Game Show Contestant vs Gambler: An approach to cryptocurrency investing from a GenXer
Everybody wants to be a winner! The thrill and excitement of beating the buzzer or hitting the jackpot never gets old and now there’s a new game that’s all the rave — crypto investing* (using the term ‘investing’ loosely so just stick with me). With a few keystrokes or taps on your phone, you too can get in on this high stakes game yet it’s how you approach it that ultimately defines your fate and the prize.
My foray into game play was through my grandmother. She had a daily regimented television viewing schedule comprised of morning news, The Price is Right, the stories (Ryan’s Hope Days of Our Lives, and All My Children), and Wheel of Fortune. If you were like me, you know that no interruptions of any kind were permitted during this time at risk of being given the Evil Eye or worse being commanded to go get the switch. As I sat on the faux leather brown bean bag in front of the RCA floor model television set with pictures of the Holy Trinity hung over it (Martin Luther King Jr. white Jesus, and John F. Kennedy), I vividly recall my fascination with the game show contestants. I pondered how they seemed to know the answers or how they knew what strategy to apply in order to get to the Final Round. I understood even then that there had to be a method to the madness even if I wasn’t assured as to what it was. Over time, I saw some patterns emerge that yielded consistent results — starting at the ends of the Plinko board to picking RSTLNE for the final puzzle. These strategies were mainstays for each and every contestant even leading to rule changes due to their consistent application. As I got older, Jeopardy became a whole family affair. Everyone got in on the action with my father being the champion of current events as he was an avid newspaper reader to my aunt who knew every president and solar system constellation. This game was not a game of chance, but rather a game of knowledge. Knowledge that had to be acquired through time and study.
This was in direct contrast to another daily activity in my grandmother’s household which was playing the PA lottery. The nightly drawing was a faithful ritual that too demanded both silence and stillness. The flicking of the bluish-green tickets between her fingers dispersed the smoke from her Benson & Hedges as she anxiously awaited the announcer’s voice. Playing the numbers was a commonplace activity that seemingly every adult I knew took part in. Being called into the house while playing outside to go to the store or the local Number Lady’s house was irksome yet afforded the opportunity to retrieve snacks to minimize the disgruntlement. Some days it was a mere two or three combinations yet other days required a full slip of paper to ensure all were accounted for. “…and Box it!” would be the final words uttered as I scurried out ensuring not to slam the screen door. The concept of gambling didn’t seem applicable to the lottery in my mind because of the seemingly elaborate strategies that were employed to derive the right numbers. Dice and card games like Tonk or Pitty Pat where you wagered pennies and dollars were Real Gambling to me. I don’t recall when the realization that this state sanctioned game was a revenue source came into play yet I marvel at the fervent investment it was in my community.
While reminiscing over my childhood makes me smile, I’m left a bit dismayed when I think of all the poor (this can be unpacked even further) habits, missed opportunities, and lack of fiscal literacy that serves as the financial legacy I was given. Not to discount or diminish the formidable lessons regarding work ethic and being financially responsible while they provided a solid foundation, they afforded no scalable, building blocks when I became an adult. Getting a good job with benefits, having good credit, and owning a home were preached like a Sunday sermon yet with little to no instruction as to the actual steps to garner them other than “work hard and do your best; things will work out”.
The Age of Aquarius has given way to the Information and Digital Age where any and everything you want to know is but a click away. But not knowing what you don’t know prevails and information overload is very real. For every affirmative article you’ll find another to refute it. So once again the community is sought out for the news with the word coming from the internet streets. Now the Great Debate happens in Facebook Groups or Twitter threads with polarizing commentary in tow. And nothing is more divisive than the topic of money. The Game is fully digitized and the stakes are even greater where a $100 flip can make you a millionaire. While the medium is new, the relic rationale is still the same — get rich quick and secure the bag at all costs. It leads me to wonder if this element inhibits generational wealth building that continues to evade our community. The perpetuation of the “Hit” rather than the accumulation of small gains over time is on full display within the cryptocurrency space. Its dynamic nature and volatility ignites the frenzy as big money gains can happen in mere moments. When encouraged to take a step back from the hyped FOMO, some are hostile and even accusatory reminding me of the same rebuke of those when questioned about possibly saving their money instead of playing the lottery. The defensive banter ‘You just don’t want nobody to come up!” repeated time and time again continues to bewilder me as a response to simply being presented with an alternative.
No one is suggesting that the Game not be played. The potential for the greatest wealth transfer in our lifetimes is at hand. The request is to approach the Game as a contestant rather than a casino customer. Leverage all the skills, information, and collaboration required to a requested Spades partner while adhering to the ever-changing house rules. This is certainly not checkers; it’s multi-dimensional chess and there is definitely levels to this sh*t! Preparation and patience are key to success in this space. Piecing together puzzle clues and applying a viable strategy enables you to be a formidable contestant showcasing your personal skills and know-how to advance to more rigorous rounds. The slot machine approach won’t garner you much and definitely won’t come with any free drinks. Now is the time to learn the fundamentals of cryptocurrencies, keep abreast of newsworthy news, seek out a community for assistance (i.e., Black People and Cryptocurrency and CryptoBlockchain Plug), and settle in for Monopoly paced play. Before you know it, you’ll confidently be uttering, “Successful Crypto Projects for $1000, Alex”.