Originally Published in Bitcoin Magazine, December 24th, 2019
It’s that time of year again! When you can’t decide whether to get a pumpkin spice or eggnog-flavored latte, and your local mall reeks of cinnamon, pine needles and dirty fiat money. The HODLdays are a time for friends, family and gift-giving, but as good Bitcoiners, we already know that the best gift of all is bitcoin. But how do you convince your friends and family to go down the Bitcoin rabbit — uh, reindeer hole?
The Bitcoin space has matured so much in the last few years, and as a result, giving bitcoin is easier than ever. It used to be difficult to give bitcoin to folks without worrying that they’d lose their private keys or worse … sell the BTC for a centralized shitcoin! I could name drop some of those shitcoins now, but in the spirit of the holidays… actually screw it. XRP. That’s what I meant to write. I said it. Take that, Brad Garlinghouse!
Anyhow, it used to be difficult to give bitcoin because of the steep learning curve. It will definitely still take time for your recipients to learn about key management or the value of self-sovereignty, but educational resources have improved drastically and there are even novel options like GiveBitcoin that time lock the BTC and provide education. If you want a more hands-on approach, you can always use a paper wallet or help your recipient set up her or his first hardware wallet.
But there’s still the problem of convincing your friends and family that Bitcoin matters. I think we’ve reached a turning point though. As “The Bitcoin guy,” at all the holiday parties (or any event for that matter), I’ve noticed that where people didn’t want to know about Bitcoin before, lately they’ve been asking me about it completely unprompted, almost to the point of me being sick of it. Sometimes I just want to crush some eggnogs in peace, ya know?
But Bitcoin DOES matter, and if someone is genuinely curious and wants to learn, how can you not take the time to help them?
KYA: Know Your Audience
Not everyone is receptive though, and some folks may even ask you about Bitcoin just so they can poke fun at it. Honey badger don’t care about these scrooges, but remember that every single conversation about Bitcoin comes with the potential to change some hearts and minds. In order to do that though, you have to be ready.
You have to understand Bitcoin well enough so that you can defend against the FUD, and you can’t just talk to someone and tell them why YOU think Bitcoin matters. You have to know your audience and tell them why THEY should think Bitcoin matters. You need to get on their level and remember what it was like before you had your Bitcoin epiphany.
To aid you in your efforts, let’s imagine that you’ve just walked in to your family’s annual holiday party…
The Wall Street Fat Cat
Oh no. There’s Uncle Jamie, the Wall Street fat cat. Why does he always wear that suit? And does he really think that red tie makes him seem more powerful?
Life is good for Fat Cat Uncle Jamie. He’s worked hard to get where he is, and maybe he still does, but now he tells others what to do and how to do it. Heck, he might even use his fat-cat money to influence politicians. Why on earth would Uncle Jamie care about Bitcoin when his interests are so aligned with the legacy system?
Pitching Bitcoin to folks like this may be tough, but there are a number of arguments that might catch their attention. The first of these is Bitcoin’s potential to be a safe haven asset. Bitcoin is demonstrating more and more that it is uncorrelated to traditional assets. With the advent of negative interest rates and the general sentiment of the world economy deteriorating by the day, bitcoin is starting to look pretty attractive.
It doesn’t hurt that Fat Cat Uncle Jamie likely has plenty of money to burn and, as a result, has a higher risk tolerance than most. Getting a fat cat to go full bitcoin anarchist is probably out of the question, but to echo Anthony Pompliano, the goal here should be to get them off zero. Appeal to their bottom line and you can’t go wrong.
Orange coin good. Number go up. And maybe wait till Uncle Jamie has had a few spiked eggnogs before pitching him on Bitcoin…
The Millennial Cousin
Look over there! It’s Cousin Savannah! This one should be pretty easy. Millennials like Savannah already make up a large portion of the Bitcoiner community. And if you look at what drives them, this should come as no surprise. Millennials may have a high time preference, but they also reject societal norms and hate being told what to do. They’ve lost faith in their governments and institutions, and Bitcoin may just be the answer they didn’t know they were looking for.
Starting off with the sound money argument isn’t always recommended, but for Millennials who lived through the 2008 financial crisis and are still dealing with student loans and a less-than-favorable job market, this argument may just work.
Millennials like Cousin Savannah are also well suited for the environmental argument. Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy but for good reason. Energy is the digital fortress that protects Bitcoin. And as Bitcoiners, we know that Bitcoin actually encourages the growth and development of renewable energy sources, ostensibly by fixing the root problem of destructive consumption, i.e., easy money. Parker Lewis writes that “Bitcoin Does Not Waste Energy,” and for the ultimate energy-FUD-dispelling article, see “PoW is Efficient” by Dan Held.
Finally, if Cousin Savannah is too busy thinking about her college loans to care about the environment, you can always appeal to her greed. Bitcoin may be 10 years old, but things are just getting started. Even the most conservative models point to the potential for asymmetric returns, the likes of which the world has never seen. Use that to your advantage. Cousin Savannah already thinks she’ll be working long past the current age of retirement. Bitcoin fixes this.
After catching up with Cousin Savannah you look over to see Great-Uncle John the Goldbug beckoning you over. Here we go again … Just like last year, he’s probably going to regale you with all of his latest doomsday preparations. But wait! This year you’re going to fire back and teach him about Bitcoin!
Oh, the goldbugs. Peter Schiff aside, goldbugs like Great-Uncle John should be our best friends. So why aren’t they? Goldbugs already understand the principles of scarcity and sound money, but they tend to be from an older generation that isn’t as comfortable with the idea of a natively digital asset. This is where you come in.
To start with, maybe even get yourself one of these ugly Bitcoin sweaters to help lead you into the conversation. And don’t be pushy. Engage with Great-Uncle John in an intelligent debate. Ask him why he is so bullish on gold. Then you can start to bring up some of gold’s drawbacks such as its low salability across space, the high costs associated with securing and assaying it, as well as the difficulty in dividing it up into usable amounts.
But the key here is not to talk negatively about gold’s drawbacks, but rather to speak positively about how Bitcoin solves these drawbacks. And it wouldn’t hurt to remind Great-Uncle John that the United States centralized gold when they made buying, selling and owning gold a criminal offence in 1933. U.S. citizens couldn’t freely transact in the shiny, yellow metal again until 1975. Once again, Bitcoin fixes this.
The Foreign Exchange Student
Who’s the new girl? Oh right, Aunt Nancy is hosting a foreign exchange student from Venezuela. Well this should be interesting…
You grab some eggnogs and go over and introduce yourself to Manuela. She seems pretty cool and turns out she’s even heard of Bitcoin. She has some friends back home who are using it to help them get by, but she doesn’t really understand what it’s all about or how to use it herself. What a perfect opportunity here to teach Manuela how Bitcoin can act as a hedge against the instability she knows all too well!
Ask her about the hardships she’s faced back home. Speak to her on a personal level. Bitcoin doesn’t fix everything directly, but it can certainly help. Tell Manuela how, when properly secured, Bitcoin can’t be confiscated or censored. It’s a neutral currency that no government can control. Tell her about the 21 million BTC hard cap and known supply schedule. Tell her how Bitcoin’s monetary policy is secured by code and not by greed-prone humans like Maduro. Orange coin good.
It’s important to note though, if you’re sipping eggnog and singing carols with someone like Manuela (and you’re not doing so in Venezuela), these folks are probably doing OK. They’re not dealing with hyperinflation directly, but it’s likely they have family and friends who might be able to benefit from Bitcoin. I would highly recommend reading this article from Matt Ahlborg to better your understanding of how some people are using Bitcoin and gift cards to send remittances.
The Gen‑Z Cousin
Oh wow! Cousin Jenny is growing up so fast! And apparently she has over a million followers on TikTok now? What the heck is TikTok anyway? Whatever, not important. Time to shill some bitcoin!
According to The Economist, “Generation Z is stressed, depressed, and exam-obsessed.” Gen-Zers like Cousin Jenny are similar to their Millennial forebears, but they’re the first generation to grow up in a fully digital world. They’re also the first generation to have been born after 9⁄11, and they’ve never known a world without war. But these delicate Christmas snowflakes are tougher than they look and they’re resolved to change the world for the better.
If you can manage to pry the phone out of their hands and get them to look you in the eye for a conversation, Gen-Zers like Cousin Jenny should be highly receptive to what Bitcoin is all about. As internet natives, Gen-Zers understand the concept of digital money better than any of us. Turns out Cousin Jenny is also an avid Fortnite player, so you can explain to her that Bitcoin is just like V‑bucks, except there’s no one controlling where and when you can spend them.
Then you remember that Cousin Jenny is always talking about how she wants to change the world and make it a better place, so you tell her all about Bitcoin’s potential to effect positive change in the world. Gen-Zers may not be thinking about their retirement yet, but they are thinking about all the injustice in the world. Bitcoin, with its sound money principles, can take away the power of the fiat printing press, thus making the prospect of never-ending war far less likely.
And just like Millennials, perhaps more so, Cousin Jenny and the rest of Gen‑Z cares passionately about the environment. Use the same arguments as mentioned in the section on Millennials. Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy, but focus on how it’s all for a good reason.
Worried about the environment? Bitcoin fixes this.
Cousin Jenny finally looks up from her phone. She informs you that she just made you go viral on TikTok. Oh, and, to your amazement, she already knows all about Bitcoin…
Grandpa, the Baby Boomer
Next, you go in for a strong handshake with Grandpa Russell the baby boomer.
This is gonna be tough. While baby boomers like Grandpa Russell may have ushered in great societal change in their youth, they have since become a much more conservative group of people. Like Grandpa Russell, many baby boomers were hippies who thought they could change the world, and when that didn’t come to pass, they became disillusioned and regretful, or worse, became standard-bearers for the political and economic status quo. These are the folks who will spend months planning their extravagant Christmas lights and then flippantly say that Bitcoin is wasteful.
But not all boomers are alike, and this is where knowing your audience is key. Sit down with Grandpa Russell and talk to him. Ask him about what it was like living through various financial crises, the Vietnam and Cold wars, and what it’s been like seeing the rise of Big Government. If you can tap into those memories and get him to remember how he felt back then, you might be able to make him see that with Bitcoin, positive societal change is still possible.
Turns out that Grandpa Russell doesn’t have any imagination whatsoever, and he flat out refuses to think back to the days of his youth. Not to worry! There is always the savings argument. After the 2008 financial crisis, Grandpa Russell was forced to continue working and delay his retirement for a few more years. Like him, many boomers are still working, trying desperately to grow their retirement funds and praying that their pensions will be a reality when the time comes. These folks may be risk averse when it comes to their future plans, but in a world where pension funds are drying up, Bitcoin may just fill the gap. Talk to people like Grandpa Russell about bitcoin’s potential for asymmetric returns. Urge them to dollar cost average each week, even if it’s just a small amount. Number go up.
The Evangelical Cousin
Uh oh. It’s Cousin Clyde. After living it up in college, drinking away the limited number of brain cells he had to begin with, Cousin Clyde was BORN AGAIN, HALLELUJAH! He’s probably going to try to convince you to attend Midnight Mass like he always does. You could decline, like you always do — or maybe you agree to go, provided he listens to your Bitcoin pitch?
“And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:16 – 17 KJV)
Whether you’re religious or not, the Bible does contain some oddly prescient passages. The one above, from the Book of Revelation, could be interpreted to predict the government and tech company driven panopticon that is a distinct possibility in our near future. Whether it’s China’s social credit system or the ever-growing invasion of privacy by companies like Google and Facebook, if we don’t act to protect our privacy, there won’t be any privacy left to protect. Bitcoin fixes this.
To be fair, Bitcoin will hopefully fix this. Bitcoin is currently pseudonymous, CoinJoining methods aren’t perfected yet, and there are various methods of linking bitcoin transactions to careless or ignorant users. But privacy is a major concern for Bitcoin developers and many of us Bitcoiners are hopeful that developments like the Lightning Network, Taproot and Schnorr signatures will help to bring us the privacy we so desperately need. Santa Claus will somehow always be able to stalk us and know whether we’ve been naughty or nice, but the lack of privacy we have seemingly welcomed with open arms isn’t helping.
But back to Satosh— I mean, Jesus. When pitching Bitcoin to devout Christians like Cousin Clyde, it’s best to appeal to their concern for their fellow humans. What better time to do this than during the holidays? Remind Cousin Clyde about the panopticon that is emerging and tell him how Bitcoin has the potential to return our privacy back to us. Tell him about its sound money characteristics and how, with a Bitcoin standard, governments would no longer be able to inflate away the savings of the poor, nor would they be able to continue printing money to fund violent wars overseas. Violence and inequality may be on the rise, but Bitcoin fixes this.
Charity is also a huge part of Cousin Clyde’s life, so definitely urge him to start dollar cost averaging into bitcoin. If number go up, then so does the purchasing and donation power of that bitcoin. You could even point him to the BitGive Foundation, an American nonprofit organization that solicits bitcoin donations for use in charitable causes.
Your Jewish Great-Grandma
Oi vey. It’s the moment you’ve been dreading. You’ve had some eggnog, so that’s good, but now Great-Grandma Ruth is calling you from Florida so she can wish you a happy Chanukah. For some reason you never remember to call Great-Grandma Ruth. Even when you do call her, it’s never often enough. Not to mention, she always wants to know why you’re not married yet and when you’re going to give your mother some grandchildren. What is that horrible guilt you’re feeling for no apparent reason?
As mentioned in the goldbugs section, some older folks find new forms of technology hard to keep up with. But that doesn’t mean they can’t understand the need for a decentralized, censorship-resistant sound money. You just have to talk to them in a way that resonates.
This pitch is catered to Great-Grandma Ruth, who comes from the Jewish side of the family, but it can just as easily be used for anyone who has lived through great tragedy, societal upheaval, a diaspora, and/or hyperinflation and government confiscation of wealth. How many people have had to escape their home countries in the middle of the night, with nothing but the clothing on their backs? By creating a brain wallet and memorizing a mnemonic recovery, or seed phrase, it’s possible to escape in the middle of the night with the clothes on your back and the entirety of your wealth. No bills, jewels or gold to hide from would-be confiscators. Bitcoin fixes this.
The Central Banker Party Crasher
Well, crap. Your Aunt Nancy has a new boytoy, Jerome, and he wants to wish you happy holidays too even though you’ve never met the guy before. And it turns out he used to work for the Federal Reserve. Of course he did.
Is it even worth trying to talk to this putz about Bitcoin?
The gospel of Keynes is strong with central bankers. They have bailouts in their blood. If you and Jerome happen to end up talking about Bitcoin, perhaps it would be best to simply comment on how interesting it is that we are living in a time with actively competing monetary systems. Then smile, back away slowly and stack some more sats…
Thank you all for reading and I hope you found this amusing and hopefully a little helpful. And I hope you have a joyous HODLday season! — Brekkie
Special thanks again to those who shared their thoughts and suggestions on this piece: Nik Bhatia, Bitcoin Tina, Phil Geiger, Gigi, Marc Weinstein, Brett Morrison, and Russell LaCour. And further thanks to Bitcoin Magazine as well as their managing editor, Christie Harkin, for her helpful guidance!
Illustrations created using Pixton.com.