This is an opinion editorial by Mark Maraia, an entrepreneur, author of “Rainmaking Made Simple” and Bitcoiner.
If you have been in bitcoin long enough or been around someone who is a strong proponent of bitcoin you will have eventually heard this phrase: “I orange-pilled my (friend/brother/mom/dad etc.).” I’ve never been very fond of the phrase, although I agree with the sentiment that it expresses. Long-term, our goal is to gather as many people on the monetary lifeboat called bitcoin. How we get there is the real issue that we don’t discuss often enough. For example, why doesn’t Bitcoin Magazine have a regular column that allows ordinary plebs to share their favorite orange-pill story? This would give readers advice on how to approach their friends and family.
As I started to reflect on what “orange-pill” means, I realized that it can mean many things to different people. This article will attempt to discuss some of the common meanings and question whether this is the best strategy for bitcoin.
Does orange-pill mean:
- Convince someone to buy bitcoin?
- Help someone see the brilliance of bitcoin?
- Create curiosity about bitcoin?
- Show someone how messed up our fiat monetary system is?
- Educate someone on bitcoin?
Or all of the above? Or none of the above?
It is obvious there are many interpretations of what it means to orange-pill someone.
What I think many in the space miss is that friends and family won’t see bitcoin as a solution if they don’t have a solid grasp of the problem. And you are well advised to assume most have no clue about the problem. The simple fact is most people are so overwhelmed and barely getting by that not only do they not have a solid grasp of the problem, they have no desire to hear you tell them about the problem!
So in many respects, if the person you are orange-pilling doesn’t understand the problem, you are highly unlikely to be successful. Does that mean you should not even try? I can’t answer that for you. It is entirely your choice for how you use your life energy. However, in a recent Bitcoin Magazine podcast, Michael Saylor explained his approach to Aleks Svetski and I think it’s worth sharing:
The world is going through an unprecedented financial crisis. The greatest of our lifetime. The financial world is in crisis. And the political world is in the greatest turmoil of our lifetime. There’s just a lot of turmoil. A lot of sound and fury. A lot of strong passion. A lot of noise and turbulence. Bitcoin is a good thing. There are a thousand issues distracting people. Most people do not see the brilliance of bitcoin as a new money or as digital energy or as a new form of property or a better ideology […] as a catalyst for good in the world. Most people do not recognize that. So you have finite minutes in your life left. When you meet a person you only have a few minutes to talk with them and convey something. What’s the highest form of good you can bring to them?
I’m of the opinion that it’s best to approach every conversation constructively and cheerfully when educating people. Removing the fear, dealing with the doubt, dealing with the uncertainty. Educating them that bitcoin is a great technology. The greatest monetary technology in the history of the world. It can improve their lives, their friends lives, their company’s lives and their fellow citizens lives. It can improve everything it touches if they grasp and understand it. I think that’s the highest, best use of time and energy.
It’s always a temptation to get drawn into other discussions and other debates. I’m not going to tell you how to spend your life, but in terms of professional focus […] the focus is to educate the world on how each person can improve their lives. When you do that you have to do it in the language they speak. You have to use the metaphors they understand. You have to appeal to the values they have and sometimes you might not even share those values. Figure out what they want, how they speak, how they communicate, how they want to be communicated to and then communicate as much insight about bitcoin as you can. That’s how we spread the entire network. That’s how we improve the world. Avoid being baited and distracted and drawn into negativity. Some people just enjoy and want conflict.
Until they have compelling requirements they will be dismissive. Tell them how bitcoin solves their problem. In sales you want to know why each person will benefit from what I have to offer? And then I explain the benefit to them in the most concise format I can. You either make the sale or you don’t. If you make the sale, great. If you don’t, thank them for their time. No point in making them angry or calling them an idiot. Make lots of friends and no enemies. You’ll learn a lot from listening.
If I’m keeping a scorecard, the scorecard is: “who did you convince to join the network?” and the way you join the network is you convert your money to a different asset into bitcoin. The more energy you attract to the network, the faster the world gets better. That’s the ultimate utility function.
My approach is similar to Saylor’s, only I might go a step further. My job is to educate people and do my best to understand how concerned the person I’m orange-pilling is about his or her situation. No pain points, no buy-in to the Bitcoin network. Speaking to a boomer or retiree will require an entirely different approach than a millennial who has been shut out of the real estate market. The amazing thing about bitcoin is it has many facets to it that make it appealing to many different people. It seems that many in this space use a one-size-fits-all approach to persuasion. Or worse, they assume that what they found compelling about bitcoin will be the same thing others will find compelling. At best that is naïve and at worst it shows a level of arrogance that is highly off-putting. Offensive, really. We’re not going to insult our way to success.
Our job as bitcoiners is to listen and ask questions that demonstrate that we care more about the person and have zero investment in whether they decide to buy bitcoin. Figure out a way to take that approach and adoption will shoot through the roof.
One of my favorite statements to my peers who have done well in the fiat world and enjoy considerable net worth is: “you probably don’t need bitcoin.” This disarms them and tends to make them far more curious and open. Telling them what to do might work if the person has complete trust in you and your opinion of what to do. But that is very rare.
There is no one right way to do this. More importantly, I suggest you undertake the conversation with all people in such a way that they trust you and appreciate your genuine interest in their well-being. My goal with each conversation is to educate those who seem open and listen to the problem driving them to seek out bitcoin as a solution. Ideally, you have piqued their curiosity. When the conversation is over, I’m hoping the relationship is stronger than it was before we had the conversation. What never works is dismissing them or getting angry or frustrated that they can’t see the brilliance of bitcoin or any number of other off-putting behaviors that benefit no one.
Do you care enough about your friends and neighbors to educate them patiently and slowly for as long as it takes? For some that may be years. Wonderful, that means it requires patience from you. If you are so sure you’re right, then you are well advised to shut up. During a recent bitcoin meet up I spoke with a young mom who “gets” bitcoin and she was expressing her frustration that her sister, a lawyer in a large NYC firm, doesn’t get it. I suggested she wait for her sister to show curiosity about bitcoin before attempting to orange-pill her. She had already pressed her often enough that she was getting increasingly frustrated with her sister. My advice to her was to just love and accept her sister exactly as she is, even if she never gets bitcoin. Don’t make bitcoin the reason why you feel estranged from your sister. She softened as she realized that bitcoin is patient and will wait for her sister to see its brilliance.
Everyone in the space talks about low time-preference and then gets irritated, impatient and pissed off at those they care about when they don’t get it. Low time-preference means you are taking the long view of things. Think in terms of years and decades, not minutes, hours, days or weeks. The only thing that makes us irritated, impatient and angry is our own fear or immaturity. Grow up.
What I’ve long advised clients to do when they want to become a rainmaker is to first think like a rainmaker. Same with bitcoin: start thinking like a person who has already seen the brilliance of bitcoin and knows that it has won. That doesn’t give you license to be arrogant and dismissive of those who don’t get it. I’d love nothing more than to retire from using the phrase “have fun staying poor.” Talk about arrogant and entitled and immature. To me bitcoin isn’t about poverty or wealth, it’s about freedom and liberation from the shackles of fiat. It’s about having an alternative to the U.S. dollar or other fiat currency. It’s about saying no to debt slavery and taking greater responsibility for my wealth.
There are some in the space who gladly report that bitcoin has already won. Bravo to those who take that approach!! That is not widely understood yet in our culture. Relax, many will come around when they are ready. Give Jay Powell and our rulers enough time and rope and they will hang themselves.
“Getting” bitcoin is a two-step process:
Step one: Realize the major shortcomings and unfairness of our current system. If the person you are speaking to can’t or won’t see those gaps, that is your starting point. Close that gap slowly, patiently, gently. If they are not open to admitting how unfair the current system is then your job is to “zip it” and wait for the right moment. The teachable moment.
Step two: Once they understand how unfair our current monetary system is, then — and only then — will they be interested in a solution. You don’t convince an alcoholic to give up drinking until after he admits it’s a problem.
One of the things that I so enjoy about the bitcoin community is they have a much deeper grasp of the problems and shortcomings in our current system. These problems are very hard to miss if you’re looking for them, but most aren’t looking for them! Most people are a product of their education and upbringing and have learned nothing about our monetary system. It’s not taught in school. Or worse, they have bought the propaganda fed to them their entire lives which reduces the likelihood of them ever seeing the problem. That said, the last thing we need are true believers who are only too eager to tell you you’re dumb as crap and, unless you take full possession of your private keys, you’re a tool of the state.
So my call to action to the reader is this: Educate others, don’t attack them as ignorant or evil. Don’t waste your precious time on Twitter if you’re after wider adoption. Most of the people who need to learn about money and bitcoin aren’t on Twitter or Telegram. And most importantly, set a goal for yourself on the number of people you will help get off zero each year and do your best to achieve that number. Bitcoin has infinite patience. Start thinking and acting as if that is true. And when one of your friends or family asks you about the latest altcoin, say, as Nik Bhatia says, “that is not an investment class I put any money or energy into.”
This is a guest post by Mark Maraia. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.