"Don't Go Fishing While Your House is on Fire" and Other Go Proverbs for Bitcoiners

It would be interesting to find out if there are many Go players in the Bitcoin community.  As a casual Go (i.e. Baduk) player, I often find that traditional proverbs on the game's strategy and tactics are applicable to other aspects of life, the world and everything. And that includes Bitcoin.  So I thought I'd share some Go proverbs that may be helpful to other Bitcoiners out there.  Here are nine Go proverbs and some thoughts on their application to Bitcoin.  You can find more Go proverbs over at Sensei's Library.

"If it has a name, know it."

In Go, this of course does not mean that we should just pick up some fancy jargon and start throwing it around. Rather, the idea is that if something is important or common enough to have a name, you should know what that thing is, and study it – whether it is an opening move, a pattern, a trade-off, or a protocol.  One of the more interesting aspects of Bitcoin is that it requires a non-trivial amount of inquiry to gain a basic understanding of what Bitcoin is, how it works and how to use it, let alone how to improve it.  For the average person, there are a lot of new things to learn or understand before you can comfortably and competently navigate the conceptual and practical aspects of Bitcoin, same as on the Go board.  Simply put, this means: do your research and your due diligence!

"Lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible."

There is a significant learning curve to Go, but you can learn all the rules in a few minutes.  You are going to make beginner mistakes (sometimes even the pros make them!).  It is better to make those mistakes quickly, in a low stakes environment, and learn from them.  With respect to Bitcoin, just think of how many people have gotten tripped up by the way in which the original client handles the change from one address when you make a fractional transfer to another!  If only they had tested the waters early on with a small transaction, they wouldn't have been caught off guard when there was more on the line. 

"Play urgent moves before big moves."

In Go, it is a grave error to attack a strong position from a weak base, or to expand to new territory before consolidating your current position.  Build your defenses before you go on the attack.  Planning on buying a bunch of bitcoin? or moving a bunch of currency around? or investing a ton of money in hardware?  Make sure you've got a strong and secure base from which to make your move.  Secure your wallet. 

"Don't go fishing while your house is on fire."

This is a more colorful version of the previous proverb, but the redundancy emphasizes the importance of the lesson.  Make sure your base is covered before taking off on flights of fancy!  Consider also that the study and research advised in the first proverb above are themselves necessary to properly secure your base in practice.

"A rich man should not pick quarrels." 

On the Go board, this means if you find yourself in a strong position with a big lead, don't take needless risks at your opponent's expense or your own.  Others will react violently when their survival is threatened, and you may inadvertently risk your own survival by opening yourself up to attack.

"The greedy do not get success."

This proverb is closely related to the previous one, and again re-enforces the lesson.  The notion of greed is a central concept in the psychology of Go.  Greed can cloud one's judgment and cause an otherwise rational person to make rash decisions or take excessive and needless risk with little forethought.  Don't invest more than you can afford to lose.

"Sacrifice plums for peaches."

In Go, it is not wise to be greedy, but you still have to take profit if you want to come out ahead.  And oftentimes you have to sacrifice something – big or small – to get something more in return, or to get anything at all. 

"Use go to meet friends."

Visit your local go club, meet new people and learn from them, and teach people in your circle of friends.  Check out your local Bitcoin meetup group or start one yourself.

"Don't follow proverbs blindly."


This meta-proverb is one of my favorites.  Don't be rigid in your thinking or in your play.  Always be skeptical and think for yourself!

Any other Go playing Bitcoiners or Bitcoining Go players out there?  What are your favorite Go proverbs?

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