Billionaire SpaceJam: The Musk, Bezos, Branson, & Allen Space Race
Houston, we have traction.
After 50 years of space industry stasis, we are approaching an upward inflection for space travel. We put a man on the moon in 1969, and then spent the next two decades figuring out how to put nukes on rockets to bomb the Russians. The underfunded NASA hasn’t made much progress since 1969, and it’s time for non-federal hands to take over. Luckily, the 21st century versions of the Men Who Built America are taking control. Now is the first time in the history of the world that the possibility for us to extend life to other planets is open. Welcome to the space race.
Jeff Bezos plans to create the infrastructure to speed up the growth of the space industry. Bezos cites the space industry’s slow growth is due to the lack of infrastructure. This is coming from the guy who built the $350 billion dollar Amazon empire on remote payment systems and excellent shipping services.
Elon Musk wants to turn humanity into a multi-planetary species, first by creating a self-sustaining outpost on Mars as insurance for humanity’s survival if disaster were to happen on Earth. If this seems like a fever dream, welcome to Elon Musk. Earth’s rapid environmental deterioration would cost $60 trillion to start reversing the damage done. This is a tough bill to pass around the global dinner table, where the total GDP of all national economies is only $75 trillion. Global warming and overpopulation are two problems that could bring Earth to a catastrophic ending by 2100, and Musk wants to ensure humanity’s survival.
Richard Branson’s businessman by practice, adventurer at heart approach to life spices up the space race. Founder of the Virgin Empire of over 400 companies, Branson himself hopped in a hot air balloon to become the first person to cross the Atlantic in 1987. His competitive drive to beat records and become the first to conquer the previously unconquered combined with his underdog boldness makes him a force to be reckoned with in the race to space.
Paul Allen helped to revolutionize the tech world with Microsoft and is now looking to revolutionize the space world in a similar fashion by lowering the costs for space entrepreneurs around the globe.
The four combine for nearly $100 billion in net worth and each have their strategic strengths. Elon Musk once said when describing his Hyperloop project, “ As long as there’s competition, competition is good for innovation. Ideally, you’d want an industry where there are at least three or four entities competing. That, I think, tends to lead to the best level of innovation because any company that sort of stays stationary with their technology will be exceeded by their competitors.” Well, there are conveniently four powerful players in the space race that will carry mankind further than it has ever gone before.
Player 1: Jeff Bezos
“When it comes to space, I see it as my job.”
Company: Blue Origin
Best Known For: CEO of Amazon, his bald head, and his honking laugh.
Amazon.com Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the reigning champion in creating possibly the best viable e-commerce business model ever conceived. Amazon is a behemoth with its hands in everything from warehouse storage to cloud storage. A lot of Bezos’ work with Blue Origin (his own rocket project) has been under the radar and he was recently recruited to be a part of the Pentagon’s Innovation Advisory Board.
Jeff Bezos and the Space Race
Bezos is the first to the race, with the launch of Blue Origin in 2000. His plan is to move all heavy industry off Earth to avoid having to freeze population growth and reduce energy utilization. As a civilization that has been powered by the bones of dinosaurs for since the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s, the future demand is clear. Bezos’s envisions large chip manufacturing plants in orbit and solar panels that collect light 24/7. This would allow Earth’s population to continue growing without getting checked by energy or overpopulation constraints. “I don’t want a Plan B for Earth. I want Plan B to make sure Plan A works,” said Bezos. “I think you go to space to save Earth. We know about the Solar System now. We’ve sent robotic probes all over the Solar System. Let me assure you, this is the best planet.” Jeff Bezos’s net worth sits shy of 60 billion and he has the best infrastructure in the digital age by far. “I’m building infrastructure the hard way. I’m using my resources to put in place heavy lifting infrastructure so that the next generation of people can have a dynamic, entrepreneurial explosion into space.”
Player 2: Elon Musk
“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”
Best Known For: Tesla, Paypal, Hyperloop, SolarCity, OpenAI, and being real life Iron Man.
Elon Musk has the lion’s share of the publicity and traction in the rocket business. Being the Founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX is just one of his many hats. Musk is also the Co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, the Co-founder and Chairman of SolarCity, and the Co-chairman of OpenAI. Elon used his proceeds of $165 million from his stake in Paypal after its acquisition to fund SpaceX and Tesla. He decided to defer living the lavished lifestyle of many successful entrepreneurs (he could barely even afford rent) in order to try his hand at conquering the world’s problems and making reaching Mars a reality.
Musk has also announced a merger between Tesla and SolarCity. This combined power-storage and power-generation and automotive monster could give Tesla the potential to be a company with a $1 trillion market cap.
Elon Musk and the Space Race
SpaceX is making most of its wealth by serving NASA and many other private companies in delivering cargo and satellites into orbit or to the International Space Station (ISS). The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are taking on the bulk of the workload. Elon’s vision is one day making it affordable to send people to Mars for brief periods of time. One million people to be exact and he’s not too far off from doing it.
SpaceX constructed and launched the first private spacecraft to land on Earth after being in orbit, as well as the first private spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station. Musk’s plan to create a reusable rocket is going to help drop the cost of space travel by a factor of around 100.
The Falcon Heavy is Elon’s next big project and he plans to test it later on this year. It is twice as powerful than any other rocket in use and has the capabilities to transport people to the moon and Mars. He also hopes to have the Dragon Version 2 (about the size of a large SUV) sent to Mars in 2018 with no passengers on it. This is not because he has any fear of it failing, but because there’s no way for the rocket to get back. Expect us to be writing about the first manned mission to Mars in 2024.
Player 3: Richard Branson
“We compete in a friendly way.”
Company: Virgin Galactic
Best Known For: Virgin (most notably Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Airways) a positive attitude, and his cheeky ever-present grin.
Branson is the only one out of the group with actual aviation industry experience. As the founder of Virgin Atlantic, Branson learned what it was like to fight as an underdog (winning over British Airways) and to deal with chaotic times such as when crude oil was upwards of $149/barrel (it is now around $40/barrel).
A 17-year-old Richard Branson started out with a student newspaper and grew an empire of over 350 companies doing more than $15 billion in annual revenue. He coined the term “branded venture capital” along the way.
Richard Branson and the Space Race
After a few major hiccups, including a fatal crash in 2007 of the VSS Enterprise in 2014. As of August 2nd, 2016 Virgin Galactic has finally received its space travel license from the US Federal Aviation Administration. This license is a crucial step forward in putting Branson’s spacecraft, which looks and lands more like an airplane than a rocket, into sub-orbit around the big blue marble. He hopes to make commercial flights into space a norm by 2018.
A Challenger Appears: Paul Allen
“”That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”
Company: Stratolaunch Systems
Best Known for: Microsoft, Owner of the Seattle Seahawks, Owner of the Portland Trailblazers
Paul Allen is no stranger to the business of space. In 2000, Allen brokered a deal which funded Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne which later won the Ansari X-Prize of $10 million in 2004. It turns out that this very project later fell into the hands of Richard Branson. Allen, who is described as mostly reclusive, is nothing short of being one of the greatest philanthropists to live and has started multiple institutes for brain science, cell science, and artificial intelligence.
Paul Allen and the Space Race
Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace venture focuses on creating a gigantic six-engine plane with a wingspan of 385 feet capable of delivering satellites into specific orbits, without the usual complications of weather and scheduling delays on the ground. Nicknamed the “Roc”, the Stratolaunch is a dual-bodied plane is connected by a reinforced center wing that provides the lift and stability for payloads of over 500,000 pounds. This essentially what a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket can launch from the ground, except straight from the stratosphere. Allen wants to make space more publicly accessible and revolutionize the industry in the same way the personal computer did the tech world.
- Musk wants to fly people to and eventually colonize Mars. Creating a self-sustaining population on Mars will ensure that the only intelligent we have ever known will continue.
- Bezos wants to “save Earth” by making low-cost, reusable rockets to eventually move all of Earth’s heavy industry off the planet. We will have more room to grow and more energy to support our growth. Our planet will finally breathe a clean sigh of relief once the bulk of our heavy industry is somewhere that is otherwise uninhabitable for life.
- Branson wants to send people into space for the fun of it. The commercialization of space will make the concept of space entrepreneurship more plausible as the target market continues to grow.
- Allen wants to make space an accessible target for future entrepreneurs. With Bezos, the high initial fixed costs will be lowered and space will within our immediate grasp.
In a world where company valuations soar based on a number of people using selfie filters that make them look like dogs, the reason is clear why there isn’t more competition in the space industry. Space is no man’s land – both in terms for its habitability and profitability. Sending anything into space is an extremely high risk, low reward situation.
Thankfully, humanity has some of the brightest minds and billions of capital attacking the space front from multiple angles. With Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch platform, mankind will be able to send rockets and satellites into space at a more reliable and eventually cheaper rate. With the help of Jeff Bezos, the journey to space will be paved with excellent infrastructure. Elon Musk’s energy advancements through SolarCity and Tesla will make space travel more effective. And to top it all off, Richard Branson will make space travel commercially appealing by sending people on a tour.
A few decades ago, the pinnacle of competition among society’s elite would occur on the horse racing tracks. Now, at least for the billionaires in the entrepreneurial world, the focus is on the race to space. The final frontier has captured the wonder and fascination of mankind since we popped out of whatever primordial stew we came from. It’s hard not to conjure up the image of a few neighborhood kids playing with rocket toys. There’s a space nerd in all of us. The only difference is some of us have billions and business empires to act on it.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
– John F. Kennedy
Many thanks to Grant Horvath for co-writing this article with me and being a big space nerd.
In 1848, James W. Marshall picked up a gold nugget from a river basin in Coloma, California and launched the California Gold Rush with his strategically self-gratifying Instagram post.
Over 300,000 people from around the world risked life and limb in pursuit of gold, hopping on rickety wagons and janky trains to travel thousands of miles.
Fast forward 150+ years. The invention of the Internet has channeled a similar desire to hit it big. Instead of wearing boots and wielding shovels, people are wearing hoodies and wielding MacBooks. Instead of sifting through river basins for gold nuggets, people are sifting through information to find the next rush.
The recent numbers are enticing.
- $1,000 in Bitcoin in January 2017 would be worth around $2,200 in May 2017
- $1,000 in Ethereum in January 2017 would be worth around $21,000 in May 2017
- $1,000 in Ripple (XRP) in January 2017 would be worth around $36,000 in May 2017
To bring things back a few:
- $1,000 in Bitcoin in August 2013 would be worth around $18,300 in May 2017
- $1,000 in Ethereum in January 2016 would be worth around $194,700 in May 2017
Unlike the concept of wading knee-deep in a river and sifting through pebbles to find the shiny ones, cryptocurrencies can be extremely complicated. Whether your desire to learn is fueled by curiosity or the desire for financial gain, you’ll be able to get something valuable out of this article.
It may be easy to make gold rush comparisons because similar elements are present: the exciting potential to make a lot of money, uncertainty, and the ensuing speculation. The biggest differentiator is that some cryptocurrencies have the potential to potentially disrupt billion dollar industries. That’s worth more than the idea of shiny metal in a river.
“The thing is, most of the people in the gold rush didn’t get rich. The comparison holds up right now because you have a lot of people coming in and buying without a lot of knowledge. Having [awesome] articles like this is a good way to influence people’s transition from unknowledgeable traders to people with a working knowledge of what this is, how it’s important, and what they can do to not be left behind. This is not a gold rush that is going to last a few years and then the gold dries up. This is an evolution of the payment system. Bitcoin is an attempt to replace long-term value storage. Ripple is an attempt to replace the payment system and transfer of money. Ethereum is an attempt to replace the “work-based” value of currency with a value derived from actual work done executing programs.”
-James Risberg, Bearded Tech Guy, San Francisco, California.
Setting the Scene
You might have noticed this article is both a good time and a long time. It’s nearing 8,000 words, but it’s written with the full understanding that we’re busy people. It’s written for you to be able to bounce around between sections or dive into the specifics of a topic at your own discretion. Feel free to bookmark this, refer to the table of contents, and enjoy.
The goal of the first section is to get familiar enough with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to the extent that you understand what they do, and how you can buy them. Here’s the general gist:
- The State of the Union
- What is a cryptocurrency
- How to Buy Cryptos
- Final Thoughts – Crypto Group Signup
Chances you’ll have a few questions. Some of the most frequent burning questions most encounter are listed in the next section.
- What’s stopping someone from stealing my stuff?
- What can I do to make my bitcoins more secure?
- Where are all these altcoins coming from?
- Is investing in cryptos a good idea?
- Where is the best place to check crypto prices?
- Why aren’t more people investing cryptos?
If you don’t understand everything on the first try, that’s OK. We’re going over a lot of things. Feel free to read a bit, think about it, take a Daily Calm meditation break, and get back to it.
Here we go.
The State of the Union
Let me tell you about my friend Kyle.
Kyle is a young, bespectacled, and incredibly intelligent kid. By any measure, Kyle is objectively nerdy. He was always enrolled in the most advanced math classes and loved programming. Although friendly, he mostly kept to himself and his crew of friends who played World of Warcraft.
A fun weekend for Kyle meant going to a hackathon and building new fun things.
He’s got an ideological side, but usually doesn’t bring it up because people have told him it comes on a bit strong.
People aren’t sure whether Kyle is secretly building the next Facebook or training to bring a katana to school if he’s pushed to the edge. They generally want to be his friend, but keep their distance because they aren’t really sure how to interact with him.
In college, Kyle started making a lot friends who were interested in the cool projects he built. He started becoming more popular, and soon enough magazines started running stories on him. Now, everyone who’s ever known Kyle is starting to contact him to see how they can get in on the action.
“Hey bro, I saw your article in TechCrunch. I don’t really know what you’re doing, but are y’all hiring?”
Kyle is a cryptocurrency.
Mainstream society views cryptocurrencies just like most people view Kyle: complicated, loaded with potential, confusing, and slightly dangerous. These are a few of the reasons cryptos haven’t quite caught on.
“Everyone has their own reasons. Lack of awareness, lack of need, lack of knowledge, lack of resources etc. Most people don’t understand what money is in general and when you show them a new form they really have no idea what to make of it. I’m sure the first nerds to use gold as a money were laughed at or misunderstood by many in the tribe. Its very difficult mentally to abstract our global monetary and financial system as well as the theories behind it. On top of that, abstracting what’s going on from a technical perspective is also extremely difficult. Mentally they are huge barriers to entry even for well educated people. People generally don’t trust things they don’t understand. Not one person on Earth is born knowing how bitcoin works and why it works. You can’t fault people for not knowing about something so abstract and mysterious.”
-Brett Musser, Paradigm Shifter @ AirBitz, San Diego, California
Think of it this way. You’re fairly intelligent, have access to the Internet, and have likely heard about Bitcoin and cryptos. You’re interested, yet you (along with 99.99% of people) still feel distanced.
Who can blame you? The majority of crypto information, although welcoming, is littered with overly technical explanations and ideologies that are easily dismissed by our busy, distracted, nontechnical minds.
Once you get to know him, Kyle’s a pretty cool guy. Let’s get you up to speed.
What is a cryptocurrency
No, wait. Don’t leave.
While the term “cryptocurrency” may be off-putting to most due to its multisyllabic geekiness, it’s really quite simple to understand.
“Cryptocurrency” is a blanket definition for any type of digital currency that uses an encryption technique to regulate how the currency operates. This means that the underlying transaction system is grounded in hard-cut mathematics and hack-proof programming, rather than corporate banks, politics, professors of economics, investment bankers, or state-run treasuries.
Bitcoin is the oldest and most popular cryptocurrency.
We’ll occasionally call them “cryptos” because it makes us sound like we know this stuff on a conversational basis. We’re hip.
These digital coins usually don’t have a central regulating authority, but rather are programmed to share authority that is distributed across dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of computers. All these computers have to verify transactions and agree upon how the supply is created. At first glance, the concept might be confusing just because it is so unlike how we traditionally view money.
The similarities, however, are uncanny.
- You want to pay Jim $20 in USD, so you give him a $20 bill.
- You want to pay Jim $20 in Bitcoin, you send him a fraction of a Bitcoin worth $20.
- You keep your money in your bank savings account.
- You keep your Bitcoin in your Bitcoin wallet (we’ll get into that later).
There are several distinctive features that separate cryptos from their paper cousins:
- No central regulatory agency such as the Fed to buy and print money.
- “Blockchain” is the backbone that combines cryptography and distributed computing networks to create networks that are secure and not controlled by anyone one person or institution. You can think of it as a much more secure internet. Blockchain is a huge concept that many people have started to hear, but still don’t completely understand. We’ll go into this in more detail. This video (embedded below) does a great job of explaining it.
- No single overruling governing body, making it a global currency
The following is probably the best video on the Internet explaining how cryptos work in an easily digestible manner.
To reiterate on one of the key points about cryptos, a primary distinction for most cryptos is that they don’t have a central server like banks do, and are therefore “decentralized.”
For example, the payment processing, currency creation, and holding of actual money on Bitcoin is decentralized. The power and responsibility, however, is distributed much more throughout the bitcoin network.
So, if there’s no specific person in charge, what’s to stop people from breaking the system by hacking and double spending money they don’t have?
Cryptos function using what is referred to as a “blockchain” structure. This structure of each “block” in the blockchain is made of out a data structure based on encrypted Merkle Trees. We won’t get too technical here (that linked video does a phenomenal job of explaining), but just know that blockchain structure automatically detects when a single file in a chain of files is corrupted, and prevents any damage from being done. This is kind of like a “giant receipt” of every transaction checked at the door by a Walmart greeter.
Bitcoin, for example, is financial transactions run on a blockchain. Bitcoin’s blockchain is made up of blocks of verified transactions. Once a set amount of transactions are verified, a block gets added to the chain and it keeps going.
The entire integrity of the blockchain system rests on the individual blocks being accurate. Thankfully, the Bitcoin blockchain has a ruthless verification process, making it impossible to “double-spend” bitcoin.
For example, if I wanted to withdraw my $1,000.00 from my bank account on a central server, the transaction would have to be verified only by that central server. I walk up to an ATM, insert my card, type in my pin, and *fffffffffrrrrrrrrtttttt* I have 50 crisp 20s in my hand. While this system has worked fairly well in the past, it has not been without its fair share of fraud.
Bitcoin, being decentralized and using blockchain, requires much more than a single verification. A transaction not only has to be verified by one person, but virtually every other person on the network. This way there is no way a fraudulent transaction can occur. Unless someone steals your bitcoin.
The people that verify these transactions of called “miners” and are tasked with solving complicated math problems to prove their humanity. Theoretically, the first miner to solve the math problem wins and gets to add the next block of transactions to the chain. While Bitcoin mining is much complicated than a bunch of people sitting in a room doing pre-calculas homework, this is the general concept. The majority of bitcoin mining is mostly all hardware.
These miners are incentivized by Bitcoin’s built-in reward system. With each new block of verified transactions, 12.5 Bitcoins are created and added to the winner’s account, which adds up to about $26,537.50. This number changes over time, and the block reward halves every four years approximately. These calculations aren’t about proof of humanity, they’re about proof of work (POW), or proving a minimum amount of energy was expended to get to the correct answer. You can’t fake energy expenditure on specific math problems.
While cryptos and blockchain are not mutually exclusive, the vast majority of cryptocurrencies including bitcoin use blockchain. Decentralization is the main characteristic for a vast majority of cryptos, there are some that are actually more centralized, such as Ripple. There are certain cryptos such as Ripple (XRP) that are clear counterexamples to how cryptos are traditionally viewed and are more centralized, but we’ll get into Ripple later.
So far, the bitcoin blockchain is the only antifragile, and sizable blockchain out there. The structure of each specific crypto’s blockchain varies. Just because something has a blockchain doesn’t automatically make it secure. It’s important to realize the distinction because many could unfortunately fall to scams if they don’t do any technical research on extraordinary claims because they think all blockchains are equal.
Explain it to me like I’m five: Cryptocurrencies are money on the Internet.
Still following? Good.
Bitcoin is the posterchild for cryptos.
You might recall seeing a Bitcoin pop up in the occasional article or news segment with headlines such as Man buys $26 of bitcoin, forgets about them, finds they’re now worth $850k.
So, what is this fortune forming coin?
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer decentralized currency that is not tied to any particular government or regulating body. The transactions are handled by the blockchain described above.
What makes Bitcoin very interesting is that as the flagship of the crypto fleet, it is remarkably useful and easy to get into. It’s also becoming more accepted around the world as a legitimate alternative source of payment. Its global implications play in perfect harmony with its decentralized blockchain structure.
While the price of one bitcoin has been hovering around $2,100 lately, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have $2,100 to spend. Exchanges allow for fractional purchases, and the currency is divisible up to a millionth. For example, if you have an extra $5, you could currently buy around .00222171 of a Bitcoin.
An interesting thing about Bitcoin is that there are currently only 16,345,487 BTC in circulation. Remember, since there is no central regulatory agency, there isn’t a single government deciding to print sheets of bitcoin. By design, the supply Bitcoin is capped to 21 million.
A study by Cambridge University found that there are 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users actively using a crypto wallet, with a majority using bitcoin as the preferred method of payment. Since the number of people using Bitcoin has been generally increasing over the past few years, the price has been mostly increasing due to simple marketplace supply and demand.
An altcoin is simply any other crypto that is not Bitcoin.
This is like when someone with the same first name is introduced to a group of friends, and they are forever referred to as “the other Alex.” Sucks to be Alex #2, but Bitcoin was here first.
The blanket term refers to 700+ different altcoins trading on the market. Following the example from above, if you get 700+ Alexs in one room, you’ll likely have some gems and probably a bunch of not so great ones. It’s the same thing with altcoins, which are often endearingly referred to as “shitcoins” if that makes them more palatable.
Altcoins such as Ethereum and Ripple (XRP) have massive industry-disrupting potential, whereas some are based off the doge meme.
Yes, Dogecoin a real thing and it’s gone up 25% since I started this article a week ago.
Altcoins tend to be very volatile, and have seen extremely rapid periods of growth. It’s not uncommon to see a random altcoin jump 250% in a matter of hours.
As you can imagine, going up 11,120.166% in a day isn’t sustainable. Part of the attraction to cryptos is purely speculative (who wouldn’t want to turn $1,000 into $111,200 bucks in a few hours), but keep in mind that this is the Wild Wild West. Bad things happen to good people, and most people who attempt to day-trade cryptos get eaten alive.
There are over 700+ altcoins out there, and unfortunately the shitcoins tend to distract from the altcoins that may have a legitimate use case that is unique to that coin. There are a handful that are relatively successful attempts to create something meaningful, and have a legitimate functionality with market value.
Two of the ones we will go over in this article are Ethereum and Ripple.
This one kind of sounds like something that powers Iron Man’s suit, and in a way it kind of is.
Ethereum, an altcoin, is a decentralized platform that allows decentralized apps (dapps) to “run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.”
Remember how blockchain powers Bitcoins financial transactions? Well, Ether uses a blockchain but for a different reason. Ethereum is a virtual machine on a blockchain that hosts decentralized apps, and “ether” is the currency that compensates people for running and validating the code. A few dapps of interest include:
Augur: a decentralized prediction market built on the Ethereum blockchain that allows users allows to forecast events and rewards them for correct predictions. for predicting them correctly.
Golem: the first global market for idle computer power. This is essentially a global supercomputer that anyone can access made up from the combined power of every user’s machines, including everything from personal laptops to entire data centers.
Lunyr: is a world knowledge base which rewards users with app tokens for peer-reviewing and contributing information. This is pretty much Wikipedia built on blockchain, with a built-in monetization system without advertising.
This applications could be huge, and they are all built on the Ethereum blockchain and run on ether.
“You upload a picture to Facebook, and you’re actually sending that picture to Facebook’s computers and it gets stored on their computers. If you did that on decentralized computers, you would have the picture on your device, and you would give permission to Facebook or whoever else wants to see the picture. You would give permission to view the picture rather than just view the whole picture. It’s secure because it’s still on your device, and you can trust Facebook won’t get hacked and someone will have your pictures. You’re in control and you can retract permission to that picture at any moment. This is what the Ethereum platform is trying to do.
Ethereum is the platform, ether is the currency. Basically, running code costs a tiny, tiny amount of ether. It’s called the “gas cost”. Each “miner” running an ethereum node will execute your code for you and charge you in ether. You basically can be sure that the code that you ran isn’t fraudulent because it was executed and on many, many other computers on the network who agreed upon the result. Good for introductory general concept, state of these apps.”
–Oscar “Made Out of Blockchain” Lafarga, CTO of SetOcean, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Something has to be powering these dapps and verifying the transactions. Enter ether mining. Ether is the digital gas that powers all of these apps. In the last few years, everyone from billion dollar corporations like eBay, Target, and Yahoo to the United States government has been hacked. This hacking exposed the personal information of millions of people.
In a dapp ecosystem, the owner has complete control of their data and the data that all of these apps can get from you. It’s all predefined and encrypted. You’ll never have the mass corruption or the mass hacks.
“Ethereum doesn’t really compete with bitcoin, nor is it intended to. What you have to understand is that most, and by most I mean like 95%+ of these cryptocurrencies are based on blockchain. Bitcoin was the first implementation, and that’s just in financial transactions on a blockchain.
Every Bitcoin financial transaction is verified. Ethereum, instead of being a blockchain of financial transactions, is a blockchain of decentralized apps (dapps). Ethereum is for creating a template of apps on a blockchain. You know how you hear about these huge hacks that happen on popular services & suddenly 100,000+ emails are posted on pastebin?? That would be extremely difficult on a dapp because all of the data is encrypted.”
-Jesus “Cryptocurrency for Muggles” Najera, CEO of SetOcean, Ft. Lauderdale. Florida
Ethereum seems to be the perfect solution to multiple problems, ranging from security to compensation. The companies supporting the launch of their dapps running on Ethereum include heavy hitters like Accenture, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Credit Suisse, and BBVA. The National Bank of Canada also recently joined the alliance to develop Ethereum.
This support has validated Ethereum as a target for many investors.
Ripple is interesting in the sense that it’s not very similar to how cryptocurrencies are traditionally viewed. Many people find it controversial because of differing definitions of what a “blockchain” is.
Ripple, interestingly enough, is just really advanced banking infrastructure software.
Scenario X, you are a bank owner. You see how fast the fin-tech industry is booming. New applications are coming out left and right that are saving banks millions of dollars and hours. As a bank owner, you’re freaking out because your bank conducts banking operations on computers using Windows 97 with Office 2003 suite to run banking operations. The kind where the Paperclip is offering you fax suggestions. It’s 2017, bruh.
The reason many banks use outdated software is because switching individual banking technologies to apps can be an extremely time-consuming and risky process since you are dealing with other people’s information.
Enter Ripple. Ripple has every financial functionality built into it, powered by the same powerful functionality that makes other cryptos incredibly difficult to hack. It has a single purpose to be the single next financial institution.
“Bitcoin is decentralized global currency.
Ripple is a centralized global currency.“
Ripple as a parent company holds 99 billion XRP, and has only released 33 billion to be traded with. When and why they release Ripply is up to the company. An argument can be made that even though it’s one of the more volatile high-market-cap, it has the potential to be incredibly stabilized due to the parent holding company’s majority holdings.
How to Buy Cryptos
Before we dive into this section, let’s go over some quick definitions:
- Wallet platform (n): This is like your bank account.
- Exchange platform (n): This is where you can trade either money for cryptos, or cryptos for other cryptos.
- Public Cryptographic key (n): This is essentially your account number. It’s an address to receive money. You want people to know your public address so they can send you bitcoin.
- Private Cryptographic key (n): This allows you to spend money. You don’t want people you don’t trust to know your private key because they can spend your bitcoins. There are services such as AirBitz that secure private cryptographic keys.
- Hard wallet (n): This is kind of like a treasure chest that is offline.
There are multiple different ways to purchase cryptos, but we’ll focus on the most popular: Coinbase.
Coinbase started in 2012, was enrolled in the prestigious Y Combinator Startup program, raised over $117 million from prominent VC firms like Andreessen Horowitz, and is located in San Francisco.
It’s safe to say that it’s pretty legit. It’s user friendly interface has helped make it one of the most popular digital wallet and exchange platform, especially for first-time buyers. This is precisely why I’ve chosen to use Coinbase for this article.
- Go to Coinbase. If you use that link, you get $10 free in Bitcoin once you buy or sell $100+ of digital currency. Full disclosure, so do I. This 30+ hour article is an elaborate ploy to get your $10. Welcome to Miami, kid, you just got hustled.
- Sign up: Give the people your information, read over the terms, and follow the subsequent steps for verification.
- Log in: lock n’ load
- Link your payment method: It’s highly recommended you link your bank account, because the fees associated with debit/credit cards are pretty outrageous. This might take a few days. In your down-time, feel free to watch crypto tickers while internally screaming at Coinbase to hurry up.
- Click Buy/Sell.
- Select your crypto of choice: Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin. Keep in mind you can buy a fraction of any.
- Enter your purchase amount in USD: This will calculate the amount of the crypto you can get at the listed market value.
- Click Buy: observe the values on the right hand side. Look at the fee. Sigh. Mentally commit to reading my next article on how to buy cryptos without having to pay a fee like that.
- Confirm: confirm your purchase. It isn’t confirmed until it says “Your purchase was successful!” since transactions tend to time out rather quickly because of price fluctuations.
Welcome to the world of cryptos. Tell all your friends.
Coinbase makes its money by charging a 1.49% for purchases from your bank account, and 3.99% from your debit/credit card. Please don’t use your debit/credit card because the fee is outrageous. A 1.49% fee isn’t bad, but if you are frequently trading fees start adding up quickly.
After you get a couple trades under your belt and skin in the game, it is worth exploring other options that don’t charge as high fees. I am planning to put together an article on how to use alternative platforms. You also can’t buy Ripple on Coinbase (yet), and I will be putting out a guide on that as well.
When it’s done the link will be here. But for now, if you’re interested feel free to sign up for updates here.
Section Two: Frequently Asked Questions for Cryptocurrencies
Congratulations. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve significantly upped your understanding of cryptocurrencies. That wasn’t so bad was it? Even though you now likely know much more than the majority of people, you’re only just getting started.
Here are some popular questions to help refine your knowledge. I recommend reading through all of them even if you have a vague understanding of them because there are some pearls of wisdom not in the first section.
What’s stopping someone from stealing my stuff?
Cryptocurrency is fundamentally impossible to hack due to its blockchain structure. Since each transaction must be verified by multiple users, a hacker would have to essentially hack into every verification step in the lengthy process.
There is a big difference between changing the blockchain and hacking someone’s bitcoin. The former is pretty much impossible and the latter is possible. To change the blockchain, they would need to hack into every node on the network. To hack someone’s bitcoin, they would just to hack into the person who holds bitcoin.
While cryptocurrency is incredibly difficult to be hacked, cryptocurrency exchange platforms are a different story.
The most infamous Bitcoin exchange hack was that of the Tokyo-based exchange MtGox, which handled roughly 70% of all bitcoin transactions. In 2014, 850,000 bitcoins (valued at more than $350 million) disappeared from the platform. The CEO Mark Karpelès was arrested and jailed.
So, yes, someone could technically hack into a cryptocurrency wallet platform. But, as secure exchanges falter, larger and safer entities tend to emerge. Marc Andreessen, a renowned venture capitalist and Bitcoin advocate noted that “MtGox had to die for Bitcoin to thrive. Its former role from early Bitcoin days has been supplanted by better, stronger entities.”
While bitcoin wallet exchanges do offer convenience, the miniscule possibility of getting hacked often plays a big role in people’s thought process of buying cryptos.
Enter the hard wallet.
Hard wallets are USBs that store your cryptographic key offline and away from exchanges. Since it only lives on your device, it’s impossible to hack. However, if you do lose the physical copy of your wallet full of cryptos, you enter a sticky situation. Most hard wallets come with recovery keys, but the process can be pretty unforgiving.
“Basically, if you don’t want to trust a room full of scheming bankers to keep your bitcoin safe, you’re gonna want a hard wallet. It’s almost like if you wanted to hold $1M in cash in your back pocket, you can trust the hard wallet to securely take care of that for you.”
– Oscar “Larry David SNL Bernie Sanders Bank Sketch” Lafarga
But for the scope of this article, you should at least be aware of hard wallets as an option rather as the only way to get started.
What would negatively affect the price?
- If an exchange got hacked.
Keep in mind that an exchange hack doesn’t damage the integrity of the system itself, it just proves that exchange platforms are capable of getting hacked just like any other company. It’s not a problem unique to cryptocurrency. Imagine US dollars getting stolen from a bank vault or gold from a safe. This robbery doesn’t make gold or dollars unsafe, it just means the institution or mechanism storing them was vulnerable.
“As sure as I am of anything, after a price dips after a hack, it will recover and come back. It doesn’t stop all the other people with regular [hard] wallets from using bitcoin. There are so, so many people using bitcoin in the whole world, and the global level access will constantly ensure a demand. For example, there are countries that are developing right now that don’t even have banks, yet they have bitcoin because it’s useful to them. It’s not the alternative, it’s the only thing they use to transact.”
– Oscar “probably tired of nicknames by now” Lafarga
On the global level, there is no way a short-term supply shock from an exchange getting hacked is going to outweigh the rest of the world picking it up and buying it long-term.
- If a major government enforces a policy it’s illegal to accept bitcoin as payment.
There are currently a lot of governments supporting bitcoin. Since it is without a regulatory agency, it hangs around in a gray financial territory. This is an inherent risk, but in reality, governments have tended to be very favorable towards cryptos and blockchain in general.
However, a major government outlawing the use of cryptocurrency could cause a massive shock in the bitcoin markets. The United States has had its hands full politically, so we haven’t really been seeing much Bitcoin related legislation lately. The SEC denied the approval of a bitcoin-based exchange-traded-products (ETPs) by the Winklevoss twins in 2017, causing an 18% dip in price.
Alternatively, if the U.S. government approved Bitcoin, it would skyrocket. It’s interesting to note that Bitcoin is becoming more popular among the developing world as well.
“Many in the developed world are running on an existing financial system that has created a vast amount of material wealth while being parasitic at the same time. Most people don’t notice the parasite because many parasites are good at keeping their host alive for as long as possible. Many people need pain to change. So when they feel the parasitism of the financial system increase overtime, as it mostly surely will, they will finally understand why bitcoin exists in the first place. Many in Venezuela, Argentina, Cyprus, and many others, don’t just want bitcoin, they NEED bitcoin. They feel the pain of a government that has trashed the one thing that truly connects people inside their nations: money”
-Brett “Consider the Paradigm Shifted” Musser
If the world were a country, cryptocurrency would be its native currency; just like the US dollar is the native currency of the United States.
“Technically the US Dollar is the “world’s currency” right now, because it is by far the most used Reserve Currency (currency held by central banks and large financial institutions to send to each other) because of it’s stability and strength. After WWII the Bretton Woods System was put in place that placed the Dollar as the anchor of the global financial system. In recent years the Euro has picked up some steam (~20% of reserves are Euro now) and before the dollar the Pound Sterling held sway. The Dollar is losing its grasp as our financial situation deteriorates and who’s to say BTC doesn’t start to fill in as part of our reserve system.”
-James “Hackerman” Risberg
Where are all these altcoins coming from?
Mostly speculation. Think of the gold rush and goldminers mixed in with Wolf of Wallstreet-esque penny stock traders.
“The difference is that even penny stocks have specific congressionally-mandated rules on how they can be traded, due to some major cases of fraudulent activity in the past. Altcoins have no such rules as of yet. For now, it’s a completely “free” unregulated market, so depending on what country you live in, you’re going to have to watch out for how regulatory authorities are going to try and impose legal control. You have to be able to protect yourself and assess your own risk if you buy into these altcoins, since there’s no government doing it for you.”
– Oscar “The Wild Wild West Protaganist” Lafarga
Some of the growth may be due to the overall growth of the cryptocurrency market, it’s often more closely related to pumping and dumping, or traders artificially increasing the price by buying massive chunks of the altcoin only to sell it after other traders notice the trend and start buying some as well.
There’s a reason altcoins are often referred to as shitcoins.
Altcoins are “alternative” cryptocurrencies to Bitcoin, and other than most having a blockchain structure, they have little in common with Bitcoin.
You remember how blockchain functions based on blocks of verified information? Some altcoins are people making their own transaction history based off the bitcoin blockchain but using a time in the past. For example, some might rip BitCoins transactional history from 2012 but then add entirely new transactions. Any new transactions not synched to THE Bitcoin blockchains essentially turns it into an entirely new ledger. In doing so, they’ve just fabricated a brand new coin.
“If you wanted to, right now, you could clone the source code of bitcoin, “fork” its blockchain, rebrand it as your own cryptocurrency, and start selling it to people for whatever price you wanted, bullshit included for free! If you get enough people in on it, you can pump and dump, sell all of your altcoins for bitcoin and crash the price.
The problem with “scamming” is that theres a very blurry line between a) running off with the money you gave me and b) promising you that you should “invest” in my altcoin because one day it’s going to be the “next big thing” while you spend the next 2 years watching me “fix bugs” and “find more developers” while we “pivot to a more robust consensus mechanism”.
I shit you not PonziCoin is actually a real altcoin. Not all of these altcoins are bitcoin forks, but in any case, if they’re not offering unique features that differentiates itself from bitcoin, it’s hard to argue the long-term value unless Bitcoin were to fail in a major way.”
-Oscar “The Protecter” Lafarga
It’s a fugazi, you know what a fugazi is? Fugayzee, foogahzee, it’s a whazee it’s a whoozee, its a *whistle* fairy dust.
There are a handful of legitimate altcoin attempts such as Ripple to create something valuable. Out of the 700+ altcoins on the market, it’s rather difficult to distinguish which are worth investing into, and which are artificially inflated from scammy marketers. The illegitimate attempts opaque the altcoin landscape, and one must be careful when venturing into the Wild Wild Altcoin West.
A general rule of thumb is that if something has over $1 billion market cap, it has statistically less probability to be a pump and dump scheme than those with small market caps.
Where is the best place to check crypto prices?
On a web browser, Coinmarketcap.com is my go-to place. It’s not so hot on mobile.
On mobile, you can download the Coinbase app for Bitcoin and Ethereum. For ALL coins, I recommend CoinCap because it lets you create your own alt-coin portfolio to look at specific coins.
Is investing in cryptos a good idea?
Here’s where we venture into the land of opinions. Follow at your own peril.
While crypto investments have turned people into millionaires, there are obviously no guarantees. Here are a handful of tips I’ve gathered:
- Don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose.
- Don’t beat yourself up for missing the “next big crypto spike.” Yes, we know you heard about bitcoin at $20. Yes, you could have bought Ethereum last month for $5. This erratic mindset leads to erratic trading and “crash jitters”.
- Invest in fundamental features for the long-term. Some people have been holding bitcoin since 2011; it’s worked out pretty well for them.
- Day trade at your own peril. Traders are more likely to get eaten alive.
- Don’t believe everything you read online. An average guy casually making a billion by buying Dogecoin and forgetting about it makes for a sexier story than “Dumb college kid loses rent money on Bitcoin”
- Don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose. Don’t do it.
- Surround yourself with multiple perspectives from intelligent people. How do you think this article was written? We put together a group for cryptos as well.
- Learn more about the crypto community. There are actually fascinating implications for some of these cryptos that could potentially disrupt every industry.
- Stay updated on coin-specific forums. Reddit is a spectacular resource with experts and noobs alike. We’re currently in the process of putting a little somethin’ somethin’ together with crypto experts, investment bankers, and startup nerds. If you’re interested, check this out.
- And don’t invest what you can’t afford to lose. Seriously, don’t.
I’m obviously bullish on cryptocurrency, but more like a bull who has seen his fair share of javelins in the face in the bullfighting ring.
You win some, you lose some, and thankfully (for now) cryptocurrency has led me to win more than lose.
Here’s my personal justification.
Cryptocurrencies with over a $1 billion market cap are inherently safer bets because they are more insulated from the risk of being pumped and dumped. There might be some players in the market with a maybe a few hundred million that can play around with altcoins, but not many with a few billion.
For example, if you invest $10,000 in Ethereum and lose $5,000, that means Ethereum would have lost $8.5 billion in market cap. That’s pretty serious.
The trend lately is that cryptocurrencies are generally growing in trade volume and market cap. What that tells me is that more and more people are starting to trade cryptos. Realistically, how much did you know about Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ripple before reading this article? The crazy thing is you’re STILL an early adopter.
The global Forex (foreign currency exchange) market sees about $5.09 trillion in daily trades. The crypto market’s 24 hour volume hangs around 4.5 to 6 billion. To put that into perspective, the crypto market only trades at .1178% of the global Forex market.
While stocks are an entirely different asset class, this idea is worth entertaining as well from a trading perspective. The 60 major stock exchanges in the world are valued at $69 trillion. The cryptocurrency market has a market cap of around $79.5 billion. That means the crypto market is currently only .115% the size of the global stock market.
When you see one of the three main cryptos jump up 30% in a day, they start to look like viable investment targets. Investors who would have otherwise allocated their funds to an exchange-traded fund (ETF) earning the traditional annual 9% might start seeing cryptos as something worth exploring.
I’d say there is room to grow.
Why aren’t more people on cryptos?
“You can bring a horse to water… Bitcoin is all about voluntary interaction. No one has to use Bitcoin. If no one wanted it, it would go away. If one person wants it really bad, it will exist. The value of any cryptocurrency is subjective for a whole host of reasons.”
-Brett “Bringing horses to water” Musser
Let’s jump back to the Gold Rush example. It’s much easier to conceptualize the idea of finding a shiny metal and selling it for a substantial amount. Buying a digital currency with very little information on the Internet using multiple platforms presents a mental barrier that stops many people from entering the arena.
I believe the biggest reasons more people aren’t investing in cryptos is a combination of a lack of good information and the scary volatility. As more information comes out and people’s concerns are mitigated as volatility decreases, I would venture to say the market cap for all cryptos will continue to grow.
Aren’t they unstable?
“Stability is also a huge barrier to people feeling comfortable with investing in cryptocurrencies. Our nature is to avoid instability to avoid that risky investment, and on the surface level, it looks like a risky investment. We’ve been exposed to penny stocks. The reason it’s so volatile is that people don’t understand it.
A single article, tweet, or comment on a forum can swing the price of an alt-coin because people don’t understand the underlying technology. They’re in “gold rush mode” they just see money being made by a lot of people and it paying off. They get disillusioned when they lose, and they start hyping with no knowledge of why they made money when they win.
There’s a saying that goes “Buy the rumor, sell the news”. If you wait until the announcement, you’ve waited too long. This is the case only because of the unstable and emotional traders currently flooding the space. We don’t want you guys camping Twitter and buying some weird ass coins and losing all your money.”
-James “also goes by Jimmy” Risberg
The way we reduce volatility is by informing people and writing these sorts of things. This involves placing ourselves on the forefront of understanding, and helping others understand why and how these things work, and how we can use them effectively.
So, What’s Next?
Congratulations. You made it to the end. While this article is an excellent resource to get acquainted with cryptocurrencies, it’s only the start. The devil really is in the details for all cryptocurrencies, and there is only so much we can go over in a single article.
This article wouldn’t have been possible without the help of people much smarter than me. The list includes:
Jesus Najera – CEO at SetOcean, a product agency & incubator niching in blockchain, artificial intelligent, and VR/AR applications, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Oscar Lafarga – CTO at SetOcean, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
James Risberg – Cool Tech Guy with Beard, San Francisco, California
Brett Musser – Business Development at AirBitz, Edge Security Platform and Bitcoin Wallet, San Diego, California
Dennis Hansen – Cool tech guy, awesome designer, father of none.
If there is one thing writing this article has taught me is that the crypto community is surprisingly welcoming to newcomers. I’d hate to close out this wonderful piece sounding like something that would come out of a high school intercom, but information truly is power. In the absence of luck, information makes the difference between making 10x+ returns and getting cleaned out by a pump & dump scheme. The more knowledgeable people welcomed into the crypto community, the better decisions we can all make.
“Don’t play games you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them”
-Tony Hsieh, Founder of Zappos
Having your skin in the game and potentially making a profit comes with the responsibility of educating yourself in cryptocurrencies for the long term. It also means spreading good information and being ruthlessly vindictive against bad information.
We’ve put together a think tank with some of the brightest minds in the crypto world consisting of blockchain developers, active investors, and talented entrepreneurs. Check out the group here.
9 Powerful Mind Recalibrating Habits You Can Start Today
A digit in the calendar changed a few weeks ago and we’re all incredibly improved versions of ourselves. Can you believe it?
Becca quit drinking soda except for the fifteen rum & cokes last week because those don’t count. Justin meditated for like 8 minutes and already has a small following of believers trying to reach his level of zen. Chris hasn’t opened up a business book yet, but that Buzzfeed article about the 19 Cutest Etsy Stores You Have Never Heard Of was pretty fulfilling. I even heard Paul ran two miles the other day but is taking the month off because of shin splints.
Chances are you’ve already dropped your resolutions off faster than a Senior Year elective with mandatory attendance.
No worries, it happens. I put together this list of challenges I have personally taken and found to be extremely beneficial. Even if you don’t do them past a certain point, they will give you perspective into your lifestyle from a new angle.
You’d be surprised how much they can impact you.
The Cold War
As someone who grew up in South Florida and summertime coastal Bulgaria, I don’t last long in the cold. Sweater weather for me is a brisk 68 degrees. This is why I committed to a 15-day cold shower streak.
Cold showers burn calories, boost recovery after exercise, increase mood and alertness, strengthen circulation and immunity, and can help relieve symptoms depression and anxiety. I started off trying to condition my body for cold weather, I ended up getting a lot more. A few things I noticed:
- Ice cold showers suck. A lot. More than having an uncomfortable conversation. More than introducing yourself to an attractive stranger. More than speaking in public. If you’ve been consistently taking cold showers, none of those things play as much of a factor since you’ve hypothetically been to ice hell and back.
- Less time in the shower. I’m no stranger to long, hot showers. The warm water feels good, and before you know it you’ve ended up having a conversation with yourself for 15-20 minutes. The thing with cold showers is you don’t really want to spend more than 3 minutes in there. You’re not only taking back your day from time wasting crevices, you’re conditioning yourself for internal urgency.
- You wake up. No need for a morning cup of coffee when you’ve just trekked through a Siberian avalanche.
The process: Hop in the shower and turn it on at its coldest. It’s probably going to rip the air out of your lungs like you just got intimate with a Dementor. Your brain starts to panic and will want to pull you out of it. This is where fortitude is built, so just hang on. I noticed after 30-45 seconds of that came a sudden internal warmth and the cold wasn’t as big a deal anymore. After 2-3 minutes in the shower and wiping the cold water off me, I felt instantly warm.
My next step is repeating this challenge, then capping it off with a sporadic ice bath and a cryotherapy session.
Re-Learn to Breathe
We would probably forget to breathe if it wasn’t autonomic. Even though the process is automatic, it can be influenced for better or for worse. If you don’t actively pay attention to it, it will by default take the path of less resistance and become worse.
I noticed my daily breathing became short as if I was only using 25% of my lungs, like using 100% of my lungs would have thrown me into a higher tax bracket.
In deep focus, there were times where I would even stop breathing. By making an active effort to get much more out of my breathing, I noticed myself become more grounded and focused.
Mindful breathing has applications in everything from martial arts, meditation, and even firing a gun, so why shouldn’t it become part of your daily life?
Functional breathing means engaging your diaphragm more, and less of your upper chest. There are dozens of strategies out there, but the one that resonated with me the most was breathing from your pelvic floor. It might surprise you how difficult it is to truly breathe deeply. The reason for the difficulty (especially true for anxious individuals) is that we subconsciously start to develop muscles that constrict breathing in an attempt to protect our organs if we were to get hit. Avoid the vicious circle of anxiety causing short breathing and short breathing returning the favor.
You may have heard of some crazy Dutch dude doing things like submerging himself in ice for nearly 2 hours without his core body temperature changing, or hiking Everest in his shorts. That’s Wim Hof. He credits his breathing method to take control of his adrenaline levels and blood alkalinity.
Social Media Cleanse
It took social media all of a few months to catapult into the theme park of vices. Scrolling through an Instagram feed in the same category of alcohol and drugs seems silly, but it can become addictive all the same. The root of any addiction is an attempt to hack dopamine. That little red notification makes us feel wanted and helps us escape dull moments. We want attention, yet we lose so much of it to a little square app we click on a piece of glass and circuits.
The argument that social media is bad isn’t new, so I won’t take us down the predictable path of how we become hooked. Social media has a low barrier to entry, is socially acceptable, free, provides immediate gratification, and has multiple channels.
Cleanse yourself of people’s highlight reels, memes, and hot girls trying to sell you diarrhea tea on Instagram. No kale required.
There are two types of people in this world: those that spend thirty minutes tossing and turning before falling asleep, and those that can hit that open mouth drooling passed out sleep on command. I’ve always wanted to be part of the latter category, but alas, I am a tosser and turner.
Sleep comes easy to some, and the mystique of the snoozer is shrouded in secrecy and drool. I’ve come a long way from self-diagnosing myself with chronic insomnia as a 14 year old, but there is still room left to learn.
We have become detached from our natural sleeping rhythms, and this could lead to a variety of chronic debilitating ailments. Injuries that won’t heal, headaches, neurological disorders, and adrenal fatigue to name a few.
This technique supposedly puts you to sleep in 60 seconds. I tried it in a “I bet you won’t” sort of way and it didn’t work, but I did notice some physiological effects.
Take a deep breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8. Simple enough, yet it allows your body to make full use of the oxygen, lowers your heart rate, and helps you relax.
Walks clear your mind of debris, stimulate new thinking, are easy to multitask, and are great exercise.
3 miles is the magic distance I’ve found that works for me. It takes around 60 minutes, and burns around 360 calories. I dedicate that 60 minute period to either phone meetings, catching up with friends, podcasts, new music, or breathing exercises.
The walk also helps counteract the sedentary working lifestyle. The challenge isn’t walking 3 miles, it’s doing it consistently. Since it requires you to physically move your body, you are aiming to build the discipline your mind has over matter.
A Book a Week Keeps a Tree off the Streets
There are thousands of potentially life-changing books out there, but the odds are against us to reading them all. A 25 year old that will hypothetically live until 90 and reads one to two books a year means that they will read 65 – 130 books in their lifetime. Any one of these books could play a massive role in our professional and personal lives, yet they are going to sit collecting dust.
The book a week challenge is harder than it sounds. When I started regularly reading, it was tough to get through even ten pages because my attention span was so bad (see resolution #3).
Somewhere in the first few times of picking up a book, I got into a groove and was clearing 30-50 pages a day. There’s no special speed-reading technique necessary here, just patience. If you’d like a couple quick pick ups, I usually put out a monthly list of good reads here. You can always reach out and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
I fasted for one day, and it was rough.
By the 15th hour, I started romanticizing the idea of eating a single grape out of the fridge. I started paying attention to the minor details in my memory about the individual flavors of something I gluttonously devoured by the dozens on an ordinary day.
This put a few things into perspective: how I ignored the minor details surrounding the wonder of food, and how poorly equipped I was for times of hardship.
Practicing humility doesn’t necessarily mean you have to starve yourself. Try to live on $2 a day. See how low your burn rate can be if you don’t make any extraneous expenses in a 30 day period.
A quote from one of my favorite books, Siddhartha, goes like this:
When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the
smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t
learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this
day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would
force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows
no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow
hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what
fasting is good for.
Hop on the omnipotent “New Year New Me” yoga bandwagon. No need to sign up for packed yoga classes, do some yoga videos online at home and avoid your cat rubbing its butt on your face.
NoFap (guys only):
The digital age of immediate gratification has turned masturbation and pornography into a serious threat to our mental health. Masturbation is another attempt for humans to hack their dopamine centers, with repercussions that aren’t immediately noticeable. The ability to release a surge of dopamine at literally any (respectable and legal) moment is dangerous. Dopamine is released as a reward for accomplishing a feat, often a task associated with survival or procreation.
You might be able to trick your brain and body into thinking you did something worth praise once in awhile, but it catches up to you. Your threshold for satisfaction becomes higher, and you start searching for more dopamine. Pushing a “More dopamine, please” button quickly turns into searching for a “GIVE ME SOME DAMN DOPAMINE, NOW!!” button.
Biological downfall aside, the pronz also cultivates a sea of passive guys satisfied with flipping their MacBook open in the wake of difficulty or rejection. The immediate gratification they become used to also becomes the expected standard in the real world, whether sexual or even in a professional context.
As someone 370+ days into the challenge, I can attest to the psychological reboot and the trenches you have to push past. A handful of my close friends is right up there in the triple digits as well. It’s hard, and harder for some, but it is possible. The goal is 30 days for a reboot.
There is an entire community on reddit with over 200k+ subscribers dedicated to nofap. In my opinion, treating nofap as a community bonding experience is weird and you should just do it, but whatever works for you.
I hope this helps. Let this be a disclaimer: if any of these things end up ruining your life or you catch hypothermia, you are doing them with the understanding that I am not a scientist or doctor.
These are the best lessons from November. I categorized this article in the same structure as my personal weekly reviews. I have four chambers that need to be aired out in each review: health (physical and mental), wealth (career and side projects), love (personal growth and spirituality), and learning (knowledge).
I noticed I go through so many phenomenal articles and books a month, throwing them on here wouldn’t do them justice. That’s why I’m creating a bi-monthly email with the best of the best. Here is the link if you want to sign up for the cream of the crop. I’m also going to be giving out a book from time to time.
I can’t wait to send you the amazing list of eye-opening content from November.
Health: Switch up your nutrition, use cool binaural frequencies to prime your brain.
Wealth: Show up every day (mentally and physically), balance productivity and creativity, and be familiar your personal business model.
Love: Getting lost in the sauce is easy, don’t neglect those that have always been there for you. People shape you more than things.
Learning: Optimize the learning process by creating a map and directory of what you already know.
Pearl of Wisdom:
“To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.” – Hunter S. Thompson
MK (I listened to this 20+ times this month)
The Rolling Stones – Jumpin’ Jack Flash
50 Cent – The Power of the Dollar (the debut album by 25 year old 50 Cent)
Atmosphere – Windows
Physical I kicked off the month eating a monstrosity called the Fat Julian, a sandwich stuffed with parmesan chicken, mozzarella sticks, and cheese. Gluttonous and depraved, yes, but very delicious. The Fat Julian was a good send-off into a strict Paleo diet. I’ll leave the specifics to Google, but the diet essentially cuts out all dairy, cereal grains, and refined foods. That meant a lot of grass-fed beef, chicken, fish, veggies, nuts, and oils.
In the first week I started, I shed off that filthy Fat Julian and started looking leaner. Paleo combined with biking everywhere, regular exercise, and a nasty virus I dropped 10 pounds in the first two weeks and I spent the rest of the month climbing out of that catabolic hole.
Mental Meditation is good, yes, you get it. Chances are you’ve had this beaten into your head by dozens of articles, so I won’t dwell on this.
From what I’ve gathered, the aim of meditation is to create a rift in perception between you and your mind. Subtract the guru worship and incense, we’re left with the task of trying to learn how to ignore, not turn off, your mind. Man – mind = God, but that’s a conversational rabbit hole we’ll avoid for now. Let’s get into the immediately actionable stuff.
I have extreme difficulty ignoring my extremely active brain. I have a very good brain. The best brain. Since I can’t keep my monkey brain in it’s cage without it howling up a fit, I’ve been doing binaural meditation.
Your brain cells generate electricity to communicate with each other. Before you plug your iPhone into your ear, realize it would take your entire body 70 hours to charge an iPhone. Essentially, these binaural beats attempt to synchronize your brainwaves to a certain frequency.
These binaural frequencies are associated with different states of being. For example, your brain uses:
- Higher frequency Beta waves when you are awake to encourage alertness.
- Mid frequency Alpha waves in a period of relaxed wakefulness and lighter meditation
- Lower frequency Theta waves when in a drowsy state as you are falling asleep, or deeper meditation.
- Lowest frequency Delta waves during the restorative deep and dreamless sleep, like when my pre-med roommate would pass out with food in his mouth in the living room.
There’s nothing really special about binaural beats. They are just frequencies. I find the scientific component of meditation appealing. Youtube is full of binaural videos with trippy images, but they all essentially do the same thing (at the same frequency). Here’s one to check out
What separates professionals from amateurs is showing up, every day. When you’re running your own business every day is every day. This advice isn’t exclusive only to the entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. By default, you are your own business. Why not become a professional of being you? Our lives are becoming so connected with our work, so try to perfect a work life harmony that grows you, but also grows with you.
There is a constant push and pull between productivity and creativity. Ideas generally don’t pay bills, but it takes a certain degree of creativity to differentiate yourself and build your brand. The goal is to put yourself into a situation where your ideas do pay bills. In order to do that, fostering a relationship between productivity and creativity is necessary.
Can you scale what you’re doing? Be honest with yourself, because that’s the first step in aligning your actions with your goals. Always have an analytical backbone to measure your production. Once you have enough data points, you can predict certain trends. Am I going to be making $4-7k a month for the rest of my life? What’s going to change that? Sometimes it isn’t making a marginal change to your process, it’s going to involve incorporating a new process. That new process could involve learning a new skill or creating a new revenue stream. It could also involve automating your current process that gives you more bandwidth to do more work in the same period of time.
Last month my recommendation was to be thankful for things, not people, that give you pleasure. Although there is some solace in solidarity, this neglected how much of an impact people can have on you. Even after swearing to a life of gratitude, it’s still easy to forget to show appreciation.
I’m not talking about the transactional, “thank you for making my burrito, here’s $1 tip because I’m a big spender.” I’m talking about the deep-seated appreciation we have for those close to us we often take for granted to focus on our work.
Those that are competitive by nature may attribute a lot of their personal growth to conquering obstacles and the competition. But what about their support corner? When fight night rolls around, it would be negligent to focus on anything but the guy in front of you. Win or lose, you evolve as a competitor. It’s a single definitive event. However, the support from those in your corner is harder to track. They have helped you evolve into the person you are when you’re not in the ring, and chances are you’ve spend 90% of the time not in the ring.
It’s easy to overlook what you have if you’re focusing on mastering several skills at once, building a business, and keeping an equilibrium of sanity. This is your family that supports you no matter how impractical your degree in feminine studies is. This is your girlfriend that has no idea what you do for work but trusts that you are smart and hardworking enough to pull it off. This is your friends that support you and whatever batshit crazy lifestyle you’ve developed.
You should also be thankful for the people that didn’t believe in you. The ones that sneered at your goals ended up driving you to work towards them even more. You work hard to realize that the only reason the ones you looked up to still look down on you is because of habit. As triumphant as this realization is, it is also unsettling. The lack of support from a handful of people is no match for the greatest challenge of all, beating the indifference of the world.
I burned through a couple refreshers on growth hacking and dove deeper into the back-end aspects of marketing.
I cannot emphasize how important it is to connect new information to current knowledge. This has to go beyond creating a vague relationship. If you don’t have a tangible directory of what you already know, it becomes much harder to add to it or update outdated information.
Take a 10,000 foot view of what you already know and what you have to learn. It’s hard to map out creative skills, but creating a list of technical skills is very possible. Mastering technical skills allows you to filter the elusive creative strike into a productive process.
- You might have a great idea for a book, but do you have the long-form writing and storytelling skills capable of creating a compelling and interesting narrative?
- You might be great at sales, but how good are you at retaining old clients and building those relationships?
- You might be filled with genius ideas, but do you know how to communicate them articulately enough to convince a large audience?
The 2016 Presidential Election pinned two candidates facing off against the only person they could possibly beat. On the left, you’ve got Hillary Clinton being investigated by the FBI and with a shady history of corruption, and on the right, you’ve got Donald “spinny-chair-finger-point-you’re-fired” Trump.
How did Trump Win?
You’ve got CNN giving you water-filled goggles and FOX giving you a kaleidoscope to view the world. Fear-mongering talking heads on both sides polarize the entire country because dividing and conquering attention is more profitable. When your world-view is so influenced by what you see and how often you see it, it’s not hard to get stuck in a spiral and enter the mania yourself.
This hysteria bleeds into social media where word of mouth from friends is taken almost as credible real world data, even though the majority of their half-baked posts are some derivative of a news segment that heavily leans liberal/conservative or is founded on inaccurate information.
Our presidential landscape is a doodoo lasagna built on empty promises and gridlock. When you have a certain party in power for two terms, the pendulum tends to swing the other direction. That swing might contribute to some of the Trump momentum, but the Trump movement is rooted in anti-establishment.
“She will say anything and change nothing” – Barack Obama 2008.
It doesn’t help he’s campaigning for her while in office on a salary funded by taxpayers.
“Are you qualified to be President of the United States when you’re raising millions of dollars from Wall Street whose greed, recklessness and illegal behavior helped to destroy our economy?” – Bernie Sanders 2016.
It was only a few months later Bernie donated money from his loyal grassroots following to the same “reckless and illegal behavior.” Feel the Bern.
“But how could we elect this sexist pig!”
Emphasis on the we. Clinton won the women’s vote 54 to 42%. Yes, you read that correctly. 42% of women voted for Donald “grab her by the pussy” Trump. 45% of women with a college degree voted for Donald Trump. Does this mean they are subservient Stepford housewives voting on husband orders? Are they so self-loathing and the white male patriarchy is all they know? Probably not. Don’t victimize women for having their own opinion that inconveniently doesn’t match yours.
“But how could we elect this xenophobic anti-Hispanic wall builder!”
29% of Hispanics voted for Trump, up from the 27% who voted for Romney. Perhaps Trumps sentiments spun as anti-immigration actually sanctified legal immigrants.
My parents fought for years to immigrate from communist Bulgaria into the tail end of Cold War America and did grueling low paying jobs to get started. I’m sure most immigrant families have a similar storyline. Ideally, we would create a system that welcomes people from all over the world, but that’s just not the reality. We’ve got Syrian refugees being relocated into the hood in North St. Louis scared for their life. Maybe making an effort to make the living standard in our own cities a notch above a Middle Eastern war zone our own cities should be a greater priority than a massive influx of immigrants.
So now what?
“I’m moving to _________.”
No, seriously. Go.
Travel the world, see some other countries and cool off. The world is full of beautiful places, but there is nothing like being an American in America. I’m saying this as someone who has lived overseas and traveled all over the States. There are some people that never leave the city they were born in, and a few steps ahead are people who have never left their country. Get an Airbnb and spend a few weeks living life like the locals. See how your perspective changes.
“If You Vote for Trump, Unfriend me NOW”
If you’re willing to part ways with friends without hearing opinions, you’re just as bad as the bigoted ideology you’re protesting. There is no absolute truth, there are only people born into circumstances that influence their political and moral opinions. This is almost as embarrassing as your friend spam posting #TRUMPTRAIN.
“What Am I Going to Tell My Kids?”
You’re the parent, I don’t know. You’ll probably have a smoother time than 8-year-old me asking my heavy-accented parents why Bill Clinton got in trouble with that woman. Maybe approach this the same way you would with any of the other crazy stuff that goes on in the world. Kim Kardashian’s multimillion dollar career is built on a sex-tape and selfies. We’re 6 months into mourning a dead gorilla. Start there and work your way up. You’ll somehow end up at doodoo lasagna.
My childhood political memories include Bill Clinton openly lying to the American people about a blow job, and George W. Bush being a C student. How about we stop glorifying politicians as role models. In that same time frame, billion dollar companies were started and life changing music was made.
“*Sigh* Only Four Years Left to Go.”
Don’t relegate your impact to the world to a single vote every four years. Not only are there countless local elections that will impact you and your community in a more direct way, there are opportunities that go beyond politics to change the world.
Facebook is arguably going to have a bigger impact on the world than the 8 year Obama administration and was started by a couple 20 year olds in a dorm. You don’t have to invest your energy into building a Tinder for farmers. Try to make a substantial impact on those around you. It adds up. Be good to people. Build stuff that matters.
“Just Wait Until Our Generation is the Majority”
Trump only got 37% of the 18-29 year old vote, which isn’t surprising. Younger people tend to be more liberal. Older generations attribute this to naivety, but you bastards collapsed the economy, so tread lightly. I’m curious to see what the biggest political topics will be for Millennials in a few years.
Even though we filter into Republican/Democrat camps, we tend to be socially liberal across the board. Hopefully, basic human rights for LGBT and minority communities are no longer a part of major political discussion in a few years and we can focus on things that are less obvious.
We need to start exploring space, stop global warming, solve our energy problems, and increase the living standard for a rapidly growing population. Fortunately, there are a handful of people that have taken these initiatives that are (no shocker here) not affiliated with the government. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Vinay Gupta to name a few. Heard of ’em? There are many more young brilliant minds and ideas waiting to be discovered and nurtured, let’s get on it.
This election brought out so many deep fears and anxieties that need to be addressed. Several of my close friends dove off the deep end into various internal neurosis and disillusionment with society. Projecting your problems into a binary (let’s be real, Gary Johnson & Jill Stein) election is no substitute for self-nurturing. Give your mind the peace it deserves and don’t let the Internet dictate how you feel. You only get one vote every four years, but you only get one life.
Break Party Lines
Stop going into Us vs. Them mode. Are you Americans first, or Democrats and Republicans? Never blindly support any party and always cast a cautionary support for those in power. Don’t let the liberal and conservative extremities make you forget how large the middle really is, or how much you have in common.
Think of the political horseshoe. Most of us swing around moderate, yet we listen to the radical left and radical right because they exaggerate some of our moral inclinations. Then you have the extreme left and right loonies that are much closer to each other than they are to the moderate.
That was fun, let’s do it again sometime.
Don’t indulge your election disappointment or victorious gluttony on social media. Channel your political fervor and disappointment into ways that benefit the world, your community, your family, your friends, and yourself. Technically, your vote counted for roughly 0.000000001 of the election, yet you can change your life by devoting more energy to yourself, the quality someone’s entire week with a simple gesture of kindness, or your bank account by getting to work.