Book review: The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson

As I did with yesterday’s review, I’ll keep these short and sweet. The review should give you a glimpse into the book and what I took away from it, so that you can make your own decision on whether to read it or not. That’s why I’ll keep these reviews to maximum 5 minutes in reading time. Today’s book in question:

What The Almanack of Naval Ravikant is about

Naval Ravikant is a well-known entrepreneur and investor-turned-philosopher. He’s the founder of AngelList, a website where start-ups can seek funding. Nowadays, he’s mostly known for philosophizing about the pursuit of wealth and happiness on his Twitter account.

The book isn’t actually written by Naval, but it’s a collection of his most prominent thoughts and tweets. The first part of the book covers how to build wealth:

  • Build specific knowledge, i.e. something that can only be learned but not taught (through experience) and find the unique skill combination you personally excel at, then become the best at it.
  • Play long-term games: understand the power of compound interest (not only in terms of money).
  • Take on accountability: be prepared to take risks (again, not only constrained to your finances).
  • Build equity in a business: decouple your time and your income.
  • Use a form of leverage: money, labor, technology or media.
  • Learn to make your own luck through a combination of creating enough movement to expose yourself to opportunities and being attentive to them.
  • Be patient: combine all the previous factors, time is on your side.

There’s a short part about building judgement. Good judgement equals good decision-making which equals good results:

  • Learn to think clearly by understanding the basics, building on this foundation and abandoning preconceptions.
  • Learn mental models: microeconomics, evolution, the principal-agent problem and others.
  • Adapt reading: better to read the 100 best (i.e. most relevant to you) books multiple times than reading what doesn’t help you.

The second part of the book deals with learning happiness:

  • Happiness is a choice and a skill that can be learned.
  • Happiness requires presence.
  • Happiness means being satisfied with the present while success comes from dissatisfaction. Therefore, the two clash.

He also goes into how you build yourself by caring about your mental and physical health through exercise and meditation. The book finishes with Naval’s take on the meaning of life: there is none and you must give your life your own meaning. Define your core values and live by them.

Why I chose to read The Almanack of Nava Ravikant

I came across the name a couple of times on Twitter and was vaguely familiar with Naval Ravikant, but I didn’t know the details of his story or philosophy. I just knew he’s sort of a philosopher like Nassim Taleb with interesting thoughts and ideas. That’s exactly why I picked this book; it doesn’t focus on one narrow topic but gives you an insight in the thought process of one of the more influential modern thinkers.

What I liked about The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

Most of all I liked the concise style. Since the book is a collection of tweets and posts he wrote (if I understood it correctly), there’s very little fluff to it. His points on building wealth are literally summed as formulas such as:

Happiness = Health + Wealth + Good Relationships

That type of thinking and writing appeals to me. I don’t want an author to take dozens of pages to get a simple point across. Short and sweet.

The above formula might sound trivial. That’s all there is to it you might be asking. But there’s nothing new under the sun and it comes down to delivery and the way someone brings forward his ideas and that’s the second point I like about the book. Especially the ideas about building wealth are formulated as a mental model that you can apply and adapt as you wish. Take this formula:

Income = Accountability + Leverage + Specific knowledge

That’s very easy to understand. Anyone can apply this to their own situation and immediately understand why they’re in the position they’re in. This made the book very easy to read and easy to remember as well.

The argument that there’s no meaning in life but you have to fill your own life with meaning resonated with me. That’s not so much about the book itself but the “rational buddhism” philosophy that I also subscribe to. He doesn’t force his thoughts on you, he presents an argument and a philosophy and it’s up to the reader to draw their own conclusions.

What I didn’t like

I thought the latter part of the happiness chapter was a bit forgettable. There was nothing wrong with it per se, it’s just that there’s only so much to say about the benefits of exercise and meditation. That said, the book doesn’t specifically praise these practices. He even underlines that meditation alone can only be a small piece of the puzzle. I just didn’t take away anything noteworthy from it.

What I learned from The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

I learned that big parts of what we consider important in life, such as wealth, health and relationships can be broken down to easy mathematical formulas and rules that you can follow. Do that and you unclutter your brain. Follow them and you’ll find what you seek.

Who I’d recommend The Almanack of Naval Ravikant to

Naval Ravikant to me is an interesting person with ideas that are thought-provoking and make a lot of sense. This is someone that I’d actually call a “thought leader”. A person that has ideas and a worldview that are founded on experience. At the same time, he abstracts these ideas in a very digestible way and presents them to the reader to make up his own mind. I doubt that anyone would walk away from this book without remembering a single thing.

Recommended to anyone that wants a glimpse into the mind of a 21st century thought leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *