At the time of writing this, I am in my second month of leading growth at Mirror and working full time in web3.
It has been a deeply fun mind blast. The broader crypto space is a complete whirlwind that I am working hard to understand and integrate into: there is constant noise, money, new things, trends, personalities, tools, and an unreasonably unrealistic pressure to know EVERYTHING at all times.
Over the Thanksgiving Holidays, there was a brief opportunity to take a breath and reflect. I realized: Without intentionality on how to approach web3 and a career in this space, it’s too easy to drown in the FOMO-laced web3 crypto sea.
Pretend it’s the 90s or early 2000s. Can you imagine saying “I’m going to go work at an internet company!” and then being expected to know absolutely everything that happens on the internet at any given time? Even at that time, it would have been impossible.
I offer the same paradigm for today: it isn’t possible to know everything happening in crypto, or even web3. If anything else, the breadth and depth and synergies throughout are evidence of our space’s growth and promise. That’s exciting, but you may be just one person, like me, with 24 hours in a day. And so, it’s imperative to focus, which leads to iterative growth, driving results, and overall wellbeing and learning.
So what does one focus on and commit to?
Below are my 10 commitments to help me focus on what matters to me. I share all of these details in the hopes that they resonate with you. I also wrote these with the intention of revisiting them regularly to hold myself accountable.
Here we go:
I came into web3 for three reasons:
Consumer is my area of expertise: I built and created global campaigns for experiences in augmented reality and gaming as a leader at Niantic and on the Pokémon GO team. Something inside insisted to me that I had a unique perspective, worthy of offering to the new world that we’re building here in web3.
We are on the cutting edge, linking arms together into the dark forest, looking for the guiding lights, all while building a new world. When things get overwhelming, remember that the people here in web3 are smart, vibrant, and worth continuously learning from. And hopefully, I will always have something to teach as well.
I admire the people who came into crypto early or invested early, who saw its potential before the rest of the world did. I was literally told about Bitcoin by Brian Armstrong about a decade ago over burritos and drinks, and I definitely didn’t see the promise at the time before it blew up in many ways. But in spite of the retroactive FOMO, I think now is the moment when I was personally meant to come into crypto, no earlier.
To oversimplify as to why: In the early days of crypto, it was about building a financial ecosystem from the absolute ground up. From the outside looking in, I cheered on what I saw but couldn’t see myself enjoying that kind of work hands-on.
I’ve always cared about enjoying the things I do in my career so that I can give them my 1000%. That’s why I was lucky to work on enjoyable consumer projects as a strategy consultant early in my career. After that, working in augmented reality and gaming felt easeful and enjoyable for me. I had no greater thrill than to partner with product, engineering, and community leaders whom I trusted to build great things and whose stories I helped tell. I fell in love with the process over and over again. Arguably, all of the above is what has allowed me to stay committed to the processes and find various forms of “success” over time.
Success comes from committing to what you do, and committing to what you do is more likely when you enjoy it. Now that I get to work at Mirror and learn from the brilliant minds on our team and in the community, I feel aligned with where crypto is and I can enjoy the process of building the potential of web3.
Digital ownership can solve problems and systems that old paradigms created.
If it doesn’t fit into what you care about, you don’t have to pay attention or energy to it if you don’t want to. And you don’t have to build it.
Always build what you care about and you will get outsized gains.
In the spirit of building what you believe in, remember that you are also building yourself into you.
If you’re going to build, build in an evergreen way for the world that you care about. Don’t build for a spike that dies off. Similarly, don’t build yourself up to be a person who is “spiky”.
I define spiky people as personalities who are:
In the modern day, (a) and (b) are indeed talents in and of themselves. They can yield impressive results when wielded strategically. Both (a) and (b) are enjoyable realities and should be seen as such rather than scorned. More often than not, these are merely fun things, flashes in the pan, ready to be replaced in the public consciousness by the next drive-by talent or fun stunt.
You have definitely seen spiky phenomena in crypto; just look at the charts! And to that end, you have probably seen spiky people, too. You will see this in crypto: a thin layer of spiky folks playing a spiky short game, oftentimes (but not always) louder than the foundation of communities, teams, and ecosystem advocates who are building for the long term.
But that being said, spiky people can be found anywhere and everywhere in our modern era and attention economy.
What are some examples of spiky people?
Once a person becomes spiky, they can get caught up in their ego. That ego can make them erroneously think that they are at a global maximum that will last forever.
Ego destroys curiosity and the drive to learn and get better. Ego makes people underestimate and disrespect others whose stars may be right around the corner. Ego gets in the way of hitting the meta realization that you are playing a short game, circularly fueled by ego itself.
There is always another star, another spiky person willing to be stuntier with another big ego, coming up on the horizon, ready to replace the previous spiky people.
It’s a short game. Don’t play it.
In hot industries, whether tech/crypto/entertainment/otherwise, becoming a spiky person with a flashy persona and stunty behaviors is the part of the toolbox of techniques that people have always ever used to build cults of personality.
As a member of the public, you are made to think: “This is a person I should idolize, pay attention to, and follow.” “These are people who are worth my energy.” “This is a person worthy of being my role model.”
Be suspicious when people act like they have all the answers, or when people make you feel inferior through the persona they build. It means that they — consciously or unconsciously — are taking advantage of a vulnerability and uncertainty in others to rise as high as possible, regardless of what they build or destroy, in that cycle of ego.
Remember: When you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, it’s too easy to get caught up in who you’re SUPPOSED to be rather than who you ARE.
The truth is that when you’re doing things that have never been done before, it’s challenging to find role models because you’re walking an unpaved path into a dark forest with limited guiding lights. Uncertainty is natural.
A common phrase in Silicon Valley is: “You can’t be what you can’t see”. But what if no one has done what you want to do before? What if there’s a limited number of people who have ever tackled the same problems as you? If you’re a woman and/or a POC or of another diverse background, your chances of finding someone who looks like you is even lower. All of this is triply true in the wild west of web3 and crypto, where so much hasn’t yet been done before.
What do you do when you can’t see nor identify role models?
You can — and should — still find traits that you admire in others that you want to emulate. The secret is that the traits that you admire most in others are usually because you have those in yourself. (And you should look at traits you DON’T want and find ways to eschew those. )
When you can’t find role models, you find out rather quickly: you have to become your own role model. You have to inspire yourself. And hopefully one day, you’ll become an authentic inspiration to others as well.
In the past, people seized and squeezed former “achievements” and resume stamps for all their merit for a lifetime (many people still do this, and I think you can agree: they’re the worst!). While they can be fun and used strategically as mentioned above, those ego-fueling accolades are a mere blip on the radar for comparing oneself to others. We’re in a different world now: a prestigious past and brand names might get you a foot in the door, but you still have to walk through the door and do the work, and work really, really freaking hard to climb those hills.
Many promising individuals, teams, and products have faded away because of hubris. They can get so caught up in admiring their own talent or accolades in comparison to others that they forget to work hard and get objectively better.
Sitting on land with gold buried in it doesn’t yield nearly the same value as if the gold is worked on and mined.
Similarly, sitting on talent that isn’t used to its full extent is a waste. Talent has to be exercised and improved. Talent has to not get lost in the ego of “I’m better” or the spikiness of “Did you see the latest tweet?”.
Whether in tech, crypto, traditional industries, or just in life itself, the best people don’t rest on their laurels. They don’t play the short term spiky game. Instead, they are constantly remaking themselves, inspired by the best versions of others. They continue to look for that highest hill, the global maximum. If they disappear into a valley to take a break, they come back evolved better than ever before, ready to climb.
Take the positive principles of capitalism and use healthy speed and competition as a vehicle to make you better. Today’s “losers” could be the “winners” of tomorrow: respect your opponents as your collaborators. They’re on the crypto journey, too, and remember: this world is a new one of collaboration where we’re all going to make it together.
We will only survive by connecting with each other. But the world moves fast, and the world of crypto moves even faster. It’s easy to make snap judgments, and harder to step back and be thoughtful and positive. There’s a fine line between fun and judgmental. When you are tired or overwhelmed and feel yourself getting judgey, question the root of that. (I recognize that this is so challenging!)
It’s best to look to others, see them as their best selves, and interact with them based on that. The same goes for products, communities, leaders, situations, and companies.
This doesn’t mean you should be blindly optimistic or naive. Just like any new industry, this space is full of scams and scammers, so be vigilant. If something seems objectively wrong with someone or something, absolutely trust your intuition, logic, and better judgment to take proper action or take the proper respectful distance. But if your stance is negative or judgy by default, this is a waste of energy.
Have you watched indie films and noticed that no matter who the story’s “stars” are, you care deeply about where they’re headed? Look to others as if they are the stars of their own indie film. Root for them. Cheer for them. Use their realities and potential as inspiration to be an even better version of yourself. Extend that to the organizations you work with. Pretend that we are all starring in this movie together, because at the end of the day, we actually are.
From the Genie in Aladdin, to the princesses in Frozen, Disney movies tell children to be themselves and embrace who they are. This is a great lesson, but as we get older, this can get misconstrued as “You shouldn’t care what anyone thinks! Who cares what anyone thinks of you! Do whatever you want!”
This works just fine when we’re young, finding out about who we are and going to school and dealing with puberty — as we’re learning, growing and discovering how to be ourselves, carefree missteps and misjudgments are important. Even as an adult, a snap impression or judgment in a mere moment doesn’t really matter, good or bad or otherwise.
But as an adult, what people might shallowly judge about you in a moment is different from a reputation. Moments make dots, many dots make a line, and a line can make a reputation over years and decades. When you have teams, families, friends, communities, and more that you represent and are a part, your reputation matters.
Your reputation is not your resume, nor how your social media profile appears, or even your activity on the blockchain. Your reputation can be a mirror of your character: it’s what people say behind closed doors, in backchannel DMs, what people maybe don’t want to put in writing. It’s whether people want to completely rave about working with you, whether they will go to bat for you when others won’t give you the benefit of the doubt, or if they politely smile to keep you at a distance because they’ve heard you’re secretly a nightmare to deal with and are overly arrogant with exaggerated talent.
Even if a person can run faster than the speed at which they burn the bridges behind them, it catches up with them if the differences among their reputation, their actual skills, and who they purport to be are all too wide. It makes it harder to build allies. It makes it harder to build trust. Trust is important because a reputation of trust takes years to build and mere moments to break. Crypto’s industries are based on trusting code and communities. In light of this, it is even more important to build trust in the right people and brands building that code and those communities as we all strive to scale.
In my short time working in crypto so far, there are people whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet whose reputations precede them for immense good. People clamor to work with them because they want to spend their time and energy with great people who care about excellence. Oftentimes, these are people whose reputations have been built over many years, whether in crypto or otherwise. Not to shill my own company, but I’m grateful that many of these people are on my team. I feel proud that people in the community say they have felt an open mind to learning and thoughtful care coming from my team members over many different projects over many years. I aspire to learn from these examples of true proof of work and building trust.
Spikiness and short-term shows don’t build trust. Longevity and learning do.
There’s another important reason why it’s important to eschew becoming a spiky person and instead become an ever-evolving, ever building contributor: it’s a long journey. And that’s so hard to see in the moment. In the moment, it is easy to be all ego and not realize that you’re on a local maximum (see above).
Climbing the Wrong Hill by Chris Dixon from 2009 is getting more and more retroactive attention. (It’s probably because we are emerging from a pandemic and are in the midst of The Great Resignation, and many people are evaluating their careers and lifestyle in the context of this kind of piece.)
It’s a quick read and I encourage you to check it out, but in summary, Climbing the Wrong Hill uses the idea of hill climbing from computer science as an analogy for how we should search for a great, meaningful career. In a fog of war where you can only see a few steps in front of you, it is often most straightforward and predictable to climb the hill that you are on. But to find the highest possible hill, you have to be OK with (or even excited about) getting dropped in many random places in a sea of hills to search for the highest possible point. The latter method is actually the right way to go about the challenge of finding the global maximum highest hill.
In our world, some of the best risk adjusted rates of return for career choices are often the more obvious options: become a doctor, become a lawyer, become a banker, become a technologist at a FAANG company. These are all excellent careers for conscientious go-getters. If you are lucky enough to get to choose these paths, you will make a lot of money, live comfortably, and be considered successful. The tops of these career hills yield “local maxima” for your potential.
But to get outsized gains in terms of life satisfaction, challenges, world contributions, and even money, you likely have to try a lot of different things and possibly risk starting at the bottom of another hill — not knowing what lies beyond the fog of war around you — to see if that hill becomes your global maximum.
It’s a great analogy, and one thing I’d add to it is that to even climb different hills, you have to last a long time so that you have the opportunity to keep trying them out.
To that end:
There’s a guy whom my husband and I are acquainted with who is outstandingly successful. He is in his early thirties, incredibly smart, and having joined not one but two FAANG-like companies early in their lifecycle in key strategic roles, he is worth in the tens of millions of dollars.
On paper, his resume, his net worth, and even his reputation are outstanding. He has pending job offers and outreach to co-found companies left and right. But he spent his entire twenties grinding harder than most. Even though he spent time solving problems he cared about that changed the world, that time came at a staggering price. By his own admission: his health is horrible, he has no hobbies, he has limited deep relationships and friends, and wonders about finding a life partner as he struggles to get back in touch with himself. He is unhappy and feels sapped of energy.
Destiny has its ways, and I have no doubt he will get his feet under him eventually, but time is the only thing we have. How long is “eventually”? How long will it take for him to emerge from resting in the valley if he isn’t even happy taking his rest? How and when will he be able to emerge emotionally, mentally, and spiritually reenergized?
I can’t help but think that his circumstances have robbed the world of someone who — with his resources, experience, and in the prime of his life — could be building something great. That doesn’t necessarily mean co-founding a company, joining one, or even advising a few. It could be building a family, a non-profit, a community, a world of friendships, a way of giving back. He has energy to do none of these things because he burned out.
(There’s another question, too, as to whether he would have achieved that success if not for giving up everything else. I don’t think he had to do so. I think it’s a lot more mentally straightforward to resolve giving up ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in the name of your career. All you have to do is grind and forget about everything else, and you don’t have to even think about medium-term tradeoffs. By contrast, it’s much more challenging — and ultimately, much more wise, rewarding and long-term future-proofing — to carve out time for your humanity and build your entire life all the while achieving great things.)
I know other folks like this, too: successful in all the “right” ways but drained of health, inspiration, and connection, the very unmeasurable things we need to make use of time, the only true measurable thing we have. I, too, have been in sapped situations like this and have had to fight to bounce back. People sometimes have to spend years rebuilding their stores of energy and the systems that service their wellsprings of inspiration. These are important for our humanity, but if we were to look at it a little more clinically, continuous energy is what we need to play the long game in our lives and careers. We need our wellsprings to be well-fueled if we’re going to have the energy and time to climb the local and global maxima hills, faced with the fog of war.
If you are playing the long game, you need to stay in touch with you. You need to take care of you so that you do not flame out, so that you don’t spike and crash.
The people I observe who have lasted a long time and continuously succeeded also continuously find and maintain diverse ways to reawaken their wellspring of energy. They work on things they care about, and work impressively hard. But they also are quietly proud of the fact that they carve out time for their humanity and their identity, usually away from workwork. A very short list of examples of how: family time at 5 pm every day, no questions, before going back to work at night. Yoga with your partner. Piano and music lessons. Volunteering or donating money. Regular reflection or journaling time. Writing and creating. Meditation and prayer. Watching dumb shows on Netflix. Remote work trips if your job allows for it. Hiking or playing golf on a weekend. Connecting with your coworkers. Celebrating with your loved ones.
Doing these things doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard. It means that you are making sure you squeeze the marrow out of life and future proof your humanity. It means that with your time, you have things that you hold dear, and those things are still yours no matter what. Importantly: carving out time in this way allows you to keep working hard without constantly being too hard on yourself.
You have to proactively get creative about how you fit in your humanity so that you can last the long journey that is life. This goes for anyone.
In crypto and web3, the speed is fast and the stakes are high. Aspirational as they may be, my hope is that these commitments will help me last and play the long game alongside all of you.
Special thanks to my team & the Mirror community for challenging me and sharpening my thinking in the name of learning, including but not limited to: Advaith Doosa, Andrew Hong, Carlos Flores, Denis Nazarov, Graeme Boy, Jon-Kyle Mohr, Julian Hutton, Patrick Rivera, Rafael Fernandez, Saarim Zaman, and Tom Meagher. Thanks Apoorv Bhargava for keeping me honest all these years as a friend and mentor. Largest h/t to Chris Dixon’s great evergreen writing.