Kamal Ravikant, Author
How to Find Investors and Purpose With Kamal Ravikant
“My company fell apart. My relationships fell apart. My health fell apart,” Kamal Ravikant says. It was one of the darkest times in his life. “I was just locked in my bedroom, miserable out of my mind.”
As a tech entrepreneur, Kamal had his share of success. He also failed. The failure of his last company struck him down – but he got up. He embraced one simple concept – loving himself – that propelled him forward, allowing him to become a venture capital investor. He’s eager to share his experience: he wrote Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It and Live Your Truth:, books based on his own epiphanies.
His advice and insight range wide, and a good place to start is that old go-to: persistence. Kamal Ravikant has done a lot, done it well, and doesn’t doubt that focus and persistence played a part.
It’s an old tip in entrepreneurial circles: try, try, try – keep trying, keep working, keep at it. You can’t win the game if you’re not in it, so play every single day. Be persistent, and you will be successful. Kamal doesn’t disagree: those truisms push you in the right direction. But he’s wary of only considering one side of the issue.
“There’s persistence, but there’s also being open,” he says. He urges entrepreneurs to stay tuned in to reality. As sad as it is, situations exist where, instead of paying off, endless persistence will bring pain.
Kamal recounts an experience from his days working in technology startups. He wanted one specific person to partner with his company, so he brought passionate persistence to negotiations. With some convincing, the individual agreed to get on board. Kamal had triumphed.
Or not. In his zeal to secure that one specific partner, he had given up too much. When that person later left the company, everything fell apart. Blind persistence led Kamal down the wrong path. If he had entered the negotiations with a mind more open to other outcomes, he wouldn’t have made a decision that ultimately led to a failed company.
Keeping a balance between persistence and open-mindedness has proven valuable in Kamal’s investments. “One of the best things I’ve learned in the investing I do now is I try not to have an ego, and just learn from better investors than me,” he says. “No matter how much I may be in love with some company, if they don’t care for it – they have better track records – I’ll let it go … I’d rather be proven wrong by the right people.”
That’s not to say that Kamal blindly follows big investors. He’s been around Silicon Valley for awhile, and knows what to look for in startups. That means that he knows what startups should do if they want funding.
If you want to get investors, you need to first understand the background behind all their decisions: they want to invest in startups that will make money, but most startups do not. “Ninety-something percent of startups fail,” Kamal says. “Literally, ninety-something percent of startups fail.”
Kamal’s job as an investor is to maximize returns, so with pervasive failure a reality of business, he can’t bet on ideas alone. Investors need results – execution. “In the end, what it comes down to is the person: can they pull this off?” he says. “There’s lots of great ideas out there, but in the end … it’s all execution. No one funds ideas anymore. You will not get an idea funded.”
Thoughts aren’t enough – you need action, too, because action rakes in the cash. Investors look for evidence that your idea can succeed in the real world, and nothing does that better than actually executing your idea.
“You need a product, even if it’s a minimal viable product,” Kamal says. “And you need to show traction in the market the product is for.” Signs of real-world success signal that your product possesses the potential to net big returns. That potential is just what investors are eager to see.
If, even with an idea, you struggle to secure funding, Kamal recommends that you start with your “home base” – your friends and your family. “If you can’t show that the people who know you invest in you, why would strangers invest in you?” he asks.
Kamal’s advice is simple yet staggering: “Create something of value. Get it out to the market. Show consistent traction.”
Kamal has been at this for awhile – working in Silicon Valley for well over a decade, he has been on both sides of investing: before his job as a venture capitalist, he worked at other tech startups and even founded some of his own.
None of it came easily. In the wake of the dot-com bubble, he lived in upstate New York and only pondered the possibility of entrepreneurship. Then a friend told him, “Kamal, leap and the net will appear.”
That stuck with him, and he did it. A one-way ticket to California ended up being his way to fly to new heights as an entrepreneur. “I took the risk to move to Silicon Valley,” Kamal says. “It was a big risk.”
He joined Healtheon, the company that later became WebMD, and left after it went public. Over time, he has worked with smaller companies, too. Some went up, some went down – Kamal went forward.
He points to Silicon Valley as an influential reason for his entrepreneurial successes. It’s a place, he says, where everyone around him was living entrepreneurship – he couldn’t help but let if rub off on him. And he wants you to do the same.
“Surround yourself with entrepreneurs,” he says. “Surround yourself with entrepreneurs better than you … Whatever measure of success you want to have, however you want to define it, surround yourself with people who have that better. You will actually become that.”
He did that, grew as an entrepreneur, and now runs a venture fund and advises startups. But his most treasured advice isn’t imparted in some private conversation – he wrote a book about it. Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It illuminates what Kamal believes to be an indispensable truth: you need to love yourself. It came from a dark time in his life.
It began with the last company he built – he shoveled years of his time into the company with dogged persistence. In three and a half years, he took only one weekend off. But when the company collapsed, he fell into deep debt and deeper doubt. He became sick, depressed, and suicidal.
In the midst of his pain, Kamal stumbled on a realization: his company had become an extension of him. His business and his self had become dangerously intertwined, and when the company crashed, he crashed with it.
That was chilling: the company wasn’t coming back, so Kamal realized that if he didn’t sever his self-worth from it, neither would he. That’s when he made a vow to love himself. That’s his advice: say it, say it, and say it again – tell yourself that you love yourself. And believe it.
“I worked on many different ways to do it, and I noticed some worked, and I just went further into them,” Kamal says of his time spent experimenting with different ways to affirm his self-worth. “I was A/B testing in my head. Really, I kid you not.” His anecdote contains another powerful tip: you can take the testing skills that you have as an entrepreneur and apply them to your own life.
Kamal couldn’t keep his new commitment to self-worth to himself, so he turned out page after page on the subject. “My company had crashed. I had crashed,” he says. “And here I was writing a little book about how I figured out the meaning of life after it.”
After finishing the book, he self-published it on Amazon, not expecting to sell more than eight or ten copies. He wrote it to share with friends. But he surpassed that ten-book expectation – by a staggering amount. In a mere five weeks, with no marketing, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It was the number one self-help book on Amazon. It saved him from debt, allowing him to pay his bills again. That financial security made it safer for him to start a venture fund. He had turned his life around.
He still emphasizes self-worth. “A lot of the entrepreneurs I know … start up as entrepreneurs because of a lack of self-esteem,” he says. “You almost have, like, a need to prove something, prove yourself worthy.”
Kamal, of course, sees that as a dangerous way of thinking. “For the longest time, I thought success was a number, and that’s what I worked towards,” he says. “The problem is, if you work towards a number, you start to lose faith in it – you don’t believe it anymore.”
“When things come from inside of you, and you decide who you are and what you stand for, it changes your life,” he furthers. “Because if it comes from inside you no one can take it away from you.” It’s an idea that he writes about in Live Your Truth.
Give yourself permission to define what success means to you. It’s a concept that stems directly from Kamal’s revelation that he needed to decouple his self-worth from his company.
“If you come from a place where you’re just giving, and you are worthy, and the world responds, that’s amazing. That is success,” he says, “because if you still have the self-worth issues, no matter how much you make, it’ll never be enough.” If you define your own goals, allowing success to stem from inside, then outside troubles can never shackle you.
Key Moments Of Our Podcast With Kamal Ravikant
- 4:00 – Why persistence is the key to a successful career
- 6:00 – Kamal’s tips on negotiating with investors
- 9:00 – Kamal’s roundabout on his journey in entrepreneurship
- 33:57: Kamal’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Kamal Ravikant
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to “The Founder Podcast.” It’s great to have you. I hope you’re enjoying the episodes. I’m really, really excited to bring them to you all. Yeah, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your earbuds with me and taking the time to listen. As always, we got another rocking interview for you. Today, it is with Kamal Ravikant. Kamal is a bestselling author, tech entrepreneur, and investor. He’s quite well-known in Silicon Valley.
We talk about what it takes to have a winning pitch when you’re asking and pitching for money. This is a really…All around about…You know, we cover all sorts of topics in this interview. It was a really, really cool conversation. Kamal actually hit rock-bottom at one stage. He was bedridden. He was extremely depressed, and he somehow turned his whole life around. Yeah, he talks about that whole process that he went through and how he wrote two bestselling books. Yeah, he really goes into how he sprung back and what it takes to build a successful business.
Kamal is a very deep and spiritual person, very, very interesting guy. It’s not something you would expect from a big guy out of tech in Silicon Valley, but he’s extremely wise and has invested in himself so much and has built some massive companies and shares a ton of gold with you today, especially around investing, building successful company, and how loving yourself saved his life. So that’s it from me. Let’s jump into this interview. The musings of Kamal Ravikant. Enjoy.
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Today, I’m speaking to Kamal Ravikant. Kamal’s a tech entrepreneur, investor, and author of the bestselling books, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on it,” and, “Live Your Truth.” Kamal, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Kamal: Hey. Thanks for having me and being so patient, actually, in tracking me down.
Nathan: It’s all good. It’s what I do. Sometimes I send people seven, eight emails, all different forms of contact to get in touch with them. You know, persistence pays off.
Kamal: I think if you just make that your motto, you nailed it, in most things, really. Right?
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s…To me, like…I actually did a talk, about a month or so ago, and I said that one of the common denominators from, you know, the 100 past entrepreneurs that I’ve had the privilege to speak to, and it’s persistence. They just don’t give up. They just don’t let it go. They keep trying, and they make it work, and they just want it bad enough.
Kamal: Yeah, it’s persistence or if you want to call it a focus. You know, I sometimes wonder about some of the choices I’ve made, where I was so persistent and I went after things, and they didn’t work out, and I kept beyond it and kept beyond it, where I sometimes maybe would’ve been better to let go, like you’re a dog just hanging onto a bone, and it’s time to let go of the bone. So I’ve been trying to learn that lesson as well.
It’s like there’s persistence. Right? But there’s also being open. You know, one of the best things I’ve learned and, like, the investing I do now, is I try not to have an ego and just, you know, learn from better investors than me. So no matter how much I may be in love with some company, if they don’t care for it, they have better track records. I’ll let it go. I’d rather be proven wrong, you know, by the right people. That’s been a very good lesson, actually, because it is a natural inclination when you’re building anything to just stick with it, stick with it, stick with it. That is when the great things happen. That’s when…But sometimes there is a time when you have…I think if the words would be persistence and maybe staying open or surrender to how things are. That make sense?
Nathan: Kind of.
Kamal: All right. Let me think about…I’ll give you a particular example.
Kamal: That I was just thinking about recently. So when I was building my last company, I remember at one point, I was negotiating with this person who became one of our main partners, and I end up basically betting the company on our relationship with this partner. When that person pulled out, it basically carried the company.
Now, when I was negotiating with this person originally, I came from a place of lack. You know, like, in a negotiation, the person who actually is willing to walk away is the one who wins the negotiation. Always. The one who wants it the least, wins. Right?
So the negotiation I did was a poor negotiation. I gave up too much to this person. You know? That’s how I started the relationship, by letting him know that, “You’re too important, and I will just cater to your every need.” Where if I’d come from a place of, “Listen. I’m creating something valuable, and I’m offering this to you. I want you to be a part of it, but I’m not gonna let you take advantage of me or take advantage of it,” I think things would’ve been very different. If that person had walked away, I think I probably…The company wouldn’t have worked out, very early on, and I would have maybe decided to shut it down back then and save myself a whole bunch of trouble when the person did walk away, two years later. You know?
So I think in that case, I should have been open to the partners I was dealing with and where they were coming from. You know? They were coming from a place of they wanted to grab as much as they can. Right? Which never makes a good partner. Right?
Kamal: So the negotiation usher realized that, and she would’ve stayed firm to, “Listen. This is what I’m willing to give for the health of the company, and this is what I’m…This is fair and reasonable. Anything beyond that, let’s walk away.” I really…Looking back, that would’ve actually led to a better outcome. Even if things didn’t work out, they wouldn’t have worked out fast. Right? It would’ve been done. Rather than I came from a place of basically lack and weakness, and I gave up too much in the beginning, and that set the tone of the relationship. Those business relationships never work.
Nathan: Yeah. No. You know, I understand now. I see.
Kamal: That’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, actually, just a few days ago. So since we’re talking, I’m throwing it out there.
Nathan: Yeah. No, it’s interesting because…Yeah, Seth Godin wrote this fascinating book called “The Dip.” It’s tried to teach you when to quit.
Kamal: Oh, interesting. I’ll have to check it out.
Nathan: He tries to help you and work out when to quit. It says about how quitting is actually underrated, and most people quit in a lot of things. It’s just you just don’t realize it. Yeah. No, it’s a really interesting little book.
Kamal: I’ll check it out. Yeah, it’s a matter of, I think, sometimes letting go. Our ego gets so attached to what we’re doing, that it becomes our… You know, it becomes who we are, and then we are afraid to let it go because…What does that say about us? Right?
So there’s a balance there, and I’m still working on figuring out that balance. I think in the end, the balance comes from…It happens more naturally when you come from a place of, like, “I’m on purpose. This is what I’m doing.” And if it’s, you know…I will only work with people who are willing to be fair and equitable, versus coming from a place of lack like, “Please, I need to work with you, and I’ll do whatever it takes.” Right?
Nathan: I agree. So let’s rewind things. I’d like to talk to you about redefining success and what it means for you in your journey, but let’s go back and find out where you started as an entrepreneur. Can you give us a roundabout, short insight into your journey?
Kamal: Sure. I mean I never set out to be an entrepreneur. You know, like, there’s some people who are like natural entrepreneurs since they were little kids. I don’t think I was one of them.
Kamal: I kind of…What I did was I moved out here to Silicon Valley during the first dot-com boom. This is even pre-Google and all of that, and helped build some very interesting things there. What that taught me was the power of just…We were creating the Internet. Right? All this stuff we were creating had never existed before. At that time, you could just jump into something and do it, and I joined this company called which became WebMD. I built some very interesting stuff there. The whole time, it was just like, “Give Kamal whatever, and he will get it done,” because I was so excited. I just wanted to do everything.
It showed me just the power of just like being in this industry where you are creating something new, something that didn’t exist before, and that was something…Then millions of people get to use it. Something very beautiful about that. So I’ve stayed here since, and, you know, the best in the world come here. So you never get stale because you’re surrounded by new blood that comes in all the time. You know? Some of the smartest people. Just when you think you’re smart enough, you meet some…You know, someone will come in and just blow you out of the water. It’s great.
You know, what I did…What I’ve done, and I think this is like a great hack, or maybe this is the answer, is to surround yourself with entrepreneurs. This whole area is full of nothing but entrepreneurs. So, like, you can’t help but become one. You know? Like, everyone…Like they say in Hollywood, everyone’s got a…Every waiter’s got like a screenplay, you know, in back pocket. Here, everyone’s got a startup or an app, really. Like, my doctor from a couple years ago, you know, started a company and a startup. You can’t help it because everyone around you is doing it, and you just get to see them and start to think, “Well, if they can do it.” You know? Because I think a lot of entrepreneurship is we don’t think enough of ourselves, or we don’t think we know enough. But once you start surrounding yourself with people just doing it, you realize, “Well, maybe I can.”
It just rubs off on you. I mean literally everyone who comes here eventually will have some…will be part of startup or will start one. It’s really funny how that works. So that, I think, was my real entrepreneurship journey, was I was fortunate enough to pick Silicon Valley and be a part of it. Over the years, with the last company I built, which was an ad network, I got to meet some very interesting Internet marketers, which is a whole different world I didn’t know. I made friends in that industry. You know, there’s some really good people there. So I’ve gotten to see how they’re entrepreneurs in a very different way than we are. We build products and companies. When I say products, I mean like Skype. There is a Skype. Skype would be a product. Whereas they build more like information courses, and that’s their product, and they…You know, whereas I would lock myself in a room and Google for a week, and I would be an expert. You know? But they will actually do that, but then they will sell it. Right? It will be valuable.
So that’s shown…That’s a whole different kind of entrepreneurs, and some of whom are very, very smart people. They’re very good at marketing, sharing this information. So I’ve learned a lot from them.
I think the key really is…I think I’ve talked about this before. If you want to be fit, don’t surround yourself with people who are not fit. Don’t surround yourself with people who want to be fit. Surround yourself with people who are fit. Guaranteed you will become fit. Guaranteed, because we just are social creatures. We’re pack creatures. We rub off on each other, and you want to step up to the people you’re surrounded by. It’s just a natural social instinct we have. So yeah, that’s been my entrepreneurship journey, actually, just being surrounded by some of the best in the world in Silicon Valley.
Nathan: Wow. Can you tell us a little bit about some things that you’ve built? Your own companies and stuff like that?
Kamal: Yeah, so I helped build which became WebMD, and I left about, I think, a year or two after it went public. Did some very interesting products there. Then I’ve done stuff with companies that really haven’t gotten anywhere. I would buy some companies. I would say the best-known one would be WebMD because everyone knows that one. The rest were all small ones. Some fail. Some don’t. These days, you know, I just…I don’t want to start companies anymore. It’s too much work. It’s just brutal. Too much work. I’ve done it enough.
So that’s why I’m doing investing. I run a small venture fund, and I’m just a very focused investment fund. You know? I advise some companies because I…You know, if you’ve been doing something for a very long time, and you’re relatively smart, you know just how to get things done. So I advise companies, and I invest in companies.
Nathan: On the investing pace, what is the one thing you look for when you’re speaking to entrepreneurs that are pitching you for money?
Kamal: Well, it’s actually interesting. How I do it is a little bit different than a lot of funds. Like, my whole thing is I never want to be the smartest guy at the table. I want to be the dumbest guy at the table. So I go along with, like, really, really smart investors who have already vetted some companies, you know, investors with amazing track records. Then when I talk to entrepreneurs, you know, I look at them as an entrepreneur. In the end, you know what it comes down to is the person. Can they pull this off? You know? There’s lots of great ideas out there. Right? But in the end, it’s one thing we’ve learned is all execution.
No one here funds ideas anymore. You will not get idea funded, unless you’re like Elon Musk or something. Right? Who has that…Yeah. I mean really. Unless you have that kind of track record, you can’t go to an investor and say, “I have this great idea for an app.” I mean you will just hear the sound of doors slamming. Right? You have to basically…Because now it’s so easy to build something and so cheap, that you need basically product. You need a product. You need, even if it’s a minimal viable product. Right? But a basic product. You need to show traction in the market that the product is for. The market does want it, and you have the ability to actually be able to get the market to take it. Right?
So those are the things you look for mainly, product, traction. Then obviously you look at the size of the market and the current…Certain things tend to be hot. So you know, like, if you’re getting the top ones in there, they’ll probably get sold and make a lot of money. So you look at all those factors. But in the end, it’s always a people business. You know everything is a people business, but especially in investing. You’re betting on people. You’re betting on the founders.
It’s the rare…There are a few companies here that have succeeded despite themselves, despite the founders, but those are really the exceptions. Most great things become great because of the people who built them.
Nathan: Yeah. Look. That’s really…This is fascinating stuff because I actually had a friend that went down to Silicon Valley, and he tried to get money, obviously, and he didn’t get any money down there. He said that his biggest challenge and struggle that he had was that he wasn’t proven. He hadn’t built anything before. Like, even though he did have, he believed, market validation, you know, people…He didn’t know anyone. That’s what he said. He said that was his biggest challenge. What’s your thoughts on that?
Kamal: Well, there’s two things. One is, yeah, if you proven commodity, if you just look at the data, people who’ve sold a company before are more likely to build one that they can sell again. This is from an investment standpoint, because building something like that is so hard. It’s so much different things happening, that if you’ve gone through it once, odds are you’ve learned through your mistakes. Right? Versus you’re funding someone who’s gonna learn through their mistakes with your money. Right? The job of the investor is to get a return on capital and get a high return on capital, because most startups, like 90-something-percent startups fail. That’s one of the little secrets that most people don’t realize. Literally 90-something-percent of startups fail. You know that as an investor. So, like, you need, like, to have some serious big heads to make money as an investor.
So for him, being unproven, it definitely makes sense, but there’s something else. If you’re unproven, if you’re someone from, I don’t know, just Timbuktu, whatever, you just crawled out of a cave, or you build an app, and all of a sudden, it’s getting a million downloads a day, you will get people begging you to invest in you.
So it’s not just market validation. You have to prove that…If you can prove that I’ve created something special, people will jump on board to help you. So maybe he didn’t have that level, or he hadn’t shown it in a way that he thought he had. You know? Because the people here are very smart, and we’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s almost standardized. You can look at products and figure out what are the challenges going to be and so forth.
So you have to learn to say, like, you know, 100 or 1000 no’s for every yes, because there’s so many opportunities to invest in. So there are certain things you learn, especially when you run a venture fund, because you have LPs. You know? They’re investors in my fund. I work for them. So my job is to make them a lot of money. Right?
Nathan: What are LPs?
Kamal: LP is a limited partner. Just like investor invests money in a company, an LP invests money in a venture fund.
Nathan: I see.
Kamal: So those are the people that basically you work for. Right? Your job is to make them, you know, make them a lot of money on the money they invest in your fund. So you have to basically say, “No,” to most things. So with your friend, yes, the fact he wasn’t known definitely doesn’t help. But in that case, you know, coming to Silicon Valley as an unknown to raise money is not necessarily the best answer. Always raise money in the beginning from your home base, from friends and family. If he can’t show that the people who know you are gonna invest in you, why would strangers invest in you? I mean really if you think about it.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah.
Kamal: I mean if he showed that he was able to scramble some money together and get a product and get traction, and it was growing, I bet you he would get funding.
Nathan: Yeah, because then the other side of the table which is interesting is I had another friend that went over there, and he said it was crazy how easy it was. He said he met somebody at a nightclub, and they were gonna give him over $100K or something crazy.
Kamal: You know, it is…It’s actually really frothy boom times. It’s amazing the stuff that’s getting funded.
Kamal: Yeah, if you want to…Basically if you want to stack the adds in your favor, the best way to do it is create something of value, get it out to the market, show consistent traction. That’s different than market validation. Market validation is research. You know? That’s just part of the homework. That does not get you funding. That should not get you funding, unless you are like a proven commodity. You know, the thing is everybody wants to invest in you when you already have a measure of success. It’s kind of funny how that works. Right? So just stack the odds in your favor and have a little measure of success, and people will want to join.
Nathan: Yeah. No. No, you’re right. So let’s talk about success and redefining it. I’d like to say a quote from your book. We don’t stumble accidentally into an amazing life. This is from “Live Your Truth,” by the way. “We don’t stumble accidentally into an amazing life. It takes a conscious commitment to figuring out what we stand for, finding our truth. It begins by looking inside ourselves, because when it rises from within, we have no choice but to express it, to live it. That is when the magic happens.”
Kamal: Yeah, that is one of the key things I’ve learned in life. I wish I learned it earlier. You know, because for the longest time, I thought success was a number, and that’s what I worked towards. The problem is, if you work towards a number, you work towards something that you start to lose faith in and you don’t believe in anymore. It gets really hard. Versus something that’s a full-on expression of you, something that’s come from within you that…You know, it’s like when things come from inside of you, and you decide who you are, what you stand for, you know, it changes your life, because if it comes from inside you, no one can take it away from you, and you can’t, you know, BS your way out of it. I’m like the best bullshitter for myself that I know.
But yet, but if something you figured out on your own, you can’t bullshit it away. You have to live it. When you’re not living it, you know. Right? You let yourself down. Eventually we all want to rise, and we go back to what our truth is.
Funny enough, you know…So here’s what I learned. So I’ve been part of some very interesting companies out here, and then you know my last company. When I built it, it blew up. I lost everything. You know? I was in serious debt, and I was really sick. I had to, when I got out of it, I had to sit down and reexamine what that meant, but I thought I had failed.
But I wrote that book, the “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It,” and purely…It was nothing to try to make any money or anything. It was purely to share what I had figured out, that actually saved me. That actually made me come back from rock bottom, physically, emotionally, spiritually, everything. Right? It was purely to share it, and I really thought I was gonna be a big laughing stock because no one wrote about that in the valley at the time.
Here I was. My company had crashed. I crashed. People had…You know? And here I was, writing a little book, telling about, “Hey. How to figure out the meaning of life after it.” Right? I published that book. I self-published it, and I really…I said this before, and I keep repeating it because it still blows my mind. I really did not expect to sell more than 8 or 10 copies. I think I was gonna buy eight of them. It was purely to share with my friends, like, people I loved, that listened. I figured something very important out, and I want to share it with you.
You know, within five weeks of being out and no marketing, it was the number one self-help book on Amazon. It changed my life, seeing what the power of just being full-on self, when you give to the world. You know? I gave a product. I gave a product of value. I put it out there, and the world took it and ran with it. Right?
Kamal: That little book allowed me to then actually start paying my bills too. So I could actually start working on building a venture fund. Otherwise, I would’ve had to go work for someone to pay off my bills. Right? I wouldn’t have been able to build a venture fund. That’s the gift it gave me. It came purely from a place of giving something that was purely mine. I mean that’s success. That’s something that is like something beautiful to experience, when it’s yours, when you’re giving to the world, and the world responds. I think that’s the best kind of success you can have.
I think those two books are truly, like, two of the best things I’ve done in my life. They’re truly the best things I’ve done in my life so far, because a lot of the things I did before, you know, they were ego-driven. They were trying to either live up to other people’s expectations of me or society expectation or whatever, trying to, like, you know, trying to make money or trying to create a company, so that I would be like, “Who knows what people will think of me?” Because a lot of entrepreneurs I know, you know, they start off as entrepreneurs because it’s from a lack of self-esteem. You almost have like a need to prove something, prove yourself worthy. Right?
Kamal: Versus if you come from a place where you’re just giving, and you are worthy, and the world responds, that’s amazing. That is success. Because if you still have the self-worth issues, no matter how much you make, you’ll never be enough, or you’ll still have your issues. Ironically I think things work a lot…At least in my experience, things have worked so much better when I come from just a place of giving, than they do when I’m just doing it for myself.
Nathan: I think even if you use…just coming from a place of giving in every product you create or the service you’re providing, how much…How much level more value would you give, instead of, “How am I gonna take money from this person? How can I, you know, find something out that they want?”
Kamal: Yeah, because, honestly, you know, like, I know how to write. I worked many years to teach myself to be a really good writer. I could’ve written many different books that I know would’ve sold, that I could’ve done, you know, Google keyword searches and so forth and know, like, this is the kind of book that will sell. So I would’ve written that, but never would it put me on the map the way this little book, where I just poured my heart out. That’s such an amazing experience. You know? It’s really been a life-changing experience. Like, these kind of things where you’re not going for what you think the market wants. You’re just going for what you have to say, what you have to give.
Nathan: What I’ve also found really interesting is you wrote “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It,” and you said you had a friend that, you know, wanted to try to do what you did with your life and really, I guess, evolve and really accept yourself and love yourself, and it didn’t work for that friend. So you realized that it was your truth that you were saying.
Kamal: Yeah, because the love yourself…I mean the book…I get emails every day from people. It’s changing their lives. You know? The practice is very simple. It’s exactly distilled down what I did to get out of where I was. It really works, but for some people, it doesn’t. What I realized was because…If something comes from inside of you, like we mentioned before, then you can’t hide from it anymore, which is why I actually wrote the second book, which was more a meditative guide, so that by the time you were done, you were convinced from the inside-out that your truth had to come out, whatever that is. You have to live it. So whether it was my truth or not, because you can take what someone tells you and make it your truth. That’s fine, but it has to be if you can make it your own.
I reference to this samurai book written called “The Book of Five Rings,” which is like the ultimate classic in samurai literature. He was the most successful, undefeated samurai of all time, and he was self-taught. You know? The guy survived like, I think, like four major battles and 60 one-on-one battles, you know, where you fight to the death. Right? Self-taught. But at the end of his life, he wrote this book called “The Book of Five Rings.” It’s actually a great book, and it’s about sword-fighting, but really it’s about the mind. It’s about fear.
He always stay…He keeps on saying like, “You must…” I’m gonna paraphrase badly, but like you got to figure this out yourself. You can’t just take what I’m telling you. You got to take it and make it your own. That’s how you’re gonna be a great sword-fighter, a great samurai. Same thing in anything. You know? You take it, and you make it your own. You add your special twist to it. Then it’s yours. I mean, you know, that’s when the magic happens.
Nathan: Can you give us a rundown on what exactly happened to you and what led you to write the first book? I think that’s an important part of your journey and your story.
Kamal: Sure. So my last company I was building a…Basically worked for like, you know, the persistence thing. I worked. I think it was almost four years, nonstop. I built that company with my own money, you know, cofounders coming and going, people burning out, just continuing on. So I was finally doing very well, and then the thing blew up.
In the process, I hadn’t taken like one weekend off, in at least three years. I think I finally started to give my team Sundays off, but I never took them, you know, never took a full day off. No, actually, I think I took one short…one long…one weekend in three years or three-and-a-half years. So I was always under stress, always just trying to make the thing work. Then when the thing was falling apart, I just got really, really sick. It turns out I’d been sick for a long time. I just haven’t…I started to stress. I hadn’t bothered to take care of myself.
Then a lot of other things happened at the same time, just all life stuff that had just…Nothing good was happening. My company fell apart. My relationship fell apart. My health fell apart. I was just locked in my bedroom, miserable out of my mind. I was suicidal, the works, you know, if you really want to go into it. My company had become my extension of myself. It was my ego. It was like everyone…I was gonna, you know, make this great company, and everyone was gonna, I don’t know, love me because I had succeeded so well or whatever.
Instead, you know, when I was still locked up in my bedroom and…One morning, I woke up, and I decided I can’t do this anymore. I’m gonna get out of this or die trying. I just can’t live like this. I sat down and made a vow to myself, and the vow was to love myself. It’s in the book, exactly the whole. I’m a big believer that once you commit in something, you go all in. You figure…You just do.
I’m not a guy who used to believe in even the word “love.” So it kind of surprised me to write about it myself, to do that, but because I made the vow, I decided to do it. I worked on many different ways to do it, and I noticed some worked, and I just went further into them. The same kind of startup AB testing…I was AB testing in my head. Really. I kid you not. You know?
Kamal: Until I figured out some things that made me feel better. Then, boy, within 30 days, I was better. My health was better. Everything was better. All I was doing was just working on my inside, which kind of really opened up a huge paradigm shift for me. It’s like rather than trying to fix my outside, just fix my inside, and that shifts your whole outside.
So that’s the story behind that. So when I was better, I shared it, you know, what I was doing, the practice. Then I read up on a lot of neuroscience and so forth and other things, and I shared with them the theories behind it, after the fac. After I’d actually just done it was when I looked and, “Why would this kind of stuff work?” It really helped them. So like they basically, you know, dragged me, kicking and screaming, to write this book.
Nathan: And you’ve done some cool things, man. Like, you…You know, you were in the US Army. You meditated with Tibetan Monks in the Dalai Lama’s monastery. You’ve done some cool things. It’s interesting that…It is interesting that it’s got to that point.
Kamal: Yeah, it kind of goes to show you the human self, man. We’re all fighting our own internal battles. You know? Like, no one’s got…I’ve met…I don’t think anyone’s got their quote-unquote “their shit together” 100% of the time. You know? We’re human beings stuck in human minds, walking around in a human world. Yeah. Yeah. I mean I’ve been fortunate, but all those things…All those things I’ve done, you know, they were all like…The best things I’ve done, I think, are when I’ve taken risk, like, joined the US Army. You know? Like was a risk. I dropped out of…I left college to go do it.
Then all the backpacking and the Tibetan Monks and the Himalayas and all that, those are what…You know, you’re Australian. So you guys do that every…Every Australian does that.
Nathan: I don’t know about that. That’s a huge stereotype, mate.
Kamal: It’s a huge one, but I’ll tell you when I’ve traveled, I’ve met plenty of you guys. You know? And girls out there. Versus Americans, there’s less of that there. Those are great experiences, but I think the best experiences I’ve really had have been the internal ones, the ones that I got into. You know? Those are the ones that really change your life. I really do believe any measure of success I’m having now are an exact result of that, of working on the inside.
Nathan: Interesting. Something that you said that has captured me, hit me personally, and I was just like, “Wow. This guy is amazing. He’s a really interesting guy.” It was you said that the best memories are made when you take that leap of faith and not know if the net’s going to catch you.
Kamal: Yeah. Yeah. I mean it’s like, you know, we go through life every day, just stuck in our routines. I mean I’m very guilty of it. What are the moments that we remember? Right? When we did step up? Or we did do something different? When we took the risk? Whether it was when I took the risk to move to Silicon Valley…It was a big risk. I left. I was in upstate New York, and actually a friend of mine I was talking with at the gym, I was telling him I was thinking about doing it, and he said…I was kind of on the fence, and he looked at me and said, “Kamal, leap, and the net will appear.” I don’t know what it was about that, but that just stuck with me. I was like, “Okay. I’ll do it.”
That’s actually what I learned to do these things. I moved out here, and I didn’t get a job for two months. Just when I was about to give up was when I and just worked out. Then they were all chasing me. But I wouldn’t have experienced that if I hadn’t taken the leap of selling everything, giving up my life there, and just buying a one-way ticket out of California and doing it. Right?
Look. That changed my life. Same thing with the book. I took a huge risk with writing the “Love Yourself” book. I really thought I was gonna be just sent out of here, tarred and feathered on a donkey. You know? Like people would just make fun of me and so forth. It was really…But I had to give. Right? Huge risk. Huge jump. That jump changed my life. Right? I’ve spoken on stage a few times, and that terrifies the bejesus out of me. I mean you should see me. Like…
Nathan: Oh, really?
Kamal: Oh, my goodness. I’ve only spoken on stage a couple of times, but I remember the first time I did. I think that little entrepreneurship video on YouTube that does well…I went to the bathroom five times before I went on stage. I was terrified. I was like absolutely terrified. But look. Going up on stage and doing that really allows me to give and just be myself, which is why I went and did it. It was great. The experiences from that and the results from that have been amazing.
So I think that’s when the great things in life happen. You know? We almost…It’s almost like we should make a habit of jumping off cliffs, because in the end, you know, like…Even if we hit the ground, you know, we get up, and we dust our bruises off, and we walk forward. Now we have the knowledge of that I’m a person who can jump off cliffs, which is a great thing to know about yourself.
Nathan: So we have to work towards wrapping things up, man. I’d just like to kind of have some things that listeners can take away as entrepreneurs, listeners and readers or people that are interested in entrepreneurship or at the early stages of building their business and company. What are two action items that you’d like to give, that people can take away from your skills and experience?
Kamal: Okay. I’d say one would be what I mentioned before. Surround yourself with entrepreneurs better than you. You want to be a good entrepreneur. Whatever measure of success you want to have and however you want to define it, surround yourself with people who have that better. You will actually become that. That’s just the nature of how things work.
I think the second is, if you can, make sure that whatever you’re doing is some measure of an expression of you, of who you are, because, you know, entrepreneurship is a great journey. It’s a wonderful journey. You know, it’s who you become in the process, versus the bank account or the other things, because those go up and down. You know? Those are hard to predict. But who you become in the process is…Just like, for example, I know friends who…You know, every really great entrepreneur I know, if they lost all their money today, I bet you within a year, they would have like 10X more than what they had. What is…What makes…
Kamal: Yeah. Yeah, because it’s who you become. Once you do something and you learn, you realize you get that confidence in yourself that I’m able to do this.
Nathan: Yeah, you can ship.
Kamal: Right? That’s what…Yeah, you can ship. So I’m gonna ship another product. I will do this. I’ve done it before. I will figure it out. That’s an amazing mindset to have, that I will figure it out. In fact, I think that’s one of my best attributes for myself. It’s like whatever I get thrown in, I will figure it out. Any one of us can. Just having that mindset that I will figure it out and just diving into it, because you don’t know what’s gonna be down the rabbit hole until you’re actually in it.
But you know, the one thing that really…Now I think I might be diverging, but whatever you do, if you can have it as being expression of you, it’s gonna drive you forward in a way that nothing else can. Like, the books were an expression of me, for example. Right? Like, the company was in the beginning, the last company. But when it stopped being, I should have walked away. Rather, I kept on going because of the prize at the end of the tunnel. Right? Then it became about the money and so forth. When you do that, you start making poor decisions. You know? Whereas if it’s you, you’re gonna make better decisions.
Nathan: When you wrote your books, you made yourself very vulnerable.
Kamal: Yeah. Yeah, I did. I did.Honestly I didn’t think of that. All I knew was I had to strip my ego out of the books, for me to really share what mattered. If I was gonna give, I had to give, you know, give the right way, otherwise, not do it at all.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, Kamal.
Kamal: Oh, thank you. Same here.
Nathan: We’ve gone up and back and all around. It hasn’t been a really structured interview, but it’s been a whole ton of fun because we’re just kind of having a conversation and just what kind of springs up. We’re tackling it. You know?
Kamal: Yeah, it’s the best interview. Thanks for having me. If you come to the US, look me up.
Nathan: Yeah, I will for sure. So yeah. Look. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time.
Kamal: My pleasure. Thank you for having me, and I hope that people listening to this, reading this, you know, got something out of it.