nothing is urgent

your life can quickly become unmanageable if you don’t know how to prioritize properly.

how do you choose where to spend your time? what will you do today? the day after? the day after that?

do you ever ask yourself this question at the start of the day? most people don’t. they open their inbox, or social media, or Slack, and they REACT. i’m convinced that for many people, the act of being stressed and overworked is an addiction, that they crave the need for chaos, anxiety, and the frantic energy of rushing from task to task. what happens when you live this way for a month, two months, a year? i did it, and it’s not fun. over the last few weeks, i’ve been exceptionally quiet. i’ve challenged myself to sit down, relax, stop, and quiet that impulsive voice that is constantly pushing me to do more, take on more, and work more. i realized that i’m addicted to activity – and that that addiction wasn’t getting me any of the results i wanted or needed. i myself, still have moments where I let my emotions get the best of me. and it always makes me feel terrible and out of control.

i started asking why.

the root of many of these problems is ego. most people believe that the world revolves around them and their ridiculous projects. they’ve built up a world view that is so narrow in focus and so oriented around their sense of self, that they lose sight of the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people they interact with every single day who share that same belief – that they too are the protagonist in their own rich, complex story and the center of all attention. when people get so focused on these projects and ego-driven goals they set, they create this false sense that this project is URGENT and ESSENTIAL and must happen NOW and they create STRESS, when in fact this is just a feeling that they’ve brought to the situation by losing sight of the bigger picture. i’ve watched grown men scream like petulant children when things don’t go their way. i’ve seen people many years my senior, who i respect tremendously, fret over comments on social media and send passive aggressive messages.

nothing is urgent. nothing is worthy of keeping in your life if it creates anxiety, stress, and panic. you get to decide what you want to spend your time on, and when. so what do you want to do today? just sit down, take a deep breath, and instead of reacting, can you start being pro-active? what is it i want to get done today? and how do i quiet everything else around me to get it done? it takes a tremendous amount of discipline and purpose to do meaningful work.

are we all just rats on a wheel?

the problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat

this post is inspired by communities

many of my friends ask me why i left a high-paying, low-stress corporate career track to go work at a startup, leaving behind perks like a plush office, ample holidays, and all the other trappings “middle managers” get to enjoy.

i left because modern institutions like corporations do not serve me as an individual. they institute arbitrary rules, useless process, and social hierarchies that eat away at one’s time, one’s sense of purpose, and one’s sense of self worth. modern institutions have been carefully designed to make us believe we are part of a community, and organizations have been designed to provide psychological rewards to those who obey the hierarchy of that community. the communities i would like to be a part of have no hierarchy – they are meritocracies where goodness begets more goodness, a willingness to help lends help

think of your average company: friday happy hours, corporate retreats, days of giving where you volunteer at a soup kitchen for two hours and then go drink and celebrate how you “gave back” afterwards – these are all mechanisms that are supposed to generate the illusion that you are part of a larger purpose, a community that does good in the world. however, these events simply mask the powerlessness of those who are not at the top of the hierarchy and soften the blow of obedience. “but… i won the award for best analyst / associate / choose your word here in the mid-west region! surely that means something?”

institutions offer us what we crave most:

  • esteem: a sense of identity, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of accomplishment
  • belongingness: community and office friendship
  • financial security: enables physical security and the ability to meet physiological needs

however, very few organizations offer the individual self-actualization, because the goals of the organization are fundamentally opposed. note the order below.

maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs
Sourced from WikiMedia

for large scale institutions to work, and for obedience to be enforced, employees must be completely replaceable, or perfect substitutes for one another. we’ve seen this commoditization of labor at the lower end of employment, with labor-intensive jobs becoming mechanized, but it is continuing to work its way upward into corporations and the more affluent “knowledge worker” economy.

i imagine a not-so distant future where most of the labor done in large organizations – regardless of its nature – will be completely commoditized. this gives the corporation optimal power, while rendering the employees utterly powerless, unless they obey the structural hierarchy created for them. even then, power lies at the top of the pyramid while workers at the bottom rungs continue to grasp at straws of power by pushing more layers of obedience down to the workers below them. or as they say, shit rolls downhill.

this is why I believe the future is not dependent on large institutions, but rather, communities of people who care deeply about a specific problem. because in small, mission-driven organizations, the shared vision between employees nurtures authentic community, while enabling maximum expression of creativity. organizations that strip away hierarchy and empower the individual with choice, creativity, and flexibility will ultimately yield the most productivity.

so how is this about bitcoin? good question! i am not entirely sure but i believe the future of distributed systems – not just in computing but also in human society – are an important social experiment. while distributed autonomous organizations (#theDAO ahem) are still in their infancy, there is a lot of interesting systems design we can glean from computer engineering and apply to human engineering. we forget that the most important systems in our society aren’t just financial or regulatory – they’re systems of people and ideas, things that are incredibly difficult to replace with machines (for now).

 

if you like this sort of thing, this is a great read

identity as a synthesized construct

i spent my monday up at the MIT Media Lab – my old stomping ground – at a really fascinating event about digital identity, contracts, and blockchain technology. special thanks to the team who put the event together and all of the participants, it was very interesting and informative, and it made me feel optimistic about the work ahead and the approaches.

a few things that were really helpful to me in terms of framing concepts that had been swirling in my head, and making them more cogent.

blockchain technology is really three things – much thanks to Philippe de Wost for the framework:

  • a peer to peer network, with the right incentives in place to promote honest interactions (a token, like bitcoin)
  • a distributed record of all activity to prevent corruption and minimize vulnerability to attack
  • digital, math-based assets governed by a set of absolute laws (the protocol)

in all of history, we have always framed the individual or organization, the identity, as the account holder, and tracked the assets that flowed in and out of that identity’s account. but what if we re-oriented our thinking to view the asset as the unit of measure, and the flows of that asset between various nodes in a network, or between various identities, as the data surrounding those central asset nodes? the world would surely look different.

the core reason we’ve framed everything around identity is because of a lack of trust. the asymmetry of information flows in today’s financial system means that we end up seeking out people or organizations we think we can trust, based on the reputation associated with their identity. trust is the missing link.

trust is fundamentally built on relationships, and relationships are built as part of systems and networks of people, organizations, and institutions, that all link together to form a narrative around an identity. everything about our identity is synthesized from our networks through time, and the perception of our reputation within those network. so then in fact, identity is a construct that is synthesized from a wide range of data points, some quantifiable, some more abstract, that form over time.

with digital assets and blockchain, we can embed trust into computation. we can create a network around a specific asset, not an individual, and track the movement of this asset between entities to form a better picture of the network surrounding this asset. imagine a world where it was no longer relevant to know my name, age, and social security number to transact with me. where trust could be embedded into the very nature of transacting. imagine all of the forms of unconscious and conscious bias this would remove from our interactions with value.

i’m fascinated by the role networks of all types play in our lives, and i imagine the key to using technology to improve the human experience will ultimately leverage networks of all types. i’m unsure what this looks like, but i think these early experiments with blockchain, identity, and digital assets are going to be the starting point of a massive shift in how we conceptualize relationships and trust.

yet another (shitty) blog

i can hear your inaudible sighs. yet another (shitty) blog.

one of my goals for 2016 was to write every single day, and it’s almost june so i figured it was high time for me to get on with it. i’m going to be writing about anything and everything, but i spend my time working in the fun world of bitcoin and blockchain and enjoy building things – whether it’s communities, ideas, or just “stuff” – and hope this will be a good way to share and aggregate. i strongly believe that the most amazing work happens when we don’t care who gets the credit. it’s incredibly empowering to help others be successful, and i’ve learned so much about human nature from watching people behave in ways that are selfish, selfless, and in between.

i’m absolutely fascinated by the intersection of open source software, online communities, and financial technology. i believe we are living in one of the most exciting times in human history, where an online community (the bitcoin community) has created a financial system worth $7Bn (as of today) through collaborating on the development of ideology, software, and shared vision. this is the starting point for me – the ability for technology to enable the impossible to become possible, and to enable people to begin innovating around “the edges.”

so, here’s to sharing what we’ve learned, what we’re passionate about, and what we think should happen next. i’ll do my part, and i encourage you to join me on the journey! all feedback welcome via twitter @Melt_Dem

off we go. TO THE MOOOOOOOOOONNNN!!!!!