Why do I wish to talk about happiness and not wealth or building judgement, or rational Buddhism, meaning of life, and any other aspect of values that are so vital for us? All these are painstakingly explained in ‘The Almanack of Naval Ravikant’ written by Eric Jorgenson, a book published by Harper Business. This is because only if we are enabled to understand and experience happiness will we know the importance of acceptance. In fact, my suggestion to all those who decide to read this book, is to begin with this chapter as only then will the other aspects rise out of the universe of words and ideas that fill its pages.
Like most books that talk about self-development, even this one doesn’t attempt to conquer your attention with immediate solutions. The author expectedly introduces the concept, talks about the reasons for first defining and only then goes about opening all kinds of doorways that seem equally reasonable. As the reader enters and exits each doorway, he knows that the world of exploration isn’t about immediate Nirvana but is comfortably cocooned within the intricacies of his own attitudes and experiences in dealing with them. All those who habitually listen to sermons by various Gurus know that a single session, even though it may be impressive, is insufficient. Obviously then, unless readers take time to internalize concepts, they will be unable to turn solutions relevant to them. In short, one needs to create a bespoke solution that might not be as effective for the person sitting next to him.
Contrary to what many people assume, happiness is not the sole dominion of a selected few. It is a default state and as we move on in life, even perceptions of happiness evolve, and it tends to be there ‘when you remove the sense of something missing in your life’. As a preliminary definition, one first must stop missing things that the mind has desired over time, stop ‘running into the past or future to regret’ as it is in this absence of racing there that internal silence emerges. This is what contentment is and this is how one may step into a happy state. But this is not the only way to happiness and definitely not a complete solution. There is also the strange enigma of conquering both positive and negative thoughts as they are all ephemeral and tend to reflect back a form of reality that could be judgmental. If solutions came in one-liners, one could say that having ‘no cause to be happy or unhappy’ could be the rostrum of contentment. But there are more aspects to think about and realise.
So far as one-liners are concerned, each chapter has plenty of them. Some of these are in little grey boxes and give readers a break from the trauma of a continuous flow of having to internalize each word. The truth is that as one reads one feels a sustaining rush of anxiety as the mind begins listing the innumerable cravings one has had in the past… well, even cravings for the anticipated future. After all, there have been choices that we have made in the past and have already tabulated our tentative choices for the future. Cravings clump together into a massive boulder poised to shatter to pieces our attempts to understand even the rudiments of peace. Such thoughts take us away from the present moment and veil enlightenment that is present in ‘the space between your thoughts’. If all this sounds like a lot of theorizing, let me add here that the book isn’t quite as intensely brimming with them without a respite. There are examples and instances spread evenly which make every step emerge as the logical next step. Reading such a book with the sole aim of a magical transformation can be quite disquieting as peace and purpose do not go together.
Nearly all of us already have our own list of successful people who we think are rolling in happiness. There are those who are well known, and we all wish to be as successful as Elon Musk or Steve Jobs or even Satoshi Nakamoto as they have all played their game of life and emerged winners. Eric Jorgenson, however, informs us that Naval Ravikant discovered that ‘the real winners are the ones who step out of the game entirely, who don’t even play the game, who rise above it’ because they do not really need anything from anybody else. Look at the lives of Buddha or Krishnamurti and you’ll know that winning or losing did not matter to them. If you want to test the strength of your roving and restless mind, try sitting ‘sitting for thirty minutes and be happy’ and if you can do this, you’ve already known what success is. Naval tells us that ‘peace is happiness at rest, and happiness is peace in motion’ and this never appears suddenly even if you manage to resolve all your external problems. One may need to first give up the idea of problems.
How does one give up problems? One of the steps that the book recommends is to eliminate as many ‘shoulds’ that are there in your life. This is something that we will have to do alone as life is essentially a single-player game. Just as your happiness is internal and belongs to you alone, so are your interpretations and realizations. You obviously will not wish to be someone else for something that is entirely yours to keep and cherish… and once this step is understood in totality, there will be no space left for envy.
All that I have mentioned so far is still the starting point in your expedition into the realm of happiness. As I read through one of the things that I understood loud and clear was that the pursuit of happiness is quite intense and is not going to happen mystically even if I have read this book. The effort is going to be all mine and merely reading without analyzing and correcting my course, this book may simply be yet another gem resting on a shelf in my study. It is vital to understand that both peace and happiness are eventually skills… not the sort that some universities claim to teach or even the one that the Chief Minister of Delhi proclaims he has ushered in the classrooms of Delhi government schools. Those are all applause-worthy attempts of-course, but really nothing if you do not believe in them. With a firm belief will come habit and your choice of people you want to interact with. Habits can be as simple as learning calculus and generally start when a person stops asking why and starts saying wow, as Eric puts it in the book. The author then goes on helping readers with an exhaustive list of happiness habits that aren’t impossible to adopt.
One may ask that listing stuff can be so dreary. I will agree but then this list isn’t an endless one and the author asks a reader to pick one, plan a customized path, identify needs, triggers, and substitutes, track, and remain faithfully with it. This could be challenging work and need a high degree of self-discipline. But then Naval, according to the author, would say: ‘First, you know it. Then, you understand it. Then, you can explain it. Then, you can feel it. Finally, you are it.’ So, there you are… what could be simpler than this kind of an explanation revolving around building habits?
As I have already mentioned earlier, every action needs to lead to the stage of acceptance. Some management gurus might call it the self-actualization stage in the pyramid of hierarchy… and there possibly are hundreds of other ways to express and communicate this. Those of us who have been leading an aware life and are at peace with the world do not need such a book. But for all the others, there is a lot that Naval Ravikant has to offer.
Title: The Almanack of Naval Ravikant
Author: Eric Jorgenson
Publisher Harper Business
28 July 2022
Note: This book was sent to me by my friend Amit (Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amitgenre/)