Friends & Colleagues,
SCOJ71. 71 weeks of Saturday Cup of Joe means 71 weeks in Detroit. Today’s highlight was finding out that Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg were filming their cooking show in downtown Detroit today. I didn’t get to see either Martha or Snoop but it certainly dominated the elevator conversation in my building. Just another day in Detroit. I spent some time at RESPRO in Denver this week. We had several great meetings on RESPA, valuing digital assets, and co-marketing arrangements. Highly recommended for anyone doing frequent and complex marketing with other service providers.
I’m headed to DC tomorrow for MBA’s Regulatory Compliance conference. If you will be there, I’m speaking on Monday at 12:45 PM on the CFPB’s regulatory review of the Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage Rule. I know, it will be as exciting as it sounds. Seriously though, it’s a good opportunity to spend time with colleagues and discuss how to better protect our businesses in our ever-changing political landscape. I’m looking forward to several interesting panels, including one on RESPA and one on the new HMDA data collection rule. If you’ll be in DC too, let’s catch up.
I can’t help but mention the big event in my day tomorrow. My daughter has her first soccer game. Under-6 soccer is barely considered soccer, I know, but I’m oddly excited. I played soccer from her age through high school and then again in adult indoor leagues. I’m not going to push any particular sport or instrument or whatever on her, but I’m excited to meet other families in our neighborhood and also see what she thinks of soccer. I’m secretly hopeful for a soccer player. We’ll see.
This week I found a really important story on Curbed.com and needed to share it. The author outlines, in detail, the strain on teachers in most large American cities. Click the link. The heart of the problem is housing. Increasing rents and expanding suburbs are making it harder and harder for teachers to stay within reasonable commuting distance of their schools. The problem has gotten so bad that teachers on the West Coast are crashing on friend’s couches, qualifying for school lunch programs themselves, and, in at least one extreme case, homeless. Well, once again, necessity is the mother of invention.
School districts are turning to communal housing options, “teachers’ villages,” and buying units as a solution. San Francisco is the most recent but Newark seems to have been at this for some time. If there was ever a better motivation for why we do what we do — real estate, mortgage, community development, urbanists, futurists — and how we can do it better — I don’t know what that better motivation would be. On a run this week, I was thinking that we haven’t really rethought housing in a long time. Someone owns it, someone lives in it. Housing doesn’t look that different than 200 or even 500 years ago if you include certain parts of Western Europe. We’ve not rethought housing in the West in a really long time.
I was fascinating and shocked into somber reality to see the need for teachers and the needs of teachers laid out in such stark contrast. It was well done and thought-provoking. I hope you’ll read it. Link again here.
Included this week:
· Of Interest — Is it time to review the credit bureau model altogether?
· Millennial Minute — Millennials are everywhere even celebrities are millennials.
· Next Belt — Detroit’s tech cred might win us Amazon.
· Walk the Talk — Decision-making is an underrated skill.
· Quirky Story — Imagine yourself a Jeopardy! writer for a minute.
· Valuable Lesson — College is more complex and critical than many realize
· Today’s Thought, the Quote and bonus
Of Interest: When I came across an article this week looking at the Equifax breach in a new, interesting way, I had several thoughts. As the kids would say, “This. This. This.” Next, I heard one of my favorite lines from the movie High Fidelity ringing in my head. Jack Black’s character is picking top 5 songs according to certain themes — top 5 side 1 track 1s, top 5 songs a funeral — and another character throws out a song to which he responds “Ahhhhwwww, that’s so good it should have been mine.” That’s what I thought when I started reading this take down of the credit bureau model. Someone finally asked — “why do we still do it this way?” Not everything in the article is practical but I think it asks some important questions. I’ll try to both summarize and include a few key quotes. For instance, the article starts off, “Beyond the immediate damage, the breach reveals some deep absurdities in Equifax’s business model. The company was one of the central stores of personal data” (mainly based on Social Security Number) “which the hackers already have or can get for most Americans. Which begs the question, ‘If you can’t keep it secure, why stockpile the data in the first place?’”
Since the sensitive data that is supposed to protect us from fraud (our SSN, among choice others) is such a small set of data, and for many of us, has already been exposed in one breach or another, the author suggests it’s time to “burn it all down and start over.” Not a bad idea, at least as far as trying new ideas goes. The best thing a CEO can do to stay ahead of risks and competition is to devote a team that actively tries to imagine ways the company could be put out of business or otherwise compromised. These teams are often called red hats. Here, it’s time to “red hat” credit bureaus.
Our social security number is supposed to be a kind of password to our financial records. This is where the author digs in and hits gold. “Right now, I could count the number of places my Gmail password exists anywhere on one hand, whereas I’ve been writing my Social Security number on forms since I was 12.”
Though the conclusion is anticlimactic and doesn’t live up to the buildup, there is a point here and now might be the perfect time to give it a shot. Link again here if needed.
Millennial Minute: I think we’re seeing a change in professionals throughout the workforce, including professional athletes and actors. Generally, we do not think of Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving as millennials. KD is a bit older and perhaps just outside the typical definition but in general, both represent the millennial generation. That’s why it was surprising to some but not a fellow millennial like me, to hear KD and Kyrie talking about wanting the purity of “playing ball” over ego or expectations. Kyrie asked to be traded away from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James after going to the finals 3 times in a row and winning a championship. This was kinda a head-scratcher at first and many people actually drew the opposite conclusion I’m suggesting. To them, Kyrie was exerting his ego and demanding a trade to be “outside Lebron’s shadow.” While that may be true, I’d like to throw out another theory that I promise fits with something all our organizations are struggling with: how to attract and retain younger professionals and train a new generation of leaders & executives. Understanding the generation is key; that’s why there have been so many articles about millennials each week.
Here, though, I think it is worthwhile to return to the values and assumptions many young people make about their work and future. Recognition, purpose and substantive, meaningful projects are at the core of this generation. We like our story. KD implied on a podcast that Kyrie wasn’t looking to “prove” he could win without Lebron. He was looking for a less distracted environment to excel. In KD’s words, “he just wants to ball.” This made total sense to me. I later heard this come as a shock to several older sports writers talking about the podcast later. Kyrie wants to win, obviously. But he wants to excel and be recognized for excelling in a structured environment where the focus is basketball. (Which is not easy for me to say since I have a vested interest in the Cavs success.) What I like about this is that understanding Kyrie can help us recruit better, train better and retain better the valuable talent and “Kyries” of our industry. And it’s not that hard. Think about meaning. Think about purpose. Think about the story.
Next Belt: The #NextBelt vies for Amazon. I was lucky enough to be in the room the past week or so researching, brainstorming and collaborating with the dedicated team who is going to bring Amazon’s HQ2 to Detroit. Detroit’s Mayor Duggan and Dan Gilbert have built a vision and strategy to submit a competitive bid for Amazon’s new headquarters. It’s been exciting and I’ve spent the week imagining Detroit’s advantages over places like Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and Boston which, I suppose, is my short list of finalists. Admittedly, I’m biased, but I think Detroit has a real opportunity. I will continue to volunteer my time and ideas but once the proposals are in, I look forward to writing more about the process and why I think Detroit will ultimately land Amazon.
A quick shout-out to Detroit’s growing tech cred. Biggest takeaway = tech grads are moving to Detroit instead of Austin, Portland, Seattle. Slow but good progress. If you are looking for more on this topic, another article published this week described Detroit as a value-pick for tech talent. That was music to my ears because that means I can start referring to Detroit as “the Moneyball” of tech cities. And I can’t help taking it one step further. It’s not just the people here: our real estate is returning greater than expected returns. Some people joke Detroit is the new Brooklyn (let me tell you how much Detroiters like that by the way…) but Detroit, in reality, is not like any city we’ve seen before. This month Detroit ranked #5 on Realtor.com’s list of hottest markets. The growth is exponential instead of incremental.
Walk the Talk: Decision Points. I’m fascinated by the moments each of us consider our decision points. When Brad Frost & I first started a podcast called “Defending Your Life,” we asked each other and our guests about the choices they had made. We were interested in several aspects. I was interested in what decisions the guests selected as “big moments.” Brad was interested in why they did what they did. Tell me your story. There’s no doubt that certain decisions change the course of our lives. It’s also true you can’t really know your alternative reality, so the only thing to do is make the call and forge ahead. Nevertheless, trying to get comfortable with the process and settled in your choice is key to the forge ahead part. One thing this Farnam Street article captured that’s valuable is the 3 things most people DO NOT do during the decision making process.
1). We are not as rational as we think we are or convince ourselves we are.
2). We are not as prepared. Often we’re making big decisions for the first (and sometimes only) time ever. Where to attend college? Who to marry? Whether to quit a job?
3). We do not gather the right information. Tending, instead, to go with the gut too soon.
How do you make decisions? Do you feel comfortable when you do? One thing I’ve always tried is to reality-test the decision whenever possible. Try it in a small or subtle way to see if you can test drive the decision or get more information/feedback before deciding. What do you do?
Quirky Story: Thanks to Michelle Busuito — my close friend, loyal reader and avid Jeopardy! fan — for this interesting look behind the scenes at Jeopardy!. Ever wonder how the research and question writing happens? Here’s your chance to imagine yourself as a Jeopardy! writer.
Valuable Lesson: Are we confusing the very students we’re expecting to “make it on their own” by implicitly requiring college to be about independence and individual success? According to Vox, yes. Misconceptions about the purpose of college and the imprecise way we address class create a weird environment where the students from the lowest income families have the hardest time accessing the schools they need or the services at those schools. They need to figure it out on their own, right? Make their own way, right?
Unfortunately that type of thinking from administrators and parents exacerbates the income gap. For instance, lower income students and first generation college students often go to college, in part, to achieve a higher income to support the family. Middle and upper class students do not have to worry about that and instead are looking to establish their own wealth as soon as possible. Even within those life experiences, independent versus interdependent styles and themes emerge.
One thing I like about this research and proposed solution is that it does not suggest special rules or treatment and does not fundamentally change the college setting. Instead, the author suggests simply telling students these differences exist, reassuring new students that it is part of the process and then providing easy ways to access resources will make all the difference. Literally. In some experiments it evened out academic outcomes (GPAs) with more affluent students. Here’s a quote from the piece: “Let’s stop to think about how truly astounding this is: When students were told in a mere one-hour session that their class backgrounds shape their college experiences — and that they need to cater their actions accordingly — it influenced their ability to get caught up to everyone else.”
Today’s Thought: Big dreams versus big break. For many years, I’ve hung onto both. I’ve had big dreams simply waiting for my big break. In that time, I’ve learned to move from a “chasing” to “producing.” Doesn’t always mean I get it right, but I focus on value and I’m not afraid to ask for an opportunity. I read an article today that did a great job speaking to “chasing” versus simply focusing on authentic value. The moments in my life when I was chasing a feeling or opportunity have been those when I was farthest from my true character and personality. By seeking significance and true value, we can avoid the mistakes of “chasing” and instead focus on meaning. A helpful by product of living for significance is living in the moment. Next week let’s focus on significance not success.
Quote: “The single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places.” — Peter Theil