Participating in the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency movement risk-free : How a platform called Steemit is changing the lives of regular folks like you and me!

 A Brief word on Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies before we start.

If you know me well enough by know, you would know that I’m somebody who believes in the value of blockchain technology and its potential to change the future.

For the uninitiated, a blockchain is a constantly growing de-centralised ledger that keeps a permanent record of all transactions that have taken place on it in a secure, chronological, and immutable way (that’s about as succinct a definition I can provide). It’s a technology that’s growing in popularity everyday because it removes the need to place trust in centralised entities/institutes/organisations.

Given that this technology is quite new and unexposed to most commoners, there is a lot of scepticism around blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrencies are, by the way, one of the foremost ways in which blockchain is used today. Bitcoin was the first ever cryptocurrency mined on the first ever blockchain 9 years ago and has come a long way since. Despite the insane amount of volatility Bitcoin has faced, the year-on-year growth of Bitcoin and some of the other popular cryptocurrencies have been mind-numbing to say the least.

There’s a lot of misinformation and half-baked knowledge about this space today which his why people do not even think about this as an investment destination. Most traditional stock traders simply guffaw at cryptocurrencies or disregard them completely. Opinion on the value of cryptocurrencies is hugely split even among the biggest business influencers in the world today – while Bill Gates completely believes in them, Warrant Buffet can’t stand them!

If you don’t know what cryptocurrencies are, the shortest simple definition I can give is that they are digital tokens/assets that are decentralised (there is no centralised entity that holds them) and reside on a blockchain and are meant to be used for peer-to-peer transactions by removing the need for banks or other kinds of third-party intermediaries. Cryptocurrencies have exchanges of their own and their prices against fiat currencies such as the USD are dictated by demand and supply.

Cryptocurrencies are considered a store of value (like gold – but with a virtual existence) and their movement from one person to another is controlled by means of something called a ‘private key’ known only to the person who holds that given coin.

The global cryptocurrency market had touched 1 Trillion USD in December 2017 (after which it corrected considerably) and for most of the those who believe in Bitcoin (the granddaddy of cryptocurrencies) and its contemporaries, this is only the beginning.

Given that cryptocurrencies exist in a speculation driven unregulated environment, it is subject to a huge amount of volatility (that you simply don’t see in something like traditional equities) and watching a cryptocurrency grow to 10 times its value within a few months is not that uncommon!

PS: Bitcoin grew from about $1000 to almost $20,000 between January and December 2017 (a staggering 2000%) before correcting by over 70% and is now hovering around the $7500 mark- all this in less than 16 months. Given bitcoin’s volatility, for all I know, it will be up or down another $1000 before I finish writing and posting this article.

With this level of volatility, investing in an asset class like this is quite risky – it could exponentially multiply an investor’s wealth but and could also destroy the same in no time. Nevertheless, people who had the risk-appetite and foresight to park some funds in growing cryptocurrencies a year ago, have seen their investment grow multi-fold.

Additionally, many governments are not very keen on promoting cryptocurrencies because of their inherent nature of being unregulated and decentralised – which effectively means that any government’s control over them is practically nil. Therefore, governments (including the one in India, where I reside) has tried to take on cryptocurrencies by controlling the banks or exchanges that fund their purchase/sale.

Now to play the devil’s advocate, it is possible that cryptocurrencies ‘might’ just be a technological fad that will die out with time (even if blockchain technology per se survives). If that happens in the future, the value of these digital currencies might come to nought and would have eroded all its investors’ wealth – a reason why seasoned crypto investors always say, ‘do not invest in crypto more than what you can afford to lose’.

On the other hand, if cryptocurrencies do get adopted among mainstream audiences and institutions, the value of the major cryptocurrencies today might grow to an unestimable value in the future. Currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin could be worth many times their current value and all those who held tight would find that this was the investment of their life.

Therefore, it is prudent to have a small investment in the crypto movement even though one should be wise to the vagaries of this investment and not gamble away hard-earned earnings blindly.

Even a modest investment equivalent to a few hundred dollars’ worth in the right cryptocurrency has the potential to fetch far greater returns than any other way of traditional investment.

However, is there a completely risk-free way to invest in cryptocurrencies with minimal or or even without an initial investment at all? In fact, I did figure out an answer to this question some time last year.

If your interest is piqued, read on.

If investing in cryptocurrency highly risky, how do I still participate without much risk?

I am going to beat about the bush a little bit, so do bear with me – it’ll be worth your while!

Social Media and us.

So what’s that hobby of yours you enjoy doing outside work?

Perhaps, you like writing blogs about various anecdotes in your life. Or perhaps, you like watching movies or sports. You could also be somebody who likes photography or art in general.

Irrespective of whatever is it that you like, there is a pretty good possibility that you would be posting about it in social media, say on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit or whatever.

Even if you don’t post stuff about yourself or about your likes and interests, you probably do view/comment/like/share other posts you come across on social media; don’t you?

Social media is a big part of our lives in contemporary times and very few people today (at least among those who have access to an average quality of life) live completely isolated from social media. It often seems that almost every other person from the ages of 8 to 80 are in some way using social media networks. Hence, it is unequivocally likely that you too might be an active social-media participant who posts on social media or likes/comments/shares he posts of family, friends, acquaintances or others who you follow.

But what exactly do you get in return for those thousands of likes or comments using your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc. account?

Let me guess, nothing!

Well, you do get umpteen advertisements that are tailor-made for you based on your activity patterns, if that’s any consolation.

I have been a blogger for over 14 years now and have written original content on diverse topics over the years ranging from funny anecdotes from everyday life to commentary on social issues. I have written hundreds of answers on platforms such as Quora, on trading, on the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, and whatnot. But despite the few hundred readers/followers I have organically gained over so many years, or the ‘views’ I fetched that were a few hundred thousand, or the occasional words of appreciation for the content I write, I never earned a penny for all my thousands of hours of effort I have put into writing and posting using social media platforms or personal blogs – I loved writing and therefore didn’t mind and continued to write anyway.

It’s not just me, there are probably millions of bloggers like me out there who have experienced the same.

We are all in some way or the other creating content and participating in  online ecosystem from which we really don’t gain much in return for the time we spend. We have, of course, entertained, and we have been entertained.

Social media and blogging platforms have given us a sense of connectivity that we are likely to achieve otherwise in real ilfe. But that’s about it.

Enter Blockchain into the Social Media Arena.

So what if at some point a social media platform emerged that actually paid people to participate in it? And what if the greater your involvement and participation, the greater your rewards?

Just about 2 years ago, two blockchain developers, Dan Larimer and Ned Scott developed the Steem blockchain and built a social media and networking website called ‘Steemit’ on it. The Steem blockchain produces Steem and Steem Dollars which are tradable tokens that are given as rewards to participants of the platform for posting, discovering, and commenting on content on the Steemit.com website.

Steemit.com may not have a great user interface like FB and on the face of it looks like a social media platform that existed 10 years ago with much more basic features. However, the underlying technology is what makes it interesting and something you should seriously consider using along with your regular platform.

Let me spare you the drab long technical monologue of how tokens are created on the platform or how the insides of it work. There are countless youtube videos like which can give you information on this. However, do take some time to go through explainer videos on what Steemit is all about – there are many on youtube, including this video here by Jerry Banfied – a popular Youtuber who swears by Steemit!

PS: The video is about an hour long, so do finish this post before you get around to it.

So coming to the original point – about investing in cryptocurrencies without risk

To cut the story short, starting last September, I started posting my blogs on Steemit each time I posted an article on my trusty old WordPress blog. In fact, I even reposted a lot of my old content (with a disclaimer from where it was adapted so that it couldn’t be flagged by the bot that detects plagiarised content). And despite being only moderately active because of office work for most these months, I still managed to gain over 420 followers and earn about USD $250 worth in Steem and Steem Dollars (Since Steemit is on a public blockchain, you can, in fact, view my wallet at this link).

In other words, I earned these rewards by simply posting blog articles, and by commenting/liking or sharing content of others who have been doing the same. And this is something I wasn’t putting even some extra effort into since I’d have written these blogs even if I had not known about Steemit.

For somebody who’s earned nothing for 14 years of blogging on WordPress and sharing posts on Facebook or Twitter, doing a wee bit of extra work to post in one extra website turned out quite well, didn’t it?  After receiving my earnings from Steemit, I even transferred most of my earnings to a cryptocurrency exchange (Bittrex) where I could use it to invest in other cryptocurrencies for the long term.

And guess what? My earnings are peanuts compared to what some of the regulars and early adopters on this platform earn.

Steemit is a great platform for bloggers!

An ordinary young Chinese girl, who’s been on the platform for over 2 years, has made total earnings of $392,000 worth (that’s 2.6 Cr INR for my fellow Indians)! The girl travels a fair bit and most of her blog posts are about Life, Food, Travel, Culture, Fashion and Cats! Check out the blog for Sweetsssj (that’s her nickname) over here

By the way, don’t think for a moment that you even have to write any elaborate posts at all to join this platform and earn a side income.

Steemit is for Photographers too!

Slowwalker (check link here), who I follow, is an amateur photographer who doesn’t write much in terms of word count but keeps visiting places and posts plenty of photographs that he takes. You can see how his average post earns about $300 in rewards.

And to think, I have more than a handful of friends and acquaintances who are brilliant with an SLR (including a guy who specialises in wildlife) who can take far better photographs and all they do is post them on FB to get a handful of likes. On Steemit, they could be far more appreciated, and they earn tangible rewards in return for all their efforts.

In fact, I have been telling some of them to join Steemit of late.

Steemit is practically for content creators of any kind actually!

I’ve seen so many creative people with a wide array of interests who earn far more on Steemit than I make with my full-time job.

There are musicians, trade-analysts, political commentators (there’s a guy who writes exclusively on Syria), and what not.

The popular content creators eventually start gathering followers over a period of time, and as followers grow, so do their earnings.

Another interesting thing you need to know is that the more exposure you get, and the more Steem you earn, and the more you earn, the bigger your voting power becomes. That makes you influential in the eco-system as each of your votes earns somebody else rewards too.

And Finally…

Steemit, the social media platform, is apparently only the beginning and there are possibly many more decentralised applications that could come up on the Steem blockchain which would make the blockchain far more valuable than it already is.

Each Steem token is value at about $2.6 today (last December it was worth close to $8 – like I said volatility is insanely high in this space) and today the Steem token is among the top 35 most valuable cryptocurrencies globally.

Given its unique model and the fact that it has a significant major first mover advantage in this space, it is highly likely that Steemit will be valued much more in the days to come and will have rapid growth in terms of users.

Therefore, if you want to have your little investment building up in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, why not participate in this new platform – after all it really costs you nothing than the same time you would be spending on your good old Facebook or Twitter anyway.

So give it a try. Go to https://steemit.com/ and register your new account for free. There might be a small waiting period for registration, but it’ll be worth the trouble.

PS: I do hope that this article was worth your while and that someday in the future, you wil be writing back to me someday to thank me for letting you know about Steemit and how it changed your life! Cheers… 😉

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Cherishing the Life of a Dear Departed..

A week ago, a group of 30 odd trekkers got trapped in a raging inferno that resulted in the death of 14. Among those who lost their lives, was one of the finest friends I made during my Warwick days – Nisha Tamiloli.

Nisha was a hale and hearty girl who lived life to the fullest. ­

She was an immensely likeable person who radiated positivity and attracted friends like a human magnet. A perpetual smile adorned on her lips, and despite having strong opinions, she held malice towards none. She was an epitome of the strong, independent modern Indian woman – the kind of woman, other women always looked up to.

Nisha was also among the most supportive friends I ever had– she was among the first to congratulate me when I ventured into writing and among the first to buy my debut book. She was the one who gave me the confidence to go solo on stage when I first did a solo guitar and harmonica gig at an English pub during our university days, and her friendship was among the very few meaningful ones that I made during my university days that stood the test of time.

Nisha’s violent and sudden death (a result of the 100% burns she sustained while still trying to save others trapped in the fire) was a shock that I’m slowing coming to terms with, and I can only imagine the amount of torment her parents, her lone sister and her other near and dear ones would’ve gone through.

Think of somebody close to you – somebody who is vibrant, universally loved, and in the pink of health, dying an agonizing death, without any warning. Undoubtedly, that is the kind of passing away that leaves people far more devastated than any natural death.

A memorial service was held for Nisha, last Saturday evening, in Chennai, which I too chanced to attend.

The gathering, held on the terrace of my late friend’s home in Chennai, was attended by about 100 people – close family, friends and neighbours – including many who were from out-of-station.

While I had attended memorial services in the past (though, coming from a Christian family, these were mostly Christian services), most of the times, these are somber affairs in which a priest (or some respected elder) comes and presides over a prayer meeting in which people sit together, sing a few hymns, read scriptures, say a few prayers, followed by a speech- usually about how everybody is meant to pass away someday and how that departed soul would be in heaven. Being the grave event that such events are, there is hardly a smile, or a happy moment shared at that time.

But this time it was different.

One of the things that made Nisha’s memorial service stand out was that its simplicity – the event was devoid of any overt religious symbolism, ritualistic prayers or overbearing preachers.

There was a tiny pavilion assembled on the terrace under which a projector was set up to show images of various little prized moments of Nisha’s life –  pictures from various treks, pictures from her tours around the world, her graduation day, and her marathon runs among others.

A local 3-member band, apparently Nisha’s favouite, fronted by violinist Karthick Iyer (ostensibly of friend of hers too) also dropped by to play a 20-minute long instrumental tribute – some soulful, beautiful music.

Once the band had left, everyone huddled together and decided to share their personal stories and anecdotes from Nisha’s life.

In the hour and half or so that followed, people talked about their favourite personal anecdotes which Nisha was a part of – it was evident that she had left a lasting impression on many lives.

Each of the testimonies were spontaneous, genuine and heartfelt – it wasn’t a prepared show put on for namesake.

Along with the others, I shared my own stories of her –  about how we met first and how I failed to recognize her in a rather awkward but funny moment during our first day on campus, and how during a lonely Christmas eve in the UK, she took the effort of arranging a memorable Christmas evening for a few of us.

Everybody’s stories evoked smiles and occasionally laughter – even in that sad atmosphere.

Each testimony shed a small light on Nisha’s vibrant personality. In fact, I learnt a handful of things about her that I had not known in our seven years of friendship.

Towards the end, a 10-minute video (mixed with a music track she loved) that showcased more stills from her life and the video testimonials of a few friends who couldn’t make it for the event were shown and everybody stood up for a few minutes of silence in her memory before finally parting ways.

Nisha had made a difference to the lives of many, and that’s what eventually mattered. While her physical presence may no longer be felt in this world, her memories would live on in countless lives she touched in small ways.

So why was I compelled to write this post about something very personal to me, you might ask.

If it’s not evident still, here is why:

When a someone passes away, it is true that it brings inconsolable grief and sorrow to that person’s loved ones. But trapped in that circle of grief and gloom, there’s one thing that we often forget – to celebrate that person’s life and to cherish his/her memories.

We get caught in a cycle of ritualistic mourning ceremonies – carried out as a social or religious norm more than anything else – devoid of any real purpose. In many of our communities, eulogies (if you can call them that) are cliched impersonal lines mumbled by some elder or person of authority, who barely had any personal connection with that person who passed away.

This was the first time that I witnessed a meaningful memorial gathering. People who gathered and spoke were the ones who were touched by my late friend in some way or the other and there were dozens of them.

Her parents and family members probably wouldn’t have known so many things about her had it not been for that little gathering.

While the voices that spoke probably would not have lessened the grief of the mourning family, it would have given them consolation, and maybe even a tinge of pride in the fact that the one they lost was loved and had made a difference to so many lives and that echoes of their own loss were also felt genuinely among others.

Life isn’t fair and often the best of the ones we love leave far before their time.

But even in the face of such tragic events there is something we shouldn’t forget – that despite our grief and mourning, we shouldn’t refrain from reflecting and celebrating a dear departed’s life and the difference it made to our own.

 

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RIP Nisha, you will be missed…

 

.. If I had only tried.

 

The PMP

Though I exercised a good amount of artistic license when I published my first book, Kaleidoscopic Lives, almost three years ago, the fact of the matter is that most of the stories were inspired from real life, including the one about a German housemate I once lived with.

Axel, at that time was 53 years old and had just finished the 1st year of his undergraduate degree in mathematics – sitting with students one third his age. He was slightly eccentric but nevertheless serious about wanting to graduate and used to study diligently.

While he never revealed too much about his youth, one of the few things he told me was how he could never attend college when he wanted to and he had literally spent more than 20 years of his life just fixing and supervising the installation of window panes (some way to spend the best years of your life, huh?). However, at some point Axel decided he was going to take action.

He quit everything and went back to college.

I’m sure he was faced with enough ridicule, scepticism and whatnot. And yet he just did what he wanted to in the end. And he didn’t make excuses – he didn’t say he was too old to learn (think of somebody who never went to college going to study mathematics at 53), he didn’t say he didn’t fit in with the crowd (he sat among giggling 18 year olds who looked at him like a grandpa), he didn’t let his physical limitations come in the way (he was a chronic asthmatic, and had frequent rheumatic pains) and lastly, he didn’t say he didn’t have money either. He bought clothes from Primark at discounts, cooked every meal himself after buying his meat and groceries from the most economic stores, and lived in an rented room for 70 pounds a week – all in order to ensure he lived as frugally as possible to fulfil that little dream of a college degree.

Once I asked him, what he planned to accomplish after getting his degree. He had his plans for that too..

“I will one day open a school for pure sciences… no sociology and all that bullshit, just pure science”.

I’ll never meet Axel again, I’m quite certain. He seldom used emails apart from his college one, had no social media presence and the number he used would’ve been discarded as soon as he left town.

So why am I posting this today? A colleague of mine who quit work after 14 years reminded me of him.

We often get drowned in the noise of our surroundings, living from day to day, doing what we often don’t enjoy because we need that paycheck at the end of the month. We are often afraid to stop because there are a million reasons not to – EMIs, rent, school fees for kids and a million other expenses.

And we continue on as our days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years.

We move from our twenties to our thirties, and then to our forties, and afterwards to our fifties, and before you know it, the best years of our life are over.

Of course, we may have grown up kids by now and we can always say that we ‘sacrificed’ our life for theirs. But then that’s what every generation says to the next, isn’t it?

Dont’ be surprised if our children live our lives all over again and say that to their children too.

What we really do is that we effectively shift our lives in our mid-twenties to autopilot and then let the years drift by. We never break out of our comfort zones, or take risks when we could and we camouflage our inaction as family responsibility or something else.

Of course, the fact that we started a family knowing all underlying responsibilities involved, doesn’t matter. And we stay oblivious to the fact that there are people who successfully manage a family life and still do everything they want to (no wonder all the top 3 billionnaires in the world are family men).

Not all of will become a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos, but then again, we’d never know if we didn’t even try.

So what are you doing as you read this? Would you be happy doing the same thing or something similar 10 years from now? If not, did you plan out when you are going to stop?

Coming back to my old pal Axel. I have no clue how he will spend the rest of his days. He might succeed and start that school, or he might fail miserably. But there’s one thing I’m sure of – the time he’s on his deathbed, he’ll atleast have that comforting thought – that he tried.

Life may not have worked out the way we expected it to, it almost never does. But don’t let that stop you from trying. Don’t let your fears and insecurities stop you from trying.

After all, when your time is up, the last thought on your mind shouldn’t be, “… I wonder how things would have turned out… if I had only tried”.