The Importance of Foundation

Entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant highlights the importance of learning the foundations in life.

Put simply, it’s becoming competent in skills such as numeracy, writing, reading, speaking, and listening. The better you are at these things, the stronger your foundation and the simpler you will be able to learn anything else.

In my own life, my speaking and listening was more of a weakness so I decided to work as a door-to-door salesman in the summers – there was no way I could succeed in it unless I learned how to speak and listen to a high level. In my off-season I spend a lot of time reading books and writing on this blog, in order to become more comfortable and competent when having to communicate and understand the world through written word.

These skills are not only useful in the world of work, but also everyday life.

Seek Discomfort

We all know how uncomfortable it is when you jump into a shower only to be shocked that the water is freezing cold. Or in school when the teacher announces that it’s your turn to do a speech in front of your class. Or when the doctor tells you that you have to stop eating so much junk because it’s destroying your health.

So how can we avoid the pain and struggle that these things bring? By choosing the pain and the struggle. Choose to finish your shower with a cold blast, volunteer to speak about something you’re passionate about to your class or your family, and eat healthy foods even though junk food is available to you everywhere.

Josh Waitzkin, the author of The Art of Learning, has taught his son Jack that rainy days are beautiful, and they play together outside whenever there’s a storm. I did the same thing with a friend recently – the forecast for our walk was looking grim, but we chose to do it anyway, and although we came back wet and muddy, it was fun. “It’s not as bad when you go out in the rain voluntarily,” my friend remarked.

Choosing to go against your nature for comfort allows you to prepare your body and mind for the times when you may have to deal with challenges and stresses. I remember a few years ago during a Spartan race where I thought I was going to die because I was walking down a freezing cold river and it felt so painful. Only a few years later and after doing cold shower finishes almost every day, I was relatively unperturbed when swimming in a cold-water swimming hole in Nova Scotia, or taking a quick December dip in the Lake District with friends. The cold stress was so much easier to bear because my mind and body were ready, and sufficiently trained for it.