‘Desire is a contract you make with yourself until you get what you want. Choose your desire very carefully. Recognise it as the axis of your suffering.’
I listen to a lot of podcasts, but nothing has quite given me the goosebumps as the response from Naval Ravikant when asked the following question:
In a world where majority of people will guard money much more than time, how do you protect your own time and still not offend people or damage your relationships?
To this, Naval offers the most thought-provoking response.
Time is precious. Guard it.
The reality is time is all you have in this world. When you’re young, you seek out opportunities and look forward to serendipity. As you get older, you have too many opportunities, know too many people, have too much to do and too many places to be. You end up busy, busy, busy, busy.
Busyness is the death of productivity and happiness. Derek Shivers, an earlier guest on the podcast, said ‘I’m not gonna say yes or no, I’m gonna say hell yeah! or no.’ Basically, Derek is saying unless you’re really excited about something, you shouldn’t do it. This leaves you room to throw yourself into that rare thing that makes you say ‘hell yeah!’ I think this is a good heuristic to try out.
Of course, this implies you need to say no more often to people. And so what if it offends people? You have a very short life on this earth. You have to spend it being happy and doing what is productive. What matters are the people closest to you. In fact, all the great outcomes in life come from compound interest, whether it’s in investing or in relationships. Naval’s most popular tweet of all time says ‘if you can’t see yourself working with somebody for life, don’t work with him for a day.’ It’s a good reminder that if any relationship is short term or temporary, it’s really not gonna pay out the dividends that you want later in life.
Once you find the people and things you love, go all in.
It’s better to treat a lot of your time as a search function, where you’re searching through a set of jobs, a set of dates and spouses, a set of friends, or a set of hobbies. Keep searching until you find the things and people you love, then go all in.
When you find the other person you love being around 24/7, marry her. When you find friends that you just never get tired of hanging out with, they’re gonna be the five friends that you’ll spend most of your remaining life with. Once you find them, go all in.
Remember the Five Chimps Theory.
In zoology, there’s a theory called the five chimps theory where you can predict the mood, behaviour and patterns of any chimp, by which five chimps he hangs out with most. Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once said, ‘you are the average of the five people you hang out most with.’ So choose your five chimps carefully.
Yes, people will be offended. Yes, it can damage relationships if you blow them off or if you’re non-responsive. But you have very limited room in your life long-term for real relationships. Save them for your chimp buddies.
It’s also important to have empty space.
If you don’t have a day or two each week where you’re not pre-occupied, then you’re not gonna be able to think or have original ideas. You’re not gonna be able to make good judgements. So, I also encourage taking up at least one day a week, preferably two, where you have nothing on your calendar and you just have time to think. It’s only after you’re bored, that you’re going to have a great idea. It’s never going to be when you’re stressed, busy, running around or rushed. So make the time.
It’s the same way with people. You have to be ruthless about saying no to things, about turning people down, and leaving room in your life for serendipity. You need to have space in your life where you’re not booked with the people you already know. So once in a blue moon, an invitation will come along and a person will come into your life and you’ll be able to make the time for them.
Barring the bare necessities, forget money.
There is a discount rate with money. What does that mean? Well, ask yourself the following question:
‘If I could keep my friends and family, and everything I know, but lose all my money and my job, and had to start over. But in exchange, I get to be younger, physically younger. How many years of my life would I have to get back in exchange for giving up everything I’ve earned and put away?’
Naval has friends who say five or ten years. For Naval, it’s about two to three years. He’d start over with nothing if you give him back two or three years of youth.
But the older you get, the smaller that number gets. When you’re on your death bed, you’d give up everything in your bank for another week, another day, another hour, another minute. So barring the bare necessities like food and shelter, money has a very steep discount rate as you get older. You realise as you grow older that it matters less and less.
Guard your time, time is all you have in this world.
You can hear the whole interview here. His response to this specific question runs from 51:46 to 57:25.