Do The Unscalable Things

A Paul Graham Remix

Sup nerds, you're reading Cyber Patterns alongside 7,670+ people.

If you want to become a better content strategist, subscribe below for free posts every Sunday:

How one memelord made $1 million:

How do you make $1 million from a meme account?

On Wednesday, I’m publishing an exclusive interview with a millionaire memelord.

If you want to learn how to start, scale, and monetize a meme account ASAP, get access here:

Ok onto today’s piece!

People ask me what AI software I use to send cold DMs.

It’s called NI. Natural Intelligence. I’ve never responded to an AI-written cold message so why the hell would I send one? All NI. All naturale baby.

In the quest to build a massive empire, you’re going to need to do a lot of unscalable things. Not everything can be automated. In the words of Paul Graham, “do things that don’t scale”.

Or as my stepdad Jeff used to tell me when I was a teenager being a bum, “Stop being lazy! Suck it up chili-dog!” It's been 10 years and I still don't know why he called me a chili-dog, but he’s right, sometimes you just need to suck it up and do the boring thing that doesn’t feel scalable.

If you didn't watch the video (you should, it's cool af), then you missed this banger quote by Paul Graham, founder of startup accelerator Y Combinator.

“A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don't. You build something, make it available, and if you've made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised. Or they don't, in which case the market must not exist. Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off.

The most successful founders I've seen talk to their users. Like really talk. Not just have a Calendly call once and never talk to them again.

The best example I can think of is Beehiiv, the newsletter platform I use to send Cyber Patterns. I joined almost two years ago because the founder Tyler Denk convinced me in the DMs. We DM about product ideas probably 1x/week.

My friend Nick posted a meme about Beehiiv last week (see below). Anytime someone asks about newsletters—even if they have like 100 followers—, it seems magically the Beehiiv team is there dropping comments. It's impressive as hell. The product is dope, but the team is the reason why Beehiiv just hit $4M ARR. They willed $4M ARR into existence by doing unscalable things like DMing and dropping comments for potential users.

Beehiiv blew up because the team willed it into existence.

Well, the same is true for creators who blow up.

Sending a cold DM by hand isn’t scalable. But you send a few cold DMs every day for 2 years, that’s 1,000+ people. In a relatively short time, you have a huge network of friends and supporters. Now imagine you do that for 10 years and that’s where you see the social media legends with 300,000+ followers who it feels like they know everyone.

Responding to readers isn’t scalable. But I respond to every email from readers. One reader and I go back and forth emailing about music every few days. Another reader asked me about meme-making tools and I gave him some of my best tools. If you respond to every reader, you eventually have a lot of genuine deep 1-to-1 relationships with your readers.

Meeting people 1-on-1 isn’t scalable. But jeez, it builds so much better relationships. I will always prefer individual hangouts over group hangouts—so much deeper conversations. Over enough 1-on-1 hangouts with people, you have a network of people with deep relationships.

The cool thing about these unscalable things is that eventually by doing them enough, you will hit a certain scale. You'll have a bunch of friends and supporters across the globe. Hell yeah.

BUT, here's the big "BUT" for this essay.

There is a certain beauty in scalable things.

You need a healthy balance of scalable and unscalable things.

Don't let this essay stop you from trying to go viral and hit scale.

I'm not saying that at all.

Going viral is great for getting new fans and making money. I encourage you to work your ass off to try to go viral. You have my blessing to spend serious time and money trying to go viral. It can pay off big time.

But know this: going viral is like a 1-night stand. There will be a lot of people who like your post, follow you, and then never talk to you or engage with your work again. It’s fun but kinda emotionally draining not gonna lie haha.

Internet fame—however brief—is often very parasocial. 17 million people are seeing your face, you know about 10 of them. People will quote-tweet you like they know you, but you've never seen them in your lives and never will again. Some of these people will subscribe to your blog or buy your products, but most won't buy anything from you—they’re a quick 1-night stand happy to get their dopamine and leave. The problem is simple: going viral forms a lot of relationships, but not deep 2-sided relationships.

The solution: do a healthy mix of scalable and unscalable things.

While I encourage you to go viral, let this post be a reminder reminder not to forget about the unscalable things.

While doing things that don’t scale may not feel like the dopamine shot to the brain of going viral, they will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside—plus if you’re like Beehiiv, they might make you a lot of money.

No matter how many followers you have or how rich or famous you are, you're not too cool or wealthy to do things that don't scale. Hell, MrBeast sends cold DMs to people he thinks are cool and asks to hop on the phone and talk to them for hours. Hey MrBeast uhhh my DMs are open.

Cool Shit Corner

3 links to help you create more cool shit:

📘 I just read Seth Rogen’s autobiography Yearbook. I was laughing so hard I woke up my fiancée (and my dog).

✍🏻 I run my entire newsletter and website off Beehiiv. No doubt, the best newsletter platform in the world.

🎥 How does Shazam work? What about greens screens? Movie nerds, subscribe to Hollywood Tech Nerds for weekly deep dives.

Memes of the Week

Thanks for reading nerds.

Create some cool shit this week.

Jason Levin

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

🤖 Check out my strategy guides here.

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

📘 Check out my book on meme marketing Memes Make Millions

Until next edition, see you on Twitter and LinkedIn.