Naval Ravikant Answers Questions

I have combined both of Naval Ravikant’s twitter AMA’s in one place for quick reference. Naval’s a deep thinker who is great at communicating his ideas. I highly recommend diving into his twitter if this your first exposure to his thinking.

I have made minimal edits (fixed spelling errors and added some conjecture in cases where the original question is unavailable) . Enjoy!

Q. When do you feel is the prime of a man? I used to think 30 but most of the people I admire are 40+ How are you enjoying your 40s compared to your 30s?
A. 30s physically, but mentally / emotionally it can keep getting better all the way to the end.

Q. Single best piece of business advice you wish you had prior to it all?
A. Keep an incredibly high bar for who you work with.

Q. What do YOU think is the purpose of life?
A. To experience life.

Q. Naval, how does someone who’s a strong long-term thinker become better at making short-term decisions, without being too impulsive?A. Awareness. Reactions come from a conditioned mind.

Q. Recommend autobiographies to read
A. Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic.

Q. Is it too late to go back to school
A. Never, but first try learning on the Internet.

Q. Do you have a philosophy, or criteria for friendship vs. acquaintance?
A. If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.

Q. If you look back at the various ways you’ve created leverage in your life, what in retrospect has been the most powerful?
A. Products / code.

Q. What is your dharma practice?
A. Meditation, yoga, reading philosophy, non-judgmental awareness, and coaching.

Q. What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
A. I can’t choose one. But Skin in the Game for practical and Anthony De Mello’s “Awareness” for philosophical.

Q. Thoughts on the explosion of the intellectual dark web? In particular the meteoric rise of Jordan Peterson. What’s happening/What does it mean?
A. Gatekeepers in media and academia have lost power. On the Internet, a single individual can accomplish anything.

Q. What’s your view on keeping professional & personal life separate?A. Essential if you want real friends and inner peace.
Qb. How to know which friends are real?
Ab. Your closest friends are the ones you can have a relationship with about nothing.

Q. Do you follow your head or heart?
A. The heart decides, the head rationalizes.

Q. What’s the most important thing you don’t usually/already tweet about?
A. Health and fitness. I’m not an expert. IMHO the three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. We pursue them in that order but their importance is in the reverse.
Qb. Given your previous reply that happy is anti evolution how do u reconcile this tweet with that tweet with actions u take in ur life? I agree with both tweets so I’m curious.
Ab. We can rise above our evolutionary programming, but it’s rare.

Q. If you were just starting out in your 20s today, what would you do different? Would you still be a founder?
A. More patience, more presence, less anxiety.

Q. What blog(s) do you consistently read?
A. Melting Asphalt, Elaine’s Idle Mind, The Saint (Alex St Johns – defunct), Unenumerated, many others..

Q. How do you differentiate between ego and self respect?
A. Ego is false confidence, self-respect is true confidence.

Q. How to become a high impact person?
A. Stop caring about impact and just be the best version of you possible – then you’ll naturally have an impact.

Q. Turning point in your career that few people saw from the outside but massively influenced you?
A. When I lost everything – money, career, and reputation – and had to start over.
Qb. When was that? Any blog post to that?
Ab. Naval links to article on past lawsuit related to Epinions.

Q. Favorite movie?
A. The Matrix. Runners up are Fight Club, Blade Runner, Children of Men, Memento, Life of Brian, and Whiplash

Q. Are there rules to longterm-thinking and planning? do we have a lot of time or a little? i’m 23, tons of pressure to do everything correctly, and right away, difficult to choose one project. any tips for mental clarity?A. Slow down, life is long.

Q. If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing what would it be and why?
A. Relax. You’ll live longer *and* perform better.

Q. How can I start improving self discipline? I struggle a lot with being patient.
A. Impatience is a virtue. Self-discipline is another form of self conflict. Find things that excite you.

Q. How do you wish you spent your time ten years ago and how do you think you’ll wish you’d have spent now looking back ten years from now?A. Time is the ultimate currency and I should have been more tight fisted with it.

Q. Why we as humans choose to be rich instead of happy?
A. We are biological machines programmed to survive and replicate. Happy is anti-evolution.

Q. How are the holidays in the Ravikant household, and do you have a personal favorite? 😊
A. Looking forward to holidays takes the joy out of the everyday.

Q. Which is the last book you read that you recommend?
A. Skin in the Game.

Q. What’s the worst way in which you wasted a lot of your time?
A. Meetings, conferences, traveling for business, staying in relationships that I knew weren’t forever.

Q. Where do thoughts come from?
A. The brain is trying to map past experiences onto the present environment.

Q. On which domains does direct human attention have the biggest edge over algorithms, automated agents, and markets?
A. All creative endeavors.

Q. For you, what is the most important thing that you deeply understand or are working to understand?
A. My own mind

Q. Do you believe that passing decisions to code (AI, ML) will make the world fairer? Do you believe that new/ future technologies will alleviate inequality, or will they exacerbate it?
A. Technology is leverage and leverage magnifies inequality. But it makes everyone eventually better off so focusing too much on the unequal aspect makes us all worse off. Focus on education.
Qb. Thanks. Are there any specific aspects of education you think are especially important, and are neglected at present?
Ab. Re-educating displaced adults.

Q. Do you have mentor(s)? How should one chose a mentor(professional and personal?
A. No, learn bits and pieces from everyone. I mostly learned from books.

Q. Do you think Twitter is, on a whole, good or bad for humanity?A. Bypassing gatekeeper media is incredibly positive for humanity.

Q. What is your favorite quote? 🙂
A. “Desire is suffering.”

Q. Any good sleep hacks?
A. Meditate in bed. Either you will fall asleep or have a deep meditation. Victory either way.

Q. Why do we sometimes turn deaf to our intuitions?
A. Desire.

Q. How to create long lasting relationships ?
A. Just be you and wait for the people who want that.

Q. What is a major flaw in the Sovereign Individual (SI) thesis?
A. No person is an island. They overestimate human mobility.

Q. Is sugar bad for humans and does nutrition industry require a huge reform like how computer/internet industries did?
A. Processed sugar is horrific for human health. But given how clumsy government intervention is, the solution is education.

Q. How many hours a week do you work?
A. My definition of work is “the set of things that you have to do that you don’t want to do.” So maybe a 5-10 hours a week.

Q. When is “social proof” a negative signal versus positive in investing in an early stage company?
A. Negative when it’s small amounts from many players (FOMO), positive when it’s a large amount from one player (conviction).

Q. What’s the one fact about the world you know (figured out) that the rest of us do not?
A. The future is very bright.

Q. Is it worth the struggle?
A. It’s not a struggle.

Q. What are the odds that you’ll respond to this one 😛
A. Pretty good.

Q.  Top 5 books that have enlightened you?
A. Too many. But read Osho, Krishnamurti, DeMello, Michael Singer, and Kapil Gupta.

Q. What are your thoughts on global warming?
A. Went from science to politics.

Q. What if a decision isnt a Y/N, but a bit more complex than that? Eg: What if there are 2 probabilistically equal paths A & B. How do you choose between them?
A.
• If you can’t decide, the answer is no.
• If two equally difficult paths, choose the one more painful in the short term (pain avoidance is creating an illusion of equality).
• Choose the path that leaves you more equanimous in the long term.

Q. How do you get rid of the negative thoughts in your head and focus on the +ve things?
A. Positive creates negative, eventually. Go beyond judgment and see how it feels.

Q. What are your thoughts on cryonic preservation?
A. Death is fine and natural.

Q. Favorite ice cream?
A. Can’t afford the insulin shock.

Q. How much do you think the UX friction is affecting cryptocurrency adoption? Will it be an existing player or new player that conquers this friction?
A. It’s a big deal. It’s always a new player.

Q. What have you learned in the last six months, that you couldn’t have learned without your direct experience in the decade prior?
A. The clichés like “follow your dreams,” and “live in the moment” are actually correct.

Q. Thoughts on the price of Ethereum, and crypto in general, over the next year?
A. Nobody knows.

Q. If you were to do it over again, would you attend university? If so, what would you major in? (my first guess is mathematics)?
A.  Probably. Whichever STEM discipline I enjoyed the most. For me, a combination of physics and computer science.

Q. Ebook or physical books?
A. Ebooks for convenience and variety.

Q. What’s helped you relax more? How do you practice having no mind?
A. Understanding.

Q. Was there a tipping point where you felt that the learnings you have accumulated from your experiences and mistakes could be valuable to others? Were you always done who used to share your knowledge like you do now?
A. I was always ready to share, but before external success, nobody cared to listen.

Q. How do you spend your free time? And what you consider your free time being?
A. I don’t have free time because I don’t have unfree time. Everybody and everything that had a claim on my time has been uncompromisingly removed from my life.

Q. What are you curious about these days?
A. Myself.

Q. What’s your best parenting advice?
A. Love them unconditionally, try not to say “no,” and always reward their innate curiosity.

Q. What are you reading right now?
A. Vasishta Yoga, The Book of Nothing, Math (Better Explained), Skin in the Game, 12 Rules for Life, The Path to Love, Faraday Maxwell and the Electromagnetic Field, Direct Truth, The Gay Science, Permutation City, The Order of a Time, and many, many others.
Qb. How many hours per day do you spend reading?
Ab. 2-4 hours / day spread across Twitter, blogs, and books. Books only are about 2.

Q. When are you coming on Periscope? Those were fun and useful
A. Just have to find a good moment.

Q. How do you stay focused?
A. I don’t. I follow my interest.

Q. What matters to you and why?
A. Learning, because I enjoy it.

Q. What’s an alternative to meditation? Particularly to calm your nerves and divert energy?
A. Yoga.

Q. Do you practice Vipassana meditation?
A. Meditation yes, vipassana no.

Q. What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
A. Nothing matters and that’s a good thing as it sets you free. Bonus: Moral behavior is rational.

Q. What are your thoughts about Indian startup ecosystem ?
A. So much promise but buried in an unfriendly environment.

Q. Is there a type of meditation you practice?
A. No effort.

Q. Have you ever had a kundalini experience? If yes, how many & do you think they have impacted the depth of your philosophical thoughts?
A. I meditate but not via a path or system so can’t compare to “kundalini.”

Q. What kind of life could you live such that, at the end of it, you’d feel satisfied?
A. A life where you were satisfied in that moment and not thinking about how you’ll feel about it in the future.

Q. What’s your definition of freedom?
A. Freedom from care.

Q. What’s your motivation for actively participating on social media?A. Boredom, ego, connections, optionality, learning, entertainment…

Q. What new tech are you excited about? Non crypto, non-blockchain, preferably
A. VR / AR but it’s going to take a decade or more.

Q. If you could make one product change to Twitter what would it be?A. Replace centralized moderation with publish / subscribe block lists. I’d also revert the feed to reverse chron, kill Moments, and open the API.

Q. I wanted to to become a docter but i didnt and my juniors are easliy becoming doctors and i regret my decision of opting for engineering what should i do to move on.
A. Engineers are happier, have more optionality, and can use their skills in a wider variety of domains. Most doctors will end up working for the government. But if you’re still unconvinced, go back to med school. Doctor + Engineer is a great combo. (Naval links to study results)

Q. What is your intention when you read books/articles/blogs?
A. None, intentions get in the way of observation. But I enjoy and tend to stick to concise, clear, and simply written things that teach me something new.

Q. If you only had 30 free minutes in ur day would you chose to meditate or workout?
A. I’d do yoga with very deep breathing and my eyes closed.

Q. How are you not verified??
A. I don’t think social media should have centralized validation.

Q. Do you play video games or will let your kid play ??
A. Yes, almost everyone I know who loves computers will cite video games as an influence.

Q. Favorite fiction book(s)?
A. Jorge Luis Borges’ “Ficciones.”

Q. Is there an age or a time to do a startup contrary to popular opinion ??
A. As soon as you have the skills and something you know well and are passionate about.

Q. What human problems are you most excited about tackling?
A. Me.

Q. Do you think India and China have a chance in this whole tech game?
A. Yes, their markets are so much larger. When they win, they’ll win big.

Q. If you could choose being remembered forever, or having a happy and healthy family, which would you prefer?
A. Easily the latter.

Q. Should founders create content about entrepreneurship? Or focus primarily on the biz and content only related to it.
A. Only if it’s strategic or incredibly insightful.

Q. How did you hone your discernment for when to be patient vs. when to be impatient?
A. Impatience with actions, patience with results.

Q. Why are we here?
A. To experience life.

Q. What is your favourite Product Management book?
A. Never read one.

Q. What sports do you follow ?
A. None.

Q. Biggest realisation about life so far?
A. Single-player internal game.

Q. Thoughts on Netflix series Wild Wild Country on Osho?
A. I’m interested in the message, not the man.

Q. What company would you love to work for?
A. I can’t work for others.

Q. Long bitcoin?
A. Yes.

Q. What is your definition of meditation?
A. That which arrives when you are awake and doing absolutely nothing.

Q. Bitcoin price estimate (guess) 5 years from now?
A. $100K or (nearly) bust.

Q. Electric scooter or electric bike to get around?
A. 🛴

Q. When will you start a podcast?
A. I’m not motivated enough yet. And it feels like work.

Q. Do you play any video games?
A. With co-workers, 1-4 hours / week.

Q. Startup ecosystem for growth and investment in next 10 years Seattle or LA?
A. The Internet.

Q. Do you have a morning routine? What does it look like?
A. 1 hour meditation + 1 hour workout / yoga.
Qb. Would you mind sharing your meditation practice?
Ab. Sit and make no effort, surrender, and accept whatever happens. 1 hour at waking and 30-60m in the early evening. 60 days for real effect. YMMV.
Qc. Do you experience the day (time) longer compared to before as a result of meditation?
Ac. Not directly due to the sitting meditation. But non-judgmental awareness helps more in that regard.

Q. What is the biggest strategic error you made as an entrepreneur (AngelList or other) and what did you learn from it?
A. Starting companies out of impatience.

Q. Tried Wim Hof breathing and cold exposure methods?
A. Yes, interesting but too hard to sustain for me.

Q. What are 3 things you personally do to lift team morale?
A. Complete honesty.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?
A. Don’t care, I’ll be dead.

Q. How important is sleep to you? How many hours do you sleep?
A. Important enough that I don’t use alarms.

Q. If you were in your 20s today with the ability to save a couple $10,000 a year, how would you spend your money?
A. I’d invest it, not spend it.
Qb. Sure, but in what?
Aa. Bitcoin and tech startups but do your own homework.

Q. Unknown as asker is private. My guess is which “business” book you would most recommend?
A. Poor Charlie’s Almanack. (Authors Note: You can read my short  review here)

Q. It’s my birthday today. Do you have special habits or practices during your birthday? And what’s a relevant question I should reflect on today?
A. Looking forward to holidays takes the joy out of the everyday.

Q. When did you shifted and how towards a more present, calm, mindset?(Naval links to his answer to another question-How to stay positive during debilitating sickness )
A. This is your opportunity for internal exploration and growth.“Every man has two lives, and the second begins when he realizes he has only one.”

Q. What do you drink instead of coffee?
A. Mint tea, rooibos tea.

Q. Do you think venture capital is a bubble in Aug 2018?
A. Overall, no.

Q. What drives you to earn more despite being a billionaire?
A. I’m in neither of those categories.

Q. What were your top 3 most life impacting books?
A. I can’t even pick 20, let alone 3. Sorry.

Q. I want to develop more conviction in my thoughts and purpose.. do you have any advice on this? Thanks very much
A. They’ll develop in time.

Q. Where do you read?
A. Literally everywhere.

Q. Can you actually become smarter? How?
A. Read what you love until you love to read.

Q. What makes you who you are?
A. DNA + environment.

Q. How do you lead without creating resentment?
A. By example.

Q. Why do you keep fighting?
A. I don’t.

Q. Do you meditate? If yes when and how much time?
A. No effort, 1 hour / day.

Q. FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?
     FAVORITE KIND OF UNDERWEAR? (I assume this is true key to your success!?)
     FAVORITE EPISODE OF BLOCKCHAIN AND MORTY?
A. The answer to all three is “Avocado Toast.”

Q. Business school worth it?
A. No.
Qb.  A follow up to that – what if it’s used as a medium to get to the place where your preferred industry is located? Like you say, Silicon Valley for tech, NY for finance etc.
Qa. It won’t help for Silicon Valley.

Q. Are you planning to write a book?
A. Someday.

Q. Unkown asker. I guess the Q is something like, what would you do if you knew you only had <insert time period> to live.
A. I’d write that book. The rest I wouldn’t change.

Q. What view of yours is furthest from the Overton window?
A. Nice try. 😏

Q. What’s your favourite Rick and Morty episode?
A. The Pilot.

Q. Would you be open to doing a TEDTalk? If so, what would you speak on?
A. I only speak extemporaneously, which is antithetical to the polished TED format.

Q. What’s an important part of your daily (morning) routine that makes your life/day better?
A. Meditation.

Q. What’s a more worthy pursuit than wealth?
A. Inner peace.

Q. Why do so many neighboring countries harbor ill will towards each other?
A. It’s a natural consequence of being neighbors over a long period of time.

Q. Will crypto solve climate change?
A. Unrelated.

Q. Want to work with you, how can I?
A. Sorry, I’m retired.

Q. What are the most effective ways to build an engaged community (not audience)? Who are some of the best people you know at it?
A. Naval links to Ryan Hoover who in turn links to David Spinks who in turn gives us:
1. Consistency – keep creating even if no one responds
2. Experimentation – try new things, don’t stagnate
3. Humility – its not about you its about the whole
4. Transparency – be honest and admit mistakes
5. Energy – keep it high keep it positive
Ryan adds:
6. Be authentic. People gravitate toward those with true passion. It’s infectious.

AMA 2

Q. How do you know if your specific knowledge and genuine curiosity is a genuine career path, or just a glorified hobby?
A. Do other curious people want what you have? Will they pay for it?

Q. What do you want your lasting legacy to be?
A.  Legacy is an illusion.

Q. Your take on everything mentioned but for introverts?
A. I’m an introvert. Worked for me.

Q. Best way to improve willpower?
A. Find something you actually want to do.

Q. How do you avoid succumbing to the black hole that is nihilism?
A. Face truth over judging and labeling philosophies.

Q. How does one stay consistent?
A. Consistency is overrated.

Q. How to pick a field of specific knowledge where one has excellent knowledge in a number of fields?
A. All else equal, whichever you enjoy more as you’ll be better at it in the long run.

Q. What were *you* seeking?
A. Same thing we all are.

Q. Do people attempt to refute anything said in the tweets?
A. Not with logic.

Q. What is the best question you asked yourself?
A. Do I exist?

Q. That tweet storm thread sparkles with rationality and energy. I have ADHD and use Vyvanse but worry about long term use. Any thoughts on ADHD meds?
A. I don’t have direct experience with ADHD. In general we live in an overdiagnosed and overmedicated society. Be very careful and precise before resorting to meds.

Q. Are you following any new meditation method? You said Non-Judgemental Awareness is the most effective method. Curious to know about other methods you follow!
A. (Naval links to podcast notes ) Here he specifies that his meditation habit is to sit down (for at least an hour), back upright and focus on his breath. Adding if its good enough for the Buddha, it’s probably good enough for you.

Q. What were *you* seeking?
A. Same thing we all are.

Q. Favorite Joe Rogan Podcast?
A. Yet to come.

Q.  Have you decided to change your mind on any of the tweets from this tweetstorm? (you found yourself to be more right than you thought so or vice versa)
A. I regret using the word “Seek” in the second tweet – it sounds pretentious in hindsight. Other than that, no changes.

Q. If transitioning to this entrepreneurial path in midlife, how would you recommend finding like-minded people, i.e. who share these kinds of tenets for creating value?
A. Move to a startup hub or find an online community.

Q. Do you believe in the past & how is it rewritten? (in the context of the nature of reality & how our consciousness renders it objective.)
A. Ruminating on the past is largely a waste of time. It’s illusory.

Q. Do you seek a balance between wealth, relationships, and knowledge?
A. I don’t plan

Q. What would you do when dealing with rejections? Job hunting, as an international student in the US, is breaking my soul.
A. It’s not easy, but re-tool / re-invent.

Q. For someone in their early 20’s, is it worth putting off starting a company in order to learn science/engineering/economics first?
A. Probably yes.

Q. Can working extremely hard ever be fulfilling over the long-term? By definition working hard takes away from life’s other facets thus no balance. Being that we are social monkeys, can we objectively say extreme work is counterproductive to peace/happiness?
A. It can if you’re in flow, but usually we aren’t

Q. “When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize that it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place. But that’s for another day.” Can it be today? I’ve been dying to hear your perspective since first reading it.
A. I’m not capable of writing that one. Yet. (He discusses in a later periscope)

Q. Best advice you can give someone 10 years younger then yourself?
A. Too much for Twitter, and it’ll just sound trite.

Q. What book tops your 2017 recommendation of Sapiens? (Best book I’ve read in years)
A. Skin in the Game is the Lindy book of the year.

Q. How to move from investing in PE to VC? What’s specific knowledge in that arena to focus on?
A. Get good with technology.

Q. Who has been a mentor to you in real life
A. Never had one.

What work you should do

I have worked in a number of demanding jobs throughout my life. The experiences I’ve had should help anyone making a career decision take the right path.

The first job category is physically demanding, repetitive labor.  The only reason you should consider this sort of job is if you need the money urgently. You might think (as did I) that taking a job that requires little mental energy could be a good idea so that when you arn’t working you can put all your energy into a side project.  Unfortunately, energy levels don’t work like that. When you get home from a physical job, your body is so exhausted it tells your brain that “work time” is over and it’s extremely difficult to fight the urge to rest. Especially, when you have to do the same demanding work the next day.

The second type of job involves high volume but repetitive tasks. This is a dangerous type of job as the busyness can fool you into thinking you are improving yourself and gaining new skills. These jobs are normally found in large corporations and can make you look successful to your family and friends, making them difficult to leave. The reality is that you will learn the skills you need to do the job in a couple of months and then any skills acquired after that are aimed at solving minor inefficiencies within your main role. If you come across new problems, you just escalate them to your boss or blame another department. This is the type of job you should probably take if you want to climb the corporate ladder to reach a mid-level manager role.

The final type of job involves solving interesting problems on a daily basis, requiring you to pick up new skills as required. The job will be stressful but unlike the jobs in category two, it’s the good kind of stress. It’s the kind of  stress generated when you are expending mental energy to pick up a new skill or learning to think in a different way. Programming is a good example of this type of job-especially in smaller companies. You get given a task to build something and it’s your responsibility to learn the skills required to execute. Once you successfully acquire one skill, you can begin a new one. The idea is you are getting paid to learn new skills and as you are learning more, the knowledge is compounding and you are becoming more accomplished, valuable and fulfilled within your work. I believe this is the type of job you want. Of course not everyone can/wants to be a programmer but the same can be applied in other fields. A good rule of thumb is to figure out whether you are getting paid to solve new problems (which hence acquiring new skills) or if you are getting paid to perform the same repetitive tasks daily.

 

Really fucking useless

Reading through my goals for 2018 below, I am not exactly on the a good trajectory. In other words I have been really fucking useless.  It was after I came across this blog post that I decided to get my ass in gear. So as I sit here with a glass of wine and some chocolate i’m finally getting around to doing blog post number 3 out of the 20 I want to do before year close.

I’m feeling kinda funny the last few days. I just finished a novel, which is a strange occurrence in itself given I have exclusively read non-fiction for the last few years. The novel was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It’s essentially a love story but the way he wrote really resonated. After reading the book one night, I had very vivid dream where I was having sex with a guy that I have a huge crush on.. but in the dream the emotions where so intense; I would go as far to say I was in love with him.

Now this is strange for me as it’s been so long since I felt a romantic love for someone that I was doubting my own memories of ever being in love and even the idea of love itself. But after that dream (three days ago now) I can still bring up the feelings and it’s again letting me believe there is a little more magic in the world than I’ve been accustomed to thinking recently. So thanks I guess Murakami.

In terms of the guy I had the dream about, I don’t imagine there will any love story on that front. I have embarrassed myself too many times in my behavior around him. We also now live about a 25 hour flight from each other. Not to mention the bittersweet final communication between us which I still can’t understand. So the guy was on holidays and we had messaged a bit, then he asked if when he got back I would like to go for a drink with him. I was over the moon with this and thought it would finally be the opportunity to show him my best side..so I said yes and asked some stupid follow up question about his holiday. In response to this he blocked me on the platform we were messaging over and I haven’t heard anything in over a year. So yea. Peace out.

Get in touch with me at michael@stoicjournal.com or drop a comment below.

Start thinking about incentives

“Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.
— Charlie Munger

Everyone knows incentives are important, whether consciously or subconsciously. Companies pay salesmen through a commission structure rather than a base salary because the incentives of the two parties overlap.  The company gets higher sales figures/profits and the salesman brings home more money. Simples.

Like all human behavior, this is the direct result or byproduct of our evolutionary journey as a species. By having the ability to connect an action with an outcome we became conditioned to repeat behavior that works. Back when we roamed the grasslands, figuring out how to sneak up on prey or work in a team was rewarded with an increased food supply and living conditions. In the modern world, this same mechanism is occurring however instead being rewarded with food we get rewarded for arbitrary tasks with money that can be exchanged for food among other things.

The human ability to respond to rewards (and punishments) is normally a great thing. We consistently exercise because we are rewarded with feel-good chemicals, we don’t touch a hot stove because we know it will cause us pain. This bad side however is when we don’t understand what incentives control our current actions. This is difficult as it can sometimes reveal things about ourselves we would rather not admit. However the sooner you realize what incentives are actually responsible for your current position, the sooner you can course correct if you have been mislead.

Not coincidentally, it is the biggest decisions we make which I believe we are most prone to follow the wrong incentives. Where do you live? Why are you working in your current? What are you looking out of your relationships?

It is these decisions which we should really take a couple of years making but normally end up falling into them through coincidences and social pressure. This is because when we are feeling the stress of having to make a big choice, we react by taking the easiest, most available path.

An obvious one is where you decide to live. When you are young this is obviously not in your control but as you get older, the city you choose to live in can be a major factor in how your life turns out. For example, if your into tech, choosing to live in a start up hub can be a make or break factor in your future. Same goes for finance and acting. Outside of careers, you want to live somewhere where you can carry out your hobbies, mingle with plenty of single people or raise a family depending on your situation. These are all valid incentives that can make a difference to your quality of life however most people don’t consider these things when deciding. They end up living somewhere because they got a job, went to university/college or just happened to have grown up there.

The incentive to be be ‘lazy’ (ie. not spend valuable energy thinking up solutions to problems which are not technically broken) overrides the above incentives which leaves you stuck in the wrong location.

Another easy one to understand is your current job. Are you working in a career to currently reach your true desires? They could be building something cool, earning a lot of money,learn a new skill, working with smart people. More likely you are in your current job because of completely different but long term damaging incentives:

  • You want to look consistent with a decision you made when you were 18 of what to study in university.
  • Your friends all started applying for the same grad roles out of university so social proof made you do they same.
  • Your parents always wanted you to be a doctor/engineer/lawyer/whatever.

The point i’m trying to get across is that once you start thinking of the real  incentives that are driving your actions,you will start to see what you really desire and make better decisions with the real incentives in mind. Try it and see how your self awareness changes.

Feel free to drop me a mail or comment your thoughts.

 

This Year

I like having goals for each year. It helps me improve my life. Even if I don’t reach all my goals, I normally get 80% of them and have made considerable progress on the remaining. 

2017 goals, reasoning and outcome’s where:

  • Run a Marathon- to get fit. Under 4 hour time, was easier than imagined.
  • Meditate a minimum of 7  minutes a day- train myself to be more present and increase happiness. Successful, did it before sleeping each evening. Not sure how  much it helped but figure being out of my head for even a bit is beneficial.
  • No masturbating or alcohol in January- see how my energy level changed without these activities. No masturbating was also to increase my incentive of going out and having real experiences. Quite useful, felt more energetic which helped productivity each day. Had strange dreams.
  • Write at least one thing each day to reflect and find feedback loops, IE. A gratitude, a lesson learnt or a reflection on movements towards goals. Was more useful for looking back and seeing how I was feeling and experiencing at different periods.
  • Have sex. Like anal sex (i’m gay). Felt pressured putting this in by a friend. Didn’t (properly) achieve this, but don’t mind as had other experiences and encounters. Don’t mind waiting on this one until i’m with someone i’m comfortable with.
  • Date six people, unless one works out. Dated about 4 but then had a couple of one-off sexual encounters.. so almost there. Added this goal as there isn’t as many gay people in the world(relatively), I feel I need to set goals to meet as many as possible to find the ones that could be suitable friends or boyfriend.
  • Read more primary/source texts. Wanted to get closer to the source of knowledge so it was less filtered. Didn’t achieve as well as I had hoped. Read Ben Franklin, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca. Failed to read Charles Darwin which I was disappointed with.
  • Read more evolutionary psychology and Stoicism.  Evolutionary psych probably most important thing in understanding human behavior. Stoicism to help me better deal with own internal state. Stoicism reads are above. For evolutionary psych, I didn’t do as much as hoped but picked up bits from Influence-R. Cialdini,  Origins Of Virtue- Matt Ridley, Poor Charles Almanack- Charlie Munger. And currently in the middle of a very good book which I think I plan to write a separate post on.
  • Practice self-awareness at all times. Maybe impossible. Included as it is a nice reminder when I look at the goals to be present.
  • Learn at least one programming language. Taught myself some Java but ended up in a job where I develop with a niche database language, so this one worked out quite well.
  • Reduced caffeine intake to once or this per week as a reward to help form a habit. Failed quite miserably on this one, daily caffeine intake stayed fairly consistent all year round (one cup of coffee, 3/4 cups of tea). Leads me nicely to this years goals.

2018

  • Cut out daily caffeine. I think it is better to be in a natural non-caffeinated state as much as possible.  Substituting for decaf tea and coffee working well so far.
  • Write 20 blog posts. I’m including this to keep myself writing and reminding me of these commitments.
  • Read two textbooks  on the software I develop with. This is to try get an edge in the field where I am working with very technical minded  people from mathematics and physics backgrounds. I plan to get my edge through acquiring more language specific knowledge.
  • My big one this year is to set up a business, preferably with a passive income stream. I have wanted to do this for many years, but seem to be always putting it off. My crappy excuses so far include acquiring more skills to set my self up for success  and waiting for the right opportunity to come. But now the time has come to get to work.