Smart Threads and Dumb Memes | Trung Phan on Infinite Loops with Jim O’Shaughnessy

Check out the Infinite Loops episode page

Key Takeaways

  • “I kind of look at Twitter as performance art, I find people who are very literal have a very hard time. The magic happens when you’re smart, funny, and entertaining.” – Jim O’Shaughnessy
    • Jim believes that Trung is the ‘posterchild’ for the Twitter success equation
  • There are few things with greater asymmetric returns than creating on the internet
    • The upside potential is so much greater than the downside risk
    • The ability to build your own audience on your own terms is killing gatekeepers everywhere
  • Advice to young creators: continue reading for details on these bullet points:
    • Leverage optionality, leave doors open
    • Just start, you don’t have to know exactly where you’re going
    • Learn how to shamelessly build an audience
    • Always sprinkle in humor
  • Nobody is thinking about you the way you think about yourself
    • People are almost always thinking about what they’re going to say next rather than listening to you
  • “People don’t have ideas. Ideas have people.” – Trung Phan quoting Carl Jung
    • This is the greatest explanation for memes
  • Worldly point of views can be entirely opposite to that of the United States, but completely valid given life context
    • If you have the opportunity to travel—DO IT!
  • Continue reading to see some examples of Trung Phan’s awesome Twitted threads, highlights include:
    • How Steve Jobs leveraged Pablo Picasso
    • That time Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos had dinner
    • Why Ted Lasso is so likable
    • And more!

Intro

  • Trung T. Phan (@TrungTPhan) is a creator in the tech, business, and media space. He also co-hosts the “Not Investment Advice” podcast and writes for Bloomberg Opinion. Check out his Twitter account for—you guessed it—smart threads and dumb memes!
  • Jim & Trung discuss what it takes to be a successful content creator, how his career functions on smart threads and dumb memes, and why traveling is essential.
  • Host: Jim O’Shaughnessy (@jposhaughnessy)

Key Books Mentioned

Who is Trung Phan?

  • Parents were Vietnamese refugees that immigrated to Canada – “They’ve got a way crazier story than me” – Trung Phan
  • Trung dropped out of pre-med to the disappointment of his parents and moved to Vietnam (he was born and raised in Canada) to live a party lifestyle—but eventually got more serious about his career path
  • Began his CFA and at the same time wrote a comedy film script that he sold to FOX
    • This is the origins of his twitter account: equal parts business and shit-posting

Twitter & Content Creation

  • “I kind of look at Twitter as performance art, I find that people who are very literal have a very hard time. The magic happens when you’re smart, funny, and entertaining.” – Jim O’Shaughnessy
    • Jim believes that Trung is the ‘posterchild’ for the Twitter success equation
    • Talent Stacking – every complimentary talent you develop doubles your chances of success
  • All of Trung’s content is humor first
    • “I only want a big audience so I can do more memes” – Trung Phan
  • Twitter is a continuum of anxiety
    • When you have no followers, you’re worried no one is going to read your tweets. When you have thousands of followers, you’re worried that everyone is going to see your content and hate it.
    • You can’t be a creator if you can’t handle this
  • There are few things with greater asymmetric returns than creating on the internet
    • The upside potential is so much greater than the downside risk
    • The ability to build your own audience on your own terms is killing gatekeepers everywhere

Advice to Young Creators

  • Leverage optionality. You don’t have to go all-in right away, start as a side-hustle. And start anonymously if you feel it could negatively affect your alternative career paths.
  • Just start. You don’t have to have a full business plan right away. The decision-making part of your brain isn’t fully developed until your later 20s anyway, so it’s OK to not know exactly what you want from your content!
  • Learn how to build an audience. There is no shame in self-promotion in the content game. Love what you do and tell people.
  • Sprinkle in humor. Consumers don’t have the attention span for cut & dry information.

The Power of Memes

  • Memes are cultural transmission that can be easily consumed and understood
    • Memes have been a form of communication for thousands of years by this definition
  • “People don’t have ideas. Ideas have people.” – Trung Phan quoting Carl Jung
    • This is the greatest explanation for memes

Discussed Trung Phan Twitter Threads

  • “Steve Jobs famously said innovation is ‘saying no to 1000 things’ before you say yes. For more than a decade, Apple has used Pablo Picasso’s Bull to drive home the lesson. Here’s a breakdown 🧵” see full thread
    • This was Apple’s procedural code of conduct for product creation – ask what the fundamental job of this product is and abstract away the nonsense from there.
  • “In 2004, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos met for a meal to discuss space. It was one of their few in-person interactions. That conversation perfectly captures the different approaches they’ve taken to space (and why SpaceX has pulled ahead of Blue Origin). Here’s the story 🧵” see the full thread
    • Elon tried to warn Jeff Bezos that he didn’t understand rocket architecture and that he was barking up the wrong tree
    • Their approaches and mission statements are entirely different
  • “There’s a communications technique called “Public Narrative”. Created by a Harvard prof, it has influenced leading politicians (Obama) and business people (Bezos). Once you learn it, you see it everywhere…like in Vlad Tenev’s GameStop speech. Let me explain 🧵” see full thread
    • So many speeches start with a personal story, then the story of us, and followed by the call to action
  • “Ted Lasso is amazing. I re-watched the pilot episode w/ my Hollywood screenwriter friend. He explained to me frame-by-frame how quickly the writers make us love Lasso…incredibly, it only takes 157 seconds. Thread 👇👇👇” see full thread
    • Show, don’t tell: The main characters are perfectly put in a position to constantly make impactful decisions, creating an immediate emotional connection

Other Social Media Notes

  • Twitter Threads: Threads are currently a key growth hack on Twitter, but the algorithm could be deprioritizing them due to a long-form essay feature coming out soon.
  • LinkedIn has a huge content deficit: They are begging people to take their money and create on their platform. Find the arbitrage in the market.

Nobody is Thinking About You

  • Nobody is thinking about you the way you think about yourself
    • People are almost always thinking about what they’re going to say next rather than listening to you
    • Reference point: Think about a memory from last week—the details are probably pretty fuzzy. Well, that fuzzy memory is how most people observe real-life interactions. That word you said or weird movement you made is already beyond their memory.

The Benefit of Traveling

  • Travelling allows you to ask questions that you would otherwise not ask
    • Example: Donald Trump was very popular in SE Asia, because he stood up to China. Would you have ever asked that question if you’d never visited?
    • Another example: There are portraits of George W. Bush everywhere in Kenya because he provided free HIV drugs to Africa.
  • Worldly point of views can be entirely opposite to that of the United States, but completely valid given life context
    • History is not black and white

Other Comments

  • “If you’re in the lead, you can’t be complacent” – Trung Phan
  • ‘All things being equal’ is a weird phrase because things are never equal
  • Plato is the best marketer in the world, he invented the endowment model
Infinite Loops : , , , , , , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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