The Best of Daniel Vassallo: Big Ideas From His Last 3,000 Tweets

Dear Everybody,

Daniel Vassallo is the creator of Userbase and several successful Gumroad products, including The Good Parts of AWS and Everyone Can Build a Twitter Audience. In 2019, he left a $500,000 job at Amazon to work for himself.

I organized and distilled his last 3,000 tweets into a summary of his big ideas on self-employment, information products, and lifestyle design.


Beware, not every itch is worth scratching…

  • Not every opportunity is worth taking

  • Not every dangled carrot is worth chasing

  • (You might be caught in a rat race)

To break free, recognize you’re in a race…

  • Consider your obligations 

  • Imagine an alternative universe

  • And ask yourself, “Why not?” 

It’s hard, but it doesn’t take much (and almost anyone can do it)…

  • 140 views at 5 percent conversion = seven sales

  • Seven sales a day of a $39 product = $275 per day 

  • Seven sales a day of a $39 product = $100,000 per year

Here’s the formula:  start with the hardest part…

  • Be willing to jump off the wrong train

  • Be willing to write off past ambitions 

  • Be willing to detach your identity from your accomplishments

  • Otherwise you might get stuck enduring an existence full of wrong stops

Take stock of your means…

  • Time

  • Skills

  • Location

  • Interests

  • Strengths

  • Resources

  • Experience

  • Perspective

  • Connections

  • Cash at hand

Work backwards from your constraints…

  • Start with your reality

  • Fit ideas to that reality

  • (This is more effective than trying to “make your idea a reality”)

Curb your ambitions…

  • Keep reducing scope

  • Keep moving the finish line closer

  • Keep giving yourself free energy

  • Keep the complexity of what you do within your means 

Figure out what you don’t like…

  • Procrastinate on purpose to find what demotivates you

  • (What you’re putting off is what you don’t like)

  • Learn from your internal resistance to find your true preferences

Slowly evolve your lifestyle to better match your true preferences…

  • Do things for their own sake

  • Do what no one’s forcing you to do

  • Do what you’re intrinsically motivated to do

  • Gradually do fewer things you’d rather not do

  • (Only intrinsic motivation lasts) 

Set a direction instead of a goal…

  • You can’t predict what will work

  • You can’t predict what will last

  • You won’t know if a great idea is really great until it survives the impact with reality

  • (Goals tend to get in the way of letting you do what you should be doing, and directions are easier to correct)

You don’t need a big vision to succeed…

  • There’s no need to change the world

  • There’s no need to conquer the competition

  • There’s no need to dominate the market

  • There’s no need to disrupt anything

  • Just throw yourself into random tasks until inspiration meets opportunity

Make time your friend…

  • Cut costs

  • Make do with less

  • Reconsider your needs

  • Don’t spend more than you earn

  • Make your worst-case scenario a slow success

To thrive, survive…

  • Sit on cash

  • Avoid risk of ruin

  • Never risk more than you’re willing to lose

  • Make sure you always get a second chance

  • Persist long enough to stumble on good luck 

  • (Time has a way to make unpredictable setbacks happen eventually)

Work hard to earn credibility…

  • Do something interesting in real life

  • Prove yourself by making something interesting

  • Without credibility, nobody will listen to what you have to say

Avoid low probability bets…

  • Stack odds in your favor

  • Choose your projects carefully

  • Study your opportunities carefully

  • Business is a conjecture that an idea will work out

  • Avoid spending time on things with low chance of success

  • Don’t ignore uncertainty in a randomness-laden venture

Make many small bets (and keep them small)… 

  • Don’t be greedy

  • Control the amount wagered 

  • Go for the low hanging fruit first

  • Keep investments tiny and bounded

  • Try many things in parallel or almost in parallel

  • You’ll learn more this way than any other way

  • (If you start killing it with low hanging fruit, it becomes easier to go after harder to reach fruit)

Build something imperfect that works…

  • Start with a very small product

  • Pick something you can finish in two weeks

  • Charge ten dollars for it

  • (Perfecting something that won't work will never make it work)

  • (Perfectionism is fine, as long as you realize you're doing it only for your own amusement)

Don’t optimize or polish your products…

  • Focus on substance, not optimizations

  • Let the scrappiness be part of the charm

  • The returns on polishing and optimizing are small 

  • A book can be your life's work, presented as a beautiful masterpiece.

  • Or it can be a scrappy brain dump in a Word doc, saved as PDF.

  • Doing a brain dump on video is a lot easier than writing an ebook

Keep idle time in your system…

  • Idle time is slack

  • Slack lets you immediately explore and pounce on opportunities

  • By not optimizing to the limit, you can deal with randomness without breaking down

Stop forcing yourself to build good habits…

  • Just start building something

  • If the habits don't follow automatically, you don't really want it

  • And if you don't really want it, it won't last anyway

Just focus on behavior…

  • Study what’s repeatable

  • Study what’s working for you

  • Study what’s going okay but can be improved

Remember, growth is not linear…

  • Progress comes from random, high impact lucky events

  • Realize a fraction of the effort gets most of the results

  • Recognize which fraction to focus on

  • Use the time you bought back to do whatever you want

Skip theory…

  • Study successful practitioners

  • Become a practitioner yourself

  • (Unsuccessful practitioners don’t practice for very long)

Do a lot when inspiration strikes…

  • Take long breaks in between

  • Most things require intensity over consistency

  • Consistency works, but it's unpleasant (you're constantly fighting yourself)

  • What can be done with consistency is often more enjoyable when done with intensity instead

If there’s no one around, go where people already hang out…

  • Make yourself useful

  • Share what you’ve done

  • Share what you’re learning 

  • Let yourself be opinionated

  • Go behind the scenes and share how your product is doing

  • Teach what you already know (it took you a lifetime to acquire!)

  • If others show interest in something you know, chances are thousands of other people will too

When you promote yourself…

  • You promote your product

  • You have automatic authority

  • You find people who want to learn from you specifically

  • You create an uncontested market space (competition becomes irrelevant because nobody can copy you)

Strive to be an artisan…

  • Be creative

  • Don’t follow others

  • Make your work a business

  • Don’t cut corners for efficiency

  • Say no to things you’d rather not do

  • Do the best work you can, for its own sake

  • Never sell something you know is defective

Protect your independent lifestyle…

  • Be risk averse

  • Don’t try to maximize profits

  • Avoid having your lifestyle taken away from you

A good life is a story you're proud of…

  • Pride comes from the story we tell ourselves about how we created something in the circumstances we were in


Thank you for reading!    

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Sincerely,

Justin