Saturday Cup of Joe #105: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter from Detroit

Friends & Colleagues,

SCOJ #105. Last week was the two year anniversary of Saturday Cup of Joe. On Tuesday, I celebrated my two year anniversary at work. Reflecting on the last two years brought me back to how lucky I am. My career, our life in Detroit and even the Saturday Cup of Joe would not be possible without love and support from my wife and my daughter’s mother. When I mentioned an opportunity in Detroit, she was game. When I get obsessed with a new idea and get lost in it, she understands my brand of crazy. When I decide to write a newsletter each week for 2 years, she edits and proofreads it — at least when the draft is finished before 2 a.m.! On road trips (like last weekend when we spent 16 hours in the car to visit my family in PA), she’s the best co-pilot, DJ and snack purveyor. My best friend passed away from cancer at 35, and she’s the rock that helped (and continues to help) make sense of my feelings. Challenging regulator or counterparty at work, she helps me see the objective sense of my argument (or of the other side’s). Thinking I’m invincible, she reminds me that I am not.

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, I’m at a loss for words. Rare, I know. Her role and influence in my life and our daughter’s life is profound and, at the same time, hard to articulate. My curiosity, energy and willingness to take on more (and more) work often makes it hard on her. She always supports my strengths and calls out my weaknesses. I’m so lucky. The adventure continues.

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I was invited to join a new professional networking platform built on blockchain. It’s called Dock.io. Has anyone heard of Dock.io? Is this cutting edge or just another obligation to keep up with? How much do you keep up with social media profiles — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn? Do we need more? Fewer? Our instinct is fewer, I think, but we think of it as more obligatory than valuable/productive. I’ll be thinking more about this in the coming weeks.

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“It’s brave if you make it…” I was watching a show on Starz called Sweetbitter about a 22-year-old in 2006 New York City trying to figure out her future. She starts in the restaurant industry. I didn’t think much of the pilot, but this line stuck out and made it more than worthwhile. The main character, Tess, is applying for a job in a fine dining restaurant. After she explains her uncertainty about her future, the proprietor says of her decision to come to NYC broke and alone: “It’s brave if you make it.” Isn’t that true of every creative endeavor? Every entrepreneurial start? The outcome defines the narrative. Take control of your narrative and define it. What are you working on right now that involves bravery? How will you take control of the narrative this week?

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Belle Isle, Detroit, MI

Detour Detroit: My friend Ashley launched a new kind of journalism. A website devoted to high caliber, thoughtful journalism narrowly focused on one place: Detroit. A news and commentary source for Detroiters by Detroiters. It arrives in your inbox a few times a week and stands alone as a bold statement of what the future looks like. Here’s the link to sign up; I hope you consider following along, whether you live in Detroit or not. Huzzah, Ashley and Kate. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

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HBR from HGR. This week my study partner in law school and in life, Hailey Gallant Rice (HGR), sent a link from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) about How to Give Feedback People Can Actually Use. I highly recommend the article. It created, for me, a helpful cheat sheet or short list of what to remember when giving insightful feedback:

1. Focus on the big-picture. Specific complaints lead to super-specific excuses about what happened in this case or that case.

2. Align with Organizational Values

3. Behavioral and specific when referencing actions.

4. Factual not opinion

5. Both positive and negative

6. Highlight patterns

7. Linked to impact

8. Prioritize the changes

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Hardware store, Detroit, MI, USA

Surprise of the week: This week we watched The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling on HBO. Have you seen it? You don’t have to be a comedy fan or a Garry Shandling fan to enjoy this documentary. The documentary is about comedy and Garry, but more than that it’s about how you find joy and fulfillment in who you are and what you do.

The documentary is in two parts. The first part focuses on Garry’s journey to embrace his own voice and his own dream. It’s fascinating to watch someone go through the tension of pursuing the ultimate dream. Garry pursues stand-up stardom and success. Part 2 is focused on Garry, the man, struggling with success and trying to make sense of it. I found it profound and valuable. Raising questions of connection, trust and talent, the documentary is long but well worth your time. If you struggle with creativity, big dreams, irrational dreams or how to find balance in the big leagues of entertainment, business or law, check it out. There’s something for everyone in this one.

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Delegate outcomes not activities. My takeaway? “Delegate your team the thinking as well as the doing.” That’s what I’ll be working on with my team(s).

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Baby carrots. I ate a bunch of baby carrots over the weekend, and somewhere in the recesses of my mind it reminded me of the story of baby carrots. It’s really one of those great marketing moves and, for me, is a reminder of how we all should be thinking all the time. Consumers only want carrots that look like the cartoon carrots that Bugs Bunny eats and not the craggly and deformed shapes that define most carrots. For many years, apparently the 50s-80s, carrot farmers were forced to turn the rejects into animal feed or juice or what have you. In the late 80s, Mike Yurosek figured out a way to shave down the reject carrots into consumer-friendly carrots. And baby carrots were born. Turning a rejected good into a profitable product. Genius move, Mike. What do you have in your business or in your organization that you’re currently throwing away that might be valuable? Let’s channel the baby carrot story to find value in overlooked places.

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The future in Detroit.

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Words: A reoccurring theme of Saturday Cup of Joe is words. Word choice. It’s one of my favorite things. When I stumbled on, “99 Words That Matter” I couldn’t resist the (click)bait. I highlighted 7 words, but feel free to check out the list and choose your own. It’s worth it. Here are my highlights:

Wabi-sabi — One of my favorite concepts. The character and authenticity of having experienced a thing. Finding love and joy in the “lived-in quality” of something.

lissome — A totally new word to me. It means agile, nimble and graceful.

festoon — A word that I always associate with Wild Bill from Gangs of New York. Well used.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis — The longest word in the English language (46). Special to me because my grandfather, Daniel W. Potter, used to tell me this answer to a trivia question. In case you were wondering, it means the lung disease caused by inhaling volcanic ash.

marplot — The word I’m going to start using. Apparently it’s “a fancy way of saying Debbie-downer.” One who spoils the plot. A spoiler.

Iconoclast — A goal. A dream. Someone who attacks beliefs, institutions and conventional wisdom.

grok — Apparently, another way to say it, “understand well.”

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Valuable lessons: Melody Wilding writes “3 ways to outsmart imposter syndrome.” I found it helpful because imposter syndrome is both real and a placeholder for the insecurity that we all feel. So what does that mean? It means that you don’t have to identify with “imposter syndrome” to follow this process. Any time you feel fear and doubt, the steps are 1). Go on offense 2). Do not minimize or accept minimizing language 3). Welcome praise. Honest observation, articulation, no ego.

“Leave it at that.”

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Learning to golf…

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“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.”

- Teddy Roosevelt

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Do not add people to feel safer. Seth Godin, the marketing guru, blogs on a daily basis. Recently he wrote about the “productivity myth” when organizations or companies increase size and people to offset risk, or at least the feeling of risk. In other words, as we become successful and grow, the natural inclination is to add people. Have you felt that? Stop and ask “why”? Is it actually good for our business? In some businesses it may be, but in others, particularly those that require creativity, it may not. Do not just add people because a manager requests a new position. Question why and look at whether it will provide what you think it will provide.

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Reading Farnam Street this week, I came across an article about “cognitive inertia”, which is the mindset that favors the status quo. The cognitive inertia stuff feels true and is worth noting. More than that, though, I wanted to highlight the fact that the author selected choosing a new bank as the thing most people do not change. Implicit in the example is a perception that no one likes their bank. Is that true? Do we know? I tend to think banks struggle with consumer loyalty, but maybe not if no one ever leaves. How do you measure customer loyalty / satisfaction? How do you know if your customers like your service or are subject to cognitive inertia? In the end, does it matter?

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How do you know whom to trust? How do you win other’s trust? The New York Times published an interesting post on the subconscious aspects of trust. The science seems to indicate that trust is as much experience as substance. This makes sense, but I never thought of it before. The author writes, “Put another way, ‘Whom we trust is not only a reflection of who is trustworthy, but also a reflection of who we are,’ researchers wrote in a 2011 study that examined how our unconscious biases affect which people we choose to trust.” This leads me to wonder — is my trust misplaced? If so, how would I know? What can I use as a trigger to remind myself to ask if my trust is well founded? By bringing the experiential bias to the conscious mind, we can take a moment and ask key questions to confirm that we’re making the right choice to trust.

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Today’s thought: Think but don’t overthink. So much of life requires thoughtfulness, yet I think many of us would agree that it is easy to quickly fall into overthinking almost everything. I thought of this several times this week. Everything from when and how you send an email to what you wear to work. Everything we do requires thought and intention, but the key is to quickly cut it off. We must proofread and review important emails before sending, but don’t spend hours (and calories) writing and rereading. Your approach to other people matters and requires perception and tact, but over preparation or constantly replaying interactions in your mind is counterproductive. Think…but don’t overthink.

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Quote: “We do not rise to the level of our hopes, we fall to the level of our training.” — Archilochus

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Bonus Content: “Fix Boards, Fix Capitalism.” — Sukhinder Singh Cassidy outlines how corporate boards, public and private, evaluate leadership and board composition. Interesting lessons on board level decisions as well as corporate governance in general.

Continued success,

Written by

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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