Practical Wisdom from "The Almanack of Naval Ravikant":Happiness

"The Almanack of Naval Ravikant" is a book that compiles the wisdom and insights of entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant. This book mainly talks about two topics, wealth and happiness. It offers practical advice on how to live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Through his own experiences and perspectives, Naval provides readers with valuable insights into topics like success, motivation, and personal growth, making the book a useful guide for anyone looking to improve their life and achieve their goals

I have benefited greatly from reading this book, and I want to write some important takeaways from this book. As this book was written in English, I want to give it a try to write it in English, too. Hoping the passage will be beneficial to you, this passage is about the second topic: Happiness

The passage about the first topic: wealth, can be found here

The book claims that three big ones in life are wealth, health, and happiness. And usally we pursue them in that order, but their importance is reverse.

As to the definition to happiness, it is just different to different people at different age or situation

Happiness is a very evolving thing.

What’s happiness? The answer I would have given you a year ago will be different than what I tell you now. And the answer that works for me is going to be nonsense to you, and vice versa. Whatever happiness means to me, it means something different to you.

But luckily, happiness is not something you inherit or even choose, but a choice you make and a skill you develop, like fitness or nutrition.

So in the following we will focus on how to learn the skill of being happy and avoid those enemies of hapiness.

Presence and Peace

Happiness requires presence and peace

At any given time, when we’re walking down the streets, a very small percentage of your brain is focused on the present. The rest is planning the future or regretting the past.

This keeps you from having an incredible experience. It’s keeping you from seeing the beauty in everything and for being grateful for where you are.

So what we should do is not to believe in anything from my past. Anything. No memories. No regrets. No people. No trips. Nothing. A lot of our unhappiness comes from comparing things from the past to the present.

Besides presence, peace is also very important for happiness, because happiness is more about peace than it is about joy.

When a lot of people say happiness, they mean joy or bliss, but the author believes it more about peace.

If you ever just sit down and try and do nothing, nothing. Doing nothing, means not to read a book, not to listen to music, literally just sit down and do nothing. You will find you can’t do it, because there’s anxiety always trying to make you get up and go, get up and go, get up and go. So it’s important just being aware the anxiety is making you unhappy. The anxiety is just a series of running thoughts.

When facing anxiety, we don't need to fight it, we just need to be aware we're anxious because of all these thoughts. We're actually making a choice, “Would I rather be having this thought right now, or would I rather have my peace?”

A happy person isn’t someone who’s happy all the time. It’s someone who effortlessly interprets events in such a way that they don’t lose their innate peace.

Desire and Jealousy

Desire and Jealousy are enemies of happiness

As humans, we are highly judgmental survival-and-replication machines. We constantly walk around thinking, “I need this,” or “I need that,” trapped in the web of desires.

Happiness is what’s there when you remove the sense that something is missing in your life.

Happiness is the state when nothing is missing. When nothing is missing, your mind shuts down and stops running into the past or future to regret something or to plan something.

So happiness is about the absence of desire, especially the absence of desire for external things.

There is a fundamental delusion for many people: There is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever.

Suppose we bought a new car. Now we're waiting for the new car to arrive. Of course, every night, we're on the forums reading about the car. I know the instant the car arrives we won’t care about it anymore. The thing is, we're addicted to the desiring. We're addicted to the idea of this external thing bringing me some kind of happiness and joy, and this is completely delusional.

Not to say you shouldn’t do things on the outside. You absolutely should. You’re a living creature. You’re meant to do something. You’re not just meant to lie there in the sand and meditate all day long. You should self-actualize. You should do what you are meant to do.

So the key point is what kind of desire and what extent we should achieve, but the book does not provide a definitive answer to this or, in other words, the answer varies for each individual.

Usally, desire and jealousy are twins, they appear at the same time. When we are desired for something but do not own them yet, jealousy will come up seeing other people who already get those things.

Jealousy was a very hard emotion to overcome. It’s such a poisonous emotion because, at the end of the day, you’re no better off with jealousy. You’re unhappier, and the person you’re jealous of is still successful or good-looking or whatever they are.

We should realize with all these people we were jealous of, we couldn’t just choose little aspects of their life.

We couldn’t say we want his body, we want her money, we want his personality. You have to be that person. Do you want to actually be that person with all of their reactions, their desires, their family, their happiness level, their outlook on life, their self-image? If you’re not willing to do a wholesale, 24/7, 100 percent swap with who that person is, then there is no point in being jealous.

Single-Player Game

Socially, we’re told, “Go work out. Go look good.” That’s a multi-player competitive game. Other people can see if I’m doing a good job or not. We’re told, “Go make money. Go buy a big house.” Again, external multiplayer competitive game.

But training yourself to be happy is completely internal. There is no external progress, no external validation. You’re competing against yourself—it is a single-player game.

The reality is life is a single-player game. You’re born alone. You’re going to die alone. All of your interpretations are alone. All your memories are alone. You’re gone in three generations, and nobody cares. Before you showed up, nobody cared. It’s all single player.

We’re like bees or ants. We are such social creatures, we’re externally programmed and driven. We don’t know how to play and win these single-player games anymore. Perhaps one reason why yoga and meditation are hard to sustain is they have no extrinsic value. Purely single-player games.

There is no endpoint to self-awareness and self-discovery. It’s a lifelong process you hopefully keep getting better and better at.

Freedom from Expectations

If you hurt other people because they have expectations of you, that’s their problem. If they have an agreement with you, it’s your problem

Courage is not caring what other people think.

Value your time. It is all you have. It’s more important than your money. It’s more important than your friends. It is more important than anything. Your time is all you have. Do not waste your time.

When reading this part in the book, it just reminds me of the speech of Steve Jobs in Standford

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.

Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Happiness Habits

As mentioned above, happiness is skill, just like nutrition, dieting, working. It's not what you are born with. It starts with realizing they’re skills you can learn.

The most important trick to being happy is to realize happiness is a skill you develop and a choice you make. You choose to be happy, and then you work at it. It’s just like building muscles.

So how does someone build the skill of happiness? This book offers some advices for building habits

  • Be very aware in every moment. If I catch myself judging somebody, I can stop myself and say, “What’s the positive interpretation of this?”
  • Dropping caffeine and alcohol
  • Not eating sugar will keep your mood more stable. Not going on Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter will keep your mood more stable.
  • Working out every day, if you have peace of body, it’s easier to have peace of mind
  • Tell your friends you’re a happy person. Then, you’ll be forced to conform to it
  • Use meditation, music, and exercise to reset your mood
  • Increase serotonin in the brain without drugs: Sunlight, exercise, positive thinking, and tryptophan
  • Be grateful with what you have

As humans, we’re used to taking everything for granted. Like what you and I are doing right now. We’re sitting indoors, wearing clothes, well-fed, and communicating with each other through space and time. We should be two monkeys sitting in the jungle right now watching the sun going down, asking ourselves where we are going to sleep.

  • Stop Judging

The more you judge, the more you separate yourself. You’ll feel good for an instant, because you feel good about yourself, thinking you’re better than someone. Later, you’re going to feel lonely. Then, you see negativity everywhere. The world just reflects your own feelings back at you.

As to how to change a habit, the book give the follwing steps

  1. Pick one thing. Cultivate a desire. Visualize it.
  2. Plan a sustainable path.
  3. Identify needs, triggers, and substitutes.
  4. Tell your friends.
  5. Track meticulously.
  6. Self-discipline is a bridge to a new self-image.
  7. Bake in the new self-image. It’s who you are—now

First, you know it. Then, you understand it. Then, you can explain it. Then, you can feel it. Finally, you are it.

Care for Yourself

We can depend on nobody but just ourselves,

Doctors won’t make you healthy.

Nutritionists won’t make you slim.

Teachers won’t make you smart.

Gurus won’t make you calm.

Mentors won’t make you rich.

Trainers won’t make you fit.

Ultimately, you have to take responsibility.

The number one priority in life, above happiness, above family and work, is health, which can be mainly summarized as two parts: physical health and mental health

Physical Health

To have peace of mind, you have to have peace of body first.

  • Diet

A correct diet should probably look closer to a paleo diet, mostly eating vegetables with a small amount of meat and berries

The combination of sugar and fat together is really deadly. You’ve got to watch out for that in your diet

Most fit and healthy people focus much more on what they eat than how much. Quality control is easier than (and leads to) quantity control

  • Exercise

For the question: What habit would you say most positively impacts your life? Navel gave the answer as follows

The daily morning workout. That has been a complete game-changer. It’s made me feel healthier, younger. It’s made me not go out late.

The harder the workout, the easier the day.

Make hard choices instead of easy ones, you will be easy in the long term

If you are making the hard choices right now in what to eat, you’re not eating all the junk food you want, and making the hard choice to work out. Your life long-term will be easy. You won’t be sick. You won’t be unhealthy.

The same is true of values. The same is true of saving up for a rainy day. The same is true of how you approach your relationships. If you make the easy choices right now, your overall life will be a lot harder

Mental Health

In this part, this book highlights the importance of meditation for metal health

For your entire life, things have been happening to you. Some good, some bad, most of which you have processed and dissolved, but a few stuck with you. Over time, more and more stuck with you, and they almost became like these barnacles stuck to you.

You lost your childhood sense of wonder and of being present and happy. You lost your inner happiness because you built up this personality of unresolved pain, errors, fears, and desires that glommed onto you like a bunch of barnacles.

Just like too much sugar leads to a heavy body, and too many distractions lead to a heavy mind. Meditation is the intermittent fasting for the mind.

One kind of meditation recommended by Navel is called Choiceless Awareness, or Nonjudgmental Awareness

As you’re going about your daily business and you’re not talking to anybody else, you practice learning to accept the moment you’re in without making judgments. You don’t think, “Oh, there’s a homeless guy over there, better cross the street”or look at someone running by and say, “He’s out of shape, and I’m in better shape than him.”

You don’t make any decisions. You don’t judge anything. You just accept everything. Naval said if he does that for ten or fifteen minutes while walking around, he will end up in a very peaceful, grateful state.

Another kind of meditation is transcendental meditation, which is where you’re using repetitive chanting to create a white noise in your head to bury your thoughts.

You can just very keenly and very alertly be aware of your thoughts as they happen. As you watch your thoughts, you realize how many of them are fear-based. The moment you recognize a fear, without even trying it goes away. After a while, your mind quiets.

The book recommends if you really want to try meditation, try sixty days of one hour a day, first thing in the morning. After about sixty days, you will be tired of listening to your own mind. You will have resolved a lot of issues, or you have heard them enough to see through those fears and issues.

I think it may be a little hard for people working in modern society to spend extra one hour in the morning, when they have to get up early for work and may need work late at night. But there is a very useful life-hack: When in bed, meditate. Either you will have a deep meditation or fall asleep. Victory either way.

Meditation doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to gain the superpower to control your internal state. The advantage of meditation is recognizing just how out of control your mind is.

Realizing the fact will drag you out of all those fantasy-future planning or uncontrollable fear about the future. It will bring you to the present, which is the requirement for happiness.

Insight meditation lets you run your brain in debug mode until you realize you’re just a subroutine in a larger program.

Besides meditation, another tip in this book is cold showers.

It's hard for many people, and the book recommends a method called Wim Hof breathing method. It involves hyperventlating to get more oxygen into your blood, which raises your core temperature. Then, you can go into the shower.

The first few cold showers may be scary, but sooner it will not seem so hard. A very important lesson from this: most of our suffering comes from avoidance. Most of the suffering from a cold shower is the tip-toeing your way in. Once you’re in, you’re in. It’s not suffering.

Here is a video of a uploader on bilibili about cold showers,which records the change of his body with cold showers in a series of 30 days. It also explains some principles behind cold showers 【连续洗30天冷水澡】我的身体发生了什么变化?


When it comes to real happiness in life, we can not avoid some topics related to philosophy

Meaning of Life

This is a big question, and almost anyone will ask themselves this question in their lives, especially when they come to their 30s.

There is no standark answer to this just like the definition of happiness. But one possible answer to this is there's no meaning of life, or it's personal if exists.

Anything you do will fade. It will disappear, just like the human race will disappear and the planet will disappear. No one is going to remember you past a certain number of generations, whether you’re an artist, a poet, a conqueror, a pauper, or anyone else. There’s no meaning.

From another aspect, however, it indicates the truth that you have to create your own meaning, because it will be personal if it really exists. Any piece of wisdom anybody else gives you, whether it’s Buddha or the book, is going to sound like nonsense. Fundamentally, you have to find it for yourself, so the important part is not the answer, it’s the question. You just have to sit there and dig with the question. It might take you years or decades. When you find an answer you’re happy with, it will be fundamental to your life.

Usally it is related to relationship with people around us, after all Humanity is a the summation of social relationships

Live by Your Values

The book listed some core values of Naval, again, it just varies with different people.

Honesty is a core, core, core value.If I disconnect what I’m thinking from what I’m saying, it creates multiple threads in my mind. I’m no longer in the moment—now I have to be future-planning or past-regretting every time I talk to somebody.

Play long-term games with long-term people. All benefits in life come from compound interest, whether in money, relationships, love, health, activities, or habits. I only want to be around people I know I’m going to be around for the rest of my life. I only want to work on things I know have long-term payout.

Don’t believe in anger anymore. Anger was good when I was young and full of testosterone, but now I like the Buddhist saying, “Anger is a hot coal you hold in your hand while waiting to throw it at somebody.” I don’t want to be angry, and I don’t want to be around angry people. I just cut them out of my life.

Presence is All We Have

There is actually nothing but this moment.

No one has ever gone back in time, and no one has ever been able to successfully predict the future in any way that matters.

Literally, the only thing that exists is this exact point where you are in space at the exact time you happen to be here.

Perhaps we’re dying and being reborn at every moment. It’s up to you whether to forget or remember that.


This passage is about the second topic of this book: happiness

It's the most important thing in life, or we can say it's the ultimate goal. Because when we chase for wealth, power, health etc, we're not chasing these things themselves, but the happiness we belive we will get when we own these things.

However, these things may not bring real happiness. The book belives that happiness requires presence and peace, while desire and jealousy are enemies of it. Finally, we will realize that life is a single-player game. There's no one else except for yourself, so just free yourself from other people's expections.

Some useful and pratical habits for happiness are recommended in the book, I think we can follow them just from now on. Among them, I belive the habits for health is extremely important, inlucding physical health and mental health.

Because to have peace of mind, you have to have peace of body first, diet, exercise and sleeping are important on this. As to mental health, meditation is highly recommended.

On the journey of chasing happiness, we may eventually come to the realization that there's no meaning of life, or it's personal if exists. Life is just what it is, we can only construct the meaning for ourselves living every moment to the best with people around us, because presence is all we have and humanity is a the summation of social relationships.

Hope we can all find it someday