Non-Linear Thinking and Digital Asset Investments: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy, Engineering vs. Vision

If you haven't by now, watching and re-watching Andrew Rosener's DomainSherpa interview with Michael Saylor would be a more than reasonable use of your (admittedly precious) time. One of the most interesting takeaways in terms of digital asset-related mindset revolves around the importance of non-linear thinking, especially in a world where pretty much the exact opposite is encouraged.

More specifically, it is vital not to be stuck in the past or desperately cling to rigid capital allocation frameworks which may have very well worked reasonably enough in the more or less distant past but nowadays, they tend to be sub-optimal...to put it mildly. This is easier said than done, of course, because there will inevitably be a significant degree of soul searching involved. The "enemy" here, for lack of a better term, is oftentimes precisely the person you look at in the mirror.

Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

Saylor himself studied at MIT, has been surrounded by engineers and is a science fiction enthusiast. As such, a fair case could be made that in light of his academic experience, he has (had?) a natural tendency to approach investing in a "engineer brain" linear problem-solving manner. However, he relatively quickly understood that this approach limits your growth potential when investing or as he chooses to put it, keeps you trapped in a Newtonian universe, oblivious to the various asymmetrical investment opportunities that are out there.

The solution? A healthy dose of... well, fantasy.

By exposing himself and downright embracing a new genre such as fantasy, one (in)famously associated with very loose to no rules and where everything goes in terms of imagination, Saylor and others like him give his brain a much needed dos of non-linearity. It is paramount to understand that the name of the game does not revolve around denouncing your previous self, in his case abandoning the engineering perspective altogether.

Not at all, his "engineer brain" actually contributed to a wide range of smart business and investment decisions, to putting together a coherent domain valuation framework (deciding which qualities of a domain are worth pursuing for reasons that revolved around real-world utility rather than baseless projections or day-dreaming) and ultimately having the discipline to see things through. In other words, the main argument here is that science fiction and fantasy complement one another rather nicely and represent a more than potent duo for any investor.

Engineering vs. Vision

A fair case could be made that today's investors have asymmetrical technology-driven opportunities in front of them that previous generations could only dream about. Does this mean there aren't historical precedents? Of course not. Fortunes have been both made and lost in the railway manias (yes, plural) that took place over in the United Kingdom back in the 19th century for example. The game-changer in that case was represented by the fact that railway development brought about unprecedented mobility and dramatically altered people's personal lives as well as the business world (with individuals who had never left their village all of a sudden being able to travel across the country, with businesses being able to export goods seamlessly, etc.). Or to take yet another step back and move to a period when there was no United Kingdom yet, we have the now-iconic South Sea Bubble of Great Britain, where people speculated recklessly (by investing their life savings in over-priced South Sea Company shares or even going into debt so as to invest) but there was definitely method behind their madness because the unrealistic expectations they had developed for the South Sea Company were fueled by the legitimate success of the honorable East India Company. In this case, the name of the game (-changer) was exploration and the various riches as well as opportunities this could lead to, just like with the equally famous Mississippi Bubble over in France at roughly the same time.

But as impressive as the previous game-changers may be, today's digital opportunities go well beyond anything previous generations could have imagined and to this day, are beyond the comprehension possibility of those who are stuck in the past and lack... yes, vision. In the absence of vision or if you will in the absence of those "Aha!" moments which come with the realization that asymmetrical opportunities are in front of us, bright engineers such as Michael Saylor would have gone the "safety.net" route by securing a comfortable job rather than blazing trails.

After all, pretty much everything about our education systems worldwide encourage blind obedience and linear thinking. Today's schools and even universities don't exactly aim to train opportunity-seeking entrepreneurs who think outside the box. On the contrary, they are for the most part stuck in the previously mentioned Newtonian universe of the past and primarily train their students to be "good citizens" who get a job and seek security rather than pull the trigger when a non-linear opportunity presents itself.

Does this lack of adaptability of the school system mean that the "engineering" dimension should be disregarded altogether? Most definitely not. The world's most brilliant visionary will fail miserably if he lacks the discipline to see his ideas through and the work ethic required to put together a battle plan and stick with it. Once again, the two worlds complement one another rather nicely, so please do not make the mistake of assuming this is yet another situation where it is important to pick a proverbial side.

What's Comfortable Is Rarely Game-Changing.

In a nutshell, the subtitle above sums up the challenges associated with non-linear thinking rather nicely. Make no mistake, investing your hard-earned money in sometimes unproven digital assets is anything but comfortable and investors such as Michael Saylor who have been there and done that can attest to it. His decision to spend $25,000 on Strategy.com many years ago seems brilliant at this point in time but it was met with suspicion and in some cases perhaps even ridicule back when it was taken. The same principle is valid for pretty much everyone who spent money on "fads" like domain names in the nineties or bitcoin/cryptocurrencies post-2009.

With the benefit of hindsight, we are all superheroes who would have gone all-in on $1 bitcoin if only we would have known about it. In reality, however, the overwhelming majority of us wouldn't have done so even if all of the rational arguments in the world would have been presented to us because such decisions involve embracing non-linearity and deciding to leave our intellectual comfort zones, something human beings are notoriously terrible at.

Instead, many of us would have rationalized the decision of investing away, by for example opting to spend $10,000 on a car instead since all of our friends have one and it is imperative to fit in, as the stereotype goes. Others would have dismissed bitcoin altogether as a scam in light of the fact that in the early days, sketchy grey to black market use cases such as the infamous Silk Road were pretty much the only game in town in terms of bitcoin adoption.

The Conclusion?

There is no need to turn this article into something overly complex because fundamentally speaking, the conclusion is quite straightforward. It primarily revolves around the idea that our education as far as both our families and the school system are concerned hasn't exactly encouraged us to be opportunity-seeking non-linear thinkers. On the contrary, the average person is encouraged to the point of shamed into becoming a proverbial ultra-compliant engineer who never questions the status quo, gets a mortgage plus car loan and comfortably stands by as the occasional outlier blazes trails.

A blame game in such instances is completely pointless and actually counterintuitive. Your parents did their best, many of your teachers as well most likely. Why bring negativity into your life by trying to find someone to blame instead of being grateful that you have come to a game-changing realization and act on it: the idea that while uncomfortable, non-linear thinking can get you extremely far in today's investment world.

However, and therein lies the important nuance it makes sense to end the article with, never underestimate the importance of the engineer dimension of life either because vision alone cannot take a disorganized dreamer from zero to hero. On the contrary. All of the foresight in the world will do investors little good if they lack the diligence to see it all through because the road from proverbial rags to riches in terms of digital assets is riddled with challenges, volatility and even occasional despair. Never make the mistake of assuming the journey will be easy but at the same time, do not be afraid: embrace it with an open mind and unleash both the visionary and the engineer within!