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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).




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