Saturday Cup of Joe from Detroit

Week #167.

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I’ve spent 167 weeks in Detroit and written to you each Saturday since my first week. Over the weeks, the newsletter has transformed from a postcard of Detroit into a mortgage industry blog and finally into a collection of articles I read this week. My hope is that it will continue to evolve and last just as long as I continue to find it interesting or pause it to write a book. Either way, I like to include my experience along the way. As always, thank you for reading.

This week was thrilling (and busy). I have been leading teams since before I attended law school and became a lawyer. As my leadership roles grow so do the challenges. I’m thrilled to be allowed to continue to rise to these challenges and help lead teams to big, bold goals. This week was an admirable challenge. I tried (and I hope, succeeded) to organize communication and collaboration among internal teams, connect with my team members to fuel their work and development, contact my colleagues and friends, and find time to read the next chapter of Harry Potter to my daughter. Some days I did better than others (specifically to that last goal). But overall, I was able to drive strategic vision, deepen relationships across the company and present to a room of my team mates on our goals for mindset and success going forward. That’s a good week.

Leading people is as complicated as are people. Many Saturday Cup of Joe readers are CEOs, entrepreneurs or aspiring to be both of those. As you evaluate next week and the coming weeks remaining in the Summer or in the year, how are you going to lead? I’ve written before that “leaders bring the weather.” What’s lost in that is that everyone is responsibility for their day, their environment. Positive peer pressure is the culture that keeps successful companies atop their respective industry. How do you ensure positive peer pressure and an environment of success in your office? What can you do next week to bring heightened expectations to your business?

Answer well.

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Everyone now and then I come across an article that I find fascinating without fully being able to explain why. This essay by Arthur Brooks falls into that category. Brooks recognizes that those of us driven by ambition may not be able to recognize when our professional peak has come (and gone). Not unlike a superstar athlete, high performers continue to pursue their work beyond their effectiveness. Brooks offers no clear answer, however, to what to do next. Or how to handle it better in preparation.

For me, the essay brought up a classic catch-22. Focusing on greatness and/or excellence as a child or throughout one’s career can create unhealthy (even unattainable) expectations. Recipe for frustration. On the other hand, demanding world class excellence might be the motivation young people need to achieve it. Therein lies the rub. If it requires unhealthy focus to achieve extraordinary success, is it worth it? Is it specifically worth it for parents of children who may not be old enough to understand the bargain?

My experience as a young athlete was to “tone down” or “control” my competitiveness. Admittedly, my competitiveness materialized, from time to time, as immature yelling and screaming. But instead of focusing it, I was instructed to get rid of it.

Brooks focused less on the beginning, as I did, and more on the end. Once attained, how should you come down from a professional peak? Brooks writes, “I need a reverse bucket list. My goal for each year of the rest of my life should be to throw out things, obligations, and relationships.”

Consider the expectations we set and once set, the expectations we live with.

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Opportunity Zone success story: a developer in St. Louis is “reshaping St. Louis” using the Opportunity Zone credits. Here’s how.

Kanye West: It is impossible to know what thoughts, images or assumptions are created by simply saying or writing “Kanye West.” My friends and I have been arguing about Kanye, in one form or another, for years. I first saw Kanye on Def Poetry Jam on HBO. He went on to not only produce some of the great albums of the century but to create his own, as well. From there, his influence as a fashion and cultural icon emerged. The Kanye timeline is well documented in this Forbes profile. Beyond music and fashion, Kanye has recently stepped into politics as well, creating more controversy.

The reality is that whatever you think of Kanye’s music, sneaker line, politics or personal life, there is something fascinating about his particular form of genius. We’re drawn to the eccentric. We’re willing to pay attention to his particular brand of activity. As you think about your business, Kanye West might not immediately seem applicable but the reality is that authentic, creative vision tends to define the market as opposed to being defined by the market. If Kanye can teach us anything, it is to be more authentic. Be more you. Encourage your company to be more authentic to your culture and your vision. As the leader, the voice, you can be your company’s Kanye. If you don’t celebrate you, who will?

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“You cannot delegate understanding.” — attributed to Charles Eames

Remember Napster: Here’s an interesting example of using data to tell a story. Even though Napster lost out to Apple in the single song / single download market, Napster defined the turning point in history for the industry. Do you use data to tell a story? Could you? How?

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Over the past few years I’ve written a lot about shopping malls. Yup, believe it or not, shopping malls and housing innovation. My theory for the use of old malls was to convert those to housing. Given advances in large indoor spaces (hotels, casinos, etc.), communities for rent or own that include common areas, coffee shops, dog parks etc. These malls have no shortage of parking, space and ideal locations (typically).

In Arizona, Indeed converted a mall into their headquarters. Over 52,000 sq feet, the building has everything they need for a dynamic, competitive workspace. (Thank you, Heidi, for the submission. My sister-in-law is a loyal reader from Epping, New Hampshire and always looking out for interesting articles. Thanks!)

The future of development could be in abandoned and underutilized spaces. If so, what does your town have available? What can your business do to recognize these assets?

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Tiny homes. Micro apartments. Whether its to rent or to buy, innovative solutions to affordable housing has returned to my radar this week. One major reason is the internship program at my company. We support thousands of interns each Summer who come to downtown Detroit for real experience and the chance at a job offer next Spring. The intern I’m working with has been focused on tiny homes / micro apartments. Believe it or not (long time readers not only believe it but are tired of hearing about it), Michigan has several examples of innovative housing solutions. Faith-based organizations and local housing groups built sustainable tiny homes in the city. Private real estate developers build micro housing units just outside the city (and in several other major cities).

“The micro apartments are doing a great job.” — Hon. Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD

True story.

Constraints on housing supply has renewed interest in tiny homes, micro apartments and innovative construction opportunities. Predicting the future of tiny homes or new construction methods is based entirely on a generation that continues to be profiled by avocado toast and student debt. Mass acceptance of new (life)styles and living arrangements will not be sudden but could come faster than many industry veterans think. We build the suburbs in under a decade. Could they empty just as fast?

Ever wondered about SoftBank? Ever heard of SoftBank? Well, you have now and you likely will again (and again). SoftBank is the entity behind the incredibly valuable and active Vision Fund which has been investing in American consumer platforms. The Vision Fund has invested in a $1 billion round for Oyo, the Indian hospitality startup; $800 million split evenly between Compass and OpenDoor, two real estate disrupters; $100 million for Loggi, a Brazilian delivery startup…not to mention “leading a $3 billion round in Chinese startup ByteDance, which makes several popular news and entertainment apps, including TikTok.” Oh and this list doesn’t even mention the investment in WeWork. As of mid-December, the investment in WeWork was up to $8.65 billion (including debt and funding of subsidiaries), and the real estate company was valued at $45 billion. Then in early January 2019, SoftBank invested another $2 billion. … Wait, did I mention Uber, another of Vision Fund’s key investments.

If you are wondering who Silicon Valley considers among its most powerful and influential — the CEO of Vision Fund — is your answer.

CEO Son is focused on real estate, mobility, and commerce. How we live, how we move and how we transact once we’re secure and moving about the world. Now that those are locked down, CEO Son is looking to the future.

Over the years, I’ve heard that coffee is good for me, bad for me, and irrelevant. Naming my newsletter after a nickname for coffee probably tells you how I feel about it. Love it! So I tend to believe positive news about coffee and discount any fake news. Interestingly, I found an article this week by the Harvard Business Review that took well established “science” on meetings — have a clear agenda and define objectives beforehand — and turned it on its head. According to the article, certain meetings like brainstorming meetings should not have an agenda or predefined structure because it may limit the process and quality of ideas.

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As reported by Urban Institute and Wall Street Journal, black homeownership is hovering around the lowest levels all time. As the Democratic primary for President heats up, affordable housing and black homeownership have become major topics for the campaign. In fact, the next two nights of debates — July 30 and 31 — will be held in Detroit. I’m curious to watch and see how housing and consumer finance is handled.

ProPublica published a story set on Silver Dollar Road illustrative of how black families have struggled to maintain (forget even obtaining) homes and the land under those homes. While the story focused on one family, it is a fascinating history of how complex and specific these problems are. For instance, in just one of the many ways these stories proceed, the partition action is used when one heir sells off a share and allows a speculator to sue to force the sale of the entire plot.

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Normally when I read posts (especially on Medium) of writers talking about “going after” what you really want, the author focuses on fear or need for other people’s approval as the main driver of you (the reader) not having what you want. If, on the other hand, there are biological and chemical reasons that our brains fight us on going after “what we want,” than that’s a whole different battle. Consider whether you are overcoming conscious or subconscious fear or some chemical reaction in your brain, the next time you consider “going after what you really want.” According to this author, calibrate what you really want and inspire yourself to go get it.

“Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”

Anne Lamott

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Bonus Content: An argument for restraint over rage. “Yet here we are, constantly being egged on by both sides about why we need to get angry, telling us that our hate should be pure.” @RyanHoliday asks — what will give us the change we need?

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

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

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