The shrill ringing echoed across the fairway as Bill went into his back swing. He swung through and watched his drive go straight and true down the fairway.
“Damn, that worked!” Bill said, walking back to the cart in his matching branded golf shirt and pants. Older than me by 10 years he had the easy athleticism of someone 20 years younger.
“That helped more than this club.” He threw his custom made Calloway driver in his bag.
“I told you, sometimes, you need a distraction to break a habit. Gives you something else to focus on.” I said.
“Do you want me to try it with you?” Bill asked
“No, distraction is not my problem, ability is!” I swung hard from the tee box and watched my golf ball take a right turn and fly off into the trees.
Bill and I got back into the cart and headed down the center of the fairway. Meeting every Tuesday morning for golf, I appreciate the chance to connect with a friend, Bill likes being away from his work, the game itself is secondary. We have an agreement that we don’t chase our miss-hits, less to worry about, and makes the game go faster.
Bill continued his earlier conversation. “So I told him, he needs to take more time off to spend with his family, the work will always be there.” Bill said, driving the cart on the path along the vibrant green fairway. We had the course mostly to ourselves as usual.
“Your son-in-law works at your company. The only work he has to do is kiss your ass.”
“Well, he can do less of it.” Bill muttered.
“You are shouting into the wind, all these kids want to make their fortune, because money is a symbol of success. How can you communicate to him what is really important, when he won't listen? But from all you have told me he is a good kid, and takes care of his family. Now my son-in-law, the one married to Julie-Ann, he is a piece of work. Cliff. Just saying his name gets me going. Cliff came out to California like it was the next gold rush, thinking he is going to make it rich in the magical Silicon Valley. He wanted to make money out of thin air. He is one of those Tech-Bros’s; has the beard and the man-bun, drives the fancy electric car and wears patagonia jackets. He is always trying to optimize himself, which really means he pays people to do the work he could do himself. And is in debt up to his ears.”
“Is this a good spot for the drop?” Bill asks, pointing at the grass.
“Um, a little closer so I can use my 9-iron. I just got a new one I want to try out.”
Bill guns the golf cart.
“Cliff has never met a get-rich-quick scheme he didn't fall for.” I continued. “Except he calls them start-ups, and that makes it OK. I have told him that wealth is not money in the bank, true wealth is good health, good friends and time spent with his family. But he is young, what does he know?” I said.
“I didn’t figure that out until I was 50.” Bill commented.
“Every business he has worked for, and every investment he has put money into, has lost it all. Back in the mid 2000’s, when my daughter met him, he had four houses, all NINJA loans, remember those? No Income, No Job, no Assets. I thought he had something going. Personable, he will talk your ear off, but only if he thinks he can get something from you. He is rude to every service person he meets, and gives pitiful tips. The housing crisis bankrupted him for the first time, and after the foreclosures they ended up living with me.”
Bill and I got out of the cart to hit from the fairway.
“He hears about some new tech, some app to shortcut his way to fortune, and the dollar just flies out of his hand. My favorite was the ‘Places I've Pooped’ app. Picture a travel map, but worse. He got investors to drop a million dollars on that one, and then lost it all. Or the Scrabble app, Word Tools, that listed every two and three letter word combinations. I actually used that one, but who plays Scrabble? Then it was the e-commerce startup, Wish.com. Except he didn't want to do any work, other people did the coding, other people did the marketing and other people did the books. It turns out his ‘value add’ to the company was just going to lunch on the expense account, so the other partners got together and put him out on his ‘valued ass’.”
My turn to hit, I got out my new 9-iron and gave it a practice swing before I lined up over the ball. I swung as hard as I could and it sailed up, up and then it kept going, 20 yards past the green.
“Got all of that one.” Bill said, as he stood over his own ball.
This time I played Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions’ at full volume.
Bill gave me a dirty look, then he swung, the ball sailed in a perfect parabola, landing just a few feet from the cup.”
"OK, the distractions work!" Bill said.
“No matter what he does he ends up in the same place” I started again. “Flat broke or bankrupt. He is on a Merry Go Round always reaching for the brass ring, and dropping it every time. A nice enough kid, but if he comes around talking about the next big idea, you better keep your wallet locked up.”
“Well what did you do, he doesn't live with you now, right?”
“Let me tell you. Now my daughter, Julie-Ann, is a grown woman and can take care of herself. But, when my grandbaby was born, I had to step in. My granddaughter needs a father with a job! I had to help him break out of this boom and bust lifestyle. So I brought up something I have been working on, crypto currency, and asked if he knew anything about it. You should have seen him, his eyes got big and the wheels started clicking in his head. He went on and on about crypto. Of course, he did not know a thing other than reading 140 characters a time on social media.
I told him I had been looking into it and had a way to create my own Bitcoins. Well that piqued his interest! You might know this Bill, most people buy a crypto-currency like Bitcoin as an investment, or to buy and sell outside of traditional banks. However, you can also ‘mine’ Bitcoins by getting big computers to solve math problems to unlock the coins. Now it takes a lot of money to get the computers and the energy to run the computers, so mining is a capital intensive business. What if there was another way? A way to use a little bit of computing power from lots and lots of computers to solve the math problems, and mine the Bitcoins. That would be a good trick right? Use the computers people keep in their pockets.”
I help up my cell phone.
Bill was ready to tee off again, but stopped and looked back.
“Are you serious, that is a great idea! Why didn't you bring this to me, I might want in on this!”
I nodded. “Cliff was excited too”
“Make money using the computer power from other people’s phones. Is that even possible?” Bill looked at me skeptically.
“I know a guy, a math professor, and I told Cliff we had come up with a way to connect lots of phones, but it required getting close to someone’s phone for a certain amount of time. I had a plan, but I am really not the right guy to pull it off, it really needs someone driven, someone who has passion. At this point in my life, it is not something I could take on.
By that point, Cliff is practically on his knees, begging me to let him in on it. I swore him to secrecy, even had him sign an NDA. I let him know we had hacked into the Uber App, and added some code to it. When a rider was in the car for a certain length of time, at least 10 minutes, the driver’s phone would make the connection to the rider’s phone, and add it to the mining network. However one key to the program is the rider has to give a 5 star recommendation. Key to the whole thing! I started explaining the code behind the 5 star requirement, but Cliff waved me off.
He was all over it, planning it out, his man-bun bobbing around with excitement, his eyes blazing. Now, he came up with some challenges too, notably, not every ride was a 5 star, and it would take a lot of rides to get enough phones connected.
I asked him to close his eyes and imagine the house he was going to buy with his fortune, the vacations he was going to take, the expensive schools he was going to send my granddaughter to. I felt bad using his weakness for money, but I knew he could dream big!
He got so excited he applied right then and there for Uber, and he left me his phone so I could program it. And you know what, that kid who did not know what words 'customer service' meant, he started collecting those 5 star reviews! He was amazing, working every day he could to collect enough riders' phones to get the mining going.
“So, wait, you do have a computer program that can mine Bitcoins through the Uber App?” Bill asked incredulously.
“Come on, that doesn't make any sense. However, I do know a math professor, and I had him program Cliff’s phone so whenever the 5 stars popped up, a little ‘ca-ching’ sound would ring on his phone, and that would trigger a number counter.
“So if he wasn't mining Bitcoins what was he doing?”
“Just like you, he was distracted. He was paying so much attention to the mining operation, he didn’t notice he had a real job. I told you he wanted to make money out of thin air, so every few weeks I cut him a check from the bank account I set up for him to collect his Uber payments.
I called it his bitcoin mining money. It’s working out great, he is putting the work in to earn a living.”
I looked over at Bill, “Come on, let’s skip to the clubhouse and to the important part of the day, lunch!”