How To Get Rich Without Getting Lucky

Updated on July 11, 2019 Updated on July 11, 2019
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We all want to get rich or rather wealthy. Being wealthy is much different and much better than being rich. If you want to know how to get rich without getting lucky, Twitter can teach you. A Twitter thread from Naval went viral in the spring of 2018.

Who is Naval? Naval Ravikant, owner of the site AngelList, which is a site for startups, angel investors, and prospective employees looking to get hired with a startup. Naval is also something of a philosopher.

But he doesn’t speak (or Tweet, as the case may be,) in a way that forces the reader to try to decipher what in the hell he means like trying to translate the Oracle at Delphi. Naval is a down to earth philosopher. 

“Forty-hour workweeks are a relic of the Industrial Age. Knowledge workers function like athletes — train and sprint, then rest and reassess.”

“A fit body, a calm mind, a house full of love. These things cannot be bought — they must be earned.”

“The secret to public speaking is to speak as if you were alone.”

It’s probably unfair to categorize the content that went viral as a Twitter thread. It’s more like a blog post. But Twitter isn’t the best platform for a deep dive, and we liked the thread so much we wanted to break it down.

Wealth, Money, Status

The big three for most people.

“Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.”

If you want to get rich, you must create streams of passive income. No matter how much we love our work or how dedicated we are to our jobs, we only have so many hours in the day we can devote to them. And most of us aren’t going to get rich from our regular jobs anyway.

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Having money is meaningless, but what money gives you is choices, and having choices is priceless. But money is not a goal in itself. Wealth is what you’re after. Wealth means earning cash without effort.

“Understand that ethical wealth creation is possible. If you secretly despise wealth, it will elude you.”

Your political vote doesn’t mean much in the face of things like gerrymandering, Citizens United, and the outdated electoral college. We’re not saying you shouldn’t vote, but if you want to make an impact politically and socially, money is the only thing that works.

You can get rich while investing ethically. You can exert pressure through divestment. Divestment is partially credited for ending apartheid in South Africa. 

Protest divestment is a form of dissent in which stockholders intentionally sell their assets from a corporation in order to enact social change. By selling off stocks, protesters hope to influence corporations against performing some aspect of their business. In this case, those opposed to apartheid wanted to keep companies from doing business in South Africa.

You can donate to political candidates whose views reflect your own. You can donate to causes that matter to you. Having money is not inherently evil.

If you own rental property, you’re providing a home for someone who maybe can’t afford to buy a home. You’re making money sure; you aren’t Habit For Humanity. But you don’t have to increase the rent dramatically every year, and you can make sure the property is well maintained and periodically improved.

“Ignore people playing status games. They gain status by attacking people playing wealth creation games.”

Status isn’t wealth; it’s peacocking. Wealthy people don’t flaunt their money. They’re more The Millionaire Next Door than Keeping Up With the Kartrashians.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your money, but as Ramit showed us, you have to prioritize your spending. Matt buys lots of expensive home-brewing equipment, but his wardrobe is made up entirely of Old Navy hoodies with holes in them.

Equity

Don’t sell your life away.

“You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity – a piece of a business – to gain your financial freedom.”

To get rich, you have to separate your time and your effort from your ability to make money. If you work at Target, you only make money when you’re at work. But if you buy stock in Target, you’re making money when you’re sleeping, on vacation, and on the days you’re not working.

Making money even when you’re not engaged in work is the whole idea behind the FIRE movement.

The epitome of wealth is having time.

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Again, having various forms of passive income is the way to build wealth.

“You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.”

Eh, we don’t love this one. That’s not to say there is nothing new under the sun, but most of us are not visionary inventors.

“Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.”

The Holy Grail is to not only be part of the creative process but also to be a good enough salesperson to convince other people to buy what you’ve created. This is another meh for us. Most people aren’t going to achieve both of these things, and for most of us, achieving one or the other would make us happy.

“Pick an industry where you can play long term games with long term people. Don’t partner with cynics and pessimists. Their beliefs are self-fulfilling. Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.”

Don’t fall for get rich quick schemes. There is no such thing although there are plenty of people out there who want to convince you otherwise. Those people are shady and looking to swoop in, make a lot of money of some suckers, and split town in the night.

Think of the Monorail episode of The Simpsons. Or the people at the top of the MLM schemes all the stay at home moms on Facebook are hawking.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of cynicism, but you don’t want to work with pessimistic people. Pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re working on a project with someone, you both might feel a bit uncertain at times, but you both have to think the project is going to work. You might be proven wrong, and there is nothing wrong with failing sometimes, but you have to believe that while you’re working on something, it’s a good idea.

“The Internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers. Most people haven’t figured this out yet.”

I mean, LMM is a testament to that. So is Swim University, Matt’s pool care site. So is my career, every penny I earn, I earn thanks to the internet. We did a whole series on creating an online business that will make at least $1,000 within a year.

For people who want to make extra money on the side, the internet has opened up many doors. In the past, making money on the side generally meant getting a part-time job doing things like working retail, tending bar, or waiting tables. But all of those things require adhering to someone else’s schedule, which isn’t possible for everyone who has a regular job.

But thanks to the internet, those people can do things like drive for Uber, rent their homes on Airbnb, or teach ESL.

The internet also makes things infinitely scalable. Andrew once told me that my Pink Tax article is read by 30,000 people a month. That article reaches more people in one month than a teacher will teach to in their entire career. Absolutely amazing. Oh, that article got me interviewed on TV too, which was really fun and meant I got to speak to literally millions of people. Pretty cool!

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Specific Knowledge

Knowledge specific to you.

“Specific knowledge is knowledge that you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else, and replace you.”

Specific knowledge is the opposite of what you go to college to learn. Everyone else in college is learning the same things. Have you ever gone to your first day at a new job and been told, “Well, you went to college, so you know what to do.”?

Of course not. You’re given training, specific knowledge, about how to do a job after you’re hired.

“Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.”

You can’t gain specific knowledge unless you do a deep dive into a subject. And most people aren’t willing to deep dive on a topic unless it’s something they’re genuinely interested in and curious about. That gives you knowledge that you can turn into wealth.

Take Matt’s early career in the pool industry. He gained an encyclopedia’s worth of specific knowledge on how to care for swimming pools. Well, to most people, that is a boring topic. But if you own a pool, you need some of that knowledge.

So Matt created Swim University. He writes about a niche subject that has an audience, and he makes money from that specific knowledge.

If you have specific knowledge on a subject, the internet will guarantee you an audience. No matter how obscure your pet topic, start a blog, a podcast, a Youtube channel, or write an eBook about it. There is an audience, and you can make money from them.

“Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others.”

Matt is reading a massive book about brewing beer. It’s not a fun history of beer; it’s basically a textbook. What would look like homework to most of us is pleasure reading to him.

“When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools. Specific knowledge is often highly technical or creative. It cannot be outsourced or automated.”

Specific knowledge isn’t taught in schools because that isn’t the function of a school. Teaching specific knowledge is the job of your employer, your parents, or the guy on Youtube, teaching you how to build your own tiny house.

Leverage

Use someone else’s money or labor to get rich.

“Fortunes require leverage. Business leverage comes from capital, people, and products with no marginal cost of replication (code and media).”

It takes money to make money, and it often takes more than the average person has access to. This is why we borrow money to buy a rental property. We use the bank’s money to make money for ourselves.

money making ideas roofstock

Things with no marginal cost or replication are digital goods — things like apps, podcast episodes, and eBooks. You only have to create something once, but you can sell it over and over again with no additional work. Again, passive income.

“Capital means money. To raise money, apply your specific knowledge, with accountability, and show resulting good judgment.”

LMM is an excellent example of what Naval means here. Andrew used his specific knowledge of personal finance and how to code to create the podcast and website. His good judgment and accountability led him to turn down tons of offers to advertise on the show and site.

He didn’t want to take money from a product that he didn’t believe was good for the audience. He’s accountable to the audience and didn’t want to damage the trust LMM has built with them over the years.

“Labor means people working for you. It’s the oldest and most fought-over form of leverage. Labor leverage will impress your parents, but don’t waste your life chasing it.”

Having a lot of employees isn’t really a sign of being successful in business. Maybe it’s a sign that you don’t know how to maximize your employees.

“Capital and labor are permissioned leverage. Everyone is chasing capital, but someone has to give it to you. Everyone is trying to lead, but someone has to follow you.”

Well, banks have done okay permissioning capital, so I’m not crazy about the first part of this statement. I agree with the second part, though.

I know Andrew and Laura want me to start my own blog, and they’ve given me tons of tools and advice to do so. But you know what? I’m not nearly as ambitious as either of them. I’m really happy being a solid B student. But that’s okay. All the A students need B students because they can’t do it all on their own! We can’t all be the boss, and some of us don’t want to be!

“Code and media are permissionless leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep.”

Again, successful online businesses like LMM and Swim University are perfect examples of that Naval means here.

“An army of robots is freely available – it’s just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency. Use it.”

The future of work is changing, and it’s going to drag society along with it faster than ever before. Millions of jobs and entire industries are going to be eliminated due to automation. Millions of people will be out of work.

Universal basic income is one solution that has been offered because no matter what the bootstrap overlords would like, we can’t let millions of people go homeless.

Skills

We know you have mad ones.

“There is no skill called “business.” Avoid business magazines and business classes.”

Being skilled in business requires specific knowledge, and as we’ve discussed, that isn’t taught in a classroom.

“Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.”

If you don’t want to lose your job to the robots, you have to develop skills that those robots can’t have because, well, they’re robots and not humans.

Learn how to be an excellent communicator, treat people well, be ethical in your business practices. Those things cannot be automated.

“Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.”

Reading and doing may very well be faster, but people learn best in different ways. Understand how you learn best and understand how the people you work with learn best. Doing is always going to come into the equation at some point, but how we all get there is different.

You

Everyone’s favorite subject.

“You should be too busy to “do coffee,” while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.”

Your calendar should be uncluttered because you aren’t wasting time doing things like “coffee.”

coffee habit

That isn’t to say socializing isn’t valuable both professionally and personally, but work and play should be well balanced.

“Set and enforce an aspirational personal hourly rate. If fixing a problem will save less than your hourly rate, ignore it. If outsourcing a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.”

I know plenty of two-income couples who clean their own homes. This is crazy to me! I haven’t cleaned my own house in 15 years. Of course, I do the daily tidying up that any home requires if you don’t have a live-in maid, but I live the heavy lifting to someone I pay.

Why? Partly because while I don’t mind wiping down counters and making the bed, I don’t like mopping the floor or scrubbing the bathtub. And partly because if I spent time doing those things, I would lose money since I make more money per hour than it costs me to hire someone else to clean the house.

Now I don’t get paid by the hour, but I can do the math to figure out my hourly rate. You do the same and then see if your time is better spent working while someone you’ve hired does stuff like cleaning the house, the pool, mowing the yard, or changing the oil in your car.

If there are tasks you could hire someone to do for less than you make per hour, but you enjoy those tasks, that’s fine. You can do them even if you’re losing money because you get some pleasure from them, which can be more valuable than money.

“Work as hard as you can. Even though who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.”

We should all work hard, and by that we mean, do your job well. Working hard doesn’t mean being the first one in and last one out of the office every day. But who you work with and what you work on matter too.

If you work with incompetent or lazy or pessimistic people, whatever good work you do will suffer. And if you work on something that is doomed to fail (and you know it already), why are you bothering?

“Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.”

Another meh. Most of us are not going to become the best in the world at anything, even mundane stuff. That’s fine. That doesn’t mean we can’t be successful and happy. In fact, I dare to say that becoming the best in the world at something is almost a guaranteed route to unhappiness.

Tiger Woods has spent a large portion of his life being the best golfer in the world, but I don’t think anyone would hold him up as a shining example of happiness.

So being very good at something is good enough, and you should always strive to keep improving.

In Closing

Naval’s final thoughts for us.

“There are no get rich quick schemes. That’s just someone else getting rich off you.”

Again, see the many MLM scams out there.

“Apply specific knowledge, with leverage, and eventually, you will get what you deserve.”

Use your specific knowledge in a way that allows you to get rich.

“When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize that it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place.”

Becoming wealthy in the real sense of the word means you did something that you enjoyed, and it made you enough money to have lots of choices because choices are real wealth.

Show Notes

Jam Skate: An American Imperial IPA.

Trillium Brewing: A Double Dry Hopped India Pale Ale.

The Tweet text that inspired this episode. 

 

Candice Elliott - Editor-in-Chief Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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