11 Quotes by Naval Ravikant That (If Applied) Will Change How You See Reality Forever
You can't unsee "Navalism" wisdom once exposed
There are few people in history that will blow your mind as much as Naval Ravikant.
I’ve spent a good 5 years studying him. He writes modern philosophy and self-help for non-cold-shower people. There’s a touch of writer Charles Bukowski in him too.
He calls society what it is – and that’s rare in this world full of nappy-wearing adults.
Naval isn’t just a thinker either. He started the website AngelList which is the center of a lot of startup investing.
Here are the best Naval quotes I’ve collected, that if applied, will change your reality forever.
1. “Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.”
This is classic Naval. He uses brilliant analogies to join unlikely concepts.
So many of us are deeply unhappy and afraid to admit it. I spent years being bitter and twisted. All I wanted was more money. Is that so much to ask?
Turns out it is.
It’s trendy to always be chasing the next big thing. If you’re not growing you’re dying, as they say. But always wanting more becomes a bat virus that takes over your mind.
When is enough?
So if it’s never enough, then you’re doing the same things daily in the hope that one day it will be enough - even though the very pursuit is impossible. This is modern insanity.
Realize nothing will ever be enough.
Solution: don’t expect to get what you want. Lower expectations to increase happiness.
“Happiness is a state where nothing is missing.” – Naval Ravikant
2. “How much of the day is spent doing things out of obligation rather than out of interest?”
This question from Naval completely changed my reality.
I spent the first half of last year stuck in back-to-back meeting hell. My boss was dumber than former president Donald Duck. My employer was beyond incompetent. Revenue fell off a cliff and they still scratched their heads.
I realized my currency of time was being wasted by drongos. I sat in long-ass meetings hoping things would get better.
They never did.
Instead, I could have been at home writing and running a business I 100% control that listens to its customers and does cool stuff.
So, I quit the lame job and went and did it. If you’re not interested in your daily activities and have to do them out of obligation, it’s a sign your life has gone massively off track.
Solution: Do more of what interests you. Do fewer obligations like meetings designed to impress oppressors.
3. “40-hour workweeks are a relic of the Industrial Age. Knowledge workers function like athletes — train and sprint, then rest and reassess.”
The world of work is so broken I don’t even know where to start.
Modern work has no time for employees to think. The problems they are supposed to solve get pushed to the end of the day when they have no energy and have to wrap things up. That’s why modern corporations are so stupid.
Leaders don’t think – they just do. And by “do”, I mean sit in meetings about nothing.
Real work is done in a flow state. It’s deep work without millions of Slack distractions.
And instead of time management, energy management is what effective workers use. That’s why they’re obsessed with rest.
Solution: pick a job where your employer has a war on meetings and you can do deep work without being on call. Then rest plenty and take afternoon naps.
4. “Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.”
There’s this ancient dumbass idea that you should pick a career by age 21.
College helped spread the lie. I think it’s BS. Too often people follow what careers are hot.
Mr Average: “Web3 is making loads of cash right now.”
Innocent victim: “OMG. I’m gonna become an Ethereum dev.”
Two years later the poor kid is bored out of his mind and wants to escape. But he suffers from the sunk cost fallacy. He’s too far into the quicksand to have the energy to get out. So he painfully stays.
I don’t follow a career path or choose one job. Neither does Naval.
Instead, we follow our curiosity. Right now, for me, that involves writing and teaching. In a few months, that involves me taking a break and following my curiosity in the direction of my unborn daughter.
I’m so curious about her. I want to have maximum time to explore her baby world and show her everything I’ve learned.
Solution: we have multiple careers in our life when we follow curiosity. You weren’t born to do one thing forever and warm an office chair for the rest of your life.
5. “Work becomes flow at the limits of ability.”
Flow states are an idea I’ve helped popularize.
Once you unlock flow in your work it becomes effortless. Part of the problem is that the work we choose to do doesn’t stimulate or challenge us. To unlock flow you have to push the limits of your ability.
That’s what I do as a writer.
Deep research is my biggest weakness. So if I sit down to write and add complex themes that need research, it pushes my ability, and throws me into a flow state.
Solution: do more work that pushes your ability. Become obsessed with adding difficulty to your work that generates feelings of progress. Progress equals a natural dopamine hit that’ll feel better than any other life p*rn.
6. “It’s the mark of a charlatan to try and explain simple things in complex ways and it’s the mark of a genius to explain complicated things in simple ways.”
Charlatans are everywhere in business.
The consulting industry I worked in is the ultimate scam. They take simple ideas and make them complex. They make it sound like building a phone app is harder than putting people on Mars.
The reason consultants make problems complex is so they can get paid to solve the fake complexity.
Solution: Life and business is actually pretty simple. Be skeptical as hell of complex people with letters after their names, trying to sound smart.
7. “Mute the nitpickers, block the outraged, like the kind, follow the insightful.”
A man got angry that I said sales is slimy.
My response: nothing.
What I thought: F*ck off. It’s an opinion. Don’t get so triggered ya baby.
(If you’re reading this by the way young man, screw you.)
This is an example of a nitpicker. They scratch away at the tiniest of details. They say dumb stuff like “fact check, please.”
Then there’s the next level called outrage. These people are appalled at the actions of elite football players, social media influencers, and Hollywood celebrities.
These people they’re appalled at are some of the most ordinary, unintelligent people in society. Like, what do you expect amigo? Of course they’re going to stuff up. It comes with the job.
Solution: take the lives of influential people lightly. Turn off the news. Don’t respond to tweets you disagree with. Quit hoping people will meet your high moral standards. Life gets better when you do.
8. “The modern world is managed by bureaucracies staffed with average people.
Bureaucrats pile on rule after rule to keep the below-average from hurting themselves or others.
Smart & capable individuals need to either opt-out of society or win big before the system suffocates them.”
The nanny police have piled on some many rules in society that it’s got out of hand.
Often, rules are thought to solve problems. But if they’re badly thought out (which most are) then they solve nothing. Nudda.
Try open a bank account like I did last week and you’ll see what I mean.
Layers of identification.
Handwritten signatures that can easily be forged instead of biometric identification that’s harder to fake.
Unnecessary question after unnecessary question.
Centralized back-office teams that analyze data and make approvals for processes that are self-explanatory and could be automated.
As Anthony Pompliano said:
Bureaucracy is the enemy of getting sh*t done.
Solution: make enough money online so you can opt out of this bureaucratic system. Otherwise, all the red tape will wrap around your neck and suffocate you.
9. “Smart money is just dumb money that’s been through a crash.”
I was considered dumb money back in 2008.
All my money in a savings account rotting away thanks to inflation. Petrified to invest in stocks as I thought they were too risky. Not owning any real estate because I spent the 20% deposit money the bank needed on alcohol and nightclubs.
The crash nearly ruined my business.
But it’s the best thing that ever happened. In the 2020 bat virus recession, and now the 2022 recession, the crash has helped me understand how to remain calm in chaos.
When you’re calm it’s easy to buy stocks/crypto in a recession at a huge discount and reach financial independence faster. Most don’t do it, though, because they either can’t handle the fear or haven’t lived through a crash.
Solution: learn from past crashes in the global economy by studying history and getting a financial education.
10. “People who live far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom.”
I could afford a Porsche.
Yet I drive a piece of crap Honda Civic from 7 years ago. I decided to opt out of upgrading my lifestyle to impress people who don’t give a damn about me.
Seeking status to impress others is a virus. The game never ends.
And when I lost loads of money, or got fired from my job, or got dumped by my long-time girlfriend – all these so-called friends I was competing against financially were nowhere to be found.
Solution: measure your lifestyle inflation by creating a monthly cash flow of money coming in and money going out. If the year-on-year rate of change in money going out keeps increasing, then Houston, you gotta problem.
11. "Retirement is when you stop sacrificing today for an imaginary tomorrow. When today is complete, in and of itself, you’re retired.
You retire by saving up enough money, becoming a monk, or by finding work that feels like play to you."
Retirement is a psychological concept. Few understand.
You don’t retire when you’re 65 or close to death and can’t orgasm anymore. No. You retire when you stop playing consumer games and see money for what it is.
Money = hours of your life
Every purchase takes you one step further away from buying back your time so you can do whatever the hell you want. Autonomy is a way superior form of wealth than flashing luxury goods or having a gorgeous home with a white picket fence.
Work should feel like play – not an obligation.
Work should be where you go to explore, use your imagination, and chase curiosity down weird rabbit holes.
Work should be where you go to inspire others and add meaning to your life.
You could die before you reach this imaginary day called retirement that society misled you into thinking exists. There’s never a good time to do anything, so may as well start today while there’s air in your lungs.
That’s the final lesson you can learn from Naval Ravikant.
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Outstanding article, Tim. Naval is a treasure but I’ve never seen it summarised so usefully. Saving this
Awesome summary. Loved it ❤️