The Best of David Perell: Big Ideas From His Last 3,000 Tweets

Dear Everybody,

David Perell is building a writing empire.

He’s also prolific on Twitter. In the past six months he’s tweeted 3,000 times.

I took every one of those tweets, combined them together in one document, and organized the major concepts. Then I distilled the content from 320 pages to ten. The result is a summary of his big ideas — and these are the biggest:

  • Write before you're an expert on a subject

  • Write to become an expert on a subject

  • Share the best of what you’re learning

I focused on David’s writing content, and the ideas naturally broke into three parts:

  1. Writing philosophy

  2. Writing tips

  3. Quotes about writing (and other topics)


PART ONE: WRITING PHILOSOPHY


Write online…

  • The internet rewards people who are prolific

  • The internet rewards people who think well

  • The internet rewards people who are different

  • The internet rewards people who are domain experts

  • The internet rewards people who are curious and ambitious

  • The internet rewards people with big audiences

Write online…

  • It’s the seed of entrepreneurship

  • It’s one of the world’s biggest arbitrage opportunities

  • It’s how you show curiosity, commitment, and diligence

  • It’s how you get compound interest on your ideas

Write online…

  • Shrink the world

  • Attract like-minded people

  • Build your network

Write online…

  • Share what you’re learning

  • Find the courage to publish

  • Build an asset few have

  • Create your own serendipity


Take notes…

  • Stand out

  • Write fast

  • Write better

Build a note-taking system…

  • Manufacture an arsenal of ideas

  • Become prolific

  • Keep it messy (breed serendipity)

Write everyday…

  • It’s a serendipity vehicle

  • It makes you a better observer

  • People give you their attention

  • A massive audience is waiting for you

Write everyday…

  • Write down your epiphanies

  • Choose topics no one is writing about

  • Build a Colosseum of Ideas

  • Make ideas building blocks (which you can put into different arrangements)

Write summaries and long-form essays…

  • Learn fast

  • Sharpen thinking

  • Attract curious people

  • Attract smart readers

  • Receive interesting emails


Build an audience…

  • Help people

  • Teach people

  • Entertain people

Build an audience…

  • Open source your workflow

  • Create an online home

  • Gain a cheat code for life

Build an audience…

  • Then build a product…then scale with software

Build a personal website…

  • It’s your resume

  • It’s your store

  • It’s your museum

Be differentiated…

  • Find your unique obsession

  • Be known for something

  • Be the only person who does what you do

  • Build a personal monopoly (a unique set of skills)

  • Use that monopoly to teach


Be a conscious consumer…

  • The best content is getting better

  • Have self-control in a world of abundance (learn to surf the waves)

  • Ignore daily news (it limits your rate of learning)

  • Skip newspapers (read books instead)

  • Read old books (tech changes, principles stay the same)

  • Obsess over your favorite writers (read their best books twice)


In general…

  • Make things (to learn faster)

  • Read outside your industry (think originally)

  • Learn from great teachers (not experts)

  • Make yourself lucky (create value, tell people about it)

  • Make creative space (if you want to make things)

  • Study creators (watch how ideas spread)

  • Don’t be original (build on the ideas of others)

  • Curate (good taste is a business model)

  • Compete against history (not people)

  • Be anti-mimetic (copy people who don’t copy people)

  • Forget scale (find your tribe)

  • Put practice first (and theory second)

  • Focus (the greats obsess over problems for years)

  • Use your free time (acquire skills and build an online business)

  • Measure outcomes (to improve outcomes)


PART TWO: WRITING TIPS


  • Write about what you’re excited about

  • Write for an audience

  • Write for clarity (not to impress people)

  • Write to express (not to impress)

  • Write for wit (only after writing for clarity)

  • Write fast (algorithms reward people who are prolific)

  • Write casually (like you’re talking to a friend)

  • Write like you’re sending an important text message 

  • Write to give your reader an epiphany every 100 words

  • Write to make your reader smarter (give as much insight in as few words as possible)


  • Focus on one idea (one idea per sentence, per paragraph, per essay)

  • Reduce your message and make it fun (Steve Pressfield)

  • Shorten your introduction (get to the point)

  • Cut the fluff (cut to the chase)

  • Delete superfluous words (treat every word like it’s on trial for its life)

  • Delete sentences that bore your reader

  • Shorten your sentences (more periods, fewer commas)


  • Use simpler words

  • Avoid redundant, wasted, and weak words

  • Use analogies when possible

  • Add metaphors (make concepts concrete)

  • Add sound (bang, bash, clack, clang…)


Writing online 101

List #1

  1. Pick an important topic people are confused about

  2. Summarize it

  3. Make your ideas easy to understand by removing all jargon

List #2

  1. Streamline your message. Pare it down to its clearest, easiest-to-understand form

  2. Make your writing fun, playful, scary, suspenseful, or educational

  3. Make your writing so compelling that a person would have to be crazy NOT to read it

List #3

  1. Build your audience by teaching

  2. Publish every week

  3. Write on your own website

  4. Write about what excites you

  5. Share your best ideas

  6. Aim to write unlike anybody else

  7. The Internet rewards clarity

  8. Turn off the Internet when you write

List #4

  1. Writing will help you crystalize your ideas

  2. Writing online is a process of discovery

  3. Writing online will help you find business partners

  4. Writing online is the essence of entrepreneurship

  5. Writing online teaches you the basics of digital marketing

  6. Writing online will force you to show up, even when you don't feel like it

  7. Writing online will teach you to own your audience

  8. Writing online will improve your business plan.

  9. Writing online will accelerate your learning

  10. Writing online will help you pick a market

List #5 (Business Writing)

  • Shorten your sentences

  • Make your point fast

  • Shorten the introduction

  • Use simple words

  • Add graphs and statistics

  • No buzzwords

  • Use more periods, fewer commas

  • Write for skimming, not deep reading

  • Bold the main takeaways


Make your writing CLEAR

  1. Connect to the previous sentence

  2. Link to the following sentence

  3. Eliminate anything that adds confusion

  4. Add colorful details.

  5. Remove unnecessary words.


Make your writing pop

  1. Personal: Write about stories and experiences

  2. Observational: Write about hidden truths

  3. Playful: Make your writing fun with puns and jokes


Write more clearly

  1. Examples: Abstract concepts are hard to follow, but examples make them real

  2. Metaphors: Make your ideas come to life by comparing them to something else

  3. Specifics: Add statistics, colorful words, and precise descriptions


Good writing is strong, smooth, and specific

  1. Strong: Be bold. Try to avoid qualifying words like “usually” and “maybe.”

  2. Smooth: Make your reader's life easy. Writing clearly lets you communicate difficult ideas.

  3. Specific: Explain ideas with stories, statistics, and examples.


Start by writing down five things

  1. A one-sentence summary

  2. First sentence

  3. Opening message

  4. Concluding message

  5. Last sentence


Three steps to improve your writing

  1. Write for 60 minutes every day

  2. Publish one article every week

  3. Listen to feedback


Be more precise

  • Back up your claims with statistics

  • Use colorful adjectives

  • Support your main point with specific stories and examples.


Improve your writing with repetition…

  • Improve it with fresh ideas, improve it with obsessive editing, and improve it with words that make you smile.

  • But save this trick for a special moment — when you really need to make a point.


Writing tips from Elmore Leonard

  • Delete the parts readers tend to skip

  • Cut exclamation points

  • Avoid prologues

  • Shorten your paragraphs

  • Keep the flow of your story moving

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.


PART THREE: QUOTES, CURATED


Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind.

-Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride 

To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.

-Henry Kissinger

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

-Bertrand Russell

When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.

-Rober Pirsig

If you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter how great they are, thus the huge importance of getting better at crafts like writing and public speaking.

-Jim OShaughnessy

The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.

-Zadie Smith

To become a better writer, I first had to become a better person.

-John Kaag

If you wish you would take something more seriously, do it publicly.

-James Clear


Your biggest enemy is a day spent not writing, not a day spent writing too little.

-Tyler Cowen

The coolest people I meet are the ones who find me through something I’ve written.

-James Clear

Almost all successful rewriting involves moving closer to just calling a spade a spade.

-Alain de Botton

The cheapest leverage most people have access to is their ability to write.

-Nic Carter

Conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music.

-Robert McKee

Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity - stay home, don't go to events/conferences, and just put ideas down.

-Andrew Chen

Good communication is the ability to say the most stuff in the fewest words.

-Morgan Housel

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

-Bertrand Russell

Good writing is full of wonder; it marvels at the glory and stupidity and frustration and pain and beauty of being alive.

-Jason Zweig

If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.

-George Orwell

Keep in mind that you want to write in the same voice you'd use if you and I were in a bar having a chat.

-Morgan Housel

Writing is nature's way of telling us how lousy our thinking is.

-Leslie Lamport

When differentiation happens for the sake of popularity, it converges.

-Luca Dellanna

We are living in space-age times with people who are living with Stone Age minds.

-Daryl Davis

The real problem with humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.

-E.O Wilson

If you want to know what a given society believes in, look at what its largest buildings are devoted to.

-Joseph Campbell

We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours but very little of the last sixty centuries or the last sixty years.

-Bill Moyers

To follow an idea seriously, you must constantly pause to consider all possibilities, which takes time and care.

-Francois Chollet

The most powerful money-makers are individual brands.

-Naval Ravikant

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It's the democracy of the dead.

-G.K. Chesterton

The dead outnumber the living 14-to-1, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.

-Niall Ferguson

Building, owning (and possibly someday selling) a profitable remote software business is the new American Dream.

-Tyler Tringas

An empty white page is the world’s best mirror.

-Andrew Chen

We are blind to the complacency that passes for ambition in modern society.

-John O'Donahue

Stripe CEO Patrick Collision ends meetings by asking two questions:

1) Is this the most ambitious plan you could come up with?

2) What would you propose if you had unlimited resources?


The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.

-Marc Andreessen

You can always re-write it. You can change it. That's the great luxury of being a writer. We're not surgeons. The world does not hold us to our first pass.

-Malcolm Gladwell

First we shape our tools. Then our tools shape us.

-Marshall McLuhan

An army of robots is freely available - it's just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency. Use it.

-Naval Ravikant

When you write something and put it out into the world, what you’re actually doing is eliciting feedback, critique, and agreement.

-Anthony Pompliano

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.

-Alfred Whitehead

What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.

-Carl Sagan

I have no rancor against lawyers, financiers or management consultants, but the pursuit of these careers seems like a misallocation of human creativity.

-Tyler Cowen

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

-Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)

By giving away useful information, you will attract readers — and get them to trust you — because you’ve helped them so much.

-Nathan Barry

The returns to writing online right now have never been higher and are only going to get better. Now is the time to do this. Every good thing that's ever happened to me in my career has come from writing online.

-Alex Danco

A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: early death, a bad marriage, etc.

-Charlie Munger

Anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in. 

-Jeff Bezos

The test of a first-rate intellect is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

-E.L. Doctorow

We are blind to the complacency that passes for ambition in modern society.

-John O’Donohue

Write with blood.

-Nietzche

It is easier to feel than to realize, or in any way explain, Yosemite grandeur. The magnitudes of the rocks and trees and streams are so delicately harmonized, they are mostly hidden.

-John Muir

Tis easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it.

-Ben Franklin

It's easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.

-Clayton Christensen

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

-Carl Jung

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

-Buddhaghosa

It is remarkable how much long-term advantage we have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.

-Charlie Munger

Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.

-David McCollough

Books are like love, simultaneously overrated and underrated.

-Thibaut (@Kpaxs)

Getting good at communication—particularly written communication—is an investment worth making. My best advice for communicating clearly is to first make sure your thinking is clear and then use plain, concise language.

-Sam Altman

Bonus (Baker’s Dozen…)


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Sincerely, 

Justin