Monetize Your Dopamine Addiction

inside the dopamine economy

Sup nerds, you're reading Cyber Patterns.  If you want to join 1,080 internet hustlers, dreamers, and builders learning the patterns driving internet success, subscribe below. 

I can also be found writing about internet patterns on Twitter and LinkedIn

Today's Cyber Patterns is brought to you by Sweat Equity.

Every week, Austin Schlessinger shares his personal journey of building wealth and fitness as a 24 year old. Austin's writing has been recognized by founders like John Foley (Peloton), Will Ahmed (Whoop), and many more über-smart people.  

Austin is a beast at the gym and on Twitter (he taught me how to write viral threads when he went on my podcast).  I wouldn't be recommending his work unless I thought you'd learn something from it.  Sign up here.

Now on to your regularly scheduled programming.

Social Media Engagement Laboratory

I'm happily addicted to Twitter, but sometimes I wonder if I'm as deluded as an alcoholic bartender.  Just kidding.  I'm monetizing my dopamine addiction and loving every second.

We all know social media overloads our dopamine receptors.  So yes, that is what I mean by dopamine monetization — making money off your social media addiction.  But, I'm also referring to making money off the dopamine addiction you have for normal fun stuff like writing, surfing, or yoga.  

For every fun skill or activity, there's someone willing to pay you if you're good enough.  But, when you grow up hearing that your favorite activity won't ever make you money, it can be terrifying to try to make that your career.  

Monetizing your dopamine addiction is not a new concept.  We just live in the best time ever to do it thanks to the internet.  Variant Fund co-founder Li Jin calls this market "the passion economy".   More people can get paid doing what they love.

While it sounds difficult, getting to the point where you can monetize your dopamine addiction follows a very simple path. 

  1. Participate in fun activity

  2. Get good enough at activity or acquire enough knowledge about activity

  3. Get paid for doing fun activity or sharing knowledge you love to talk about

A few hypotheticals. Cassie is a Twitter addict who gets good enough at tweeting she gets paid to tweet.  Joe is a gym rat who spends enough time in the gym he gets paid to train others.  Hunter is a pothead who smokes enough weed he starts selling it. 

A few real examples. My mom was good enough at piano she taught piano as a teenager. My friend Mickey knew enough about soccer to get a job coaching kids' soccer. I smoked enough weed in college I sold it for a summer. 

As you can see, the key word is enough.  To become a pro dopamine monetizer, you need to just get good enough to get paid. 

Fortunately, I was a terrible weed dealer (I smoked too much of my own supply).  My buddy Mickey isn't a great soccer player, but he's a lifelong fan and knew enough to get paid coaching.  The point is you may not even realize it, but you're probably already good enough (or close to) at something you love to get paid doing something related to it. 

Going Pro

By going pro, I don't mean making millions.  I mean maybe in the long run, but the start of going professional is a lot of shit sandwiches.  Then, you eat Philly cheesesteaks and maybe one day if things are dope, you'll have some reubens or meatball subs or whatever.

At some point while doing an activity for free, you'll have the decision whether or not you want to try to go pro.   Usually, this means offering your skills online.  But, sometimes it just happens when someone asks to pay you for your dopamine thing.  Note: if people are repeatedly asking to pay you for something, you have product-market fit.

In either scenario, you'll have a decision: do you want to monetize your dopamine addiction?  Nobody becomes a professional on accident.  Sometimes, it looks like it from the outside, but there's typically a strategy below the surface. 

At first, you'll get paid like shit. But, you'll be getting paid like shit for something you love and something people told you will never make you any money. It's a wonderful feeling. At some point, you'll get paid well.  The amateur goes for cheap dopamine hits.  They'll act morally superior and say, "I don't want to ruin my passion by adding money into it".  The professional puts their head down and gets the fucking money. 

"People say the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his 'real' vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time." 

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The amateur doesn't mind if their silly side project flops.  The professional pays their bills through their "silly" side projects. "The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it's his vocation," Steven Pressfield writes in The War of Art.

Here's what Pressfield's friend said about him in the prologue. "Steven Pressfield is the very definition of a pro. I know this because I can't count the times I called the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance to invite him for a round of golf, and although tempted, he declined."  I hope my friends say this about me.

As my friend Jack Raines wrote in Dopamine, "the opportunity cost of dopamine is the meaningful progress not made as a result."  Translated, the cost of quick dopamine hits like golf or tv means you won't make progress on your real drivers of happiness.  For most people, this means working towards a goal.

When I spend 2 hours straight working on airplane mode, I feel content with the world —.  like I'm on a fucking cloud.  This leads me to believe that contentment comes from sacrificing quick dopamine hits for work. The internet's million cheap dopamine hits are obstacles towards achieving other more meaningful chemical hits.

Chemical Warfare

My entire psych education was 2 classes and playing beer pong one time with Sigmund Freud's great-granddaughter, so here goes nothing.  

Dopamine is the "feel good" hormone that plays a role in happiness, pleasure, and rewards.  Endorphins often come through exercise and help you overcome stress.  Oxytocin is what you get from socializing, sex, and playing with puppies.

Anytime you're going for quick dopamine, you're pushing back 2 things: 

  1. Dopamine created from achieving long-term goals

  2. Endorphins from exercising or oxytocin from socializing

I'm not saying you won't get those things.  I'm just saying you'll delay them for cheap dopamine hits from scrolling Twitter, watching porn, or playing video games.  These aren't inherently bad things, but they'll get you hooked and distracted.  

If you're an internet-native, it's impossible to cut cheap dopamine.  Checking social media is part of the job.  If you can't cut it, you might as well monetize it. When you're working on your internet dreams, remember a little something from the Wu-Tang Clan.

D.R.E.A.M. Dopamine Rules Everything Around Me

There is an entire economy waiting to buy whatever gives you dopamine.  Why?  Because it gives their brand some chemical — often dopamine.

This week, I spoke with Brandon Zhang.  I took his Twitter supergrowth course in November and hit 10,000+ followers in July.  He's helped grow Visualize Value, OnDeck, and now works with Maven.  It's a free 20 min of wisdom. 

Check it out on Spotify and Apple.