Naval Ravikant in dialogue with Kapil Gupta ~ 1/4/19


Naval: It’s just like being meditative. You can’t be meditative. I tried this for a year. I tried to be present. I tried to be meditative. And it’s what remains when there’s nothing else. Is not something that you seek directly. Is what remains when you are not interested in anything else, then you are meditative by default.

Kapil: That’s right.

Naval: What works for me is I sit down, and many times meditation is when I sit down with my mind “eating me alive”, coming at me with all the things that are unresolved. And as I go through them one by one, I resolve them. Then for a little bit of time my mind is clear. Because I resolved the things that I wanted to fight about. And there I get maybe a taste of meditation.

Kapil: You started that statement with “what works for me”. When you go and try to open a door with a bunch of keys and you take one of the keys and that key doesn’t work. What is it mean? That means the door wasn’t unlocked. And another key works, what does it mean? What do you mean by work? It means it worked because it unlocked the door. There was a direct intention there, the arbitrator being that the door unlocked, or it did not. The question is: what is the arbitrator? Works to do what? what is the goal?

Naval: The goal… maybe this is walking into a trap here, but I don’t care. You don’t judge.The goal is to have a clear mind. Is a goal on to itself. Why not? When I have a clear mind is a good feeling (freedom, peace, bliss, joy, equilibrium). Free from the future, free from anxiety, its useful.

The problem with meditation is that is not permanent. But what it does give me is an hour a day by myself to work through my thoughts, away from distractions, and for introspection. Whether is meditative and blissful, ot whether is your mind eating you alive, as long as you are engaging in self examination is all good.

Kapil: There’s no right or wrong. There’s no “you should meditate” or “you shouldn’t meditate”, there’s no rules here. I approach things from the standpoint of understanding. Meditation is an exercise in management. One gets too stressful, whatever it is, therefore he needs an hour separate from that stress to cleanse, take a break. Meditation is a pleasure chase. Now I know that people’s minds will go into their pre-formed pathways, which are so subtle that they may not even recognize them. There may be feelings associated with this expression “pleasure chase” as if it’s wrong. No, it isn’t. Forget wrong and right. If you had only one or two years to live, nobody would be managing anything. People would seek cures. The reason we manage things is because we know and we feel, rightly or wrongly, that we will be here for a long time. If we are, we can take the management scapegoat and jump into the ocean, the momentum of everyday existence. It’s a DNA thing.

What really moves me is the idea of permanence. I don’t want to feel good through meditation. I have no interest in wanting to feel good. And the reason I don’t is because I’m gonna have to do it again. That isn’t what drives me. What drives me is the permanent state.

Naval: If meditation is close to unraveling parts of my identity that don’t make sense, if it brings understanding and times with myself that helps me to see deeper, then it’s useful. If it just gets me back to the same point everyday, then its useless. Then I rather exercise and improve my body.

Kapil:That’s right. So it isn’t me trying to tell you that’s the way to do it. We all chase a state in which I don’t want to have to leave here again. And do it again, and again, and again. It’s the same reason why I’m not interested in […] largely luck. If you can do it twice in a row, my ears perk up. If you have a system, I’m interested in that. You have figured out a system that nobody else knows.

Naval: Self examination is the interesting part for me. For you, since you are constantly engaged in self examination it may not be that useful. Most human beings are constantly distracting themselves from exactly that thing, from the self. They run away from self examination. Having done it for a few months I’ve caught up on large parts of myself that have faded into the background. What remains when I sit is peace. When I get up I’m disturbed again, because real life is much more emotionally active and I’m much more reactive to real life than when I’m sitting with my eyes closed.

Now the challenge is how do I take this level of examination even further, examine further, and start unraveling states that make me reactive in everyday life, not just in meditation.



Kapil: The idea of humility is a false idea, just like all ideas. Humility only exists because one has not seen reality. Every attempt to be humble is false, is a charade. Humility says this: “You think you are this and that, but you should tone that down and not express it so much, because that doesn’t look nice.”

But the truth is that if that same person that thought he was so great saw the reality of things, and if he saw how much he doesn’t know, not by humility but by actual… If he recognizes that “I know a drop.” I know it very well, but still… And there’s an ocean that I don’t know. He would not have to resort to humility. It would be a natural realization of ignorance, there would be no humility.

Naval: The real humility is a byproduct of understanding. Is not something to be sought directly.

Kapil: Then there’s no need to be humble, to try to show that you are less than you believe yourself to be for a social construct purpose.



Naval: I’m looking at starting this new business, and there’s this anxiety: what if it doesn’t work, what if I waste 5 years of my life, bring people in and is a wild goose chase and it doesn’t go anywhere… What if I get trapped? These are the kinds of things I struggle with, anxiety. It consumes me.

Kapil: When you were a kid and spent time building with those legos or building blocks… you enjoyed building them, right? You know what you enjoyed 10 times more than building? Knocking them down. So as perverse as it may sound, there’s definitely a grater joy in destroying something rather than in creating it. The key there is not having something destroyed while you are trying to make it better, but consciously, by your choice, destroying it.

Now, that same tower you made when you were a kid and your brother knocked it down, well, that’s absolutely not. That was your building to knock down.

The biggest imprisonment with success, and art, creation, and whatever it may be, is ownership. Whenever there’s ownership there’s building of your self image. You’re building a self image at the same time you’re building the company. And that self image is gonna pop sooner or later.

The ultimate way in which to create something is to do it under the umbrella of self forgetfulness. Because then you’re really free. You can wield the sword so freely when you yourself are wearing armor. When you yourself are exposed, then you’re gonna wield the sword very carefully. And while some will say nothing is wrong with that, the problem is that while you’re wielding it carefully you will not be able to wield it with the aplomb and carefreeness that will allow you to achieve higher arch.

When you have an armor on and you know you’re not gonna get hurt by it, with that relative carefree and cavalier sort of approach magic happens.

Naval: This is true. If I was on Twitter and I had nothing to protect, I would tweet 10 times as much, I would say things I can’t say. I’d be free. I often consider having an anonymous account so I can say all the things I want to say.

Kapil: For me that doesn’t exist. And quite frankly, hesitation destroys the joy. To be proper and correct and make sure that no ones dislikes it, there’s no fun in that. The joy is actually in the self expression. I think the attachment to the ownership of something and to say “it’s mine”… you are running with a parachute.

Naval: Let’s go deeper into this. If I’m running a business, there’s an image that I’m using to attract people. Then, if the business is not going well, and I decide to knock the tower over… The good part is that if I have no self image, if we need to do something very risky, even though it could be hurtful for my image, we would do it anyway.

But if I need to shut the business down and tell people is not going well, it does hurt my image, ’cause I used my image to start the thing in the first place. Doesn’t it seem disingenuous to use your image to start something and then discard your image later?

Kapil: It depends what is OK with you and what is not OK with you. If the idea to pivot whenever you want regardless of image… if you cannot pivot that would create an imprisonment. So then the only question that remains is: is that imprisonment OK with you? I think it really comes down to what level of success you want, and what things are you willing and not willing to be imprisoned by.

If you’re going to pivot, and you have to explain… you know, there is something in the nature of human beings that respects, wether they want to or not, that respects indifference. Many times human beings take cues from the humans themselves as to how do they feel about it and then they mimic that.

It is the nature of the human mind to mimic. It is the nature of the human mind to use the individual as the standard by which for them to judge whether they should judge them or not.

Naval: That’s right.



Naval: It’s easy for me to go about being indifferent to my day when my day is easy. But when my day is hard, especially in the context of a business, having to think a lot about people, persuasion, plots, strategy and competition… the mind gets very busy. And as the mind gets busy, emotion seeps in.

Kapil: The problem there is the need for indifference. You are holding indifference as some character you have to chase. It can’t be a rule. Nothing can be a rule. There are no rules, burn your books. There can be no scrolls, no Ten Commandments. Whenever you attempt to live up to anything you fail, and the reason that you fail — even if you live up to it you will fail — is because you are trying to force yourself to get to an idea. And the greatest athlete, the greatest individual in any sport or business allows the game to come to them. All things must come to you, you cannot be the chaser.

Naval: So you are just immersed.

Kapil: Yes, it is an evaluation and examination and an observation. I hate the word observation because everyone is going to intentionally observe in a prescriptive manner and then it goes nowhere. But it is a constant examination of where one is, what one is doing, the way one is feeling, without any sense of prescription. You are not doing it to get better, you are not doing it for a reason, other than to wish to learn the Truth. You want to see your way all the way to the end. You do not want to work your way all the way to the end.

Naval: It’s understanding. I like that word. I’ve always loved the ‘aha moment’ of when I understood something. But this is understanding internally rather than externally. It’s understanding all the conditions and the reactions we have.

Kapil: Not chasing indifference or anything else.

Naval: So indifference is a byproduct. Just humility, just like presence, like mindfulness. Is not a goal. There are no goals.

Kapil: All those names only have relevance when you have arrived and you are looking backwards. It’s like the lights on the highway: when you’re are going straight, they’re white. When you’re going the wrong way, they’re red. All those names are fine and they won’t hurt you as long as you arrived and you’re looking backward. Then you can name all you want. If you name them prospectively you will get attached to them, and you will chase them, and you will arrive nowhere.

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