Yesterday, I woke to a flurry of activity on Twitter. A prominent member of the bitcoin community had decided to a message to me that many perceived as critical. The tweet pointed out that had I managed my money better I would be wealthy and wouldn't need the support of patrons.
It was in response to a message I posted on Twitter a week earlier, to once again dispel the impression that I am a bitcoin millionaire. It is hard for many to accept that someone who has been involved since 2012 has not amassed a great fortune in bitcoin. The truth, however, is that due to circumstances and some poor choices I made, I was not able to benefit as much from the rise of bitcoin as some others have.
At the end of 2012, when I heard about bitcoin, I had been working as a freelance consultant for about a year after burning out of my previous work as a partner in a research firm. I had a modest retirement fund, a small amount of credit card debt and enough income to make ends meet. I was really in limbo, looking for the next opportunity. Bitcoin arrived into my awareness and slapped me in the face. You've all heard my story of tumbling down the rabbit hall, absolutely consumed by awe.
What is not quite obvious is that my obsession also drove me to abandon my consulting work and put all my attention into bitcoin. I worked as hard as I have ever worked, focusing full time on this technology. During this time, I was unable to find any way of making a living through bitcoin. I traveled to speak at conferences (which didn't even cover expenses), I consulted with startups (which couldn't pay me), I wrote articles etc. To support my "habit", I dipped into my savings. I cut back on my expenses as much as I could and started ravaging my savings. By mid-2013 I was forced to start liquidating my retirement funds. In my early 40's, I was undoing a lifetime of savings, in a way most people would consider irresponsible. While doing so, I incurred penalty taxes for early withdrawal. Then, I went into credit card debt. By the end of 2013 I was "worse than broke": going into debt at an alarming rate.
Finally, in 2014 I started making a bit of income. I was so deep in debt that I continued to live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to chip away at my debt. It was going to be a long two years before I finally became debt free at the end of 2016.
I won't complain about the lost opportunity. I am extremely fortunate to be able to live debt free, doing my dream job in a field I absolutely love.
Yesterday, while reading the tweet that criticized me for my poor choices, I felt sick to my stomach. It forced me to confront and relive every choice I made and all the missed opportunities. You see, the critical tweet contained a big grain of truth. I could've become wealthy. If only I hadn't sold. If only I hadn't given away hundreds of bitcoin to complete strangers. If only I had reduced my expenses more. If only I had made smarter choices. If only...
Working in bitcoin is an endless struggle against cynicism, negativity, regret. Throughout the last 5 years I have always tried to maintain an optimistic and positive outlook, to focus on the long term, to think about the potential to lift billions out of poverty. But every now and then, I get dragged back into the negative. Yesterday was one of those days. I felt crushed.
And then, something amazing happened. Over the next several hours, tens, dozens, then hundreds of people responded. I sat reading the responses with tears in my eyes. An outpouring of positivity washed over me. People I have never met jumped to my defense, reminding me that they started their journey after watching my videos, or reading my books. Some people attacked the original criticism and its author (which I strongly discourage). But the vast majority focused on optimism.
Not only did people remind me of the importance of my work, they also encouraged each other to support me. In the last year, I have gradually received more and more of my income from Patreon. Patreon allows me to regain my financial security without switching my focus to commercial conferences, banking and investment events and chasing the next paycheck. Because of Patreon, I managed to stop selling and finally HODL. Because of Patreon I can dedicate my entire focus to the people who I have always felt like I am working for: the community of crypto-currency dreamers, visionaries and creators. I now finally get to work for you.
Yesterday, you fed my soul. You reminded me why it is so important to remain optimistic, focused and determined to overcome the cynicism. It's been a long and hard road. Sometimes I get lost. But, every time I do, you step up and help me find my way, find my focus again. You show me that I do not walk alone on this path. You are all there with me. I am part of a wonderful community and you have my back.
Today, I am even more focused on my goals: educate the next 10 million users. Train the next 10,000 developers. Do it all in every medium possible. Do it in more languages. Do it with more energy, with more passion. Do it with unrelenting optimism. In the end, my engine runs on hope, it runs on optimism. And today, it's turbocharged.