A former college football player reflects on the lessons inherent in the sport and how they prepared him to become a Bitcoiner.
This is an opinion editorial by Conor Chepenik, a former college football player and Bitcoin pleb.
Being part of a team can provide valuable experiences that extend well beyond the sport or activity that called for its formation. For me, this was exemplified in college when a teammate introduced me to Bitcoin in 2017. Watching the documentary “Banking On Bitcoin” convinced me that decentralization is an important aspect of any financial system. Little did I know that this introduction would change my life.
After watching the documentary, I diversified my investment portfolio by purchasing various cryptocurrencies on Coinbase. Although I initially recognized the irony in using a third-party exchange to purchase a currency that eliminates the need for third parties, I failed to investigate further.
While exchanges that allow people to exchange fiat currency for bitcoin do have value, the true power of Bitcoin lies in its ability to provide financial autonomy to anyone. Individuals who take the initiative to spin up their own nodes and accumulate satoshis by selling their labor, goods or expertise, or those who mine Bitcoin using affordable energy, are the true pioneers of this peaceful revolution.
But it was not until I hung my football cleats up three years later that I started to understand the difference between bitcoin and every other token in the space. I was looking for something to fill the void left in my heart after my 11-year football career was over. Luckily, the Bitcoin rabbit hole was there to greet me.
Games and sports provide a way for individuals to unwind, relieve stress, improve cognitive function and foster social connections. Without my favorite game, I was lost. Football helped me get an education at a solid university, it helped me make some of the best friends I still have today and it helped me stay in shape. I’ve found going down the Bitcoin rabbit hole has done all of those things as well and then some. For example, I’ve started learning how to code, I’ve met tons of new friends online and in person, I’ve become more religious, I started a family and even tried fasting after hearing about its benefits on a Bitcoin podcast.
It’s weird to think that computer code can have such a profound and positive impact on individuals and civilization as a whole. So much of computer code today is set up to polarize and separate people into echo chambers. Bitcoin does the opposite. It connects complete strangers and allows them to barter and exchange value without any third party. The computer code is completely open source, meaning people from around the world can work on a decentralized financial system together. This is the key, because, as Henry Kissinger said, “Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.”
It makes you wonder what our world would look like if everyone controlled the money instead of just the central bankers. I’ve found Bitcoin to be a bit of a paradox in the sense that the community is both global and inclusive, and local and exclusive. Anyone can send and receive transactions with a mobile phone and a Bitcoin wallet like Muun. At the same time, if you venture into Bitcoin Twitter and start trying to orange wash your shitcoin, you will quickly get to experience the wrath of the cyber hornets.
Reframing Success: Beyond Money, Wins And Losses
The environment in which one is born heavily influences their unit of account. One’s life circumstances play a significant role in shaping their beliefs, values and norms. In football, success is commonly defined by wins and losses. However, every player knows that a team’s final record is not the only indicator of success. The strong bonds formed between teammates can last a lifetime.
Nevertheless, it is still nice to have a straightforward way to determine a team’s performance for a given season. Teams with positive records typically form stronger bonds. In life, financial wealth is often viewed as the ultimate measure of success, despite the flaws inherent in our monetary system that create an unequal playing field. People frequently prioritize material possessions, such as cars, clothing and homes, while incurring debt to acquire them. It is crucial to remember that health, fulfilling work, personal purpose and meaningful relationships are more essential elements of a meaningful life. Attempting to optimize one’s life to appear wealthy in a corrupt system is unlikely to bring long-term happiness, especially as inflation (or currency debasement, as I like to call it) increases the cost of desirable items.
Bitcoin operates on a level playing field, without giving undue advantages to the wealthiest. Both football and Bitcoin have the potential to transform people’s perception of success by shifting their personal yardsticks to more meaningful standards. On the football field, socio-economic status, race or sexual preference is irrelevant.
The most diverse groups I’ve been a part of were on football teams and we always got along because the starters are determined by meritocracy. A team’s chemistry, hard work and the coach’s decision making are the most critical factors in determining the outcome of a game. While referees can make mistakes, it is still relatively fair. Achieving this level of fairness in life is challenging since traditional financial systems often favor the wealthy. Bitcoin, on the other hand, operates on a fair and equal basis, without providing any unjust benefits to the wealthy. Bitcoin creates a sense of fairness where the network treats everyone equally, regardless of their background or resources. Anyone can verify for themselves that the game they are playing has rules that have not been violated without the ambiguity that life often presents.
My Personal Journey
I like to think about my journey to Bitcoin maximalism as a high school football player moving up from the junior varsity team to the varsity one. When I first joined the crypto space, I was like a junior varsity player — enthusiastic but unprepared. After six years of hard work and research, I am now part of the varsity team of Bitcoiners who can confidently articulate why Bitcoin is the true innovation and other digital currencies are simply fiat 2.0.
Being part of the “varsity team” requires dedication and expertise. It’s not easy to fully understand and appreciate Bitcoin’s value when there is an overload of altcoin marketing and vaporware tokens promoted by fraudsters looking to profit from the hype surrounding the crypto space. There is a big level of knowledge arbitrage in the space between newbies and seasoned veterans and no shortage of grifters looking to take advantage of this.
Like any successful varsity team, Bitcoiners have a responsibility to educate and develop the junior varsity team to ensure the program’s continued success in the future. Choosing to be a Bitcoin maximalist is a virtuous position, allowing one to have a clear conscience and avoid fraudsters promoting decentralized-in-name-only (DINO) tokens.
Unfortunately, there are many stories of people who have entered the Bitcoin space, found early profits and then fallen victim to altcoins and fraudulent practices. By choosing to be a Bitcoin maximalist, one can avoid these dishonest practices and promote ethical behavior in the community. Avoiding the temptations of easy fiat gains can be challenging, and it is essential to build strong bonds and friendships to support one another.
As Bitcoin gains more widespread acceptance, it is important to continue promoting the message that Bitcoin maximalism is the most ethical approach. This means focusing on educating and supporting those who are committed to understanding Bitcoin, while disregarding those who are just in it for short-term gains. One day, the junior varsity team will be running the show, and it’s our responsibility to prepare them for the task.
Thinking like this is a low-time-preference move, something prevalent in both Bitcoin and football. For example, it does not matter how many championships you win in football, there is always another one to go after next season. Just look at Tom Brady, who has also fallen victim to the broader crypto space. Brady won numerous championships and yet, throughout his career, he never stopped striving to win more. He just announced his retirement and I remain hopeful that now that he has decided to hang up his cleats, he can learn from his mistakes and see that Bitcoin only is the way.
If the planet is going to get on a bitcoin standard, that process is going to involve a whole bunch of proof of work, both literally and figuratively.
I was fortunate enough to attend a Bitcoin dinner for my local Bitcoin meetup: MassAdoption. At that dinner, everyone went around the table talking about their experience with the space and how they got involved. Someone brought up an amazing Matt Odell quote that went, “I’m bullish on Bitcoin but more bullish on Bitcoiners.”
I can’t think of a better way to frame it. Regardless of what happens with the price of bitcoin, the friendships and connections made through this digital currency will always hold value. When it was my turn to present, I talked about the impact that MassAdoption has had on my life. I had no idea that going to a Bitcoin meetup would help me find a group of people committed to making sure future generations don’t have to grow up under a slave system that central banks are frothing at the mouth to implement with their CBDCs.
Every MassAdoption meetup I have attended has turned out to be a cathartic experience — for both me and my partner because this way, she doesn’t have to hear me ramble about Bitcoin all day. I get my fix in at the meetup. I‘ll never stop laughing about how a single white paper has had such a profound impact on the lives of those who have embraced this new form of money.
This is my personal, anecdotal experience so don’t trust me; go verify for yourself. With that disclaimer, I can confidently say that I’ve seen Bitcoiners to be more invested in the growth and success of their community members than in the success of the technology itself. Which is not to say that we aren’t invested in making sure the technology succeeds. Bitcoin just helps you realize that the most important things in life don’t necessarily come from having a certain amount of wealth.
Bitcoiners care deeply about fixing the world, about educating others and about righting the wrongs that are becoming more and more apparent by the day. Many, myself included, came to Bitcoin because number go up, and while I can’t speak for everyone, the reason I stayed is because I believe that Bitcoin is the best hope humanity has to fix the world.
So far in 2023, we’ve seen what looks to be the start of another bull market. I can confidently say after being humbled through two cycles, I have absolutely no idea (in the short term) which way the direction of this coin is going in USD purchasing power terms.
What I do know is that when bitcoin is in its dead phase, you don’t see as many “junior varsity players” coming to celebrate with the true Bitcoiners, at least not until the next bull market. So, if this is a fake pump, remember that the bear market is a great time to build. Bitcoiners are a unique breed of people and the bear market is the time when you find your team, start writing, coding, podcasting, hosting a Bitcoin meetup or whatever else floats your boat. If it turns out that this is the start of the next bull market, then do all of these things and stay humble.
Some would call Bitcoin a mind virus because those who go down the rabbit hole can’t stop talking about it. I’d argue that Bitcoin is the antidote to the problems of fiat nihilism. It’s hard to be passionate about something if you think everything is pointless! Those on team Bitcoin don’t have that problem. Don’t buy into the nihilism that team fiat is poisoning the world with. If CBDCs were an unstoppable force, then mainstream media organizations would not be writing hit pieces about El Salvador in order to discredit them for making bitcoin legal tender.
Of course, the transition is far from over and the mainstream media will keep painting Bitcoin as either dead or a bubble, at least until new media outlets filled with Bitcoiners replace the old ones in due time. So, whatever happens next in 2023, let’s remain patient, teach those who have sinned with their shitcoins and ignore those who are beyond saving. Bitcoin is not just a new form of money, it’s a community of individuals who strive for more self sovereignty, savings and a better future. It’s a team worth being a part of.
This is a guest post by Conor Chepenik. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.