On this episode of Return to Base, we talk to former Army Ranger Alex Brammer.
Alex served as an infantryman in the illustrious 75th Ranger Regiment before transitioning to “the dark side” that is going to West Point and being commissioned as an officer. Alex and I go into great depth about his service in the Rangers and what led him to leave the military.
While transitioning, Alex’s girlfriend saw him struggling with what his next career move would be. Then she said, “Why don’t you work in Bitcoin?” Being obsessed with bitcoin, it seemed obvious but also so unattainable. What the h*ll does it mean to “work in Bitcoin?” Alex tells us how he sorted that out and more on this episode of Return to Base.
If you’d like to connect with Alex, he can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-brammer/
To find out more about Bitcoin, Alex recommends the following:
- “The Bitcoin White Paper”
- The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking
- The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
Return to Base Podcast Ep. #10: Alex Brammer
Hey everybody. Thanks for joining us on the Return to Base podcast. Today, we have an excellent guest: Alex Brammer. He’s a former Army Ranger and is currently the Vice President of Business Development at Luxor mining. Now, that’s not gold; it’s not diamonds or silver, or even lithium. It’s actually Bitcoin, which is a very interesting subject in and of itself.
Alex was able to discover an aptitude and passion for Bitcoin as he was in the Army and towards the end of his career and was able to parlay that into a skill bridge and then ultimately a full-time job offer. It’s going to be a really great discussion about his career in the military, what led him to get medically retired actually, how he discovered Bitcoin and was able to create a career out of that. So thanks for joining us; let’s do this.
This is Victor Lima on RTB.
This is the Returned to Base podcast, a VeteranLife Podcast.
Hey everybody. I’m here with Alex Brammer, former Army Ranger and currently the vice president of a crypto mining firm – Vice President of Business Development at a crypto mining firm. Luxor Mining. Did I get all that right, Alex?
Alex Brammer 01:36
Cool. United States Army Ranger, the illustrious. Not just a guy who wears the tab and been to the school but somebody who was in regiment, right?
Yes, that’s right. Tambourine.
Tambourine, were you there when they had the blackberries?
No, I came in the– I think that transition happened in 01. I came in an 05.
OK, cool. I think the [Inaudible 00:02:02] looked better anyways.
I agree. Yes. Especially at the Desert boots. It’s got a nice match to it.
Yes. One interesting thing about the tambourine. Me– I had never been to Ranger School, never been a regiment, but the– One of my guys– A couple of my guys, I sent down to ranger school when I was a team surgeon and I went down there for the graduation. I swear to God, the first person I saw with a tambourine was a pregnant lady and I was like, oh. I did not realize that everybody wore the tambourine.
What year was that? It had to have been recently.
Yes, it was like– I don’t know 2015 or something like that and it was just a surprise. I just thought that they would wear the marine Bray like the support folks that–
Support guys in group.
Yes, but OK. Anyhow, Yes, how long did you spend in the army?
Just retired. Medically retired after 12 years. I did about four in regiment that I spent an inordinate amount of time in school. I ended up going from regiment, going to West Point and commissioning. Then, did a couple years of grad school on the backside of that and then came back to be an infantry officer. Did time at 82nd and then– That was the– 82nd ones for OIR the ISIS fight, and then came up here to JBLM to be a Stryker company commander right before retirement.
Right on. What do you consider your glory days? Man, you missed those days. It’s like a young soldier in regiment.
Oh, Yes, the glory days are for sure being a fire-team leader in regiment That doesn’t– Being a fire-team leader and regiment in during the surge in Iraq. The first surge in Iraq was about as good as it gets in terms of time on target and just the mission set it was a lot of fun.
What crazy good business development/ sales guy convinced you, “Hey, you know it’d be great. You should– You seem like you’re a good leader and you kind of smart. You should be an officer man. It’s going to [Inaudible 00:04:13].”
It was a bunch of O’s in in Ranger School that like planted the seed.
Oh my God.
And it was like their little campaign throughout all three phases to try and get me to go and I resisted it. Did a couple more deployments and then actually my commander– I was the weapon squad leader and mobility– Basically mobility NCO on the third trip. Oh, do I got to go closer?
Yes, just a little bit closer.
Yes and got back. I got pretty close with the– He was a task force commander in to create an OA. I got pretty close with him. He was a West Point guy and we just talked about it afterwards that turned out to be a pretty good opportunity.
It was mostly about GT score, SAT, stuff like that. He’s like, “Hey, do you want to give this a shot?” Because I was a– I dropped out of high school when I was 14 so I didn’t have a lot of college prospects but then the military– And then West Point, obviously prioritizes getting prior service folks coming in. The more interesting your background is, the more lenient they are on the other stuff and so they looked at my high school transcripts and they compared those to deployment records and they’re like, “OK, we can give this a shot.” And it ended up working out but the crossover to the dark side, definitely derailed a lot of other best laid plans that I had hatched when I was like 20-21 years old but–
NFA man. No fun allowed.
You do it on the paperwork, man. I’m telling you. Everyone’s like, Oh, Yes, being an officer, it’s all paperwork and through PL time, that was– That really wasn’t true.
But then you get up and be– You go to brigade staff and you go into command and your life is just consumable. Things that I used to make fun of officers for. It was a interesting turn of the tables.
Yes. There’s a couple of couple things I want to unpack there.
Number one is, I imagine there’s probably a couple people, maybe some buddies who you told about when you were in regiment and you’re probably like, man, these guys want me to go to West Point and I could imagine one of them like walking out to the PL going, “Hey, sir, I want to go to West Point.” And they’re like, “Shut up, dummy. Get back. Come on dude.” Do you see any of that come on?
Honestly, there’s very few. I mean, you know how it is. I’m sure, it was the same in the teams like most of the guys there. We all loved what we did, especially in those years. Those years were when budgets were super fat and the OPTEMPO was super high and everyone was on kind of the seven and three month rotation.
And it was just a lot of fun. I don’t think– I didn’t see much of that when I was there. I know that it’s increasingly– As the stuff wound down, interacting Afghanistan in the broader Middle East and the deployment schedule started to slow down and authorities and permission started to get ratcheted up to where it wasn’t as much fun on target. I saw a little bit more of that but I don’t think typically.
The guys that self-opt into going to West Point are probably not, they’re naturally– They have the academic background and whatnot and they know it and I think a lot of those guys that are the classic like fire breathing team leaders don’t really crush it about West Point. I don’t think I saw too much knocking on the peels of the access doors, trying to figure out how to go to West Point.
Yes. By the way, do you get any shit from the rangers of the 90s or whatever, because I mean, you never even had to have like a good haircut, right?
Oh, dude, I had– My– I had hair just about this long when I was there and–
Listeners, his hair is long enough. As long as he got a beard. Back in the day, they had the white walls man and the Ranger high and tight.
Yes, that like mentality for some of the older guys, right when I first came in, that was still– There was still a little bit of that and I always– I think to– One thing I would say having been around quite a few different units off and conventional like there is undoubtedly– There’s just a level of discipline in the Ranger Regiment that is unmatched anywhere else that I’ve been and that has persisted. Uniform standards have changed and stuff is gone. Ranger Regiment has gone towards the JSOC route and everything that Big Daddy CAG does they try and that’s going to trickle down in.
Longer hair, different kind of kid, different weapon systems and whatnot, but at the end of the day, I think the strength of regiment is the discipline of the formation and the individuals inside of it and I think that was the thing that stuck out to me most. Long hair or not, that was–
Yes, and I’ll say– I came in the Army in 1998 and there still was that mentality of the people who have known who were regiment but I never forget going to Airborne School in 2002 or something. It’s some of guys tell me some of the stuff that goes on in the barracks and stuff. I was like, What? It was a wild time back in the day on Fort Benning, it sounds like.
That– I’ll never forget showing up to regiment. You get your graduate et and you get your tambourine and the whole the narrative throughout RIP back then. Anyway, I don’t think it’s changed is like, Hey, your hardest day and RIP is easier than your easiest day when you get to battalion and that’s– I think that’s a pretty effective scare tactic but it was like I got to reception battalion here as a PV2 here in Fort Lewis and as the days drew nearer to when I knew that the cat, the folks from 275 were going to come and grab us up and bring us to the compound on the bus.
There was a significant sense of dread that was growing by the day and it was 100% founded like it was the first– I would say the first two weeks were just hell. It’s just and this was back when there was– Hazing was not only allowed but it was incentivized and accepted and the first two weeks were pretty fucking crazy. The other thing that was– Sorry if I can’t– I’m assuming giving the target audience I guess whatever I want.
Yes, we’ll put a content warning, Hey man, to these custom like Rangers.
It was a– That was an interesting and then a week after I got there is when Sergeant Bremen and Sergeant Barraza[sysco 00:10:58] were killed and the whole, you know how it is. Everything goes on lockdown, they go on notification alert process. This was like I showed up at right at the rear at the end of Rudy and back then all the barracks had bars in them.
Every company barracks had a company bar. It was fully stocked and that was like three days of wild grieving and aggressive consumption of mass quantities of alcohol and like we’re all sitting there’s new privates with all these dudes that have deployed over and over with these guys and they’re like, insignificant pain.
Just sitting there being like, Holy fuck, and all the things that, there was no– There wasn’t any weird shit going on. It was all just indoctrination. I guess continuing indoctrination, but it was definitely an eye opening thing to show up to.
Yes, that’s coming in on the back backside of a deployment. It’s kind of like the band of brothers. Right? When they’re back in England and the replacements are there and they’re just like, what do you have that on for?
Your first one who has been on this podcast who actually went through RIP so I always like to hear stuff about trading because it’s just, it’s the worst times and it’s the best of times.
I always say this and for those people that listen regularly, you’ve heard me say that. In training, you just know it sucks and you’re reminded that sucks but now that you’re retired you look back you’re like, man, that did suck but you don’t remember any of the good stuff.
Tell me a little bit about like what happens day one of RIP? You’re fresh out of basic in Airborne School, right? And then some bus comes and it’s full of mean ass dudes who take you somewhere and just abuse you for like–
I thought you said you hadn’t been to RIP?
No, I haven’t. I just heard so much about it.
That is the– Yes, man. I mean, you show up and you go through airborne like I came in with a like a RIP contract. I think I was like an 11x Ray or some something like that. I knew this was on the horizon and you start hearing stories. You get through basic, you make it through basic, get airborne and make it through airborne and then you start to like really, there’s always worldwide kids that got kicked out a RIP that came back.
There’s– You know how Fort Benning is. Just that ecosystem and so you start hearing about it and then the day they pick you up you graduate airborne, go on a weekend pass, they pick you up, they drive a bus down there. That’s the normal thing from there like everyone shoves their bags on the bus, they make you run behind the bus to the actual RIP compound and then it’s RIP.
RIP was just I think mental hardening wasn’t anything else. When I went through, it was four weeks they’ve since increased I believe to eight and they’ve put in a lot of– They do all the advanced marksmanship they do initial like basic demo calls. Now, back when I was going through it was almost entirely physical like there were certain knowledge tests that you had to pass.
I don’t even remember if shot. We might have done from at the backside but like the– Yes, it’s just uniform drills you’re standing out on the– It used to be called the basketball courts which was like this very– Right in front of the main barracks it was surrounded by the blacked out fences with like barbed wire and everything and there was all kinds of like, it looks like kind of Camp Darby-ish with holes and signs and memorials and all that stuff and on the basketball court was where we would form up all the time, and if anything, and there was just a massive amount of vomit and probably some blood on that basketball court after every phase.
I remember a couple funny stories. One, they would do this forced hydration cycles on us and they’d bring us out to the Basketball court. We– You have to run around, you have a robe slung your to court canteens long like there’s this like special RIPpey uniform that you got and they would tell us like, Hey, everyone run around and fill up your two courts. You’ve got 30 seconds. Everyone’s of course late, you get the shit smoked out of you, stand up they’re like, OK, you know drink, and then– You basically down into court you have to hold it above your head to where there’s nothing coming out and they do this over and over and over again and no one really understood what, like hyper hydration was back.
That was not happened yet. Yes, it was just this round robin where we drain it and then we do something else get fucked up for people like probably within the first few iterations people started vomiting and by the end of it, everyone was just kind of vomiting clear water because it was like, you were putting water in your stomach and that was something– That was– It was interested in and then I think the culminating.
The thing I remember most is coal range which is the standard. Any regiment folks that are listening will remember, they take you out to this austere range, it’s just a training area, it’s where they do land nav but they just do– Basically it’s a place to just play head games.
Flagpole, nobody can hear you.
Yes, and it’s– They’ll do things like there’s this sandpit and within about 50 meters there is this big fire pit that the CADRE used and it would be the middle of the night, they’d wake us up, make us put everything on, be running around in concentric circles, opposing concentric circles inside of this pit with our rocks over our heads, doing weird shit like making everyone on the outside put their red lens on, everyone on the inside put their blue lens on and just doing this over and over again. All while they got a big bonfire, they’ve ordered pizzas and the whole thing is just like, hey, guys, as soon as you say the word like you can stop, whatever we’re doing, come over, get warm, get dry, have some pizza, just relax and they’re just trying to weed– They’re trying to weed the quitters out and that was when I say that was like four days are pretty much continuous ops with very little sleep and I’ll never forget the funniest thing that happened.
The thing I’ll never forget, I was– I would always like, they would run you by the chow line and you’d have to pick up like 12 MRIs at a time right? And no, this would last you for the training exercise and I would always trying go and get an angle and try and find like, try and see the labels to get what not because you can’t wrap fuck, right. That’s the No.
You go and this dude named Sergeant Herbert who I will never forget, saw my eyes like trying to scan for the menu and he grabs me and pulls me out of line and he’s like you’re trying to fucking rap fuck and of course I was like, You can’t lie so I get, roger that sergeant and he’s like, OK, cool. Doing wrap fuck all those boxes I want you to pick out 12 egg omelet, MRES and that’s going to be all you eat for the rest of the training cycle.
Yes, I had a continuous flow of egg on MRES, which for anyone that doesn’t know is arguably the worst MRE that has ever been brought to market so it’s– There’s a lot of fun things.
I actually got kidnapped during land. Now, that was something reminiscing so they did like it was battle buddy pairs. We had started Clover leaving to try and find those nightly and now have we split Clover leaving to try and find a point and one of the CADRE like popped out of nowhere you know under nods put his hand over my mouth drugged me out of the woods put me in a truck and like put me in the hot, the range hood right for the next like eight hours they spun the whole class up like there was a dust one and we’re like legitimately like, Yes, you’re you’ve lost one of your classmates.
We are like put them all they’re doing hands across America and I was just all the while just getting the shit smoked out of them about how like, oh, this is a learning point about constantly having your battle buddy with you this that. Then I’m sitting in the shed listening to all this happen just being like, what the fuck this, I can’t play and then I walk out, one of my classmates was just like girl boy from Alabama and three hours into it. He’s like, sorry, I was out there. I think I was close to him and I heard them hogs. I don’t know. The dogs might have got them. [Crosstalk 00:19:39].
There’s this and then they open the door and I like traipse out and it’s just like, everyone’s like holy shit. We thought you were dead man and also fuck you for getting kidnapped because we just got the shit smoked out of us.
Did they feed you?
No. They just took me over.
Yes, another thing that happened to me in seer survival school where, I don’t know, I can’t even remember why but I was singled out as having committed some crime. I was brought up on trumped up charges and they hauled me into a room.
Actually, they hold me in front of everybody, and then hold everybody else into a small room. Naked, everybody was naked and then somebody shot a gun in the air and then they didn’t see me and they put me in some isolation and I think, like there was a shift change. I think they forgot and they didn’t give me any food but I was in a little concrete box for like, it felt like 15 hours is a long time in that school and eventually, the thing opens a little window and guys, one of the cadres and guess, Oh, shit, Yes, you’re still here. That’s not what I mean.
And you’re kind of half racked up. Yes, I’m still here, man.
You got to act like thirsty and hungry. Yes. It’s pretty funny and then when I came back, people were like, man, you missed so much.
Yes, 15 hours it’s here like you can miss a significant amount of things but the boxes for me were so like they put you in– When they put you in the little box and I’m six foot four inch so I’m like crammed into this thing and then I feel them shoving the door to latch it.
Yes, I just immediately passed out like because my head was like low so the district just passed out. I have no idea could have been five minutes, could have been three hours and they– I don’t know if they did this down in McCall, probably do worse things to you down in McCall but at Rucker like they pulled us out of the box and my whole body had gone to sleep and there’s like this psych that comes in and whispers and she says whatever the safe word is and she’s like, Hey your body’s, your whole body is lost circulation. You’re going to be numb for a while. Just lay here and shake it out for and I just laid there went right back to sleep and it was a glorious break.
Yes, people who never served don’t understand that. You can lie down 10 seconds, man. Oh, Yes. Like, oh, it’s time to rack out. Boom. Doesn’t matter where you are, what position you’re in at. Whoa, another little tangent. One of the funniest things, the funniest– Two funny things and I think they happen with the same person.
Anyways, this guy was a Korean American soldier actually know pretty well, but he was in one of the cages that were stacked. They’re out in the middle and they’re like, I don’t know. Dog kennels? Yes, the open bar ones. Right and he had to pee and he was on the top and the guy underneath them who if memory serves me correctly was also Korean.
Oddly enough, anyways, it was just, really just finished man– Just finishing his– I’m sorry, but then later, they had him on a stump or some type of stand and they were telling us to do something and we weren’t doing it right and they made him point his finger at us and go ha ha and that those two things really stood out to me as absolutely hilarious.
Yes, the story I think the closest I came to the relief story they get like, I don’t know. Did they give you the little Folgers cans when you’re in the like, when you’re in the normal size boxes? They got just cans to take a person and you got your like, yes, it was like the robes or whatever we had like the burkas on and I like would sit down like when I knew they weren’t walking around. I would slink down the wall and like sit down and one time I did that and like a full corner of my like robe thing was just dipped in my own urine and the filters can and I’m just standing there like well that’s my role is know what my armpits this this can’t get any worse.
Yes, what I’m about to tell you seems looking back absolutely crazy and disgusting but in those boxes, we didn’t have Folgers skates. It was all tilted downward. You can just pee but I think it would go into a trough or something like that but dudes are like, Hey, man, I have to pee and I don’t know–
There’s like a stream coming right? There’s something that gets worse.
It gets worse. Anyways, what ended up happening is somebody decided all right, and we had these little metal tin bowls that we eat rice. Dude were basically handing the people in the cells, these little tin bowls which everybody was eating out of and they would relieve themselves in and then they would go, I don’t know, but then somebody was like, what do you people? Stupid?
Dude, just pee under the door, man. Yes, I can go on and on about these crazy types of adventures but
Walk down memory road. It was good.
Yes, Memory Lane is always fun to go down man and so back to RIP. Anyways, you’re the RIP. It sucks. It’s torture. Then you have to go to your unit, which is a new guy and by the way, we just lost somebody and by the way, also, you ain’t shit. Yes and if you have a girlfriend, can I meet her? Do you have any sisters? And eventually did you go on deployment pretty quick afterwards?
Six months. I had a full. It’s actually pretty good at a full training cycle as a first and then by the time deployment hit, I was a machine gun team leader and then went on first deployment. This is Baghdad oh six and then came like, went through the all the physical assessments for Ranger School and then went straight from deployment to Ranger School. So I didn’t have the key and regiment is to get your tab as quickly as possible because you start getting fucked with and so I was lucky to go through, I had the full experience of being a private training cycle deployment and then from there I went to be to get the tab.
Yes, and oh, six bad guys assume it didn’t take too long to get your CIB on.
No, I think it was on the– I guess we landed in a lot and got everything situated got our ICUs onto the– I think we’re a sling loading them under a 47 and my squad leader was like, Hey, man, you’re going to be the tail gunner.
This 47– It was like a conventional 47 that had like the 50 on the tail away. Yes and I didn’t get to like we started taking tracer fire over the– I think we were flying over. Did– I’m losing all my geography. It could have been– I’m trying to remember where blood was. Anyway, we were fine. We started taking tracer fire.
Sure, like that and it was kind of intermittent and I remember being like, this is fucking crazy like this. This is like, Oh, my God. Yes. Like, I think I probably was within where I could have engaged but I probably was just too so I didn’t know what I was doing. You know? I mean, I was like, oh my god, this is this is crazy but Yes. That was a cool.
I mean, all three of those deployments were pretty cool. Very kinetic. That was a cool one because we were at the– We were co-located and did some pretty cool joint missions but yes, happened pretty quickly.
Yes and then to me, and then off to Ranger School where hey, by the way, you’re still a dirt bag, right? I don’t care if you’re in regiment.
You’re debt. You’re an extra dirt bag. You’re a definitely. You’re in Ranger School in charge of everything.
That– Well, I mean, thankfully, that was I just looked back on the whole kind of the first couple years in the military. It was very my girlfriend would disagree that this stuck, but it was very humbling. Like, it really does break you down in a lot of ways and in ways I think were really good. Like, Ranger School was a similar thing. I think the toughest thing for about Ranger School is just the uncertainty of weather of how long you’re going to be there. Like I think, and I still need that resume–
You could have been there for like two years.
You just stay. The choice is you either come home with your tab or you get our fast and there are some exit medical stuff but it’s like, they put the fear of God in you. If you don’t go get your shit, you go home, go down the street and that to me was the uncertainty of learning, waiting until the end of every phase to figure out if you got your goal and you’re going on to the next one, and I stand by its dumbass luck. Who gets straight through Ranger School and recycles 10 times like it is, maybe there’s a threshold if you’re recycling too many times, like maybe there’s an issue but for the most part, like you’re going to good patrol and the next guy could get just a horrible Padre shot. I fell asleep.
Do it, you name it man. Like there– Honestly, like there are some teams out there, some RIP teams that just fail everyone and it’s just like, it’s part of the game. It’s like the opposite of yes, the opposite of the golden patrol where they walk you out and put you to sleep and give you candy. There are some teams out there that are just like the enforcers, and you can’t do anything, right and if your number gets called for patrol that day, and that’s the only one that you get for this for the phase you’re just going to recycle. Yes. That’s interesting.
What would you learn in in these first two years something then humility is? I mean, Yes, I don’t experience they can begin, you can think two things. You made it through, obviously, did you make it without recycling? Yes. Nice but you can either walk away thinking, you know, hey, that was good stuff and I’m glad I did it. Or a lot of people walk away like, dude that is so stupid. Oh, what a waste of time.
I think I tend to be, I tend to be pretty optimistic and I also tend to want to look at like, I don’t spend a lot of energy, looking at things in hindsight and I probably put on rose colored glasses more than oral, like gathering things. Yes. Like, I’ll try and highlight the good lessons. Like I went through this process. Kind of on a macro scale during the retirement process of like, there were things from the military that just left a super bad taste in my mouth and then there were a bunch of other things that I’m like, deeply thankful for having been exposed to and gone through and had the opportunity to, you know, to do these things and learn from circumstances and people and I think like the first I look back on the process of coming from being a civilian to being, you know, a tabbed Team Leader and Ranger Regiment and everything that happens in between there, and I honestly wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Yes, I would have changed some of my own behaviors. Like, you know, I was I was a ruffian I think would be one way of putting it like I would do, I would come back from deployments and just do stupid shit. Like I was 20 years old, going 180 miles an hour on a motorcycle and interested and like, it’s the all the normal, like, it’s the normal things that you’d expect 20 year olds that have underdeveloped frontal lobes and are going constantly back and forth to you know, combat, to fight to fight wars, it’s the things that like seem a little bit normal, but they were still like it.
Then it’s like, and it’s new for not necessarily just our generation. Well, it is the bottom line. It is right. The folks who grew up without cell phones in their pockets. Had and then went off to war had a new experience. Yes, OK, Vietnam dudes go in for a year, or whatever. It wasn’t like World War Two in Korea, where they were just there but this idea that a 20 year old with a little bit of money from deployment, has this duty pay in a motorcycle? Who by the way, two weeks ago was told, hey, don’t shoot anything that moves in compound. Yes, you’re in now you’re in Tacoma. Yes o Columbus and expected to behave it’s scary in I think I think we actually came out of it not unscathed but it could it could have been a lot worse.
I agree and I think like you know, as a leader in that organization, like you have to have like it was– I got one of the reasons that I was able to write took the opportunity to go to West Point just full you know, full transparency I’ve got back from my third deployment everything was good and then I went and got arrested you know going 160 race and my girlfriend down i5 like I don’t know like a month after I got back from deployment and west where to go to jail buddy.
No, it was go to West Point or get RFS and go down the street and be at like you know, second ID and like, Thank God I just I count my lucky stars because my chain of command like my first time in Commander, we were fucking solid and we had a great working relationship like they knew that I was, at least like on deployment on target. I wasn’t an idiot and they– We worked together really well and so they went to bat and basically, like, sat on my RFS packet for long enough for me to like square things away, getting into West Point, the commander helped me get into it. It was– I mean, but to the point of regiment has standards, and they uphold them and so it didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter what position I was in what I did unemployment, like, I went out and did some really dumb shit, you know, in my off time that yet on deeper reflection was. I think, just symptomatic of some other, you know, issues but Yes, like, you know, and so we asked these people to put their lives on the line and their young people, like, I think the difference between some of the tier one units is that you have a lot more experience, I think, I think to a certain extent, SF is this way, as well, you have older, more experienced people that have more, they’re more established in life, they’ve got families, they’ve got mortgages, they’ve got all the things that are like tempering for our for our behaviors, but like, as kind of type A adrenaline junkie type of people.
You need some structure around your life to keep you as a as a single dude living in the barracks, got a bunch of disposable income, and all I do is train and go back and forth to work and go back and forth on deployments, there’s not a lot of things that are that are constraining that type of you know, that behavior and you want people that are risk tolerant, that are that are willing to like, put themselves in danger.
The key, I think, is vectoring, that that energy towards productive things and helping to mitigate it when it’s– If you’re, I mean, I just done some I used to do some wild shit skydiving when I was not qualified to do it, like a deer prices physically for those things but it all stems from the same like, and as I’ve gotten older. As I got married, got divorced. I’ve got– I’m now in a committed relationship that’s leading towards another marriage. We’re talking about kids and all these things, financial responsibilities, relationship responsibilities, like those all have really calmed me down in a way that we just can’t expect for a 19 year old kid.
Yes. Same control. Yes, we don’t know human being really possesses that, that ability to, to make life changing choices at that is it’s crazy that they give the give the 18 year olds guns and tell them to go off to war. It’s crazy that they let 18 year olds vote, let’s just be honest but also, I’m not the same.
At the same time, I’m thinking like, hey, you know, 18 year old I’d have a beer man, if he served in the military, you know, and I mean, for anybody who who’s deployed or anybody who hasn’t deployed, here’s, here’s something informative. Nine out of 10 trips, you stop in Europe somewhere, and leave your base in America, normally, you stop and you can’t, you can’t drink it for Lewis or for bedding or wherever you stopped for 12-18 hours in Germany and guess what, the first thing you do is you go to a bar or just shop at if you can’t go anywhere and you just get hammered man.
It says this, like it conditions folks to have that binge mentality of alcohol and I think that’s something that a lot of us character have to eventually learn how to quit, like, oh, well, I am deploying next week, I should get really hammered right now and then when you’re a little bit older, you’re like, I don’t want to feel like shit for three days but a standard so Yes, I want to talk a little bit about your transition but before I do that, the other thing I want to unpack is where you like A Beautiful Mind or a troublemaker at 14 to get to get out of high school at 14.
No, I definitely wasn’t a beautiful mind. I raced I raced motocross, like my sport was motocross as a kid and I and I. By the time I was 14, I was racing nationally. I was like traveling around to live I lived in Arizona, but I’ve traveled to California, Washington, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas.
II was just on the road all the time and I just missed so much school my the first semester of my freshman year, I just missed so much school that the administrator was like hey man, like to my dad was like he’s either got to come to school and like actually be in school, or he’s not going to get like he’s not going to graduate.
My biological father wasn’t paragon of education or valuing those types of things and he was like, fuck it, we’ll just pull him out and for three years, I did this. It was like a homeschooling program where they would just send you a PDF packet and like a couple 100 pages, which was your sister’s work. My dad would just hand me that and be like, here you go. Finish this I would get on like the early Google search engine.
Google my way through this like to finish it, send it back in files essentially, I didn’t go to school for three years and I was just racing dirt bikes. I mean, when I was at that age, it was like the dream, right? Like every kid’s dream is to say, but it definitely has some costs down the line so I definitely don’t advocate for dropping out of out of high school.
Yes, you– I mean, what does that look like on transcripts for like college?
Nothing. I don’t have any. I don’t have a GED.
I was like, dude, let’s take a risk on this guy.
Well, I took the– I mean, I guess so sir. I think I maxed the– I got an unreasonably high score on the LSAT and I think I’m actually a CT so with those things plus three deployments e five coming out of Ranger Regiment they were able to excuse all the like spotty history in the they’re able to excuse not only my spotty high school history but an arrest record as well.
Often from Vietnam and from even World War Two in Korea, the people who you know that affiliate commissions and stuff are people just like you right who pretty smart guys able to perform on the battlefield and they will leave for some reason and I think you need that variety. I mean, you need a bunch of nerds knocking their rings everywhere and wait, let me show you there you go for the listeners at home he is getting up and doing something nice or worse to buy that.
No, I actually, oddly enough man I drank the Cool Aid a little bit there. I really– I’m very thankful for West Point and I think for all the–
I wish I went what a great school and know that yes.
That’s a critical part of it and I think for all the I think that you’re the stereotype of West players coming out and being rigged knockers and being out of touch with reality and entitled that’s all very well deserved and I think it is like– You see there’s all kinds of stuff like there’s a kid right now on social media that just keeps getting torn up because he’s like a second lieutenant butter bar coming out of West Point and but he’s like doing all these like self-promotion on LinkedIn and like these West Point oral history interviews where it’s just its– And that’s like the picture that people have what a West Point officers but oh, Yes, exactly.
Yes, I don’t know if this but Yes, it’s stuff like that, that kind of taints it but at the same on the same token, like my best friends in the world are all from West Point and they’re all like you gravitate. I gravitated towards the lacrosse team, which is not widely regarded as being a house of geniuses. Yes, but what it is a bunch of like blue collar good dudes. You know that work their asses off on the field, they really don’t give a shit about school, and they party. They party insanely hard, even for cadets but they’re all just generally and now they’re all really great guys. Some of them are still in, some of them got out all of them are successful, and they’re all these people and–
I will say my experience with Academy graduates is more positive than negative. I’ve had a couple along the way where I’m like, this dude showing me pictures of his vacation home. Like, bro, just Yes, exactly. Or the others are, are great.
My favorite team leader grew up in Maine and you know, got one of Maine’s slots, I guess that year, and just an interesting guy and we had a really good time on Oda together and now he’s out doing God’s work somewhere else, but he was great dude and he was a West Pointer and as were many other folks that I started with, that I really learned a lot from. So back to back to your transition.
Well, in the story of your life, this is your life. Alex. It’s just really great to dive into what makes you partake in the decisions that people make, but you went to West Point got out of there and we’ve had a conversation before about this, but your experience as a lieutenant and your spirits in the regular army kind of informed your decision to eventually get out, right?
Yes, I mean, I think the chronology there is interesting, like I got out of West Point and instead of going to I Bullock and doing the kind of normal Lieutenant PL, battalion staff PL XO type of thing. I actually went to two years of grad school in the UK and like, took all the experiences before West Point, you don’t really process things at West Point per se, like you start to process I think but I have to process.
You’re like you don’t have time it’s designed that way, right?
You’re not there’s not a lot of reflection that goes on there to other than like purposeful, so like writing, you know, applying to the scholarship programs, all the stuff you have to do some reflection on like, personal statement and your you know, your life narrative but it’s all very much like aimed at like winning the scholarship. So there’s not, frankly, there’s not a lot of real honest introspection that goes on there. It’s very much selling yourself. When I got to the UK I did a year I did a master’s degree, I lived in London for a year and had just an inordinate amount of time. Free time, which was good, but I think that started the ball rolling.
This was at the same time that ISIS invaded western and northern Iraq and when Mosul fell, so Mozilla fell, I believe it was June 2014 and then I started my master’s degree in September and I was supposed to study like economic development and I like did a hard like the fall of Mozilla, like, kick me in the stomach because these were all the these are all EQI guys that we’ve been fighting. Yes, years beforehand that. I started digging into civil conflict, I started digging into a lot of like, irregular warfare stuff academically, you know, focusing a lot around counterinsurgency started digging into like, the politics of civil conflict and all that and then that kind of led me on a direction to I supposed to do an MBA my second year.
Instead, I dropped that and went and did a PhD lived up in Belfast and like, because I had to answer I’ve knowing my, you know, looking in hindsight now, I was just obsessed with this question of like, how the fuck could we let something like this happen? Like, how could we let something like ISIS happen and all the kind of ramifications for that and so I ended up doing this like very solitary year up in Belfast where it was kind of just me and a shitload of books in my computer and like this revolving circle of bottles of bourbon coming in and out of the kitchen to study in insurgencies. You didn’t it was cool. I mean, that’s why I picked it, but you kind of live in it and this is also around the time of the 2016 presidential election.
There’s just a lot going on and Yes, that really having a deep understanding of the process through which we were able to withdraw from Iraq the way that we did, and kind of like really kind of digging deep into the causal chain from kind of invasion, counterinsurgency, the cert like the rise of coin, Petraeus all that stuff, withdraw and then the subsequent you know, reemergence, reemergence of ISIS really shook my confidence in at a political level, I think, policymaking level and then, you know, going over seeing going back over for the ISIS fight as a PL. I was writing as I left Belfast, all but dissertation done.
I was still writing in Charcot, which is a suburb of Mosul when the front like the one that Eastern and Western Fronts were collapsing, so we were basically like double enveloping ISIS for that Old Town fight and it was like six months of really cool, like launch and TOW missiles off of rooftops and shit like that but at night, I would come back and I’d be writing my chapters and the cognitive dissonance could not have been more acute, like I’m like, I’m sending my dues.
One of the guys in our task force got shot up by the IAEA, like, sending people out into do these dangerous things and like, there’s no guarantee that this like my, in my mind, I was like, there’s no guarantee that this is ever going to stick. Right and unfortunately, that that trend continued in Afghanistan recently where that it was born out again, but that really put a sour taste in my mouth, I came back and like kind of stuff that into a closet, if you will, and kept on like went to the career course had all these SFAS packet drops pulled out for marriage reasons and then, I was planning to try and go take the long walk just like everyone else that that has, like seen that side of things but then I got up here and got into I did, I was the chief of plans for a brigade, a conventional Brigade Combat Team and it was like the worst job I’ve ever had in my life. I was deep in depression. I was the unhealthiest I’ve ever been and it was just a horrible experience and that you know and then I went into command thinking that command was going to be much better and I really just solidified
Solidified some things for me in terms of I think it’s helpful the policy for people don’t know officers have a track in you have very small window to put in Nescafe s packet Yes and or any type of packet really if you’re on this train buddy so strap in and it sounds like circumstances circumstance almost did change some things it sound like maybe you would show some different things or whatnot but there you are on this path and you’re not happy.
I was super unhappy and I mean, this was right around the time like my first marriage was falling apart. Like there’s everything was just kind of like man.
Should have told you FAQs?
Yes, it was it was a dark time but I honestly think that, I mean, it’s what triggered me to start getting, start frankly, just going to therapy, like it triggered. A lot of I went through about a year and a half of mental health treatment. After kind of taking a knee or leaving the neck, which I don’t think had I not done that I have like, it’s questionable where I would be today.
Yes, by the end of the track. You mean you decided I left.
I left command. I like eight months into command. I like when I was signing. I was like signing article 15 and I was like, so fucked up in the head and I had this like, moment of clarity and I was like I am I am. Every day like marriage is falling apart. I am like deeply unhappy in this job.
I’m deeply unhappy with the width the everything right? I am not in a position to have like profound like financial and legal impacts on people’s lives like UCMJ authority, shall lightly and I just said that was my like, I just like kind of snapped, I guess and I literally walked up to the battalion commander, my boss, and I was like, Hey, sorry, I need to, like I need to leave command and like, and of course, like the next conversation is with my senior rater, the brigade commander who the both of them were absolutely amazingly supportive, like interesting. I basically said, I gave like a three minute Spiel to my brigade commander, and he looked at me and he was like, you need help? We’re going to Yes, he’s basically like, we’re putting your XO on assumption command orders and
Wow. I mean, you don’t hear that I would have assumed they’d have been like, man, we have this dude on paper. It looks like the golden child and now we got a problem. Get out my office loser but it sounds like they were they were supportive. Were they also part of the root cause? Or was the different these different folks?
No, no, there wasn’t like this was not a there was not one single root cause to this, like the battalion commander brigade commander were fine. Like they’re not you know, the, the unit this is and it’s also it should be noted like this is not you know, really unhealthy units from like, a command climate perspective and I’m going to command climate just like a culture perspective. Culture. Yes. Arey there they’re everywhere right now in the army and the conventional in the field army and this is not a I mean, this is a function of a whole bunch of different things that are coalescing right now like the rise of social media, the empowerment of like, it’s very hard to have like a very disciplined in my opinion, this may be unpopular with some people, but I don’t think you can really have like, a very, very highly disciplined fighting force, without some, like threat of fear or reprisals. Reprisals.
This is why like, I don’t agree, I’d really don’t agree with how far the pendulum has swung on, like hazing policies and stuff like that, like I’m like, I don’t think we should be shoving broomsticks, where they shouldn’t be weird, like the stuff that injures people, like getting yelled at and smoked for an hour early.
Shame goes a long way, man. Yes but now, like, every, you know, and so I was just, I was very unhappy with just a lot of things and this and this all kind of came at a time when there’s just a bunch of stuff in my life, and so but the end result was, you know, the chain of command was incredibly supportive. I got a shitload of treatment that I’ve been needing for a long time and, like I will always, always respect the people that allow that to happen. The army is an institution that set up the processes for that type of mental health support, and I will forever be grateful for
That’s awesome, man. A lot of people get out in similar circumstances and You know, they get a FTA tattoo, and just run their mouth and it’s like, you know, regardless of how you feel about the military, it provides so many people an opportunity to get out of poverty or horrible circumstances, myself included, you know, I have a lifetime. I thank God every day for the army and a person that helped me grow into right but you know, something that you touched on there about culture and units. Massive glad you said that, because it’s something I’ve been trying to like, put my finger on and, again, for people who don’t know, there’s units in the military that people want me to ask you, if you’re a line infantry man, you want to go the 82nd airborne, maybe the 100 and first Yes. If you’re in regiment, where do you want to be? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, everybody, but most people who got a wrench may want to end up at a certain battalion.
Most likely that or, I mean, most of the Go Gators or regiment have dreams to go into take the walk. Yes, like the pinnacle.
But then there’s these units that for decades have been known. I’m not going to say it by name, but you’re just like, oh, man, there’s one in Texas. There’s a big one in Texas where people are here. There’s one there’s one Yes, there’s in there just culturally multiculturally doomed for mediocrity at best and you look at some of the calcium packs I think it’d be FOLLOW US Army WHAT THE FUCK moments on Instagram or whatever you’ll see like they all come from the same units it seems like well.
And I think that there’s a it’s a population question of the population of the units right? Yes, I didn’t understand this like on the front side of it. You know, they made this huge deal of like, you know, Rangers in SF for three time volunteers like they keep going through these gates and I didn’t really have I think a full picture of like how that played out but I but then I went I spent four years in Ranger Regiment I spent you know a year of my appeal like my one year appeal time I was in the 82nd which was like a significant step down in terms of quality of leader quality of unit process all stuff but it’s still like a pretty good still pretty good unit still had some hitters in the in the in the squads like yesterday, too. Yep, got it. Yes. Storied history. Then I got to I got to the Stryker Brigade and–
John’s out to bunch of—
Man it’s– it was a– It’s not to say like it’s not to detract from anyone’s service, but there is a different type of a person that wants to go jump out of an airplane and then go get fucked around with for yes, whatever the selection process is, then there is with people that have just joined the army and are kind of content to content or unable to advance for whatever reason, physical, mental, whatever the case is, and it really, really profoundly impacts the performance level of the unit on a on like a quantitative basis, it really impacts the culture and then you layer on top of all of that political issues that we’re having right now the culture wars that are happening and in the United States, the kind of like trance transfer of power from people in authority to people with smartphones that are kind of like, it’s like the reverse to this.
It’s reverse the flow of I guess, like impact and authority and influence to where, like now, commanders are terrified because they have all these sanctions coming on top of them and oh, by the way, if one of their soldiers takes a video of them doing something or goes to IG from 15 or so to whatever, yes, send it exactly like, put something on what the fuck like brigade commanders are terrified of what the fuck moments because they just air out brigade commanders.
Yes, that’s all of that stuff has really I think, combined. There’s always going to be a much higher performing individual in Safi, that’s on balance but there are things that– Yes, they’re still– There are still shit bags for sure but the proportion of shit bags to hitters is–
Yes, and he say hitters as in pipe-hitters, as in meat eaters as in the opposite of vegetarians and these are all terms that folks use. I mean, OK. I don’t want to discredit anybody service just like you said, the people join the military. We have logisticians, we have signal layers. We have medical staff, Intel, all these things and I like to think that most people join the military, out of a sense of wanting to serve and but having been a former non-combat arms I joined by the way during peacetime shining my boots in like searching my uniform was of utmost importance and it was just like, wow, and you see that now.
OK, so we have some wars, we have some conflicts going on but right now that that, excuse me, the vast majority of the military is born with access to smartphones in our pockets all day and you see it, and all these dumb things are coming back were shifted really doesn’t matter and it’s disguised as a smart discipline or whatever but in the end, it’s just like, your bored. Bored leaders make dumb decisions and bored soldiers make really dumb decisions.
And it’s like the, it’s the classic, like, people like to disparage Millennials for wanting to have a sense of purpose but I think that, you know, the, the perception in the mid-2000s was like, Holy shit, like, we’re we are doing something very meaningful over there like we are, we are correcting like a massive blunder in Iraq, or like, having worked there. There’s foreign progress in Afghanistan, like, we’re helping these people we are protecting the homeland and the and the broader kind of world from Salafi Jihadist terrorism and all this stuff, right and we then we, over the years, we have been proven wrong in those assumptions, just measured by outcomes, right?
All the stuff we can say and we can say we had all the best laid plans and intentions and all this stuff but at the end of the day, Iraq is borderline failed state, Afghanistan is now under control of the very people that we went over there to house. You know, there are more like the dispersion of terrorists and surgeons across ungoverned spaces from, you know, the Middle East in North Africa has only gotten exponentially worse. Yes and America doesn’t seem to be in any better position.
In fact, we seem to be significantly disadvantaged relative to where we were, you know, September 10 2001 and relative to our peer competitors now, and I think when you combine all that, it makes it really difficult. It’s a challenge to keep soldiers engaged in like drinking the Cool Aid and doing the harder, like, it’s such a trope, but like doing the harder right over the easier wrong, right. Yes, training, like squeezing out that one last rap like, you know, gassing yourself on a run, really taking marksmanship seriously. Like trying to advance yourself and, you know, schools and whatnot. Like everyone’s kind of treating the Army as a paycheck right now because I don’t think that the same level of like the feeling of having an impact and having a purpose exists anymore, for reasons that are completely external to the army itself.
Yes. Now leaders, I think, leaders in the army and people that are helping to work through what I’m kind of like comparing as like opposed to Vietnam, Army transition, right. Like, we’re, like a rebuilding transition phase, there’s a responsibility for them to understand these challenges not to like, I believe, I don’t think that we should wish them away. I don’t think that we should make excuses for a while, like everyone in the Army is really hesitant to say anything political, you know, for the whole, like a political chain of command thing but at the end of the day, like we have to acknowledge politics.
Yes, we have to acknowledge what’s going on what’s going on in our country, what’s going on in in, you know, on the global stage, where we fit into that, and how that might be affecting morale because I really think at the end of the day, if you want to boil it down to one word, which I think sometimes gets overused, but as applicable here is we’re just having a morale crisis and that’s what that’s what it felt like to me and in stuff, like, when you’re watching Afghan civilians, falling 500 feet to their death after trying to escape their country in the landing gear of a C 17.
After we had made all kinds of promises that, you know, to the contrary, like that, that is a really, that was a tough day. Yes and I know, a fighting force, a fighting force cannot go through too many major events like that without starting to have some cracks in the facade of morale and kind of, you know, purpose. Yes.
It’s a weird thing. We can say that it’s been. I don’t know, with the exception of Desert Storm. We haven’t really had a big W. Yes, that despite the fact that on the tactical level, we hardly ever have else. Yes, you know, we were never engagement we just The world’s is a complicated place, man, you know and you know, one other thing about the discipline I was looking at is, you know, I pay attention to social media and I watch stuff online, and there’s no respect for authority in this country anymore and the big, no shit is a lot of the people who you see in these videos are the population that’s going to come into the United States military, because they don’t have a lot of options, or they want one money for college one of their life but, you know, they kid who doesn’t comply at a traffic stop is the same kid who’s not going to listen to Platoon.
Sir and so that culture leaks in and I think, as a nation, we have, we have a significant problem that and it’s one thing that makes me nervous about this country about America is just, you know, you do need, you do need some authority out there, and you need to have respect for authority and I think that’s fallen by the wayside.
Yes, let’s talk about your transition, because this is where I think the meat and potatoes of this is you had an interesting transition and you’re I don’t want to call it your come to Jesus moment, or your moment of clarity where that led you to get into the field you’re in. He talked a little bit about that transition and that.
Yes, absolutely. So I started transitioning about a year, about nine months ago, maybe in earnest but some background story. I discovered Bitcoin in 2000. Like when I really discovered it and started getting exposure to it was in 2017, there was like a bull run. That happened there as well. So I remember getting back I got back from Iraq, and actually, my Uber driver told me about it. I had like, heard about it before, but I was like on, you know, post, block, leave whatever and had some time and so I started messing around with it and started like investing in it and I didn’t really understand like, there’s a lot it takes a long time to really fully understand Bitcoin but I understood that the it kept going higher, and I was making a lot of money, at least on paper and then there, it went through this big crash in 2018 and I was like, moving on to doing other things in the army and I kind of forgot about it. I started coming back to it in March of 2020. When the COVID Locked in lockdown start in I, we also our portfolios blow up, right.
If you’re an investor in March 2020, like you were down 50%, probably on that flash crash and then I saw the like, my, my undergrad is in my undergrad trainees in economics and I saw what they were doing with all the stimulus and I was starting to pay attention and simultaneously, I started seeing the bitcoin price rise again, noticeably better. I was like, wait a minute, I think I have some of that and so I went on, it was like just kept on an exchange hot wallet, because I didn’t know what I was doing but then I started like paying more attention to it and so I would spend like half of my mental energy.
As I started considering retirement, or consuming with life after the army would be spending half my time like looking at, you know, I went through the classic like, well, I don’t have any hard skills, I can go be a consultant, I can go try and be you know, an investment banker. There’s like this kind of trend for soft guys to get out and go like straight into private equity or venture capitals to a certain extent.
I started looking at all that and then I transitioned to looking at tech jobs and looking at like Apple and Google and trying to just I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The other half of my time during this time, completely unrelated was just obsessing over Bitcoin, and learning everything I possibly could about it, reading all the papers, reading all the blogs, reading all the articles, research reports, trying to understand the technology, understanding cryptography, understanding money, like you have to start if you really want to understand Bitcoin, like the first place you have to start as understanding money as a technology and so I started doing all that and it came time to really start looking hard at doing the skill bridge internship, which is a lot of folks can help transition out and I was like, agonizing over it and I was, you know, looking at I didn’t know what I was going to do and my girlfriend looked at me and she’s like, Dude, you just need to go work in Bitcoin, like just find a job in Bitcoin, because you’re obsessed with it like you won’t shut up about it until you think about. It’s like–
You’re really going to dinner by He’s Alex. You’re the weird like, she asked that.
You’re the weird crypto guy that always brings this up. You might as well like put your money where your mouth is. I was like, she’s actually right and so I kind of started like, trying to network and like, I didn’t know anyone that worked in the industry, like, it’s really hard to find people, especially back this is what was this like a year ago? I guess it was hard to find people that was–
Was a Bitcoin job.
Yes, and I just started LinkedIn, networking people that people in the network people from school, whatever, just trying to find openings and I and I literally started to realize that I wanted to get into mining specifically because of the function that it plays or the role that it plays in the in the Bitcoin ecosystem and the fact that it bridges between the digital world and the physical world because of all the energy infrastructure, and there’s a physical component to it and so I DM the CEO of Luxor on Twitter, Nick, and it was just like, there was a wild like, I was LinkedIn stalking him and I found out that he raced dirt bikes back, the same time that we raced, and then he was from Colorado and I shot him a note and I was kind of like, Hey, man, I’m looking for any help, any help that you can give me in terms of understanding the industry just would love to chat and pick your brain and, like, attached my CV inside of a Twitter DM, and that’s how I like reached out to this company and within about two weeks, I had gone through interviews with all the founders and then ended up coming on the team and it was just like, it was just kind of a perfectly lucky thing that happened where it was like the right DM got sent to the right person at the right company.
I mean, Luxor is this amazing, you know, amazing company in the space, like, you know, very, very much kind of plugged into the center of all of it and then since then, I did six years as a basically an unpaid intern, you know, on the school bridge, like your army.
Yep. OK. Yes. I was like, damn, that’s a hell of a job six months.
Six months and then came on full time. Once I actually exited the army, but it’s just been this like whirlwind learning experience. Yes and like to think back where I was a year ago in terms of my understanding of Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining, specifically in the industry and kind of the trends and where it’s going. Just, it’s been mind blowing
Great. What’s the first thing they asked you to do as an intern? Besides me, make me coffee, take a turn, oh, fine,
Make money go out, make money, find ways of making money. They literally hired me as like this as the vice president level,, first non-FOUNDING EXECUTIVE hire, and they’re like, just sit and learn as much as you possibly can find what interests you and go out and help us monetize it and so I’ve just had, like, there’s some standard things like we’re a mining pool. I go out and like part of my job is finding miners to connect to our pool and send us the hash rate and we and we do some other things but like, really, I’ve had a blank slate to go out and try new business lines and build like, basically generate revenue. Yes.
For those not myself included, who are experts on Bitcoin, or were just very casual observers, what is mining? And try not to be too technical?
Yes, mining is really just the way that new bitcoin is produced, like new Bitcoins are produced, they’re brought in and really what mining is on the physical side of things, it is a bunch of computers that are designed to do one thing, which is basically guess numbers on this Blockchain, they consume a massive amount of electricity and the more computers are mining on the Blockchain, the more secure the network is.
They serve a security function. It prevents things like double spins and all that stuff and then they arrange miners actually takes a few hours to send me Bitcoin, you would go into whatever Wallet app you use, enter my address, hit send, that transaction would then go into like a waiting line for a miner to come by.
If the miner like the individual miner guesses the right number, and that math problem was talking about like the cryptographic math problem, they then get the ability to assemble all those transactions into a block. So like when you think about Blockchains it’s just blocks of transactions that are you know, contiguous down to the original block on like the main chain and so the miners organize those transactions and propagate them throughout the network and so really the two functions is they secure the network from attacks and produce net new Bitcoin through the consumption of electricity.
This is what this is like. Where proof of work comes in the proof of Work is literally it’s called hashing. It’s each one of these chips, hashing trillions of times a second. You have guessing these numbers, and then that consumes a lot of electricity and then you know, the miner that finds the guesses the right number for that round that block round gets the ability to assemble the transactions as a reward for all of that they get paid out, you know, the new Bitcoin and there’s some nuances there with how pools function, but that’s basically the long and short of it.
Yes, still, is now.
Partially because I don’t have a– I’ve definitely don’t have the greatest elevator pitch for this.
It’s probably the best that there can be. Without getting too metaphoric. Yes, but bitcoin is OK so here’s my understanding of Bitcoin in 30 seconds is Bitcoin is a Blockchain Yes and that thing can be divided billions of ways. Or I can I could own like, point 0002 of a Bitcoin but they don’t make new Bitcoin.
That right so there’s only ever going to be 21 million Bitcoin produced ever and that’s like it’s built into the code so there’s.
Different types of Bitcoin like, there’s Bitcoin and then there’s a Bitcoin called something else and then.
Oh, Food Random Bitcoin. Yes, there’s one is one like crypto currency there’s of which there are 1000s Bitcoin Etherium.
And all that stuff. OK. So Bitcoin and are all these different digital currencies only issued a certain number X amount numbers, I don’t know, like inflation where they like, like the government can’t like flood the Bitcoin market to make it more like make more money.
That’s the primary. Bitcoin is the only one that is programmatically and verifiably constrained to 21 million Bitcoin which means that it is deflationary. Right? So there’s a new Bitcoin right now are being produced. So like 90% of the Bitcoin that’s ever been 9% of Bitcoin that will ever be produced has already been produced as is in circulation or is in storage.
The next 10% will emit over the next 120 or 19 years, I guess, 118 years and there’s a whole like we can, but it’s like it decreases the emission schedule decreases over time, but there’s a hard cap so we know and you can audit the entire Blockchain at your way, you can go onto a block explorer and you can audit every single transaction that has gone back down to the Genesis block, which was January 3 2009.
What this means is and the big selling point for Bitcoin in the context of kind of unconstrained government, money printing and, you know, expansion of the monetary supply, and all the inflation that has come along with that, is that Bitcoin is a hedge against inflation.
Not only is it a hedge against inflation, but it’s a monetary system that cannot be debased. Like there’s no there’s no governing body or decision board or individual that can say we’re going to produce 2 million more Bitcoin because we need to increase the supply and, you know, bail this person out or product provide stimulus for this person and then the other part of it is just like the as a function of it being a certain type of a Blockchain consent, like they’re called consensus protocols.
You can’t like prevent someone from spending Bitcoin, like you can’t censor transactions, I can’t confiscate. Like, I can hold all of my wealth, like, all of my wealth could be on a thumb drive, I mean, I can literally put it would be unwise to do this, but you can hold all of your wealth in Bitcoin on what essentially amounts to a thumb drive, this is a cold storage wallet and there’s no counterparty in between me and my money. So right now, if Chase wanted to, or whatever bank, they could freeze all of our funds and unless you’re holding a shitload of cash in your Safe at Home, like you do not have access to money, there’s significant counterparty risk there, there’s risk of being you know, there’s censorship risk and there’s and there seizure risk.
When you think about this isn’t really all that germane to the conversation United States right now, but in countries where they’re experiencing currency crises and currency collapses, typically what they’ll try and do is they’ll try and enact capital controls first to prevent, you know, wealth from fleeing the country. Right and it’s pretty easy to do like, you can even do it with gold, it’s really hard to transfer like $100,000 worth of gold across a border without being you know, caught.
Even physical custody of other bearer assets is really difficult. Whereas Bitcoin, like I can memorize, I can literally put all my wealth on that thumb drive, memorize 12 or 24 words. Lose Have it stolen, walk across the border naked as a refugee, get to the other side, find a new wallet, put that seed phrase in and recover all of my wealth. So it’s pretty, it’s pretty crazy,
Knocked on the head and never get to see your wealth again.
And you’re fucked. Yes. There’s definitely a, like, personal responsibility aspect of transitioning on to like what we call Bitcoin standard. Like if you are really going to custody your own, they call it holding your own keys. Yes. Like you have to have systems in place to like reduce keyman risk and, you know, there are some attack vectors and some risk vectors there that as well but I mean, overall, like to get back to your initial question, like what makes Bitcoin distinct? is really at its core value proposition is the fact that it can’t be debased?
Yes. Do you know a lot of veterans who are investing in Bitcoin, they probably do because they all probably bug the shit out of you.
Which I’m happy I love it. I love
Like young bucks and savings.
Yes, there’s a lot. I mean, a lot of them are investing. Increasingly, a lot of them are trying to come into the space, through whatever, you know, through whatever routes and that’s like, one of the things I love doing is, you know, connecting folks, connecting good folks coming out of the out of the military, with interesting companies in the crypto space and, you know, full disclosure.
I really only know, I don’t know a lot about all coins I don’t know a lot about like the Solanas and the theorems and stuff of the world, like, it’s pretty much constrained to mining, but I, you know, one of the benefits of being in this job is it’s given me the ability to meet a lot of really interesting people in the space and develop relationships and what I tried to do when I, whenever I get the opportunity is leveraged those to help make introductions for, you know, veterans who I think would be a good fit and to try and get into the space because it is a little bit.
It’s a small space, it’s a pretty kind of insular one to a certain extent and it’s a little bit hard to break into. It’s like not a lot of our normal networking groups kind of overlap there but I really–
Love how you put yourself out there. I could put a LinkedIn and people can bomb you.
Did I don’t mind 100? Yes, Yes. Like, I really don’t mind answering questions like that, you know, it’s I’m not, I’m not just going to pass along and I think everyone that’s listening to this can understand and respect this. Like, I’m not going to just defacto pass on pass like introductions, but I have to meet and chat with anyone that’s interested and if there’s a good fit there, I, I am happy to spend the time to do that.
Yes, and for listeners out there, we’re having this conversation because we, Alex and I are associated through an organization of soft people, mainly pilots, and I just said, Hey, is anybody know anything about Bitcoin? And we would be willing to talk on a podcast and a couple people said, oh, yes, you got to talk to Alex. SO and SO. That being said, Alex is super helpful. I still don’t understand anything but you know, here’s a good question. What if a guy like me is like, this Bitcoin stuff’s interesting. I want to know more about not just investing, but the operations of it. Is there some type of resource out there that you can? What would you recommend?
I think the two books like I think you need to read so first read the white paper, the Bitcoins white paper like manifesto.
Manifesto, by doesn’t exist, yet? Oh, he’s been named.
Yes, he’s been named, but everyone thinks it’s a pseudonym. There’s conspiracy theories about who it is but I think there’s a first go, go pick up a book called The Bitcoins standard by sayfudine. Amos, which is the the most likely very basics, and then buy a book called the ascent of money by Neil Ferguson and there are a variety of, of other resources but the key the key point, the Bitcoin standard is a very easy.
It’s a very easy to read book, it’s non-technical, it describes, kind of it does a little bit of a history of money, and then it describes the technology and then it describes some use cases and whatnot and it’s a it’s it’s pretty helpful, and then to really understand why Bitcoin is valuable, and that’s a key thing. Like you have to understand the intrinsic value of Bitcoin to be able to invest in whether bear markets because the volatility of this asset is just too if you don’t really have like a a strong conviction in your investment thesis for getting for allocating to this asset class, you will get shaken out because you’re going to have days where it dropped 50%. Yes and that’s a that’s–
E s, e and t money? OK, Yes, those are, I think, two good books to read, there’s a million of them, and you’ll start to find. The other thing I’ll do is just get on and listen to as many podcasts as humanly possible. I know pot like Anthony Pompliano is an ex-army guy that’s like, you know, very successful crypto investor. Now it is like a pretty popular podcast, pretty smart guy. Preston pish [phonetic] is actually he runs the investor podcast there’s some of your listeners may have heard of from other channels, ex-army guy used to fly helicopters and is now a very, very successful kind of like leading voice in the Bitcoin community. There’s just a bunch of really good podcast content out there that you can, and you can kind of pick your poison.
If you’re more into the tech side of it, you can listen to that if you’re more into the mining side of it, there’s a whole bunch of podcasts on mining, you just didn’t do investing and you’re just looking for alpha, a bunch of podcasts out there that talk about, you know, just help you talk about, or help you think about investment strategies and kind of risks if you’re into derivatives markets. There’s something out there for everyone but the podcast route is literally how I kind of taught myself or one of the main ways that I taught myself enough to get into the job. That’s another thing I’d say before we close this thing out is if you are going to try and if you do want to enter into this industry, like you have to put in the work first to learn the basics and I say that because there’s a massive influx of people that are trying to break into this industry, and everywhere and you’re competing, there’s no credentials, like there’s they don’t care about what degrees you have, they don’t care about your former jobs. Really what they care about at the end of the day is how knowledgeable are you at a baseline and how long is it going to take to ramp you up to where you are going to be adding value to the company and so the if you can compress that learning curve prior to the interview, you will give yourself a significant leg up relative to folks who think that they’re going to apply, get hired and then learn everything like you got to do the study first.
That was it, man. That’s, that’s it. That’s all great advice. For the book recommendations, and also breaking into the industry. I got one more question and I know, you’re OK for a few minutes. So it seems like correct me if I’m wrong at the base level? The white paper or whatnot, wanted crypto currency to be an actual spending currency and is it now like when it’s like those, you know, silver dollars that go into currency, but people are like, Oh, I’m just going to hold on to them. So nobody’s actually spending it because I you know, my brother knows somebody who I guess famously bought a pizza
With your brother knows the pizza guy, the 10,000 Bitcoins for a pizza
guy, but apparently he works for go rock or rock or something but Yes, like, so? How did that happen? Where it seemed like it had like many things and altruistic Nexus, right, where, hey, we’re going to have this money and you could like send money to your mom down in Guadalajara, and she could buy milk with Bitcoin or whatever but now it seems like it’s to this point like, dude, if you buy a can of milk with Bitcoin, you just spent $1,000.
Yep, though. Yes. So the there is a transition right now, it was designed initially to be a peer to peer trustless payment system, right or currency. Although I think that I think that Satoshi Nakamoto and Hal Finney and the other folks that kind of were conceived of this, like also saw this as a potential, you know, asset class that could be a store of value and, and be investable as well but it was primarily, it was primarily built in response to more in the context of the massive basically the subprime mortgage crisis and in the aftermath there and yes, like, spending day to day like Bitcoin is an asset class does not function very well yet as a transactable currency in the content in the sense that like you, just like you said, like, you could spend it one day and it could be worth, you know, $60,000 a coin, and you could spend it another day and it could be worth 40,000. Like, it makes it really hard to take salaries. Like a lot of us take partial salaries and Bitcoin but they’re all but they’re all denominated in US dollars, like they’re pegged to US dollar. So every month, you get pegged, like the equivalent where that’s starting to change those in layer two solutions.
So the Lightning Network and it’s also it’s cumbersome to transact with like high transaction fees, low transaction throughput, I want to say the last time I looked at the dashboard, it was like seven transactions per second, our cape are executed on that, on that, and now you’re thinking like Visa and MasterCard, you know, transact 1000s and 1000s of transactions are processed 1000s and 1000s of transactions every second around the world and so that has been, that has always been problematic. I will say, the El Salvador’s, you know, declaring it legal tender and like put, you know, forcing their economy to start transacting with Bitcoin in conjunction with the Lightning Network, which is what allows for a lot of these transactions to happen much more seamlessly and quickly, is actually proving out and there’s some problems that are that are, you know, that they’re finding, and we’re working through down there, but it is proving that this thing can actually be a national currency and function and as the, as we move up the adoption curve, and, and price discovery continues, volatility naturally kind of decreases, right and I’m not saying that Bitcoin is not going to be volatile going forward, I think there we are still pretty early on the adoption curve, which suggests an increasing amount of, you know, a considerable amount of volatility going forward but as that kind of smoothest out, and as layer two solutions become more and more robustly built and developed, it will become something that is very, not only will it function well as a currency, but it’ll be far superior to the current financial, like the traditional financial rails that we’re operating on right now as a global finance or global financial system because of how, because of all the characteristics that make Bitcoin great, right, like the, you know, almost near instant financial or near instant settlement, you know, irreversibility of transactions, which there’s actually some issues there as well but I think that the road to currency is still a long one or a road to kind of full blown functioning currency is a long one but right now, it’s a hell of an asset class.
Yes, cool, man. Well, hey, I appreciate you spending all this time with us and going over your, your career and your transition into the civilian world. One of the most interesting careers I can think of, but any parting shots, man?
No, I just– I think happy to chat with anyone that’s interested in kind of learning more about this, because I would not have, I would not be here right now with a bunch of–
He wasn’t Uber driver and your girlfriend?
Yep, my Uber driver, my girlfriend and my commander but, but no, I mean, in all seriousness, like, there’s a lot of people that have helped me to navigate this, and I’m very much happy to pay that forward with anyone that’s interested.
Awesome and as far as transitioning, what bit of advice do you have to people who are getting out now? And, you know, or out there, in between career one, career two.
Yes, take. I think the biggest thing is take the time to really think about what your next career, you have some time, or hopefully, you have some time to really think through what that’s going to be and think through it in the context of what is going to be most fulfilling for you and like, it really just takes it takes some introspection to do that, because the easy button is to go try and you know, Go work at McKinsey, or Goldman Sachs and those are not those are respectable, super prestigious jobs, but for certain people, they aren’t what’s going to make them happy and that certainly would not have been where I would have been happy and it’s only because I sat and really took the time to think about it. So really think about like what’s going to be fulfilling and then the other you know, the other thing I would say is just like assume that you are going to be constantly learning and you know, understand that whatever job that you get into on the outside, like the first job that you get, you know, after you’ve transitioned you’re going to feel like you’re completely lost and then you’re going to have those days where you’re just like holy shit I don’t know what
I’m doing I’ve got I’m in over my head I’m not qualified for this I’m just a grunt from you know, from the military background I’m doing all this crazy shit but that’s like, not only a is a very normal and healthy but it’s also largely not true. Like you are you will get hired at a place where you deserve to be hired and you just got to you know, assume the kind of stance that you’re going to be constantly learning and constantly improving but it will be at least in my case, it’s been really fulfilling so far.
Awesome, man. Well, again, appreciate it and we’ll get your stuff out on the show notes and you heard it you can reach out to Alex might take a couple days to get back to you might even tell you hey man, this is the same for you but sometimes, you know those are some of the best advice is find something different. Now just playing but I appreciate your time man and have a great one.
Absolutely. Thanks, brother.
Alright guys, so that’s rap. Thank you for joining us on The Return to base podcast. That of course was Alex Brammer who gave us the education on Bitcoin crypto currency crypto mining is still way over my head. So if you have any questions or interest in Bitcoins, I encourage you to reach out to him on LinkedIn, which will be in the show notes. It’s really great to hear also about his career, we went into pretty good detail about life in Ranger Regiment, and in a pretty good insight into what that’s like, or at least what it was like, could be different now. I don’t know, there wasn’t regiment, but I want to I want to also thank Alex for really opening up and being honest with us about his career about the challenges that he had and it just goes to show you that looking for help is beneficial, right, if you have some concerns, especially with anxiety or depression, go out there and get some help.
Nothing bad can really come out of it as far as I’m concerned but again, thanks for opening it up. I think that discussions like this are exactly what this podcast is made for is not only to talk about how you transition, the bumps you had in the road, the triumphs or tribulations that you face, but also, you know, the human side of the story about feeling overwhelmed about feeling anxious, not really knowing what’s next. Thank you for that insightful conversation.
Alex, if you haven’t already, please go out there and subscribe to the Return to Base Podcast. Go out and visit us on veteranlife.com where we have a bunch of blog content about what it’s like to be a veteran tips, things like that on veteran services or even good places to live as a veteran. Give us a visit gives a shout like us on LinkedIn and all that good stuff and until next time, have a great day.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our podcast using whatever podcast service you listened to us on. We’d really appreciate it. Visit VeteranLife.com when you get a chance, read some of our blogs, make some comments, and share it with your friends. Until next time! Have a great day.
This is RTB signing off.