Purpose, ambition, and work

With thanks to Naval, Founders Fund, Indie Hackers, Ben Thompson, and Clay Christensen

Hey all,

Long time, no newsletter.

I’ve promised a few people I’d get into my newsletter, so here goes…

This week’s newsletter is about purpose, ambition, and work.


One of my favourite thinkers, @naval, has been putting out a lot of content recently via his blog and podcast, each episode is less than ten minutes long and worth your time, but if you’re stuck for time I recommend:

The basic premise of the podcast is to build out an understanding of how to get rich without getting lucky, but I think it’s more useful as a tool to think about purpose and decision-making around your career.

The most important thing is to “pick an industry where you can play long-term games with long-term people. Long-term players make each other rich. Short-term players make themselves rich.”

And rather than following what is popular, you’re better off not being ”too deliberate about assembling specific knowledge. The best way is to follow your obsession, so you go deep enough into it to be the best.”

Lean into what you’re good at and “build specific knowledge where you are a natural. Everyone is a natural at something.”

Naval also touches on the negatives of a salary, or as he calls it, renting out your time. “You won’t get rich renting out your time, because your inputs are too closely tied to your outputs. You’re not earning while you’re sleeping.”

There are obvious benefits to a salary but those are generally well understood and heavily emphasised by society. So let’s leave it there for now.

He also touches on the need to decouple inputs from outputs, some of his best engineers only work a few hours a day and he’s okay with that because they have an outsized impact in a short amount of time.

He’s measuring output, not input.

“You must have high creativity and leverage to decouple your inputs and outputs.”

But what I personally find most interesting is the idea of the Internet broadening what a career can be.

The Internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers, by allowing you to scale any niche obsession.

Before the Internet there was no way to find all the people in the world who were interested in your obsession. Now you can.

Escape competition through authenticity—when you’re competing with people it’s because you’re copying them.

No one can compete with you on being you. Before the Internet, this was useless advice—now it’s a career.

@benthompson via Stratechery (and the entire existence of Substack, the service I’m writing this on) are great examples of how the Internet has enabled niche content to grow into real, sustainable businesses.

It’s exciting that regardless of what you’re into, chances are there are thousands to ten of thousands of people who are into it, too.


Alongside Naval’s podcast, I’ve been listening to two podcasts that are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to ambition.

The first is The Anatomy of Next from @foundersfund and explores “every aspect of going to Mars, transforming it into a habitable world, and building a new branch of human civilisation. How do we bring a cold, dead planet back to life? Can we build an atmosphere on Mars, thaw the frozen plains, and build an ocean? How do we seed a barren land with life, and make a red Mars green? Then, it’s everything from politics and education to money, music, and architecture. What does it mean to be human on an alien world?”

The second is the Indie Hackers podcast which is filled with episodes with successful founders of bootstrapped businesses. Indie Hackers is a fascinating place filled with people who are anywhere from trying to get their first customers to $100k+ MRR.

While $100k+ MRR is nothing to laugh at, it’s certainly not at the same level of ambition as trying to colonise Mars. And that’s okay.

In fact, I think it might be the way we get to Mars.

What I mean by that is people tend to grow in ambition over time and successes, and it’s great to have content for both audiences.

Just because people are bootstrapping their SaaS product doesn’t mean they won’t be trying to build the next Blue Origin in five years, if all goes well. Just look at Bezos.

Image result for bezos books meme


One of my favourite books is by @claychristensen, Harvard Business School professor and author of the highly influential books The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution.

But while I love those books, I think his (and @jamesallworth and @KarDillon’s) best work is How Will You Measure Your Life?

The book takes what you learn in The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution and turns the focus from business to life.

With the goal of answering three fundamental questions:

  • How can I be sure that I find happiness in my career?

  • How can I find happiness in my relationships?

  • How can I be sure that I live a life of integrity? 

Even if you don’t read the book, it’s worth your time to have a think about these questions.

End notes

Flick me a note with anything you’d like me to explore next.


Reading List

Abi Tyas Tunggal's reading list, separated out by year.

This page is dedicated to the books I've read. If you think there is something I should explore, please suggest in the comments.

I used to read one book every few months or so until I found audiobooks and realised I could speed them to 3x (like I do with podcasts) and still get good comprehension (probably better than I do when I read from a book). Since then, I've been "reading" while riding the train to work, at the gym, and pretty much any time I can stick my AirPods in my ears. 

It's probably the single most valuable thing I can tell you. It sounds like an ad, but you should consider downloading Audible and start listening to books at 3x while commuting, walking, relaxing, or any time when you can't be sitting down and reading.

Below is a list of the books I've read thus far, in order. If you'd like me to dive deeper into any of these books, please let me know in the comments.


  1. Superhuman, by Rowan Hooper

  2. The Laws of Human Nature, by Robert Greene

  3. Little Black Stretchy Pants, by Chip Wilson

  4. How to Get Rich, by Felix Dennis

  5. Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport


  1. Michael Jordan, by Roland Lazenby

  2. Deep Work, by Cal Newport

  3. The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli

  4. The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin

  5. The Inner Game of Tennis, by W. Timothy Gallwey

  6. Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely

  7. Superforecasting, by Philip Tetlock

  8. Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  9. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

  10. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

  11. Flow, by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi

  12. The Fighter’s Mind, by Sam Sheridan

  13. Chop Wood Carry Water, by Joshua Medcalf

  14. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

  15. Why Moats Matter, by Elizabeth Collins

  16. Modern Monopolies, by Alex Moazed

  17. The Human Brand, by Chris Malone

  18. Titan, by Ron Chernow

  19. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell

  20. Learn Better, by Ulrich Boser

  21. Stealing Fire, by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

  22. Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  23. Beyond the Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

  24. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

  25. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

  26. Hooked, by Nir Eyal

  27. Drive, by Daniel H. Pink

  28. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

  29. Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

  30. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

  31. Surfaces and Essences, by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander

  32. Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker

  33. Deep Thinking, by Garry Kasparov

  34. Incognito, by David Eagleman

  35. The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

  36. Play On, by Jeff Bercovici

  37. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan

  38. Origin Story, by David Christian

  39. Ego is the Enemy, by Ryan Holiday

  40. Why Information Grows, by Cesar Hidalgo

  41. Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou

  42. Measure What Matters, by John Doerr

  43. Factfulness, by Hans Rosling

  44. So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport

  45. The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu

  46. The Outsiders, by William N. Thorndike

  47. Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmull

  48. The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu

  49. Altered Traits, by Richard Davidson and Daniel Coleman

  50. Own the Day, Own Your Life, by Aubrey Marcus

  51. Thinking in Bets, by Annie Duke

  52. Expert Political Judgement, by Philip E. Tetlock

  53. The Courage to Be Disliked, by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi

  54. Valley of Genius, by Adam Fisher

  55. A Guide to the Good Life, by William B. Irvine

  56. The Barefoot Investor, by Scott Pape

  57. The Spider Network, by David Enrich

  58. Dealers of Lightning, by Michael Hiltzik

  59. High Growth Handbook, by Elad Gil

  60. Getting Things Done, by David Allen

  61. Frenemies, by Ken Auletta

  62. The Facebook Effect, by David Kirkpatrick

  63. In the Plex, by Steven Levy

  64. Scale, by Geoffrey West

  65. Dune, by Frank Herbert

  66. Subscribed, by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert

  67. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

  68. The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle

  69. Behind the Cloud, by Marc Benioff

  70. 21 Lessons for the 21st Centry, by Yuval Noah Harari

  71. The Book of Why, by Judea Pearl

  72. The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch

  73. Angel, by Jason Calacanis

  74. Who Is Michael Ovitz?, by Michael Ovitz

  75. Creative Selection, by Ken Kocienda

  76. The Warren Buffett Way, by Robert Hagstrom

  77. The Success Equation, by Michael J. Mauboussin

  78. Atomic Habits, by James Clear

  79. Blitzscaling, by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

  80. Conspiracy, by Ryan Holiday

  81. The Mindful Athlete, by Phil Jackson

  82. The Elephant in the Brain, by Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler

  83. The Dream Machine, by M. Mitchell Waldrop

  84. The House of Morgan, by Ron Chernow

  85. The Revolt of the Public, by Martin Gurri

  86. Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

  87. Eat Move Sleep, by Tom Rath


  1. The Everything Store, by Brad Stone

  2. Hatching Twitter, by Nick Bilton

  3. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

  4. The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  5. The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin

  6. 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

  7. The Most Important Thing, by Howard Marks

  8. The Rise of Superman, by Steven Kotler

  9. Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson

  10. The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge MD

  11. The Art of the Deal, by Donald J. Trump

  12. Grit, by Angela Duckworth

  13. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

  14. Charlie Munger, by Tren Griffin

  15. The Upstarts, by Brad Stone

  16. The Marshmallow Test, by Walter Mischel

  17. We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider

  18. The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, by Vishen Lakhiani

  19. Surely, You're Joking Mr. Feynman!, by Richard R. Feynman

  20. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown

  21. Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

  22. Business @ the Speed of Thought, by Bill Gates

  23. World Order, by Henry Kissinger

  24. Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell

  25. Team of Teams, by General Stanley McChrystal

  26. Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

  27. Liar's Poker, by Michael Lewis

  28. The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

  29. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

  30. Andrew Carnegie, by David Nasaw

  31. On Writing, by Stephen King

  32. Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark

  33. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

  34. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

  35. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

  36. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

  37. Nudge, by Richard Thaler

  38. Misbehaving, by Richard Thaler

  39. Influence, by Robert Cialdini Ph.D.

  40. Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, by David Einhorn

  41. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

  42. Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  43. Our Oriental Heritage, by Will Durant

  44. The Life of Greece, by Will Durant

  45. Caesar and Christ, by Will Durant

  46. How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton M. Christensen

  47. The Innovator's Solution, by Clayton M. Christensen

  48. Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust

  49. Peak, by Anders Ericsson

  50. Republic, by Plato

  51. Principles, by Ray Dalio

  52. Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle

  53. 1984, by George Orwell

  54. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

  55. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

  56. Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

  57. Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance

  58. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by Al Ries

  59. Perennial Seller, by Ryan Holiday

  60. Learn or Die, Edward D. Hess

  61. Originals, by Adam Grant

  62. An Everyone Culture, by Robert Kegan

  63. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

  64. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty

  65. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

  66. Propaganda, by Edward Bernays

  67. Crystallising Public Opinion, by Edward Bernays

  68. Bored and Brilliant, by Manoush Zomorodi

  69. Gut, by Giulia Enders

  70. Deep Work, by Cal Newport

  71. Win Bigly, by Scott Adams

  72. Impossible to Ignore, by Carmen Simon Ph.D.

  73. Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini Ph.D.

  74. The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

  75. It's Not Luck, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

  76. Critical Chain, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

  77. The Innovators, by Walter Isaacson

  78. American Prometheus, by Kai Bird

  79. Fermat's Last Theorem, by Simon Singh

  80. To Sell Is Human, by Daniel H. Pink


  1. Scientific Advertising, by Claude C Hopkins

  2. Business Adventures, by John Brooks

  3. The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham

  4. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis

  5. The Grid, by Gretchen Bakke Ph.D.

  6. Chaos Monkeys, by Antonio Garcia Martinez

  7. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

  8. Deep Work, by Cal Newport

  9. Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim

  10. Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

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