Do hard things in the short term (a review of The Almanack of Naval Ravikant)

Ravi Kurani
6 min readMar 5, 2021

I’m about 80% through reading The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, and dang — the man is so thought provoking. I’m definitely going back to read it a second time.

Almanack of Naval Ravikant

I have a ton of quotes highlighted, but the one that really hit me today was:

Run Uphill. Simple Heuristic. If you’re evenly split on a difficult decision, take the path more painful in the short term.

Whats actually going on is one of these paths requires short-term pain. And the other path leads to pain further out in the future. And what your brain is doing through conflict-avoidance is trying to push off the short-term pain.

By definition, if the two are even and one has short-term pain, that path has long-term gain associated. With the law of compound interest, long-term gain is what you want to go toward. Your brain is overvaluing the side with the short-term happiness and trying to avoid the one with short-term pain.

It’s so hard to prioritize the short-term pain

It’s so hard to prioritize the short-term pain, because the path of least resistance is to go with what’s easy, what’s comfortable, and what will allow you to just slide through.

But after reading this passage from Naval, I wanted to audit what I’ve done that was painful in the beginning, and where I’ve slid by. This is me being a bit vulnerable, but here it goes!

Building Sutro as a differentiated technology (taking the harder path)

Sutro (the startup I founded) could have used some off-the-shelf sensors. The pH and ORP probe (glass-bulb probes), super easy stuff to buy off a vendor, stick it in some waterproof plastic and viola you have a water sensor!

(I’ll go into more detail on this sensor technology in a later post.)

We tried, in the very early days of Sutro, but realized that they drift over time and they really don’t give us the ability to expand the sensor cluster to measure multiple things. We want to measure 9 things not 2. The pH and ORP probes only measure 2, however; our sensor cluster allows us to measure many more variables.

It was a tough road, but 2021 (almost 5 years later), we’re really starting to see the fruits of our work. The sensor truly is differentiated. We can measure better than the other sensors out there. We’re more precise, accurate, and can just measure more things. We have a moat that we can defend around the sensor accuracy, data aggregation, and ecosystem that we’ve built connecting the swimming pool store and the homeowners swimming pool.

Sutro when we first pitched back in 2015, when I had hair

Exercising

Man, I really did not want to exercise. When shelter-in-place hit back in March of 2020 (in San Francisco), we started these Zoom workouts with my entire family. All of my cousins would call in from Florida, Texas, California. It was great seeing every one on screen, but slowly folks started to peel off, and after about 4 months — we only had myself, Anja, my mom, and Ashok Mama (my uncle). Month 5 and 6 were definitely painful. We slugged through, and interestingly — there was an inflection point at which I started to look forward to the workouts. It made a notable difference in my energy throughout the day and I genuinely look forward to working out every morning!

Workouts were definitely hard in the short-term.

Anja, my Mom, my Mama, Anja’s Mom and I on our morning Google Workout Meet

How do we work out?

Firstly, it’s only 30 minutes in the morning. We usually just click on a YouTube channel and pick a video that has a warm-up and cool-down. Below are 4 of our favorite workout buddies:

Bullyjuice.

Bullyjuice is great for higher intensity workouts. He does a lot of cardio, and a big higher impact. So not good if you don’t like to jump too much.

Heather Robertson.

We just started working out with Heather Roberston. She’s great, but definitely fast paced, and her weight workouts definitely keep me sore for the next day.

Mady Morrison.

Mady is great, she’s actually German. She has a really good 30 min workout that has a warm-up and cool-down.

Yoga with Adrienne.

Adrienne is amazing. We try to fit in a yoga at least once a week, and shes just super spunky. She also has a bunch of yoga flows for things like neck pain, morning yoga…etc. All of her videos are great.

Reading

I used to hate reading. I felt that if I started a book, I needed to finish it. After I saw a Ness Labs post on the Antilibrary combined with an Ali Abdaal article on why you should read on your Kindle, my entire view shifted on how I read books. I loaded my Kindle with multiple books. Books that other authors recommended, books my friends were reading, or what was on Bill Gate’s reading list. Anything.

The last piece that I implemented around reading (which I actually learned from Atomic Habits) was to keep my Kindle on my pillow. I’m now forced to build it into my evening routine when I get into bed.

Reading at least for 30 minutes every night has been a very painful short-term thing to do, but the amount of ideas, knowledge, and interconnections I’ve made has truly been game-changing for me. I crave reading stories of anything now, I crave learning.

Books I’m currently reading:

Kindle on my pillow

Writing

This is my latest experience with sandpaper. I absolutely despise writing, I’d much rather do anything else. Seeing that blinking cursor on the screen really used to give me anxiety, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And thus the yin and yang battle ensued in my head. As I mentioned on my previous post, storytelling is innate to Homo Sapiens, and learning how to write was (in my mind) core to telling stories. Signing onto the #90DaysOfProse challenge has been great, and has really forced me to open Medium and crank out a piece a day. Still only on Day 5, but so far I do appreciate the way I feel after getting my thoughts “on paper”.

What have you done thats hard in the short term?

I’d love to hear from you of what you’ve done that’s been hard in the short-term that’s really paid off? Post in the comments or just reply on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn to the post. I’d love to hear your story.

A postamble and a final thought

I by no means am claiming that I’ve always taken the more difficult road, but I wanted to audit when taking the harder decision really did pay off. The other fallacy with this audit is the fact that there is additionality. We don’t really know what could have happened, in a certain sense — we can also assume that the paths that I’ve taken were the easier ones, as my mind was prioritizing for the path of least resistance.

This is day 5 of my #90DayOfProse challenge.

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