Naval Ravikant’s take on death

Naval Ravikant is one of those people that I love to listen to. He is the CEO of Angelist and a deep thinker with remarkable insights. Below is one of the most significant lessons I learned from him. All credit is to Naval and Tim Ferriss for interviewing him.

I think a lot of the struggle we have in life comes from a deep, deep fear of death. It can take form in many ways. One can be that we want to write the great American novel. We want to achieve something in this world. We want to build something. We want to build a great piece of technology, or we want to start an amazing business, or we want to run for office and make a difference. A lot of this comes from this fear that we’re going to die, so we have to build something that lasts beyond us.

Obviously, the obsession that parents have with their children. A lot of that is warranted biological love, but some of that is also the quest for immortality. Even some of the beliefs of some of the more outlandish parts of religion I think fall into that. I don’t have the quest for immortality anymore. I think I came to this fundamental conclusion. I thought about it a lot. The universe has been around for a long time, and the universe is a very, very large place. If you’ll study even the smallest bit of science, for all practical purposes we are nothing. We are ameba. We are bacteria to the universe. We’re basically monkeys on a small rock orbiting a small backwards star in a huge galaxy, which is in an absolutely staggeringly gigantic universe, which itself may be part of a gigantic multiverse. This universe has been around probably for 10 billion years or more, and will be around for tens of billions of years afterwards. Your existence, my existence is just infinitesimal. It’s like a firefly blinking once in the night.

We’re not really here that long, and we don’t really matter that much. Nothing that we do lasts. Eventually, you will fade. Your works will fade. Your children will fade. Your thoughts will fade. These planets will fade. This sun will fade. It will all be gone. There are entire civilizations which we remember now with one or two words. Sumerian. Mayan. Do you know any Sumerians or Mayans? Do you hold any of them in high regard or esteem? Have they outlived their natural lifespan somehow? No. I think we’re just here for an extremely short period of time. From here, you can choose to believe in an afterlife or not. If you really do believe in an afterlife, then that should give you comfort and make you realize that maybe everything that goes on in this life is not that consequential. On the other hand, if you don’t believe in an afterlife, you should also come to a similar conclusion. You should realize that this is such a short and precious life that it’s really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy. There’s no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. You’ve only got 70 years out of the 50 billion or so that the universe is going to be around. Whatever your natural state is, it’s probably not this. This is your living state. Your dead state is true over a much longer time frame. When I think about the world that way, I realize it’s just kind of a game.

Which is not to say that you go to a dark place, and you start acting unethically and immorally. Quite the contrary, you realize just how precious life is and how it’s important to make sure that you enjoy yourself, you sleep well at night, you’re a good moral person, you’re generally happy, you take care of other people, you help out, but you can’t take it too seriously. You can’t get hung up over it. You can’t make yourself miserable and unhappy over it. You just have a very short period of time here on this earth. Nothing you do is going to matter that much in the long run. Don’t take yourself so seriously. That just kind of helps make everything else work.

I felt fortunate to come across this one and a half years ago. It was instrumental to the change in my perspective in life and a lot of what I do. Hopefully, you’ll find something of value from him.


Peter Thiel’s interview

I was listening to this interview with Peter Thiel while in the gym yesterday (Yes, I like to listen to podcasts, interviews and John Oliver while sweating it out! Weirdo me). There are two points that stood out for me.

A bit of context, Peter Thiel was the founder of Paypal and recruited what would be known as the Paypal Mafia, a group of individuals who would found successful startups. Peter is known for being a wildly successful entrepreneur, investor and contrarian thinker who challenges assumptions and established thinking.

He didn’t think Facebook would be that big

Peter was one of the first investors in Facebook when the company was at $5 million valuation. He said in the interview (around minute 7:20) that he didn’t think it would be as big as it eventually became. It would be worth his investment if Facebook just dominated the college student market. We all know how it turned out.

I sometimes beat myself up a little bit for not seeing far ahead in terms of companies that I analyzed or missed. But if the great Warren Buffett missed Amazon, Google and for many years, Apple (he is now one of the biggest shareholders of Apple) and if Peter Thiel couldn’t figure out Facebook’s eventual great future, then I guess it’s OK for any of us to be…human.

First meeting with Mark Zuckerberg

Peter Thiel talked about the first meeting with Mark around minute 4:20. He recalled that Mark went to the meeting with Sean Parker and Sean did most of the talking. Having watched a few of Mark’s interviews and speeches, he doesn’t appear to me as an exceptional salesman. Yet, people often claim that if you don’t have sales skill, you can’t be an entrepreneur. While it may be true in most cases, it’s not definitive. Mark and Facebook still getting the money without doing most of the talking was the proof of that.

Point is that I increasingly believe that every advice is contextual. Most of the time, there is barely one-size-fits-all or hard-and-fast advice. What works for one person may not work for others. One piece of advice is like a tool in your arsenal. One tool cannot do everything. It serves only a specific purpose in a certain set of scenarios. Constant learning gathers many tools at your disposal and learning what tool to use in a scenario is probably what makes a person succeed.

Compounding Effect

Even though there are still 12 days or something left in September, it is the busiest month so far in this little project’s history. It is mainly due to my commitment to write more. The target is 100 posts by the end of the year and even though I don’t write every day (try to), I do as often as I can.

It’s nice to see some appreciate what I have to say, but the biggest benefit is that the more I write, the more I want to write. Before, it took quite an effort for me to sit down, have an agenda, start writing, edit, have a friend edit again for me and decide whether I should publish the piece or not. But mostly it was due to my lack of commitment to do it often. Nowadays, it became significantly easier for me to finish an entry. The compounding effect starts to show some impact on my personal progress as well as on the number of interactions with this blog.

I am not the first to notice it, but apparently compounding effect is the secret. Put some effort in something every day and let it compound. Study, career, side projects, writing, love, friendship, gym. Anything can be greater when compounded. The hard part is to avoid distractions, make it a routine and be patient. It’s exceedingly difficult. But like someone wise said: difficult choices, easy life. Easy choices, difficult life.


A podcast worth listening to

I enjoy listening to episodes in the Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish. There are a lot of interesting and helpful lessons from conversations between Shane and his guests. The one episode I love the most is here, between the host and Naval Ravikant. I have listened to this episode for at least 5 times simply because it is so good.

Naval talked about a wide range of topics. The following points stood out the most to me:

  • The importance of reading and how to read books
  • The importance of habits
  • Happiness & anger
  • The meaning of life

It is a two-hour conversation. A bit long but definitely worth your time. If you look for something to listen to in your car, in the gym or just to have a peaceful time at a coffee shop, I’d highly recommend it. After that, his conversation with Tim Ferriss is a good follow-up.

Have a good weekend ahead!