Try Being the Dumbest Person in the Room
My transition into the world of crypto
A quick disclaimer before I begin. None of what follows is financial advice. Crypto is highly volatile and definitely not for everyone. Now, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it.
I’ve been living and working in another world lately.
It runs parallel to the world most of you are familiar with, yet you’ve probably heard of it. You’ve maybe even dismissed it as a fad, or a bubble, or, even worse, a scam.
I’m talking about crypto. Or, the term I prefer, web3.
The average person completely misunderstands this world. It’s easy to write it off as financial speculation on fake internet currencies that don’t have any use in our real lives. And there’s certainly a lot of that going on. But as I’ve delved deeper into it, I see it more as a collection of people who are excited about the future.
Years ago, I felt similarly when I decided to move into startups. Before the transition, I was working as a sales manager at a company that sold supplies to labs. We had a bit of a tough year with many of our top products having supply-chain issues. I calculated our end-of-year numbers and we grew some paltry amount like 2%. Right around then, I was listening to a podcast with the founder of Uber and he said they were growing 25% month-over-month. And I thought, that sounds like way more fun.
Little did I know how hard it would be to find a successful startup like Uber, or even one half as successful, for that matter. Back then, it seemed like everyone was hopping on a rocketship and watching their stock options grow or getting acquired for eye-popping amounts of money. But I eventually learned that finding my own rocketship was almost as much of a longshot as winning the lottery.
What I love about crypto investing and work is that I can be involved with multiple projects at once. That way, I’m diversifying across many projects I believe in, rather than hoping I’m lucky enough to join the right startup.
You also don’t need to be well-off to invest in crypto. It has always felt strange to me that you can only invest in startups if you’re already rich. It’s the ultimate “only the rich get richer” scenario. With crypto projects, you’re often rewarded for supporting them early on and you don’t have to wait years to realize those rewards. If something feels off or the project isn’t living up to its promises, you can sell and move on to something else.
I left my last full-time position back in May. I thankfully didn’t need to immediately find another full-time gig since my wife works and we had been saving up a lot, especially since the pandemic hit and we were spending way less money. For the first few months, I mostly spent my time in online communities related to writing and doing some part-time freelance work here and there. While it was fun and I met some amazing people in those communities, I didn’t see a clear path to making writing a viable career, at least not in the short term.
For years, I had been a small, passive crypto investor, mostly in Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two highest-value cryptocurrencies in the market. Due to their prices going up substantially over that time, I had a fair amount of money to play around with. To learn more and immerse myself in web3, I started becoming more active in crypto-related groups. Earlier this year, my good friend Jon was kind enough to add me to two incredibly valuable and influential group chats.
At first, I felt like I didn’t belong. It was like they were speaking another language sometimes. I joked that my goal was to be the dumbest guy in the group. But really, I was the guy who wasn’t afraid to ask a potentially stupid question. They could’ve written me off as an idiot, but instead, they were welcoming and friendly. It was like a breath of fresh air. They’ve since not only helped me grow my crypto investments substantially, but they’ve opened my eyes to a whole new way of working and connecting with people.
As of right now, I’m involved in a diverse set of projects:
I’m helping lead community at a learning organization for people who are new to web3 (it’s private for now, but if you’re interested in web3 and want to learn more, please shoot me a message)
I’m helping figure out the governance structure for a decentralized finance (DeFi) project called KlimaDAO that’s helping to fight climate change by interacting with the carbon credits market
By the way, DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization. They’re kind of like companies but they’re not incorporated or influenced by any centralized government entity. Basically, they’re a bunch of people with different skill sets working together to move a project forward.
These projects give my days variety and they’re all incredibly interesting and fun. I feel like I’m playing a small part in building the future.
I received my first crypto “paycheck” recently. It was a surreal thing to see it in my wallet. And it has already gone up in value (by about 23% as of this writing), which is not something I could’ve ever said about a traditional paycheck. The coolest part is if I do great work and everything goes as planned, my paychecks could go up a lot more in value. It feels so much more tangible than startup equity maybe becoming worth something in the far-off future (but more than likely becoming worthless).
Seeing the direct impact and rewards of the work I’m doing makes me more motivated and excited to live and work in this other world each weekday. And weeknight. Oh, and also on weekends. And, yes, even a little bit on Thanksgiving (sorry about that babe 😬).
P.S. There are several critiques about crypto that come up again and again, so I wanted to give my point of view on them for you quickly here.
Aren’t most people speculating and just trying to get rich?
Those people do exist. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m hoping crypto enriches me too. But this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon that’s unique to crypto. People have been trading stocks forever. Not to mention, more risky things some people try like flipping houses. If you’re looking for something more meaningful, I promise you it’s out there in the web3 world. Most of the people I interact with regularly are working on building the future, not only speculating on it.
Aren’t lots of people trying to scam other people out of their hard-earned money?
Yes. But that happens in the real world too. Think of all the spam calls you’ve received over the years. Do you think they’re just doing it for fun?
Isn’t crypto bad for the environment?
Yes, to an extent. This argument is somewhat misleading, though. Because what are we comparing it to? How can we accurately evaluate the environmental impact of something similar like the stock market? Think of all the computers, the buildings that need electricity, and all the people that are involved who need to drive or fly to those buildings. There are also lots of good-faith efforts being made to minimize the damage and to generally be good environmental stewards (e.g. the KlimaDAO project I mentioned above).
I ultimately think web3, while flawed and still super early, is here to stay. It’s a cultural movement and I’m more excited about it than I’ve been about anything else in a long time. It’s okay if you aren’t convinced. That wasn’t my goal with this story. Only time will tell how it all shakes out.
P.P.S. Please send me a note if you’re interested in the web3 learning organization.
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