10 Interesting Naval Ravikant's Ideas about Life


6 min read

Naval Ravikant is a modern polymath who blends his understanding of modern entrepreneurship with philosophical wisdom. As an influential angel investor and the mind behind timeless advice on wealth and happiness, Naval has a knack for turning complex concepts into actionable insights that I love to read about!

Below is my pick of the 10 most interesting ideas about life I gathered from Naval Ravikant:

1. Arm yourself with specific knowledge and leverage

Ravikant emphasizes the importance of "specific knowledge," which is unique and can't be taught. This is the kind of knowledge that is about something we love, excel in, and work hard at, making it uniquely ours. It’s often highly technical or creative and can't be outsourced or automated.

Leverage amplifies efforts and today, for example, software is the newest form of leverage, distributing success with minimal cost and effort.

When we combine specific knowledge and leverage, their effects multiply and this synergy can lead to explosive success - in today’s gig economy, mastering specific knowledge and leverage is crucial for success.

2. Retreat from society if you want to be your authentic self

Life in our modern world means we are now over-socialised, programmed and influenced by other people in various forms. It’s getting harder and harder to form our own independent opinions and understand who we are and what we believe in when we’re being influenced by different loud voices. We can think of it this way - if all our beliefs line up into one political party or, for example, match the beliefs of all our friends and neighbours, then we are not clear thinkers. Our beliefs are socialised and taken from other people. In order to survive in modern society and remain our authentic selves, we need to retreat from society as often as we can. Most importantly, stay away from politics as it will destroy our ability to think.

3. Combine things you’re not supposed to combine to get people interested.

All humans are broad, with diverse skills and opinions and we should avoid limiting ourselves to only one, concise experience. Instead, it’s best if we free ourselves fully by embracing everything that we are and then show it to the world as a ball of diversity. We should try our hand at everything, have varied experiences, and test ourselves in different areas - not just stick to one niche. We’ve got only one life so let’s do everything that interests us and express our authentic, unique combination of skills, viewpoints, and opinions with others freely. This is what actually makes us interesting.

4. We must be willing to start over

People don’t like the idea of starting over because they know that this is emotionally painful. However, to achieve success in life and become the best we can be, we should be willing to be fools, have a beginner’s mindset and go back to the very beginning to start over from scratch. If we feel that we’re not where we want to be in life and can’t see how following our current path will lead us to where we want to be and who we want to become, the best thing to do is to just reinvent ourselves and start creating our new life, career, or relationships from scratch.

5. Learn to love reading but don’t read all the books to completion

Reading is the foundation of self-improvement and lifelong learning. By developing a habit of reading broadly and deeply, we can gain knowledge, expand our thinking, and stay ahead of the curve. We should develop a daily reading practice to continuously grow intellectually and personally.

However, reading a lot of books or reading all books to completion is just a vanity metric, according to Naval. It may be better to read the best 100 books over and over again until they are fully absorbed rather than read all the books and forget everything we’ve read.

We should read books to satisfy our intellectual curiosity and if we manage to do this after reading only a chapter or two, we should not waste our time reading it all just to complete it.

Naval reads books to understand - by flipping through books and looking for ideas that interest him or that he doesn't understand.

6. Spend more time on meditation to experience really positive results

The most compelling form of meditation is to sit there for 60 minutes every day for at least 60 days (no less than an hour because it takes 30-40 minutes to stop your mind from chattering). We need to do this first thing in the morning when our mind is clear and we’re alert after we have had a good night’s sleep.

We should sit up with our back straight and just allow whatever happens to happen - if our mind wants to talk, we should let it talk. If it wants to fight, we let it fight. If it wants to be quiet, we let it be quiet, etc. Just do whatever our mind wants to do. And when we do that for at least 60 days, then we should be able to experience the clearing of our mental inbox and all the craziness that’s inside our minds. We can expect that some problems will get resolved, that we’ll have some epiphanies and that we’ll make changes to our lives - this practice will allow us to decrease our anxiety levels, clear our minds and live more peacefully.

7. Understanding basics are more important than memorising

It’s best if we strive to understand what is underneath all the concepts and definitions that we’re trying to learn. What we really want is to understand concepts and be able to explain them in several different ways as simply memorising things will not provide us with the knowledge and understanding we need. If we are not able to easily explain concepts in all languages we speak, then it means we do not understand them well enough.

In the real world, we get paid by making sound decisions using the basic knowledge we have. We don’t need to have an advanced knowledge for most things. The basics are pretty much all we need to get through life and so it is much more superior than memorising certain definitions and concepts to appear “smarter” without being unable to apply them in the real world.

8. Happiness is a choice and it’s totally learnable

Happiness is a little like nutrition and fitness - a skill we can identify and develop that will slowly give us positive results as we get better at it. There is not a single thing in this world that can make us happy for the rest of our lives (think money, success, wealth, etc). Each time we achieve our desire or a goal, we’ll feel happy for a short period of time but our happy state of mind will not last forever.

Achieving happiness requires a process of understanding, self-discovery, and training ourselves to see certain truths. And thus the only way to be happy is to first understand and believe that we can. For example, Naval highlights that the following things helped him to increase his happiness: avoiding sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, reducing addictive behaviours, such as scrolling through social media and playing video games, and understanding that external circumstances and acquiring “things” don’t lead to happiness.

9. View life as a single-player game that is all in your head

Whatever we think and believe to be true shapes our reality. This includes the risks and actions we’re willing to take and the everyday experience of our reality.

In essence, reality is a neutral set of sensory experiences and simulations that can be interpreted differently by each different person (positively and negatively). If we see negativity or positivity in our work, it’s simply a reflection of our own feelings back at us. That being said, happiness is a choice and once we acknowledge it, we then can start improving how we react to our reality, in which case, by changing our feelings and responses we will be able to change our lives.

10. Find something that feels like play to you but looks like work to others

If we want to have an easier life, we need to practise adopting long-term thinking in our mindset. Compound interest can be applied anywhere - career, relationships, health, fitness, finances - so if we can change our habits and do things consistently that will eventually serve us best in the long term, then we win at life.

For example, if we’re doing something that we love, let’s say running a business that we enjoy, then it will feel like play to us and it will be more interesting than anything else we can do (play games, drink, watch movies, etc). So, ideally, we’ll find something that we can do that is fun for us and feels like play but looks like work to others that we can sustain for a very long time to receive the compound interest in the future. And this is how we win.