On Work, Life, and the Balance We May Seek

So it’s been a little while since I’ve last posted. As I get settled in my new work, it’s been harder to find time to work on some of my side-projects – be it Wall Brew Co. or ETHNO-ISS. Mind you, I’ve loved my new job. I’ve learned so much already in the short few months I’ve worked there. I’m back in the blockchain technology space and fighting the good fight for it. 

However, the time spent getting settled and spun up on my new position have made me (re)consider what a work/life balance is. After all, this time is formative in negotiating this balance. While there aren’t hard and fast rules this balance it’s important that I set expectations here so that the busiest times aren’t normalized. I’m not seeking a strict 9-to-5, but I’m also not looking to consistently work 10 hour+ days routinely.

This has always been a particularly difficult task for me – one that only gets more challenging during remote work. When physical spaces have ambiguous work and life assignments, it’s even more important to compartmentalize these sanity-saving disambiguations. 

It’s not the easiest task. 

The ability to keep one’s composure while balancing the important things in life is a deeply personal task. While I wish I could offer better advice here, this is something we must all learn and relearn on our own. 

The Future for Cryptocurrency

In a number of interviews I’ve had recently the same question came up: What is the future of cryptocurrency? It’s an intriguing question and I can only earnestly approach it with my community expertise. In my opinion, there won’t be a single “a-ha!” moment for crypto.

Disruptive systems, particularly the ones that occupy similar spaces as institutions yet untouched by technology, cause friction. Disruption is uncomfortable for people – it creates uncertainty and potentially requires one to adjust. For many, this disruption and lack of familiarity make them suspicious of and slow to accept new technologies.

Generally speaking, we can approximate disruption by weighing the significance of a new thing over time. The more significant something is over a shorter period of time, the more disruptive it will be. With that said, the longer something is around the easier it is for people to accept – it appears less disruptive.

The incredibly disruptive nature of blockchain technology, in my opinion, means that it will likely need a fair amount of time before it becomes ubiquitous. It is still very young. Again, this is why I doubt a single moment we can point to as the marker for crypto-success.

I realize I’m not the only person who says this – indeed, many blockchain technology leaders have surmised as much. Interestingly, it follows a formula that dates back for as long as humans have existed.

Remember when the internet was dismissed? When television was bemoaned? When radio, the telegraph, and railroads elicited the loudest eschatological cries? Or how about when even the written word sent shock waves through society?

All of the examples above were highly disruptive because of their immediacy in upending the status quo. Their integration into everyday life required time. While every new technology has important milestones in their development and deployment, to say a single moment can define success is too reductive.

Strategy vs. Tactics in Chess and in Life

Given the CV universal of demanding “Strategic Thinking” for any communications, content, or storytelling position, strategy is always top of mind. Rightly so, well-planned and executed strategy shifts paradigms considerably.

However, from my experiences and those my communications peers have shared with me, it’s apparent that there can be some confusion about this terminology. Just because one uses the word “strategy,” it does not automatically make it so. For whatever reason, confusion can seep in and complicate strategy creation, development, and execution.

So how do we address it? Each in our own ways, I think. Let me share mine with you.

I’ve been a lifelong chess player. I credit my love of the game for helping me keep these terms, and their meanings, straight in my personal and professional life. Put simply, a tactic is a single move. Pawn to d4 – that’s a move, a tactic. It does not even need to be an absolute or realized move. Take capturing a piece, for example. This is a single move, but abstract in that it can happen in any game at any time. It’s still a tactic.

Alone, moves (tactics) do not seem like much. On their own, they really aren’t. They lack motivation, goals, and support. This is where we can start talking about strategy.

Strategy is the overall, abstract and real approach(es) to accomplish that goal. Back to our chess example – cornering an opponent’s king before they corner yours is the ultimate goal, but how a player gets there is what we celebrate. There is no single way to do it with fewer good strategies than bad ones.

As a simple definition, a strategy is the intentional, harmonious cohesion of one’s total tactics. It’s the ways in which a player (or a professional) will seek to solve a problem. All moves and tactics need to serve the strategy to further it along. If a move doesn’t serve the overall strategy it distracts, dilutes, and even endangers the strategy.

The opening move I mention before, d4, is part of a wider strategy I like to use in chess called the “Queen’s Gambit.” In it, the player looks to gain an advantage in controlling the center of the board. One move supports the game-winning theme of controlling the center. It is a devilishly aggressive strategy. The Queen’s Gambit constantly puts pressure on the opponent, denies center control, and opens up numerous well-supported attacks against the opponent’s king.

This is how I remind myself of the difference between strategy and tactics – and hopefully you’ve found it helpful as well. Or perhaps it inspired you to think of examples you more closely identify with, if you’re not a chess player.

Finally, let’s remember this: with literally only one objective in chess, players have spent centuries perfecting strategies. What I mean to say here is that the quality of one’s strategies will get better with time. Sometimes that means identifying bad ones. Don’t be hard on yourself when something doesn’t work out, but recognize when it’s a bad strategy by knowing when it’s not just one move.

Guided Improvisation is an Important Life and Professional Skill

I know what you must be thinking from just looking at the photo: “He’s literally making booze in a bath tub.” You’d be right – partially. In the photo, I’m cooling unfermented beer in a bath tub. How I got to that point exemplifies the creativity and guided improvisation needed to accomplish tasks.

So how did I get here? Well, I’m a homebrewer – have been for nearly a decade. While commercial brewing runs like a well-oiled machine with cutting edge technology and equipment, homebrewing lacks that level of sophistication. I’ve made some pretty tasty beers, but each time even the best-made plans have required some type of agility.

But what about the bathtub? Part of the process for making beer is cooling down the wort (unfermented beer) quickly. As a person who has never had access to garden hoses or faucets that accept that fitting, I’ve always relied on ice baths in sinks as opposed to wort chillers. Having recently moved to a new apartment, I didn’t realize my 10 gallon pot would not fit in my sink – where I’ve historically made ice baths. However, I do have a bath tub, and so it was.

What I’m trying to say is that limitations force creativity and guide improvised solutions. Our environments, professionally and personally, all have certain constraints to accomplishing tasks. The most successful of us can look around at the resources available to solve a given situation. Sometimes that’s leveraging existing executive visibility, sometimes that’s putting a pot of hot, sugary water in a bath tub.