Audience, Money, Mindset — Shaan Puri


Audience, Money, Mindset — Shaan Puri

Guest Curator: Alice Lemée


Welcome to Brain Dumps - Visualize Value office hours edition. Every Thursday, Visualize Value office hours dive deep into mental models, marketing frameworks, systems of operation, content production, or whatever the community is fired up on.

This article is all about Audience Building, Money, and Mindset with Shaan Puri and Jack Butcher. It discusses the power of proximity, reveals a foolproof way to escape competition, and defines radical self-reliance.

Context Setting

Before getting started, let's break down exactly who Shaan Puri is.

Shaan has spent the last ten years building companies, with the most recent one being sold to Twitch in 2019.

He currently hosts the podcast My First Million, where guests brainstorm new business ideas based on trends and opportunities currently in the market. It has over 300k + monthly listeners.

Shaan is also an active investor. He invests $3M / year into startups and is always looking for new ways to grow.

If you're building a startup, you can reach Shaan at


Shaan on the left, The Hustle founder Sam Parr on the right.

A few years ago, Shaan was living and working in Australia. Shaan then met Michael Birch, a renowned internet entrepreneur. Michael had built an idea lab in San Francisco, a pet project after making it rich selling Bebo to AOL for $850m.

The goal of Michael's idea lab was simple: dream up ideas and make them a reality. Anyone who worked in the idea lab had equity in the project, meaning over time they'd accumulate ownership in a portfolio of companies.

Essentially, a dream job.

Shaan moved from Australia to San Francisco to join Michael, traveling a cool 7,000+ miles to snag the opportunity.

Within four months of the job, Michael asked Shaan if they could speak privately. Naturally, Shaan thought he was about to get fired.

But when they met up, Michael told Shaan he was impressed with his autonomy. Rather than wait around to be instructed on what to do, Shaan had gone around and changed things without waiting for permission.

The result?

Shaan got a promotion as a result of being a permissionless apprentice.


Being a permissionless apprentice means you do the work without being asked. It's a way to get noticed and builds momentum because you don't need to wait for permission to get started.

Shaan was handed a dream job, where he was given free rein to execute whatever ideas he wanted.

Five years later, Shaan was now selling one of the companies he'd built to Twitch. During the due diligence process, however, Shaan got restless. There's nothing to do but wait around for a few months, twiddling your thumbs as the lawyers wrap up the final deal.

Usually, during pockets of silence, Shaan's default go-to activity would be to build another company. But because he couldn't do that yet as he was in the process of selling his first, a new idea popped up. A podcast.

My First Million was born.

It began as a fun side project, a hobby to distract Shaan during the anxiety that due diligence brings. If anything, Shan thought, it was a good excuse to meet interesting folks.

Today 'My First Million'...

  • Has 300k + monthly listeners
  • 100 + episodes
  • Is a top business podcast
  • Over 3 million downloads

...all in under 2 years.

Audience Building

The Unexpected Effects of Starting a Podcast

Starting a podcast appears relatively straightforward. Yet by creating something of his own, 'My First Million' brought Shaan astounding opportunities.

Before he launched the podcast however, he documented his vision:


While Shaan could explicitly mention what he didn't want from the podcast, he could never envision the results it would bring. 'My First Million' led to countless serendipitous activity. For example, Shaan was able to raise a startup fund exclusively from his audience, leading to a 2.6 million dollars a year fund.

Most importantly, creating 'My First Million' led to an audience. And having an audience is a superpower. It's like a stem cell, a malleable powerhouse that can branch-off and let you dabble in any numerous activities.

How to Balance Between What's a Smart Bet and Just an Idea

Because Shaan has an audience, he's inundated with a volume of opportunities that exceeds his ability to make investments.

But how can he know which ideas are worth investing in?

To first eliminate any red flags, Shaan asks himself three questions:

  1. Are they a long-term player in the Silicon Valley game?
  2. Do I directly know them? Have we interacted in real life?
  3. Do I know other investors who might be able to refer them?

To identify if the idea is any good, Shaan has to trust his judgement. He evaluates:

  1. Do they understand the problem? Is this even a real problem?
  2. Do they have a unique angle on the solution?
  3. Are they capable of building it?
  4. Does it have the potential to be a big winner?

Shaan also recommends following syndicate groups on AngelList. 👼 Each time you subscribe to a syndicate it sends a memo detailing why the investment is worthwhile. By subscribing to hundreds of syndicates, Shaan was able to train himself to recognize valid ideas.

From Shaan himself: "You can subscribe to syndicates and read all the internal deal memos, without needing to commit $1 to investing - great way to learn before starting to put money in."

Shaan on Money, Transparency and Balancing Work and Life

Information Asymmetry

There's a fine line between obsessing over money and not talking about money.

For example, it's ludicrous that coworkers don't talk about how much they make with one another. It's seen as a faux pas to reveal how much money you're making to coworkers. However, the employer knows exactly how much everyone is making.

Yet information asymmetry is where a lot of money gets made in life.

When one side has more information than the other side in any transaction it leads to inequality.

So when people don't talk about what they make, they end up making less.

If they all banded together, it would force employers to hedge inequality and pay them more.

Shaan strives to be like Robin Hood. Robin Hood used to steal from the rich and give to the poor. 💰 Shaan seeks to do the same thing, but with information.

What are the successful people in life doing? What do they know that the rest of us don't? The goal is to eliminate this information asymmetry and unlock information that everyone should know, such as how to correctly minimize taxes.

Increasing Your Income to Match Your Lifestyle vs Reducing Lifestyle Expenses

It's easier to minimize your expenses in comparison to increasing your income. But that only works to a fault. Once the fat is trimmed, there's not much left.

Focus on building the skill of money making instead.

Not to mention, making money is more fun and a noble pursuit than trying to save it and reduce expenses. It also allows you to use money to make more time.

Because think about it...

If you are dedicated to cutting expenses but...

  • Drive an extra 20 blocks to find a cheaper gas station
  • Cut up hundreds of coupons found in the back of magazines
  • Constantly return expensive products once you're done using them've dedicated your time to money instead.

Why Shaan Threw Away a $50,000 MRR Newsletter

Shaan's paid business newsletter was a success and was raking in $50,000 a month of revenue. But Shaan shut it down, even though it was contributing nearly half a million dollars into his annual income.

Why? Because it was too much work.

Shaan was creating content five days a week and perpetually running the content treadmill. Constantly thinking about what content to push to his audience, Shaan couldn't even spend time fully present with his family.

So it ended 3 months in, all in the name of having more time.

Shaan went this route because the goal is to be using money to make more time and not the other way around.


Shaan's announcement of abandoning the newsletter here.

Shaan on How to Become Wealthy

Change the Story You've Been Told

You'll want to start by hanging out with people who have a bunch of money.

It sounds trivial, but it will completely change the way you think.

Like most people, you probably grew up in a household where the traditional story was to go to college, get a job, and make six figures to live a comfortable life.

This story becomes your perceived reality. Unconsciously, you then take actions to actualize this story.

But if you meet people who are living out a different story, it makes you question your own.

So, what happens when you hang out with people who make a lot of money?

  • It'll mess up your scale. What you once thought was "a lot of money" pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars certain people are casually making.
  • It lifts the invisible constraint. Once you see that making X amount of money is possible, you can believe it for yourself.
  • You realize that these people are no brighter, smarter, or talented than you. Knowing that these types of people can make, means you can too.

Proximity is Power

The question now becomes: how do you get close to these top performers?

Before Shaan moved to SF, he was doing pretty well for himself in Australia, making 100K + a year at 22 years-old. By all means, he didn't have to move.

But he chose to, because he knows that proximity is power.

"Proximity is power. If you can get proximity with people that are the best in the world, things can happen because of the people they know, the insights they have, and the life experience they have. They can save you a decade of time with one insight." - Tony Robbins

Know Your ABZ's

What should you do once you're in proximity of these people?

The good news is that things take care of themselves after that.

You'll find out about their stories, their backgrounds, what they're investing in, their future predictions. And it's all unfiltered real-talk. None of that best-selling, edited, "My Life Story" book stuff.

You end learning from these tidbits of conversation, and in doing so, momentum begins to build. If you get the "why" and the "what" right, the "how" happens naturally over time.

While people are obsessed with actionable steps, it's actually impossible to plan out an entire game plan.

Focus instead on the ABZ framework.


A = Where you are now?

B = What's the next step?

Z = What's the end goal?

That's all you need to know.

Everything else will figure itself out.

Shaan's Z


Without any context, people would assume that this stadium is full of sports fanatics, eager to watch a game play out.

But in reality, these 20,000 + people gathered to watch Byju teach math in India. Math.


International Finance Corporation

Byju has a cult following of people who are enamored by his teaching style. Shaan found this incredible.

While Shaan had been successful in his life and was a millionaire in the making, there was still a gnawing feeling of dissatisfaction.

Was there anything he owned that he wouldn't want to sell?

Something that he wouldn't be doing for the money?

He connected the dots and came to an epiphany: a modern university.

His Z is now to become the favorite teacher of 1% of the world's population (76 million people).

For the record, Shaan has absolutely no idea how to get there. But he knows where he's at now, and the next step he needs to take next.

Life Hacks

Escape Competition Through Authenticity

Courtesy of 
Courtesy of Visualize Value

"You can escape competition through authenticity, once you realize that no one can compete with you on being you." - Naval

While this is a valid way to climb out the trenches of competition, there's one part many people miss.

It's true doing something you love is an incredible sensation. But oftentimes, people ignore how their passions are shared by many others.

It's about finding work that feels like play to you. If it's just play to you and play to others, you're setting yourself up for infinite competition.

For instance, NBA players are in a tight spot. Basketball feels like play to them, sure, but it is also a recreational hobby for many, many people.

In order to uncover what this might be, ask yourself, "if no one would care about what I'm doing, would I still be enjoying this?"

Train Yourself to Feel How You Want to Feel

In 2015, Connor McGregor was on top of the world. He'd had just won the World Title at 145 lbs, he had the biggest ticket sales of anyone that year and was MMA's fighter of the year. At a press conference, a reporter asked him: "2015 was an amazing year. How do you plan on topping that?"

He goes, "Well, 2015 was my year. 2016 is also my year. Every year is my f*cking year."

When you see someone who this mindset, two thoughts pop up: 💭

  1. Damn.
  2. If he really thinks that, then it's reality.

Most people aren't McGregor. They have Imposter Syndrome or don't have the gall to predict things without being certain they can accomplish them.

But Connor is always in this kind of overconfident, cocky mood. And it's not just when the reporters are around.

The trick is that in any moment, you're destined to seem some kind of way.

Why not feel good?

Why not feel confident?

Why not feel unstoppable?

You get to choose the way you feel at any moment. So why not choose to put yourself in these phenomenal states versus average, ho-hum states of minds?

Being able to control your own emotions and state of mind is deeply underrated.

This ability is right in front of your face. You could be in line at the grocery store, zoning out while becoming increasingly impatient.


You could make a decision to think about something that will completely change that experience. This is having radical self-reliance - being in complete control of your capabilities and how you feel.

Audience Questions

Q: Is there a place for an office in the future of work?

In Shaan's opinion, yes, especially for ambitious startups.

The ideal state for a startup is a few hackers living together in a house. All they do is sleep, work, work, eat, work, walk, work, repeat. It's how the most value is created in the shortest amount of time.

When playing the startup Olympics you'll need an edge to win. In this case speed, creativity, and focus is your best bet, and it works best when you're co-located.

For the more established companies, we'll have co-working spaces, where the average worker comes in a few days a week. It will be a hybrid of in-person and remote work.

Q: What's the best rebuttal to the saying, "People who can't do, teach?"

There's some truth to that.

But for every cliche, there is an opposite cliche.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Out of sight, out of mind.

Yet the best teachers aren't the best practitioners and vice versa. The **best coaches on Earth didn't have to be the greatest players to the best coach. The skills that make a great teacher being able to distill things down, package them, and being an empathetic, selfless individual.

Q: After all the podcast interviews you've done, who are 1-2 people who have made the biggest impression on Shaan, and why? Any lessons that stand out?

Daniel Gross - Daniel strolled in without even knowing Shaan's podcast was all about brainstorming ideas. He then proceeded to come up with hundreds and hundreds of ideas, all while having a radiating disposition. Shaan learns most not about what people say, but how they carry themselves. As they say, the market doesn't see your ability, it sees your ability to communicate."


Anthony Pompliano - Shaan went on Pomp's podcast. He was mesmerized by how Pomp had built his audience and was now translating into a business through various frameworks. For example, Anthony is very in-tune with how influencers are currently monetizing their assets. There's a great deal to learn on how to monetize your audience, and Anthony knows all about this.

Q: What is Shaan's rhythm?

First up: don't copy Shaan. He's a self confessed low-output person.

His biggest life improvement was waking up without the help of an alarm clock. Then Shaan calls his right-hand partner Ben, where they settle on the biggest task for the day within 10-mins. They put the task into Shaan's own One Big Thing chrome extension and get going.

Shaan swears he outpaces most people who have crazy productivity systems by doing ONE big thing per day, rather than having long lifts of tiny tasks.

Q: What are some good frameworks to identify an opportunity or stay focused?

Don't say yes to too many things. Starting a new project is easy, but to do anything well, the process will most likely take years.

Everything is what you make of it. Take one thing that was said, and put it into action. The application of a single idea beats the absorption of 100.

Avoid learning general skills. The skills that get you ahead in the office won't get you ahead in life.