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How to get rich without getting lucky (2018) (nav.al)
391 points by yarapavan 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments

Wealth = freedom to do what you want.

For some people with minimal lifestyles in low cost areas of the US (or living internationally) that can be $30K.

I think the series does a good job covering principles such as leverage (software, capital, labour) which are rarely taught in school.

Most financial planners only talk about cutting costs, not making more money, because they don't know how... this is the opposite.

> Wealth = freedom to do what you want.

I have a friend who is pretty wealthy. I've noticed he spends a fair amount of time worrying that his money is secure. Seems like the ultimate first world problem to me, but it's real.

Seems like the issue is having enough cushion so that your lifestyle is well below your means, so you can invest very conservatively without having to worry about your circumstances changing.

Of course, this can be accomplished by either dramatically increasing your assets, or by dramatically decreasing your expenditures.

Good points. In this case, I was attempting to refer to he's concerned he'll get hacked, or a trusted associate w/ access to the money would run off with it.

Did your friend come up with any solutions to the trusted associate issue? Seems like there are two obvious approaches: the carrot (pay your employees well above market rates) or the stick (a literal stick, in the extreme) to encourage loyalty.

But there are presumably other ways to engineer your account permissions so that one or two rogue associates cannot clean you out?

It's kind of like buying a safe. You can always improve the quality of the safe, but you can't always trust the safe is 100% foolproof. The more you have in the safe, the more you worry there's that one thing you didn't think about that prevents someone from walking away with all the money.

You can put your things in many smaller safes, and spread them around a bit!

"Divide your fortune into seven, or even into eight, for many are the mischances of the world." - Proverbs (in the Bible).

The thing is, the mindset that gets you wealth isn't necessarily the same mindset that makes you realize the true value of it which makes you secure. Non-exclusive sets, I say. There can be two types of people who get to the top.

> Wealth = freedom to do what you want

Once you're wealthy, kind of :) (there are some complications and the fact that often the main limitations of doing what we want are usually not wealth, but not knowing what we'd want the most in the first place, or lacking courage/skill to pursue it)

But there's the process of getting wealthy, which can include self-restriction of freedoms...


The wealthiest person I ever dated (he wasn't super wealthy while we were together just doing well, but I just saw him a month ago and he was excited because he CAN retire now but doesn't want to - he's 38) spent TONS of money doing rich people things in the pursuit of wealth, he stretched his bank account very thin over and over doing this.

Going to Sundance, Cannes, Burning Man, TED, etc to network. Spending gobs of money on impressing friends and others he wanted to be friends with. Picking up thousand dollar tabs for groups of people then minorly freaking out the next day.

But spend money to make money. Worked for him. And he got to be super self-indulgent along the way.

How did he make his money, in the end? A talented software developer can make enough money to retire as comfortable middle class by 38, by getting a job at a FAANG by age 25.

The thought of going to Burning Man for millionaire-business networking makes me sick, the quintessence of how Silicon Valley tech bros are murdering human culture.

He raised money for start-ups and was a marketing consultant. Ended up on advisory boards for various start-ups and most recently as a CXO for a prominent start-up (which got tons of traction but ultimately went down in flames). He had his hand in a bunch of different companies and often worked for equity and a small fee.

And as smart as the guy is in many respects (language, social skills, etc), he is a dumb-dumb when it comes to technical anything or analysis of any type of market/business. But holy fuck, that guy can sell anything (most especially himself - was a fascinating person to watch).

Perhaps that's one reason these events exist - FAANG and start-up schmooze fests sweetened with a sprinkling of cultural sugar frosting.

Also, data point of one. Sometimes faking it doesn't work out so well.


Of course that's the far side of the line - someone with no real income at all. But if your networking expenses are regularly on the far side of your income and you don't have some kind of track record to prove to yourself you can make the networking work, you're playing some very high stakes poker.

That’s an interesting anecdote because most wealth building strategies don’t really discuss the value and cost of networking.

[This might sound cynical.]

That's because it's a dirty secret. Most people selling you wealth building strategies are loathe to openly talk about how so much of it is based on "who you know" more so than "what you know". They might touch upon it incidentally in the course of their spiel, but it's either glossed over, or they don't have the level of insight/self-reflection needed to be able to articulate the value and cost (and indeed the pathways and mechanisms) of networking.

Wealth != freedom to do what you want

Freedom to do what you want is given to you at birth

This article honestly read like something out of a bullshit self-help book. There's a lot of tidbits in there that sort of ignore the reality for most people and how one small injury, accident etc can spiral out of control and bankrupt someone, at least in America. But reading this part especially stood out to me

> We all know people who are consistently pessimistic, who will shoot down everything. Everyone in their life has the helpful critical guy, right? He thinks he’s being helpful, but he’s actually being critical, and he’s a downer on everything.

> That person will not only never do anything great in their lives, they’ll prevent other people around them from doing something great. They think their job is to shoot holes in things. And it’s okay to shoot holes in things as long as you come up with a solution.

This is silicon valley in a nutshell. Silicon valley needs more pessimists, people that understand the problems with all the nonsense they push in attempt to solve problems while exploiting people along the way. It needs people that are willing to question people and tell them to stop doing things that are fucked up. Because these companies don't think about what will happen if they fuck up and break things.

> This article honestly read like something out of a bullshit self-help book.

There's a reason for that. That reason isn't that what he's telling you is largely bullshit, because much of it is true enough to be useful at a first approximation (although one could argue that some points aren't a fully articulated picture of reality -- in particular I'd assert he's mixed the concerns of status and values and that's going to make certain muddled conclusions easier).

It's that part of what he's doing here is in fact playing a version of the status games he defines, partly on a direct level (wealth creators are high status on by a certain measure of values, critics are just downers for competing values into the ring), partly on a meta level as the narrator who is telling this revealing story to an eager audience who, if they take this advice, will also almost certainly be successful because THIS is the mindset of SUCCESS and of course there is no survivorship bias.

It's pretty standard if quality work in that respect, which is why it has a ring of aspirational self-help.

One good response is to learn from what he's doing as well as carefully weighing the merits and limits of what he's directly saying.

Usually when they break things they break other people, for profit. So having a conscience doesn't help them.

To me this part is particularly amusing, since one of the most successful and lauded CEO ever was that notoriously hyper-critical guy named Steve Jobs. Turns out people whose "job is to shoot holes in things" can do pretty well...

No, we really don't need any more pessimists. That just results in nothing ever getting done.

It's easy to sit around and come up with hypothetical problems about anything. They may or may not become realities. We'll never know until we try something.

The right course is not to try and fix every possible conceivable problem before starting. This is impossible because there are infinitely many. The right thing is to start, do something, see what actually breaks, and then fix that.

There's a lot in this article that I'd endorse as a first-pass approximation of the truth for orienting oneself towards productive behaviors.


There's a number of places where Naval is mixing the concerns of "status" and "values." This isn't an easy distinction to make, because status essentially exists by the standard of one form of values or another, but without this distinction you can gather both ideas like "all property should be owned/controlled by the state" or "taxation is theft" and "people should not be property" or "some regulation can balance problematic incentives" under the same umbrella of "status games", which makes certain muddled conclusions are easier (problematic or useful depending on how you look at it).

Once you understand this, though, it's easier to note that this piece is itself a bid in a status game -- it defines a set of values and sets them up as higher than a competing set of values. And the set of values he's advocating seems to be one by whose standards he would have a high status. ;)

This is distinct, by the way, from arguing that Naval is wrong (much less totally wrong). He is in some ways, not in others, and I hope that saying as much as I have makes the rest of that easier to work out as an exercise for the reader.

Though that will probably prove to be mostly be the case where it affirms the values a given reader already holds.

> Once you understand this, though, it's easier to note that this piece is itself a bid in a status game -- it defines a set of values and sets them up as higher than a competing set of values. And the set of values he's advocating seems to be one by whose standards he would have a high status. ;)

This is such a great point, presented masterfully. It exposes the game in ways that the original article couldn't, while using the original article as a conduit to do so. Pretty cool. And you manage to do it without devaluing Naval's interpretation / world view - which I think we both agree does have value.

I like what I think you're trying to say...but:

> Once you understand this, though, it's easier to note that this piece is itself a bid in a status game -- it defines a set of values and sets them up as higher than a competing set of values. And the set of values he's advocating seems to be one by whose standards he would have a high status. ;)

I don't think this is actually true. As far as I can tell, Naval isn't setting up any particular set of values as higher than any other. He's not saying that you should or must want wealth. He's speaking to you on the assumption that you share this value. I don't think he's trying to justify that value being better or higher than any other set of values.

I felt like this got very close to what the parent was talking about:

  Work as hard as you can. Even though who you work with and 
  what you work on are more important than how hard you 
Realistically if the who + what is more important than the specific effort, I feel like the author is trending more into status/values because despite the relative importance, the last-place component of success there is the lede & focus here. I'd also contend that "work as hard as you can" is generally crappy advice, "work as hard as the situation demands" will leave you with more energy & the clarity that comes with understanding relative importance.

He describes how to get wealthy, though. You can "eat" wealth (it means "how to generate something to eat", basically). You can't eat status.

Sure, he may be playing the status game in parallel - in a sense, everybody is, because everybody wants to be appreciated. But he is not asking people to suck up to him because of his high status.

The act of decomposing a piece based on the values of the artist and the values of other viewpoints ultimately leads to a spooky place where truth is defined by narrative. This is the domain of postmodernism.

I reconcile the narratives by: 1. Observing which set of values leads to the most effective goal-oriented behavior by individuals 2. Consider the most effective values to be true, in that they are the values most worth believing in because they actually stand the test of time and get results.

He was on the Joe Rogan Experience 2 days ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qHkcs3kG44. He goes back on some of those tweets and talks about happiness, work, society, social networks, AI, robotics, energy…

> Free markets are intrinsic to the human species

An anthropologist would disagree. Counter-examples are numerous. Ironically, individuals inside a corporation don't interact with each other via free market behavior. Friends, family, etc. Whole societies back in the day.

He actually made that point on Rogan's podcast, referencing Nassim Taleb:

"I am, at the Fed level, libertarian; at the state level, Republican; at the local level, Democrat; and at the family and friends level, a socialist."

Unfortunately that's self-serving nonsense. You're either context-aware or you're not. If you're trying to cherry pick the levels at which you're context-aware, it means you're not context-aware at all.

The more complex social contexts don't stop operating just because you don't believe in them.

He's literally saying it depends on the context. That's the definition of being context-aware.

He is being context-aware. He is pointing out that as the size of the group increases the complexity of the system also increases while accountability decreases.

> - Earn as much as you can from your own work. Take a 2nd job, change to a higher paying job, ask for more responsibility and a raise at your current job, go back to school for a more lucrative degree, ...

I think that's a much better advice than any I found from a cursory read of the article; at least with my limited experience with friends. Most of my acquaitances doesn't seem sufficiently agressive with salaries -- they're mostly worried about having a job, a "good enough" pay, and that this job doesn't suck too much. That's ripe for exploitation -- if you don't actively demand and seek the best deal, you're going to be paid the minimum you can to just scrape by and definitely won't get wealthy. You don't have to own a business to be relatively wealthy (I'm taking 'wealthy' to be relative because the threshold for wealth is indeed much higher in developed countries).

Also I think being wealthy is completely beside the point; it doesn't make too much sense as an objective. The article tries to make the point for wealth being ethical; but in any case ethical are possible consequences not the accumulation of wealth. Health, general satisfaction (including from making ethical choices) are what really matter. That does necessitate some wealth, but in general any wealth threshold is not necessary nor sufficient for those prime goals.

Those two points may seem contradictory, but it's not because wealth is a non-necessary correlated variable that you should just leave it at the table. Get all you can from your employer without compromising on what matters (and hence obtaining the conveniences and securities of wealth while retaining life satisfaction).

I'm not going to venture into defining life satisfaction, but I do think it's good to ask yourself from time to time. For me it is having decent amounts of free time, being able to help people, having fun socially, producing beautiful/impactful work, etc. -- but it could include whatever you deeply enjoy.

An interesting counterpoint is that I've purposefully relinquished responsibility (read: stress) at my job and I'm paid less than I could be as a result. I've done this because I'd rather use my time and energy to work on my own business.

The abundance of contradictory points indicates that things aren't really cut and dry in any sense and this advice boils down to the same thing all advice boils down to: YMMV.

"I started as a poor kid in India, so if I can make it, anybody can, in that sense."

I agree with most of the advice and Naval's musing. But let's not pretend opportunity is mostly equal. He attended Stuyvesant [0], one of the highest acclaimed high school educations [1][2]. I'm sure that had a bit to do with how the rest panned out compared to just anyone.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AngelList [1] https://www.niche.com/k12/stuyvesant-high-school-new-york-ny... [1] https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/Stuyvesant_High_School/

Also, started as a poor kid in India doesn't really present the whole picture. He was lucky that his family moved to New York when he was 9 which broadened the scope of opportunities he had.

From the Wiki article, "Ravikant moved to New York City with his family at the age of 9".

I still think what he has achieved is great and love some of what he shares but Naval can sometimes make things sound grander than they are.

And moving to the US with your whole family is not a cheap or easy operation; it costs money, you need a job, a house, and from abroad, a working visa. I find it hard to believe he was a poor kid.

It is not an easy operation and neither cheap. However, in those days getting a working visa was probably a no brainer. I really applaud his parents for taking that route. Usually employers sponsor the airfare. Still, a very gutsy move.

One of my uncles went to Carnegie Mellon on a full scholarship in the 80s.He hailed from a village where education was the least priority. He was very poor but figured his way out without any money. It can be done.

I don't. There are millions of immigrants who move to the US and live very poor, despite affording the journey to the US.

Anyone that manages to pass the gauntlet of residency/green-card/naturalisation has shown some deluxe skills IMHO: almost by definition his parents are well above "normal" because they managed to win the game.

> Naval can sometimes make things sound grander than they are.

Please share a specific thing. Just curious.

When he was 9 his parents moved to New York and he then attended one of the best schools in the US. Referring to his childhood as "I started as a poor kid in India" ignores that and makes it sounds like his later success has nothing to do with his privileged (but no less well-earned and deserved) education.

> his parents

He said he was raised by a single-mom, so shouldn't that be singular?

She also apparently worked two jobs just to make sure he had an education. In that sense Naval was certainly lucky to have someone that supportive, but from what I have heard about him he was also working every little job on the side he could to make money in his early teens'. So they were poor but they seemed definitely hard working.

Take this "if I can do it, anybody can". If he would be a regular Indian guy, he'd likely be fucked up and could not achieve what he did.

There's plenty of luck involved. He probably won some genetic lottery that contributed to his intelligence (genes = about 50% of intelligence). He (presumably, having only skimmed) also was lucky enough to have had a stable family life, managed to avoid major trauma as a child, and I can see from the rest of the thread also had a good education (environment = much of the rest of intelligence.)

Of course, he did apply himself and take initiative to get where he got. But, it's dangerous to work backwards from success stories and say "well, anybody could have really done what I did, ergo anybody who didn't is [....]"

That said, I wonder how many of the really driven entrepreneurs among us started from lower than middle rungs in society, and/or share the "immigrant mentality".

How much of his success is due to the high school he went to though? I think even given students with equal privilege, he is still within the top .1% of success. I'm not sure what would impress you though.

From the same wiki article what I gather is that attending Stuy has nothing to do with economic status or money. It is very selective in a merit based admissions test and the tuition is free.

It is very plausible that he was a poor kid in India, parents put all their savings to immigrate to US, and by sheer hard work he got into Stuy. You can't rule out that possibility.

> He attended Stuyvesant [0], one of the highest acclaimed high school educations [1][2]. I'm sure that had a bit to do with how the rest panned out compared to just anyone.

It also doesn't guarantee that you will be successful in life. My closest childhood friend attended CMU full ride and was a CS major. I last saw him in my hometown disheveled and pushing a shopping cart around. What you do with what you are given is way more important than what school you went to, or even what country you were born in.

It's not a guarantee, but the right kind of schooling - in the educational sense, the networking sense, and the passing on of class-appropriate behaviours sense - hugely improves the odds of success.

As this article proves. The ability to invest disposable income is a defining class marker in the US.

You don't get to play the game if you literally have no surplus income - and many Americans don't.

> in the educational sense, the networking sense, and the passing on of class-appropriate behaviours sense - hugely improves the odds of success.

That's fair. I agree on this point. The network at an Ivy League can open doors for you that a state school could never open for you.

But I disagree on one point. It comes down to ambition. It's almost like a fire within your soul. If you have that fire kindled within you, it won't matter where you started from.

I have seen miracles in my life. A man with no arms and legs going around with a motorized wheelchair, using his chin to control acceleration/deceleration. When I saw this man, I realized that I was holding my self back. Anything is possible. If that man who had no limbs could walk, I had no excuses to give anymore.

> You don't get to play the game if you literally have no surplus income - and many Americans don't.

Except...he was a poor Indian immigrant who presumably did not have disposal income. So how then did he not only play the game, but seemingly win it?

It's an uncomfortable and often painful truth for many. Climbing an insurmountable mountain, whether it is a personal failing, or desire, one will start to justify their own failings. It's the human psyche after all. But what they miss is belief, a leap, faith, the fire within themselves, etc...

I like to think of Heracles. He had his twelve labours. It's a metaphor for not giving up, no matter how large the challenge is.

Naval's original tweet storm is really worth reading (as is some of the discussion around it on twitter): https://twitter.com/naval/status/1002103360646823936

Thanks for reposting the source. Lots of great quotes like,

There are no get rich quick schemes. That's just someone else getting rich off you.

The most interesting part for me, however, is discussion of removing the element of luck. Naval doesn't clearly elaborate on this but keeps making assertions that anyone can be deterministically lucky. The only "insight" I could gather is: specialize in something, start business and sell products. Obviously, that's exactly where you need to get lucky: right thing to specialize in, right product to create and run business over long enough duration despite of million failure points.

Anyone one of his thousand claims could be an interesting article.

For instance "equity is a better way to get rich than working". Is it, I bet the average googler accumulates more wealth than the average start-up founder.

Or "how much start-up success is based off luck versus founder?"(from what I've read it's more luck, and if you include the birth luck such as intelligence, energy-levels, focus and health it would be almost all luck)

Or is capitalism natural? I'm not an anthropologist but it seems like a lot of early human communities were probably not run capitalistically.

He talks a lot about risk, but a interesting article would be how to reduce the risk of "product market-fit", "having the wrong skills in your startup", "choosing the right niche to develop "specific skills"

I think the most reproducible way to achieve freedom is develop a high paying skill and save your money. Or the most direct route is develop an in-demand skill and a low cost way of living just structure your life so you have freedom.

This guy seems like someone who has done very well and assumes that the cause is because of some system of how he made choices. If that's true he could put his money where his mouth is, teach this life skill, and everyone would be fabulously wealth. And since he believes that all you need is a functioning body and brain he could admin pretty much everyone.

I made a lot more money at Google than from various startups I've worked at or founded.

I made a lot more money from equity I got while working at Google than I did in salary. The ratio when I started working at Google was about 3:1:2 salary:bonus:equity; the ratio as it stands 10 years later, after a 7:1 appreciation in the stock price, was about 3:1:20.

This is not inconsistent with "equity is a better way to get rich than working".

This is the exception though, you caught the end of the tail. People joining Google now are not going to experience this. Moreover to be in the situation you described even in the given time frame one had to be fortunate to be on the "right" projects.

Man, that's a really good point. You can't get ahead at big companies by just keeping your head down and working hard. You don't need to become a weasel, but you do need to keep your eyes open and jump ship early when a project or org starts to go sour in the c-suite's opinion

> For instance "equity is a better way to get rich than working". Is it, I bet the average googler accumulates more wealth than the average start-up founder.

His point more specifically is that if you want to scale above a certain point the only way to achieve it is to own equity of something successful.

your average startup guy doesn't own equity of anything really successful.

Or take a more gradual approach and aggressively save as much as possible, then retire 10-30 years early

> I bet the average googler

The point is that the average person is not the average Googler.

His philosophies are intended for people who aren't lucky enough to be a Googler, or to inherit wealth, etc.

Getting a job at Google is way easier than starting a large successful software company.

And both are effectively impossible for many people in the world.

His advice is meant to be applicable for people who aren't lucky enough to have either of those options.

The option to invest in income-generating assets over costly status-signalling devices is available to far more people in the world.

E.g. https://www.kiva.org/about/impact/success-stories

So he's arguing buying stock instead of a nice car will make you wealthier? No argument here.

Well yes, buying stock, sure - though a small shareholding in a mature stock is not going to get you very far.

But a significant shareholding in a small-medium business that provides a valuable product/service and ends up generating steady cash flows over the long term seems like the optimal approach in terms of risk/reward, and is something that a lot of people in the world could figure out how to do if they put their mind to it over a long enough period of time.

> though a small shareholding in a mature stock is not going to get you very far.

Sp500 Average real return is 6.5% per year. So If you invest $1'000 per month, you will be a millionaire in today dollars in 30 years with just over 1.1 Million Dollars

That is a save income of around $38'500 per year.

> If you invest $1'000 per month

Sure – if you're lucky enough to have that amount of spare money to invest, that's great. Many people don't. (i.e., they aren't that lucky - remember this is about how to do well without relying on luck).

Some people who do have that amount to invest may want to get better returns and invest in something over which they have more control.

But let's not get stuck in the weeds over the specifics.

Either path is far better than wasting money on costly, depreciating status symbols.

You're talking about a save income that's above/around many people's gross.

How easy is it to go from nothing to a position where you can afford to make a "significant shareholding" in a small-medium business?

If you start a company yourself you own 100% of it.

If you have nothing to invest in it, and if it needs capital to get started, then you need to borrow funds to invest or sell part of the company to an investor.

In the former case your net worth will be the value of the company less the value of your debt. In the latter case you'll own less of the company, but you can still own most of it.

This applies whether you're in a rich western country starting a company that needs big amounts of capital, or in a developing country and starting a small business with micro-loans or micro-investments through bodies like Kiva.

But none of this is about what is easy. It’s never easy to attain something that is prized and scarce.

It's about what decisions will give the greatest probability of the outcome you want, given the opportunities and resources that you have available to you.

One (starting a successful large software business) is still much harder than the other (getting an offer at google, which people like me have got). It's a matter of order of magnitudes of difference

Sure, that may well be true for you, because you're lucky enough to have at least one of those options.

It remains the case that both options are largely/completely out of reach for many/most people in the world.

Naval's advice is applicable for many more people in the world than the few who are lucky enough to be able to get a job at Google or start a successful large software business.

That's the whole point of his list of recommendations.

True, but usual you do not start with a large and successful software company. I think starting a small software company is much easier than getting a job at Google. However, growing a small company into a large and successful one will be significantly harder. If for nothing else, it will take much more time and effort.

> We are the only animals in the animal kingdom that cooperate across genetic boundaries. Most animals don’t even cooperate. But when they do, they cooperate only in packs where they co-evolve together, and they share blood, so they have some shared interests.

Pretty certain that lots of animals co-operate. Dogs and Cats are two examples. Dogs will "take care" of your babies. (not changing diapers but primitive protection).

I thought humans used horses but it is more complicated than that when I visited a farmer. He does have a genuine relation with his horses and without co-operation the horse will throw you out of his back.

Still he is comparing different species to different races of the same specie. Not quite a fair game.

Pretty certain that lots of animals co-operate.

Oh yes, lots. Here are some really interesting ones betweens species.


There are many more.

As for cooperation "across genetic boundaries" within a species, I can think of lots without even having to search. Vampire bats sharing blood with unlucky fellow bats who didn't find anything comes to mind.

It seems that almost every time someone (often someone trying to make a point about human exceptionalism without having bothered to actually check if they're talking nonsense) makes a statement that "humans are the only creature to exhibit behaviour X", a counter-example is only a websearch away. I've come to strongly suspect that there isn't any special or unique quality humans have that no other species does; we differ only on the scale of some of them and perhaps got lucky with a few physical characteristics that lent themselves to additional uses (although that's very speculative; we built ourselves a society and a way of life perfectly suited for our shape and characteristics, so of course that shape and characteristics look really helpful).

Almost invariably capitalists try to define capitalism as being intrinsic to "human nature" or "society", and are always wrong. If you read the higher upvoted comments -- that statement is believed and taken at face value.

If you have to take the time to defend that your accumulation of material wealth is ethical when there are millions of people dying from a lack of resources... I don't know what to say. I just hope HN grows to stop believing the obvious lies.

I listened to the Rogan podcast and was definitely confused by some of the arguments he makes e.g. he claimed the celebrities are the "most miserable people in the world" because they get a disproportionate amount of hate directed toward them due to their status as public figures (or something). I don't believe that for a minute.

I was also a bit surprised by the discussion around questioning the truth behind climate change. Yes, we should be scientific about validating hypothesis about anything, but to nod along as Rogan said "there's no evidence" was a bit shocking.

It’s certainly possible these miserable celebrities were miserable before they were celebrities.

It may be survival bias in that I remember what I hear and no one reports on the sober celebrity, but it seems like a very fair amount of our richest, most creative, and most lauded persons in this world have their fair share of mental and substance troubles.

I can easily believe that about celebrities. Wouldn't be at all surprised if the rate of mental health issues is much higher than average in celebrities.

probably more likely that only mentally ill people become celebrities.

normal people dont reach the .00001% of society

In other words, own productive capital and live off the rent it generates. Personally I think such capital should be owned by the workers at a business so that they don’t have parasitic individuals like the author to support. It’s nice for you if you have a lot of wealth and don’t have to work, but the rest of us pay the price of that, and only a tiny slice of society can ever live that way, for obvious reasons.

The "freedom" the article author is speaking of is the freedom to leech off the labour of others. I agree, it's disgusting. If you are willing and able there should be no free lunch -- and the rich are the ones who leech the most out of society.

Ironic that they criticize those who have worse outcomes for not working hard enough or focusing on the wrong things when it is those poor people who are working the hardest.


Here's an airline pilot. They're not being paid for the full value they produce, because some of it is going to pay of capital owners. And why should they receive some of the money? Because they put up the 70 million dollars to buy the airplane. The pilot didn't have that kind of money. And why does the plane cost that much? Because there are 150,000 people at Boeing who also want to be paid for the value that they produce.

You seem to want those with capital to invest it in companies for no return. That's... not likely to happen with the humans we have now. If you want the tools, and you or your company don't have the money to buy them yourself, then you have to make it worthwhile for the people who do have the money.

I’m not going to dismiss this concern out of hand because I feel like it’s a good faith argument. But perhaps we can think a bit farther outside the box. Now, capital is always going to be required for economic activity to take place. Agreed. But I don’t think that whoever manages the allocation of capital needs to be compensated above and beyond what any other laborer doing an equivalently technical job needs to make. And they should be paid for the labor, not for the leverage they have as owners of capital.

How that is to be accomplished is.. complex. But that’s definitely the goal. But let’s not assume that we need some class of people who have the privilege of being the owners of capital.

Here's a tool that increases productivity. There are three people who need to get paid: the tool maker, the one who buys the tool, and the worker who knows how to use the tool. (The worker should be more productive with the tool, and therefore worth more than the worker who does not know how to use the tool.)

If you're saying that the one who bought the tool and the worker who uses the tool should profit equally from the tool, I might agree with that. (I'm not sure; I'd have to think about it some more, but it's not a clearly wrong position.)

Now here's someone richer than that. He buys two of the tools. If you say he should get as much as the worker for the first tool, and as much as the worker for the second tool, again I might agree. If you say he only gets as much as any one worker, no matter how many tools he buys, I disagree. I even think that you should disagree, for selfish reasons. We need these people to buy the tools for the overall growth of productivity. If we have to bribe them with returns on their investment, so be it. (The alternative is that the rich person only buys one tool, and then stops, because they would get nothing from buying the second tool. That may feel good, in that it doesn't let the rich earn more than anyone else, but it doesn't help grow the economy. And growing the economy is the only way that there's actually more for people, as opposed to simply dividing the existing pie in a different way.)

not sure why you are downvoted, good take.

All freedom is a relative proposition.

I agree with a lot of his points, and I would do well to embrace them.

When he gets into diving people into “makers or takers” that’s an arrogant and ugly way to look at the world. Because “taker” has a perjorative element.

People are not one thing. Maybe I’m biased by living in the US but most people I know try to be a positive member of society, even if they lack wealth.

Perhaps you could apply the “taker” label to the severely disabled, or to pathological criminals. If ones criteria is net contribution to the worlds wealth.

"Maker" and "taker" are also technical terms from trading markets. The "maker" is the firm who puts a limit order into the order book and waits for someone to accept the trade; the "taker" is the firm who enters a market order (or a limit order that'll fill immediately) and accepts whatever the best bid is in the market.

Not sure if he meant it like that, since the following paragraph seem to go on to say that yes, he did mean "taker" in its pejorative sense. But there's an interesting analogy there: the maker sets the terms of trade, while the taker just offers their consent to the terms that are given. Similarly, in entrepreneurial markets, the "maker" is the one who determines what the world will look like, while the "taker" can merely offer their consent to one possible vision that is offered by an entrepreneur.

He does define takers in the very next paragraph.

> When he gets into diving people into “makers or takers” that’s an arrogant and ugly way to look at the world.

Indeed. It's almost like a status game.

I don't think he intended taker to mean someone who lacks wealth, but rather someone who exploits others to gain wealth, rather than participating in positive sum activities (making). IE, you could put various rent-seekers in here, some traders, and yes, criminals.

Maybe you missed the part where he defines takers. Here's the part :

>Then there are people who come along with a sword, or a gun, or taxes, or crony capitalism, or Communism, or what have you. There’s all these different methods to steal.

I know its frowned upon to ask why you are being downvoted, but honestly I would like some feedback on why the comment is being downvoted. The commenter I was replying to, it seemed to me had missed the part and so was forming an opinion on what they think a "taker" is. In the article, you will find that he defines takers the very next paragraph after he uses the word takers. In the Joe Rogan podcast, infact he elaborates on this.

Wow, I just discovered I'm rich according to his definition.

> The reason you want wealth is because it buys you your freedom. So, you don’t have to wear a tie like a collar around your neck. So, you don’t have to wake up at 7:00 AM, and rush to work, and sit in commute traffic. So, you don’t have to waste away your entire life grinding all your productive hours away into a soulless job that doesn’t fulfill you.

I'm working as a researcher (pursuing a PhD), and this is exactly how I'm seeing my life currently. So I'm glad to learn I'm already rich, even if my salary is quite low!

To be honest, that just sounds like he's repeating what more than 2000 years of stoic philosophers have been telling us. Epictetus said "Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” in about 100AD.

My thoughts exactly. I used to have a relatively high paying rock-stable job that enabled me to plan for an early retirement.

Then I made the "mistake" of thinking about what I would do after said retirement. Then thought, why not do that now, when Im still young? So off to grad school I went.

You are getting money from somewhere, though, and presumably, if you don't make progress on your PhD, that source will eventually dry up. Likewise, once you have finished your PhD.

> Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.

Anyone have any book recommendations for these? Any favorites?

>Psychology >Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must read. Also, Robert Greene books, such as the 48 Laws of Power, Mastery, etc. are really good as well, but the 48 Laws of Power gave me a weird feeling. You should also read Edward Bernays, as he's one of the fathers of modern marketing/media. (Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist).


I like to go through text books, but my absolute favorite book that I've read is The Motion Paradox by Joseph Mazur(brother of the great Barry Mazur) - it's what really sparked my interest in mathematics. There's also Fermat's Enigma(reads like a novel, really nice). I also have another book called Problem Solving Through Recreational Mathematics, published by dover thrift editions. It's a fun book, with a bunch of puzzles based on various subjects. Also A History of Mathematics is a nice read too, mostly for reference, but you could probably make reading a chapter a day a thing.

The 48 Laws of Power also gave me a strange feeling, it was hard for me to express it at the time.

It seemed like a manual for operating in a world where you and everyone around you is motivated by increasing their power, a zero-sum world of dominance.

That might be true locally for the environments in which some people operate, but it’s not true generally for everyone, since luckily humans are equipped with more complex motivations than only the desire to dominate others.

Game Theory: The Strategy of Conflict, by Schelling.

Microeconomics is useful, but behavioral economics would be where I'd spend more time. It's a cross between econ and psych.

Games People Play by Eric Berne MD

>> Today, I would rather be a poor person in a First World country, than be a rich person in Louis the XIV’s France.

This is bullshit and demonstrates a lack of empathy. A poor person today has no spare time at all to enjoy life. Also, the modern medical system in many developed countries is not much better at all than a few centuries ago if you're poor... The only difference is that now the poor person knows ahead of time that they're going to die of cancer because they can't afford treatment... I don't think that's a good thing.

Agreed. I'm always surprised when people get away with this kind of blinkered panglossian pap.

There is simply no evidence that as a species we're happier, more secure, etc than generations past. Every advance we enjoy seems to come with a trade-off, as evidenced by the new findings about loneliness/alienation, rich-poor inequality, environmental degradation, what have you.

Even the elephant graph stuff can only talk about a time period that starts centuries after a huge amount of the world came under the yoke of colonialism.

Saw him for the first time today on Joe Rogan, I've never seen my own ways of thinking reflected so completely in one place.

I think he's wrong on the danger of AI, only because his case seems predicated on AI replicating a human mind and that ML is limited to tightly bounded problems - whereas it overlooks that causing extinction level events or facilitating global slavery are also bounded problems.

Looking forward to reading and hearing more from him.

Nice, gonna watch his interview now.

> What do you think society would look like in 20 years? My guess is what would happen is we would build robots, machines, software and hardware to do everything. We would all be living in massive abundance.

> We would essentially be retired, in the sense that none of us would have to work for any of the basics. We’d even have robotic nurses. We’d have machine driven hospitals. We’d have self-driving cars. We’d have farms that are 100% automated. We’d have clean energy.

Do we really need to run a thought experiment? Haven't some of it already happened to see the results? Doesn't look that rosy as this guy is describing.

The title gives a connotation about the article's contents that is not actually present in the article. While the article works just fine at giving the broad strokes for how to acquire wealth, it makes no effort at providing direction for how one might do it in a riskless fashion. Invariably any attempt to get rich must interact with free markets, and while there are ways to de-risk financial activity, you must be rich already to employ them.

Interesting. Small world. It is just a few hours ago that I listened to Naval @ JRE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qHkcs3kG44

>> It’s somewhat true in that, in a lot of the world, there’s a lot of theft going on all the time.

Also there are two kinds of stealing; the obvious one which everybody knows about and the non-obvious where even the person committing the offence doesn't realize it because society itself hasn't caught up to the fact that it is in fact stealing.

In my definition, any activity which takes value (or opportunity) from someone deserving and gives it to someone less deserving is stealing. This happens every day in every office, every industry and impacts everyone to different extents. We are a society of theives. If most money is derived from stealing, then it must be mostly evil.

It's no coincidence that Bitcoin is so valuable, even drug money is less dirty than fiat these days.

See also pg's essay "How to Make Wealth" (2004): http://paulgraham.com/wealth.html

>We are the only animals in the animal kingdom that cooperate across genetic boundaries. Most animals don’t even cooperate. But when they do, they cooperate only in packs where they co-evolve together, and they share blood, so they have some shared interests.

>Humans don’t have that. I can cooperate with you guys. One of you is a Serbian. The other one is a Persian by origin. And I’m Indian by origin. We have very little blood in common, basically none. But we still cooperate.

That's... kinda weird. I mean, humans are also the only animals on the planet with language. Or like, the only ones that can associate abstract concepts with value (so trading shells for food, etc). We can teach some of this to other animals, but only for a single generation - none of them are "discovering" it on their own.

I don't buy that this is a argument for the "naturalism" of capitalism.

>We are the only animals in the animal kingdom that cooperate across genetic boundaries. Most animals don’t even cooperate. But when they do, they cooperate only in packs where they co-evolve together, and they share blood, so they have some shared interests.

I mean, this is outright wrong. There are many species that cooperate with other species for common goals. There's many symbiotic relationships, there's cases of cooperative hunting between species, there's interspecies friendships, the list goes on.

Humans may be better at collaboration but it is by no means an exclusive trait.

Correct, for example, many, many plants can't reproduce at all without certain insects to pollinate them - the survival of their species depends on an organism they share no 'blood' with.

> I mean, humans are also the only animals on the planet with language.

orcas/other dolphins/whales want a word.

> Or like, the only ones that can associate abstract concepts with value (so trading shells for food, etc).

i don't know about this...


"when journalists attack rich people, or attack the technology industry, they’re really bidding for status"

There's a lot of that going on these days.

Yep. In fact, when rich technologists fire back with comments like his, they are also bidding for status.

(Or, more politely, engaging in a public conversation about values.)

It's also an argument that reduces any valid criticism into tribalism.

It's a dangerous statement to make.

It would have been more interesting if they could share deeper, nuanced arguments for setting wealth as the objective function. Sure, wealth past a certain point admits a lot of freedom---but what next beyond that point? But the utility function over wealth (x: wealth, y: utility) is sub-modular in nature. When the curve gets flat, what metric must one use to measure her life's worth? Is there even one as such? Having followed their opinions for quite some time, I know they must have some good opinions on these...

I imagine when you get to that point you focus in transforming x into y or just produce y independent of x.

Usual not, though. People get stuck on X, or just squandering it on expensive luxury.

He has covered these issues with more detail and nuance. For example, see his recent two hour interview on the Joe Rogan podcast. The point is achieving happiness. He's quite philosophical about this, give his material a try.

Is there a relationship between the timing of this post and the fact he was on the Joe Rogan show this week?

>> But then of course Uncle Sam show up, and basically say, “Hey, you know what, you just made a lot money this year. Therefore, you’re rich. Therefore, you’re evil and you’ve got to hand it all over to us.”

The government doesn't tax rich people because they're evil - they tax rich people to provide food, education, and security for society. Progressive taxes are useful because they help fight poverty and allow the very poor to participate in the market (extreme inequality and the resulting poverty is regarded by most economists as a market failure).

This guy mentions the importance of education, but does he realize that K-12 education is payed for by taxes? Unfortunately, inter-generational wealth mobility in the US is quite low, much lower than in most of Europe, where taxes happen to be much more progressive. You could argue that progressive taxes lead to wealth mobility; they provide the funding for education and other services that give poor folks the means to acquire wealth.

> inter-generational wealth mobility in the US is quite low, much lower than in most of Europe

I was surprised by this so I looked up a few sources. Not saying it's not true but we must be looking at different sources, here's a chart on "intergenerational earnings elasticity and with only a couple European countries (Italy and UK) slightly above the US:


I think you're misreading the graph. The Y axis is immobility. In other words, Italy and the UK have lower mobility than the US. Every other European country on the list has greater mobility.

You've read the figure incorrectly. Smaller values for Intergenerational Earnings Elasticity represent greater equality of opportunity[1] and correlate with less inequality.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/intergenerational-earnings-e...

I agree with you. Rather than arguing against progressive taxes in general, I think his point would have been stronger if it had explicitly argued for taxing wealth directly, rather than looking only at income. It's narrowly true that it doesn't make sense to tax someone far more for earning nothing in years 1-9 then $1M in year 10, vs someone earning 100k per year for 10 years. (Although in reality the person earning the lump sum would probably be able to spread that tax burden over multiple years using a corporate structure, etc. But still, the basic point holds.) The logical conclusion though is to look not just at annual income but at overall net worth when determining tax owed.

Of course, there are two major obstacles to that happening. First, income taxes are very convenient, because income is much easier to measure than net worth, and one would have to be careful with net worth taxes to make sure they don't have unintended consequences around illiquid wealth. Second, a lot of powerful rich people would be against it.

> Progressive taxes are useful because they help fight poverty and allow the very poor to participate in the market (extreme inequality and the resulting poverty is regarded by most economists as a market failure).

That's what taxes are for, but I'm not so sure they have to be Progressive to allow for that.

I am of the opinion that the government taxes rich people more because there are fewer of them and they are less likely to vote out the politicians who do it.

It's the masses voting bread and circuses for themselves.

Rich people only have the option of leaving but pretty much every place worth living does the same thing.

Why do you assume that the only way for people to have food, education and security is through taxation?

Why do you assume that without taxes the system would devolve into poverty and extreme inequality?

The economy is not a linear equation with taxation and poverty as inversely related variables.

We have seen what society looks like without a safety net provided by the government. That is the reason why these programs were created in the first place.

> K-12 education is payed for by taxes

Many wealthy families send their children to private schools. Even though some states have "school choice" programs that let the budgeted amount from taxes go to the schools, the families still pay the bulk of the price.

We don't know the poster's history, but it's entirely possible he attended private schools his entire life and was blissfully unaware of how the rest of us were educated.

I doubt there is any person in America who is so out of touch he doesn't know about public schools.

From the sound of it, he didn't grow up rich at all: "I was a latchkey kid. My mom was working multiple jobs and then she was going to school at night. We were raised by a single mother, my brother and I were, in New York City. We were in a part of New York City that isn’t very safe."

Parts of New York City that aren’t safe are filled with multimillion dollar brownstones, private schools and opportunity not available in other parts of the world.

Its not very helpful in a specific way. Little business aphorisms. Same dude with a poor argument against UBI from literally an entrepeneural perspective

How is his argument flawed? And is it intrinsically flawed because he comes from “literally an entrepreneurial perspective”? If so what should the right perspective be?

A perspective grounded in the reality of the gradience of intelligences and inginuity. Posts screams to me of an optimism bias, same dude probably thinks making a startup is hard is a myth created by the shortsighted. Not saying i have a grand perspective but the socioeconomic timeline (to come, is <be>coming is more complex, more nuanced, and we have not yet fathomed the depths to this accelerating future yet. UBI is a reactionary utilitarian policy thats like a big net to compensate. What naval promotes is not even that.

While I see the point of being financially independent and generating positive-sum wealth, some parts of this argument are bullshit. Most people I have talked to attacking those with lots of money do so because the money gained was made by depriving others of an opportunity to achieve their own wealth. I also disagree with his idea of a journalist reporting for the people being a "status game" and a "nessesscary evil" when he is attacking those who made money illicitly.

> because the money gained was made by depriving others of an opportunity to achieve their own wealth

For example?

Just how some criticize Bezos and Zucherburg for building massive fortunes with either terrible workplace practices or the invasion of privacy of millions of people. not all wealth was gained this way, some was gained through honest hard work, diligence, and prudence, but you also can't blame some for being overly cynical about whether most of those with great fortunes did so be committing great crimes.

This is one of the most absurd pieces of writing I've ever read and I'm only half way through.

I had to check again and see whether there was some sanity in the comments before continuing through it.

>Then there are people who come along with a sword, or a gun, or taxes, or crony capitalism, or Communism, or what have you. There’s all these different methods to steal.

What a gem. Taxes, guns, both about the same. Your "wealth" was obviously created in a vacuum, society contributed nothing to it.

>Overall capitalism [meaning free markets] is intrinsic to the human species. Capitalism is not something we invented. Capitalism is not even something we discovered. It is in us in every exchange that we have.

And this makes it more clear that this is about some form of religion.

>I started as a poor kid in India, so if I can make it, anybody can, in that sense.

Wish I could find an expression to accurate capture this sentiment...

>Now, obviously, I had all my limbs and I had my mental faculties and I did have an education. There are some prerequisites you can’t get past. But if you’re listening to this video or podcast, you probably have the requisite means at your disposal, which is a functioning body and a functioning mind.

Casually insulting people missing a limb, those obviously wouldn't be listening to a podcast about making it anyway, right? Those guys are f*ed.

>If you’re a trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term thinking deal maker, then when other people want to do deals but they don’t know how to do them in a trustworthy manner with strangers, they will literally approach you and give you a cut of the deal or offer you a unique deal just because of the integrity and reputation that you have built up.

In the words of Mark Wahlberg spoken in The Other Guys: "Oh my god, you were a pimp".

>Warren Buffett, he gets offered deals, and he gets to buy companies, and he gets to buy warrants, and bailout banks and do things that other people can’t do because of his reputation.

Yes. The main reason I'm not asked to bail out banks is I don't have the reputation for it. The process is obviously: -"Who could help us bail out a dying bank and make billions in the process?" -"I think I know a guy who's trustworthy, Warren I think is his name." -"Are there any prerequisites to offering him the opportunity to help?" -"I don't think so Jim. It would help if he had some cash on hand but we'll figure things out if he doesn't!".

>> Wealth is not a zero-sum game. Everybody in the world can have a house.

This is false and the people who say this tend to be in elite circles so they don't see the scarcity which is obvious to everyone else.

The fact is that there aren't going to be enough builders to build houses for everyone. Why? Because those people are too busy building mansions, building yahts, building private jets, mining gold, making jewelry, mining diamond, working on useless rich people startups, etc... Rich people create scarcity through their consumption. Also rich people pay better for the same work.

And yes, investing in a useless startup is not real investing; it's consumption; the real purpose of most startups is to bring pleasure to a rich person and their friends when the startup gets acquired, not to serve society.

> And yes, investing in a useless startup is not real investing; it's consumption; the real purpose of most startups is to bring pleasure to a rich person and their friends when the startup gets acquired, not to serve society.

And yet it is the very same startups that have improved your standard of living exponentially where luxuries reserved for the rich like private chauffeur (Uber/Lyft), matchmaking (Tinder/OkCupid), and private island vacations (Airbnb) are accessible to normal people.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game. In fact, I can prove this to you right now. Go look at the consumer price index during the end of WW2 era up until the gold standard was abolished. Compare it to today's CPI. It's not the "rich" who are evil, it is central banking by fiat which is the real evil.

Except that I don't care about Uber, Tinder, or AirBnb. I would happily pay more for regular Taxi and regular Hotels if only I could afford what I really want; to live in my own house in a place I actually want to live in. Now because of the job market, I am forced to live to a big city where all the rich people have their toy startups and houses are too expensive.

As a software engineer, I'm just an entertainer for rich people. I wish they would just give me the money for free so that I could create real value working on my open source projects.

There is a better argument than yours imo.

If we diverted the funding and manpower in Uber into public transportation... what happens? If we provided more affordable housing/tourist accommodations such that people did not _need_ to rent out their places in AirBnB, what happens?

The Tinder problem/solution is a weird one. It's in itself both and harmful and beneficial.

>As a software engineer, I'm just an entertainer for rich people.

What do you mean by this?

> As a software engineer, I'm just an entertainer for rich people. I wish they would just give me the money for free so that I could create real value working on my open source projects.

That's due to regulatory capture and a high tax rate due to excessive regulation. There is a book I highly recommend that you read. It is called "The Kingdom of Moltz" by Irwin Schiff, a bonafide political prisoner in the United States who died for his beliefs. When you read this book, you'll realize that crony capitalism and fiat central banking has sacrificed the well-being of the vast majority of US citizens.

You're kind of missing the point. The examples you give aren't useless. The vast majority are useless and die without achieving anything or are pointless financial engineering like ICOs.

I don't see how ICOs are less of a financial scheme/scam than the Silicon Valley VC Startup acquisition funnel.

Just looking at Google alone, the number of startups which were acquihired and whose product was subsequently shut down is significant.

Of course ICOs are scams and I would agree that most start-ups are probably useless and doomed to fail. But to find the small portion of companies that turn out to work well, it makes sense to put money into many companies. That's the VC principle.

> standard of living exponentially where luxuries reserved for the rich like private chauffeur (Uber/Lyft), matchmaking (Tinder/OkCupid), and private island vacations (Airbnb) are accessible to normal people.

Uber is, from client's perpective, just a taxi service with ability to hails cabs through an app. Matchmaking services were available and cheap way before the Internet. As for private island vacations available for normal people via Airbnb - can you point me to one airbnb offer like that?

You've redefined "house" to "mansion" in order to reach your conclusion. There are plenty of places in the world where people build their own houses and live in them quite happily.

A farmer builds up a flock of sheep or a herd of cows, and everyone in the village is richer. A miller builds a water mill and everyone in the village gets bread. A blacksmith builds a forge and everyone in the village now has access to metal items.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game.

>> This is false and the people who say this tend to be in elite circles so they don't see the scarcity which is obvious to everyone else.

There are countries with an over 90% home ownership rate.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_home_owne...

I used to follow that guy religiously then I realized that he knew how to hack the "attention" system on social media. He is famous for what really is little fluffy sentences that would get retweeted and make him look like a wise man with the ultimate truth about everything.

Now I see him as a huge hack. Almost a complete parody of Silicon Valley.

I think you nailed it with the term "parody" of every piece of self-help advice out there. This post reads like a buzzfeed article "21 ways to get rich". Here's a thousand soundbytes that very aren't actionable or who knows if any of them are right.

David Foster Wallace said something about how when elite athletes try to say how they got there, it ends up sounding mostly like clichés, but that it's probably because most clichés became such because they hold some truth[1].

And yeah, they definitely look worse when listed off in bulk. You're probably best off picking a small handful that play to your strengths as a person and figuring out how to ruthlessly make habits of them.

The thing is -- cliché doesn't mean easy. Many clichés in both athletics and wealth building are very easy to understand on an intellectual level, but hard (for whatever reason) to put into practice for the required duration to reap the benefit. So there will always be a market for them to be remixed, repackaged, and expounded on ad infinitum[2], since the end results usually remain out of most people's grasp.


[1] I'm not saying all clichés are universal truths, just that many universal truths have at least one expression as a cliché

[2] I'm reminded of an exchange between two affiliate marketers on Twitter:

Aff-1: "It's 2015 and people still broke"

Aff-2: "It's 2015 and people still fat"

(Disclaimer: I'm feeling cynical today.)

I assume that elite athletes aren't complete idiots, though. When an interviewer asks them how they got where they are, it's not great PR to say "luck" or "genetics" or "my parents forced me", even if that were the most accurate explanation.

"I worked really hard for it" is the story that people want to hear.

Which is more likely: that cliché statements get repeated because of how true they are, or because of how much people like hearing them? Fiction has always sold much better than nonfiction.

Well because its true. Hard work for an athlete is even more important than hard work for getting rich. Luck and being in the right place, knowing the right people, right things, etc are all far more important these days for wealth than how many hours you put in at the office.

With athletics there are bunch of pre-reqs, and a lot of luck but for most physical sports your going to have to work as hard as you possibly can for years. The genetics and working hard makes you a competitor, then you have to find an edge to actually win.

Don't elite athletes' explanations of how they got there sound mostly like clichés because their stories are so similar to the aspirations and training and effort [initially] put in by the athletes who didn't make it to elite level?

Is there any such “how to get rich” advice that IS actionable?

Literally all of it I’ve come across suffers from extreme selection bias, and does not account for (or give credit to) luck.

"Increase surface area" is the only one I can think of.

I.e., the "make your own luck" aphorism - the more you open yourself up to opportunities, the more likely you are to get lucky in the first place (finding an opportunity to generate riches).

So like, meeting lots of people, talking to lots of people, going out a lot. Not staying in, and if you are staying in, increasing your knowledge-based surface area.

Pretty much my go-to advice when I'm mentoring job seekers - the more people see your resume, the sooner you'll get a job, one way or the other. Nobody's gonna hire you if they don't "see" you.

There is one path which is get really good at an in demand skill and figure out how to get paid as much as possible for it, all while spending as little as possible. Basically doing something like becoming a neurosurgeon, or investment bank, etc... This is lower risk, but you're not going to get FU rich.

The other one is find a high risk high reward path like founding startups and then keep on rolling the dice.

There is real estate as well which is somewhere in the middle.

Each path has a lot of specific advice about how to achieve it, but they're all hard and require varing degrees birth luck and blind luck.

As he points out in his Joe Rogan interview from yesterday, highly-skilled specialists like neurosurgeons often don't do all that well, as their income is pegged to their time spent working, and their lifestyle costs often scale linearly with their income.

Of course that changes if you can break out of being an hourly-billing practitioner, and become an entrepreneur, like the dentist I know who built a successful chain of clinics then sold it to a large heath service provider.

You're doing a lot of picking holes in his points (much of critique seems to come down to luck being more important than anything else). But consider that this is always going to be easy to do for something like this that is specifically designed to be a set of simple, broadly-applicable rules of thumb.

Of course there will be limitless numbers of exceptions or domain-specific variations. The world is infinitely complex.

But there are still patterns than can be observed and principles that can be applied that will give people a better chance of a successful outcome than had they not applied those principles, and that's what he's seeking to share here.

And he deserves to be listened to, given that he's said he started learning/refining/applying these principles from a young age, and credits them for his own achievements, which are formidable and far from accidental (see the story of how he sued two of the biggest VC firms in Silicon Valley after they tried to screw him out of what he was due for his stake in the first company he helped build).

As for luck: nobody, least-of-all Naval, claims that it is immaterial to many people's success or opportunities.

But it's also uncontrollable, so you may as well forget about it, and focus on what you can control: making decisions that increase the probability of getting the outcome you want.

My overall critique is it's a lot of fluff. I'm sure Naval is a very smart guy who has a lot of incredibly valuable business experience but he didn't share any of it here. He shared a bunch of not particularly useful self-help advice.

By “not particularly useful”, do you mean that if someone were to apply it to the greatest extent possible, it wouldn’t work (on average)?

Or just that it’s obvious?

I mean, good advice often seems obvious to the point of banality, yet is heeded and properly applied by very few.

Paul Graham has said the same thing about his advice to YC-funded founders. He’s joked he could have been replaced with a bot that just repeatedly said “make something people want” and “talk to your users”.

It sounds banal, yet so few actually do it, and the ones who have done it are the ones who have succeeded.

The article is really long so I could easily pick advice that I was uninformed social commentary(the first couple), good but not novel(don't spend money), not actionable(8. Give Society What It Doesn’t Know How to Get), or I'm not convinced is right and I don't he think's he done any research on(equity is a better to pursue than money).

I thought "27. Set an Aspirational Hourly Rate" was particularly interesting, somewhat actionable, and I hadn't seen before.

But maybe it would easier if you told me the key insights you gleamed from the article that were novel(somewhat), actionable, and right.

Thanks for sharing your perspective here.

I think it reveals that each of us has different expectations when reading something like this. I don't read this kind of thing needing/expecting it to be completely right or wrong (I mean, if you already had a settled opinion on that, you wouldn't need to read it/think about it to start with), or "actionable" (which seems to be a euphemism for needing precise instructions, which is never possible with general principles, in which context will greatly influence the optimal application of those principles).

I'll just read something like this and consider whether it aligns with what the writer has done in their own life (this seems to be true), and whether it has led to positive outcomes (this seems to be true), whether other people who have lived by similar principles have achieved comparably good outcomes (this also seems to be true). For what it's worth, it also broadly rings true of my own life, of having spent the earlier part of my adult life not living by these principles and getting bad results, then embracing some of these principles (having come across these ideas from several other people including Nassim Taleb, well before Naval articulated them), and getting much better results.

I don't see anything in here that needs to be strongly agreed with or disagreed with. People can think about them and take them or leave them, given their own situation.

I find it interesting that the root commenter to this subthread, whose comment you strongly endorsed, said they used to "follow that guy religiously" but now see him as "a huge hack... Almost a complete parody of Silicon Valley." That just looks like a pendulum-swing from one unhealthy extreme to another, and places far too much importance on any one individual's perspective. (It's also flawed, given that much of Naval's career has been spent challenging the Silicon Valley establishment, by suing some of its biggest VCs and starting AngelList which democratised things for both smaller investors and founders, and that he is very vocal in expressing points of view that are starkly at odds with the Silicon Valley status quo, most notably, lately, about general AI.)

Part of me thinks it's silly to spend time debating people who see things that way, but another part of me feels it would be such a terrible shame if someone, like myself of 10-15 years ago, who could gain great benefit from reading and thinking about Naval's perspective, were to read these casually dismissive comments and be put off by them.

In response to the objections you raised:

> uninformed social commentary(the first couple)

His positions are debatable, of course, but it's false to say he’s uninformed; he's been deeply researching these topics from a young age.

> not actionable(8. Give Society What It Doesn’t Know How to Get)

It can't be ”actionable”; it's entirely context-dependent. Yet it's true of almost every hugely successful company.

> I'm not convinced is right and I don't he think's he done any research on(equity is a better to pursue than money)

From what he said on Rogan, he's been researching it since he was an early teenager, and applying it since the earliest stages of his career.

And are you asserting that people who focus on salary or hourly-rate income (including all those who aren't lucky enough to have a highly-paid job or skill) are - all else being equal - better off than people who invest in businesses that passively generate income and growth? Can you share stats or examples?

Consider, also, that the position relating to this that you've repeated several times is that it is easier to get rich by getting a job at Google than investing in a successful tech company, but this fails to acknowledge that being able to get a job at Google is highly luck-dependent (relating to location, education, inherent aptitude, job availability among many others), and the entire purpose of Naval's principles - written right into the very title, is to be able to succeed without relying on luck.

I think that's enough from me. No doubt you'll stick with whatever point of view works for you, but when you're writing comments that seek to contradict a piece like this, rather than low-effort dismissals, please try think about how you could do it in a way that is helpful to someone who is looking for pointers on how they can get better results in their life.

By all means, present an alternative point of view, but try and do it with evidence and with useful (even actionable!) alternatives, rather than just negativity.

Thanks for the discussion.

In theory it should be easy to explain, along with things like how to graduate from a top university, how to socialise in groups and how to date. But they aren't easy to explain because there's so many little things that people just infer along the way. While people are trying to follow cliches they forget things like atmosphere and a hundred other things.

Except it's 37 ways, which is pretty overwhelming.

I sort of think the problem with self-help advice is you get satisfaction by reading about it, which is sort of a placebo for seeking the satisfaction of doing it.

That said, I kind of liked "6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person"

The right term is "entreporn" which what this article really is.

> There’s no actual skill called business. Avoid business schools and magazines.

Proceeds giving a bunch of generic business and life lessons.

I think he comes off better on this podcast than on twitter: https://medium.com/@gaurav1886/learnings-from-farnam-street-...

This article is over 35,000 words and he is speaking from experience (he isn't a young kid).


That’s debatable at best. Bill Gates has saved countless lives through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which wouldn’t exist if not for the money he made founding MSFT. A quick Google search would reveal many similar examples as well.

How do you know that the people he took money from in his illegal monopoly operation wouldn't have saved more lives?

It's not even about directly taking money - the inefficiences caused by his monopoly slowed down progress for many years, which meant saving fewer lifes that would've been possible if not for MS.

https://soundcloud.com/citationsneeded/episode-45-the-not-so... https://soundcloud.com/citationsneeded/episode-46-the-not-so...

I would recommend listening to these podcasts or skimming the show notes. _Especially_ if you're in education you know Bill Gates has done good, but he's also done a LOT of bad.

Probably so, but please don't post unsubstantive comments here.

you are all but guaranteed NOT to be influential. since you don’t pursue money, you won’t receive it. your ideas, while they may be very good, will likely not scale because you won’t be able to finance their visibility

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