Naval Ravikant is one of the smartest people alive.
He ran and sold several successful companies, became an angel investor, and started creating content based on what he’s learned over the years. He’s the pioneer of “fortune cookie wisdom online,” where people share short sound bites of useful information on social media.
As you’ll see throughout the piece, this is someone with abundant knowledge. His thoughts are so good that his Tweets were compiled and turned into a best-selling book.
Let’s look at a few quotes, aphorisms, and insightful phrases from the legend himself.
Don’t chase money, chase this instead
I failed at everything I tried before I found writing. It stuck because it was one of the few things I felt compelled to work on. I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity about how the world works, and I’ve been interested in writing for as long as I can remember.
I give new writers the same piece of advice all the time—you should only try to become a writer if you have agenuine interest in writing. I’ve seen many aspiring writers try it just because they wanted to make money. Their writing always falls flat.
Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work as well as intrinsic motivation. If it did, everybody would be rich. Instead, focus on something you can get good at, and your passion will continue to grow.
Most people overcomplicate the process. They’re looking for the perfect passion, the perfect idea, the perfect niche to start working in. All this searching leads to spinning your wheels. Instead, think about the things that might be interesting for you to do and, you know, do them.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start following your intellectual curiosity:
What comes easy to you that’s difficult for others?
What subjects can you talk about endlessly?
If you could only read books from one section of the bookstore, which section would you pick?
What do other people tell you you’re good at?
How would you fill in the phrase “It’d be cool to…”? Whatever comes after is something worth trying.
After you develop a solid set of answers, choose a project or new skill you want to learn and run with it for 90 days. This is long enough to give you a good idea of whether or not it’s something you want to pursue and short enough to feel like you didn’t waste a bunch of time.
Harness the power of the internet
You can create a tailor-made education online to help you achieve any goal. Free resources like Google and YouTube can help you find answers to your burning questions, learn new skills,build a business, improve your life, and follow your genuine intellectual curiosity.
You can read books from people who have spent years mastering a skill or process and get wisdom from them in a matter of hours. The smartest people in the world share their knowledge online all the time, and barely anyone uses the information well.
You canbuy an online course from someone who takes the time to put useful information together in an easy-to-understand way, walking you through a step-by-step process (e.g., how to start a freelance business).
I’ve used my self-education to start a six-figure business. I’ve learned way more from random sources on the internet than I ever did in school.
School taught me to treat learning like a chore. Instead of fueling my curiosity, it kept me constrained. Most people are tired of learning by the time they leave the formal education system, so they never tap into these amazing resources online.
Be different. The world is yours. The path is there. It’s on you to be willing to learn what it takes to win.
The true test of intelligence
Naval also poses this question:
If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?
If you can’t get what you want, what good is it to have a high IQ? There are a lot of people with high intellect who lack the other valuable sources of intelligence necessary to get what they want.
Here are some valuable forms of intelligence you might need to master to get what you want:
These soft skills, these intangible forms of intelligence, require pain and effort to acquire. They don’t come easily, which is why a lot of people who could have great lives don’t.
In fact, having a high IQ can be your downfall because you’re good at finding reasons why your strategies won’t work well. Sometimes the best path to getting what you want is pure, dumb, straightforward, relentless action.
Don’t judge yourself on your potential. Judge yourself on the actual results you get. Sure, if you’re smart, you know you could create an amazing life for yourself. But will you do it?
That question is the difference between a mediocre life and an amazing one.
“Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.”
“Ignore people playing status games. They gain status by attacking people playing wealth-creation games.”
“You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity—a piece of a business—to gain your financial freedom.”
“Pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people.”
“Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.”
You can be rich and happy at the same time. You can make money without selling your soul. And you can accumulate wealth without having to steal from others. When done the right way, building wealth is a positive sum game.
You create something people want in exchange for money. They’re better off, and so are you. You can make products that make the world a better place. As long as you’re building wealth for the right reasons, you can enjoy it guilt-free.
If you keep investing your money decade after decade, becoming wealthy is inevitable. Continue to learn and develop profitable skills, and your skills will continue to grow in leaps and bounds. If you work with smart and hardworking people who also have integrity, you can take over the world together.
You want to find a game you can play for the long term, which is why it’s so important to follow your genuine intellectual curiosity. The longer you can wait for the payoff, the bigger payoff you’ll have down the road. Follow the concept of learning as if you’ll live forever but living like you’re going to die tomorrow.
Each day, you’re getting just a little bit better. The knowledge continues to compound. One day, you look up, and your life is entirely different. Stop thinking in days, weeks, or months. Work hard on the daily, but think about your goals in terms of years and decades.
Allowing compounding to do the work is one of the easiest and most difficult strategies ever. It’s easy because it doesn’t require complexity. It’s also hard because it doesn’t require complexity. You have to make a handful of smart decisions and perform a handful of right actions over and over again until it works.
If you can pull it off, you can get pretty much anything you want in this life.
Wealth and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive
I’ll leave you with one final thought from Naval:
The reason to win the game is so that you can be free of it.
The true path to spiritual enlightenment is getting everything you wanted, only to realize it wasn’t what you thought it’d be. It’s also having the peace of knowing you went through the process instead of wondering what if.
Get rich so you don’t have to think about money.
Chase your desires so you don’t have to wonder what it would feel like to have them.
Play the worldly games and win, so you can abandon the worldly realm altogether and be content with your life.