Tag Archives: Worth Re-reading

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Naval Ravikant and Eric Jorgenson

Summary

  1. A beautiful and more evergreen version of the incredibly deep How to Get Rich podcast Naval did in 2019 where he talks about wisdom, wealth, health, happiness, and more.

Key Takeaways

  1. I only really want to do things for their own sake. That is one definition of art. Whether it’s business, exercise, romance, friendship, whatever, I think the meaning of life is to do things for their own sake. Ironically, when you do things for their own sake, you create your best work. Even if you’re just trying to make money, you will actually be the most successful. The year I generated the most wealth for myself was actually the year I worked the least hard and cared the least about the future. I was mostly doing things for the sheer fun of it. I was basically telling people, “I’m retired, I’m not working.” Then, I had the time for whatever was my highest valued project in front of me. By doing things for their own sake, I did them at their best. The less you want something, the less you’re thinking about it, the less you’re obsessing over it, the more you’re going to do it in a natural way. The more you’re going to do it for yourself. You’re going to do it in a way you’re good at, and you’re going to stick with it. The people around you will see the quality of your work is higher. 
    1. Effortless Mastery
  2. The final form of leverage is brand new—the most democratic form. It is: “products with no marginal cost of replication.” This includes books, media, movies, and code. Code is probably the most powerful form of permissionless leverage. All you need is a computer—you don’t need anyone’s permission. Forget rich versus poor, white-collar versus blue. It’s now leveraged versus un-leveraged. The most interesting and the most important form of leverage is the idea of products that have no marginal cost of replication. This is the new form of of leverage. This was only invented in the last few hundred years. It started with the printing press. It accelerated with broadcast media, and now it’s really blown up with the internet and with coding. Now, you can multiply your efforts without involving other humans and without needing money from other humans.
    1. Leverage
  3. Learn to sell, learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
    1. Alloying
  4. However, anything you’re given doesn’t matter. You have your four limbs, your brain, your head, your skin—that’s all for granted. You have to do hard things anyway to create your own meaning in life. Making money is a fine thing to choose. Go struggle. It is hard. I’m not going to say it’s easy. It’s really hard, but the tools are all available. It’s all out there. 
  5. I believe the solution to making everybody happy is to give them what they want. Let’s get them all rich.
  6. You have to put in the time, but the judgment is more important. The direction you’re heading in matters more than how fast you move, especially with leverage. Picking the direction you’re heading in for every decision is far, far more important than how much force you apply. Just pick the right direction to start walking in, and start walking. 
    1. Velocity
  7. The really smart thinkers are clear thinkers. They understand the basics at a very, very fundamental level. I would rather understand the basics really well than memorize all kinds of complicated concepts I can’t stitch together and can’t rederive from the basics. If you can’t rederive concepts from the basics as you need them, you’re lost. You’re just memorizing. The advanced concepts in a field are less proven. We use them to signal insider knowledge, but we’d be better off nailing the basics. 
    1. First Principles
  8. Mental models are really just compact ways for you to recall your own knowledge. I think a lot of modern society can be explained through evolution. One theory is civilization exists to answer the question of who gets to mate. If you look around, from a purely sexual selection perspective, sperm is abundant and eggs are scarce. It’s an allocation problem. Literally all of the works of mankind and womankind can be traced down to people trying to solve this problem. Evolution, thermodynamics, information theory, and complexity have explanatory and predictive power in many aspects of life. 
    1. Mental Models
  9. To me, the principal-agent problem is the single most fundamental problem in microeconomics. If you do not understand the principal-agent problem, you will not know how to navigate your way through the world. It is important if you want to build a successful company or be successful in your dealings. It’s a very simple concept. Julius Caesar famously said, “If you want it done, then go. And if not, then send.” What he meant was, if you want it done right, then you have to go yourself and do it. When you are the principal, then you are the owner—you care, and you will do a great job. When you are the agent and you are doing it on somebody else’s behalf, you can do a bad job. You just don’t care. You optimize for yourself rather than for the principal’s assets.
    1. Microeconomics / Principal-Agent
  10. Least understood, but the most important principle for anyone claiming “science” on their side—falsifiability. If it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions, it’s not science. For you to believe something is true, it should have predictive power, and it must be falsifiable. I think macroeconomics, because it doesn’t make falsifiable predictions (which is the hallmark of science), has become corrupted. You never have a counterexample when studying the economy. You can never take the US economy and run two different experiments at the same time. 
    1. Falsifiability
  11. No one in the world is going to beat you at being you. You’re never going to be as good at being me as I am. I’m never going to be as good at being you as you are. Certainly, listen and absorb, but don’t try to emulate. It’s a fool’s errand. Instead, each person is uniquely qualified at something. They have some specific knowledge, capability, and desire nobody else in the world does, purely from the combinatorics of human DNA and development. The combinatorics of human DNA and experience are staggering. You will never meet any two humans who are substitutable for each other.
    1. Permutations & Combinations
  12. The first thing to realize is you can observe your mental state. Meditation doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to gain the superpower to control your internal state. The advantage of meditation is recognizing just how out of control your mind is. It is like a monkey flinging feces, running around the room, making trouble, shouting, and breaking things. It’s completely uncontrollable. It’s an out-of-control madperson…The ability to singularly focus is related to the ability to lose yourself and be present, happy, and (ironically) more effective. It’s almost like you’re taking yourself out of a certain frame and you’re watching things from a different perspective even though you’re in your own mind. Buddhists talk about awareness versus the ego. They’re really talking about how you can think of your brain, your consciousness, as a multilayered mechanism. There’s a core-base, kernel-level OS running. Then, there are applications running on top. (I like to think of it as computer and geek speak.)
    1. Meditation
  13. I’m not going to be the most successful person on the planet, nor do I want to be. I just want to be the most successful version of myself while working the least hard possible. I want to live in a way that if my life played out 1,000 times, Naval is successful 999 times. He’s not a billionaire, but he does pretty well each time. He may not have nailed life in every regard, but he sets up systems so he’s failed in very few places
    1. Authenticity, Systems > Goals

What I got out of it

  1. As with all great books and deep wisdom, something new is uncovered every time you read it. This is certainly true for this almanack of naval’s

The Life of Elbert H. Gary: A Story of Steel by Ida Tarbell

This book is full of practical wisdom and deserved a longer write up.

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn by Richard Hamming

“After more thought I decided that since I was trying to teach “style” of thinking in science and engineering, and “style” is an art, I should therefore copy the methods of teaching used for the other arts – once the fundamentals have been learned. How to be a great painters cannot be taught in words; one learns by trying many different approaches that seem to surround the subject. Art teachers usually let the advanced student paint, and then make suggestions on how they would have done it, or what might also be tried, more or less as the points arise in the student’s head – which is where the learning is supposed to occur! In this series of lectures, I try to communicate to students what cannot be said in words – the essence of style in science and engineering. I have adopted a loose organization with some repetition since this often occurs in the lectures. There are, therefore, digressions and stories – with some told in two different places – all in the somewhat rambling, informal style typical of lectures. I have used the “story” approach, often emphasizing the initial part of the discovery, because I firmly believe in Pasteur’s remark, “Luck favors the prepared mind.” In this way I can illustrate how the individual’s preparation before encountering the problem can often lead to recognition, formulation, and solution. Great results in science and engineering are “bunched” in the same person too often for success to be a matter of random luck. Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past…Therefore, style of thinking is the center of this course. The subtitle of the book, Learning to Learn, is the main solution I offer to help students cope with the rapid changes they will have to endure in their fields. The course centers around how to look at and think about knowledge, and it supplies some historical perspective that might be useful. This course is mainly personal experiences I have had and digested, at least to some extent. Naturally one tends to remember one’s successes and forget lesser events, but I recount a number of my spectacular failures as clear examples of what to avoid. I have found that the personal story is far, far more effective than the impersonal one; hence there is necessarily an aura of “bragging” in the book that is unavoidable. Let me repeat what I earlier indicated. Apparently an “art” – which almost by definition cannot be put into words – is probably best communicated by approaching it from many sides and doing so repeatedly, hoping thereby students will finally mater enough of the art, or if you wish, style, to significantly increase their future contributions to society. A totally different description of the course is: it covers all kinds of things that could not find their proper place in the standard curriculum.”

PS – The book is expensive and hard to find but here is a PDF copy of the book and if you’re more of an auditory learner, here are Hamming’s “Learning to Learn” lectures

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Summary

  1. The story of Jonathan Seagull, the seagull who dared to be different and push the limits of flight, learning about himself, mastery, and perfection

Key Takeaways

  1. And then a hundred other lives until we begin to learn that there is such a thing as perfection, and another hundred again to get the idea that our purpose for living is to find that  for us now, o show it forth. The same rule holds for us now, of course: we choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, a ll the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.
  2. No, Jonathan, there is no such place. Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect…Perfect speed my son, is being there
  3. You can go to any place and to any time that you wish to go, the Elder said. I’ve gone everywhere and everywhen I can think of. He looked across the sea. It’s strange. The gulls who scorn perfection for the sake of travel go nowhere, slowly. Those who put aside travel for the sake of perfection go anywhere, instantly. Remember, Jonathan, heaven isn’t a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless
  4. To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived. The trick, according to Chiang, was for Jonathan to stop seeing himself as trapped inside a limited body that had a forty-two-inch wingspan and performance that could be plotted on a chart. The trick was to know that his true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time
  5. I wonder about that, Jon, said Sullivan, standing near. You have less fear of learning than any gull I’ve seen in ten thousand years. The Flock fell silent, and Jonathan fidgeted in embarrassment. We can start working with time if you wish, Chiang said, till you can fly the past and the future. And then you will be ready to begin the most difficult, the most powerful, and the most fun of all. You will be ready to begin to fly up and know the meaning of kindness and love.
  6. For in spite of his lonely past, Jonathan Seagull was born to be an instructor, and his own way of demonstrating love was to give something of the truth that he had seen to a gull who asked only a chance to see truth for himself.
  7. Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom, Jonathan would say in the evenings on the beach, and precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside…Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body too
  8. He spoke of very simple things – that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form. Set aside, came a voice from the multitude, even if it be the Law of the Flock? The only true law is that which leads to freedom, Jonathan would said. There is no other.

What I got out of it

  1. Has been 15 years since the last time I read this book and it hit me even more this time. Go live, do, practice, aim for perfection, freedom, and truth. It is the most fulfilling way to live and will open up dimensions that you couldn’t even imagine before

The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life by Robert Fritz

I got so much out of this book that I made a bit of a more formal write-up.

If you want to learn more about the power of creating, why the structure in your life impacts your behavior more than your willpower, the importance of facing reality without obscuring it, and so much more, this book is for you.


If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

A Treatise on Efficacy

This book is about the diverging patterns of efficacy between Western and Chinese thinking. The Western model of efficacy, inherited from the ancient Greeks’ conception of action, seeks to attain directly a predetermined goal through voluntary and assertive action. The Chinese tend to evaluate the power inherent in a situation (shi) and transform it through non-assertiveness, relying on the “propensity” of things in such a way that the result takes place of itself. The Chinese strategist manipulates his own troops and the enemy to win a battle without waging war and to bring about victory effortlessly. Efficacity in China is thus conceived of in terms of transformation (as opposed to action) and manipulation. To summarize the difference between Western and Chinese thought: one constructs a model that is then projected onto the situation, which implies that the situation is momentarily “frozen”. The other relies on the situation as on a disposition that is known to be constantly evolving. It is a disposition that functions as a device.

One of my all-time favorites. It ties together so many recent themes for me – Werner’s effortless mastery, strategy, philosophy, psychology, and more.

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

John H. Patterson: Pioneer in Industrial Welfare by John H. Patterson, Samuel Crowther

I got so much out of this book that I wanted to create a more formal write-up. As always, I have attempted to put together something which is (hopefully) a manageable, actionable and digestible introduction to Patterson’s thinking and business philosophy.

Human Universals by Donald Brown

The book and concepts were rich enough that I did a bit more of an in-depth write up…

Human Universals

Link to further reading and universals

Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles G. Koch

Charles Koch describes his management philosophy, Market Based Management, how it has evolved over time, and how it has been put to use at Koch Industries. MBM emphasizes Principled Entrepreneurship over corporate welfare, virtue over talent, challenge over hierarchy, comparative advantage over job title, and rewards for long-term value creation over managing to budgets.

Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner

I have come to the point where I have simply decided that effortlessness would be my prime consideration, that anything not played from an effortless place is not worth playing. I don’t get my technique from studying technique. I get it from letting my hands and arms find their way without my interference. In doing so, I have unwittingly connected with the wisdom of the ancients. As I now read the writings of the great sages, I realize that I am on the same path, having the experiences they describe. Effortlessness allows us to become our own teachers, paving the way to mastery. If you get nothing else from this book, hopefully you’ll at least walk away with the realization that effort gets in the way of great playing. Effort and/or lack of preparation blocks true mastery.