Learnings from Farnam street podcast with Naval Ravikant

Gaurav Chhabra
Mar 4, 2017 · 9 min read

To begin with, the podcast was recorded by Shane Parrish from Farnam Street (Link). Its a two hour long podcast and I will urge everyone to listen for their own benefit. Naval Ravikant is the CEO and co-founder of Angel List. He has invested in companies such as Uber, Yammer and Twitter. The podcast touches upon multiple disciplines on which Naval has fundamental clarity which also helps him leverage and relate to them in everyday life.

I am mentioning some of the things that resonated and impacted me deeply while listening to the podcast. A lot of it is verbatim so that I dont miss interpret the golden words

  1. Always focus on thinking “Am I doing what I want to do and am I being productive and am I happy
  2. For him reading like eating food has moved from eating junk food to healthy food. It has evolved from when he started with comic books then started reading mysteries and then fantasies and then to sci fi and so on and so forth
  3. He collects or buy a lot of books and end up reading only 10% of them. This is either because some of the books are not worth the time, which you only get to know once you start reading them or some of them have one key point to bring home which then do not merit an end to end reading
  4. He moved from reading books to reading blogs to back to reading a lot of books. The original shift to start reading blog was because there were really smart people who were reading a lot and digesting and giving it back to public for consumption.
  5. He probably reads not more than two hours a day and believes that even that keeps him in the .00001 % of the people. Making it an actual habit is a very hard problem to solve.
  6. As per him, making habit is the most important thing. How you do it does not matter what is important is that you should do it daily, without fail. Does not matter whether you stick to fiction or business or a particular book. If all these self / societal created restrictions take you away from maintaining discipline then rather remove those restrictions and stick to routine
  7. Its like the best workout for a body is the one that keeps you excited enough to do it everyday.
  8. Young children are born with none of these habit loops but they habituate to things and they learn patterns and they get conditioned and they use that to get through every day life. Habits are good since they can help you background process certain things and your frontal lobe is available to process new data
  9. We not only make habits while observing people and organizing patters but also form them unconsciously. Everything from whether we should eat or sleep what time we should do something, should we drink or should we not. All of these are also habits that we have formed over a period of time and are now part of us
  10. What we do is consciously or unconsciously form habits and start identifying ourselves with that and get attached to that. What is critical is to assess and evaluate objectively that all these are the habits that I have, some of them I have picked up over a long time, do they really solve any purpose or do any good to me. To the extent possible it is important to make your habits deliberate rather than accidents of history. This will mean to assess them every then and now and eliminate and insert a new habit
  11. He believes that you un condition yourself, untrain yoursel. Its just hard and it takes effort and time
  12. With the onset of puberty we as human beings for the first time really really start to want something. We do long range planning for that, start thinking a lot about future and start building an identity around that. Naval calls this as shutting off the monkey mind. We from infancy are trained to be in the moment with no future strategic desires or wants
  13. In this monkey mind business there has come a point when we always are thinking about something or the other in our minds. We are never still, we are never in the moment, either we are analyzing past or planning future
  14. This capability of looking into the future and doing long range planning is an important strength that we humans carry and has helped us move forward. But this should rather be a servant or a tool for humans rather the master which is controlling us 24/7
  15. To do above, one has to deliberately cultivate experiences, states of mind, locations, activities that will help you get out of your mind. People doing drugs, adventure, sports are doing for the same reason to shut the monkey mind
  16. Dont believe in words like never and always. Its a way of limiting your self and self disciplining yourself. It makes a person less free and less happy at some level. He wants to be naturally in a position where he does not need something and does not even desire it. This is the ideal state, when what you want is in sync with what you end up doing
  17. Right priortisation in life: My physical health → My mental health → My spiritual health → My family health → My family well being
  18. On happiness: Happiness for him is default state, where you dont feel that there is anything that is missing. You dont try to move towards a state which then becomes default because that is what you always wanted to do, because it never works that ways
  19. Happiness is having fewer desires specially from external world. The fewer desires one will have the more you can accept the current state. Nature has no concept of happiness or unhappiness. To a tree there is no sense of right or wrong, good or bad. Its only in our heads that we are happy or unhappy or perfect or imperfect because of our desires and what we want and any deviation leads to unhappiness
  20. The reality is that 95% of what your brains runs off and tries to do, one does not need to tackle at that particular moment. Its like a muscle which should be rested and be used when the situation arises and then to completely immerse in that
  21. Why cant we control our mood by being completely in the present state of affairs. When we are mourning we should be grieving for someone we should be completely into it rather than thinking about something else that has already happened or may happen in some time
  22. On foundational values: They are values on which you will never compromise on. They are the ones that he has chosen after looking at himself very very closely and then deliberately chosen them. Honesty is one of these. It means to be honest with your self and people around you. If you cant be honest with people around you (but praise specifically and criticise generally), you should rather leave them. Another core value is long term thinking and dealing. Another one is peer to peer relationship with no hierarchy. Another one is no anger
  23. When you are not honest with some one else and lie to them, you have basically lied to yourself. And then you will start believing your own lies and which will disconnect you from the reality
  24. He has over the period of time moved from “freedom to” to “freedom from”. Freedom to will entails freedom to do whatever he feels like whenever he feels like. Freedom from entails freedom from reaction, freedom from getting angry
  25. On mistakes done in life. One way to think about this is “What advice will you give your 20 year old self. He believed that he would have still done the same set of things given the context but with little less of emotions and anger in them
  26. On meditation and monkey mind. Once you start to control it you realise how difficult it is. You then tend to create a sense of distaste towards it and start distancing yourself from that
  27. On multi player game that we play due to societal pressure and conditioning. Go do work out, look handsome is a multi player game. Move from there to start playing a single player game. No external validation only competing against yourself
  28. I think Buffet has a great example of that when he gives the, “Do you want to be the world’s best lover and known as the worst, or the world’s worst lover and known as the best?”, in reference to an inner or external score card
  29. On jealousy: The one that I discovered that spoke to me was the day I realized that all these people that I was jealous of, I couldn’t just cherry-pick and choose little aspects of their life. I couldn’t say I want his body, I want her money, I want his personality. You have to be that person. Do you want to actually be that person with all of their reactions, their desires, their family, their happiness level, their outlook on life, their self-image? If you’re not willing to do a wholesale, 24/7, 100% swap with who that person is, then there is no point in being jealous
  30. On looking internal: It’s almost antisocial rewards. When you’re working on your inner stuff, people don’t love that. It’s not that they dislike it, your friends of course support you, but they’re not getting anything out of it
  31. I think that discipline (read macroeconomics), because it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions, which is the hallmark of science, because it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions, it’s become corrupted
  32. Maybe society should not have just one organization, but should have multiple organizations so you can choose and you can go into whichever society where you are most bound the thrive. I don’t think there is a single right answer for human culture in society anymore
  33. The future thriving society that we end up with, that may be a thousand years from now, will probably look like something that I would argue very strongly against today because it will have no room for the individual (because technological advancement will give so much power to individuals that it will be dangerous to give that even it the outset)
  34. Any two points are infinitely different. Any moment is perfectly unique. That moment itself slips by so quickly that you can’t grab it
  35. On learning: I think learning should be about learning the basics in all the fields and learning them really well over and over. Life is mostly about applying the basics and only doing the advanced stuff in the things that you truly love and where you understand the basics inside out. That’s not how our system is built
  36. If you can be more right, more rational, and that’s one of the reasons why I love Farnam Street because it really focuses on helping you be more right, better decision-making, more rational, then you’re going to get nonlinear returns in your life
  37. I don’t believe that I have the ability to say what is going to work. Rather, what I try to do is I try to eliminate what’s not going to work. I think being successful is just about not making mistakes. It’s not about having correct judgment. It’s about avoiding the incorrect judgments
  38. Use your judgment to figure out what kinds of environments you can thrive in and then build a system to create that environment around you so that you’re statistically likely to succeed
  39. There’s huge diminishing returns to money after a certain point, especially now that I’m more into freedom from rather than freedom to
  40. I’m never going to be as good at being you as you are. Certainly listen, absorb, but don’t try and emulate. It’s a fool’s errand. Instead, each person is uniquely qualified at something. They have some specific knowledge, capability, and desire that nobody else in the world does. That’s just purely from the combinatorics of human DNA and development
  41. Your goal in life is to find out the people who need you the most, to find out the business that needs you the most, to find the project and the art that needs you the most
  42. I find that the people who really do things out of integrity, they have an internal moral compass. They don’t do unfair, unethical, or bad deals with other people because it would soil their own view of themselves and they wouldn’t be able to sleep themselves at night
  43. I think working with your values is long-term selfish, although short-term it absolutely involves sacrifices. If being ethical were profitable, everybody would do it. We wouldn’t have to have a separate consent
  44. The really smart thinkers are clear thinkers and they understand the basics at a very, very fundamental level. I would rather understand the basics really well than have memorized all kinds of complicated concepts that I can’t stitch together and I can’t rederive them from the basics
  45. I do view a lot of my goals over the next few years of unconditioning previous learned responses or habituated responses, so that I can make decisions more cleanly in the moment without relying on memory or prepackaged heuristics and judgments


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