On reading The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, you will be left with no doubt that this is the work of someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about how the world works and what makes people tick.
It’s an unusual book, combining the practical wisdom of proverbs with the insights of philosophy: a blend that leaves you feeling at once grounded and uplifted.
The Almanack is structured around a series of short essays. In some of these, Ravikant comes across as a kind of modern-day philosopher king: one who not only knows plenty about life but understands it at an almost cellular level. Other pieces read more like inspirational mantras rather than dense philosophy — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Trust and adaptation
One of the first themes we encounter in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant is that of trust. Ravikant argues that the capacity to trust — and to act on that trust — is a vital part of human nature.
It’s also an extremely fragile psychological state: one that can be undermined by everything from government policy to childhood trauma. And this matters because the absence of trust can have a seriously corrosive effect on society.
Ravikant’s answer to this problem is adaptation: the ability to reshape ourselves in response to new challenges. He argues that trust is crucial to adaptation: we are much more likely to flourish when we have the ability to rely on one another.
Trust and adaptation are, in turn, underpinned by what Ravikant calls the “trust engine.”
Loss, failure, and self-renewal
Another recurrent theme in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant is the importance of failure and loss as a pathway to growth. Ravikant tells us that we need to “toughen up” and get used to failure.
He also suggests that we need to make a lot of room in our lives for “uncontrolled failure.” Ravikant’s point isn’t that we should go out there and make a mess of our lives. It’s that we need to be comfortable with the possibility of failure — and prepared to learn from it. He also suggests that we need to learn to “grow back” after failure and loss, so that these challenges don’t leave us diminished.
Meaning and purpose
We find an almost religious sense of meaning and purpose running through many of the pieces in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. Ravikant writes about a “greater purpose” that will define and shape our lives. He also talks about how our relationship to this “cosmic force” can vary — and how, if we are lucky, we can feel it “pulling” us towards a certain kind of life.
Ravikant’s discussion of meaning and purpose includes some interesting thoughts on the difference between “doing” and “being.” He argues that we can often be so busy “doing” that we completely miss out on the potential of “being.”
And he suggests that, in order to really engage with this alternative mode of existence, we need to cultivate a certain kind of “being calm.”
As we have seen, there are a lot of ideas in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. Some of the other key insights include The importance of asking “what if” questions in order to help us adapt to change, the fact that there is a natural rhythm to everything (including success and failure), and the idea that the best way to get what you want is to help other people get what they want.
Ravikant also discusses the “perils of choice” and warns against being “too picky.” He argues that we need to accept the “good enough” in ourselves and in the world around us. And he advises us to pay attention to the “‘ish’ factor” — that is to say, the difference between the ideal and the real.
If The Almanack of Naval Ravikant has a central message, it is that we need to be open to change — and prepared for it to happen at any moment. And this requires us to cultivate a certain kind of inner stability: a state in which we are able to hold on to what we really want in life, even as the world around us is constantly shifting. Ravikant has written what is, in effect, an operating manual for life: one that will help you to navigate the challenges you will face, whatever they might be. And it is an operating manual that is intelligent, empathetic, and uplifting.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant is a collection of essays, experiments, and musings from Naval Ravikant. It spans essays, experiments, and musings from Naval and also includes his “Top 5 Ways to Be More Productive in the Morning” & “Top 5 Ways to Get Ahead at Work” – how he makes and spends his time, how he manages to take care of his family, and how he stays focused on his goals.
It also features: “The Red Pen Test” – a tool to help you evaluate whether you’re being honest with yourself; “The Art of Failure” – lessons that can help you stick to your convictions even in the face of defeat; “The Ripple Effect” – a meditation on how everyone’s actions impact everyone around them; and “The Kool-Aid Test” – how to keep your mind open and flexible so that you can adapt and grow.