you smarter. So in my case, my hobbies would be reading and making money, as I love working with startups, investing in them, brainstorming them, starting them. I love the ideation and initial creation phase around startups.

On the hobby that keeps you fit, I don’t really have one. The closest thing I have is yoga, but that’s where I sort of fell apart. I think people who, early in life, discover something like surfing or swimming or tennis or some kind of a sport they continue doing throughout most of their life are very lucky, because they found a hobby that will make them fit.

We Should Eventually Be Working for Ourselves

One way to apply this advice is to look at who is getting leverage off of the work that you’re doing. Look up the value chain—at who’s above you and who’s above them—and see how they are taking advantage of the time and work you’re doing and how they’re applying leverage.

People naturally do this because they want to move up the corporate ladder

You will do better in a small organization

You will have more accountability, and your work will be more visible. You’re more likely to be able to try different things, which can help you discover the thing you are uniquely good at. People will be more likely to give you leverage through battlefield promotions. You’ll have more flexibility. There will be more authenticity in how the company operates.

Here is a good progression for a career: Start in a large company and progressively move to smaller and smaller ones. It’s very hard to go from a small company to a larger company. Larger companies tend to be more about politics than merit; they’re more stable but less innovative.

This goes back to the idea that the best relationships are peer relationships. If there’s someone above you, that’s someone to learn from. If you’re not learning from them and improving, nobody should be above you.

If there’s somebody below you, it’s because you’re teaching them and enabling them. If you’re not doing that, then get a robot; you don’t need a human below you.

Being Ethical Is Long-Term Greedy

You want to be honest because it leaves you with a clear mind. You don’t want two threads running in your head, one with the lies you tell —and now have to keep track of—and the other with the truth. If you are honest, you only have to think about one thing at a time, which frees up mental energy and makes you a clearer thinker.

Also, by being honest you’re rejecting people who only want to hear pretty lies. You force those people out of your network. Sometimes it’s painful, especially with friends and family. But over the long-term you create room for the people who like you exactly the way that you are. That is a selfish reason to be honest.

If you cut people fair deals, you won’t get paid in the short-term. But over the long-term, everybody will want to deal with you. You end up being a market hub. You have more information. You have trust. You have a reputation. And people end up doing deals through you in the long-run.

Principal-Agent Problem: Act Like an Owner

If you think and act like an owner, it’s only a matter of time until you become an owner

In this case it’s a principal, who is a person; rather than a principle that you would follow. A principal is an owner. An agent works for the owner, so you can think of an agent as an employee. The difference between a founder and an employee is the difference between a principal and an agent.

I can summarize the principal-agent problem with a famous quote attributed to Napoleon or Julius Caesar:

“If you want it done, Go. If not, Send.”

Which is to say: If you want to do something right, do it yourself; because other people just don’t care enough.

The principal’s incentives are different than the agent’s incentives, so the owner of the business wants what is best for the business and will make the most money. The agent generally wants whatever will look good to the principal, or might make them the most friends in the neighborhood or in the business, or might make them personally the most money.

You see this a lot with hired-gun CEOs running public companies, where the ownership of the public company is distributed so widely that there’s no principal remaining. Nobody owns more than 1% of the company. The CEO takes charge, stuffs the board with their buddies and then starts issuing themself low-price stock options, or doing a lot of stock buybacks because their compensation is based directly tied to the stock price.

As Charlie Munger says, if you could be working on incentives, don’t work on anything else.

Almost all human behavior can be explained by incentives. The study of signaling is seeing what people do despite what they say. People are much more honest with their actions than they are with their words. You have to get the incentives right to get people to behave correctly. It’s a very difficult problem because people aren’t coin-operated. The good ones are not just looking for money—they’re also looking for things like status and meaning in what they do.

If you’re in a role where you’re an agent—you’re an employee—then your most important job is to think like a principal. The more you can think like a principal, the better off you’re going to be long-term. Train yourself how to think like a principal, and eventually you will become a principal. If you align yourself with a good principal, they will promote you or empower you or give you accountability or leverage that may be way out of proportion to your relatively menial role.

In bigger firms being banks or lawyers, you’ll find the principal and the agent are highly separated. Very often the principal will sell you and convince you to work with the firm, but then all the work will be done by an agent who simply doesn’t care as much. You end up getting substandard service.

I prefer to work with boutiques. My ideal law firm is a law firm of one. My ideal banker is a solo banker. Now, you’re making other sacrifices and trade-offs in terms of that person’s resources—and you are betting big on that person. But you’ve got one throat to choke. There’s no one else to point fingers at; there’s nowhere to run. The accountability is extremely high.

Kelly Criterion: Avoid Ruin

  • Don’t ruin your reputation or get wiped to zero
  • Don’t bet everything on one big gamble

Turn Short-Term Games Into Long-Term Games

Negotiations are won by whoever cares less

I generally say, though: “Negotiations are won by whoever cares less.” Negotiation is about not wanting it too badly. If you want something too badly, the other person can extract more value from you.If someone is taking advantage of you in a negotiation, your best option is to turn it from a short-term game into a long-term game. Try to make it a repeat game. Try to bring reputation into the negotiation. Try to include other people who may want to play games with this person in the future.

Convert single-move games to multi-move games

So you try to go through friends. You try to find people with good reputations. You’re converting an expensive single-move game with a high probability of cheating on both sides into a multi-move game.

One way to do that is to say: “Actually, I need two different projects done. The first project we’ll do together, and based on that I’ll decide if we do the second project.”

Another way is to say: “I’m going to do this project with you, and I have three friends who want projects done who are waiting to see the outcome of this project.”

Compounding Relationships Make Life Easier

Life gets a lot easier when you know someone’s got your back

Mutual trust makes it easy to do business

Relationships offer a good example of compound interest. Once you’ve been in a good relationship with somebody for a while—whether it’s business or romantic—life gets a lot easier because you know that person’s got your back. You don’t have to keep questioning.

If I’m doing a deal with someone I’ve worked with for 20 years and there is mutual trust, we don’t have to read the legal contracts. Maybe we don’t even need to create legal contracts; maybe we can do it with a handshake. That kind of trust makes it very easy to do business.

If Nivi and I start another company and things aren’t working out, I know we’re both going to be extremely reasonable about deciding what to do—how to exit or shut it down. Or if we’re scaling it, how to bring in new people. We have mutual trust, and that allows us to start businesses more easily and compounds the effect.

The most under-recognized reason startups fail is because the founders fall apart.

A startup is so difficult to pull off, so removing potential friction points between founders can be the difference between success and failure.

It’s better to have a few compounding relationships than many shallow ones

There are a couple of non-intuitive things about compounding. The first is that most of the benefits come at the end, so you may not see huge benefits up front.

It’s better to have a few deep compounding relationships than many shallow, non-compounding relationships.

Price Discrimination: Charge Some People More

You have to offer them something extra. But it has to be something rich people care about.

Business-class seats routinely cost five or 10 times more than economy seats. But it costs the airline much less—maybe two or three times more than a standard seat—to provide perks like wider seats, more legroom and free drinks.

Price discrimination works because rich people are willing to pay more. You just have to give them the extra little things they need to signal they’re rich or that little bit of comfort they want.

Finding Time to Invest in Yourself

You have to rent your time to get started

Try to learn something that people haven’t quite figured out how to teach yet. That can happen if you’re working in a new and quickly expanding field. It’s also common in fields that are circumstantial—where the details matter and it’s always moving. Investing is one of those fields; so is entrepreneurship.

Chief of staff for a founder is one of the most coveted jobs for young people starting out in Silicon Valley. The brightest kids will follow an entrepreneur around and do whatever he or she needs them to do.

In many cases, the person is way overqualified. Someone with multiple graduate degrees might be running the CEO’s laundry because that’s the most important thing at the moment.

At the same time, that person gets to attend the most important meetings. They are privy to all the stress and theatrics, the fundraising decks and the innovation—knowledge that can only come from being in the room.

Coming out of college, Warren Buffett wanted to work for Benjamin Graham to learn to be a value investor. Buffett offered to work for free, and Graham responded, “You’re overpriced.” What that means is you have to make sacrifices to take on an apprenticeship.

Being Unhappy Is Extremely Inefficient

A peaceful mind makes better decisions

Fact check on that is: True. The happier and more peaceful you are, the less likely you are to run out and change the world. At the same time, being unhappy is very inefficient. A peaceful person doesn’t have extraneous thoughts going through their head. If you’re a driven, unhappy person, your mind will be on 24/7.

Unhappy people don’t have good judgment

What are the consequences of this? You won’t sleep well. You’re much more likely to react with anger and dig yourself into a hole you have to dig out of. Your decisions are emotional and impetuous. You’re more likely to get caught in the busy trap—busy all the time and running from one thing to another because you can’t mentally prioritize.

When you don’t have peace of mind, it’s difficult to make judgments because you have too many threads going through your head. You don’t have time to devote to making those judgments.

When I got happier in my own life, I became much more effective—even though I don’t work as hard as I used to. I’m able to form relationships with people who I would have kept at a distance earlier in my life, for whatever preconceived notions I held.

I make decisions much more clearly now, because I can see the long-term outcomes.I cut straight to the chase and don’t try and negotiate an extra 20% here or there—because I know that’s going to make me unhappy in the long-term, make the other person unhappy, and make the deal less stable.

I’ve become more productive even though I don’t work as hard, because I make better decisions.

Stress is an inability to decide what’s important

# References