AMA with Naval Ravikant: His views on life, growing your business and advice for the youth

A few weeks back, Naval Ravikant did an AMA on Twitter. It was one great stream of wisdom from him. We spent some time curating his answers to the questions asked – and here it is.

Feel free to share this AMA with Naval (original twitter link) with your colleagues and friends.

Q. Your view on future of status driven societies like India?

Naval: All society is everywhere status driven. The question is if India can sustain an creator / innovator class that isn’t corrupt.

Q. What is Naval afraid of?

Naval: Well meaning people with easy lives throwing away the unique freedoms that they take for granted.

Q. What do you think about free will?

Naval: Human mind can’t model its own future actions (not enough computation power). Universe can’t model its own actions either. Therefore one can have no free will (it’s all particle collisions), but the future stays indeterminate.

Q. Does the goal-post of happiness change once it is achieved?

Naval: Happiness is not a thing that can be possessed.

Q. How do you know when you’ve found the thing u wanna focus all ur life and energy on? Do you wake up some day and realize it or is it a slow process?

Naval: You’re overthinking it. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backwards.

Q. If you didn’t have a successful career and money, would you still have the confidence to speak your mind like this?

Naval: Lots of people who have money who don’t speak their mind.

Q. Your favourite philosopher?

Naval: Popper, Deutsch, Schopenhauer, Osho, Krishnamurti, DeMello, Seneca, Kapil Gupta, Taleb, there are too many…

Q. Which academic discipline for example Psychology, Physics and History should everyone learn?

Naval: Physics. The social sciences are heavily propagandized, non-falsifiable, and don’t replicate.

Q. How to develop intellectual curiosity?

Naval: You already have it, just look.

Q. Three best investments for the next decade?

Naval: Crypto and tech startups.

Q. What if this was all just a simulation? Do you have such existential thoughts?

Naval: Simulation theory is another unfalsifiable religion. Instead of God, you have The Programmer.

Q. What was the one thing your mother did for you you’re most grateful for? What was one think your father did for you you’re most grateful for?

Naval: My mother gave me unconditional love. My father gave me self-reliance.

Q. Best book you have read?

Naval: The Beginning of Infinity.

Q. What’s the future of firms?

Naval: DAOs, someday.

Q. Is increasing wealth inequality long term a 99%+ likelihood? any non-obvious consequences of this come to mind?

Naval: Yes, because leverage is increasing.

Q. When was the moment you personally realized you were meant for more than a normal persons life?

Naval: Being “normal” is a choice.

Q. The more I get closer to truth, the less motivated I am getting.Is this something you ever experienced?

Naval: The less false / extrinsic motivations you have.

Q. Is there any meaning to our existence as conscious balls of meat?

Naval: If there was any single meaning, then we’d all be prisoners to that meaning.

Q. Would you rather live an unhappy existence but have a great impact on the world? E.g. Nikola TeslNaval: or Have a peaceful life you enjoy where you impact humanity on a large scale. E.g. A Monk?

Naval: I’ll do both.

Q. What’s your view on defi?

Naval: The beginning of the end for Wall Street.

Q. Thoughts on Jeffery Epstein? Did you have any encounter with him?

Naval: It’s amazing to me that he and his gang had to go underage. They could have had everything they wanted and gotten away with it if they had stuck to 18+. Reminds me of the old line, “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered.”

Q. Social media : stick to talking about things you excel at (and curate your followers) or excel at things you like and talk about everything here?

Naval: Do whatever you want, followers aren’t worth much.

Q. I an uninspired software developer. How do I get my brain to do the work of getting fit, building a side hustle, re-electrifying my marriage, and just you know winning. Instead of self-sabotage and this cruise control lifestyle?

Naval: Nothing wrong with cruise control, just accept that’s what you want and you’re done.

Q. What tools or systems do you use to “track” your various notes and mental models about so many topics?

Naval: None. Sometimes I’ll re-articulate something I’ve learned in my own words, but I don’t believe in note-taking or even mental models, for that matter.

Q. Silicon Valley and universities are pathological to say the least. How would you create new Schelling points for smart people?

Naval: On the web. Crypto is one such Schelling point.

Q. What will be the most attractive (in demand/necessary) skill 5 years down the line? Why?

Naval: Hard sciences, math, computers, and engineering are never going out of style.

Q. What are the most common/harmful cognitive traps that people fall prey to?

Naval: Wanting to be liked.

Q. How much will bitcoin be at the end of next year?

Naval: It’ll moon right after you’ve given up hope.

Q. Your choices of words are so apt and compact…can you please tell us were you always like this…or has it developed after you started with meditation?

Naval: Read poetry, where every word counts.

Q. Your opinion on gold as a SoV for the next 10 years?

Naval: Non-earning asset, can’t hold it for long.

Q. Is there any formula for retirement?

Naval: Find work that doesn’t feel like a sacrifice and then you won’t be thinking about retirement.

Q. Everything gets boring after you do it for a while and I want to give up. How do you deal with something like that?

Naval: Maybe you haven’t found your calling. Or maybe you’re just seeing through the game faster than most.

Q. What is FB/Twitter/googles end game with their power to control and manipulate information?

Naval: People in power simply enjoy exercising power. It validates their worldview.

Q. What is intelligence and What is the upper limit of information?

Naval: Intelligence is the ability to adapt. The measure of it is to get what you want out of life. There are no upper limits.

Q. Your post “How to get Rich” how much does it work in developing countries?

Naval: You’d be better off trying it than looking for excuses.

Q. How you expose your homeschool kids to real life social situations(pre & post-covid)? 

Naval: Kids today are oversocialized, not undersocialized.

Q. What would you do if you were 18 in 2020? Do school, join a startup, start a startup, build things on the side, a combination of them?

Naval: Build something, whatever it takes.

Q. What is the greatest invention of our lifetime?

Naval: The smartphone, and that’s why Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

Q. Ways to get startup ideas?

Naval: They are literally everywhere. Ideas are not the limiting factor.

Q. Are you multilingual? If yes, please which other languages.

Naval: Python, C, bit of JavaScript.

Q. What’s the biggest collective challenge for people over the next 10 years?

Naval: Resisting modernity.

Q. What % of your thoughts/beliefs do you withhold from sharing due to the fact that the majority of ppl would likely misunderstand/lack the context to fully appreciate them?

Naval: Almost all.

Q. How would you deal with indecisiveness on life path/career choice?

Naval: Keep looking. You’ll know when you find it.

Q. What if i don’t have math skills, i’m weak in science, and i don’t know anything about programming?

Naval: Fix it.

Q. When was the last time you were surrounded by people with the opposite viewpoints of your beliefs?

Naval: You just typed this on Twitter dot com?

Q. What made you who you are today?

Naval: Intellectual curiosity + determination.

Q. Been meditating since 115 days now for 1hour daily. Any suggestions on how I can improve it further (in terms of quality)?

Naval: Read Eastern philosophy before you go to bed.

Q. You think it is possible to be at peace without being happy?

Naval: When most people say they want happiness, they actually want peace.

Q. Your biggest concern/worry for the next decade?

Naval: The US becomes inhospitable to innovation and goes the way of much of Europe. And Asia / Africa aren’t yet ready to step up.

Q. How do you feel about starting a cult in the future for fun?

Naval: Bad for my marriage.

Q. What’s anger?

Naval: Fear of losing control.

Q. How does traveling affect your view on your own life?

Naval: I grew up in India so traveling isn’t the revelation for me that it is for most Americans.

Q. Uber investment thesis (one sentence) for the next decade?

Naval: Decentralization.

Q. What according to you is the biggest challenge for our generation?

Naval: The perils of modernity.

Q. This is a question for a future AI that will try to mimic you, what would you want to tell it?

Naval: Delete your account.

Q. How do I get over the loss of someone very important?

Naval: It’s ok to grieve, it’s a form of love.

Q. One piece of advice on how to take better decisions in life?

Naval: Complete, utter, and total honesty.

Q. What’s a common trap to avoid in pursuit of self awareness?

Naval: Feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

Q. What was your biggest misconception?

Naval: Focusing outward for happiness.

Q. Do you think Ego is the enemy?

Naval: It’s a tool.

Q. What motivates you to do an AMA?

Naval: Boredom plus some misguided notion that making my followers happy means something.

Q. You say true meditation is disruptive. How disruptive?

Naval: Do it and you won’t have to take my word for it.

Q. Only one life advice?

Naval: Become self-contained.

Q. Favorite podcast?

Naval: Currently, Theory of Knowledge podcast by @ToKTeacher.

Q. Are there solutions for when anxiety makes all work painful? Almost unbearable.

Naval: Meditate, so you can see and address the source of your anxiety.

Q. Advice for a non technical background person like me going forward in a highly technical world?

Naval: Learn some tech basics, it’s not so hard and even a little bit goes a long way.

Q. Is there a God?

Naval: Where would he stand?

Q. What question would you ask a master like Christ or Buddha, if any?

Naval: What do I not understand?

Q. Is a utopia possible? If so will it be ideal(wants satisfied) or non-ideal(needs satisfied)?

Naval: It would be a form of death.

Q. Is freedom only a consequence?If you’re thinking about it, then it’s probably time of wealth? How do you create wealth while being free?

Naval: Or becoming monk-like.

Q. Key to content in life?

Naval: Awareness.

Q. Suggestions on when to decide to move on from a job (or any task for that matter)?

Naval: If you’re thinking about it, then it’s probably time.

Q. Do you see value in not outsourcing some tasks/chores even if they are below the “value” of your time?

Naval: Sure, if I enjoy them, or if they’ll make me healthier, or if they’re important for some key relationship…

Q. How to be the best in your respective field ?

Naval: Give a damn.

Q. From the reference frame of a junior engineer, what do you look for in an early-mid stage startup before you decide to climb aboard?

Naval: Team quality.

Q. One thing you want to do in this world that you haven’t yet done?

Naval: Nothing.

Q. What do you wish existed in the world that does not?

Naval: Genetic engineering and spacefaring vehicles.

Q. Have you met Jed McKenna? Do you think that enlightenment state as described by him is real?

Naval: I think it’s real. I haven’t met him, but I have met others like him.

Q. What works for innovators in the US that other places clearly lack?

Naval: High degree of political and social freedom.

Q. Is hysteria and outrage here to stay?

Naval: It’s a core property of social media.

Q. Are you a prepper?

Naval: I maximize optionality (within reason).

Q. What’s your view on Remote work?

Naval: I’m rooting for it. Harder for creative groups.

Q. Your advice on how to bounce back after being hit by adversities?

Naval: Give it time, you’ll bounce back naturally.

Q. Two people you want to interview separately on your own podcast and what is one question you would ask?

Naval: @DavidDeutschOxf and Gregory Chaitin. But I wouldn’t ask generic questions.

Q. Favorite fantasy and/or sci fi novel?

Naval: Lord of Light, Snow Crash, Borges and Ted Chiang short stories.

Q. Any advice for a 19 year old that is NOT studying CS?

Naval: Study CS or any hard science.

Q. Future of Crypto with quantum computers?

Naval: Quantum-resistant encryption already exists.

Q. If there was a way for your consciousness to live digitally on internet forever, what would be your goal?

Naval: To die.

Q. If followers aren’t worth much, then why are you active on Twitter? Just curious 🙂

Naval: I enjoy blocking them.

Q. What’s the most important thing a 20 year old should do today to be happy?

Naval: Make it a priority.

Q. Number 1 skill to pick up for people with no coding background?

Naval: Coding

Q. Over time, will a self-aware life become still & minimalistic with nowhere to go & nothing to do ?

Naval: Maybe, but better that than live a lie.


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