34. Reject Most Advice

Most advice is people giving you their winning lottery ticket numbers.

The best founders listen to everyone but make up their own mind

Nivi: Regarding the guy who gets rich in five years, one of the tweets that you had on the cutting room floor was: avoid people who got rich quickly, they’re just giving you their winning lottery ticket numbers.

Naval: This is generally true of advice anyway, which is it’s back to Scott Adams, systems not goals. If you ask a specific person what worked for them very often it’s just like they’re reading out the exact set of things worked for them which might not be applicable for you. They’re just reading you out their winning lottery ticket numbers.

It’s a little glib. There is something to be learned from them. But you can’t just take their exact circumstance and map it onto yours. The best founders I know, they listen and read to everyone. But then they ignore everybody. And they make up their own mind.

They have their own internal model of how to apply things to their situation and they do not hesitate to discard information. If you survey enough people all the advice will cancel to zero.

You do have to have your own point of view and when something is sent your way have to very quickly decide, is that true? Is that true outside of the context of what that person applied it in? Is it true in my context? And then do I want to apply it? You have to reject most advice but you have to listen to and read enough of it to know what to reject and what to accept.

Even in this podcast you should examine everything. If something does not feel true to you put it down, set it aside. If too many things seem untrue, delete this podcast.

Advice is maxims you can recall later, when you get your own experience

Nivi: I think the most dangerous part of taking advice is that the person that gave it to you is not going to be around to tell you when it doesn’t apply any longer.

Naval: I view the purpose of advice as a little different than most people. I just view it as helping me have anecdotes and maxims that I can then later recall when I have my own direct experience and say, “Ah that’s what that person meant.”

90% of my tweets are actually just maxims that I carve from myself that are then little mental hooks to remind me when I’m in that situation again, like, “Oh I’m the one who tweeted, if you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, then don’t work with them for a day.” So, as soon as I know that this person is not going to be someone that I’m going to be working with 10 years from now then I have to start extricating myself from that relationship or just not investing that much more effort into it.

So, I use my tweets and other people’s tweets as maxims that help compress my own learnings and be able to recall them. The brain space is finite, you have finite neurons, so you can almost think of these as pointers, addresses, mnemonics to help you remember deep-seated principles where you have the underlying experience to back it up.

If you don’t have the underlying experience then it just reads like a collection of quotes. It’s like it’s cool, it’s inspirational for a moment, maybe make a nice poster out of it but then you forget it and move on. So, all of these are really just compact ways for you to recall your own knowledge.

Chapter 35 >>