Naval Podcast Review

I’m back in San Juan, butt planted on a stool at Gusto’s Miramar, my usual Monday location.  Summer has arrived in Puerto Rico which means a few points more temperature and humidity — just enough so that my new pants and long-sleeve-shirts are officially useless.  


A friend sent me the link to listen to a new Joe Rogan podcast with Naval Ravikant.  I’ve listened to several podcasts in the past with Naval, and I find that he has some good answers to difficult questions.  I’m a little wary that it feels like he’s thirsty for guru/celebrity status, but there isn’t anyone putting themselves out there in the world without qualities that you could look down on.    


The podcast was long, over 2 hours (I found 1.25X the right speed for this one), and was scattered topic wise.  There was a part in the middle where Joe steered the questions to white male privilege and PC culture, which was the only part that I was bored with.  They didn’t say anything that I disagreed with, it was just that nothing was surprising or interesting, like watching Kobe Bryant dunk on an elementary school kid.  Besides this though, there were a good amount of thought-provoking topics, some of which I thought could be good to blog about.


Naval has an emphasis on creating wealth which has been something more important to me in the past year.  It sounds kind of dumb coming from me, someone who’s been money hungry and focused since I was a child, but I’ve always been more into winning at money strategy games than actually building wealth.  What I actually did with the money (outside of using it to keep playing in trading/poker/risky investments) wasn’t of much importance, and it usually involved me spending some of it to attempt to stay motivated to win more.  I’ve recently been enjoying systematically growing a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and cash (in high-yield savings accounts, which I plan to invest in stocks/hard assets after the next major market correction) for myself and my family.  It brings some added security and peace of mind allowing me to continue to play volatile money games knowing that something is being built outside of that.


Another thing discussed was how it is better to be a Generalist vs a Specialist, and creating your unique skill-set/brand.  For me I’ve never had a choice as far as being a specialist; I’ve always been interested in too many things to ever pick one area for the rest of my life.  I was successful in equity options trading at the start of my career, and after my niche (electronic market-making options in volatile stocks) died out, I didn’t even consider moving to a large company like Goldman Sachs and doing the more boring version of what I was doing.  I pivoted into film production which financially turned out to be a few burned years, but it did lead me to high-stakes poker which was an essential period of my life (I’ve been on a hiatus for several years, but will get the itch to play again someday). The combination of options trading, poker, and then programming/machine learning skills, created the abilities to do my current work in cryptocurrency research and trading.  I’m not as good at any of my initial jobs/hobbies as people who stuck around in them, but the combination morphed into a unique and weird ability to compete in the crypto game (and out of everything I’ve done it really seems more game-like than all of the others… in what other field have people made memes that influence the price/industry?).


One final thing I thought about is Naval’s ideal that the masses should be re-trained as programmers, and then build/automate everything that isn’t creative work.  I’m really on the fence on the topic if “everyone can learn how to program”.  He is right that the majority of people could learn to do it if they were willing to put in the necessary years of grunt learning.  For me and I suspect most people, the hardest part is actually having the patience to fix mistakes.  I’ve spent way more hours trying to get software installed correctly/fixing bugs than I have actually writing code.  It was especially difficult with “deep learning/AI”, but just like everything else it’s way easier now. Even though it is possible that most everyone could learn to code, I imagine it would be as painful to learn coding for many people as it would for software developers to learn how to do hard physical labor.  We’re probably a ways off from robots doing all of our work unfortunately.


On the reading front I finished “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang.  It’s his second sci-fi short story collection, and if you haven’t read his first collection “Stories of Your Life and others”, I would definitely go with that (“Division by Zero” is my favorite in that book, followed by “Story of Your Life” which became the movie “Arrival”).  “Stories of Your Life and others” is my favorite short story collection after “Jesus’ Son”, although they are completely different.  “Jesus’ Son” is the most beautiful (although very dark story matter) writing I’ve experienced, and I’ve chased that level of prose unsuccessfully ever since, even by the same author.  In “Exhalation” I felt the stories were a bit harder to follow but still good. In particular the first story “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” about time travel in an Arabian Nights setting was fun, and the last story “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” had a really thought provoking scenario.


With that I’m getting back to my regular schedule of eat, train, meditate, trading, reading, and cinema.  Leaving you with a picture from a beautiful and easy walk in Puerto Rico called Charco Azul in the Carite Forest that I went to this weekend (apparently there are a few other places called Charco Azul in PR).  After the hike there is great lechon (roasted pig) on the way back.


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