Have you seen this bio on Twitter?

"Forbes 30 Under 30. 1M IG followers. MBA."

Here's why your eyes roll at this:
This thread introduces a mental model for spotting superficial credentials and avoiding superficiality yourself.
In that bio above, each of those statements is an attempt to signal one's ability and worth.

• Forbes 30 Under 30
• 1M Instagram followers
• MBA

These signals, however, are vanity metrics—because each can be *gamed.*
When a signal can be gamed, it’s likely not a full representation of the person's ability, and it should often be discounted.

For example:
Claim #1: Forbes 30 Under 30

• This arbitrary award tries to signal your significance in your industry.

• The problem: It’s easy to *lobby* and play politics to receive awards. Awards also suffer from *adverse selection:* judges don't see everything.
So what could you theoretically tout instead of "Forbes 30 Under 30?"

Data-backed rankings are an alternative credential that are generally much harder to game. That makes them more representative of the person's ability.
For example, if you’re the most-searched-for CEO on Google by volume, that objectively signals you’re popular—if nothing else.

Also, if you were to publish your company’s month-over-month profit growth rate, it'd be harder to deny that you’re building a successful business.
If your goal is to impress the best and earn their respect, consider pursuing accomplishments that are harder to game.

Because experts see past gameable credentials.

Of all people, experts know how gameable they are.
Claim #2: 1M Instagram followers

• This claim attempts to signal your influence and popularity.

• Harder to game alternative: Your engagement rate and your ability to influence action—not your follower count—reflect whether people care about your *output.*
That's what hard-to-game accomplishments have in common: they create valuable output.

For example, whereas earning an MBA or receiving an award creates nothing new, creating content that people enjoy—as in, receives high social engagement—does.
If possible, let your high quality *output* speak for itself.

In other words, you can:

• Impress low-skilled people with shiny credentials.
• Impress high-skilled people (plus low-skilled!) with output.

I believe high-skilled people intuitively judge output over credentials.
(I recognize that often you have no choice but to reach for shiny credentials. They may be needed to advance in your career. If they're unavoidable, they're unavoidable. This thread is about seeking optional credentials.)
Claim #3: MBA

This credential attempts to signal business acumen (among many other qualities).

It's possibly the least gameable on this list because it requires you to learn some level of knowledge—otherwise you fail.

However, it's not a great representation of your ability.
You can lobby to receive arbitrary credentials like these.

Remember the college admissions scandal?

Gameable.

Plus, credentials suffer from “exam engineering” where it’s easy to optimize for the questions you know will be asked—not what life really throws at you.
We haven't covered the most contentious claim in someone's bio: the causes they support.

Some folks refer to this as "virtue signalling."

Just like with credentials and awards, you can ask: How can I tell if this signal is authentic?
My pet theory is that how much we authentically care about something is reflected by how much meaningful change we attempt to produce.

Take, for example, tweeting about politics...
Unless you're a whistleblower or sharing breaking news, just tweeting your support is typically low impact.

To be clear, *not useless*—just relatively low.

If you snark tweet, you’re unlikely to change minds. Instead, you earn kudos from other low-effort virtue signalers.
On the opposite end of the effort spectrum, greater social impact might come from running for office to improve policy.

That’s very hard—completely unrealistic for most people—but it's one example of signaling very high authenticity.
Because, when your action is high-effort, you’re putting skin in the game—your time, reputation, and resources—to earnestly produce change.
Here's an everyday example of this:

When Twitter users recommend other accounts to follow, you'll often see their recommendations are socially biased toward people like themselves.

In response, people thoughtfully call on them for greater diversity.
There are two ways to call people out:

1. Low effort: Merely call the Tweeter out on their social bias. This is fly-by Tweeting.

2. High effort: Explain why they should do better and suggest diversified accounts to follow.
People accustomed to low effort callouts might think:

“But, calling attention to a transgression is sufficient because it brings awareness.”

Yes, awareness helps. It's likely better than nothing.

But merely calling attention to something is the lowest-effort action.
When you act in a low-effort manner, you risk signaling that your objective isn’t solving the problem—that you don't care about producing real change.

Instead, it can look like you're mostly trying to signal your virtues.
It’s like pointing your finger at an injured kid in the playground so others see her—instead of helping her back to her feet.

And the people who transgress don't learn—they're just put into fight-or-flight mode—and little meaningful change is produced.
This thread, by the way, is an example of me trying to create mental models to better assess systems/signals.

This is what my Twitter thread from last week was about.

Feel free to make these nascent ideas more robust by pointing out where the theory can be strengthened.
Recap:

This thread is ultimately about assessing authenticity: is this person the real deal?
If what I'm saying has any merit—these are all my pet theories—then:

1. Are you trying to signal your virtues?

Then consider behaviors that can produce real impact.

Otherwise, you're swapping long-term change for short-term social validation.
2. Are you trying to signal your abilities?

Then perhaps focus on creating valuable output that speaks for itself—instead of over-optimizing for optional credentials.

It's hard to fake great work.
My next thread is on how I write a blog post or thread from start to finish.
Here's the blog post version of this thread:

julian.com/blog/vanity-me…

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More from @Julian

3 Apr
Elon Musk is on record that he makes decisions using the same technique as Jeff Bezos.

I found YouTube videos of them explaining it.

A thread on thinking more clearly:
This thread is about mental models.

Yes, Twitter has enough of these.

BUT, people never answer the question:

How do I use mental models for everyday decisions? How do I put them into practice?
Mental models are frameworks for thinking.

They simplify complex situations so you can reason through them easily.

They help you make good, long-term decisions without needing to know everything about a situation.
Read 54 tweets
29 Mar
I figured out how to avoid nearly all meetings.

My calendar is now free and clear 😂

There were 4 realizations:
Your perception of importance decays:

We think events are most important when we first schedule.

But, once 2 weeks pass, we realize they aren't critical.

Insight: Schedule non-urgent meetings as far out as possible. A week before the event, you'll often realize you can cancel.
On a call, when asked for a follow-up favor, I say:

"After the call, please email me what you need. We'll take it from there!"

Realization: They rarely follow up.

Which means the real-time favor they asked wasn't important to them. Which means I avoided unnecessary homework.
Read 9 tweets
27 Mar
Who's @Julian?

A thread on who I am and the weird stuff I spend my time on.
I care a lot about producing lasting work.

I spent most of 2020 rewriting the content on my website. Very little new content was produced.

The web has a lot of creators but very few caretakers.
Inspiration:

Some people act quickly when inspiration strikes. I'm the opposite.

I act late—once I realize my inspiration for that idea is not perishable.

If I'm confident the idea will stick in my head, it means I'll be happy iterating on it for the long-haul.
Read 14 tweets
21 Mar
I'm building a ranch in the middle of nowhere.

Four things make this possible:

• Remote work is here to stay
• Starlink satellite internet access
• Tesla Self-Driving
• Privilege to have the mobility

THREAD: Why am I leaving San Francisco?
Why I want to get out of a city:

• To be in nature—not a concrete jungle
• To roam around: dirt bikes and hikes
• Air quality
• Major cities are over-priced
• Quiet. When's the last time you heard nothing?

I visited NorCal and heard total quiet for the first time in 8yrs.
Two things make my move possible:

1. I don't need to be in-person for work.

2. SpaceX's Starlink is rolling out. It's fast Internet everywhere.

Starlink changes what's possible.

Bonus: If you live far outside a city, maybe Tesla Self-Driving can eventually drive you into town
Read 13 tweets
7 Mar
If you suffer from chronic procrastination..

I eventually overcame it.

4 things happened:
To stop procrastinating on new projects:

1. Justify to yourself that this is a great use of your time right now.

2. Demystify what the first steps look like.

3. Do a "sync session" with a friend ← Key

4. Consider the "Creativity Faucet" to overcome anxiety.
Step 1: Justification

We bail on ideas that we lack high conviction for. So, internalize the importance of a project before starting it.

You can do this by confronting the outcomes you care about when pursuing a project:
Read 18 tweets
26 Feb
I've helped probably 700 startups redo their websites.

These 4 marketing patterns stood out to me 🧙‍♂️
See the images below.

Notice how you're naturally drawn toward the call to action?

Decades of (marketing) psychology have shown that our eyes follow the eyes of others. ImageImageImage
I like seeing signup buttons that describe WHAT you get by signing up. For example:

• Read for free
• Create a meal plan

The default generic phrases are uninspiring:

• Get started
• Try now

Instead, remind people what's in it for them. ImageImageImageImage
Read 6 tweets

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