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  • Writer's pictureNishant Mittal

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: Book review by Nishant Mittal

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Naval Ravikant has quite a legendary following on Twitter. That's how I came to know about him. Even though he's the founder of AngelList; a pioneering platform for startup funding, Mr. Ravikant is more known for his tweets about philosophy, happiness, getting rich, etc. For perspective, about 1.7 million people follow him on Twitter, and he 'follows' nobody back.

Interestingly, this book is itself not a memoir or an autobiography. It's a collection of his tweets and podcast appearances, written by a fan called Eric Jorgenson (after due permission, of course). Crazy, right? I thought so.

I was frankly quite puzzled to see this cult. I checked out some of his tweets to be sure, and while they seemed alright, they didn't strike me as particularly revelatory.

So what's this worship all about? Am I missing something?

I picked up the book and found out that Mr. Ravikant is extremely eloquent and simple with his words. Simplicity is the key here. He talks a lot about things people really like to hear; how to get rich, being happy, and so on. And while the wisdom isn't very ground breaking (or even original for that matter), it's passed on with such simplicity that even a child can comprehend. Many times, the simplistic "tweets" miss out on the nuances and pass off incorrect generalisations, but that's the risk Mr. Ravikant takes deliberately. As mentioned above, simplicity is the key. Along with relatability. These two characteristics, in a way, define the persona of Mr. Ravikant. And also his appeal.

While I enjoyed learning from him throughout the book, I seriously disagree with him on one aspect and I'd like to point that out. 

According to Mr. Ravikant, "There's no legacy. There's nothing to leave. We're all going to be gone. Our children will be gone. Our works will be dust. Our civilisations will be dust. In the grand scheme of things...your life is a firefly blink in a night".

This philosophy (resembling existential nihilism) has been gaining significant popularity recently. It especially appeals to the pot smoking generation of today which despises the "struggle of building something" as a capitalist plot. The pop culture has accelerated its adoption with the advent of shows like Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman, to name a few.

While I understand the appeal, I think it's just BS. I believe in legacy because I see it everywhere around me. I live in India, which is a country established by the Mauryan dynasty (in just three generations) some 2300 years ago. Every time I read a book, I'm reminded of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press some 600 years ago. Just last night, I went for a drive to get something, and heard a cheap imitation of Fur Elise; a piece composed by Beethoven some 210 years ago. These works certainly didn't turn into "dust" in three generations. They're very well alive, and will be for a long, long time. Maybe forever? Quite possible.

I think what this "we're all going to die" philosophy grossly underestimates is the invention of 'history' itself. To think of it, human history is not that old. Our memories have been quite ephemeral until the creation of the printing press, camera, cinema...internet. It was impossible for the early man to craft a lasting legacy on his name. But do you think Elon Musk will be forgotten in a few generations after he gets a piece of mars? No.

Bottom line: "There's no legacy", as a standalone concept, is basically a bunch of BS. But yes, as Mr. Naval Ravikant says, it's very important to "appreciate the moment".

All in all, a nice book.

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