This is the first of a three-part series on my discovery of Web3 and DAOs. This is what I experienced in my relentless pursuit to understand and progress the future of work.
“They’re all going to laugh at you” - Adam Sandler’s debut comedy album in 1993.
Also exactly how I felt when deciding to show up in a DAO and start my Web3 journey.
This fear and imposter syndrome is an uncommon feeling for me. I have a very good pedigree.
I’ve spent 20 years in technology, many of those as a leader. I have two master's degrees. I've taught strategy at the 400 level to college seniors as an adjunct professor. I’ve also spent countless hours consuming podcasts and progressive technology leadership content.
The above likely gives you an idea of my age. I’m a gen-x, latchkey kid that’s been playing around with cutting-edge technology possibly longer than you, the reader, has been alive.
I played World Of Warcraft with my friends over dial-up. There is no easier way to anger one’s mom and girlfriend than by tying up phone lines.
I hacked a Netgear switch to play multiplayer Halo in my apartment so my friends could have their own TVs and sit in separate rooms.
My IDE for building websites was notepad.
I built all my family's computers from scratch.
I was the first kid in my school with two CD drives and a CD burner. I could go on and on and on….
</highschool tech nerd flex>
Given my background, it doesn’t add up that I’ve kept my head in the sand on crypto for years. I may have given up on large financial gains, but it was mostly to protect myself. When I find something I love and am excited about, I go all in. I don’t have any other speed.
Here’s a simple example.
I used to play center field for a softball team and once had a rocket of a line drive hit at me. I charged it (ran full speed/sprint directly at it), jumped, caught it, and kept running into the dugout because it was the 3rd out. My teammates laughed and asked, “why didn’t you just let the line drive come to you.” It never dawned on me, because I only have one speed - ALL IN.
I knew my life would be like that line drive if I started to get interested in Bitcoin and crypto. I’d lose sleep, I’d obsess, and it would take time away from the family that I fight very hard to protect. (Case and point - most of this was written between 5 am and 6:30 am before my family woke up).
At the end of the day, the value wasn’t there if it was just about the money.
Then, everything changed after listening to the Tim Ferris podcast on October 28th, 2021 with Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant.
I now understood, at a basic level, the utility and potential of NFTs, crypto, Web 3, and, more importantly, DAOs. DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) are communities that unite to work on a project with no (traditional) central authority and are governed by the individual members who collectively make decisions on the future of the project. At 19min 38 seconds, Naval introduces a concept called The Byzantine Generals Problem.
The Byzantine Generals Problem: A game theory problem that describes the difficulty decentralized parties have in arriving at a consensus without relying on a trusted central party.
Suddenly every leadership problem, every change management hill I’ve tried to climb, and all the behaviors I’ve seen that hold us back from an organization’s potential were unlocked in my brain with this new concept.
Naval: “How do you get people to coordinate when nobody knows each other, and nobody trusts each other, and by using proof of work, you can now say, “well, I’ve done the work to have a credible vote, and so anyone who hasn’t done the work doesn’t get the vote.”
Here was the money line: “Now, you can take systems that before would have to be run by centralized authorities and can replace them with a credible vote of all the people participating in the network, and they get to have a say because they have done the work and it’s validated through the blockchain.”
Then Chris Dixon went on to define Web3: “Internet owned by users and builders, orchestrated by tokens. Tokens provide a mechanism by which value and control can be given to users and builders as opposed to centralized companies.”
“When somebody owns something and feels skin in the game they want to evangelize it”
“People get really excited when they get to participate”.
BOOM. There it is.
The problem I’ve been trying so hard to solve my whole leadership career is unlocked in the first 30 minutes of a podcast. This breakthrough could solve the constant battle between management (centralized authorities) and employees:
This brings us to - The Principal-Agent Problem
A principal-agent problem arises when there is a conflict of interest between the agent and the principal, which typically occurs when the agent acts solely in his/her own interests.
In this example, management/leadership is the principal and employees are the agents.
Management assumes that without policies, controls, guidelines, and penalties the employee will act in their own self-interest and not in the best interest of the company.
Said bluntly, teams aren’t trusted beyond the narrow task they’ve been assigned.
Work doesn’t have to be us vs them. It can be all of us working towards a greater good, towards a shared vision, and in a more humanistic way. DAOs offer just that - a breakthrough in more human ways of working and collaborating, founded on us being decentralized and potentially anonymous.
The principal-agent problem is a conflict in priorities between the owner of an asset and the person to whom control of the asset has been delegated.
COVID showed us that our work lives can be different.
The way we look at life and work has changed forever. The balance of power has shifted to the workforce and has been on full display during the Great Resignation.
I’m a prime example of this. I left at the peak of a 13-year career to search for a more fulfilling way of working and a culture that aligned, embraced, and empowered “my why''. I also wanted to do this while working from home, spending more time with my family.
What it comes down to is, I believe, a more human way of working. So, I made the personal decision to not settle for anything less.
I’m lucky to have joined a new company that aligns with my values and this purpose. Separately, I’m continuing to dig deeper into how DAOs can help unlock the work I do every day.
After digesting the podcast, I didn’t do much besides learn more about Web3 and DAOs through other podcasts and resources. I finally started telling my wife about it (she was terrified because I had that “charge a softball in the outfield” twinkle in my eye again).
Stay tuned for part 2 where I discuss how one serendipitous email sent me down the Web 3 rabbit hole and I joined my first DAO.
To be continued……