In a moment of balance and strength, I felt my muscles stiffen, the pressure against my right triceps increasing. Flirting with gravity, I engaged my core like I had a hundred times before, raised my hips a little higher, and started angling my upper body towards my friend. I looked at him with a labored gaze before I remembered my many teachers' endless insistence that I smile. With equal part astonishment and equal part disbelief, he muttered that he could never possibly do that: "That's impossible. You are just so flexible!"
The great mistake in that sentence is the word “are”: it took me five years to reach that yoga pose, and only in the last 12 months or so was I strong enough to finally experiment with the arm balance we were exploring. There was no static "are" involved, no fixed description that somehow belonged to my being or inscribed in my genome. Combining the balance, the strength, the flexibility, and the concentration required to hold my body in place was no mere accident or circumstance. For hours on end, day after day, week after week, I had put my money where my mouth was – or rather, body where my yoga mat was – and endured. I had put in the work that over time resulted in a body capable and strong enough to hold a complicated arm balance.
What the Bitcoin network’s proof-of-work so neatly captures about reality is that nothing valuable in our world comes from nothing; nothing worth having can be had by the waving of magic wands. You must put real-world resources behind the computer network that powers bitcoin, for a randomized yet pre-programmed chance at receiving some new coins. “Let there be light,” said God allegedly – and nobody else ever. This isn’t just true in the ethereal world of digital money, but in probably every endeavor worth doing.
Wherever I look these days, I see proof-of-work. The skills that people have acquired are their proof-of-work – long arduous hours before a computer coding, in a simulator trying to fly an airplane, in a baking hot sun laying bricks upon bricks, or in apprenticeships or training that teach you how to safely lay electrical wires or perform open-heart surgery. The humongous podcast catalogues that this or that podcaster has, or the astonishing output that certain writers have run up, are proof-of-work. The relationships people have cultivated, with their friends and families and lovers, are proof-of-work. All of them included different ingredients, came into existence in different ways and with different starting points, but all required nurturing to flourish. They exist, and flourish, because their participants have put work into them.
All of us are given very different starting points in life, and sometimes another’s raw talents seem altogether unfair. That guy had a head start; this dude lucked out; that family had financial resources; those people had better genes. Often, we see ourselves as uniquely disadvantaged compared to someone else or some ideal life we might imagine that others lead. Even so, very few people can succeed with raw talent or ability alone: even the most talented basketball player needs hours and hours on that court; the baseball batter with the most perfect build needs to hone that hitting ability into perfection.
Nobody gets anything for free, not even the Bitcoiners who stumbled onto the world’s best performing asset way before it was cool. They faced challenges of their own that us latecomers never had to: they doubted the entire project, more than once – every time something bad happened or their underdeveloped markets dropped 80%. They had to learn on their own, rather than follow podcasters and how-to guides for everything. They had to invent, circumvent, or build the technical and financial infrastructure that the rest of us take for granted today. Yes, the ones who grasped the importance of bitcoin in the early days, and put in the mental and practical work required, have been richly rewarded – but they also faced challenges to their diamond hands that the rest of us could hardly even imagine.
Deep friendships don’t drop from the sky, but require long and hard work. Beyond the youthful relations that bloom during intense summers or first semesters at college, the enduring friendships we grown-ups have nurtured remain precisely because we maintain them. With our best friends, we've gone through rough patches, dealt with hard times, shared accomplishments, and put in the hours needed when either they wanted it or we needed it.
Soul mates, lifelong companions, and other idealized descriptions of love require even higher amounts of devotion and negotiation. They take time to develop, and not just days and weeks and years – but time spent together, exploring, improving, attempting, and yes, negotiating. Successful relationships are proof-of-work. It’s hard to carve out an intimate life with another person, harder the more stressors of politics, societal divides, and financial hardships surround them. One does not simply swipe right a few times and effortlessly find their perfect life partner: however well-matched you are, it takes work – time, attention, commitment, vulnerability, and plenty of sacrifices. It’s the proof-of-work that matters, not the proof-of-accident or fleeting attraction.
There is but one proof-of-steak I endorse in my life – the pictures of my carnivore(-ish) meals that I send, not to Instagram as my fellow millennials might have, but to my shitcoiner friends (always with a comment about staking). And even this proof-of-steak is technically proof-of-work, because you need to source it, earn it, make it, and most importantly: commit to it before it starts building you into the stronger human being for which steak is intended.
My generation was raised, intentionally or not, with the opposite mentality – a proof-of-stake mentality, where our mere existence conveyed rights, benefits, and well-being. Every one of us spoiled snowflakes were unique and perfect the way we were, and now are, and tomorrow will be. Whatever we feel is real, whatever delusion we have incorporated lately must be unquestioningly accepted by everyone else. We cannot be exposed to any sort of risk, in case they traumatize us or hurt our precious feelings; horrific ideas of other people cannot be allowed in our midst.
It’s no surprise that a generation of proof-of-stake later, we're all coddled and compliant, naive and credulous, unhealthy and stupid. It's no wonder we trust our monetary overlords more so than our own interactions with the world: the top stakers in our fiat proof-of-stake system say that something is, then surely who am I to object?
EVERYONE GETS THE BITCOIN PRICE THEY DESERVE
Everything important in life requires you to focus, to work diligently toward the thing you desire. You will face set-backs; others will do better than you; and you will wonder why on Earth you even try. Before you actually get around to pressing that buy button, do that bitcoin-paying gig, or mine those first sats, you get nothing.
Everything in the world requires work – physical, mental, or financial. What we are isn’t fixed, and at the bottom of bitcoin’s promise to the world lies the promise that work rewards and discipline matters. Everyone gets bitcoin when they’re ready, or intellectually open to it; everyone thus gets the bitcoin price and allocation they deserve.
You don’t get things for nothing; You must put in the work before you reap the rewards. Bitcoin teaches us that. Until very recently in our societies, reality taught us that too.
In time, perhaps it can once more.