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No Pain, No Gain, What Weightlifting Can Teach You About Bitcoin


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This article was originally published by Guilherme Bandeira on Stacker News.

This article explores the striking parallels between the principles followed by weightlifters and bodybuilders in their pursuit of physical excellence and the philosophy behind Bitcoin. The author highlights the concepts of “no pain, no gain” and the connection between physical and spiritual well-being. Drawing comparisons between the physical and digital realms, the article discusses the importance of sovereignty, the immutable nature of Bitcoin’s blockchain, and the need for a strong store of value. The piece concludes by emphasizing Bitcoin’s potential to reshape the global monetary landscape.

The Shared Philosophy of Bodybuilding and Bitcoin

Weightlifters, bodybuilders, and those dedicated to physical fitness have developed principles that guide their training. This is not new. Physical fitness excellence has always been an aesthetic and ethical ideal, leading the sophist Philostratus to understand gymnastics — the art of athletic training — as a form of wisdom. Speak to any Shaolin monk to learn how spiritual and physical training cannot be separated.

The body and mind are connected, and anyone seeking this kind of excellence needs to create discipline to endure the pains of physical effort and maintain a routine of training and nutritional care.

Observing this culture and being an amateur weightlifter myself, I began to realize that the principles used for cultivating physical excellence were very similar to those of Bitcoin.

Here I will share my findings by listing some of these principles and explaining the similarities between bodybuilding philosophy and Bitcoin philosophy.

Monetary Sovereignty And Physical Excellence, Could They Also Be Connected?

The Fragil says, our organism is antifragile. The muscle only becomes stronger when it is stressed in the correct way. For this, the body needs true contact with reality, and nothing is more real than physical pain.

According to Greek mythology, Antaeus, son of Earth (Gaia) and Sea (Poseidon), liked to crush his opponents against the ground until they died. His strength came from his contact with the Earth, with reality, to the point that Hercules could only kill Antaeus by lifting him into the air, depriving him of this vital contact with reality.

If you lie on the couch, ingesting daily dopamine doses from Netflix and consuming sugary drinks like Coca-Cola, you may develop type 2 diabetes, narcotizing your soul and atrophying your body out of inertia.

You will never achieve good physical shape by staying anesthetized, away from reality. If you don’t stress your muscles — a process that involves a lot of effort and energy expenditure — they simply won’t develop and, like Antaeus, will lose their strength. Hence the first principle of every bodybuilder: no pain, no gain.

Bitcoin, like our body, is also a living organism. As a living organism, it feeds on energy in the form of electricity needed to perform proof-of-work and mine new transaction blocks. This makes the creation of new bitcoin costly. Users also incur costs to maintain the network, paying transaction fees to move their coins.

Our muscles consume a lot of energy, and so does Bitcoin. There’s no way around it; a lot of computational power must be used, and as the network grows, this process becomes more costly, as evidenced by the increase in hashrate in recent years.

A similar process occurs in the mining of precious metals such as silver and gold. Finding more gold in the Earth’s crust involves high costs, and the entire enterprise is uncertain; we don’t know how much gold will be in the mine.

Strong currencies are those that cannot escape the reality of “no pain, no gain.” Good money is the one that maintains an inescapable cost for creating new units for the longest time.

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State currencies are, fundamentally, an illusion. It costs nothing for central banks to create more of them. They are creatures of magical thinking that believe it is possible to create real value through the free issuance of more money, like someone trying to get out of a quagmire by pulling their own hair.

Just as some steroids attempt to generate artificial muscle growth, governments try to inject monetary “stimulus” to generate economic growth. In reality, this ends up distorting the entire functioning of the social body. Cheating our physical organism with steroids makes our body artificial.

Steroid-abusing bodybuilders resemble monsters, ex-humans because they violate the harmony of the beautiful human form. The biceps grow more than the triceps. The trapezius doesn’t match the size of the shoulder.

In the economic realm, different forms of government coercion, such as taxes, price controls, and inflation, generate price distortions that cause misallocation of capital. Due to these distortions, the economic viability calculation of a venture becomes skewed, and capital starts to be allocated where there is no corresponding real demand, neither present nor future.

The economy and the social body lose balance, resulting in idle production, unemployment, and inflation. The social body becomes sluggish. We see abandoned industrial parks because there simply is no demand for what is produced there.

Unemployment grows due to the imbalance in the price mechanism, making it impossible to employ capital appropriately, leading to idle workforce. Due to decreased purchasing power, labor is not adequately remunerated, and people lose incentives for saving and productive activities.

The prices of products — now of inferior quality — increase, generating increasing dissatisfaction because what is demanded is not produced, and what is produced is not demanded. Ultimately, the entire social fabric atrophies.

“No pain, no gain” also manifests in another basic fact of human and natural life: Everything has a cost. As John Locke said that God gave the Earth to all men in common but commanded them to work. It was both a gift and a command. The virgin land may be fertile, but it still needs to be cultivated to meet our needs.

Prosperity is born from saving — the postponement of immediate gratification — and from the use of intellect and body to cultivate the goods and services we need. These are costly activities in the short term. To satisfy our desires, we need to save, make an effort to produce, and exchange what we desire.

As a currency of the free market, someone will only have my satoshis if they offer me something I need in return. Imagine that you produce lasagnas in your restaurant. When you spend your lifetime making and selling lasagnas, the money received in exchange is proof that you have done something valuable and that time and energy were well spent on it.

The money received in exchange for the lasagna is also a promise that you will gain this time back in the form of future consumption. A strong currency (like bitcoin) is essential to keep this promise system alive.

When the government prints more money at no cost, it is stealing time from people’s lives, creating at no cost the same value that someone would take years or even centuries to generate and cheating this promise system.

Finally, it is impossible to understand Bitcoin without dedicating our most precious asset — our life’s time — to studying its nature and functioning. This usually starts with spending a little of the state currency buying some satoshis, but it’s just the beginning of a journey of study trying to understand what this magical internet money is and how it will become the new global monetary standard.

No pain, no gain: If you don’t dedicate time and effort to taking the bitter medicine of truth, you will never understand.

You Grew? It’s Yours!

If you managed to lift a weight that you couldn’t lift before or developed the desired muscle tone, this result is yours. The accomplishment is yours. You dedicated yourself, you risked injury, you subjected yourself to muscular proof-of-work.

It doesn’t matter your color, where you were born, who your parents were, your family. This result is yours. You own your own body, and no one can take that away from you. You grew? It’s yours!

Now imagine if some state “fitness” authority wanted to achieve “muscular justice” and tried to redistribute one person’s muscles to another because some of them are weaker or lack the same discipline as you.

Imagine if, in the name of equality, for every centimeter of muscle you developed, half a centimeter had to be redistributed to the weaker ones. It would be very unfair. It would be muscle theft!

Like the muscles in your body, if you custody your own satoshis, they are yours. No one can change that. There is no other criterion of justice that can alter the fact that you have sovereignty over the coins to which you have access.

You worked, you made an effort, and you earned satoshis (or exchanged state currencies for satoshis), and now they are yours until you decide to exchange them.

We need to find a way to preserve the fruits of our labor in the long term. It is a matter of personal pride. Over a lifetime of honest work, we all hope to have accumulated a good legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren — or to whomever we desire in a will.

From an economic perspective, we look at the history of our lives with pride because we have managed to leave our loved ones in a better condition than what we inherited from our ancestors. For this to happen, we need to choose assets that function as a store of value — that is, assets that we know will retain value and not perish over time.

In the absence of a strong currency, various assets are used as a store of value: real estate, artwork, luxury cars, company stocks, etc. In a free market, a considerable portion of a legacy will be in a strong currency because, in addition to guaranteeing a store of value, it is much more liquid than these other assets.

A recent phenomenon has caught my attention. We are seeing several American football players now demanding to be paid in bitcoin. Why? They know very well what it means to take a beating to earn their livelihood.

They don’t want to see their salaries eroded by inflation. This trend doesn’t seem like it will reverse. I believe that, in the long run, bitcoin will begin to demonetize other assets used as a store of value, such as real estate, gold, and even government debt bonds. Simply put, it is the best asset for this purpose.

Iron Never Lies

Raw reality is part of any weightlifter’s life. Either you can lift 100 kg over your head, or you can’t. There is no lying, no room for interpretation. Either you demonstrate that ability or you don’t. 100 kg today will be 100 kg tomorrow and always; it is a fixed measure from which we can accurately calculate our progress. Iron never lies.

The physical reality of two 50 kg plates is undeniable. With bitcoin, it’s the same thing: there will only ever be 21 million bitcoin units. Its nodes never lie. Either you have the private keys to move your coins or you don’t. There is no retroactive effect; you can’t go back and redo transactions from past blocks.

Unlike property, which requires state institutions to exist and have a record that can be altered with a judge’s stroke of a pen or “political will,” the Bitcoin network is unchangeable and the same for everyone. Like 100 kg of iron, it is a raw fact of nature.

From this perspective, state currencies have been a huge step backward. How many dollars have been issued by the Federal Reserve? No one knows for sure. How many dollars will be issued by the Federal Reserve? It is impossible to know.

We know, at the very least, that they can increase the monetary base infinitely. If I have dollars deposited in a bank, that same dollar has been lent hundreds of times through fractional reserves. Ask those who had savings during Collor’s government if the financial system is trustworthy or not.

Bitcoin will never lie to you. Its blockchain is built on an unchangeable history, like amber that has solidified over the centuries, layer upon layer. For centuries, gold has given us that security. It is a metal that has the required durability and scarcity for a good monetary asset.

Every ounce of gold ever mined in human history is still among us. However, it is heavy and costly to verify. Expensive instruments (such as a spectrometer) are needed to ensure the purity of a gold bar. It is impractical and unsafe to move pieces of gold around.

To weigh an iron plate, a scale is enough. To verify Bitcoin, running your own node is enough. It is easy to verify and very cheap to transport. Billions of dollars’ worth of bitcoin are moved every day at a minimal cost. If you want to move some satoshis quickly, it is recommended to use the Lightning network, one of Bitcoin’s second-layer solutions.

If you want to secure your wealth and have monetary sovereignty, Bitcoin is the best solution. It will be the foundation from which the economy of the 21st century will be rebuilt. For a bodybuilder, this conclusion should be intuitive.

Bodybuilders and Bitcoiners: unite!

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