On Ferality And The Hunt For Free Alpha

I read this article, On Going Feral, a while back from @vgr which spoke on the process of “going feral” when you begin to work from home. This article has resonated with me more than any article or book has in a while.

The basic premise revolves around the concept of ferality. With domesticated animals, most notably cats and pigs, when they leave the house, they revert back to their wild state. Pigs grow tusks, they get hairier, they become vicious and lose any semblance of domestication, very quickly. Similarly, when you enter the world of “working from home,” the socialization mechanism that was previously at play, loses its grip on you. Much like the cat, the human domesticated itself. Our nine-to-fives are there to maintain social pressure. It is a reminder to maintain a structured life, to shave, to shower daily. It is social pressure to use the right words, to keep up with the correct ideas, and maintain the proper rituals. Once you’re freed from the tyranny of the majority, you revert back to your feral self.

I have recently decided to never go back to the nine-to-five grind and to make my way in crypto. Since the space hasn’t completely come together yet, this amounts to a lot of time that is spent on Twitter growing my following, talking to people in discords, and trying to sift free alpha from the undercurrent of /biz/. It is a zero-sum environment where the hours spent grinding in front of the blue glow of the computer screen is what will differentiate the victors from the bagholders.

The more time you spend on your own, hacking away at your computer, the more the rhythm felt by the masses is lost; the more you forget that “time” is real; the more your sleep habits begin to cycle on their own accord. The cue for bed is the crack of dawn, waking only due to the heat of midday disrupting your REM sleep. Your beard begins to grow like the mane of a wild boar. When you’re forced to leave the safety of your home, you’re surprised by how clean cut everyone is. Only then do you remember you’re secluded.

Interestingly, I rarely feel a twinge of loneliness. I’m so preoccupied with each tick of the crypto chart, each refresh of Discord, and each notification on Twitter that I genuinely don’t feel at a loss for social interaction. Couple this with the occasional Tinder date (…or hookup), and you have yourself a bustling social life. In fact, it’s almost too much. Whenever I’m out on a date, I often find myself staring off into space considering plans and backup plans with how to attack the market. I am thrilled each time she takes a sip of alcohol hoping that her tiny female bladder begins to work in my favor– so that I can check the charts. Without fail, the market makes massive moves while I’m on the date, but fortunately, the take profits and stops are set so that I can rake in that delicious alpha.

What has also shocked me is how much more attractive I seemingly am to women now that I don’t go out every day. It’s odd. Even though I am technically involved with finance, just like every shmuck out here in The City, I am still an anomaly. I don’t wear a suit, my beard is unkempt, and while I wear boatshoes without socks, something is “off.” When asked about where I went to school, I don’t respond with “a school in Boston” (the not-so-subtle, but often used code for Harvard). When asked what I do, I don’t respond, “I work in a bank (which is code for Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs). Instead, I make self-deprecating jokes about how I sit inside willingly staring at markets for 12 to 16 hours a day. Upon reflection, I realize that while my beard is overgrown, I still speak in the same codified lingo found in any elite social sphere. The day-to-day grind feels far more like play than work, but there’s no doubt that we are on the ground floor of what will be considered in hindsight as an elite “profession.”

The word profession seems incredibly out of place in this context. Nothing about “professional life” that I’ve been taught is at play here. Until, amidst the memery, someone posts a detailed analysis of a new shitcoin, or someone talks about the patch they made to the crypto-specific market indicator they programmed; optimized with xyz backtest of market data. Then you begin to see what this really is, it’s the same as any other workplace without the facade of busywork. The same social rankings present in the proper corporation exist here, but instead of explicitly kissing your boss’ ass in order for them to bequeath to you the responsibility of a better role, it’s found in your diligent research into market mechanics or development. You’ll know you’ve been promoted when you’re pulled further into the inner circle. No one would call themselves the inner circle, but it’s pretty clear. Social organization is built into our DNA. Domesticity aside, it’s all tribal politics.

When I question whether I’ve made the correct decision to go full force into crypto, I am faced with a conversation of risk. What happens if we enter another bear market? What if I have a string of bad trades with horrible risk management and I lose all of my capital? What happens if my stop doesn’t hit on a cross leverage position and I’m liquidated despite “following the rules (this has happened to me by the way and it fucking sucks)?” This is the noise that constantly rattles in my mind. Then I’m brought back to the concept of ferality.

When the domesticated animal which is used to regularly scheduled meals, is “put out,” their being reverts back to its primal nature. They stop being the risk-averse weakling they once were and they become the kind of animal that can survive in Nature. Their pell gets fuller, their eyes begin to burn with the intensity of a beast, and they become a part of Nature. Do we look at the lion and feel bad that it has to hunt? Do we consider primordial man to be at a loss because he has to wake up in the morning and hunt the wild beast? We know that Man can hunt Beast because we are here.

The alleged risk of quitting your job and doing something that you love is far less than the risk present in the cage of “stability.” As Nassim Taleb once said, “the two most addictive substances are heroin and a steady paycheck.” As anyone who’s ever been fired can attest: as an employee, you are at your boss’ whim. You have a built-in ceiling for growth and coupled with “lifestyle creep,” you are in wage slavery. You need to keep working to afford the lifestyle afforded to you because you are working. What’s worse is, as you ascend the hierarchy, you are put in a precarious situation, there are not that many positions at the top. If you for some reason you underperform–or are caught in the crossfires of the current social zeitgeist, you will likely not find another position. Since every ship needs its captain, there are not many high-level openings, but even if there were, why would they hire you when they can pull someone from their own company?

The “safe” decision is to take the initial lifestyle decrease and begin grinding away in the wild. Learn how to survive on your own. Risk hunger, risk shame, risk social stigma on your quest to thrive. I can speak only anecdotally, but the depression that I felt daily in a job that I hated has dissipated. I have never felt more alive than I do now, but the remnants of domesticity still ring. I still question whether or not I’ve made the right decision. Of course I do, and I imagine you will too. The regularity has been removed and you can no longer know what to expect. The wilderness can be scary on your own. There’s no one telling you what to do and there’s no “manual” about how to survive. You need a hunting party.

The second I made the switch to trading and working in crypto for a living, I started to spend countless hours on Crypto Twitter and within Architects. I found the digital tribe that I belong to. I’ve joined the vanguard, hunting the plains of the internet in search of alpha. I have filled the void of depression with purpose. I am putting myself and my capital on the line daily to play infinite zero-sum games. Every day, I wake up and look for inefficiencies in the market to exploit. Every day I wake up and make jokes with my hunting party with my life on the line.

Sometimes, sure people dump their bags on you, but that is a valuable learning experience. As you sleep soundly, your mind carves out the neural pathways that will recognize this mistake next time. The built in pattern recognition engine finally has something to do outside of the monotony of industrial labor. Your brain can work the way it was meant to work: divining tracks from the noise, on the hunt for the beast that is alpha.

This is why I laugh when people make the absurd claim that “TA doesn’t work.” Of course it works! Would you say to a hunter who looks at the mess of animal tracks on the ground that “tracking animals doesn’t work?” You would never make such a claim. TA is the same game. You’re looking for patterns that the herd will pick up on so that you can take advantage. The more candles you look at, the more you traverse the order books, the more you will begin to see patterns that emerge from the noise.

I’m going to end this convoluted extended metaphor with this*:

Alan Watts once proposed a thought experiment. Let’s suppose you had the power to dream any dream that you wanted to dream, and in this dream, you had the power to dream 75 years of time–or any length of time you wanted to have. You would naturally, over the course of this dream fulfill all of your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. After several nights of pleasure, you would say to yourself, “wow, that was pretty great, but now, let’s have a surprise. Let’s have a dream that isn’t under control. Where something will happen to me, but I don’t know what it will be.” Then you’ll come out of that dream, like “wow, that was a close shave!” Then you would get more and more adventurous, make further and further gambles as to what you would dream. Then finally, you would dream where you are now, you would dream of living the life you were actually living today.

It’s time to go hunting.

*An even further convoluted, extended metaphor.

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