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Stoicism for Degens

The last 24 months of crypto have not been for the faint of heart. Extreme price volatility, hacks and exploits, regulatory bullshit, and a macro global market with a personality disorder have all taken a heavy mental toll. A lot of folks - drawn to crypto's promise of wealth and freedom - have ended up in ruin, financially and emotionally drained by the relentless metas, disasters and hyped-up trends. In short - it’s been a brutal couple of years.

But what if there was an ancient philosophy designed to help people thrive in the face of adversity and unpredictability? A wisdom tradition that views external events as neutral - neither good nor bad in themselves - and places all emphasis on our chosen mindset and response?

Enter Stoicism - something I have grown to see as the optimal mental framework for degens. Originating in Athens during the upheaval following Alexander the Great's death, Stoicism offered a path to eudaimonia (the good life) for cosmopolitans facing a volatile new world order.

Sound familiar?

The Stoics asserted that while we can't control most external events, we are always responsible for our judgments and actions. By focusing on what is in our power - our choices and behaviours - we liberate ourselves from the emotional thralldom to fortune's whims. With discipline, we can find freedom and flourishing within.

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." - Marcus Aurelius

This is potent advice for traders and builders battered by market swings. We can bewail cruel fate after a crash, hack, or failed launch—or we can accept the outcome, learn any lessons, and move forward with resolve. Setbacks become chances to practice virtus (moral strength)—the end game for Stoics.

This is not to minimize the financial and psychological damage of the last 2 years. Losing money sucks and can have serious consequences. I had $100k stolen from me by a dev and lost the rest of my funds in a wallet drain. Believe me - it was fucked.

But in the long run, our mindset and habits will determine success or failure. Stoicism is a powerful OS for developing crypto-native mental resilience and antifragility.

The core tenets of Stoicism map well to the challenges faced by degens:

  • Focusing on what you can control (your own judgment and actions)

  • Accepting external events with equanimity

  • Extracting lessons and opportunities from adversity

  • Cultivating self-discipline and resilience

  • Remembering mortality to clarify priorities and prompt action

  • Finding joy in the present moment amid uncertainty

Memento mori (remember you will die): Time is our scarcest resource. Keeping our mortality in mind provides perspective and urgency - we have a finite opportunity to take action and make our mark. Life's too short to be wasted in regret or anxiety when there's so much to build. Remembering death reduces FOMO and impulsive full porting.

Premeditatio malorum (premeditation of evils): Envision what could go wrong in advance, so you can prepare emotionally and practically. Traders should determine risk tolerances and set stop losses. Builders should war-game vulnerabilities and plan for failure scenarios. When you've already imagined the worst, you can face it calmly.

Amor fati (love of fate): Cultivate appreciation for whatever happens, good or bad. Marcus Aurelius described all events as "emanating from the one source and origin." Pierre Hadot suggests translating this as having "the love of cosmic destiny." In crypto, that means having a passion for space and its promise even when the market gods are vicious. Builders should have a mission that transcends token prices. Traders need rules-based strategies to execute dispassionately.

The dichotomy of control: Focus only on what you can influence. Getting upset over market conditions, other people's actions, regulatory decisions, etc. accomplishes nothing. But you can control your own judgment, effort, and behaviour. Pour your energy into what's in your power - developing research and risk management skills, building something of value, and contributing to your community. Chart your own path without being disturbed by externals.

Turn the obstacle upside down: "What stands in the way becomes the way," said Marcus Aurelius. Ryan Holiday made this phrase famous in his book The Obstacle is the Way. Every apparent misfortune contains an opportunity. Crypto winters are a chance to build without distraction. Losing money on a trade can teach you crucial lessons. Constraints breed innovation, and crashes reveal architectural flaws. Befriend adversity and extract value from it. Failure is tuition for the school of life.

Self-denial: Regularly give up pleasure and comfort to increase your self-discipline and independence from desire. Seneca suggested periodically practising poverty to inoculate yourself against misfortune. For crypto folk, that might mean taking a fucking break from chart-watching or deleting Twitter. I’ve deleted my portfolio apps from every device to prepare for price action around the Halving. I still have no idea how much my portfolio is worth. I won’t until a week after the event.

Memento vivere (remember to live): While preparing for the worst, don't forget to enjoy the present moment. Find joy in the ideas being built and incubated on Warpcast. Savour the memes, enjoy the shit-posting, and the gallows humour. Appreciate the crazy dreamers and hackers who are giving their time to Money-as-software. We are alive at an incredible time.

Obviously, so much more can be said about applying Stoicism to flourish online in 2024—both in and out of crypto. The teachings of Seneca, Epictetus, Cato, and Marcus Aurelius are endlessly rich and relevant. Hopefully, this brief intro will inspire you to dive deeper into Stoic philosophy as a framework for thriving amid the glorious chaos of our industry.

By adopting Stoic principles, we can help create a decentralised future with calm, wisdom, and resolve - knowing that the path of the Logos leads ever upward if we have the virtue to walk it.

Strategies for action:

  • Read the core texts: Seneca's Letters, Epictetus' Enchiridion, and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.

  • Journal regularly to examine your impressions, affirm your principles, and track your progress.

  • Choose a role model who exemplifies Stoic virtues and imagine their advice in difficult situations.

  • When facing adversity, ask: "What would a trader or builder with unshakable confidence do right now?" Then do that.

  • Develop a personal philosophy for how you will act no matter what the market does. Write it down and review it frequently.

  • Cultivate a circle of people committed to growth and good judgement to challenge and encourage you.

  • Remember: you are not your PNL or portfolio. You are your choices and actions in each moment.

Amor fati, my friends. Build on.

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