"In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself." - Jiddu Krishnamurti
For those who don't know Naval Ravikant, he is an entrepreneur and investor. He is the former co-founder of Epinions and the current CEO of AngelList. He also was an early investor in Uber and Twitter.
As an investor, you have to be able to trust your judgment. When you see people running away, take a look backwards. The next big companies don't look like those that have come before.
You have to take each company and look at it based on its own merits in the moment and not based on the success of previous companies.
This is analogous to becoming a self-actualized human being. My definition of self-actualization is two parts. The first is knowing what you feel and think from moment to moment. And then trusting your own judgment to make a decision regardless of social conventions and expectations.
This was a much longer interview than normal, so I had to break it up into two parts. This is the first section of the second half of the interview. In it we spoke about this very nebulous concept of self-actualization.
Also, in the new of section of Killing Buddha, "In The Life Of", Naval tells me what books he would pass down to his grand children. Check it out here.
I hope you guys enjoy.
Killing Buddha: I heard that you started in physics in university.
Naval Ravikant: I did. I wanted to be an astrophysicist. But I wasn't that good at math, and I wanted to make money. So I switched to computer science and economics.
You really just want to be a student of life. You want to absorb a little bit of everything. Majors are a false specialization that the world wants us to have to make us productive members of society. But it doesn't make us human.
"You have one life. You're dead for tens of billions of years, and you're going to be dead for tens of billions of years."
I have some friends who made the decision to go into medicine when they were sixteen or seventeen. You don't really practice medicine until you're in your late thirties. So if you happen to evolve within that time and change your mind, you're screwed. You are single-mindedly focused on this one thing that leads you into this one profession.
A lot people think you're meant to be one thing. Am I meant to be a podcaster? Am I meant to be a physicist? Am I meant to be a nurse? I think it's important to be free and open to new experiences and doing things your way.
The most interesting and happiest people I know never picked a career. They did different things throughout their lives with passion and enthusiasm. At the time they were just doing what was exciting to them, so they became really good at it.
You have one life. You're dead for tens of billions of years, and you're going to be dead for another ten billions years. So why would you spend this one life doing things that you don't want to?
KB: There's an experiment in social psychology where the subject is in a classroom with what they think are other participants, but they are actually paid actors.
The subject and the actors are shown two cards. One card has three lines (A, B, C) and the other has one line. They are asked which of the three lines has the same length as the other one.
The actors say B. However, B is actually longer than the one on the other card. It turns out the actors' answer affects the subject's. On average, the subject chose line B knowing that they aren't equal.
NR: Yeah. It's a social proof exercise where every monkey wants to agree with the other monkeys. You make yourself believe something because everyone else around you believes it.
I think that's why self-actualization is so difficult because to truly self-actualize you have to go alone. Jiddu Krishnamurti, my favourite philosopher, would say that the road to truth has no path. There are no gurus.
In your interview with Steve Maxwell, he said something that stuck with me. He said that only the individual transcends. There's no community that'll get you there. Everybody's journey is unique. We all have to find the sources that speak to us.
When you start going your own way, you start to disconnect from your friends and family because they have a consensus model of who you are. And they don't want you to deviate from that model. The moment you compare those lines and say, 'No, no the shortest line is over there', you're alone. Then they say, 'Who is that guy? He's not the person we knew.'
So the first thing you have to do is disconnect from past consensus. I think it's really important to tell people that you're not bound by your past statements or actions.
I've always had a really bad memory. I discard everything. I might have said something last weekend that I don't remember. I prefer starting discussions fresh.
Buddhists say that you die in every moment. It comes from the observation that a lot of judgments are comparisons to a memory.
If you're drinking wine and you're comparing it to the best one you've ever had, you won't enjoy it. 'This glass of wine is not as good as the glass I had seven weeks ago. So it's shitty.' But it's still wine! Somebody crushed grapes and fermented them over the course of years just for you. Something only a king would have had thousand of years ago.
Judgment allows us to move through the world, but it's also what separates us from one another. If I'm judging my friends and family, I'm separating myself from them. I'm creating a gap between us by putting them down and propping myself up.
When you separate yourself, you're actually making yourself more lonely. And it's hard to be happy when you feel disconnected from others.
"You're building a scaffolding that you're going to climb to the top of. Then you have to burn the whole thing down."
KB: Can you talk a bit about Jiddu Krishnamurti? How did he influence you?
NR: Krishnamurti was incredibly influential on me.
When I first read him in my late thirties, it was like a bomb went off in my head. He was speaking in a language that was completely removed from my own. He wrote in a very complex form of English where he used certain words in a way that didn't line up with what I had learned over my entire life.
But it had the feel of truth to it. He laid out a clear, consistent, and integrated philosophy of what it means to be conscious and free. That said, it's a very advanced read. I've given Krishnamurti to some of my friends and they just hand it back and tell me that it didn't make any sense to them. I think it's better to start with something simpler like Eckart Tolle, Adyashanti, Jed McKenna, or Osho.
I would literally spend weeks thinking about a paragraph, trying to observe it within myself. I would have to keep reading him over and over. I still don't think I understand ten percent of what he said. And I haven't even scratched the surface.
I learned the concept of conditioning from him. We're conditioned like any other animal by our parents and society. What we think of as free will is actually a bunch of conditioned responses.
So how can you become aware of the conditioning within yourself?
"The best way to answer them is in solitude. And most questions will take years or decades to answer."
It starts with questioning what we are told. Asking the questions that we're not supposed to ask, ignoring what society thinks, and building our own world view.
And the questions that we're told to ask are the ones that have answers. How do you fix a car? How do you start a business? How do you program a computer? It's good to know the answers to these questions because it's good to know how to function in the world.
We're taught from an early age not to ask stupid questions like what is the point of it all? Do we all die? We're taught that these questions don't have answers. But it turns out that they actually do, except they are unique to every individual.
I think it's a good idea to make a list of all of the questions that you've been told don't have answers, and start asking yourself them over and over.
Who am I? What is truth? What is the purpose of life? Why do we die? If I only had one life, how should I live it? Is love real? What is love?
You always get clouded in judgments from other people. So the best way to answer them is in solitude. And most questions will take years to answer. If you write your answers down, you're more likely to be intellectually honest with yourself. And you can go back six months or a year later, and see how you improved.
At the end of the day, it's about ridding yourself of ideas and accepting reality the way it is. You have to build the scaffolding to actually get to the top. Then you have to burn the whole thing down. You have to shed your mind of all its conditioning to get higher.
Krishnamurti has this great quote that says, 'The higher you want to climb, the lighter you have to travel.'
If you enjoyed this talk with Naval, try out my interview with Firas Zahabi, head coach at Tristar gym and to one of the greatest fighters of all time, Georges St-Pierre. He told me about some of the principles necessary to successfully learn a martial art.
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