Naval Ravikant puts great effort to sharing his life and thoughts despite being an introvert. He's a serial entrepreneur (AngelList, Epinions, etc) and angel investor in over 100 companies (Twitter, Uber, etc).

Beyond that, he's an inspiration of mine because of how reflective and considerate he is. His top of mind rants are lucid and filled with book-worthy insight. Last year he did an interview with Farnam Street [1], where he discussed reading, habits, decision-making, mental models, and life. One interesting part to me was about freedom. When he was asked about how his values changed since getting married and becoming a parent, he stated the biggest change was his relationship with freedom.

I would say that the biggest such change was when I was younger, I really, really valued freedom. Freedom was one of my core, core values. Ironically, it still is. It’s probably one of my top three values, but it’s a different definition of freedom. My old definition was freedom to, freedom to do anything I want. Freedom to do whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like.

Now I would say that the freedom that I’m looking for is internal freedom. It’s freedom from. It’s freedom from reaction. It’s freedom from feeling angry. It’s freedom from being sad. It’s freedom from being forced to do things. I’m looking for freedom from internally and externally, whereas before I was looking for freedom to.
— Naval Ravikant

As someone who's fanatical about independence and freedom, I thought Naval's shift of how he viewed freedom was interesting. I understood it as Freedom To being the freedom to say "Yes" and Freedom From is the freedom to say "No".

It's an interesting distinction, because some people who are adventurous "yes" people have hard times saying no. And some people who are great at denying every opportunity have a hard time. Both might call themselves free while be lacking the other form of it.

I'm in a primarily Freedom to stage of my life, but it's clear achieving true autonomy over your life requires both. You need to be free to chase your dreams, and you need to be free to decline beliefs, problems, or opportunities that impede those dreams. Later in the interview, Naval expands on his beliefs on freedom and money when he is asked about decision making and his current role as the CEO of AngelList. Here's an excerpt:

I’m not in this to make money. Money is just a piece of paper. Every time I see one of these billionaire founders giving away to a hospital or whatever, you know they overshot. They don’t need that much money. There’s huge diminishing returns to money after a certain point, especially now that I’m more into freedom from rather than freedom to. There’s nothing I want to do that I can’t do. Literally, money in that sense is a boat anchor around my neck. All it is something that I’m then fearful of losing, something I’m getting into jealousy debates about, something that people want from me. I’m not even in it anymore for the money. It’s like, “Can I do something interesting and new? Can I create something brand new that the world has never seen that it gets value out of, that it uses, that is congruent with my morals, so I never have problems sleeping at night. I never have to worry about selling something that I wouldn’t buy.” I’m much more into that.
— Naval Ravikant

Lots of people, myself included, have difficulty at some point of the process of asking for a yes or answering with a no. These are the building blocks of shaping the lives we lead, and it's worth pondering how your beliefs affect them.

"What we don't do determines what we can do." - Tim Ferris [2]


  1. Naval Ravikant on Reading, Happiness, Systems for Decision Making, Habits, Honesty and More ↩︎

  2. The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now ↩︎

Alexander Mistakidis

Alexander Mistakidis

I'm a hopeful ponderer; I like asking why. CEO at Gamelynx, a mobile games studio focused on team-based competitive games. Computer Science grad from University of Waterloo.

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