"With each setback, she harnesses her anger and uses it to fuel her determination, becoming a shining example of courage and resilience in the face of adversity." Ninja Grandma writes about learning to fall, fail, and persevere through her determination and inner strength, becoming an expert in falling.
You walk to the entrance of the grocery store and stand before the collection of shopping carts. In your mind you go over your list and decide you do, in fact, need a cart. You reach out, grasp the handle, and pull backwards. It doesn’t move. You pull a little harder.
That cart does not move.
You give it a tug, it remains stuck, or perhaps you pull two or three carts out instead of one. What do you do?
A few years ago I met a man who showed off his ability to back flip his BMX bike as his sure-fire way to pick up chicks. He invited me to come to the skate park to watch. When I told him I wanted to learn to ride and jump the bike, he quickly rescinded the offer. When I told him I wanted to fly, he told me something about “You don’t understand what the men are like.” When I scoffed, he added, “You can’t because you’re a girl.”
Naturally, I went and bought a BMX bike and spent a year riding it. I learned to jump it higher than some of the men, I backflipped it into a foam pit a few times. And if you know, you know: carving bowls is sublime, exploring midnight streets more so. I flew, and eventually I decided I needed to fly higher, so I made the decision to change my focus to skydiving, as one does.
Riding that bike brought me back to life. But the observer in me noticed a truly exhausting dynamic at those parks and on the streets. You see, one of the most important things to learn from riding is the pride of falling, of failing, repeatedly. It’s the pride of being tough enough to look like a fool, to be persistent in pain, to take risks, and keep at it over and over again. I watched men work on skills for months before finally landing them.
It was incredible to see the encouragement these men gave each other. A fall elicited empathetic cringes, concern, smiles, encouragement, teaching, exhortations to never give up, to keep trying until the goal was accomplished. A man might fall 50 times, and the encouragement continued, and after 100 times when he finally landed his trick, every other man who had been on the journey with him would lose themselves in the excitement of their shared victory in his accomplishment. If it took him 200 tries, the victory was that much sweeter. The more failure, the greater the ecstacy of that moment, and so they supported him through a million failures.
I think I was generally given about five failures, if that. At which point, the majority of men did not give me encouragement, but derision. I’d failed 10 times, I was a woman, it was pretty obvious I would never be able to learn; my failure was proof of it! For that reason it did not make any sense to give me help or encouragement. What the hell was this girl doing in their skate park? Why wasn’t she wearing makeup and showing skin and standing on the sidelines admiring in amazement things she could see only they can do?
Far too often, submerged in this dynamic, the woman believes what men tell her; she cannot do it. After all, if everyone there, with all their experience, is saying that, well, it must be true, right? They’re the experts.
Doing something like BMX is hard enough. Doing it without encouragement is harder. And doing it with others’ blatant derision is exhausting. As was how irrational the entire situation made them out to be; I had failed five times, I would never learn? While they failed 200 times, and still the belief remained rock solid they'd figure it out?
Let’s be honest, some of those skills would have taken me 300 to their 100. But I can fall 300 times as well as they can. I am excellent at falling.
Turns out I can encourage and support myself through others’ derision too. I’ve even learned to get angry, then use that anger for nothing other than strengthening myself. The lack of women riding at skate parks suggests too few have harnessed that potent source of energy.
Back to those shopping carts, which I had a job pushing. I’ll tell you what mostly happens. If it’s a man, after being thwarted a couple times, he takes a pause, a breath, and man-handles the shit out of that cart. He knows he has 100 failures to work with—lots of wiggle room. He frees it. Or he doesn’t, and he takes a moment to look that cart over, find what is caught, fix the issue, pull up some angry determination and physical strength, and get that cart free.
As an employee, I regularly had to do the same. My body was perfectly capable of succeeding at this, which means most women are capable of it, judging from my size.
But that is not what happens with most women. Instead, thwarted, the woman looks at the cart. Tentatively she reaches out, tries pulling one more time, using up one more of her precious 5 tries afforded her. Then, she glances around at the people nearby. She hopes nobody is watching, because she knows what they are thinking; “this woman cannot do this. She is too weak, proven by her failure. This is embarrassing to watch.” And it is her very tentativeness that creates the self-fulfilling prophecy; it is painful to watch. I swear you can see the thoughts going through her mind. You can see her body language; she feels stupid. She cannot free that cart. And so, she moves to a new one and takes it instead. She never even really tries.
I watched this dynamic play out over and over and over again.
Sometimes I then freed that cart. Sometimes I watched a man do it. And occasionally a woman with a determined no-nonsense expression came and did it, proof that the women who feared looking stupid were more capable than they knew*. They sure as hell weren’t going to get it in 3 failures though. Often neither did the man. But he tried. She felt stupid to try, convinced witnesses would see and deride her, often correctly.
All I can say to women is this; if men are not going to give you 100 failures, then take them. And when that’s not enough, barrel through another 100. There is no reason men should get to hog them all. Steal failure. And when men are subtly derisive after 10, when you feel laughter looking you over, when it’s been proven to others that you cannot—stare back at them, stand up, and express anger at the double-standard by doing it again. And again. Do not relinquish your failures; you deserve to use up every. single. goddamn. one of them.
When I did that, men who encouraged women and shared expertise emerged from the woodwork. They always do. They are the ones who don’t have time for the sidelines girls; they respect bruises and effort and persistence. And they absolutely exist beyond the gauntlet of the shitty boys and their soft sidelines girls.
When it comes to Bitcoin, you’re going to feel like a fool. Money touches everything, so knowledge about Bitcoin does too. It stretches into a vast array of topics, each so deep that people spend years studying a single one of them; economics, computer science, cryptography, game theory, psychology, business—everything money touches--which is everything. And you cannot know everything.
I repeat, you are going to feel like a fool. You’re going to ask what I like to call ‘blinker fluid questions.’ The questions that are so stupid, like walking into an auto store and asking where the blinker fluid is, that everyone in the room just stops and stares, then turns away without answering, embarrassed for you because the question doesn’t even have an answer. Honestly, I find it best to just say, “I’m a complete newbie, can I ask a possibly nonsense question?” You’ll encounter a few who don’t have answers and instead of admitting it, they get angry at you for asking, because you’ve revealed their own lack. You’ll find some who are simply too busy to engage, and yet these ones will often point you toward resources to read, which you then need to do. Nobody is getting paid to teach you; go study and do the work; you are capable of it. And you’ll find people who are happy to explain in detail to you; there are a lot of autistic people in Bitcoin who don’t know when to stop talking about their passion, thank god. The point is, you get 300 tries of failing to find helpful people. You get 300 tries to ask blinker fluid questions. You get to fail, and if others don’t want to let you, you get to plunder fails without anyone’s approval.
If I had to give my top reason for why there are so few women in bitcoin, it would be some kind of learned helplessness. Men do it too; we all know men who say, “I’m too dumb to learn the code, I’m not going to bother.” Some of them are probably too dumb. Most probably just feel too dumb.
Imagine a baby elephant. His trainers tie him with a chain around his ankle to a tree. The young creature cannot escape no matter how much he tries. He learns that he is helpless to escape, and as the elephant grows up, larger and larger, stronger and stronger, more than powerful enough to break that chain, he continues to believe he cannot. And so he does not try. Eventually it need not even be a chain tied to a tree; it can just be a rope around his ankle, tied to nothing. As he perceives it, even trying is a waste of energy. There he remains.
If you give up after 10 tries because someone takes that as proof you cannot, then you can’t succeed. When you need 300 tries to someone else’s 100, but after 200 you think you are unable and you give up, you cannot succeed. If someone who took 50 attempts tells you that you cannot after you fail 20 times, and you give up, then you don’t succeed. And these lack of successes can lead to a certain learned helplessness. To where you don’t try. To where you do not waste any time even being interested in the topic.
Bitcoin is tech, science, math, computers, engineering, revolution and strategy, freedom and power. Just the fact less women are in these fields gets taken by many’s subconscious as 'women must be incapable'. As “I am incapable.” Except it rarely sounds like that in this day of feminism. Instead, it is the harder to spot “I look stupid, I need to walk away from this cart before I look even more stupid for still failing even after I try harder.”
Furiously guard your fails. You have as much right to them as anyone. You might just shock yourself and realize that somewhere along the path of all those failures, you grew into a full-grown elephant nobody can hold back.
There aren’t many women in Bitcoin. There are even fewer with the knowledge and expertise you can find in men (yet). So it’s lonely. We need more tough, persistent women in Bitcoin. For the love of all that is holy, please, ladies, come fail at Bitcoin with the rest of us.
Trust me, flying is worth it.
*What I really want to know is why, after writing this article, I watched a woman succeed at a similar task, and immediately afterward feel the need to look at me and genuinely say, "I'm sorry, that was aggressive." That made my heart sink. Do not do that.