Mafia or Mercenary

Which are you?

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You can find me tweeting strategies, hacks, and Sopranos memes @iamjasonlevin. Twitter savages, read below.

Want to go viral on Twitter? 🐦

I went viral this week. 1 thread, 12M views, 60k favorites, 10k RTs.

The thread-starter is the most important part. That’s how you hook them.

That’s why I’m posting a database of 25 Twitter thread-starters in 48 hours.

Whatever topic you’re writing about, you can use these hooks as formulas to catch attention. I’ll be updating the database whenever I find cool new hooks.

Starting a company is like starting a mafia.

The early members of PayPal are known as the PayPal mafia. Elon Musk. Peter Thiel. Reid Hoffman. David Sacks.

The PayPal mafia is the most famous mafia in Silicon Valley — so famous I interviewed the author of a book about the PayPal mafia this week — but there are tons of other mafias. It’s very easy to spot on Twitter.

Everyone who works at Andreessen Horowitz has @a16z in their bio. Every writer at Morning Brew has a coffee cup (☕️) in their name. Everyone who works at Workweek has a yellow background in their profile picture.

It’s quite tempting to join a mafia. Two years ago, I applied to both Morning Brew and Workweek hoping to join their mafias. I was rejected. Out of necessity, I started freelance writing for startups. Now, I have no desire to join a mafia — I’m a happy, well-paid mercenary slowly building up my own mafia.

If you’re early in your career, I hope this post helps you figure out what’s right for you. Join a mafia, start a mafia, or be a mercenary?

What are the benefits to joining a mafia?

  • You feel a warm and fuzzy feeling of being part of a team

  • You get support from your mafia (retweets, help on projects, etc.)

  • You leverage your mafia’s social capital (respect)

  • You get paid well and there are opportunities for promotions

  • There is a mafia alumni group

What are the drawbacks to joining a mafia?

  • You can get whacked (fired)

  • Your upside is limited and shared with others

  • Your freedom is limited; the mafia owns your time

  • If your mafia goes down, you go down with it (i.e. FTX)

The benefits of joining a mafia are very real. “When you join a team, you can pay less attention to the inner work of handling uncertainty because you’re in a legible role and see as on a stable path,” Paul Millerd, author of The Pathless Path, told me. He’s 100% right.

While my thead was a joke with a bunch of Sopranos memes, there was in fact a deeper theme that some people picked up on. Loneliness is a struggle in today’s world, and being in a group of people with shared goals is very helpful. There are similar benefits to starting your own mafia.

What are the benefits of starting a mafia?

  • You’re the head boss aka Tony Soprano

  • You get respect

  • You make the most money

  • You get the most fame (i.e. Marc Andreessen)

  • Your mafia will retweet and share all your work (i.e. everyone at a16z shared Marc Andreessen’s latest essay).

What are the drawbacks of starting a mafia?

  • You can get whacked (coup d’état)

  • People are dependent on you

  • It’s a shitload of work and stress

  • You have the most to lose

Which gives us another option.

Being a freelancer is like being a mercenary.

When you’re solo, you lose the safety net of a mafia. You are not a made man.

You work for different mafia heads and warlords, but your loyalty remains with yourself. Your clients understand this. Mercenaries are useful — and don’t demand as much as a mafia member (equity, benefits, etc.).

And yes, you as a mercenary may have subcontractors (i.e. virtual assistant) that work for you, but they are not loyal to you — and you are OK with that because you have the same mindset. There is a mutual understanding.

You are on your own — which means your upside and downsides are infinite. This can be a blessing or a curse. For me, it’s been the ultimate blessing, but I know many mercenaries who are struggling.

What are the benefits to being a mercenary?

  • You choose hours and how much you want to work

  • You can work for multiple warlords and mafias

  • You can typically work from anywhere

  • The upside is unlimited ($$$)

What are the drawbacks to being a mercenary?

  • No warm and fuzzy feelings of full-time employees

  • No stock options or equity

  • No healthcare or benefits

  • You can get fired very easily (no HR to save you)

  • The downside means living in Mom’s basement

For someone who wants as much control over their own destiny as possible, then going the mercenary route is the move.

“Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think,” writes Ayn Rand. As a mercenary, you are responsible for your winnings, no one else.

Are you up for the challenge?

Or do I need to make you an offer you can’t refuse?

Creators Corner

Every week, I curate 3 resources to help you create more cool shit:

🎙 Today’s podcast is an interview with the author of a book about the PayPal mafia! Now you see why I wrote that thread about the mafia lol!

🎥 Imagine if you could upload video and you could edit the video by deleting words in the transcription. Descript does this. I feel like a 10x video editor.

🐦 If you missed Wednesday’s post, here’s my Twitter Growth Hacking Guide. Premium members only.

Thanks for reading nerds.

Create some cool shit this week.

Jason Levin

P.S. Want to really upgrade your content strategy?

😂 Check out my book on meme marketing Memes Make Millions.

📞 If you want 1:1 advice on your content strategy, book a call with me.

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Until next edition, see you on Twitter and LinkedIn.