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

Saturday Cup of Joe #144.

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Friends & Colleagues,

Week 144. This week was my daughter’s 6th birthday. In my brief experience as a parent one common refrain from experienced parents has been “it goes so fast.” I’m already feeling that reality. I cannot believe my daughter is 6. But here we are.

We went to the spaghetti dinner at her school which was a surprisingly rewarding way to spend her birthday. My friend, whose wife is the principal at the school, were sharing meatballs and discussing the benefits to the community of being seated (semi)randomly together, sharing food, and spending time together. The meal had a family dinner feel to it. One of the best parts of our experience in Detroit so far has been the welcoming, diverse community we joined.

And that was just Tuesday.

Throughout the week we have adjusted to school closings for freezing rain and a stomach bug that kept our daughter home another day. Somehow, perhaps not surprisingly, by Thursday it felt like it had been a week since the week began on a few days earlier. Here we are on Friday night preparing for a much needed weekend.

How about you? What’s your weekend look like?

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Detroit, MI, USA

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“Man is asked to make of himself what he is supposed to become to fulfill his destiny.” — Paul Tillich

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Black History Month: The Undefeated published the 44 most influential Black Americans in history. The list includes modern history makers like Oprah and President Barack Obama as well as historical figures like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Interestingly, this list can be the spark of a conversation about who was left off the list, who on the list was not as well know or whether 44 is the right number. I wanted to include it here because I found it valuable to read through as a celebration and conversation starter.

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Amazon, it’s not you it’s me: Apparently, New York City is not paying enough attention to Amazon. Fascinating as Jeff Bezos’ other properties, mainly The Washington Post, took center stage in the national conversation. Amazon has been relegated to back-burner. Apparently that’s a problem. In the high school version of this drama, NYC is the popular, rich girl with more than enough attention already. Amazon is the previously nerdy, successful kid with a new car. What happens next depends entirely on the soundtrack (assuming this is the movie version of life).

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As seen on Instagram @cabinporn

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Student loans: The problem? Cash. The other problem? 10% default rate. Seriously. I’ve been thinking a lot about student loans this week. I’m headed to DC next week to discuss student loan debt with housing investors and, as a result, I’ve been trying to determine the various ways to address the systemic risk associated with over 44 million Americans carrying $1.5T in debt. Surprisingly, or perhaps not to some, over 10% of that cohort is in default. My question is, what happens next? If 10% becomes 20% or 25% or 33%, is there any way to address 10 million or 13 million Americans who have similar defaults on student debt? The government could pursue all those individuals in court. How long would that take? The government could inflict credit score “hits” on that entire cohort, but credit scores measure risk relative to your peers. So, wouldn’t it all even out in the end?

Lenders of products like mortgages are telling each other that Americans with student loan debt are delayed in owning homes but ultimately will own. Are we sure that’s true? If it’s not, we won’t know for another 5 years. Then what?

Even if it gets as bad as I suggest above, where is the money going to come from to pay down the debts? One suggestion this week was simple — “convince your employer to help pay off your student loans.” Not a bad idea, frankly. The reason is that the money has to come from somewhere. The government (i.e. taxpayers). Parents. Investors. Employers. That’s a limited pool of options.

This issue — student loan debt — is quickly gaining momentum as the issue de jure and depending on timing and prominence, it certainly could become the issue of the 2020 election cycle. Seems like the Trump Administration would/should do everything to avoid it. It’s not the type of issue likely to motivate or activate those voters that give the President the best chance to win reelection. There does not seem to be enough attention on this, regardless.

Solutions wanted. It is something I’ll be thinking a lot about in the coming weeks.

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Photo by Yong Chuan on Unsplash

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If Time is Money…: If time is money, it only stands to reason that time poverty is possible. Only, we don’t generally think of it that way. Further, we don’t think it has the negative effects that it does. According to research by Ashley Williams in HBR, “Time poverty exists across all economic strata, and its effects are profound…those who feel time-poor experience lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress.” Perhaps even more obvious is that productivity is diminished.

Valuing time over money seems to be the solution and yet we do not. We do not in our organizations or in our personal lives.

If you are looking to maximize satisfaction within your team or your life, look to maximize time. Pay to off load unwanted tasks. Use what free time you do have to socialize and you’ll often find more time. As a leader, incentivize choices that elevate or value time. Plan ahead. Be active. Surround your team with others that agree. And, of course, say no more often. This is something I have been working hard to achieve with marginal success. But little by little I’m getting there. What about you? Are you trading time for money? How do you prioritize time? How do you ensure your team is as happy and productive as possible?

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Exhibit A — emojis. This week I received a link for Professor Goldman’s recent article on how emojis are increasingly showing up in court as evidence or testimony. As a result, attorneys and judges are trying to determine how to deal with this phenomenon. Turns out these little icons are more subjective than we thought. Hat tip to Brian Levy for the Law.com post on this. When reading Professor Goldman’s advice to judges, consider your team or your HR department. How will you handle these changes in communication internally?

What is your advice for judges who confront emojis in their cases?

Goldman: I have three suggestions. First, judges should make sure that the lawyers present the exact depictions that their clients saw. There are so many circumstances where the sender and recipient saw different symbols, and the differences could affect the dispute. It would be a potentially major mistake for a judge or litigants to assume that there is a single canonical depiction of emojis that both parties saw identically.

Second, judges should make sure that the fact-finder gets to see the actual emojis so it can figure out its meaning directly. If testimony is being read in court, the emojis should not be orally characterized but should be displayed to the fact-finder.

Third, judges should display the actual emojis in their court opinions. They should not omit the emoji symbols or try to characterize them textually. The symbols might not render properly in print or Westlaw/Lexis, but they should at least appear properly in the PDFs of the court opinions

Interestingly, I have already written about this as well. Over a year ago. This from Saturday Cup of Joe #91. That’s February 3, 2018.

Power of storytelling: A senior leader at my company and someone I look up to sent me a humorous article this week about lawyers trying to deal with emojis and emoticons. The hand-wringing, it seems, comes after several high profile cases have turned on the interpretation of an emoji. As is the lawyer’s way, many experts rush into the mix to train each other and sort out “what we’re going to do?” If you have a Wall Street Journal subscription, I highly recommend checking out the article. But even without the specific cases and stories involved, my takeaway was the incredible power of communication. The ability to weave a story — whether that’s the person in the case who used emojis to communicate their distaste for an aggressive boss or interest in an apartment rental, or the person tasked with crafting a case around the small, smiling pile of you-know-what — makes the difference in someone’s life. An emoji can decide your fate — perhaps not life or death, but employment or contract or financial cases that sometimes feel like life or death. Instead of running away from the ambiguity, I embrace it.

It’s the weirdness, ambiguity and flexibility, frankly, that make life interesting. If emojis are adding to that experience, then bring it on. And I’m not just saying that because it means job security for some lawyers. I’m saying that because life is about a good story and sometimes that story can only be told with a wide-eyed, straight-mouthed stunned-looking face.

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Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

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Power of expectations: Have you ever been here? “So I tortured myself. And the more I tortured myself, the more unrealistic my expectations for myself became.” So writes Mark Manson in this blog post. Be warned, though, this is a guy with the f-word in the title of his book, so if you click, get ready for a specific point of view.

What he has right is getting comfortable with one’s self. “And here’s where the magic happens. When you stop feeling awful about yourself, two things happen:

  1. There’s nothing to numb anymore. Therefore, suddenly those tubs of ice cream seem pointless.
  2. You see no reason to punish yourself. On the contrary, you like yourself, so you want to take care of yourself. More importantly, it feels good to take care of yourself.”

Consider what this looks like. How different is it than today?

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Struggling with Growth: Denver, Sacramento and Seattle all try to mix growth with public policy with character. The West is leading the way for the Midwest. So goes Denver today will be Detroit soon.

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Monroe, Detroit, MI, USA

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Today’s Thought: “Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change.” — Ingrid Bengis

I have been thinking a lot about how to influence change — where and when and how. Words as action are good when you are creating but words as action alone are insufficient. How to begin with words and follow with action, consistent and disciplined. Therein lies the challenge. The struggle continues.

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Quote: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” — Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

Bonus Content: Apparently the research does not support that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and/or that eating breakfast promotes weight loss. I write “apparently” specifically because next week it could be the opposite.

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

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

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