Like a lot of people, I've spent some time over the last month learning about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
I've known of crypto and blockchain for a while, but I didn't really know about them until I started digging in and doing some research.
And, as I tweeted a few days ago when the crypto markets tumbled on the heels of their all-time highs, it turns out I picked a hell of a month to get involved.
Don't worry. This email is not about proselytizing the virtues of Bitcoin or raging because my nascent portfolio is down. I'm still just getting my feet wet and learning everything I don't know.
But what I do want to do with the time we have here together this week is take three common phrases you'll hear in crypto circles and apply them in a more general way.
Let's start with the single most important idea any crypto maven will try to impress upon a newbie. And it's applicable to every move you and I make when we consume content online.
1. DYOR (Do Your Own Research)
The idea here is to not take anyone's word as gospel. Don't invest in a coin just because someone tells you to, and don't avoid one just because someone tell you to.
Instead, seek out multiple sources of information as you attempt to triangulate the truth.
And if you have neither the time nor inclination to do so, then any money you put at stake is less an investment than it is an abject gamble.
Even if you find sources of information you come to know, like, and trust ... don't forget to verify.
This applies well beyond crypto investing.
It is vitally important to remember that almost everyone online has a point of view. And the loudest points of view are usually trying to sell you something, either implicitly or explicitly.
For example, this newsletter has a point of view. We aim to be a weekly reminder about the importance of becoming a better thinker, and we try to give you tips and tools that will help you do so.
One of our foundational principles is the importance of pen and paper for facilitating better thinking. We want to either reaffirm your belief in this or convince you that it's true ... and in so doing, we hope you'll be convinced to buy a THINKERS Notebook and subscribe to the THINKERS App.
You need to know that. While there is nothing nefarious about it, that knowledge should still color every interaction you have with this newsletter.
"Well of course they want me to believe in the power of pen and paper," you should think to yourself. "Their company sells a paper notebook and pen!"
The concept of DYOR would then compel you to do research beyond this newsletter and see if you find confirmation. Are we right? Are we blowing smoke to sell a product?
Ultimately it's up to you to do your own research.
The Internet has very few gatekeepers. The barrier to entry for opinion is low. So be discerning with who you trust and be wary of which crowds you follow.
You're the one who is ultimately responsible for the decisions to make.
Now on to #2 ...
2. When in doubt, zoom out.
This phrase has been used a lot over the past week, as Bitcoin dropped from $60,000 per share to $30,000 per share before rebounding.
(By the way, I'd be wary of any simplistic explanations for why the massive Bitcoin drop happened. There wasn't one reason. It was a combination of social and systemic factors converging all at once.)
Yikes! That's one hell of a drop in a week's time.
Now zoom out.
Well now, that doesn't seem quite so bad, does it?
Sure, the past week has been rough. And new investors in the space got an ice cold dose of reality right away.
But when you look at Bitcoin's growth over the past year, the progress remains gargantuan.
Will the price bounce back? And will Bitcoin get back on its upward trajectory? I have no idea.
Again, I'm barely to the point of having the slightest understanding of what I don't know. So I'm not about to give advice or make predictions. (And even if I did ... DYOR, right?)
But the lesson here is that it's easy to get caught up in moments ... and we have to fight that inclination.
It's hard to do. The 24-hour news cycles we live through, and the ubiquity of social media to make extreme opinions feel mainstream, make even the most discerning thinker prone to recency bias.
Remember that moments are just moments.
String enough moments together and you get a narrative. String enough narratives together and you get a trend. String enough trends together and you get a shift.
We can only really see the trends and notice the shifts when we zoom out.
And by the way, this works in reverse too.
I mentioned in a recent edition of this newsletter that I completed a 10-day reboot of my eating habits. It went great, and it's still going great.
I'm eating way less sugar and flour, intermittent fasting for 12 hours each day, and I've found that my uncontrollable cravings have virtually ceased. My thinking is clearer. My energy is more consistent. I've lost 10 pounds.
Here is a plot of my weight-ins over the last months:
Mission accomplished, right? Look at that trajectory!
Not so fast.
Here is the plot for the last year:
That white line is my target weight. It's pretty clear that even with my recent progress, there is still a ways to go.
So before I get too happy patting myself on the back and thinking I've reached my goal, I can zoom out for a more accurate view.
When in doubt, zoom out.
We can't think clearly if we don't have the proper perspective and context. Zooming out helps us get both.
And now the third and final crypto idea that you can apply to your everyday life ...
3. FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt)
When I first starting reading about crypto and listening to podcasts, I had no idea what the constant uses of "FUD" (pronounced like Elmer Fudd) meant.
Turns out FUD is an acronym for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It's typically used by people who are pro-crypto as a bucket into which they can toss most opinions that are anti-crypto.
Sometimes, labeling an argument as "FUD" makes sense. There is a lot of nonsensical fear-mongering and doubt-planting by people with an interest in the status quo being maintained.
But listen to enough pro-crypto podcasts and you start to realize that everything negative being labeled as "FUD" is perhaps just as nonsensical, even disingenuous.
So, again, I'm not taking a side here. But I do think navigating the omnipresence of FUD talk in crypto conversation is a microcosm for how we have to navigate the increasingly partisan conversations we find in almost all realms online and even on TV.
We have to remember that fear, uncertainty, and doubt sell.
There is an incentive for people to plan seeds of fear, uncertainty, and doubt and there is an equally powerful incentive for the other side to counter that fear, uncertainty, and doubt ... and what often gets lost is the actual truth that resides somewhere in the middle.
What's a thinker to do?
- Use social media to gauge the temperature of public discourse, but never expecting to find fully articulated arguments on any side. Step away.
- Go back to #1: do your own research!
- Seek to understand the biases of the sources you consume.
- Make an effort to find the best argument on both sides of a controversial issue.
- Make up your own mind, but stay open to new evidence.
In other words, don't get caught up in the FUD slinging. It's an easy trap to fall into, but it doesn't help you make better decisions.
But hey, don't just take my word for these three ideas. Here are three links that will help to hammer these points home.
Do your own research ... but be especially humble when it comes to science
"Most of us, even those of us who are scientists ourselves, lack the relevant scientific expertise needed to adequately evaluate that research on our own. In our own fields, we are aware of the full suite of data, of how those puzzle pieces fit together, and what the frontiers of our knowledge is. When laypersons espouse opinions on those matters, it’s immediately clear to us where the gaps in their understanding are and where they’ve misled themselves in their reasoning. When they take up the arguments of a contrarian scientist, we recognize what they’re overlooking, misinterpreting, or omitting.
"Unless we start valuing the actual expertise that legitimate experts have spent lifetimes developing, “doing our own research” could lead to immeasurable, unnecessary suffering."
Read: You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science (Forbes)
Knowing how to zoom in or out to gain perspective is a critical skill.
"Investing time and energy in better understanding how and when you need to zoom in versus zoom out is well worth it. The insights you’ll glean will directly inform your ability to better meet your audience and maximize your overall impact."
Read: Zoom In vs Zoom Out — 3 Steps to Maximizing Your Leadership Impact (Regan Bach)
Apparently we have more to fear than fear itself.
"In the FUD-osphere, as in Newtonian physics, every action as an equal and opposite reaction. In physics that phenomenon demonstrates the power of inertia. In society, it’s the power of the status quo. In an environment where every time you yell “Yes,” someone else yells “No” even louder, it’s awfully hard to make any headway, rhetorical or otherwise. Raising the decibel level by yelling louder clearly isn’t the answer. Unfortunately, I don’t know what is"
Read: Adventures in the FUD-osphere (Grist)
Quote of the week
"The longing for certainty ... is in every human mind. But certainty is generally illusion.”
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes