Why your changes aren't working? Try this 4-step process.
Sometimes you have to stop asking why and do the dirty work
Happy Brief Sunday!
The regulators have been busy enforcing or deliberating crypto regulations around the world. In the US, for example, the SEC cracked down on Kraken’s Staking as a Service, and it is reported that the SEC issued a Wells Notice to Paxos regarding BUSD stablecoin issuance. Lastly, the SEC proposed a rule that broadens the scope of assets from securities to all investment assets managed by investment advisers to be held by qualified custodians.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation, a comprehensive crypto framework proposal, is currently being translated into other official languages for the European Parliament. Additionally, the UK government published its crypto consultation paper in February 2023.
That’s all for the crypto regulation recap, and this week’s Brief featured topic is not about crypto or legal. Instead, I thought it may be a good opportunity to share why some changes don’t work and why killing two birds with one stone is not always a good idea. (Hint: You’re likely to get burned out.)
Featured: Why your changes aren’t working? Try this 4-step process.
I thought my writing side project on legal and tech would be easier because I’m inside the fintech industry, so I could kill two birds with one stone, or “eat one fish in many dishes” if you prefer*. However, the downside outweighed the upside when I couldn’t relax from work. I also placed an unnecessary mental burden on my writing process because I feared ruining my professional reputation if I wrote mediocre analyses on crypto regulation. This mental burden made me anxious, and thus I kept changing topics and searching for authorities and references for my Brief, instead of starting to write it.
This Brief, in particular, highlights the problems and my attempted solutions. The full picture of my challenge is to write and publish my Brief every Thursday, to connect with like-minded people while neither getting burned out nor running out of time to do other side projects, such as networking, reading, and learning about smart contracts.
Here, I’d like to introduce Psychologist Paul Watzlawick’s idea about problem solutions and changes. He and his colleagues contended that there are two types of changes: first-order change and second-order change.
To exemplify this distinction in more behavioral terms: a person having a nightmare can do things in his dream—run, hide, fight, scream, jump off a cliff, etc.—but no change from any one of these behaviors to another would ever terminate the nightmare. We shall henceforth refer to this kind of change as first-order change. The one way out of a dream involves a change from dreaming to waking. Waking, obviously, is no longer a part of the dream, but a change to an altogether different state. This kind of change will from now on be referred to as second-order change. Second-order change is thus change of change—the very phenomenon whose existence Aristotle denied so categorically.
From “Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution”
In the book he also depicted a 4-step problem-solving process:
1) a clear definition of the problem in concrete terms;
2) an investigation of the solutions attempted so far;
3) a clear definition of the concrete change to be achieved;
4) the formulation and implementation of a plan to produce this change.
I hope the book’s framework can help solve my writing anxiety, and my application of it to my case can shed light on yours as well.
So, here comes step 1: my concrete problem is to complete my Brief within 4 hours while overcoming any emotional or mental burdens from writing, in order to publish it on time without taking time away from my other side projects.
Step 2: I attempted to limit my time on each Brief; I attempted to change topics frequently or resist changing topics (and gave in at the last minute); I attempted to write on topics other than tech and law. All of these attempts were first-order changes and do not solve my problem.
Step 3: Spend 15-30 minutes but no more than 1 hour writing each day in the morning before work and confirm the topic by Tuesday noon, in order to make progress on the Brief without getting burned out or running out of time for other side projects.
Step 4: Formulation and implementation of my plan. Go to bed before 11 pm. Get up at 6 am and warm up with only one thought in mind: go writing. Also, mentally prepare for failure and stay motivated and resilient.
In short, I hope my experience with tackling this writing challenge has been helpful to you. By applying Watzlawick’s problem-solving framework, I developed a concrete plan of action to address it. Finally, instead of focusing on why and causation, the change of change (second-order change) reminds us of what we can do now and highlights underlying emotional baggage that holds us back.
* “one fish in multiple dishes” is the literal translation of 一魚多吃 from Chinese to English. This phrase refers to a cooking style in Taiwanese cuisine where a single fish is prepared and served in multiple dishes or soups, allowing diners to enjoy different flavors and textures while minimizing food waste. The phrase is also used figuratively to express the idea of achieving multiple goals or benefits with a single action or effort.
One Question This Week:
How can you change the way you approach a problem if your attempts to overcome it have been unsuccessful?
Stay safe and sharp,
Disclaimer: Not legal advice. You can see the full disclaimer & disclosure here.
Credit: Originating from my crypto regulation recap and my writing challenges, this Brief was reviewed and edited by ChatGPT.