Earfare: Naval Ravikant, CEO, AngelList via Tim Ferriss Podcast

Naval Ravikant (@naval)

Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) refers to Naval Ravikant (@naval) as “a very deep thinker who is very good at asking questions” and who’s success not only in business but in life comes from his “practice of being hyper-rational” when others are emotional. Ravikant’s wisdom shows countless times during this two hour discussion and his best investor advice is applicable to all of us in today’s time crunched world, “Guard your time more carefully than you guard your money.”

Ravikant is the CEO and a co-founder of AngelList which Ferriss describes as an incredible tool for matching opportunities with investors that is “very very disruptive to the venture capital space” where Ravikant has been an early investor in companies like Twitter and Uber among many others.

TimFerrissShowArt1400x1400The Tim Ferriss Show

Naval has refined his way of living in very unique ways, and you can borrow what he’s learned, read the books that have changed him, and experiment with the habits he has developed through trial and error. Enjoy this conversation with a curious character!

Podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show: The Person I Call Most for Startup Advice

On Reading

Ravikant and Ferriss are avid readers so a majority of the podcast and topics discussed revolved around reading. Ravikant says “real education begins in the library, begins with books. If you can learn to like to read, you never need to go to school.”

“If you takeaway one thing from this podcast, figure out how to read. There are many skills and gifts that people have in life and the great thing about reading is you can use that to pick up any new skill. Learning how to learn is the ultimate meta-skill”

Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett | @thebiscaynepoet

Ravikant is wise in his emphasis on reading as an act, over books as a medium. He sees books as historically being long simply to  justify the need to cut up a tree, whereas “in reality a lot of the wisdom in these books can be encapsulated in a few pages.” The lifehack he’s developed to efficiently deal with books has been to treat “books as throwaway blog posts” feeling “no obligation to finish any book.”

Ravikant enthusiastically describes blogs as an “under-appreciated resource” that are “a very efficient source of information” with two of his favorites being Melting Asphalt by Kevin Simler and the Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams. Melting Asphalt he recommends “for anyone who is intellectually and scientifically curious” and describes Adams’ blog as “absolutely brilliant posts” specifically recommending, The Day You Became a Better Writer.

On Happiness

While his intensity for life and business are certainly strong characteristics it is Ravikant’s contentedness and obvious joy for life that makes him an inspiration. He describes desire as “a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want” but that “a lot of us learn as we get older that happiness is internal, happiness is a choice that you make and a skill you develop.” Ravikant says that often happiness is “just being present” which he describes as living “in the present moment” and believes is our “highest calling… the source of all happiness.”

On Work

Ravikant describes himself fundamentally at heart as an entrepreneur who is “pretty unhappy” if he has to solve the same problem twice in one day. He prefers variety in his days and work and believes that “all humans are meant to do that kind of thing.” Ravikant describes our pigeonhole careers as a modern invention resulting from industrialization and that “as more and more people move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we’re going to be able to define ourselves much more loosely.”

“What the industrial age did was it allowed human beings to team up in mechanistic organized hierarchical ways to create factories and production. I think the information revolution is breaking down the communication barriers. It’s saying the optimal size of the firm is shrinking from thousands, to hundreds, to dozens, maybe even to one at some point.”

Ravikant predicts that in the future “almost everybody on this planet will work for themselves” because the “information revolution is reversing the industrial revolution.” Ravikant hopes that his work through AngeList will help bring us into the future he envisions:

“What makes me happy is to work on a platform that creates more founders and helps those founders. Because I think at the end of the day we’re all founders, we’re all meant to work for ourselves, we’re meant to be individuals. We’re not meant to follow, we’re not meant to be in hierarchies, we’re not meant to go to 9-5 jobs where we’re told what to do over and over. And the sooner we get off the grid and self actualize and become free the better off all of humanity is.”

Both Ferriss and Ravikant agree that today’s definition of “founders” is limiting and that we are all founders in that we create ourselves through our decisions and habits day by day.

On Success

In describing success, Ravikant understands that for many success is defined as the winner of the game that they are playing, whether it is sports, business, investing, or invention, the ones on top we consider successes. Ravikant takes a wider view:

“The real winners are the ones that step out of the game entirely. Who don’t even play the game. Who rise above it. Those are the people who have such internal mental and self control and self awareness that they need nothing from anybody else. Winning or losing does not matter to them”

Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett

To evaluate success Raikant notes that life’s most incessant problems require us to look the farthest back and that “the older the problem the older the book” you should look to. Both men are fans of Stoicism and refer often to the writings of Seneca and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Ravikant finds wisdom in Meditations which is the personal diary of the Emperor of Rome who deals with the same mental struggles as we do today. Ravikan concludes that “success and power do not improve your internal state. You still have to work on that.”

On Honesty

In their discussion of being present and happiness Ravikant’s philosophy on the importance of honesty is concrete. He describes the necessity of being honest as a technologist familiar with the unbending logic of computer code.

“When you’re not honest with somebody else or when you even withhold something in your mind; what you’ve done is you’ve created a second thought process, you’ve created a second thread in your head. That then has to stay active, keeping track of what you’ve said versus what you’re really thinking. And that takes you out of the moment, it brings you unhappiness over time.

You will not realize it at that moment itself but it will create stress and distraction.

So if you really want to be happy, you have to be present and one of the core tenants of being present is to be completely honest at all times.”

On Evolution

For Ravikant “evolution is a binding principle” and is a consideration that guides his rationality with many aspects of life. This led to some very insightful discussion and engaging thoughts. From what to read and waking up naturally to the domestication of wolves and sources of depression, both Ferriss and Ravikant intertwine evolution throughout their conversation.

The book most gifted by Ravikant is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari which Ravikant summarizes as a story about “how humans are the first animals that were able to tell each other stories and those stories that talked about things that were actually going on around them allowed humans to self organize.”

Ravikant points to storytelling as a way humans differentiated from Neanderthals to unite through narrative and that as “story telling monkeys” we’ve created stories to build bonds. That religion and corporations are really just stories that we organize around. This idea about organizing around narratives is well illustrated in the RSA Animate presentation, The Empathic Civilisation by Jeremy Rifkin.

Ferriss follows by suggesting that domestication of wolves was an advantage for Homo Sapiens and points to recent observations of a truce between baboons and Ethiopian wolves over field mice in Africa as new evidence raising questions about how domestication occurred.

Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett

When it comes to morning routines and sleep, Ravikant believes that alarm clocks are terrible for you and states that “it will bring more peace in your life to break that habit then any more difficult habit.” Ravikant notes that we have evolved in such a way that things like sleeping near a crackling fireplace or the breathing of a dog will calm us while a barking dog or alarm clock will jar and shock our systems.

With technology and our societal narrative Ravikant explains that we’ve become disconnected from our tribal roots of living in tight groups and being available to each other for support. That this disconnection has lead to severe loneliness which he believes people compensate for with alcohol and drugs or going out excessively which contribute to depression. Ferriss concurs and offers from experience that depression is less likely in group living because of constant interaction and that opening your life and your house to other people is good for mental health.

On Mindfulness

“Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts”

Ravikant practices choice-less awareness which he uses to help accept things without judgment including his own thoughts. He finds that most judgments are based in his own fears. He also uses a mental hack from Illusions by Richard Bach to “treat your life as a movie” and that if “we’re each living the movie of our lives” we should hold a more positive view of everything. The mundane becomes exciting, challenges become opportunities, and integrity is a fundamental trait if you are the hero in your own movie.

On Conclusion

This podcast was over two hours in length and completely worth the time to listen and digest the ideas and thoughts shared. While technology changes everything about our lives and we have to evaluate new business ideas and the changing dynamics of society Ravikant is grounded and offers sound wisdom.

“The hardest thing in this business is that the great new companies always look really strange, they don’t look very much like the previous companies. The conventional wisdom is always wrong”

Ravikant notes that “we are trained in habits from when we are children” and believes that “everyone gets shaped very very early on in life.” and that “you’re probably ‘baked’ in terms of your core personality by the time you are 12 or 13.” He later continues:

“When we are older… we’re a collection of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of habit loops that are constantly running, subconsciously and they’re internalized and then we have a little bit of extra brain power in our neocortex for solving new problems. So you become your habits.”

Ravikant closes suggesting; “In any situation in life, you always have three options.”

Change it. Accept it. Leave it.

TimFerrissShowArt1400x1400The Tim Ferriss Show

Naval has refined his way of living in very unique ways, and you can borrow what he’s learned, read the books that have changed him, and experiment with the habits he has developed through trial and error. Enjoy this conversation with a curious character!

Podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show: The Person I Call Most for Startup Advice


Earfare is a curated collection of podcasts serving valuable wisdom from people not often accessible. I am sharing these discussions to spread their delicious ideas, philosophies, and practices.

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