Just show up!!! How going to a conference changed my life.

If you go to random places, it’ll take you far. (#Day11)

When I showed up to The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) in Chicago in June 2014, little did I realize that this move would later on end-up changing my life.

I stumbled into the conference’s kickoff event, a pre-night reception on a Friday night at the Hard Rock Café near the river. I lived and worked in Chicago at this time, though not in the bitcoin industry yet. As I first arrived, I was nervous; so nervous that I nearly ditched the pre-night reception for an apartment party at Beckett/Amodeo’s in their swanky apartment overlooking Trump Tower. I had never been to any sort of conference like this before, and I was one of the youngest people in the room, even as a 24 year old.

One of the first people I talked to was Ed, my now-boss at LivelyGig. While we stood there tired-and-fumbling our chicken fingers awkwardly attempting to talk, we discussed why we were at the conference, what drew us to Bitcoin, and our basic story. We talked for about ~10 to 15 minutes. At this point, I was working in consulting and Ed was working in software management. He told me how he had a desire to potentially work in the bitcoin industry one day, and I told him that I had a similar desire.

Photo Credit: http://i.imgur.com/qh9BlTn.jpg

In that moment, I took Ed’s business card. Really nice guy from Seattle, I thought. Intelligent and accomplished. And I felt glad that we had met. I then went off and networked around the Hard Rock happy hour some more, like a piece of data looking for the most efficient route.

I met a lot of interesting people over the following hour. Victoria, who now works at ChangeTip. Someone who used to work at Derivabit. Robbie, the tall-and-insightful-Canadian from Kryptoz. Moe Levin. I also saw Dan Held, who I met at-that-Bitcoin-Meetup-at-Coinbase-in-San-Francisco. Dan didn’t remember me, but I remembered him.

I saw David Ripley from Glidera, who I had first met at a Bitcoin Meetup in Chicago in October 2013. That night, when I got to the 4th floor of that mall on Michigan (not a coincidence) Avenue, I was the first one to arrive. Eventually, about 10 or so other Bitcoiners stumbled in, and we sat around in a circle and introduced ourselves. John Solomon, now of Coinbase, was there for that Meetup too. My good friend Ian, who I was living with at the time, just-showed-up as well. And he talked about the potential for Bitcoin to change the way financial trading works. Joe was there too. There was also a gentleman there who was more knowledgeable about “alt-coins”, alternative digital coins to Bitcoin, than anyone I had ever previously met. This gentleman said that he mined Feathercoin and Litecoin among others, and that he had first heard about Bitcoin in early 2010* (very, very early on in Bitcoin’s history). This was when Bitcoin was trading for ~ $0.01/Bitcoin. Today, January 14th, 2016, the price of Bitcoin is around $440/Bitcoin. Woah!

So, therefore, it was not a coincidence that I then, ~1 year later, re-saw David Ripley and John at the aforementioned conference in Chicago in 2014.

Or that, a full year-and-a-half after this, when I decided to pay-up from my dwindling funds to just-show-up to that Bitcoin Conference in San Diego last month (the one which took place in December 2015, the one which took place just after my startup-attempt-was-failing-and-I-was-creating-that-fantasy-soccer-league) that it would not be a coincidence at all that I would bump into David Ripley here, AGAIN, too. Or Joe. Or, Ed! Or other familiar faces from the Bitcoin community I had seen over the years. Nope. This was not a pure coincidence or some stroke-of-luck. This was a product of “Hustle”. This was the product of just-showing-up. Just showing up a lot over the years to a lot of different things. And it actually-worked.

Therefore, when my startup attempt was failing and I finally got to that conference in San Diego (also known as “a whale’s vagina”, as Ron Burgundy once said in Anchorman), and I was running around somewhat-depressed-yet-confident, determined, and looking-for-a-new job, that, by some happenstance of fate, I would indeed bump into Ed. The same Ed who I was fumbling chicken fingers next to at that bar. And it was no pure coincidence that Ed was by-then working on building an amazing product, LivelyGig, one which will help businesses and freelancers alike immensely over the next 10+ years through providing online “smart contracts” using Bitcoin.

LivelyGig already had a team of ~5 developers and a UI/UX specialist, and it was no coincidence that Ed needed help on the Business-Development and Marketing fronts. And it was no coincidence that Ed had remembered me, because I followed up with him after the conference in Chicago on LinkedIn. Or that Ed could genuinely connect to my continuous, rambling story in that moment in a conference center in San Diego about my failed previous startup attempt. Or that Ed believed in me. As did Navneet, a LivelyGig co-founder and our master-of-the-universe-technical-supervisor, who I was also very thankful to be able to meet on this day.

Photo Credit: LivelyGig.

It is no coincidence that I’m on a plane back to Chicago as I write this. Or that we are flying above Cleveland right-now (actually-am-and-I-noticed this on GoGo Inflight’s Map). Or that Alan, a brilliant business developer with an accomplished corporate and startup career background, would happen to join LivelyGig two weeks after me (even though he wasn’t at either of the two aforementioned conferences), and that he would serve as a role model for me and would be appreciative of my contributions. It is no coincidence that Alan’s undergraduate degree is from, you guessed it, Penn State.

And it is no coincidence that, by just showing up to that happy hour at the Hard Rock in Chicago ~2 years earlier, that it would end-up, somehow, someway, in some unpredictable twist of the universe, lead me to finding a new job ~2 years later. With the right team. On the right idea. And that I could work from the best location possible. I really couldn’t be any happier about all of this.

I, really, had been doing this my entire post-high-school life. Just showing up. Just contacting people. And following up. It was no coincidence that, in 2010, Demere Asmar joined our Brotherhood because I showed up on Hill Street and started talking to him during Welcome Week. Or that in 2012, by showing up to serve on a panel aimed at improving student-life for international students, that this would somehow lead to me gaining approval from a Dean to get a seat on the Entrepreneurship Commission. Or that this group would then lead to the formation and (eventually/watered-down) implementation of Flipped Semester. Or that I got to meet the founders of Warmilu, Cribspot, and Hackathon Hackers (all in their then-infancy and all of whom went on to achieve success) through this group. It is also not a coincidence that I bettered myself as a businessman through taking ‘seemingly-unimportant’ classes such as “The Sociology of Information Technology”, “Ancient Languages and Scripts”, and “Stats 408: Statistical Principles” (with Ed Rothman). This, once again, all of it, none of it, was a coincidence.

I, therefore, encourage you to consider just showing up to more things. To follow your passions. To do work you love. To consider living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Or going west. Or just moving-on with your life. Just go for it. Just go. Just show.

If you go random places, it’ll take you far. Further, actually, than you probably ever previously imagined. Really far. Like, to new and previously unattainable heights. Wow!!! That’s pretty exciting. That’s pretty cool. That’s zero-to-1. That’s 1 random blog post on information theory, followed by 1-on-a-whim public Facebook announcement, followed by an entire #100DaysOfBlogging. This, a mindset shift towards action, towards going, is really what has driven the price of Bitcoin up from $0.01/Bitcoin to $440/Bitcoin; a clearly-exponential pattern of growth.

Photo Credit: https://bitstickers.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/

So when I sat through the seminars and talks at that Conference in Chicago in June 2014 over the next ~2 days, just after that Hard Rock happy hour, it was all amazing and impactful. I saw Vitalik Buterin speak, met people who work at BitPay and Blockchain, met the founder of Storj, and generally-just-opened-my mind.

It is no coincidence that Greg Meredith, a now-teammate of mine at LivelyGig, now works directly with Vitalik on solving mathematical problems which are helping to create the next wave of computing. Or that Greg is a genius, and has off-hand mentioned that he has spoken words to Vitalik (a genius beyond words, an inspiration, a person whom I once heard described as being so intelligent that he “is not human”, and I somewhat-agree-with-this, actually) which even Vitalik, somehow, didn’t fully understand*. And it is no coincidence that Greg once said to me “I love the language you’re using”. Or that I am now only one-actual-teammate-away from being able to speak to Vitalik Buterin. Wow! Woah! Holy cow!!!

This is amazing. This is crazy. This is not coincidence. None of this is. Especially the timing. Especially, the timing.

So, there you go. Just go. Just show up. Just do it… I’m pretty sure this is what Nike means when they say “Just Do It” ™.

#Day11 , #100DaysOfBlogging