Typhoon In-Fa has brought pouring rain to Shanghai in the last few days. It's not as bad as flood-ravaged Zhengzhou, but for a few days Shanghai was in shut-down mode and suspended most of the public transport. It's a good time to catch up with podcasts and long-form articles.
In this 3-hour long podcast with Lex Fridman, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin talked about wide-ranging topics from Doge coin, Shiba coin, Ethereum 2.0, to Elon Musk, Charles Hoskinson, and longevity. He shared vivid details that provided a rare glimpse into his life that's already the source of many urban legends.
Vitalik bought $25K in Dogecoin in 2016 and it became one of the best investments he's made. One day in 2020 he was in Singapore in the middle of Covid-19 and Dogecoin suddenly went up 1,000% from $0.8 cents to $7 cents. He sold half of his Dogecoins for a profit of $4.3M. At the time he was feeling pretty good about this trade, but of course Dogecoin's wild journey in subsequent months left everyone jaw-dropping and dumbfounded.
I'm surprised that for someone as intellectual as Vitalik, he would spend that much money into Dogecoin in its early days when it was much more sketchy than it is today (hardly much better). Ethereum phenomenon Cryptokitties didn't burst into scene until late 2017. Though Ether's price started climbing from $0.96 in January to $8.0 in December, Vitalik's wealth in 2016 was a far cry from 10-figure. How did he rationalize the decision to buy Dogecoin?
Vitalik shared another mesmerizing episode from his much publicized act of burning Shibacoins worth a few billions in 2021 that is a straight cut out of "Snow Crash". Shiba people were clever. They managed to dump Shibacoins into his cold wallet, probably not knowing that Vitalik purposely configured the wallet to have difficult access even for himself. Vitalik wanted to grab this opportunity to help out public goods and powered through the next two days to obtain the coins. It was a high-pressure and very technical maneuver. The old wallet had been exposed and was no longer a good option for holding his Ethereum. First he had to move his 325K Ether (worth a billion dollars in 1H 2021) holding out of the existing cold wallet into a new multisig wallet. He bought a fresh laptop from Target (there is Target in Singapore too?) and set up the wallets. Then he had to get the private key for the old wallet, which was not easy. He split the private key into two pieces of paper, one in his Canada home and the other one with him in Singapore (Voldemort of Harry Potter pulled off a similar trick). He called up his family member in Canada to read out the first half of the private key to him over the phone and pieced together the complete private key.
It's fascinating to learn how Vitalik handles crypto wallet. One of the mottos from 2020 was, "not your keys, not your coins". It requires a non-trivial logistic workflow to properly manage crypto coins, even for industry maestros like Vitalik.
A lot of people are talking about inflation left and right. The most sober voice on this topic seems to be Lyn Alden, who's been a frequent featured speaker on many podcasts and media interviews. She's a master of monetary policy history and able to articulate very eloquently with a clear framework and without coming across as a Bitcoin maximalist (unlike Saifedean Ammous of The Bitcoin Standard fame, whose visibly feverish obsession with Bitcoin often undermines the strengths of his arguments). She's got an amazing rags-to-riches story from a very humble beginning that is very inspiring for Internet entrepreneurs, independent investors, crypto evangelists, and productivity hacker.
In this epic article "12 In-Depth Tactics to Seriously Boost Your Energy", Lyn shared very tactful methods to enhance one's productivity and stay energetic. A lot of those life-hacking tips are also echoed by Tim Ferriss from "Tim Ferriss Show Podcast" and more recently by Balaji S. Srinivasan. From the list of 12, the one that reasoned with me most is the first one on reducing carbohydrates and going on ketogenic diet.
I started keto diet in February and lost 20 pounds in two months. It's changed quite profoundly how I eat and drink. I've been recommending this diet to my parents and friends ever since. It's encouraging to see a disciplined, successful overachiever like Lyn Alden also practices keto diet and says great things about it. In China, doing keto diet has its own unique challenges as carbohydrates is such an integral part of traditional cuisine, but it's worth the effort. Wagas and Baker & Spice are getting very popular in Shanghai, and KFC is always around the corner.
It's served Alden very well:
The result is that my body burns fat instead of sugar for fuel, and my brain has switched over to running on ketones instead of glucose, which is a natural human adaptation to deal with periods of low carbohydrates. Many people report increased mental clarity and energy when they are in this state, and I’m no exception.
Estimated to have a net worth of $16 billion at age 29, grizzly-haired and bean-bag hogging Sam Bankman-Fried ("SBF")'s success defies all conventional wisdom, even by crypto world standard. He made a killing trading cryptos and yield-farming with Hong Kong-based Alameda Research from 2018 to 2021. He founded decentralized exchanges Serum and FTX, the latter of which just raised $900 million from world's most sought-after investment firms with a staggering $18 billion valuation tag.
In this hour-long podcast episode with Anthony Pompliano, SBF talked about the incredible SushiSwap saga in September 2021 where he was handed over the keys to control SushiSwap (over Twitter, no less) after its anonymous creator Chef Nomi allegedly took out $14 million, creating a scene that looked like a financial scam and leading to nose-diving of Sushi's price.
As a speaker, SBF is not as eloquent as Vitalik, Balaji or Alden, who are all fast talker with crystal clear framework. He speaks slowly with somewhat timid and pensive hesitation and can't seem to finish a sentence without using at least 3 "like"s (no pun intended for Gen Z). Podcast host Pompliano has to chime in from time to time to paraphrase his words to make them more easily comprehensible to listeners. Anyhow, SBF had a front-row seat in some of the most exciting events in the crypto space in recent times (collaboration with NFL legend Tom Brady, endorsement deal with eSports giant TSM and Andy Dinh, FTX's own meteoric rise, etc), so this episode is still a good way to know SBF and his exciting journey.
While his usual feats in crypto (SushiSwap, FTX and Solana) are well documented in many other media interviews and reports, his answer to Pompliano's closing question - "What's the most important book you've ever read", is surprising.
Boy ... I mean, let's be honest. I don't really read books any more ... The world has sort of decided there are more efficient ways to convey things.
SBF recommends blogs instead, citing newsletter Money Stuff by Matt Levine from Bloomberg as his favorite regular blog to keep updated in Finance and 80,000 Hours on altruism. This (not reading books) is a sharp contrast against many iconic entrepreneurs from previous generations, the likes of Bezos, Gates, and Musk, who are known to be voracious book readers. How interesting.
Vitalik, Alden, SBF are all hard-working, mission-driven and achieving outsized success against conventional wisdom. In 2004 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony for George Harrison, Prince shredded everyone with this spectacular guitar solo. In this unforgettable performance featuring Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and and Jeff Lynne, Prince ignited the crowd from 3:30 mark, totally out of nowhere.
Until next time,
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