Harnessing the Power of 'Being Useful'
One of the mantras Arnold Schwarzenegger lived his life by was "Be Useful". His father used to say to him Instead of pissing away your time with stupid arguments, ask yourself if you have improved the world. Ask if you were useful!
This idea of being useful is a crucial part of the mindset of web3 builders and communities. For decentralised protocols and projects to function, you need committed collaborators. People who are there to help each other out and serve a greater purpose.
The Global Settlement Layer
Many builders see the Ethereum network as the internet's global settlement layer. An internet-scale network that can be used to facilitate transactions between anyone, anywhere. This isn't just limited to payments, but any type of digital asset. Be that a currency, utility token, stablecoin or real-world asset.
It's unfortunate that blockchain and web3 has been tarnished by a few bad actors who have seen the technology as nothing more than a platform for scamming users.
One should be asking the question of how is this project or team being useful with the product or service they are providing. Claiming to make people rich is not enough.
If a project or protocol provides a tangible outsize benefit to its users and those who bore real risk benefit from this see an upside is ok. But that benefit needs to be real and impact their everyday lives, not be theoretical.
Real World Application
We have already seen blockchain networks leave their mark across a number of applications, including:
Stablecoin issuance has benefitted millions globally by giving them an easy way to access more stable financial products such as dollars and ETFs.
Decentralised lending protocols and exchanges have allowed people to lend and exchange their assets at competitive rates regardless of where they are located.
NFTs have given new ways for brands and artists to reach their fans directly. It's also provided new revenue opportunities which is especially relevant for artists.
Even within enterprises such as J.P. Morgan, blockchain has been useful in creating new efficiencies for their business.
These are useful services. Not everyone has to be a fan of them. But the builders who have created these services benefit a tangible user base.
How to Start Being Useful
When people start trying to find ways to contribute to the web3 ecosystem, being useful is the best starting point. Whether it's cleaning up documentation or code, or simply helping respond to users on Discord, all of these service are valuable.
These types of contributions have been a significant part of the success of open-source software. However, within the web3 ecosystems, these contributors are often compensated for their work. Many protocols and decentralised applications have grant programs that reward contributors who consistently want to make an impact to projects. Examples include Gitcoin, the Ethereum Foundation and Web3 Foundation. There’s also retroactive public goods funding from Optimism for those who provide a positive impact to the Optimism Collective.
These are just some of the ways in which the usefulness of contributions is recognised, and something that is unique within web3.
Onboarding the Next Wave of Users
In order to onboard the next wave of users to blockchain networks, builders do need to continue to ask themselves how they can be useful to those who aren't currently engaging with this technology.
I don't believe the answer lies with more tokens, but in working on tools to:
Streamline the user experience
Bring more familiar financial assets on-chain such as securities
NFTs by well-known brands (such as Coca Cola has just done).
Using DeFi for real world assets and stablecoins, not just web3 tokens
Bridging the gap between decentralised autonomous organisations and real-world company registries, allowing governments and tax organisations to use blockchain-based structures to simplify reporting and management.
Build Useful Applications Not More Blockchains
The emphasis is on building useful applications. We don't need more faster, optimised base layer blockchains. There are already more than enough. Instead, the great minds already contributing to, and wanting to contribute should be considering how to make these blockchain platforms more useful to everyday people and businesses.
Blockchain is the most significant technology to have been created since the internet. Its reach is global and in the future, it will underpin large swathes of our everyday lives. Its potential impact should not be underestimated.
Useful Infrastructure Product and Services
At Web3 Labs we embrace this mindset in building useful infrastructure products and services. This is spread across the following offerings
Our open-source Web3j library for Ethereum saves Java and Android developers thousands of hours of development time when they want to write applications on Ethereum.
Our Chainlens Explorer provides blockchain users with a user interface to see what activity is taking place on the blockchain and provide easy access to normalised blockchain data. Again, this is incredibly time-consuming data to decode and access yourself if you're working directly with a blockchain network.
We publish useful content. For instance, our Web3 Innovator's Podcast shares conversations with leading voices in the blockchain and web3 communities. Additionally, we provide regular thought leadership on where we're heading with web3, as you are reading here.
The mindset of being useful is universal and applies to all parts of life. But for blockchain networks and decentralised applications to truly thrive, builders and communities have a responsibility to make these networks useful to the widest number of potential users.
If we cannot make the most significant technology, since the internet ,useful to a large part of our society, it won't have fulfilled its potential, and that is why Arnold's words resonate so strongly within web3.
For more inspiration from Arnold Schwarzenegger, I highly recommend all of the following:
His daily email of positive inspiration “Arnold’s Pump Club”
His autobiography "Total Recall"
The classic documentary Pumping Iron