The Almanack of Naval Ravikant- A Guide to Wealth and Happiness (Founder of AngelList)
This was one of the most insightful books I’ve read in a while by the Founder of AngelList called The Almanack of Naval Ravikant.
Naval Ravikant is an Indian-American Entrepreneur and Investor. He is the co-Founder and Chairman and former CEO of AngelList. He has invested early-stage in over 200 companies including Uber, FourSquare, Twitter, Wish.com, Poshmark, Postmates, Thumbtack, Notion, SnapLogic, Opendoor, Stack Overflow, OpenDNS, Yammer, and Clearview AI, with over 70 total exits and more than 10 Unicorn (finance) companies.
“But I don’t take his perspectives, maxims, and thoughts seriously because of the business stuff. There are lots of miserable “successful” people out there. Be careful about modeling those, as you will get all the bathwater with the baby. I take Naval seriously because he: Questions nearly everything Can think from first principles Tests things well Is good at not fooling himself Changes his mind regularly Laughs a lot Thinks holistically Thinks long-term And…doesn’t take himself too goddamn seriously. That last one is important.”
“Naval is broadly followed because he is a rare combination of successful and happy. After a lifetime of study and application of philosophy, economics, and wealth creation, he has proven the impact of his principles. Today, Naval continues to build and invest in companies almost casually, in his own artistic way, while maintaining a healthy, peaceful, and balanced life. This book collects and organizes the pieces of wisdom he has shared and shows you how to achieve the same for yourself.”
“We moved to the US when we were very young. I didn’t have many friends, so I wasn’t very confident. I spent a lot of time reading. My only real friends were books. Books make for great friends, because the best thinkers of the last few thousand years tell you their nuggets of wisdom.”
“I was a totally unknown kid in New York City from a nothing family, an “immigrants trying to survive” situation. Then, I passed the test to get into Stuyvesant High School. That saved my life, because once I had the Stuyvesant brand, I got into an Ivy League college, which led me into tech. Stuyvesant is one of those intelligence lottery situations where you can break in with instant validation. You go from being blue collar to white collar in one move.”
“I was born poor and miserable. I’m now pretty well-off, and I’m very happy. I worked at those. I’ve learned a few things, and some principles. I try to lay them out in a timeless manner, where you can figure it out for yourself. Because at the end of the day, I can’t quite teach anything. I can only inspire you and maybe give you a few hooks so you can remember.”
“Understand How Wealth Is Created I like to think that if I lost all my money and you dropped me on a random street in any English-speaking country, within five or ten years I’d be wealthy again because it’s just a skillset I’ve developed that anyone can develop.”
“It’s not really about hard work. You can work in a restaurant eighty hours a week, and you’re not going to get rich. Getting rich is about knowing what to do, who to do it with, and when to do it. It is much more about understanding than purely hard work. Yes, hard work matters, and you can’t skimp on it. But it has to be directed in the right way. If you don’t know yet what you should work on, the most important thing is to figure it out. You should not grind at a lot of hard work until you figure out what you should be working on.”
“Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.”
“Understand ethical wealth creation is possible. If you secretly despise wealth, it will elude you.”
“You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity—a piece of a business—to gain your financial freedom. ↓ You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.
“Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.”
“Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.”
“Don’t partner with cynics and pessimists. Their beliefs are self-fulfilling.”
“Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.”
“Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.”
“Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others. ↓ When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools. ↓ Specific knowledge is often highly technical or creative. It cannot be outsourced or automated.”
“Embrace accountability, and take business risks under your own name. Society will reward you with responsibility, equity, and leverage. “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” —Archimedes
“Fortunes require leverage. Business leverage comes from capital, people, and products with no marginal cost of replication (code and media).”
leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep.
“An army of robots is freely available—it’s just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency. Use it. If you can’t code, write books and blogs, record videos and podcasts.”
Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.
Set and enforce an aspirational personal hourly rate. If fixing a problem will save less than your hourly rate, ignore it. If outsourcing a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.
Work as hard as you can. Even though who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.
Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.
Apply specific knowledge, with leverage, and eventually you will get what you deserve. When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place. But that is for another day. Summary: Productize Yourself
If you’re looking toward the long-term goal of getting wealthy, you should ask yourself, “Is this authentic to me? Is it myself that I am projecting?”
Technology democratizes consumption but consolidates production. The best person in the world at anything gets to do it for everyone.
Society always wants new things. And if you want to be wealthy, you want 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 and providing it is natural to you, within your skill set, and within your capabilities.
Then, you have to figure out how to scale it because if you only build one, 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 society would want smartphones. A computer in their pocket that had all the phone capability times one hundred and was easy to use. So, they figured out how to build it, and then they figured out how to scale it.
But you can improve sales skills. You can read Robert Cialdini, you can go to a sales training seminar, you can do door-to-door sales. It is brutal but will train you very quickly. You can definitely improve your sales skills.
Specific knowledge cannot be taught, but it can be learned.
When I talk about specific knowledge, I mean figure out what you were doing as a kid or teenager almost effortlessly. Something you didn’t even consider a skill, but people around you noticed. Your mother or your best friend growing up would know. Examples of what your specific knowledge could be: Sales skills Musical talents, with the ability to pick up any instrument An obsessive personality: you dive into things and remember them quickly Love for science fiction: you were into reading sci-fi, which means you absorb a lot of knowledge very quickly Playing a lot of games, you understand game theory pretty well Gossiping, digging into your friend network. That might make you into a very interesting journalist. The specific knowledge is sort of this weird combination of unique traits from your DNA, your unique upbringing, and your response to it. It’s almost baked into your personality and your identity. Then you can hone it.
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My whole value system was built around scientists, and I wanted to be a great scientist. But when I actually look back at what I was uniquely good at and what I ended up spending my time doing, it was more around making money, tinkering with technology, and selling people on things. Explaining things and talking to people. I have some sales skills, which is a form of specific knowledge. I have some analytical skills on how to make money. And I have this ability to absorb data, obsess about it, and break it down—that is a specific skill that I have. I also love tinkering with technology. And all of this stuff feels like play to me, but it looks like work to others.
There are other people to whom these things would be hard, and they say, “Well, how do I get good at being pithy and selling ideas?” Well, if you’re not already good at it or if you’re not really into it, maybe it’s not your thing—focus on the thing that you are really into.
The first person to actually point out my real specific knowledge was my mother. She did it as an aside, talking from the kitchen, and she said it when I was fifteen or sixteen years old. I was telling a friend of mine that I want to be an astrophysicist, and she said, “No, you’re going to go into business.” I was like, “What, my mom’s telling me I’m going to be in business? I’m going to be an astrophysicist. Mom doesn’t know she’s talking about.” But Mom knew exactly what she was talking about.  Specific knowledge is found much more by pursuing your innate talents, your genuine curiosity, and your passion. It’s not by going to school for whatever is the hottest job; it’s not by going into whatever field investors say is the hottest.
You can go on the internet, and you can find your audience. And you can build a business, and create a product, and build wealth, and make people happy just uniquely expressing yourself through the internet.
Another tweet I had that is worth weaving in, but didn’t go into the “How to Get Rich” tweetstorm, was very simple: “Escape competition through authenticity.” Basically, 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. 
It’s much more important today to be able to become an expert in a brand-new field in nine to twelve months than to have studied the “right” thing a long time ago. You really care about having studied the foundations, so you’re not scared of any book.
Knowing how to be persuasive when speaking is far more important than being an expert digital marketer or click optimizer. Foundations are key. It’s much better to be at 9/10 or 10/10 on foundations than to try and get super deep into things.
You do need to be deep in something because otherwise you’ll be a mile wide and an inch deep and you won’t get what you want out of life. You can only achieve mastery in one or two things. It’s usually things you’re obsessed about.
Play Long-Term Games with Long-Term People You said, “All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.” How does one know if they’re earning compound interest? Compound interest is a very powerful concept. Compound interest applies to more than just compounding capital. Compounding capital is just the beginning.
Compounding in business relationships is very important. Look at some of the top roles in society, like why someone is a CEO of a public company or managing billions of dollars. It’s because people trust them. They are trusted because the relationships they’ve built and the work they’ve done has compounded. They’ve stuck with the business and shown themselves (in a visible and accountable way) to be high-integrity people.
Obviously, nothing is ever completely wasted because it’s all a learning moment. You can learn from anything. But for example, when you go back to school, 99 percent of the term papers you did, books you read, exercises you did, things you learned, they don’t really apply. You might have read geography and history you never reuse. You might have studied a language you don’t speak anymore.
But at least when it comes to the goal-oriented life, only about 1 percent of the efforts you made paid off.
Another example is all the people you dated until you met your husband or wife. It was wasted time in the goal sense. Not wasted in the exponential sense, not wasted in the learning sense, but definitely wasted in the goal sense.
The reason I say this is not to make some glib comment about how 99 percent of your life is wasted and only 1 percent is useful. I say this because you should be very thoughtful and realize in most things (relationships, work, even in learning) what you’re trying to do is find the thing you can go all-in on to earn compound interest.
So to get these things, you have to build credibility, and you have to do it 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.
I’ll give a personal anecdote. Up until about 2013, 2014, my public persona was entirely around startups and investing. Only around 2014, 2015 did I start talking about philosophy and psychological things and broader things. It made me a little nervous because I was doing it under my own name. There were definitely people in the industry who sent me messages through the backchannel like, “What are you doing? You’re ending your career. This is stupid.” I kind of just went with it. I took a risk. Same with crypto. Early on, I took a risk. But when you put your name out there, you take a risk with certain things. You also get to reap the rewards. You get the benefits.
Without ownership, your inputs are very closely tied to your outputs. In almost any salaried job, even one paying a lot per hour like a lawyer or a doctor, you’re still putting in the hours, and every hour you get paid. Without ownership, 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 nonlinearly.
If you look at even doctors who get rich (like really rich), it’s because they open a business. They open a private practice. The private practice builds a brand, and the brand attracts people. Or they build some kind of a medical device, a procedure, or a process with an intellectual property.
I only really want to do things for their own sake. That is one definition of art. Whether it’s business, exercise, romance, friendship, whatever, I think the meaning of life is to do things for their own sake. Ironically, when you do things for their own sake, you create your best work. Even if you’re just trying to make money, you will actually be the most successful.
The year I generated the most wealth for myself was actually the year I worked the least hard and cared the least about the future. I was mostly doing things for the sheer fun of it. I was basically telling people, “I’m retired, I’m not working.” Then, I had the time for whatever was my highest valued project in front of me. By doing things for their own sake, I did them at their best.
The less you want something, the less you’re thinking about it, the less you’re obsessing over it, the more you’re going to do it in a natural way. The more you’re going to do it for yourself. You’re going to do it in a way you’re good at, and you’re going to stick with it. The people around you will see the quality of your work is higher.
You build your brand in the meantime on Twitter, on YouTube, and by giving away free work. You make a name for yourself, and you take some risk in the process. When it is time to move on the opportunity, you can do so with leverage—the maximum leverage possible.
One form of leverage is labor—other humans working for you. It is the oldest form of leverage, and actually not a great one in the modern world.  I would argue 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.
The final form of leverage is brand new—the most democratic form. It is: “products with no marginal cost of replication.” This includes books, media, movies, and code. Code is probably the most powerful form of permissionless leverage. All you need is a computer—you don’t need anyone’s permission.
It started with the printing press. It accelerated with broadcast media, and now it’s really blown up with the internet and with coding. Now, you can multiply your efforts without involving other humans and without needing money from other humans.
This book is a form of leverage. Long ago, I would have had to sit in a lecture hall and lecture each of you personally. I would have maybe reached a few hundred people, and that would have been that.
But the new generation’s fortunes are all made through code or media. Joe Rogan making $50 million to $100 million a year from his podcast. You’re going to have PewDiePie. I don’t know how much money he’s rolling in, but he’s bigger than the news. And of course, there’s Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. Their wealth is all code-based leverage.
Probably the most interesting thing to keep in mind about new forms of leverage is they are permissionless. They don’t require somebody else’s permission for you to use them or succeed. For labor leverage, somebody has to decide to follow you. For capital leverage, somebody has to give you money to invest or to turn into a product. Coding, writing books, recording podcasts, tweeting, YouTubing—these kinds of things are permissionless. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do them, and that’s why they are very egalitarian. They’re great equalizers of leverage.  Every great software developer, for example, now has an army of robots working for him at nighttime while he or she sleeps, after they’ve written the code, and it’s cranking away.
For example, a good software engineer, just by writing the right little piece of code and creating the right little application, can literally create half a billion dollars’ worth of value for a company. But ten engineers working ten times as hard, just because they choose the wrong model, the wrong product, wrote it the wrong way, or put in the wrong viral loop, have basically wasted their time. Inputs don’t match outputs, especially for leveraged workers.
What you want in life is to be in control of your time. You want to get into a leveraged job where you control your own time and you’re tracked on the outputs. If you do something incredible to move the needle on the business, they have to pay you. Especially if they don’t know how you did it because it’s innate to your obsession or your skill or your innate abilities, they’re going to have to keep paying you to do it.
Sales is an example—especially very high-end sales. If you’re a real estate agent out there selling houses, it’s not a great job, necessarily. It’s very crowded. But if you’re a top-tier real estate agent, you know how to market yourself and you know how to sell houses, it’s possible you could sell $5 million mansions in one tenth of the time while somebody else is struggling to sell $100,000 apartments or condos. Real estate agent is a job with input and output disconnected.
The other side of it is sales. Again, selling has a very broad definition. Selling doesn’t necessarily just mean selling to 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 next level up might be a real estate developer. A developer is someone who’s going to buy a property, hire a bunch of contractors, and transform it into something higher value. They probably have to take out a loan to buy a house or go to investors to raise money. They buy the old house, tear it down, rebuild it, and sell it. Instead of $50,000 like the general contractor, or fifteen dollars an hour like the laborer, the developer might be able to make a million dollars or half a million dollars in profit when they sell the house for more than they bought it for, including the expenses of construction. But now, notice what is required from the developer: a very high level of accountability. The developer takes on more risk, more accountability, has more leverage, and needs to have more specific knowledge. They need to understand fundraising, city regulations, where the real estate market is headed, and whether they should take the risk or not. It is more difficult.
You start as a salaried employee. But you want to work your way up to try and get higher leverage, more accountability, and specific knowledge. The combination of those over a long period of time with the magic of compound interest will make you wealthy.
Then, we can be masters of our own time because we are just being tracked on outputs and not inputs.
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. 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.”
Thanks to the internet, opportunities are massively abundant. In fact, I have too many ways to make money. I don’t have enough time. I literally have opportunities pouring out of my ears, and I keep running out of time. There are so many ways to create wealth, to create products, to create businesses, and to get paid by society as a byproduct. I just can’t handle them all.
No one is going to value you more than you value yourself. You just have to set a very high personal hourly rate and you have to stick to it. Even when I was young, I just decided I was worth a lot more than the market thought I was worth, and I started treating myself that way.
Always factor your time into every decision. How much time does it take? It’s going to take you an hour to get across town to get something. If you value yourself at one hundred dollars an hour, that’s basically throwing one hundred dollars out of your pocket. Are you going to do that?
Ironically, I actually think I’ve beaten it. I’m not the hardest working person—I’m actually a lazy person. I work through bursts of energy where I’m really motivated with something. If I actually look at how much I’ve earned per actual hour that I’ve put in, it’s probably quite a bit higher than that.
If you get into a relative mindset, you’re always going to hate people who do better than you, you’re always going to be jealous or envious of them. They’ll sense those feelings when you try and do business with them. When you try and do business with somebody, if you have any bad thoughts or any judgments about them, they will feel it.
But at the same time, many of them, deep down, believe they can’t make money. They don’t want any wealth creation to happen. So, they attack the whole enterprise by saying, “Well, making money is evil. You shouldn’t do it.”
Status is a zero-sum game. It’s a very old game. We’ve been playing it since monkey tribes. It’s hierarchical. Who’s number one? Who’s number two? Who’s number three? And for number three to move to number two, number two has to move out of that slot. So, status is a zero-sum game.
Politics is an example of a status game. Even sports are an example of a status game. To be the winner, there must be a loser. I don’t fundamentally love status games. They play an important role in our society, so we can figure out who’s in charge. But fundamentally, you play them because they’re a necessary evil.
We spend very little time deciding which relationship to get into. We spend so much time in a job, but we spend so little time deciding which job to get into. Choosing what city to live in can almost completely determine the trajectory of your life, but we spend so little time trying to figure out what city to live in.
Figure out what you’re good at, and start helping other people with it. Give it away. Pay it forward. Karma works because people are consistent. On a long enough timescale, you will attract what you project. But don’t measure—your patience will run out if you count.
Sure enough, everyone started saying “What are you still doing here? I thought you were leaving to start a company?” and “Wow, you’re still here…” I was literally embarrassed into starting my own company.  Yes, I know some people aren’t necessarily ready to be entrepreneurs, but long-term, where did we come up with this idea the correct logical thing to do is for everybody to work for somebody else? It is a very hierarchical model.
I learned how to make money because it was a necessity. After it stopped being a necessity, I stopped caring about it. At least for me, work was a means to an end. Making money was a means to an end. I’m much more interested in solving problems than I am in making money. Any end goal will just lead to another goal, lead to another goal. We just play games in life. When you grow up, you’re playing the school game, or you’re playing the social game. Then you’re playing the money game, and then you’re playing the status game. These games just have longer and longer and longer-lived horizons. At some point, at least I believe, these are all just games. These are games where the outcome really stops mattering once you see through the game.
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A third is you’re doing something you love. You enjoy it so much, it’s not about the money. So there are multiple ways to retirement. The way to get out of the competition trap is to be authentic, to find the thing you know how to do better than anybody. You know how to do it better because you love it, and no one can compete with you. If you love to do it, be authentic, and then figure out how to map that to what society actually wants. Apply some leverage and put your name on it. You take the risks, but you gain the rewards, have ownership and equity in what you’re doing, and just crank it up.
I’m always “working.” It looks like work to others, but it feels like play to me. And that’s how I know no one can compete with me on it. Because I’m just playing, for sixteen hours a day. If others want to compete with me, they’re going to work, and they’re going to lose because they’re not going to do it for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week.
What was your figure where you thought you were financially safe? Money is not the root of all evil; there’s nothing evil about it. But the lust for money is bad. The lust for money is not bad in a social sense. It’s not bad in the sense of “you’re a bad person for lusting for money.” It’s bad for you.
Lusting for money is bad for us because it is a bottomless pit. It will always occupy your mind. If you love money, and you make it, there’s never enough. There is never enough because the desire is turned on and doesn’t turn off at some number. It’s a fallacy to think it turns off at some number.
Some of the most successful people I’ve seen in Silicon Valley had breakouts very early in their careers. They got promoted to VP, director, or CEO, or started a company that did well fairly early. If you’re not getting promoted through the ranks, it gets a lot harder to catch up later in life. It’s good to be in a smaller company early because there’s less of an infrastructure to prevent early promotion.
Just recently, Babak Nivi, my co-founder, and I were talking on Twitter about how one gets lucky, and there are really four kinds of luck we were talking about. The first kind of luck is blind luck where one just gets lucky because something completely out of their control happened. This includes fortune, fate, etc. Then, there’s luck through persistence, hard work, hustle, and motion. This is when you’re running around creating opportunities. You’re generating a lot of energy, you’re doing a lot to stir things up. It’s almost like mixing a petri dish or mixing a bunch of reagents and seeing what combines. You’re just generating enough force, hustle, and energy for luck to find you.
A third way is you become very good at spotting luck. If you are very skilled in a field, you will notice when a lucky break happens in your field, and other people who aren’t attuned to it won’t notice. So, you become sensitive to luck. The last kind of luck is the weirdest, hardest kind, where you build a unique character, a unique brand, a unique mindset, which causes luck to find you.
For example, let’s say you’re the best person in the world at deep-sea diving. You’re known to take on deep-sea dives nobody else will even dare to attempt. By sheer luck, somebody finds a sunken treasure ship off the coast they can’t get to. Well, their luck just became your luck, because they’re going to come to you to get to the treasure, and you’re going to get paid for it. This is an extreme example, but it shows how one person had blind luck finding the treasure. Them coming to you to extract it and give you half is not blind luck. You created your own luck. You put yourself in a position to capitalize on luck or to attract luck when nobody else created the opportunity for themselves. To get rich without getting lucky, we want to be deterministic. We don’t want to leave it to chance.
Ways to get lucky: • Hope luck finds you. • Hustle until you stumble into it. • Prepare the mind and be sensitive to the chances others miss. • Become the best at what you do. Refine what you do until this is true. Opportunity will seek you out. Luck becomes your destiny.
One of the things I think is important to make money is having a reputation that makes people do deals through you. Remember the example of being a great diver where treasure hunters will come and give you a piece of the treasure for your diving skills. If you are a trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term-thinking dealmaker, when other people want to do deals but don’t know how to do them in a trustworthy manner with strangers, they will literally approach you and give you a cut of the deal just because of the integrity and reputation you’ve built up.
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Davidson Hang is currently in Sales at Cheetah Digital which is a Marketing technology company located in NYC.
Davidson is an avid networker, personal growth- life and business coach.
He loves spreading the love and regularly helps people create and design the life they want for themselves.
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