PayPal: The Original Product Growth Company and How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 16, 2023

4 min read


PayPal: The Original Product Growth Company and How I Tricked My Brain To Like Doing Hard Things

In the world of product growth and personal development, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the success of PayPal and the concept of dopamine detox. While these two topics may seem unrelated at first glance, there are common points that can be connected to provide unique insights and actionable advice.

PayPal, once a brand losing its cultural cachet, experienced a turning point when it shifted its focus to a web checkout and email-based digital wallet. This product growth strategy proved successful because it addressed user needs and tapped into the inherently social nature of sending and receiving money. By launching the first online consumer product referral program, PayPal harnessed the power of referrals as a growth lever. Referrals channels, when properly tuned, can generate exponential growth.

Additionally, PayPal leveraged a big merchant integration as its second major growth lever. By merging with and launching merchant accounts, PayPal pursued both consumer and merchant accounts, leading to rapid growth and eventually catching the attention of eBay, which acquired PayPal for $1.5B. This acquisition marked a significant milestone in PayPal's journey to becoming a separate entity from eBay, with a market cap surpassing its parent.

One key aspect of PayPal's growth strategy was giving customers choice. By allowing users to choose their preferred payment instruments, even if it meant PayPal would receive less per transaction, the company prioritized meeting consumer payment needs. This user-centric approach paid off, as customers rewarded PayPal with higher loyalty. This serves as a reminder that putting the user first can lead to long-term benefits.

Now, let's shift our focus to the concept of dopamine detox. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for our desires and priorities. Engaging in high dopamine behaviors, such as scrolling through social media or playing video games, can lead to addiction and a down-regulation of dopamine receptors. This down-regulation creates a tolerance, making activities that release lower amounts of dopamine, like working hard or reading, feel less rewarding.

The idea behind dopamine detox is to intentionally reduce the amount of immediate rewards and high dopamine activities in your life. By refraining from engaging in these behaviors for a day, you allow your brain to reset its dopamine receptors and become less reliant on instant gratification. During this detox day, it's important to avoid technology, social media, junk food, and other high dopamine activities. Instead, focus on meditation, self-reflection, and engaging in activities that may seem boring.

The key insight from dopamine detox is that by depriving yourself of immediate rewards, you can start to find joy and fulfillment in activities that provide long-term benefits. Boredom becomes a catalyst for pursuing meaningful goals and engaging in low dopamine work. By tracking the difficult, low dopamine work you do and prioritizing it before indulging in high dopamine activities, you can overcome motivation problems and make progress towards your long-term goals.

Now, let's bring these two topics together and extract three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Build products that address core user needs and tap into social dynamics: PayPal's success can be attributed to its focus on solving user problems and leveraging the social nature of money transactions. When developing a product, ensure it has a fit with user needs and consider how social dynamics can be incorporated as a growth lever.
  • 2. Put the user first and prioritize long-term benefits: PayPal's user-centric approach, such as giving customers choice and meeting their payment needs, resulted in higher loyalty. Similarly, in personal development, dopamine detox encourages prioritizing long-term goals over immediate gratification. By putting the user or your long-term goals first, you may trade off short-term rewards for long-term fulfillment.
  • 3. Embrace boredom and engage in low dopamine work: Dopamine detox teaches us that by intentionally reducing high dopamine activities, we can find fulfillment in seemingly boring tasks. Embrace boredom as a catalyst for pursuing meaningful goals and engage in low dopamine work before indulging in high dopamine activities. This can help overcome motivation problems and lead to progress in your personal and professional life.

In conclusion, the success story of PayPal and the concept of dopamine detox provide valuable insights and actionable advice for product growth and personal development. By building products that address user needs and tap into social dynamics, putting the user first, and embracing boredom to engage in low dopamine work, you can unlock growth and fulfillment in your endeavors. So, whether you're working on growing a product or improving yourself, remember the lessons from PayPal and the power of dopamine detox. The choice is yours.

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