This is an opinion editorial by Maxx Mannheimer, a former sales account manager with a background in training and industrial-organizational psychology.
The technological innovation which Bitcoin represents is rarely apparent at first glance; the societal implications of that innovation are even less obvious. Those who don’t engage directly with the technology and speak with other Bitcoiners may completely miss the broader significance of what is happening with Bitcoin. The Bitcoin community has been called a cult and an ideology. I prefer to think of it in a simpler term which is grounded in fact: Bitcoin is a tool. Many things can be said of what the tool is and how it functions, but ultimately I believe it is a tool of comparison and measurement, much like a ruler or caliper. The manner in which we interact with Bitcoin as a tool is one of personal skill.
Throughout this article I will use the term “Bitcoiner” as a shorthand for those who engage with the network. I find it important to clarify that, as I use it, this term does not denote any kind of personal identity, but rather as a reference to an individual who uses Bitcoin. To illustrate the semantic difference I will invite you to consider the title of carpenter or electrician. These terms do not comprehensively define these individuals, but they are useful for a brief description.
Through a similar occupational lense, I have found that inspecting Bitcoin through the perspective of organizational development has been useful in my understanding of the dynamics and implications of the technology. Bitcoin represents a completely novel form of organization. One which is entirely decentralized and in which the individual participants are not required to meet or interact directly in order to create value. This article will extend the metaphor to consider what a human resource (HR) department may look like in this decentralized organization. I am aware that HR is seen largely as a drain on business goals, but I would argue much of that connotation filters down through legislative requirements. Human resource works can be a boon to a thriving business if managed correctly.
Some Bitcoiners seem to be repulsed by the idea of any collective approach to coordination. For those who feel an aversion to collectivism I would like to propose the following stipulations. The act of coordinating with a group is distinct from identifying with a group. The former is cooperative teamwork, while the latter is an illusory extension of the ego. Any initiative which asks an individual to forgo their personal needs in service of a group will reduce individual liberty. Inversely, any task which aligns personal interest with that of supporting Bitcoin will amplify individual liberty. This consideration is only effective if used on a case by case basis and not as an extension of one’s personal identity with a conceptual group.
To clearly outline the overarching goal of a Bitcoin HR department I define the intent as follows: Supporting the participants in the network to reach their full potential as individuals in service of the network reaching its full potential as a collective. Due to the decentralized nature of this system the traditional thinking around how a department functions will need to be shifted dramatically. For example, there will not be a system in place for legal compliance, hiring, firing, performance review or compensation. Users join and exit the network on an entirely voluntary basis. Users are compensated based on their own behavior in relation to the software. All participants in the Bitcoin ecosystem are free to fulfill the functions of any metaphorical department or none at all. However, in the interest of promoting the resilience of the Bitcoin network, I believe these functions are incentivised to take place because everyone using Bitcoin can benefit from them.
The first HR function that will be relevant to Bitcoin is that of an onboarding and training process. Onboarding is the process of welcoming a new participant to the organization and directing them to the resources they will need to be successful. Bitcoin.org seems to be an appropriate place to send newcomers, as it is set up for exactly the purpose of making an introduction of the technology.
Every individual has a unique learning style based on their personal history and dispositions. Sometimes there will be resistance in the adoption process due to misunderstanding, misinformation or mistrust. If that is the case, it may be wise to specifically tailor onboarding processes for different people or to suggest specific books based on the unique profile of the person who has made the inquiry. For example, someone who leans towards the conservative side of the political spectrum may be ready to read “The Bitcoin Standard,” while someone who is more progressive may connect more with “The 7th Property,” “Check Your Financial Privilege” or “The Price of Tomorrow.” Reading any of these books will help someone develop an understanding of Bitcoin. Reading all of them will help to hone the ability to suggest books to others. If someone isn’t willing to commit to reading an entire book it may be better to send a blog post, youtube video or specific podcast tailored to their interests.
Over the years I have noticed that most people are not thrilled to talk about Bitcoin if I launch into a rant about it. It is best to wait until they are genuinely curious about it to provide them with valuable information. People typically don’t enjoy being told what to do or pressed into solutions they did not ask for. However, if you can pique their interest without being obnoxious, by all means do so. At the end of the day the biggest attraction to Bitcoin is the “Number Go Up” (NGU) technology. When the time is right, you won’t have to sell Bitcoin to anyone, but the on-boarding process will remain relevant.
I know this is Bitcoin blasphemy, but in my experience it is best not to push too hard on new participants to self-custody or to run a full node. More tech-savvy users will be ready to jump in headfirst, but for the majority of users it is best to wait until they have gotten their feet wet before laying out all the best practices. Bitcoin can be an overwhelming topic to approach and being inundated with a torrent of new information and hardware requirements may do more harm than good. My general recommendation is to put off the self-custody talk until the person you’re working with is holding a large amount of bitcoin that they would not want to lose. This varies between individuals and if someone loses bitcoin because they didn’t self-custody then that is an unfortunate part of their learning experience.
It is extremely easy for newcomers to be drawn into the flashy marketing of centralized altcoin scams. It is important to explain the difference between bitcoin and altcoins early on. Some people need to experiment with altcoins in order to discover that they are garbage. If this is the case I would suggest letting them do so without judgment. Trying to force someone into your worldview is likely to backfire and alienate whoever you are speaking with. That being said, I always reiterate that if someone does not commit to the due diligence to understand Bitcoin, they cannot understand the broader topic of cryptocurrency. In all the hype around NFTs, Web3, ICOs and whatever else is popular this week, there is a tremendous amount of monetary history being ignored.
Unfortunately, searching for “Bitcoin” on Google or YouTube will inevitably pull up a lot of unimportant garbage and scam videos. If you plan to assist someone with the process of purchasing or storing their coins safely it is best to walk them through in person or to select a video series which focuses specifically on Bitcoin. Buying from a more reputable exchange like Cash App or Swan and avoiding any content creators who talk about “crypto” will cut out 90 percent of the scams. Never sending Bitcoin to a wallet you don’t have the keys to will knock out the remaining 10 percent. For privacy sensitive users, choosing an exchange method which does not participate in KYC (Know Your Customer) may be preferable. After someone starts buying Bitcoin it is helpful to check in with them periodically to offer your support in their understanding and gently remind them: “Not Your Keys, Not Your Coins.”
One area in which many organizations outside of Bitcoin seem to fail is that of genuine and continuous support of achieving individual goals. Inversely, it seems that Bitcoin is inherently oriented around genuine and continuous support of achieving individual goals. The clearest personal impacts which result from embracing Bitcoin as a unit of account are that of reducing time preference and of increasing independence. These benefits come with time and study, but gradually they liberate Bitcoin users from the hamster wheel of the continuously debased fiat monetary network. This results in more long-term goals, less stress about future financial security and greater consideration of the long-term implications of decisions.
Development along these lines will take a unique form for each individual, but some themes seem to be emerging. For example, Bitcoiners tend to value natural foods which are nutrient rich, low in chemical processing and sourced from shorter supply chains. I have noticed a number of Bitcoiners on Twitter swearing off alcohol, cigarettes, soda and other addictive substances. I have seen Bitcoiners promoting weight lifting, meditation, sunlight and fresh air. The overarching theme I have witnessed in the Bitcoin community is simply that of liberating oneself to pursue passions which are intrinsically rewarding rather than doing meaningless tasks just to tread water. These trends carry a certain common sense which is often lost under the constant stress of financial insecurity and debt.
The escape from the iron maiden of debt can be a harrowing process. This transition often takes the form of a radical divergence from social norms followed by a new sense of liberation without bounds or direction. Over time I anticipate there will be more direction laid down by the pioneers who crossed the threshold first. For example, it would be wonderful to see an online Bitcoin library emerge which takes BTC donations as votes for various books and documentary films. With a bitcoin-based voting system, articles of the highest value to the network will rise to the top and catch the interest of other participants. The donations could be used to support Bitcoin education globally or to accomplish other tasks which the community votes upon.
The community aspect of Bitcoin is easily overlooked by anyone who hasn’t witnessed the growth of Bitcoin Twitter over the years. Bitcoiners on Twitter frequently ask each other for advice on what products to buy, which to avoid and many other more personal requests. For example, “I am trying to quit smoking, do you have any tips?” Inevitably a question like that pulls in dozens of supportive responses from other Bitcoiners who have had experience in that area. This type of collaboration supports individual development and also benefits the entire network. Best of all, it’s fully voluntary.
These are limited anecdotal examples of what I expect to become normal behavior between Bitcoiners as the network continues to expand. Escaping monetary oppression is just one step in liberating ourselves from the many traumas and bad habits which have resulted from living under a fiat standard.
Bitcoin-centric retreats may also become more common as adoption increases. The Bitcoin conventions are a great start, but I anticipate that they will eventually explode into massive events that are oriented more around education and network expansion than they are about supporting Bitcoiner interests. Wellness retreats for yoga, meditation, plant medicine or permaculture farming would be intriguing to me personally. Those types of experiences enable a deeper form of growth beyond the casual meet and greet circuit. Every place where Bitcoiners meet will bring value to the network and pockets of specific interest will attract a wide variety of users; much in the way that early internet forums manifested.
Another area with which HR is typically interested, is in that of diversity. Rather than focusing on state-directed diversity mandates I would like to focus on the obvious and natural benefits of diversity. Diversity of background, mindset and worldview strengthen creativity and inclusiveness. If bitcoin is, in fact, the best money ever created, diversity will be a natural consequence of its adoption. Bitcoin has a tendency to distribute more equally over time while fiat currencies have been demonstrated to continuously concentrate wealth. It appears that the U.S. and Europe are leading adoption in monetary terms, but from an individual adoption standpoint we are seeing much greater percentages of usage in developing nations. The continued appreciation of bitcoin has the potential to lift millions out of poverty and to unite individuals across the globe into a voluntary decentralized collaboration.
My primary goal in writing this is to promote cooperation and coordination between Bitcoiners because Bitcoin supports freedom and individuality. Demonstrating this type of positive and supportive atmosphere will assist in adoption. I have also found that writing these articles supports non-bitcoin users in understanding the unique nature of the Bitcoin network. There is no CEO, there is no phone number to call and there are no departments. There are only individuals behaving as they see fit. One by one, as we opt out of the system of control that permeates every aspect of society, it will be up to us to build a new vision of human potential.
Living in continuous conflict drains vital energy which could be used for more productive behavior. Improving group cohesion decreases stress and increases personal wellness. Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of conflict in the Bitcoin community. These conflicts often arise around altcoins, lending systems or false claims about bitcoin usage. I understand the frustration I’ve witnessed and I hold no judgment of it. However, for the practical sake of alleviating conflict I would like to propose a specific methodology which I have worked with extensively.
Nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg is a system of communication which can be used to resolve conflicts at home, at work or between two complete strangers. It constitutes a manner of communicating which is radically different from how most of society functions. In my experience, the learning curve is steep, but the benefit of practice has grown continuously since I started. In order to make an introduction of the material below, I will share one of my favorite quotes from Rosenberg to provide some insight into what he was working towards:
“Life-alienating communication both stems from and supports hierarchical or domination societies, where large populations are controlled by a small number of individuals to those individuals’ own benefit. It would be in the interest of kings, czars, nobles and so forth that the masses be educated in a way that renders them slavelike in mentality. The language of wrongness, “should,” and “have to” is perfectly suited for this purpose: The more people are trained to think in terms of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness and badness, the more they are being trained to look outside themselves — to outside authorities — for the definition of what constitutes right, wrong, good and bad. When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings.” — Marshall Rosenberg
Rosenberg spent most of his career teaching the world what he learned about communication and using it to resolve conflicts between individuals, organizations and countries. His philosophy extended into many aspects of life beyond classical mediation, but was always centered around individual autonomy. He fought an uphill battle his whole life, but the truth in his methodology has made a tremendous impact and continues to grow in adoption. The previous statement could just as easily be applied to Bitcoin.
Now that Bitcoin is offering humanity a potential future in which conflict is no longer profitable, I would like to propose that we support that process by radically reducing conflict on an individual level. Without a doubt, nonviolent communication (NVC) has been the most effective means I have found to reach that goal. The following is a brief introduction to the highlights of the philosophy behind NVC.
Nonviolent communication encompasses a method of connecting with others which is carefully designed to support getting our needs met. When I say needs, I am referring to the basic human needs we all share. Needs like community, autonomy, food, security and love. A more comprehensive list can be found here. Each individual is responsible for getting their own needs met. If your needs are not met it is very unlikely that you will be able to meet the needs of anyone else as you will not feel safe or motivated to do so.
This means that you hold the responsibility to speak up for yourself. No one can do this for you. Rosenberg argued that much of the way we behave and communicate is tragically counterproductive in the pursuit of having our needs met, but that every human action, no matter how helpful or destructive, is always oriented around trying to fulfill needs.
In order to fully connect with our experience of the present moment and to tune in to our needs, the first step is to pay attention to how we are feeling. It is helpful to be able to name those feelings as they arise, because communicating those feelings to others creates a genuine connection. It’s also important to acknowledge feelings as they arise rather than suppress them. It is my belief that much of the psychological tension and mental health issues we are witnessing in the postmodern era are a result of the harmful suppression of what we are experiencing. As you begin to practice this process you may be surprised how frequently people say, “I feel like” followed by something which is not a feeling at all. This is one of many ways in which we routinely disconnect from our experience of the present moment.
There is a radical self responsibility and pragmatism to the NVC process. According to NVC, we are not responsible for other people’s feelings and no one is responsible for our feelings. We are responsible for our interpretations of events and how our reactions make us feel. No person or event outside of ourselves can make us feel anything. Integrating that understanding is a much deeper practice than just reading the statement and agreeing to it. I believe this understanding develops the foundation for finding balance between connection and codependency.
In NVC there are no compromises and there is no forced behavior. By living in NVC I have completely purged the words “should” and “have to” from my vocabulary. Nobody has to do anything. We choose to take action in order to meet our needs. This does not mean that coercion and violence do not exist in the world, but it does create a framework to put an end to these behaviors on an individual level.
I will specify that NVC does not equate to being a permissive doormat. If your needs are not being met you can stand up for yourself as you see fit. The division clarified in NVC is between the restrictive use of force and the use of force to punish others. NVC does not use rewards or punishments to manipulate people. However, incentives are fully valid. The balance between all these factors takes time and practice to understand. There are a lot of important nuances to become conscious of, but over time this manner of communication becomes second nature.
In reading the work of Marshall Rosenberg I can see that he was deeply concerned about individual liberty and peace. At its core, I believe the Bitcoin community has the same values. The description I provided above is only a brief introduction of NVC basics. If you are interested in understanding the full process I would recommend finding a copy of Rosenbergs’s book, watching some of his YouTube videos (don’t let the puppets scare you), or looking for NVC groups near you locally or online.
Learning NVC is much like learning a new language. Reading books and watching videos of people speaking a language can be helpful, but until you speak the language or have it spoken to you, the experience is limited. I believe NVC is a critical component in the process of supporting human flourishing and it has the potential to dramatically improve our relations with our families, our neighbors, our children and even our perceived enemies. If that is of interest to you I encourage you to pursue a deeper understanding of this topic.
Many organizations outsource this function to third parties. However, in the bitcoin space this process is integral to the use of the technology. Over the last twenty years stock investments have become increasingly uncertain, inflation has often surpassed bond yields, housing costs have excluded huge portions of the population from home ownership, and the cost of many basic goods has increased continuously. This paints a grim picture for most of the working world and it’s increasingly eating into the livelihoods of those who have retired on fixed income.
The retirement planning support in bitcoin is very simple. In short, buy and hold! However, the nuance around that process is important. The volatility of bitcoin has definitely frightened off a lot of potential investors. However, in any four year time frame the price has historically performed very well. Since January 1 of 2013 (four years after inception) the price has increased from $13.28 to around $20,000 today. That represents an increase of 150,400% and that is measured at a price which is down approximately 60% from its peak last year. For those who fear volatility, I certainly understand that the dramatic price swings are heart wrenching, but that volatility has consistently been beneficial to the upside. There is a good reason for this. Bitcoin is designed to go up.
As many Bitcoiners have discovered, dollar-cost averaging (DCA) is the most consistent method for accumulating bitcoin. Buying in lump sums can be an emotionally challenging experience, especially if the price declines after a large purchase. Waiting for a lower dip to buy has historically been a bad strategy as well. However, if you are buying a set amount of bitcoin each week, or each day, then the price action becomes a lot less frightening. If the price goes up, that’s great because you already own some bitcoin. If the price goes down, that’s also great because you can purchase more bitcoin for less fiat and reduce your average cost. When the timing is out of your hands the experience is much less stressful. This is a typical approach to investing in retirement accounts and, as adoption increases, I anticipate it will become a standard approach to purchasing bitcoin as well.
The benefit of considering bitcoin as a retirement vehicle extends beyond the incredible gains. There are also no requirements or stipulations about how and when you use your bitcoin. There are no penalties for selling before retirement age. Additionally, bitcoin cannot be garnished or frozen and it is not tied to any institution or country. It is truly a global sovereign asset which stands on its own merits.
In order to fulfill the entire spectrum of the aforementioned sovereignty it is important to learn how to manage your own private keys. When you first purchase bitcoin it is stored with the institution you purchased it from. In this way, it is basically the same as any other asset you keep with a bank. You own it on paper, but in order to secure bitcoin fully you will want to learn how to self-custody your coins. This can be done with a number of different hardware wallets, my favorite of which is the Coinkite Coldcard.
This last step represents the largest leap forward in understanding bitcoin. To see for yourself that your bitcoin can be secured using a small device which fits in the palm of your hand and can be transported anywhere on the globe is truly revolutionary. If this device is lost, your private key can be recovered using a recovery seed — a list of 12 to 24 words, which is provided to you by the device when you set it up. If you manage to lose the device and the recovery seed you will lose your bitcoin permanently, so it is important to treat this process with the respect it deserves. It is also wise to learn how to do this yourself. If you trust someone else to do it for you the strength of your security is only as strong as your trust in that individual.
The ethos of bitcoin is about taking responsibility for yourself and not relying on external systems to take care of you. However, as each one of us becomes strong enough to stand on our own, we can also use that strength to lift others up.
I hope this article was helpful in portraying the vision I have of what this impending movement could represent. Contrary to the popular phrase, I will go out on a limb and say that Bitcoin doesn’t fix anything. It merely gives us the tools, incentive structure and autonomy to make the changes we want to see in the world. If Bitcoin can support even a fraction of the changes that I believe it can, we are in for a wild ride to an extraordinary human experience. Who’s with me?
This is a guest post by Maxx Mannheimer. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.