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

Saturday Cup of Joe #143.

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Friends & Colleagues,

Week 143. I’ve been in Detroit for 143 weeks. I wonder if at some point it will stop being interesting to me to count it. In the words of my friend Brian Levy, “We get it. You really, really, really like Detroit.” We’re homeowners in the city. Our daughter attends kindergarten here. I’m hopeful to get more involved in 2019 and double down again by participating and becoming involved in different ways to help Detroiters. So, I guess for now, I’ll keep counting the weeks.

The thing everyone was talking about this week was the weather. In Detroit, as all over the Midwest, the temperature.

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In Washington DC, and other parts of the East Coast, the snow, or almost snow, as the case may be. In California, the Super Bowl…I assume or the Frye Festival.

I’m excited to watch the Super Bowl this year. I don’t know why. Last year the Philadelphia Eagles (my team!) were in the Super Bowl and I could hardly figure out the best way to watch — a party, a bar, totally alone? Then the Eagles actually won. This year, I think the Brady legacy is interesting. The “new” star coach and young QB are interesting as well. Hopefully it is a great event. Predictions sure to go wrong: 1). Groundhog sees his shadow. 2). Pats 28 — Rams 24. 3). I go to bed on time Sunday night.

How was this week for you? Did the temperature or school closings affect your business? How does this time of the year usually measure up? For housing finance, it can be tough because few people are purchasing homes in many parts of the country. For others, like delivery pizza and Netflix, this has gotta be great. Looking ahead to February, do you do anything differently once new year’s goals and resolutions fade a bit? Halfway between quarterly goals. Not far enough into the year to measure existing goals. What do you focus on?

Perhaps a better question — do you think about your work, your cadence in days? Weeks? Quarters? Years? Often public companies quickly default to quarterly since that’s when earnings are reported. What about you personally?

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Living Your Best Life: Anytime I stumble upon articles with intriguing titles I generally click and determine very quickly whether or not to read on. A variety of factors such as, where I clicked from, the look and feel of the site, the URL, the first few sentences, all play a role in whether I keep reading. So, naturally, when I saw the article titled “How to Create Your Dream Job Inside a Company” and feeling a little like I had already done this, I clicked.

This quote caught my eye almost immediately, “Seeing a need and creating a new position to fill that need can be a great career move.” I’ll go a step further. It is always a great career move. The only variable is whether the organization can create the position. But even if your company cannot, finding a way to do the thing you’ve identified and are trying to solve, will benefit everyone, especially you.

This week my leader celebrated 20 years with the company. In our weekly market roundup meeting, we discussed becoming successful, remaining successful and leading people who want to be successful. One of the biggest takeaways from the conversation (at least for me) was to “grab the stickiest challenge” and solve it. Stickier the better. Find the thing bothering everyone else. The hard problem. The annoying problem. The expensive problem. The complex thing. And fix it. Solve it. Resolve it. The best way to get ahead in any organization is to continue to be indispensable to your colleagues and leaders.

The article hits it right on the head — be a problem solver and go right for the nitty-gritty stuff. Think through the most indispensable people on your team, in your company, or in your life. Why are they indispensable? How can you identify those traits in others? How can you incentivize and encourage those traits in your current team?

This week #beindispensable.

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As seen on Instagram @golf_com

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This great idea from Washington D.C. — free tech support for residents.

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Word of the week: “Bonkers.” I said it like 5 times this week and heard it another 5. It struck me, for whatever reason, and so I’m including it here. Do you use “bonkers”? And also, why is it such a great word?

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Always start by asking questions. Make progress by asking the right questions. Stay relevant by never reducing the instinct and frequency of the questions. Innovation is, admittedly, trendy and “buzzy.” Those who study innovation, however, have insights to share and often share them on LinkedIn. Clayton Christensen makes the point that there are three types of innovation. 1). Market-creating. 2). Sustaining. 3). Efficiency.

In my opinion, the most effective innovations are those that created new markets.

“Market-creating innovations include transforming complicated and expensive products into ones that are so much more affordable and accessible to an increased number of consumers who are able to buy and use them.”

As you look at innovation and think about how you or your organization will innovate, consider the human elements of innovation. Each of us must have the self-awareness to recognize who innovates and who manages, and the organization must be self-reflective as well. Our humanness is part of our creativity and innovation. Lean into it. Consider story. Consider your energy and focus. Consider how we approach our entire lives, not just our businesses.

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust

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This from one of my best friend’s in York, PA. He sent me the online library of some of the oddest books I’ve ever seen. Horse Yoga, Rats: For Those Who Care, and Practical Muskrat Raising just to name a few. They are not all animal related books but for some reason those that caught my attention were.

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One company I looked at this week, drop: https://www.earnwithdrop.com/

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Is it really a trick? This researcher in the UK discovered a “hack” for forming good habits. Repetition. “You can hack your brain to form good habits — like going to the gym and eating healthily — simply by repeating actions until they stick, according to new psychological research involving the University of Warwick.” No shit.

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As seen on Twitter Jack Altman

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Future of work: I work in consumer finance, specifically mortgage finance and fintech. I have long heard that robots or algorithms or “the black box” would upend jobs and replace people in financial services. What became more clear and scarier in this Recode article was the inevitability that automation furthers social inequality…without intentional intervention. I think it’s a pretty straight-forward argument that automation will threaten lower and middle class jobs historically used to secure a modest living.

The idea, though, that automation will be used by the educated classes, by the majority class, to further ensure “wins” over lower classes and less privileged is also unavoidable. Such is the result of human affairs, I suppose, but many technologists and entrepreneurs promise exactly the opposite. Automation, machines, computerization is supposed to help level the playing field. The speed of information. The transparency of information. These benefits have also created the misperception of fairness. Or inherent fairness. I know I’m overstating it (with naivety) to make the point. But I think the point stands. We should think about it, talk about it and try our best to address it in our future innovations.

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Maybe Forbes 30 under 30 in consumer technology can help?

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Mandatory arbitration: A hot topic in financial services is also a hot topic in the employment of financial services professionals. Bloomberg published this (not so subtle) opinion piece about arbitration gone awry. It is an interesting question, though. When something (i.e. arbitration) is set up to be faster, easier and less expensive than something (i.e. litigation) that is long, methodical and expensive, how do you make sure you keep it fair? Rely on the individual arbitrators? (But they’re not judges!) Established rules? (More rules, more time and cost).

Do you include arbitration clauses in your employment agreements? Have you signed an employment agreement that contains one?

Consider whether the cost of the counsel, cost of the process and/or likelihood for the most sympathetic decision-maker is your priority.

(Also, I’m applying to be a FINRA arbitrator. I’ll let you know how it goes)

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I was wondering how “dumpster fire” became the way we all talk about out-of-control things. I heard it this week at work in reference to something and thought “aren’t dumpster fires relatively contained?” I mean, they are in a dumpster. Just let it run its course, right?

Here’s what I came up with, what do you think? Dumpster fires start suspiciously without anyone noticing. They are distracting for anyone walking down the street. A dumpster fire has the high likelihood of causing other fires — nearby dumpsters, adjacent buildings, unmarked oil drums of questionable origin.

Not sure where to go with this…so…just gonna leave it…right here.

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https://imgur.com/

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This digital memory of Geocities is valuable to try to predict the future of the Internet based on where it is come from. My sense is that understanding how people translate the physical world into the digital world is critical to predicting what’s next. From “business cards” in Outlook to avatars to news”papers,” we map the Web according to how we relate to the physical world. The more we move to voice and video and virtual reality, the more these lines will blur. What does that mean for your business? How will your customer experience change? What will you do in the meantime to move toward this world or create the next big thing?

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Take time to fall in love all over again. What have you fallen out of love with or forgotten how much you love? February is the perfect month to rediscover that love.

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Story I couldn’t help but include this week: Check out this post by Scott H Young on being prolific.

There’s an old story about a factory owner who has a machine break down. The hold up is going to cost him millions as nothing can get done before it is repaired. Unfortunately, nobody under his employ knows how to fix it. He calls around and finally gets a guy who has years of experience fixing things to come down and take a look. He tells him he’ll pay him whatever it costs to fix it.

The guy looks around for a few minutes, takes out a screwdriver, replaces a small screw in the assembly and, voila, the whole operation starts moving again. He hands the owner of the factory an invoice for $10,000.

A little upset at the exorbitant fee, he asks the man for an itemized invoice. He gets it sent again with:

1. Replacing the screw …. $1

2. Knowing which screw to replace …. $9999

The story is exaggerated, but it reveals an important lesson if you want to produce more work without sacrificing quality.

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Today’s thought: The above story relayed by Scott H Young about how important it is to know where the screw is reminded me of something I’ve been struggling with — how to learn lessons without experiencing the failure myself? It is called Firewalking, thanks to Josh Waitskin and Tim Ferris. If experience, good and bad, is the best way to improve, grow and succeed, then it stands to reason that working more, taking more chances and just being open to ideas provides more experience. Lessons learned. But it’s not that easy. We cannot learn all the lessons from all the failures. It’s not possible.

Often, the biggest influences on people are failures. Repetition takes time. Failure requires recovery.

The catch is trying to learn lessons from other leaders like Warren Buffett, Jack Welch and Oprah. Young leaders often look to these one in a billion examples making it tough to duplicate.

These are great people who have done amazing things, but it can be hard to learn lessons from their experience.

Instead, Firewalking means learning the lessons from other people’s failures without having to make the same mistake ourselves. Watch and learn. Learn by example. Learn from those who have gone before us, right before us. Not the billionaire exception. Your leader. My leader. Each other.

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Quote: “Blessed be he who has found his solitude, not the solitude pictured in painting or poetry, but his own, unique, predestined solitude. Blessed be he who knows how to suffer! Blessed be he who bears the magic stone in his heart. To him comes destiny, from him comes authentic action.” — Herman Hesse

Bonus Content: Here is a quick post on the future of cybersecurity. All I could think about reading it was that our only hope in a cyberwar might be vigilante defenders or vigilante soldiers who know how to disrupt the “bad guys.”

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

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

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