Saturday Cup of Joe: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter

Friends & Colleagues,

SCOJ81. Week 81. Happy Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend. I wish I could spend time with each and every one of you this weekend. Obviously that’s impossible; there was not even enough time for my own family. We drove 8+ hours for dinner in Bucks County, PA. We had a packed house for Thanksgiving dinner. Hope you either had a Thanksgiving filled with family or relaxation. It’s hard to imagine one with both. On Monday, it’s time to go back to work.

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Valuable lessons: What role does other people’s advice play in your life? I don’t mean solicited advice, when you ask someone for their life experience or professional insight; I mean their routines, habits and path to success. I tend to use quotes and ideas from people as reminders: things that can spark a new addition to my routine or a new perspective on my work. I also am intimidated by the advice and routines of extremely famous CEOs, entrepreneurs and authors. Medium.com’s The Mission published a post this week of the writing routines of 20 famous writers. Two things stuck out to me: morning writing rituals and daily writing habits. Obviously, discipline is the key to excellence in anything. Even more so, it seems, in something like writing. The spark of inspiration that ignites a song, poem or painting is not enough to complete an entire book or novel. It may be the starting point, certainly, but “the juice” — as Hemingway calls it — comes when you show up to work every day and invite it. I’m focused on writing, at the moment, but this is true for all great achievement in whatever you want to do.

And if the previous nineteen authors from the article were too intimidating or prescriptive in their advice, the bottom line is however you get it done is the right way. Here’s what the 20th author profiled, Bernard Malamud said: “You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place — you suit yourself, your nature… Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way.”

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Included this week:

· Of Interest — Bitcoin on a crash course with banking

· 4 Ways — Apparently 4 Ways is the right amount of ways (found more than 4 x 4 ways this week)

· Belt — Detroit & Cleveland, the rivalry continues

· Millennial minute — Millennials face challenges too

· Quirky Story — Scarcity breeds innovation

· Today’s Thought, the Quote and bonus

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A recent sunset on the streets of Detroit

Of Interest: The bitcoin battle continues. The Motley Fool published a quick and dirty review of Warren Buffett’s opinion of bitcoin. It included this great perspective of value-producing assets: “Intrinsic value can be defined simply: It is the discounted value of the cash that can be taken out of a business during its remaining life.” In Buffett’s view, the transmission of money (i.e. a check) doesn’t have value in and of itself. And I see Mr. Buffett’s point. He means don’t bet on it long-term cause its only value is the someone else’s willingness to pay something of actual value for it. Once that goes away, it no longer holds value. Until then, the market is still accepting bitcoin for tangible assets/value. If that reaches critical mass, then who knows. If you are long-term investor like Warren Buffett, it’s hard to bank on the value here, but as with any true market, if you have a willing buyer, then the value of whatever you are holding is whatever you can sell it for. So for now, people are buying real things with digital currency.

Real estate brokers in Miami and New York are accepting bitcoin as payment. Thanks to Jim Czapiga at CATIC for this link. Jim, how would the insurance industry — E&O, cyber or even title — look at the risks associated with infrastructure and “trust” necessary to contract in digital currency?

In fact, the first ever real estate purchase paid entirely in bitcoin was not in NYC or SanFran but Dallas, TX earlier this year. America isn’t the only market getting swept up in digital currency trends. A condo in London listed with the seller accepting only bitcoin as payment. Warren Buffett might not trust bitcoin, but if you can get a real condo, then there’s something there.

Other critics of bitcoin, like JP Mortgage Chase’s CEO, Jaime Dimon, might be softening a little, too. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chase is looking at investing in bitcoin markets, though not bitcoin itself. CME Group is looking to create a futures market in bitcoin and Chase may be taking a stake in CME Group. So, even though Dimon won’t let Chase bankers trade in bitcoin, the corporate investment side might take Chase’s first steps into this emerging market.

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As seen on LinkedIn, does it help you understand bitcoin? No, seriously, I’m curious.

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4 Ways to Fix Everything: What is not clear to me is who decided that “4 Ways” is the ideal length for the solutions & fixes. After reviewing 4 Ways to Train Your Brain to be More Open-Minded this week, I stumbled upon five or six lists of “4 Ways.”

Here’s a quick summary of “4 Ways” to improve, according to the Internet. (My favorite in bold).

Stay open-minded: 1). Talk to someone who doesn’t care 2). Reframe negative to positive 3). Get Out of your Comfort Zone 4). Be mindful.

Goals: 1). Know your fears better than your goals 2). Make fine the “f-word” 3). Be curious about everything 4). Treat near wins like wins.

Productivity: 1). Do the tough work when most productive 2). Make time for admin 3). Take breaks 4). Multitasking is not a thing.

Proactive instead of reactive: 1). Stop apologizing 2). Words matter 3). Articulate & prepared 4). Be fearless

Avoid overload at work: 1). Sober sleep 2). Move 3). Connect with land 4). Research your body

Fintech for 4: 1). Disrupting lending 2). Rethinking payments 3). Improving online shopping 4). Consistent payments

Optional Footnote:

There’s even 4 ways the President is attacking POTUS precedent: 1). Affordable Care Act 2). Iran Nuclear Deal 3). NAFTA 4). DACA

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Next Belt: As many readers of Saturday Cup of Joe know, #NextBelt is my name for what reporters refer to as the “Rust Belt” or “former Rust Belt.” From where I sit, these cities — Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati — are what’s next. Not just the digital next, though that’s true, but also the way for millennials to carve out their own authentic lives.

After all my writing on the #NextBelt, I’d be remiss if I failed to include a New York Times article this week titled “Detroit: The Most Exciting City in America?” One reporter spent some time reviewing Detroit from food to landmarks to the suburbs. If you want to read more about or have not heard enough about Detroit here over the last few months, please check out this review.

If that’s too much Detroit for you, Cleveland hustles too. Oh, and The New York Times covers that too. The humorous adage “Cleveland: At least it’s not Detroit” might no longer be true.

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Millennial Minute: This week the stories about millennials had one thing in common — “things millennials are facing.” Millennials are facing income inequality both between the high end of earners in their age group and those likely to inherit wealth. For instance, there are more billionaires under 40 years old than ever before. Interestingly, though, more millennials are not starting businesses. The Quartz.com article said, “While millennials might be perceived as an especially entrepreneurial generation — think Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel — they’re actually less likely to run their own businesses. In the US, 2% of millennials are self-employed, while 8% of Gen-Xers and boomers can say the same.”

This week, wealth was not the only barrier to entrepreneurship facing millennials, our industry, or small businesses. The repeal of so-called Net Neutrality rules could actually limit all small businesses but specifically real estate and mortgage brokerages. Interesting to see Inman tie this otherwise general policy choice to specific consequences for a majority of companies in our industry.

Our industry continues to try to understand how millennials view real estate and housing. The Detroit Free Press ran a story about how family financing — gifts from parents & grandparents — are playing a larger part in millennials’ mortgage applications. One lender estimated 10% and another around 42% of all millennial applications involved additional funding from family.

After reading these articles, I wonder what life must look like to young people in 2017 America. While awareness abounds thanks in large part to technology, a greater understanding of globalization, current events, and economic opportunity is offset by an equally greater understanding of how imbalanced, complicated, and competitive life can be. As much as millennials are often knocked for naïveté, those criticisms are in reference to expectations of how they’ll be treated and not what’s going on in the world. A lot of millennials I meet are keenly aware of the challenges to diversity, fairness and advancement. How that will change entrepreneurship and policy choices like net neutrality is still unknown. How it’s changing the early stages of home buying, consumer credit / consumer products and freelance employment is becoming clearer.

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Quirky Story: I’m always interested in stories in which “the system” fails and people step up to innovate a solution. Here’s a Vice media story on how some dedicated neighbors in Detroit are using existing (dormant) fiber cable in the city to connect neighborhoods to intranet and Internet access. Given a need and a little freedom, people try to figure it out.

Today’s Thought: Slow is safe. “Slow is safe.” This is what my brother said while we were taking down a tree on Friday at my parents’ house. My parents live in the woods of South Central Pennsylvania and have been managing their forest over the last few years. It helps that my little brother is in the tree business. His comment not only reassured my Dad and me but struck me as an important reminder to every business. In the age of “move fast and break stuff,” I don’t want to discount the speed of the game: It is the thing that can make the difference in today’s market. But I think the speed of the game is a strategic position for the company. The daily, tactical approach to each individual step in the process has to be remembering to work careful and cautiously. This is not to imply our organizations should move unnecessarily slow or let risk dictate speed. It’s not slow for no reason. It’s slow when setting up and preparing so that when the tree finally comes down, it comes down fast, safe and in the right spot.

Quote: “It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that just true that does.” — Unknown, possibly Josh Billings, apparently not Mark Twain, but still true.

Bonus Content: This crazy photo essay of “brutalist” British apartment buildings and condo arrangements. Part sci-fi movie, part futuristic government building, part Soviet-era complex.

Continued success,

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