I admit the title is a bit of a click bait. I simply couldn’t resist the urge to surf the wave of hype generated by all the Bitcoins, Blockchains, ICOs, and the such. This post in fact has nothing to do with any of these trends. And yet… it does!
My understanding of the term “cryptocurrency” is a bit broader. James Altucher once declared that we are living in an idea economy. An idea economy means that the strongest currency right now is ideas. I can’t agree more. Ideas, backed by execution, are at the heart of billion-dollar companies. But there is another currency that lets us trade freely without resorting to the use of coins and banknotes. Can you guess what it is?
Time is All You Have
How you wanna live
Do you just take
Or can you also give
So go the lyrics in Klangstabil’s “Pay with Friendship.” Do you feel like you live your life? Or is it more like your life just happens in the background while you’re busy, always occupied, always in a rush?
We tend to work too much because we think that once we “make it,” we’ll be free to pursue our own activities. But until we make it, we must focus all of our efforts on earning money, paying down debts, saving for retirement, and, of course, buying fancy stuff we rarely actually use.
But instead of spending your time in a constant chase for the unobtainable, you can try something different. You only have a limited quantity of time in your life. There’s not much you can do to change this. What is under your control, however, is how you spend the time you do have. You can exchange it for the money you plan to spend later. Or you can also spend your time with other people, helping both them and yourself become a little bit better. When you help others, they will feel the urge to help you too. Those looking for an official term for this call it social capital. But I prefer the informal term for deep personal relationships: friendship.
The Benefits of Friendship
Change your mind
And you’ll find open doors
If you are able to share
The world can be yours
There is scientific evidence that friendship is healthy. But, as Zat Rana reminds us quoting Artistotle, there are different kinds of friendship. Friendships of utility and friendships of pleasure are pretty much self-explanatory. We often have a relationship with people who can be of use to us or whose presence brings us joy. These kinds of friendship form the basis of our social structures. What’s more, they are necessary and unavoidable in modern culture. Without them, we can feel lonely and helpless.
With a little help from such friends, we satisfy our need of belonging. We learn to better communicate. We exchange favors. We seek diversion, pleasure, joy, and fun. We watch movies, play sports, listen to music. We participate in activities that make us human.
But beyond work and play, there is more to human nature. Most see philosophy as something that old bearded men do instead of working. But to tell you the truth, you’re a philosopher too. I know it because you’re reading this article. It’s philosophical, after all. And philosophy can also be practiced with friends — that’s the friendship of good or the friendship of virtue as the ancients called them.
If you want to learn more about how the Stoics viewed friendship you can read Adam Townsend’s “Wisdom from Seneca. Friendship, Time and Trust” or Brad Stulberg’s “The Incredible Power Of Friendship”. Or better yet, go to the source and try Seneca.
Trading Quality Time
So show your creativity
Feed me with your fantasy
Spend a little time with me
Let’s invest in friendship
Friendships of virtue give you something more than superficial pleasure. They also give you more than pure utility. They help you grow and reach your full potential. Such friendships consist of engaging talks, seeking a deeper understanding, or pursuing the desire to share your own experiences and help the other person achieve her goals.
It doesn’t mean that you and your friend can’t exchange basic favors. Or that you can’t engage in the entertainment of any kind. Your friend of virtue may help you with your garden in exchange for you inviting him to a board game night. What’s important is that beyond such everyday activities you strive to empower each other.
Have you ever engaged in a philosophical dispute not to prove you’re right but to simply learn more or help others understand your way? That’s trading quality time, in my view. If we are focused on teaching or learning, we are ultimately aiming to make our world a better place. We start to think beyond ourselves, even beyond our circle of friends. We think about humanity.
Results Money Can’t Buy
Now waste your precious time on me
Feed me with your fantasy
Music and a cup of tea
Let’s invest in friendship
Money works as a great exchange currency. Say, you produce knives. You can sell them to a chef and get some money in return. You can then use this money to buy yourself a nice pair of shoes. You don’t have to keep track of all the favors you have given in order to claim something in return. Those favors add up in your bank account.
There’s not much you can’t buy with money. But one such thing is loyalty. Loyalty must be earned. And since friendship is based on loyalty and trust, it is an even stronger currency than gold.
With a certain amount of money, you can trade it for goods and services. But it’s also possible you could get similar services (and sometimes maybe goods as well) for free. Well, not exactly for free, but in exchange for friendship. If you make other people feel special, if you help them grow and become better in what they do, those people, your friends, will become grateful. And they will want to repay you with the same.
Do you know everyone has an amazing story to tell? Why go to the movies if you can gather with friends and exchange such stories about your own life? Maybe not everyone is as gifted a storyteller as Neil Gaiman, but try to share your personal stories sometimes. You’ll be amazed at how opening yourself up can empower others to do the same.
More Liberal Than the Ancient Greeks
It’s the bank of trust
A word that counts
With heart and deed
I pay with friendship
The ancient Greeks considered friendship as something much stronger than love. It is often contrasted with the modern Facebook-inspired definition: that every person you’ve ever spoken to is your “friend.”
My stance falls somewhere in the middle. For the Bank of Trust to properly work we need to move beyond the superficial. Trust takes time (just ask Controlled Collapse), and it can only grow from shared experiences.
Most work colleagues fall out of this definition. Yes, you probably spend a lot of time with them, but you rarely reach for any deeper connection with them. It’s more probable that you spend more quality time with your hobby group or your church community than you do with someone you work with.
What’s So Crypto About It?
I saw the world in amity
Peace and solidarity
And when the time has come for me
I will leave this world in friendship
So why am I referring to friendship as a cryptocurrency? Well, in Greek “cryptos” means “secret” or “hidden.” Unseen by the human eye. In contrast to gold, dollars, or yen, you not only can’t see friendship, you can’t even quantify it. You never know how much deposit there is in your Bank of Trust. These qualities certainly make it “hidden” and “secret.”
Another implication of the unknown quantity pertaining to an asset of friendship is that it is never safe to take risks for fear of losing that friendship. This is the proverbial stick to counterbalance the proverbial carrot: the desire to let your friendship grow.
So if there’s one thing I’d like you to remember from this article, it’s this: Take care of your personal relationships. Take care of people and cultivate friendship. You’ll never be able to buy the level of support that your friends can give you (both in your private life and in business). Your mental health and quality of life will likely improve as well. Just act like a human!