This interview is part 3 of a series of articles about authors, entrepreneurs and creators who I would like to learn from. Previous posts include 'Elegance & Simplicity,' the story about the rise of Visualize Value, and 'Recovering from Pessimism,' an interview with Jack Butcher.
If you would like to see more of these, please send any suggestions Twitter.
Naval Ravikant is open to sharing his learnings, his experiences and the habits that have made him what he is today. As an incredibly deep thinker who challenges the status quo on so many things, his thoughts are addictive. It's easy to see why he has so many fans.
This article isn't about Naval though.
It's about the Almanack of Naval - a book being written by Eric Jorgenson which collects Naval's wisdom and ideas from podcasts, essays, interviews and tweets in one place and delivers it to the reader in a unique and exciting manner.
Every word in this book is directly from Naval. Jorgenson decided not to write anything himself. The result is a book that promises to be conversational and addictive, the kind that keeps you reading as you order coffee after coffee.
This article will follow a similar format, with the majority of it coming from Jorgenson himself. He's writing a great book, and he's given us some insight on how he's doing it.
“I call Naval ‘the Angel Philosopher’ and the Almanack shows why. Packed with unforgettable wisdom and penetrating insights, your mental gears will be working overtime.” — Shane Parrish, Founder of Farnam Street
"YOU CAN ALMOST HEAR HIM SAYING THESE THINGS TO YOU"
This book is unique because it's made up entirely of Naval's thoughts and ideas. The concept is intriguing to me and hearing Jorgenson speak about it excites me. It sounds like a personal experience, something few books are able to achieve.
"I had some real creative doldrums trying to figure out what this book should be. Once I adopted the constraint that I couldn’t write anything myself, things started to fall into place. Every word in this book is directly from Naval. I just broke everything down into pieces and stitched it together into a smooth, organized read.
The podcast interviews provided some natural conversational tone, and some careful editing makes it all feel cohesive and consistent. I really like that we were able to select the very best articulations of each of his ideas and put them all together.
I really wanted it to read as though he wrote it, and keep a completely conversational tone, so it felt like he was speaking directly to you as the reader. I think we achieved that.
You can almost hear him saying these things to you, and it makes for a very engaging, almost intimate reading experience."
Jorgenson works on product strategy at Zaarly. This is what initially piqued my interest in him and the book.
Writing a book is difficult. Writing a good book is even more difficult. The habits and routines of writers who are able to do this are something worth learning.
"Zaarly is my main job -- we’re building a marketplace for home repairs and maintenance that homeowners can always trust. Zaarly always comes first, and sometimes doesn’t leave room for anything else.
The thing I like about these projects is that they can flex based on the free time I have available. Some weeks I can put 20 hours into the book, some weeks it’s 0 hours."
Remaining consistently productive is difficult. Different writers have different habits, routines and tools. Here's the Jorgenson writing stack and what he does to stay on top of things:
"Well... I don’t stay on top of it all, haha. And I don’t beat myself up too much about that.
I just do what I am most excited to do. Anything beyond Zaarly is a hobby, so while I have high standards for the quality of the final product, I don’t care much about the speed or volume of the output.
As far as tools, there’s not much novel about what I do. I use Google Docs for everything. My only ‘hack’ is that I use keyboard shortcuts as much as I possibly can. I’m probably not a very efficient worker on an hourly basis -- my Twitter addiction sees to that!
My workflow varies -- which isn’t ideal. I tend to work on the most important thing first in the day, which is almost always some piece of writing internal to Zaarly. I find I get a second wind after a workout, so that is a good way to reset for the ‘night shift’. Spending an hour in the gym gets me 1-2 more productive hours that I wouldn’t have had if I just ‘rested’ instead. It restarts my momentum."
"Naval has been very generous in supporting this project. He’s always been very responsive and helpful, far beyond my expectations at the beginning. He is yet another person who shows me that the most successful people I know always work quickly!
I’m grateful he gave me a shot at creating something he could be proud to have people read. It’s not a trivial thing to allow someone to create a book that will have your name across the front. I really appreciate the opportunity and respect the trust it takes to turn this over to essentially a stranger from the internet!
Naval is good about mentioning the sources of his ideas, and I included those wherever possible. I didn’t interrupt the conversational tone with a lot of sidebars and citations, though. Early readers talked about binging this book and reading for hours at a time -- I wanted to protect that magic feeling.
Readers who want to get deeper into understanding the sources of Naval’s ideas will realllllly love the Naval’s Recommended Reading section, where he talks about his favourite books and influences. This where you can really re-construct Naval’s worldview in your own mind in a more robust, first-principles way."
"He offered (to add some unpublished material), but I wanted to embrace the constraint of using only publicly available materials. After the book is released, I’m hoping to do an interview that goes along with the book, asking questions readers are left with after reading. Then, we’re all experiencing it together.
Also, there are some very obscure sources I pulled up. Even the most diehard Naval fans have found ideas and passages in this book that they’ve never seen before!
He (Naval) had input periodically throughout development, from very rough early days, through the giant, giant draft, and into the final stages. He’s been very trusting of my vision as we’ve worked toward this final version.
His partner Nivi also provided some exceptional feedback."
The Navalmanack excites me for a few reasons. Firstly, the content looks set to be breathtaking. The bits and pieces of Naval that readers have become accustomed to have proven to be amongst the highest quality information and insight available. This book puts all of that in one place. It's a breeding ground for learning and growth.
Secondly, Eric Jorgenson is taking on the tough task of writing a book in his spare time. His transparency means that we're able to learn valuable lessons from him while watching what it takes to do it successfully.
Here are some lessons I've learnt while speaking to Eric which have proven valuable for me. These are a note to self.
Creative constraints make writing easier. By embracing simplicity, you're able to focus your attention on specific tasks and ensure that you do them properly.
Balancing work and projects will never be easy. Don't be too harsh on yourself.
Always do the most important thing first. This is a habit of many successful writers and one which will serve you well.
Successful people have a tendency to work quickly.
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