It’s that time of year to muse on what you hope to accomplish over the next 12 months. The best advice when making resolutions is to set goals that are “SMART” – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant (to you) and time-bound.Once you’ve set your goals, what can help you achieve them? Based on our research, we’ve distilled 12 goal-enablers.
These cover four broad principles you can use to keep yourself on track. You don’t have to do all 12. Just focusing on the most relevant three to five can make a big difference.
Set relevant supporting goals
An outcome goal isn’t enough. Set clear supporting goals that equip you to attain that outcome.
1. Behavioural goals stipulate the actions required to reach your outcome goal. If you want to change jobs, for example, behavioural goals could include working out what job you want, networking with relevant people, getting advice on your resume, and submitting at least three job applications each month.
2. Learning goals are the knowledge and skills you need to achieve your goal. Ways to identify your highest-priority learning goals, and how to attain them, include seeking advice from others who have mastered the skill you aim to learn, working with a coach, or watching instructional videos.
3. Sub-goals are small milestones on the way to your goal. They indicate your rate of progress towards attaining your ultimate goal. They can also provide a motivating sense of momentum.
Build your internal motivation: This is the inner energy and focus that fuels, directs and sustains your efforts to reach your goals.
4. Connect goals to passions. If you like feeling like you’re on a mission, try framing your goals as reflecting a novice, apprentice or master level of development. If competition gets you going, perhaps frame your learning or sub-goals as indicating a bronze, silver, gold or platinum level of performance.
6. Build self-efficacy. Your self-efficacy is your belief in your capacity to succeed at a particular task. Set modest initial goals you are likely to achieve (see point 3). Ensure you have adequate resources and support (see point 8). If you find yourself thinking defeatist thoughts – “I don’t think I can do this” or “I’m too old for this” – then stop and think more encouraging thoughts instead.
An enabling context helps keep your goals front of mind and sustains you in working to achieve them.
7. Implementation intentions stipulate when to pursue behavioural goals. These intentions increase the odds of attaining any goal. Two types are:
When-then intentions (for example: “When I am tempted to eat a snack, then I will drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes to see if I still feel I need that snack”)
After-then intentions (for example: “After I eat lunch each day, then I’ll walk for at least 15 minutes somewhere green with my phone off”).
8. Ensure adequate resources. These could include adequate materials, technology, support of others, time and energy (enabled by an effective recovery routine).
9. Seek useful feedback to help gauge your progress and correct errors. Try asking the following questions: What happened? What went right? What went not so well and why? What can be learned? What are one or two things I can now do differently?
Anticipate and manage obstacles
As boxer Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” You need to be realistic about competing priorities and distractions bound to get in the way.
10. Identify and plan to manage points of choice, where other temptations may divert you from pursuing your goal. Points of choice may arise from within yourself (such as feeling tired, distracted or uninspired) or your surroundings (such as work pressures or family responsibilities). Plan ahead as to what you will do when these points of choice arise.
Errors are a natural part of the learning process. I have made an error. Great! That gives me something to learn from.
12. Keep building your commitment. Lose that and all bets are off! All the above steps will help. It can also help to share your goals and progress with others, but choose carefully. Share your journey with people you respect, whose opinion of you matters, and whom you know won’t be a wet blanket.
You might be using an app to read this very article. And if you’re reading it on an iPhone, then you got that app through the App Store, the Apple-owned and -operated gateway for apps on its phones. But a lot of people want that to change.
Apple is facing growing scrutiny for the tight control it has over so much of the mobile-first, app-centric world it created. The iPhone, which was released in 2007, and the App Store, which came along a year later, helped make Apple one of the most valuable companies on the planet, as well as one of the most powerful. Now, lawmakers, regulators, developers, and consumers are questioning the extent and effects of that power — including if and how it should be reined in.
Efforts in the United States and abroad could significantly loosen Apple’s grip over one of its most important lines of business and fundamentally change how iPhone and iPad users get and pay for their apps. It could make many more apps available. It could make them less safe. And it could make them cheaper.
The iPhone maker isn’t the only company under the antitrust microscope. Once lauded as shining beacons of innovation and ingenuity that would guide the world into the 21st century, Apple is just one of several Big Tech companies now accused of amassing too much power over parts of the economy that have become as essential as steel, oil, and the telephone were in centuries past.
These companies have a great deal of control over what we can do on our phones, the items we buy online and how they get to our homes, our personal data, the internet ecosystem, even our online identities. Some believe the best way to deal with Big Tech now is the way we dealt with steel, oil, and telephone monopolies decades ago: by using antitrust laws to place restrictions on them or even break them up.
And if our existing laws can’t do it, legislators want to introduce new laws that target the digital marketplace. In her book Monopolies Suck, antitrust expert Sally Hubbard described Apple as a “warm and fuzzy monopolist” when compared to Facebook, Google, and Amazon, the other three companies in the so-called Big Four that have been accused of being too big.
It doesn’t quite have the negative public perception that its three peers have, and the effects of its exclusive control over mobile apps on its consumers aren’t as obvious. For many people, Facebook, Google, and Amazon are unavoidable realities of life on the internet these days, while Apple makes products they choose to buy.
But more than half of the smartphones in the United States are iPhones, and as those phones become integrated into more facets of our daily lives, Apple’s exclusive control over what we can do with those phones and which apps we can use becomes more problematic. It’s also an outlier; rival mobile operating system Android allows pretty much any app, though app stores may have their own restrictions.
Apple makes the phones. But should Apple set the rules over everything we can do with them? And what are iPhone users missing out on when one company controls so much of their experience on them?
Apple’s vertical integration model was fine until it wasn’t
Many of the problems Apple faces now come from a principle of its business model: Maintain as much control as possible over as many aspects of its products as possible. This is unusual for a computer manufacturer. You can buy a computer with a Microsoft operating system from a variety of manufacturers, and nearly 1,300 brands sell devices with Google’s Android operating system.
But Apple’s operating systems — macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS — are only on Apple’s devices. Apple has said it does this to ensure that its products are easy to use, private, and secure. It’s a selling point for the company and a reason some customers are willing to pay a premium for Apple devices…Continue reading
On the day 29-year-old Londoner Lianne moved in with her now-ex boyfriend, six years ago, she remembers crying. (Her name has been changed for privacy, like many others in this piece.) Not, as you might expect, because of excitement or joy. But rather, because it immediately became apparent that she was “going to end up taking on all of [their] life admin”, from that moment on.
Over the year they lived together, this fear became reality. “It hit me he was a man-child when he didn’t know how to use the washing machine or make the bed,” Lianne recalls. And, although he made minor efforts to “improve” at chores, he just “didn’t seem capable of doing so”. He broke her favourite knife, flooded the kitchen, nearly set the flat on fire “multiple times”, and would go missing on three-day benders.
“He seemed to feel bad, but justified his ignorance by saying his parents never expected him to do any chores at home,” she says. “Bear in mind, he’d moved out of his parents’ house seven years earlier.”This behaviour, and the ensuing plethora of excuses, will likely be familiar to many people who’ve lived with cisgender heterosexual men. Though not exclusively – but more on that later.
Dubbed ‘man-children’, these men can be characterised by a number of child-like traits, including ‘not noticing’ the dishes need washing or bins need emptying and weaponising their own incompetence when they eventually do it; being ungrateful for the emotional and physical care provided by their partner, and general helplessness when it comes to taking care of themselves – and, sometimes, their own kids.
Now, this phenomenon has officially been confirmed by science. A recent study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour journal, found that not only do man-children exist, but they’re actually killing women’s libidos with their ineptitude. Researchers from universities in Canada and Australia set out to explore if this kind of relationship unfairness could explain why many women, partnered with men, report a low sex drive.
Indeed, they found when women perform more household labour than their partner, they tend to see them like a dependent child. This, unsurprisingly, reduces their sexual desire for that person. Ongoing inequalities in domestic labour have even been cited as why more women file for divorce than men. (Recent statistics show women carry out 60 percent more unpaid work than men.)
According to the authors, until their research, this heteronormative dynamic had never been studied in relation to women’s sexual satisfaction or desire in relationships before. Emily Harris, one of the co-authors, says this is because “there’s a few unspoken assumptions” about women’s sexual desire. “One of these, is that low [sexual] desire is caused by individual factors, like hormones and stress, or general relationship factors, like conflict and dissatisfaction,” she tells VICE. “What these assumptions miss, is the broader context of gender inequity.”
Sari van Anders, another co-author, adds that many people find comfort in these assumptions. “It can feel more manageable to change your hormones, or try stress reduction techniques, than tackle structural inequalities,” she says. The correlation between man-babies and low libido hasn’t been overlooked by the women who’ve dated – or lived with – these men, though.
“Our sex drive completely died after six months of living together,” reveals Lianne. “I couldn’t take him seriously anymore and resented my role in our relationship. I felt like his mum.” Although she’s in a much happier, balanced relationship now, Lianne says her man-child experience has influenced her view on having actual children. “I can’t imagine spending two-plus decades picking up after someone who doesn’t appreciate my labour,” she says.
Emme Witt, a 48-year-old writer from Los Angeles, knows what it’s like to simultaneously care for children and a man-child. In fact, her ex-husband’s childish ways – specifically, his lack of support around the house – only started bothering her when they had kids of their own. “Suddenly I realised that not only was I in charge of the housework, but also all the child-rearing,” she says. “I had to discipline our kids on my own – my ex would even steal away to the bedroom when they were acting out. It was exhausting.”……Continue reading
According to Jeff Bezos, living a life filled with meaning comes down to how you answer this short list of questions. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is widely respected for a number of qualities. Patiently building a company with a juggernaut of a flywheel.
According to Bezos, cleverness is a gift. “You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful,” Bezos said to Princeton graduates in 2010, “and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”
Research shows we more often regret things we didn’t do than the things we did, even if things we did turned out badly. Makes sense: With time and effort, you can fix almost any mistake. But you can’t go back and do the things you dreamed of doing, but didn’t.
In fact, this study takes that idea even further, probing the kinds of regrets we have about the people we don’t become — which is a natural extension of the actions we didn’t take.
As Bezos said, “When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices.”
What choices will make the biggest impact on your life story — and whether you look back on that story with regrets?
These are the questions Bezos says to ask yourself:
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
Like most great lists, it’s also a hard list. Take ignoring criticism and following your convictions. That’s far from easy. Plus, most of the time we should worry about what other people think.
But not if it stands in the way of living the lives we really want to live.
If you really want to start a business — which you can do in just a few hours — some people might say you’re crazy, especially now. If you really want to go back to school, some people might think you’re crazy, especially now. If you really want to open a new restaurant, some people will definitely think you’re crazy.
Especially now. But if you let the naysayers deter you, you’re much more likely to look back someday and wonder what might have been. Research shows you’re most likely to regret thinking you didn’t reach our full potential. You’ll most regret not becoming the person you feel you could have become, if only you had tried.
Because that’s one mistake you can never go back and fix. But if you ask yourself the Bezos questions, that might be one mistake you can stop making. Starting today.
Regardless of what you’re going for (what your target is), these steps have proven themselves to me and my clients. When we use them, no matter what kind of success we seek, we speed up our process of getting there.
1. Define your core values
A lot of the conflict you have in your life exists simply because you’re not living in alignment; you’re not be being true to yourself.” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You
When you take the time to define your values, you create a foundation to build your life. But many people fail to clarify their values and take a longer route to meaningful success as a result. Without clear values, you can take costly detours, achieving empty successes or feeling conflicted.
When you feel yourself constantly comparing your life to other people or just unsure of what you want, that’s when you need to check in with your values. I suggest creating a list of values and beliefs, choosing a few of the most important factors that will guide you in choosing meaningful goals. Your list may include things like family, security, and wealth. Or, perhaps you put greater value on freedom, adventure, and creativity.
Try and get your list down to about three of the most important priorities. When you do, you’ll find it much easier to choose a direction, make confident decisions, and succeed on your terms.
2. Get clear on your goals
What do you want to achieve—really? Often people don’t take the time to ask themselves what they want.
Some people chase after shiny objects, never committing enough to a single goal to find success. Others invest too much committed to the wrong goal, afraid of quitting or letting others down. Achieving long-term goals takes planning, effort, and focus sustained over time. Choose wisely, and make sure those goals are in line with your values.
The recipe for success is different for everyone. One person might feel their best living as a digital nomad, traveling to a different country every month. Another person might thrive on time with family and living in their dream home. What will make you shine is completely unique to you. So get clear on what you want to achieve and what steps you will take to achieve it.
3. Be a learner, not a winner
Often people approach success with an all or nothing mindset, in which you either win or lose. You’re either good or bad, right or wrong, smart or stupid. This mindset leaves little room for error, and too much room to give up when things aren’t perfect. To move forward in overcoming perfectionism, you’ll need to replace this “all or nothing” approach with “all or something.”
Mistakes move you forward!
Making mistakes is far better than not trying at all. The process of trial and error helps you to learn. You gain wisdom and get better over time. My progress in the sport of fencing increased ten times the day I decided to use every practice, lesson, event, and bout as a learning experience instead of a winning opportunity.
Winning comes faster when you take the focus off of it, and instead, focus on becoming a sponge, absorbing every experience as knowledge to help you improve. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to win.
It means that if we step over learning in order to reach for winning, we place a huge barrier in front of ourselves — trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way. In figuring out how to be successful in life, learning as much as you can leads to bigger wins.
4. Set up a support system
Big goals don’t happen overnight. Building a successful business, writing a book, getting a degree—it takes hard work and commitment to see those dreams through. But you don’t have to go through it alone, and you shouldn’t!
Get a coach, mentor, or accountability group to keep you going. If we rely on just ourselves, it’s like having a single jetpack, putting along towards a goal. With the support of a team, we have rocket power, achieving our goals much faster – vroom!
Creating this type of support system will help you stay motivated through the challenges, get help when you need it, and learn from others’ experiences.
5. Put in the time
You may have heard of the 10,000 hour rule, popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times bestseller, Outliers. Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to gain mastery. (that’s about 90 minutes per day for 20 years).
It’s an idea based on a 1993 paper from Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University. But many people have pushed back at this “10,000 hours requirement”, including Ericsson himself.
Commitment and consistency
If you want to get good at something, you have to put in the time. Spending just 10 to 20 minutes a day on a new skill, your brain will retain almost all of what you learned, according to neuroscience.
If you don’t have 10,000 hours to learn something new, start with 20 minutes a day. Commit to it.
If you need to practice, study, experiment, and apply in order to succeed, then do that. Put in the time wherever it is required. No effort is wasted if we have our eye on our target, even if one or two or three attempts feels like we’re getting nowhere.
6. Commit to a goal that you’re willing to grind for
It takes a lot of hard work and grit to achieve long-term goals. People who found a successful company, wrote a novel without a book deal, or made it big in show business had to put in the work to get from nothing to something.
They didn’t know that they would make it, but they persisted anyway. “Success develops from your willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough — to sweat all the way down until the salt of your soul spills out on the floor.”
Before you commit to your goal, make sure you really want it. What means so much to you that you’re willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to make it come true?
7. Get inspired
You may already have a clear vision of your dreams, but not everyone does. If you feel unclear about the path forward, get out there and explore.
Inspiration is everywhere
Go to camps, clinics, conferences and retreats. Get private lessons and read books. When you get out there and try new things, you’re more likely to find inspiration for how to be successful in life.
Approach success with a sense of curiosity and playfulness to find a vision of success that excites you.
8. Take (calculated) risks
The quest beyond where you stand today to where you want to go means stepping outside of your comfort zone. That means you’re going to have to stick your neck out there sometimes and take risks.
I’m not saying you should quit your job this second. When you assess your situation fully, you can take calculated risks that will ultimately lead to success.
A few tips to keep in mind:
How much savings would it take to carry you through this shift?
Would downsizing your lifestyle provide flexibility to explore a new direction?
Do you have other people to consider when making this decision?
Assess your opportunities: Are companies actively hiring in your new field?
Do you need training or education to make this dream happen?
Sometimes taking risks can mean a night class once a week to train for that new career path. Or, you might start a side hustle to see if your business idea will actually work. Maybe you just need to meet new people and network to get more information about that new direction.
Eventually, you need to take a leap of faith to move forward. Just make sure you have the resources and information available before you take that step.
9. Learn from experts
If you want to illuminate the path to success, look for people who have already done it. Who are the captains in the industry that you admire? Find out how they turned their dreams into reality.
Observe, study, and follow others who are succeeding along the same path you want to go. Spend time learning from them. Find at least one thing to avoid or one thing to adopt each time you watch others making progress toward your same target (or from those who have hit the target).
Why limit yourself to just one role model? You can draw inspiration from any number of people who inspire you. When we only learn from one master, we only know what that one person knows. When we learn from more than one expert, we have ages of knowledge and wisdom to lean into.
10. Ask a ton of questions
Many people resist asking questions because they don’t want to sound incompetent or annoying. But actually, asking questions does the opposite! “By asking someone to share his or her personal wisdom, advice seekers stroke the adviser’s ego and can gain valuable insights. People do not think less of you — they actually think you’re smarter.” Francesca Gino, Professor at Harvard Business School
Unless you ask, you never know what you might find, learn, or achieve. Ask, ask, and ask again. You’ll show experts and mentors that you value their opinion. You open up opportunities for conversations that could inspire your next idea.
Just make sure to avoid naysayers who shut you down. People who negate your questions or chastise you for being a Curious George will only hold you back from learning and growth.
11. Get feedback
You need feedback to learn and get better. You’ll gain a fuller perspective on your strengths and habits that might be holding you back.
Asking for feedback will also make you happier and more productive, says Sheila Heen, author of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well: “People who go out and solicit negative feedback — meaning they aren’t just fishing for compliments — report higher satisfaction. They adapt more quickly to new roles, get higher performance reviews, and show others they are committed to doing their jobs.”
Use trusted folks who know their stuff to give you feedback. We could be getting in our own way. We could be headed down a rabbit hole. We could get our minds in a dark place, or be forming a bad habit. You get the notion.
12. Break down goals into small steps
Dreaming big starts with having a clear vision of what you want, whether you want to discover how to be successful in career, relationships, in the arts, philanthropy, and so on. Close your eyes and envision the life of your dreams. Then write down those goals.
When you look at all those grand ideas, it can feel overwhelming. But anyone who has accomplished something big started with one small step forward.
So, what will it take to get there?
Determine the small steps to getting to that point of success. When you break down big goals into small steps, you’ll see what it takes to turn those dreams into a reality.
13. Take breaks
In a 2004 study published in Nature, researchers at the University of Lübeck in Germany trained participants to solve a long difficult math problem. After a good night’s rest, when participants returned for retesting, those who had slept eight hours were more than twice as likely to solve the problem in a simpler way than those who had not slept.
You need to take breaks and get plenty of rest.
So, what will it take to get there?
Burnout will only diminish your health and prevent you from thinking clearly. And when you find yourself hitting a wall, sleep on it. You’re more likely to come up with the solution after taking a break.
14. Keep creative juices flowing
Make a habit of including creative activities into your routine. The American Psychological Association points out that routine creativity expands the mind, improves problem-solving, and increases productivity.
Here’s how to include routine creativity in your life:
Keep track of new ideas when they come up
Take on new challenges that require problem solving and new approaches
Expand your knowledge, through classes or reading outside of what your bubble
Surround yourself with interesting people who can broaden your perspective
Try interesting things that stimulate the brain, like a new hobby or a trip to a museum
15. Take care of your health
“A sick man only wants one thing; a healthy man wants a thousand things.” Confucius
Often the pursuit of success can put health concerns on the backburner. You put in the extra hours to turn your dream into reality. And that’s okay, but you should never sacrifice your health.
Think in terms of the long game
You want to live a long, successful life, not burnout. That means checking in with your body every day and incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine.
So what should you do? When it comes to health, most of the best healthy habits are fairly simple: Eat Well, Sleep Well, Exercise Well.
Exercise daily (30 minutes of moderate exercise will do)
Maintain a healthy body weight
Avoid excessive drinking
Rest and get enough sleep
Success starts with defining what that means to you, then tirelessly working toward that dream. When you commit to making it happen, and surround yourself with supportive people, you’ll find that path to success rolls out before you.
Calvin Becerra went viral earlier this year for a less-than-ideal reason. He got bamboozled out of what he claims is some $2 million in cryptocurrency and NFTs and complained on Twitter about the incident. Scammers pretended to be interested in buying one of his NFTs in a Discord channel and tricked him by saying they could help him fix a problem with his crypto wallet. During troubleshooting, they raided his wallet. The experience, he says, “felt like death.” He’s gone to great lengths to get the stolen digital assets back, paying hundreds of thousands more dollars to retrieve the tokens, including, most importantly, his three bored apes.
For many outsiders, it’s hard to grasp paying so much money for a trio of cartoon monkeys once, let alone twice. At some point, you’ve just got to let sunk cost be. But Becerra, 40, insists it’s worth it — he believes in NFTs, or at the very least, the moneymaking power of them. “They’re important to me because of the value that they will continue to increase by,” he says. “They’re huge.”
He’s right that NFTs — non-fungible tokens, little digital assets that exist on a blockchain — are having a moment. What’s not really clear is why. Then again, everything about money feels a little strange at the moment. Between NFTs, crypto, and GameStop, AMC, and other meme stocks, money has rarely felt more fake. Or, at the very least, value has rarely felt so disconnected from reality.
The concept of value is a fuzzy one, and valuation is often more art than it is science. Psychology has always played a role in money and investing — and there have always been bubbles, too, where the price of an asset takes off at a rapid pace and disconnects from the fundamental value. As Jacob Goldstein wrote in Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing, all money is sort of a collective myth. “Money feels cold and mathematical and outside the realm of fuzzy human relationships. It isn’t,” he wrote. “Money is a made-up thing, a shared fiction. Money is fundamentally, unalterably social.”
The social aspect is clear in much of what’s going on now, whether it be a group of investors on Reddit trying to take down a hedge fund betting against GameStop or people paying thousands of dollars to claim ownership of digital art they could effectively have for free. But why certain groups of people have trained their focus on certain items is hard to parse. Becerra insists there’s a utility to the apes — there’s merchandise, events, and he sees having them as the “new world flex,” like a watch or a nice car. “Everything’s hype, a social media world, right?”
Lately, the hype aspect of money has felt more true and important than ever.
It’s been a weird year in money
Historically, the economy was theoretically based on labor and value creation at the individual level, and on the structural level, voting shares in companies based on their financial fundamentals and future value, said tech industry veteran Anil Dash, CEO of the programming company Glitch. But that idea died long ago. “A machine is what it does, and the purpose of the system is the output of the system. And the purpose of our financial systems … is to create ever more detached financialization that can just generate what the industry calls wealth and what the rest of the world just doesn’t see.” In other words, the confusing status of value today is a feature, not a bug.
You can see this clearly in the markets in 2021. One of the first big stories of the year was the GameStop saga, and it was a fun one. An army of day traders on the Reddit forum r/WallStreetBets drove up the price of the game retailer’s stock in a matter of days, forcing halts in trading and costing some hedge funds that had been betting against the stock quite a bit of money. They rallied behind a guy who goes by Roaring Kitty; in one YouTube video about GameStop, he pretended to smoke a cigar while wearing a cat mask.
There have been all sorts of efforts to ascribe some bigger takeaway to the GameStop story — perhaps it was a populist uprising or a sign that there was something very broken in the market. But generally, most of the efforts to pull a concrete meaning out of GameStop fall flat. It was a relatively ephemeral incident where, as is often the case in investing, there were some winners and some losers. GameStop’s stock price has remained relatively high, compared where it was before January 2021, because enough investors have stuck around to keep it there.
GameStop has come to epitomize an era of meme investing, where ordinary investors are piling into stocks and cryptocurrencies and digital assets not necessarily because they believe in the underlying value of the thing they’re buying (though some do) but instead because it just seems like a thing to do. Dogecoin or NFTs or stock in theater chain AMC get popular online or in their social circles, and they turn around and think, why not?
“For a huge swath of the retail world, the mentality has merged of what is trading versus what is investing versus what is essentially just gambling,” said Tyler Gellasch, executive director of Healthy Markets, a nonprofit.
The scenario has generated quite a bit of finger–wagging from Very Serious People who say what’s going on is beyond the pale, that investing is supposed to be about underlying value and the real, tangible worth of a thing. NFTs and Shiba Inu coin, they say, are clearly fake. At the same time, so is so much of what’s going on in finance and the economy already — including the spaces the Very Serious People occupy.
During the 2008 financial crisis, for example, exotic financial instruments created out of subprime mortgages among Wall Street and banks helped take the economy down. They also revealed regulators to be asleep at the wheel. Very recent history makes it hard to take the Very Serious People in finance and government seriously as responsible stewards of the global economy. The financial industry has gone to great lengths to create new financial products with the potential to do more harm than good in the name of making more money.
“To have a boomer burn down the planet and then have them wag a finger that crypto’s bad for the environment? Please, that’s absurd,” Dash said.
“Money feeling strange in 2021 is based on a decade of money slowly feeling strange for lots and lots of different people throughout the world,” said Lana Swartz, an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia who focuses on money. “We’re at a stage where the government and financial institutions are revealed to be less dependable than we ever imagined they would be, so why not YOLO?”
NFTs might be bizarre speculative bullshit, but what isn’t? Aren’t we all just finding ways to turn everything that exists into something we can make money off of? I might be throwing away thousands of dollars on NFTs, but you’re throwing away thousands of dollars on TSA PreCheck or lottery tickets or donating to political candidates or raising children. Critics will say NFTs are wasteful and can be used for fraud and other crimes—fine, yeah, find me something that isn’t?
Crypto feels like a scam. So does a lot of the economy.
It’s easy to be dismissive of the current state of casino capitalism, where random people are just tossing random money at random anything. It’s also relatively easy to recognize that this landscape is likely to be one where there are few winners, and the winners are probably going to be the people who were already winning, financially.
“For every one person that makes money, you have 100 people that have lost money. It’s basically just a giant wealth redistribution scheme,” said Stephen Diehl, a software engineer in London who recently laid out a scathing and widely read critique of the crypto asset bubble. “Why it seems so fake is nobody can quite figure out what these things are, and they’re being presented to different people with different stories.”
Dash is one of the originators of the NFT concept, but he worries about the clearly fraudulent nature of some dealings in the market. “They had to coin the phrase ‘rug pull’ to describe the fraud that happens in NFT communities because that type of thing is so common. What does that tell you?”
Value is ultimately a story, one we tell to ourselves and to others. In the United States, we’ve convinced ourselves of the story of the dollar, which is backed by the full force of the US government. But it’s ultimately just a piece of paper. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs and AMC all come with their own stories, which, admittedly, can be on the kooky side.
There’s more to the current money landscape than dogecoin and meme stocks that makes the whole thing seem a little fake. The stock market soared during much of 2020 and 2021, even during the depths of the pandemic, making it hard not to wonder what the whole thing is for. The federal government was able to deliver a lot of money through monetary and fiscal relief to keep the markets — and regular people — afloat. It’s a lesson that when the government needs to find money, it can. But whether or not the influx makes money feel fake depends on your perspective.
“Isn’t this the year that money has felt most real?” said Mike Konczal, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Roosevelt Institute. “Child poverty cut in half, unemployment insurance capable of giving workers actual bargaining power for a change, real wage increases across the majority of people, wealth doubling in the bottom 50 percent.”
It’s a strange place we’re in, which might explain why these tangible improvements don’t seem to dislodge national feelings of alienation. The state of the world and the economy can feel really hopeless. There’s mass distrust in institutions and in government, and economic mobility is increasingly hard to achieve. We’re in the midst of a pandemic that doesn’t look like it’s ever going to really end. NFTs feel like a scam, but then again, so does everything.
Becerra appears determined to stick with NFTs, despite having been very publicly scammed. After all, he’s gone to great lengths to get his bored apes back. When he talks about them, he vacillates between speculator and true believer, in one moment saying he plans to sell them if the price gets high enough, in another talking about them with quite a bit of affection.
“I’m not holding this forever. I don’t care about those apes that much, you know?” he said. He knows the hype could fade. Maybe that will take the sudden value of his cartoon monkeys with it; maybe it won’t. However, he considers the apes to be “blue chip” NFTs, a designation that in the stock world would put them on the same level as well-established major corporations such as Apple and Berkshire Hathaway. “That’s why someone like me, who has money, invests only in the blue-chip ones.”
Most of this is probably a bubble
Becerra, who describes himself as a motivational speaker, high-performance coach, and entrepreneur, compares the current moment in crypto to the 1990s. “This is our dot-com boom,” he said. Of course, the dot-com boom ended in a bust.
It’s impossible to look at what’s happening in investing now and not think that that the prices on many of these assets are divorced from their actual worth. The value of random NFTs and cryptocurrencies skyrocket seemingly out of nowhere, sweeping up hundreds and thousands of people in the process. Sometimes, the bubbles burst fast because the investment falls out of fashion or it winds up being a pump-and-dump scheme, where fraudsters are creating a buying frenzy around certain assets only to suddenly dump them and flee. The broader crypto bubble is still inflating.
If NFTs and crypto, as a concept, prevail, it’s unlikely all of the current projects and fads will. Everybody’s hoping they’ve got a golden ticket, or at least a gold-plated ticket, that they can sell before everyone else realizes what they’ve got is a fraud. Some people in the industry acknowledge that most of this stuff is likely to implode.
“The parallels with the dot-com boom are very apt, the reason being that like 99 percent of these coins out there are going to be worth zero in 10 years. But the ones that remain, the companies that remain … those are going to survive and create long-lasting things that change our lives,” said Jim Greco, managing director of crypto trading at Radkl, a digital trading firm. “Amazon survived the dot-com boom.”
If you buy into the idea that a lot of this investing is pretty divorced from reality, then the question is how long this lasts. For now, the music’s still playing, so people are dancing. How long the song keeps going depends on how long the people holding onto the assets can keep singing.
“It’s really incumbent on people who hold these investments to perpetuate their value, whether that’s through evangelizing to other people or by building systems to make it usable and useful and relevant,” Swartz said. “But then in order to realize the value, to translate it into money, you have to sell it.”
If and when the bubble around some of these hyped investments bursts, a lot of people are going to get hurt and lose money. In NFTs, evidence suggests those who are already wealthy and powerful are the ones ruling the roost, just like in the stock market. While there are true believers in crypto projects, so much of it is just speculation, and venture capitalists and hedge funds are more likely to win the speculation game than the little guys caught up in the mania.
Hilary Allen, a law professor at American University who specializes in financial regulation, said the risk around so many speculative and contrived investments on the market is more tied to the potential ripple effects. Essentially, is the current moment the dot-com bubble or the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis?
“If it’s just a dot-com bubble, it sucks for the people who invested,” she said. “But if it’s 2008, then we’re all screwed, even those of us who aren’t investing, and that’s not fair. It really depends on who’s getting into this and how integrated it’s getting with the rest of the financial system.”
Emily writes about the intersection of business, politics, and the economy. She is specifically interested in how people experience the forces of capitalism and money. Prior to joining Vox, Emily covered politics at The Street, including the rise of Donald Trump and the stock market’s reaction to politics and policy. She graduated from Columbia University and resides in Brooklyn, New York.