Naval is a honeypot for first principle thinkers

Thiyagarajan Maruthavan (Rajan)
7 min readJan 15, 2018

Naval is a first principle thinker, his ability to think about anything deeply and articulate them in the most lucid way is unparalleled, very rare to find an individual like this. Many have interviewed him on their respective blogs, podcasts and conference. Several of these places have curated nuggets of his thinking, here is my own curation of notes that I refer to from time to time.

Naval’s thoughts

On Principles, Skills

Decision MakingYou make good decision when it becomes an instinct ; when faced with many pick the difficult one

LearningTeaching forces learning; Mastery must be pursued for its own

NegotiationHe who cares less wins

Managing Time Do a 2 factor authentication on time commits

SpeakingSpeak as you write and vice versa; eliminate inner monologue, hear your own voice, know your subject stone cold

WisdomPrune bullshit ; is measured by calm in uncertainty; is discarding vice return to virtue ; Life is a single player game ; Know when to enter the game and exit the game

HappinessIs a skill ; Is a desire ; Is a contract with self

On Wealth creation

Comes with owning a business ;

Earn with mind not time ;

Is both luck & skill, early luck is preferable but gives bad habits ;

Be optimistic while being a contrarian ;

is like poker game, cards you are dealt and hands you play ;

Seek mis-priced optionality ;

Is about timing and your own time horizons ;

Patience trumps cleverness ;

Investing as angel is like winning a six digit lottery but knowing one digit.

On Health

Subtract not add ; hard workout easy day ; Nutrition quality control > quantity control


Sapiens ; Tao of Seneca ; Tools of Titans ; Tribe of Mentors ; Meditations ; Reality is not what it seems ; Elephant in the brain

During the exercise of making my notes what I found even more fascinating is the other deep thinkers that Naval attracts, the mind stretch that they further create over Naval’s initial thoughts. Some of my additional notes of these folks below.

Tribe that he attracts


“Only the individual transcends” — @naval

Ponder more

“There’s no community that’ll get you there. Everybody’s journey is unique. We all have to find the sources that speak to us.When you start going your own way, you start to disconnect from your friends and family because they have a consensus model of who you are. And they don’t want you to deviate from that model. “ — @Steve Maxwell


“If you attack someone’s identity, you shut down all conversations with them.” -@naval

Ponder more

“How tightly our ego grips to concepts & labels we hardly ever examine.” — @amirmotlagh

Sovereign Individual

“Logic of violence determines the structure of society” -@naval

Ponder more

“Logic of violence is not about ease but desire to assimilate — evolution on v. long scale, a desire to create families for humans” — @Alexandroulykos


“Uncertainty, not outcome, is the root of stress.” — @naval

Ponder more

“Outcome leads to even more uncertainty” — @lpolovets

“Possible uncertainty is the by product of expectation.” — @henocki

Your game

“The problem with getting good at a game, especially one with big rewards, is that you continue playing it long after you should have outgrown it” — @naval

Ponder more

works both ways. Problem with being bad at a game with high rewards is that you continue playing long after you should have given up.-

“Life is a single player game.” -@naval

Ponder more

“With no owner manual. Multiple controllers at the start. Single controller for the self actualized.” -@henocki

Correlation and Causation

“Correlation isn’t causation but neurons that fire together wire together. Thus the confusion.” -@naval

Ponder more

“Evolutionary, getting too many false positives is more beneficial than getting too many false negatives. Hence the bias.” — @DellAnnaLuca


“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” -@naval

Ponder more

“once you get “what you want”, and realize it didn’t make you happy, it’s time to rethink the terms of the contract” — @fortierfinance

“To be without some of the thing you want is an indispensable part of happiness” @xochinla

“People who live far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom.” — @naval

Ponder more

“Not wanting something is as good as having it.” @L1AD

“Less is more, more or less” @StatusQuont


“Instead of treating events as wins or losses, ask “Did I learn something I can apply in the future?” If not, you must treat it as a loss.” — @naval

Ponder more

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” — @Melinda Byerley‏

Bias is what happens when you get what you wanted” — @Shane Johnson‏

There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes. — Buckminster Fuller” — @Alexander Wolfe‏

Ponder more

“If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” — Miles Davis” — @Mr Mircea

Self Improvement

“Reading my old blog posts makes me cringe. The posturing is so obvious.” — @naval

Ponder more

“By the time you realise that your father was right, you will have a son who thinks that you are wrong — Charles Wadsworth”


“Wisdom is understanding the long term consequences of your actions.” — @naval

Ponder more

“Understanding the long term consequences of your actions so much that you drop wisdom and become a fool.” — @Mr Mircea


“Understand technology to reformat reality”- @Naval

Ponder more

“Opium does not need PR” — @Akira

“Every year the minimum IQ needed to destroy the planet decreases.” — @Akira

“Technology doesn’t change what people want in the world, it just removes the use of violence to get there.” — @naval

Ponder more

“Everyone wants the same things. People only differ on the ways to get them, and on the proxies used to measure progress.” — @DellAnnaLuca

“In tech, small-stakes iterated games can suddenly turn into high-stakes single-move games. That’s when the knives come out.” -@naval

Ponder more

“When scale of what’s at stake is greater than the overton window of those involved” — @Unamusedchimp


“Money is a consensus hallucination, a bubble that never pops. That’s why people get tulip mania. If you’re right… “ -@naval

Ponder more

“It may surprise some that calling something a “cultural construct” isn’t that same as calling it meaningless. Money is cultural construct.” — @existentialcoms


“Earn with your mind, not your time” — @naval

“If you’re leveraged with capital, code, or people, and own equity, then good decisions have a much larger earning impact than hard work” — @naval

Ponder more

On the other hand, higher leverage narrows your margin for error. It turns a small mistake into an existential threat.

Investing time/money behind someone? — Do you like them? — Can they teach you something you want to learn? — Good economics? If so, invest. @naval


“Consensus” is just another way of saying “average.” — @naval

Ponder more

“Icecream Principle — Tell 10 people to get ice cream with one condition; they all have to agree on one flavour. That flavour is going to be chocolate and or vainalla every time. Groups of people don’t agree on whats cool or interesting, they agree on what’s easy to agree.” — @Patrick Buggy


“You get paid for being right first, and to be first, you can’t wait for consensus.” — @naval

Ponder more

“You can wait for a consensus of early adopters, though this is risky” — @paulg

“You can be right first and not see a dime for your efforts. You get paid for creating consensus first.” @mr_james_c

Best investing attitude is contrarian, patient, informed optimism. As @m2jr says, “non-consensus and right.” -@naval

Ponder more

“Even better when the entrepreneur builds a company that way!” -@Mike Maples (m2jr)


“Wealth creation is an evolutionarily recent positive-sum game. Status is an old zero-sum game. Those attacking wealth creation are often just seeking status” — @naval

“But what if economists have it all wrong, that self interest is primarily about status, and only incidentally correlated with wealth?”- @naval

Ponder more

“Envy is a much more evolutionarily plausible self-interest mechanism than greed because it is more robust.” — @egfalken

“What’s the most effective way to allocate assets? An auction. The least? A lottery. Which resembles inheritance most closely? “ — @mmay3r

“but what’s the most effective way to incentivize wealth creation? Gives the opposite answer. Incentives and Disincentives all the way down” — @naval

“When everyone is sick, we no longer consider it a disease.” -@naval

“Then it is culture” — @amusechimp

Bitcoin is a decentralized timestamp/messaging protocol that when implemented and stable results in a value storage system “ — @Desantis

“You can tell what is constraining someone in life by who they judge” @Tiago Forte

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.” — @Samuel Gil


“Discipline is the proactive form of laziness, You create systems and routines to remove the need of reactive planning and thinking” — @AJA_Cortes

“Large number of young people break *any and all* imaginable rules that exist in society, profession, academia.” — @_lordmax_

“Life needs noise, when the rule is rule breaking, the reaction is socialism @mwilcox

“Be sure your dreams and goals are your own. Society has this funny way of corrupting your operating system.” — @TheHappyPhilosopher‏

“Culture is not your friend.” — @RedPillTrading

There are 29 folks that are there in the above list

@Steve Maxwell , @amirmotlagh , @Alexandroulykos, @lpolovets , @henocki , @L1AD, @DellAnnaLuca, @fortierfinance , @xochinla , @StatusQuont, @Melinda Byerley‏, @Shane Johnson‏, @MrMircea,@Unamusedchimp,@Akira,@existentialcoms,@Patrick Buggy,@mr_james_c,@paulg,@Mike Maples ,@egfalken,@mmay3r ,@amusechimp,@Desantis,@Tiago ,@Samuel Gil,@AJA_Cortes,@_lordmax_,@mwilcox

First principle thinking is going beyond metaphors, mental models and involves asking deeper ‘why’ question recursively till one can’t do it any further. To every such thought it is important to reflect on counterpoints so that the original thinking can be strengthened. As @VBrunsch points out it is important to do it actively. I don’t know whether Naval does such a practice proactively or not, who am I to ask or judge. I personally find this tribe helpful to challenge Naval’s thoughts for myself. When I think the thoughts Naval introduces, several times this tribe is source of an anti-thesis that help me move beyond admiration of Naval to appreciation of the thoughts and then eventually to add my own thinking to make my version.



Thiyagarajan Maruthavan (Rajan)

Helping founders craft capital efficient SaaS business. Managing Partner - Upekkha. Past life - M&A, Intuit, Entrepreneur