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I skim an article about Chinese bamboo. Apparently, once the seed has been sown, you see nothing for about five years, apart from a tiny shoot. All the growth takes place underground, where a complex root system reaching upward and outward is being established. Then, at the end of the fifth year, the bamboo suddenly shoots up to a height of twenty-five meters.

~ Paulo Coelho, Aleph

Learning anything difficult is trusting in a future you cannot see. While you struggle with countless small obstacles, it feels like wandering in the fog. There is only a faint glimmer of sunlight while you take two steps forward, then one step back. Learning is rarely linear. It’s not as simple as putting one brick on top of another. It’s more like building with bricks for a few weeks only to discover the wall is not straight just before it collapses. Then you start building again, only you’re more knowledgeable this time around. This time the wall will reach a little higher.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time learning web development. First HTML/CSS, then a deep dive into JavaScript, then frameworks, Node.js, and finally PHP and WordPress. At points, it seemed like I was always going nowhere. I’d read some article on Medium on functional programming where the author made a clever joke about monads — and mostly feel like the joke was on me. What the hell are monads?

All throughout the journey, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Suddenly, I was able to make some applications. More importantly, the general picture of programming concepts was sinking in. As one thing led to another, I started reading Andreas Antonopoulos’s Mastering Bitcoin book (a masterpiece) and was able to follow his examples. I began to feel like the time spent on learning a programming language was paying off. I could now use it to dig into something that felt huge and vital. I could play around with a blockchain idea as though it was just a Class construction. I could play around with JS libraries for Bitcoin. I could test out hashing algorithms. I actually understood a little of what I was doing with the command line.

The same fundamental learning process continues with blockchain, but also monetary history as I’m studying some dizzying and confusing questions: What is money? What is value?

Little did I know that all those years ago that I was simply preparing for the rabbit hole that has ensnared so many of us.