Alex Hardy

@CantHardyWait

The Inner Game of Crypto

How to Master Your Mindset & Fall Down the Crypto Rabbit Hole

Cryptocurrencies live in a cold world. Computers dispassionately trade bits of information. Programmers robotically write endless lines of software code.

Feelings and emotions have no place here, right?

Wrong.

Crypto is utterly disruptive. It will not only shake the foundation of our external world — work and play— it will disrupt each of us internally. Stepping into this new future will be emotionally disorienting. Up seems down, right seems wrong, and previous rules don’t apply. The transition will be painful.

In physics, there’s something called an Event Horizon. It’s the area surrounding a Black Hole. There are two important characteristics of an Event Horizon.

First, anything inside the Event Horizon’s perimeter, even light, gets hopelessly sucked into the black hole. The Event Horizon is a Point of No Return.

Second, inside this Point of No Return, the laws of physics no longer apply. Rules we took as given, like gravity and energy, behave in unexpected ways.

We’re currently living inside an Event Horizon.

Everything is getting sucked in, and the old rules don’t apply. Except this isn’t a celestial black hole, it’s a human-made¹ one. The Crypto Black Hole.

Event Horizon: More than just a really bad 90s horror movie.

Getting sucked into the Crypto Black Hole is a foundational experience. In fact, the CryptoWorld coined a term for it: Falling Down The Rabbit Hole™. Once you start the journey, take the red pill, and pass through the looking glass, it’s impossible to see things as you did before.

Acclaimed Sci-fi writer William Gibson said: “The Future is Here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

And I believe that the Crypto Black Hole is here, it just hasn’t sucked everyone in. Yet.

In order to navigate this changing global landscape, you must first master the world within yourself. Let’s call this approach the “Inner Game” of Crypto².

This journey is intimidating, exciting, and overwhelming. I want this post to serve as the hyperventilation bag I wish I had as I was falling down the Rabbit Hole. When you feel like you’re losing your head, come back here to get grounded.

As Ghandi said, Be the Hyper Ventilation Bag you wish to see in the world

Disclaimer: Throughout this piece, I use terms like Crypto, CryptoLand, & CryptoWorld. For simplicity, I treat them as catch-all terms for various technologies (Bitcoin, Blockchains, Protocols, Applications). There are important differences, but for now, don’t get bogged down in the details.

I’ll now whisper the magical incantation that accompanies all Crypto Thought Leadership™️: Nothing below is investment advice.

17 Rules for The Inner Game of Crypto

1. Falling Down the Rabbit Hole is an Emotional Roller Coaster

You’ll experience many ups and downs. Breakdowns and breakthroughs. Acknowledge this now — it will help you maintain perspective. And your sanity.

H/T John Saddington (https://john.do/emotional-journey-creating/) & JobStreetEducation

2. You Won’t Understand Anything You Read the First Time You Read It

Crypto is so complex, I often have to re-read sentences and articles 5+ times. When a concept finally “clicks” for me, there’s a ripple effect. Other sources I read months ago begin to make sense. You won’t understand anything the first time you read it, and that’s okay. It’s part of the ride.

Thou shalt quote tweet thyself

3. Get Comfortable Feeling Stupid — it’s a Superpower

This world feels jarring and disorienting to everyone. The faster you can get comfortable with uncertainty and ignorance, the quicker your pace of learning.

And the more you learn, the more you’ll realize how ignorant you are.

If it’s good enough for this guy, it’s good enough for us.

You’ll often be wrong, so try to maintain your intellectual humility. CryptoLand will humble you early and often.

4. Lean in to the “Icky” and “Foggy” Concepts You Don’t Understand

Many concepts in Crypto are Icky and Foggy. What does that mean? Tim Urban explains³:

We all know what an icky item is. An icky item is vague and murky, and you’re not really sure where you’d start to understand it, or where you’d answer your questions about it.

And:

I look for those foggy spots…when someone mentions [a term], my mind kind of glazes over with a combination of “ugh it’s that icky term again nah go away” and “ew the adults are saying that adult thing again and I’m seven so I don’t actually understand what they’re talking about.” Then I’ll get reading about those foggy spots — but as I clear away fog from the surface, I often find more fog underneath. So then I research that new fog, and again, often come across other fog even further down. My perfectionism kicks in and I end up going down the rabbit hole until I hit the floor.

Some of my personal Icky & Foggy terms: Blockchain, Bitcoin, Cryptography, Ledger, Mining, Hashing, and Money.

Damn. Those are fundamentally important terms.

It’s easy to give up, and most people will. Instead, lean into the ick and the fog. Break concepts down into smaller and smaller parts until you can digest them. Go where others are reluctant to go.

5. Relentlessly Protect Your Most Valuable Resources — Time & Attention

Many in CryptoLand will tell you that your most precious resource is the cryptocurrency you purchase. This is wrong. The most valuable resources are your time and attention. And they’re under attack more frequently than any cryptocurrency you hold.

Security matters. But the most dangerous hacking isn’t into your private keys, it’s into your mind.

The main sources of information (Reddit, Telegram, Slack, Twitter) are chaotic. Novelty and noise badger you from all sides.

Ignorance, charlatans, hidden agendas, and outright scams aren’t the exception, they’re the rule.

So curate your information diet carefully. Personally, I still struggle with this, but identifying the problem is the first step. I recommend some resources below.

Of course you also should take proper precautions to protect your crypto holdings.

6. The Emperor Wears No Clothes: No One Actually Knows Anything

Anyone who claims to fully understand crypto is either lying or trying to sell you something. Often both. We’re all figuring it out as we go along.

Here’s a brief sampling of the different disciplines in CryptoLand:

H/T @drhuvbansal, Unchained Capital, Taylor Pearson

Few people on earth are expert in one of these fields, let alone several. No one was born in CryptoWorld.

So get over your imposter syndrome, because we are all an imposters.

7. Don’t Fall for People Hiding behind Jargon

In CryptoLand, people will try to signal intelligence by using jargon. We’re at the intersection of economics, investing, law, & computer science. There is more jargon here than anywhere else on the internet.

Don’t be fooled. The true sign of mastery isn’t using maximum jargon. It’s being able to explain something complex in such a way that anyone can understand it. After all:

H/T @naval, a must follow on Twitter.

8. Getting into Crypto is like Binge Watching a Great Show: It’s Not Too Late To Start

You may feel like you’re hopelessly late to this game. Bitcoin has gone up ~3,000% in the past 2 years. You think you missed the boat.

You haven’t. Only a tiny fraction of the world’s population owns cryptocurrency. We are still in the very early stages.

“Power players” in this space have risen to prominence in a few months — You can become one.

The biggest problems in this space (like education, UI/UX, marketing, reliable analysis) haven’t been addressed — You can help solve them.

Diverse voices, backgrounds, and experiences haven’t yet been heard — Your perspective is crucial.

So begin with Bitcoin Season 1, Episode 1, and get your binge on. When I hear of someone just starting The Wire or Game of Thrones, I’m envious they get to experience that magic for the first time. Falling Down the Rabbit Hole is no different.

9. Find the Valuable Resources No One Else is Reading

In Zero to One⁴, Peter Thiel asks: “What secret do you know to be true that no one else believes?”

In CryptoLand, you could ask: “What resources are valuable that nobody else is reading?”

The best resources are “long-term” knowledge, not “expiring” knowledge⁵.

The daily price change of Bitcoin is an example expiring knowledge. Anyone can instantly access it. It’s not valuable to you in 2 days let alone 2 years.

Long-term knowledge comes from Primary Sources: White Papers, Books, Canonical blog posts, and [gulp] actually using the technology. There’s just enough friction that most people are too lazy to wrestle with them.

So next time you have 30 minutes to kill, spend it with a Primary Source instead of cruising through crypto-trading twitter.

If you read what everyone else reads, you’ll think what everyone else thinks.

10. You Will Feel Overwhelmed. Stop. Breathe. Focus.

At some point, you’ll feel overwhelmed, like there’s more content out there than you can possibly consume. That everyone knows more than you and you’re falling hopelessly behind.

As noted above, this is a good sign. It’s a signal of actual comprehension.

Remember that everyone else is experiencing this. Keep your head on straight when everyone else is losing theirs. Maintain focus. There’s opportunity in this chaos.

10 Things I Hate About Crypto

In CryptoLand, you can learn anything, but not everything.

A story I recently heard illustrates this:

There’s a wanderer who’s been lost in the desert for weeks. He’s thirsty, so he starts digging a well looking for water. He gets about 1 foot deep, gets frustrated, and thinks he might have better luck in a few feet away. So he abandons the current well and starts digging close by. He gets 1 foot deep, but is again frustrated, and tries a new location. He does this 10 times, with 10 different holes. Eventually, he dies of thirst.
What he didn’t know, is that a vast water supply existed 10 feet underground. If he’d persisted with any of the holes, and dug one 10-foot hole, instead of 10 1-foot holes, he would’ve been saved.

Don’t get distracted by the latest flashy thing. Focus. Dig deep holes in your exploration.

11. Develop an Opinion, but Be Open to Change

Balance unbridled optimism with relentless skepticism. If you can maintain this cognitive dissonance in your head, you’ll be well suited for CryptoLand

We’re in a new paradigm, and much what’s happening is truly alien to us.

To quote the Silicon Valley zeitgeist: you should have Strong Views, Weakly Held.

12. Be Open Source & Pay it Forward: Teaching is the Best way to Learn and Grow (your net worth).

This entire Crypto revolution was built on the idea that open, decentralized, systems beat closed, centralized, systems.

Web browsers beat AOL, Wikipedia beat Encarta, Linux beat IBM.

Open systems show that transparency and sharing deliver the biggest impact for the most people. Be open source yourself. Share your learnings.

Helping others learn is a morally good thing to do. You likely benefitted from the help of someone before you.

Plus: Teaching someone else is the best way to for you to learn a concept yourself.

Even better: Money is a “shared myth.” There’s no inherent worth to the paper or bytes that we call money. They have value because many people believe they do. And if you help spread this shared myth, then this innovation becomes more valuable to early believers like you.

13. Your “Normal” Friends Will Think You’re Crazy. Until you’re not.

Embrace it, and use it as a teaching opportunity.

One of the 🐐memes H/T @Crypto_God

14. Tribes are Everywhere, so Keep Your Identity Small.

CryptoLand isn’t one united tribe. It isn’t 10 united tribes. It’s dozens of factions, and they’re usually at war with each other.

The tribal infighting in Crypto rivals any hooliganism you’ll find —on par with politics, sports, and religion.

Sure, you could join one of these tribes. However, a better approach is to keep your identity and your ego small⁶. Each tribe has something valuable to teach you. Learning is not Zero-Sum.

So get comfortable with acronyms (FUD, HODL, BTFD), memes, gifs, trolls, reddit, snark, and other social currencies of these tribes.

15. Trust N̵o̵b̵o̵d̵y̵ Somebody: Find Your Guide

There’s a depressing meme in CryptoWorld. “Trust Nobody.” It’s misguided.

Yes, you shouldn’t trust everybody. Yes, you shouldn’t trust just anybody. But you need to trust somebody.

Find yourself a guide. A sherpa who’s ahead of you on this journey, who you can ask your dumb questions.

And as soon as you can, start offering to guide others. You’ll be amazed at how valuable you can be to people new to the space (endearingly called “n00bs”).

This revolution stands on the shoulders of giants, and so does our personal knowledge.

16. Incentives are Everything

Whether you’re analyzing a line of code, a white paper, or someone’s twitter feed, never forget this:

Incentives. Are. Everything.

Crypto is decentralized. Successful projects are driven by proper incentives, not central planning.

Incentives are also important at the human level.

When listening to someone state their point of view or recommendation, it’s healthy to ask why they’re saying what they’re saying. Not everyone is a fraudster, but remember that people might “talk their book.”

17. Experiment and Have Fun Getting Lost

The final and most important rule. The best way to learn quickly is to actually use the technology. Buy something with Bitcoin. Struggle with using a decentralized app. Get a little dirty. It will feel messy and disorganized, but it’s the difference between reading about basketball and playing a game of 5-on-5.

And of course, have fun. You only get to fall down the rabbit hole once.

17 Rules for The Inner Game of Crypto

  1. Falling Down the Rabbit Hole is an Emotional Roller Coaster
  2. You Won’t Understand Anything You Read the First Time You Read It
  3. Get Comfortable Feeling Stupid — it’s a Superpower
  4. Lean into the “Icky” and “Foggy” Concepts You Don’t Understand
  5. Relentlessly Protect Your Most Valuable Resources — Time & Attention
  6. The Emperor Wears No Clothes: No One Actually Knows Anything
  7. Don’t Fall for People Hiding behind Jargon
  8. Getting into Crypto is like Binge Watching a Great Show: It’s Not Too Late to Start
  9. Find the Valuable Resources No One Else is Reading
  10. You Will Feel Overwhelmed. Stop. Breathe. Focus.
  11. Develop an Opinion, but Be Open to Change
  12. Be Open Source & Pay it Forward: Teaching is the Best way to Learn and Grow (Your Net Worth).
  13. Your “Normal” Friends Will think you’re Crazy. Until You’re Not.
  14. Tribes are everywhere, so Keep Your Identity Small.
  15. Trust N̵o̵b̵o̵d̵y̵ Somebody: Find Your Guide
  16. Incentives are Everything
  17. Experiment and Have Fun Getting Lost

Here’s a Google Sheet with some of my favorite resources for your journey.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to connect and hear what you think of the above, and your adventure into Crypto. You can find me on Twitter, @canthardywait .

Enormous thank you to Aaron Frank, Laura Spiekerman, Dan Schulz, David Perell, John Kaldor, and Arjun Balaji for your thorough, substantive feedback. You rock!

Footnotes

¹ No one knows if Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin’s creator) is a man, woman, group, AI, time-traveler, or alien. There are some fun conspiracy theories though.

² This post was largely inspired by the Book “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Tim Gallwey and Tiago Forte’s writing on “The Inner Game of Work

³ Tim Urban’s WaitButWhy posts on How to Beat Procrastination and How Tesla will Change the World

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Morgan Housel Expiring vs. Long-term knowlege

Paul Graham: Keep your Identity Small

Topics of interest

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