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This is an opinion editorial by Justin Ragland, co-organizer of Rocket City Bitcoin.

It all started with the bitcoin crash of 2017. My initial thought was, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

All the money I put into bitcoin the previous year had dropped by 80%. I was slowly watching my exit strategy and newfound wealth dwindle before my eyes. What I thought was one of the most significant investments I ever made turned into one of my worst nightmares in the blink of an eye. After days of disbelief, I began a journey to figure out what this bitcoin thing was and how I could make the most out of what the crash left me.

I’m originally from Rocket City (aka Huntsville, Alabama) — where the main risks are related to whether or not you're an Alabama or Auburn fan and gauging who to disclose that information to — but here I was faced with the most challenging question all new Bitcoiners are faced with: Do I sell now? I know the people reading this are probably screaming, “Hell no!” but back in 2017, it looked like a no-brainer. This is partly why I’m passionate about teaching Bitcoin newbies because I've been there before. Being a newbie myself, I researched and purchased almost everything with bitcoin just so I could learn.

I read “The Internet Of Money” by Andreas M. Antonopoulos, watched tons of YouTube videos and listened to the “Tales From The Crypt” podcast, among other things my wife still hasn't forgiven me for. However, reading “The Bitcoin Standard” by Saifedean Ammous was when I was fully orange-pilled. My fascination and discovery turned into full-on Bitcoin evangelism to family, friends, strangers at the grocery store and anybody who would listen. Surprisingly, nearly everyone I spoke with listened and they're still thanking me for introducing them to the hardest money ever.

I was dubbed the “bitcoin guy” in my family and circle of influence. Fast forward to the 2020 bull run. I was bombarded with phone calls, texts and DMs from those who didn’t listen to my soapbox messages. As time passed, I started to think of the best way to get all of these people together so I didn't have to have the same conversation multiple times. I took to Twitter to see what some of my favorite podcasters and authors were discussing and I discovered #BitcoinTwitter. It was like the movie “Ready Player One” — full of quirkiness, individuality, inside jokes, shitposting and trolling. I found myself scrolling for hours, unable to retweet or respond because this was my first foray into the Twitterverse.

I found out about a Bitcoin meetup in Nashville, but waited a couple of months to attend because I wasn't sure what to expect. Here I was, the “bitcoin guy,” but no one else knew it outside of my circle. I had to change that, but I didn't know where to begin.

When I finally decided to attend the meetup, I just wanted to see what it would look like to teach others about Bitcoin and potentially connect with other Bitcoiners. I had no idea that this meetup would catapult my journey and give me the new nickname of “The Connector” by my friend who runs the Asheville meetup.

Stepping out on faith and trusting God led me to this meetup. God and my newfound Bitcoin family have been extremely good to me. I cultivated relationships with other meetup organizers and shared my ideas and vision with them and was invited to a two-day conference in Austin, Texas hosted at Pleb Lab. My time there was eye-opening and their attention to detail floored me. They have a formula that works and I was honored to learn from them. From walking the streets of Austin to walking into the biggest conference I've ever attended which seemed like luck to me at the time, but I believe it was bigger than that, it was truly God's favor.

The Bitcoin 2022 conference was beyond anything I could imagine. Attending it solidified my interest and goal of working in the Bitcoin space. It exposed me to some of the most brilliant people across the world that share the same hunger for creating careers, orange-pilling and changing the lives of everyday people. When I wasn't at the conference, my time was spent at an Airbnb that housed me and other Bitcoiners. We could've easily had a reality TV series with all of the personalities, conversations, brainstorming and food choices. My relationships with each of those individuals have evolved and I am forever grateful for that bonding time and experience.

Everything came full circle when I got a chance to volunteer at the meetup booth during the conference. Back in 2014, it was a “Bitcoin Magazine” that sat on a stand at a local brewery that stood out to me. I had no idea what it was, so I picked it up and began reading it. On this journey, it’s crucial to remember faith and the reason you started on the Bitcoin path. For some, it’s for gains or a hedge against inflation, for others, it's having “F you money.” For me, it’s those things and a chance for everyone to have freedom and sovereignty that would not be realized in today’s world without Bitcoin. I eventually met another local Bitcoiner and we agreed that we needed to start our own meetup in Rocket City.

The Rocket City Bitcoin Meetup was the first step, but I had to join the Twittersphere. I had no idea how to be interesting, so I decided to be interested. Interested in what others were doing, saying, selling or starting. I noticed people; if one person needed the thing that someone else was offering, I connected them. Involving others and experiencing this journey together is something I’m committed to and passionate about.

I urge any plebs to orange-pill their families, friends and social circles. Begin the conversation with them in a way that they’re able to understand and don’t give up. They want to know why you’re passionate about Bitcoin. Take your commitment a step further and organize a meetup or attend one in your neighboring cities. Your community support will go a long way. To those who are interested in Bitcoin but have no idea where to start, I suggest reading the books mentioned earlier and attend a local Bitcoin meetup. Ask questions, gain an understanding and build a community. Newbies miss out on opportunities because it seems difficult to follow along, but if you ask questions and seek an understanding, you’ll walk away empowered instead of discouraged.

Being interested in others is how I started this journey. I’ve made fantastic friendships and met incredible mentors along the way. With their guidance, I’ve grown my local meetup and network. And I'm just getting started.

I'd like to personally thank God, the Rocket City Bitcoin Meetup Members and my co-organizer, my closest friends and mentors, my Austin Bitcoin family — especially Pleb Lab — the Nashville Meetup organizers and members, and my Ohio Bitcoin family. Special thanks to Car Gonzales for pushing me out of my comfort zone and inspiring me to write this article and Texas Slim for telling me, “I don't have to ask for permission.”

This is a guest post by Justin Ragland. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.