Leveraging the Network Effect to Get Your Piece of the Pie


Do you struggle to get your voice heard?

Maybe you’ve got a great concept or a fantastic product? Perhaps you wrote an epic novel and nobody noticed? You look around and it seems like millions of terrible ideas are blowing up like nitro while the project you slaved over night and day is going nowhere fast.

I’m betting you tried to fix that a few ways. You probably heard about some marketing guru’s twelve step plan to make you incredibly rich. You watched the teaser and loved it! You ponied up the cash and leapt into the program head first. It felt like you’d finally found the answers. This is it! Breakout time. You were on the rocket to success. You poured money into mailing list building and social media advertising ready for the inevitable explosion of new sales and followers!

And it didn’t happen.

A few months later you woke up and had to face a hard truth. You were right back where you started.


I’ve been there. It sucks.

And then I found a way out.

I know what you’re thinking. Here comes the marketing pitch. You’re probably expecting me to tell you all about my super easy success system that you can buy for the low, low price of a brand new car. Here’s the thing though, I don’t have a marketing program to sell you, or a weekend retreat or a book on 30 Days to Getting Noticed in a Noisy World.

Instead I have something else entirely: I’m just going to give you what I’ve discovered for free. Use it however you like. Or don’t. Up to you.

So how do you get a bunch of people to listen when nobody seems to care?

The answer will surprise you.

Who the Hell Are You Anyway?

You’re probably wondering who the hell am I to be talking about this anyway. It’s true I’m not a household name — yet. I don’t have as many followers as the blockbuster kings of Medium like Benjamin Hardy and Gary V.

But I’ve gone from no followers to 6000, expanded my mailing list by thousands of folks, added 900 people to my personal fan group, and brought in 1,600 people to a chat space that I run about cryptocurrencies. All in just two months. I’ve been offered all-expenses paid speaking engagements, new jobs and new opportunities almost daily. I’ve had a top twenty most recommended story on Medium three times in as many weeks. I’m a top writer in Bitcoin and Economics and I’ve held that spot for AI too.

I did all that without spending a dime on advertising. I barely promote any of my stories either. Other folks are kind enough to do it for me. Every day people tweet my stories hundreds of times or share them on Facebook and other social media platforms I’ve never even heard of until I saw their referral stats.

I’ve also been lucky enough that amazing people are coming to me to chat, rather than me having to go to them. Over the last few months I’ve had some incredible conversations with a whole spectrum of luminaries, including some of the folks that inspired Bitcoin, an economic adviser to a former president, a number of big name authors, and several mega successful venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, as well as some of the top tech people in the world.

And I have to say, after years of shouting into the wind, it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.

I still have a way to go, but the difference is, now I know how to get there. And I wanted to share that with you.

The Giving Tree

The first thing you’ll want to know is that there’s two types of value:

  • Internal/Intrinsic
  • External/Perceived

The first kind can’t be faked. You can’t cheat your way to it. There’s only one way to build intrinsic value:

Hard work.

If you’re a writer, that means banging at the keyboard every single day. It means finding a way to do it no matter what, even if that means you have to sacrifice time with friends and family, or going out, or TV, the Internet, and more. In fact, you will have to sacrifice those things. There’s no way around it.

Steven Pressfield calls it “doing the work.” That’s all there is to it, but it’s the hardest thing in the world.

It’s a long, frustrating journey, with many false starts and utterly crushing blows that will make you want to quit and never do the thing you love ever again. You have to fight your way through a thousand illusions and painful realizations that you just aren’t as good as you thought you were and that’s why nobody gives a damn. You have to get better. The first time you fail and nobody buys your product or your book or your music it hurts like a thousand needles in your heart.

But if you keep fighting, keep going, keep finding a way to get back in the ring, eventually you’ll develop real value, something that can’t be faked, something that nobody can ever take away from you.

You’ll begin to see through the illusions and you’ll see life clearly as it is, instead of how you imagine it to be. And then you can really get started on building a product people actually need, or writing a book that folks want to devour in one sitting, or making music that holds the potential to pack a club to the bursting point.

And when you get there, you’ll know. You won’t need anyone to tell you anymore. You’ll know you’re good at what you do, because you’ve done the work and your internal compass now guides you.

But now you’ve got another problem.

How do you get anyone to notice?

A Problem of Pie

The first thing you’ll learn at this stage is that once again you’re a novice. You’ve done all the hard work to build your intrinsic value but you don’t know a freaking thing about building external/perceived value. You’re a white belt again.

That’s another crushing blow. It’s very hard to face the fact that even though you’re an expert in one area of life, you’re a hopeless noob in another. Just remember the opening line of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

It means you’re starting from scratch and everything you’ve learned about building your craft is worthless in this sphere. You’re starting over.

Your first instinct will be to shout at the top of your lungs: “Notice me. Notice me. Please look at my stuff.”

You’ll tweet your product over and over but nobody retweets it. You’ll post about it on Facebook to the roaring sound of crickets.

Maybe then you’ll bug a famous person to look at your work, only to find they give you the cold shoulder.

After that you’ll probably start pouring money into advertising, hoping that if you can just get people to click on something, they’ll care. But the odds are stacked against you. For every person who made their way through advertising, a thousand more failed to reach critical mass.

But there is an easier way. I call it leveraging the network effect.

You don’t need to get better at shouting louder than everyone or making the best and flashiest ad. What you need to do is simple:

You need to understand the nature of pie.

The Meaning of Pie

No, I’m not talking about the mysterious number Pi.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor pi

I’m talking about pie, the kind your grandma used to leave cooling on the window during those hot summer days so long ago, its steam curling right into your nose and making you dream of that first mouthwatering bite.

That pie has strong intrinsic value. It needs no sales technique. It sells itself.

I’m also talking about the big, metaphorical pie. You know, the sum total of all money and value and status in the world. You want your piece of the pie. And you’ll do anything to get it.

But that’s actually the problem. Because no matter how hard you fight for that pie, you’re never getting any, because you’re looking at it the wrong way.

For most of your life you probably thought the pie was one size. Everyone in the world has a piece, and to get yours you have to take it from someone.

That’s why when you approached someone with higher value, like a famous venture capitalist or a great novelist, you came off as needy without knowing it. What you didn’t understand is that the pie is not fixed in size at all.

The pie is infinite.

It grows. And your value helps it grow. You don’t have to take your piece. In fact, just the opposite.

You have to give your piece away.

A woman holding a sign that says "give. thanks." on it in Werdorf

And even more strangely, you have to give it to people who already have lots of it.

Huh? Why would you give more to people who already have more than you?

Because those folks already know how this works. True power is not something scarce that we all have to fight like dogs to get.

It’s abundant, growing with each and every passing second.

By giving freely of your own inner richness to people already rich in their own right, you’ll help grow their external/perceived value and they’ll reflect some of it back to you in turn.

Let’s see how it works in action.

First off, it’s not hard to spot high value folks on social media. They have what I call the golden ratio: A lot of people follow them but they don’t follow a lot of people. In other words, they have something valuable to say and people want to hear it.

Not long ago, I discovered Naval Ravikant, a well-known venture capitalist and deep thinker. He’d recently fired off a tweet storm about blockchain technology that resonated powerfully with me. I found myself thinking about them over and over again. They triggered a cascade of explosive insights for me and I wanted to share them with the world. That’s when I sat down to write an article talking about what I’d learned. It was called Reflections on the Best Blockchain Tweets Ever Written.

What happened after was the network effect in action. Naval read the article and within thirty minutes of my posting it on Twitter, he’d tweeted it to his 250K followers with a lovely note.

He didn’t do that because I paid him or because he’s my friend (we don’t know each other) or because I tried to steal his value by asking him to endorse me in some way. Quite the contrary. Instead he did it because he intuitively sensed the intrinsic value of what I’d written and so he naturally wanted to share it. He also knew, even if it was at an unconscious level, that it would help expand on his ideas to his own followers, giving them another chance to dive deep into his vision. That in turn, expanded his own value yet again.

Modern abstract sculpture of metal net structure against white background, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Now remember, you can’t fake intrinsic strength. You can’t just crank out some terrible, amateur hour story about someone and expect them to care. That’s right back to trying to steal someone else’s pie. It never works.

Instead, your story must offer fresh insight that high-value folks might not even be able to express themselves.

I’ve spent my life learning how to put complex ideas into words so they’re easy to understand. That’s my true power. By reflecting on Naval’s ideas, I helped illuminate those ideas just a little bit better. His ideas already stand on their own, but I built on top of that wonderful foundation and delivered something that stands on its own as well.

Another crucial thing to note is that I didn’t do this just because I wanted him to tweet my story (although of course I wanted him to do it. Who wouldn’t want someone with a big following to tweet about you?) I wrote it because I loved what he’d written and I felt there was more to say about it. In other words, you have to love the thing you’re writing about. You can’t fake that either, or it will come across as BS and people will smell it coming a mile away.

The inevitable effect of all this is simple:

If you give freely of your hard-won internal value, you’ll grow the pie for everyone.

That’s how this beautiful dynamic works. That’s how it’s worked since the beginning of time. My story grew his following and that reflected back to my own following. I amplified his message and he helped amplify mine. In other words, we grew together.

Remember, the pie is infinite.

You don’t have to take anyone else’s piece.

All you have to do is patiently develop your own kung-fu power, your true value, and give it away without expectations to the world.

A man in a red jacket standing in a foggy green field

Then one day you’ll look down and find that the world has beaten a path to your doorstep, and you’ll wonder why it took so long to figure out one of the most ancient of spiritual insights, one that was right in front of you all along if you just opened your eyes:

Give to get.

Daniel Jeffries – Medium


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