The Man Who Knew

I am currently reading The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan by Sebastian Mallaby. This excerpt stood out to me:

        Greenspan had spent a year and a half on a report that was destined for some dusty shelf; he had been wise not to invest more energy in it. And yet this non-outcome proved more significant than it appeared, for it anticipated the story of financial reform during Greenspan's Fed tenure. Finance did change in the 1970s, but it was shaped not by the deliberate planning of an expert commission but by market pressures and crises. The fact that Greenspan and his fellow commissioners proposed to phase out Regulation Q did not matter in the end; Regulation Q was neutered anyways as savings flooded in to the new money-market funds, as unregulated dollar bonds multiplied in London, and as the Fed dealt with the panic following Penn Central by scrapping the Regulation Q cap on the interest that banks could pay to attract very large deposits. The pattern was the same in later years. Finance changed dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the change was not dictated by the deliberations of experts; earnest working committees pondered the meaning of the new swaps market or the rise of shadow banks, but Greenspan declined to throw his weight behind their ideas, and their findings failed to alter policy.

        In this tentative approach to his regulatory responsibilities as Fed chairman, Greenspan was perhaps exhibiting a fatalism he had learned under Nixon. The evolution of finance could have huge consequences, to be sure, but efforts to shape it were liable to founder. Technological changes, the exigencies of crises, and money's mulish tendency to find its was around the rules - these forces decided things.

It is worth the time reading about Greenspan and the financial changes during the second half of the 20th century. As the saying goes, "History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes." 

Change: The Three Areas to Make It Happen

For several reasons I decided to make some changes and get back to the fundamentals in the month of July: exercising consistently, eating a healthy diet, spending more time outside and less time on social media, consistent meditation, writing in my journal on a daily basis, reading books every day, zero frivolous spending, and not drinking any alcohol. During the final few days of June I mapped out a specific plan with specific goals on each of these objectives. The next step was to figure out how to make these changes happen.

There are three main ways to change oneself:

  1. Change one’s daily habits or routines.
  2. Change one’s environment.
  3. Change the people one surrounds him or herself with.

Outside of these three change is improbable, if not impossible. In fact, without some combination of all three, it is not likely to happen either. Real and permanent change requires one take deliberate steps in all phases. For example, if I wanted to lose ten pounds, but I kept visiting the same bar (number 2) with the same group of unhealthy friends (number 3), the weight loss would never happen. It might in the short term, and if I have great self-control I might even be able to keep it up for a full year, but ultimately I would revert back to my old self. Point being, significant and lasting change requires not one or two adjustments, but mindful adjustments in three specific aspects of one’s life: one’s daily habits or routines, one’s environment, and the people one spends time with. As Darren Hardy notes in The Compound Effect, “Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference.”