Getting involved with the Pocket Network community was the beginning of my rabbit hole into the depths of the crypto world.
So how did I get here? What were the stops along the way?
Andrew in Wonderland
It was May 2022, and I was standing under a red and white striped canopy that covered the atrium of the Poble Espanyol like a candy-cane carnival tent. European house music gently thumped in the background, and the smells of Spanish cuisine filled the air. Being one of the taller people there, it was easy for me to look over the crowd and take in my new environment. I was surrounded by an eclectic mix of people I’d never encountered before, despite attending countless events throughout my professional career.
This one was very different.
Millennials and Gen-Z’s modeling the latest trends that were as foreign to me as the languages they spoke. Gen X’rs donning the latest Patagonia puffer jackets or well-fitted European suits. The “casuals” sporting branded hoodies or t-shirts, but looking comfortable and confident. Despite the vast array of ages, styles, cultures, and professions, they all seemed to have one thing in common.
Every conversation was an in-depth discourse on projects, tokens, prices…all things crypto. Even though I was surrounded by hundreds of people, I felt isolated. A middle-class midwestern family man, wearing a casual blazer and jeans without the slightest clue how to hold a conversation about anything other than sports or beer.
What was I doing? How did I end up in the center of the crypto world, despite knowing nothing about crypto? I was in over my head. The one thought that drowned out all the noise was “I do not belong here.”
Such a Newb
If you met me in the summer of 2021 and tried to talk to me about anything crypto-related, I’d only have been able to acknowledge that I knew of the two biggies: Bitcoin and Ethereum. Beyond that, a “bag” held your belongings, and a “Chad” was a kid I knew in elementary school. I couldn’t pronounce “Doge” correctly, and don’t even get me started on “shill,” “FUD,” “rug pull”… or any of the other terms I was too embarrassed to ask about, revealing how much of a “newbie” I really was (and really still am).
But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And ignorance gets you nowhere.
“What’s a Node?” Intro to the Pocket Network Community
It was sometime in November of 2021. I was having dinner and some beers with my friends Ming and TJ. Ming worked for a major bank, and he was well-versed in trading and crypto. TJ was going through a transition, improving his programming skills to advance his career while also making crypto moves. This evening was very similar to others where we laughed, joked, and talked about various topics. Every now and again the two would get off on tangents talking about tokens and projects they were involved in. Typically, this was the point in the night where I would excuse myself to use the bathroom. Or maybe get another round of drinks for the table.
Conversations of these sorts flew way over my head. Like…high as a jumbo jet streaking contrails across the sky…level of over my head. For some reason, this night was different. When the conversation started moving in the direction of crypto, I stuck around. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was destiny. Perhaps I just wasn’t drinking fast enough to warrant a refill or bathroom break. For whatever reason, I paid attention.
Ming and TJ were discussing their “nodes” (not the ones that develop on your vocal cords) and “staking” (not the process of dispatching vampires). I felt a voice inside of me come up out of nowhere, overriding my usual passive nature of letting the conversation wash over me like a rock in a river. This time the voice said: “What’s a node?”
So I asked. Little did I know at the time that this question was the first step on my journey into the Pocket Network community and crypto in general.
The Crash Course
The conversation went something like this (some creative liberties may be exercised here):
“OK…” I said. “Ummmm…what exactly is POKT, a relay, and mining?”
“POKT is the native token for Pocket Network,” replied Ming. “It’s the reward you get.”
“Ok…so what’s Pocket Network?” I asked.
Ming, ever the bank of knowledge, answered “Pocket Network is a protocol that provides a service to connect apps (dApps) to blockchains.”
My mind began to spin. I was going deeper down the rabbit hole, and Ming was my watch-toting rabbit.
“Ok…..so…uhhh…relay? Keep it coming.” I replied.
“A relay is when information is passed between the app (dApp) and blockchain.” Ming said, patiently guiding me as I slowly absorbed his knowledge.
I started to connect the dots. “So, your node does the work for Pocket Network. In doing so, you get rewards?”
“Yup,” Ming nodded.
“And these rewards you speak of…what can you do with them?”
“POKT has value and can be bought, sold, or staked.”
“Ok…just to make sure I understand this correctly, I’ll recap. Pocket Network provides a service that connects apps (dApps) and blockchains. Node runners are the network of computers that do the work, and in doing so they earn POKT. The POKT I earn can be sold or staked to add more nodes.”
“Exactly!” Ming said with a big smile.
Taking the Red Pill
It’s important to note that at the time we had this conversation, crypto was booming. No FTX, no Celsius… I had missed the previous crashes and bear markets. Things were good, and euphoria was all around. NFTs were making waves, and meme coins were minting millionaires by the minute. I felt that, armed with Ming as my mentor, I was ready to join the party.
That night after dinner and drinks, I gushed to my wife about Pocket Network, and what a great opportunity this seemed like. I, fortunately/unfortunately, had married a very pragmatic woman. Caution was her middle name (which makes it interesting that she married me; a very impulsive and easily excitable gent). She advised me to do more research, and that even though she trusted Ming, she doesn’t trust anyone when it comes to matters of money. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Going to School
So, I started to do my research. I poured over everything: Pocket Network, blockchain, Web3. I watched hours upon hours of YouTube videos and read whitepapers till my eyes bled. All of which took my entire effort to retain just the slightest kernel of knowledge. It felt like I was back in school during finals week. Cramming as much information into my brain in the shortest amount of time, hoping just enough would stick to land a passing grade. What really kept me motivated was that the more I learned, the more confident I felt that the Pocket Network community was legit. It was also exciting to know that even though the company was still in its beta phase, things were cranking.
Enough of my research must have stuck, and I was able to convince my wife that our investing in running a node would be a good move for us. And to my luck, she agreed (cautiously).
So, a call went out to Ming shortly thereafter…
“Hello, Ming? How the hell do I run a node?”
The Running Man
I won’t bore you with the details about how I fumbled about trying to set up a node and join the Pocket Network community. In summary…Ming held my hand as I purchased the required amount of POKT to stake with a node service provider (slightly over 15,000 POKT). In retrospect, it was not as hard as I made it to be, and once I had my node running it was just a matter of sitting back and letting the POKT stack up.
I got in at the tail end of when things were REEEEAAAALLYYY good for node runners and the rest of the Pocket Network community. Average daily yields were in the hundreds of POKT. The price for POKT on the open markets was shooting toward the $3.00 mark. I was blinded by what I thought the future held for me, and what my future haul of POKT might be. The dream house, the private villa on Turks and Caicos, annual fishing excursions with the buddies courtesy of yours truly…the newly minted millionaire. Life was going to be AH-MAY-ZING.
Ming was also making a name for himself within the Pocket Network community, thanks to his strong voice and subject matter expertise, and he was extended the opportunity to represent Pocket at the upcoming AVAX Summit in Spain. His role was to engage with the attendees and drum up interest and potential business partners. Fortunately for me, Ming is a close friend and a bit uncomfortable in large social settings. An environment I thrive in.
He needed a wingman, and I was just the man for the job to set ‘em up while he knocked ‘em down. As his +1, I jumped on a jet heading for Barcelona, without a clue what I was in for.
Feeling Out of Place
AVAX at that time was on fire (in a good way). They were supporting many projects, including DeFi Kingdoms (one of the largest play-to-earn games in the Web3 space), and even sponsored an all-electric F1 race team. The Summit was one of the marquee crypto events of the year. Practically everyone who is anyone in the crypto space was there, but I wouldn’t have known it. To me, it was an exhibition for a very profitable market, driven by those in attendance who came from courts I could never play on. Finance, programming, startups, trading…It was very intimidating and left me feeling very out of place.
It wasn’t until the middle of the first day (I was on my own at that time, since Ming had yet to arrive) that I struck up a conversation with a young man from Ireland. We had both mistaken the location of one of the side talks and ended up in the wrong one. Realizing our mistake, and having no interest in the subject matter in that particular presentation, we began to chat. I asked him how he got into crypto, and his answer still makes me smile to this day.
Blindsided in Barcelona
In the best Irish accent I’ve ever heard he said, “Fuck…well, it was really by chance. A few years ago I wasn’t up to much good. I’ve got a thing for mushrooms, you see. Well, I was dealin’, and eatin’…gettin’ me head in da clouds, ya know…When a buddy of mine started babblin’ on about some crypto he was messin’ wit, and how he made a shitton of money from it. Well, I had some cash layin’ around burnin’ a hole in me pocket, and decided to play around a bit with this crypto stuff. I mean, it worked out well for him…why not give it a go? Shit, if I lost me money, I could just go back to shrooms, ya know? And here I am. Makin’ more money than I know what to do wit….Well, one thing I definitely know what I’m doin’ wit it…buyin’ more shrooms.”
This guy had totally blindsided me. It blew my mind. There I sat, expecting to hear all about how he was some financial genius and played all the markets building exponential wealth in the margins and turning those millions into new millions playing with crypto. Instead, I met an average guy (with an affinity for psychedelic fungi) who happened to fall into crypto and was thriving. There was hope for me yet.
A Shot of Confidence
The veil had been lifted and gave me a new outlook on my surroundings. The intimidation I felt dissipated, and I donned my new confidence like a suit of armor. The conversations I had after meeting The Irishman (I never did catch his name…or more aptly, cannot remember) were incredibly educational. I was not afraid to ask stupid questions, because, in reality, almost everyone here had been like me not too long ago. It was amazing how helpful and kind the people were. I had expected them to be condescending, and instead, I was welcomed into this world with warmth and understanding.
But I still felt like an outsider. I had a long way to go before feeling like I belonged.
Meeting Michael and Others in the Pocket Network Community
The highlight for me, and what was the defining moment when I became 100% invested in Pocket, was when I was able to meet and spend some quality time with Michael O’Rourke, a co-founder of Pocket Network.
Up to this point, we had been working with a couple of Pocket Network people: Rich and Pedro. They were there for business development and networking, and were our main points of contact throughout the event. Both were incredibly kind, intelligent, and definitely experts in this space. Those two people showed me the quality of talent Michael was bringing into the protocol and the Pocket Network community.
Ming and I were standing in the entranceway outside of the atrium when Michael entered the venue. He was dressed casually, but with style. He walked along the side street that flanked the atrium as normally as one would take a leisurely stroll down a city street. Ming and I were in the middle of a conversation when immediately our eyes caught sight of his mane of golden curls.
Having invested so many hours watching, reading, and listening to Michael talk about Pocket Network, I knew instantly who he was, and I have to say that it took a very conscious effort not to fan-boy like crazy.
We talked with him for a while as we waited for Rich and Pedro to meet us, and it was the most humble, sincere conversation I’ve had with someone I had just met. He showed us such kindness and genuine interest, that you’d never have guessed he was leading one of the most important companies in the Web3 space. It was during that conversation, and the ones that followed, that I really got a good feeling about his nature. A man who is passionate about his company’s mission and the people supporting it, no matter how “big” or “small” they were.
Remember how I said I was impulsive and easily excitable…ya…I may have gotten a little ahead of myself with this crypto stuff. Upon returning from AVAX, I thought I had it all figured out. I took what petty cash I had and dumped it into all the projects I heard about at the Summit. What I failed to acknowledge was that I still had a lot to learn about markets and trading. A LOT. Long story short, I’m now sitting on a lot less money than I had in May of 2022, and I no longer dream of villas or dream houses (the fishing trip is a hard one to let go of).
I’m optimistic that things will turn around, but it was a very rude awakening and many lessons were learned. The positive in all of this was that I was no longer distracted by shiny things. I invested more time in learning, and in doing so found a home with the Pocket Network community and Pocket Network’s social media channels.
The Pocket Network Community
I’ve never been keen to adopt social media. Even as a requirement for my profession in sales and marketing. I know it’s a necessity, but find that feeding an ever-hungry beast burns my candle from both ends. I’m familiar with Twitter and have used it occasionally when work necessitated it. Telegram and Discord were new to me, and it’s only because of the Pocket Network community that I had to learn (correction…am still learning) how to use them. They hooked me in no time. Sometimes it’s a Ted Talk, other times it’s a soap opera. Either way, it’s entertaining and educational, and I now find myself spending more time there than I should.
It’s in these channels that I got better acquainted with the other Pocket Network experts and advocates who are very insightful and willing to help others like myself. Admittedly, this is my first experience with a crypto community. But I can tell, and others have the same sentiment, that the Pocket Network community is like none other.
Finding a Sense of Belonging
Through my interactions with the community, I’ve come to find that my story is not uncommon. A Pocket veteran takes a newb under their wing, educates them about the project, and helps them navigate the nuance of procuring POKT to either stake in a node or pool, or just fill their bags with a token that has immense upside potential (Not financial advice. Just an opinion.).
This commonality with many others involved with the POKT community gives me a sense of belonging. I’m not afraid of asking dumb questions, because I’ve only received sage advice and valuable insight. While most of the time I’m sitting on the sidelines watching debates and discussions way above my level of comprehension, I still am able to take something away that gives me more confidence in my participation in the Pocket ecosystem and in crypto as a whole.
Wrapping it Up
I look back and wonder if I would be where I am today without Ming. Without Pocket. Without the support of the Pocket community. I most likely would still be grabbing an extra round of beers for my friends while they went off on one of their crypto tangents.
The amount of knowledge I’ve gained has elevated my crypto game by leaps and bounds. I’m more cautious with which projects I invest in, and I also am more aware of how markets never follow a trend of infinite growth. What goes up eventually comes down, and I need to be aware of where I am in the market cycle.
It’s been a little over a year since I first purchased POKT and staked my first node. A lot has happened since then. Major exchanges crashing, a bear market, adjustments to POKT inflation…Many things have splashed cold water on the euphoria that kicked off 2022.
One thing that does continue through the downturn is that Pocket Network keeps true to its vision of building a truly decentralized network and moving closer to the V1 launch. When this happens, I believe that good things will come to all the people who continue to support the project.
I imagine myself at the next crypto event. Maybe it will be Infracon (Pocket Network’s main event), or possibly another AVAX summit.
I see myself at one of these events and get excited. Not for the amazing food. Not for the side parties. It wasn’t for the open bars, or celebrity cameos, or any of the typical reasons that make for a memorable experience.
I’m excited that the next time I find myself in a sea of seasoned crypto veterans, donning the latest styles, speaking foreign languages, and conversing about all things crypto, I too will be joining in conversations and discussions. I will be able to hold my own talking about projects, tokens, prices, trends, and of course Pocket. I’ll probably still be wearing my blazer and jeans, but I know I will feel closer to those around me, and thus, feel like I belong.