Week #226 in Detroit.
Labor Day weekend is always mixed up but never more so than this year. Typically, it’s the mixed feelings of ending Summer but the excitement and anticipation of Fall. Even if you don’t live somewhere that experiences crisp evenings or changing leaves, the football season, flavored coffee and candy corn is enough to get anyone excited. (Yea, I said it.) But that’s after Labor Day, this weekend is usually about the last BBQ or beach day…that kinda thing.
This year is totally upside down.
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought the realization of inequality and brutality front and center in a way that is new for many, many people. 4 years ago, August 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. It was about 6 weeks after Philando Castile was shot and killed at a traffic stop. We went on celebrating Labor Day and football season.
A few months later, Donald Trump was elected President.
The urge to celebrate Labor Day this year feels different, feels wrong. Not because of the pandemic, though, it is harder to road trip and many people’s vacation plans changed this year. It feels wrong not to acknowledge that Labor Day is a part of “the system.” Work is a part of the system. Without stability and opportunity, the system is not working. Once you realize how much injustice, inequality and brutality still exists, it can not be easily overlooked. It shouldn’t be forgotten.
Too often it’s been outrage followed by the long slog of politics & policy and no feeling of change. Change is occurring, perhaps, but it’s not felt, it’s not visible. It’s incremental at best and placebo at worst. Yet, we know it’s unrealistic to expect massive, systemic issues to resolve overnight.
Incremental change sucks. It’s worth it, don’t get me wrong, but it is hard.
Celebrating incremental change without losing hope is important. We’re not there yet.
Recognizing incremental change without getting burned out is healthy. We’re not there yet.
Demanding incremental change without knowing if the ask has been enough or too much is delicate.
I know fighting for civil rights, fighting racism, advocating for affordable housing, creating jobs or building communities is incremental change. Me saying it is frustrating is laughable. Countless people have been fighting for incremental change and given their lives, devoted their careers, passed up personal wealth.
This year I’m thinking about Labor Day in a new way.
I’m joining people who are asking more questions of themselves, of each other, of America.
I’m joining the people who are trying to look at old problems in a new way.
We are unwilling to allow the status quo to continue.
It won’t happen overnight; it is incremental.
So it has the potential to lose momentum.
Even as I write this, I wonder if I’m doing enough.
Should I be doing more?
I hope this Labor Day weekend brings rest and relaxation for everyone but I know that’s not the case. As I choose to relax and spend time with my family, in my community, I will be reflecting on whether this is enough, whether I’m doing enough. I won’t stop reading and learning and talking about what needs to be done.
I will continue to look for solutions in housing, in the economy, in consumer finance, and in the future state.
And I’ll try to get comfortable with the idea of incremental change. Find the ways to prepare for the long process of incremental change.
In an interview between Bill Boggs and Richard Pryor, Boggs asked Pryor “What do you think these executives are afraid you’re going to do to White America?”
“Uh, probably stop some racism.” Pryor responded.
“Stop racism?” Boggs retorted.
“Yeah,” Pryor said with a nod. “They’re probably afraid of that, because then if people don’t hate each other and people start talking to each other, they find out who’s the problem.”
“Which is?” Boggs followed up.
“Um, greedy people,” Pryor answered, straight-faced, no joke in his answer.
“Do you really think that some of the guys that you dealt with a NBC — no names, right, because there’s lawsuits for that, too — that some of these guys really want to promote racism? Actively or is it a subconscious thing?”
“I just think it’s part of capitalism to promote racism, right? In order to make things work. If you feel better because you’re white, and you can get a job, you use that, you know. I mean, I would.”
Cities foster innovation: True story. New research in Science Advances ties breakthroughs to certain sized cities — Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Houston.
According to research, cities need to be intentional.
Just like you and I do in our careers or our decisions, cities that focus on the kind of work — companies — and the ecosystem of economic growth — types of workers — will emerge regardless of how COVID-19 plays out.
This is why cities that understand how to express stories and values will thrive. When we fell in love with Detroit, our neighborhood was vibrant, diverse and interactive. We met our neighbors. We support local small businesses. We learned the stories of who lived in our house before us, we heard how our landlord acquired the property and we saw our friends & met new neighbors on walks or on our stoop or on holiday weekends (like this one!).
Mid-tier cities have an almost once in a 100 years opportunity to promote their story. I’ve named mid-tiered cities in the Midwest, the #NextBelt. It’s a response to the wrong and out-of-date label of Rust Belt. To me, the #NextBelt means authentic cities with the character and history to back up the “look and feel” with the individual opportunity to make these cities “feel like home.”
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…..
Cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee contain history, character and culture in a diverse, vibrant, affordable and accessible community.
Innovation is not the reason to be here, it is just one of (all) the reasons. I think we’re all just looking for a place that “makes sense.” No more scientific than that. Like most decisions in life, we first decide emotionally and then justify with information. Commitment to place is as intentional as career and family and can be as meaningful. If you commit to a place, choose a place, it is meaningful. So much of the value proposition around homeownership has been about wealth creation, and while that still remains true, homeownership is as much an investment in place as an investment in equity.
#NextBelt cities offer the chance to participate in a meaningful way without displacing anyone who already lives here. Participate do not displace. Millennials want to be part of something — we look for it in our employers, our purpose — and can find it by committing to place. Being intentional about contributing to your community, choosing a community, brings together all aspects of
Consider place. Consider the #NextBelt. Move here. Move the world.
Rent: During the pandemic rent prices have dropped significantly in the most expensive cities. The top 5 most expensive cities like NYC, SF and NorCal for 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom rentals saw a decrease in rent while other “hot” cities like Boise and Pittsburgh also saw decreases.
Interestingly, cities like Cleveland, Chattanooga and Detroit saw increases month-over-month and year-over-year.
The pandemic continues to defy expectations whether in historical trends or in consumer behavior. Frankly, we might be at just the beginning of how people and places respond to the changes.
Facts: In COVID-19 news, consumer spending has not followed any historical trend. According to Bloomberg, consumer spending on big ticket goods in times of uncertainty is unusual. “There’s no historical parallel, particularly in a recessionary or crisis environment, for a surge in durable goods spending occurring simultaneously with a slump in services spending. In the past, durable goods have outperformed services only after a recessionary slump in spending on such big-ticket items.”
One thing that strikes me about COVID-19 pandemic and much of the coverage is a retread of previous crises. Though it is a once in a 100 years pandemic with an unprecedented combination of factors, people continue to assume there’s some historical trend or previous pattern to use. Here, there is no typical recession or “shape” that will help predict what’s next.
I was involved in meetings in April and May talking about V shaped recovery than W shaped recovery. Now, it’s a K shaped recovery — referring to the wealthier half of the economy improving and the struggling half of the economy worsening.
The reality is that if the same economic policy in the past is applied the wealth gap could worsen. Renters were hit harder than homeowners and white collar salary workers harder than hourly. COVID-19 hit communities of color harder than white communities. Responding and reacting as if there is a “typical” response is not enough.
If you want something to change, it takes a different approach, a new approach.
The “you” is really we.
If we want to respond differently to a different type of challenge, it will take new ideas. The collective we is too large to actually have consistent (bi-partisan) change. But we — leaders, members of our communities, business owners, friends, allies — can respond differently, better. Answering well to this challenge means considering many things anew.
The definition of community.
Our perception of government.
Our expectations of each other.
How we define value.
One of the most influential books in my life has been Moneyball by Michael Lewis. For me, it was not specific to baseball; it was a lesson in how, unless challenged, systems will continue on. Old ways of thinking, basic assumptions about a business or a person will persist.
Approaching the establishment as a skeptic — neither accepting conventional wisdom nor blindly assuming change is better — is the key.
That’s also the hardest part. Just like incrementalism is hard, parsing assumptions is nuanced. Nuance is hard.
We’re not good at nuance.
Balancing what should stay of the “system” that works and what should go is where the action is. I realize that’s where most of the disagreement lies.
As most long time readers know, I tend to overvalue and lean toward change, but my fundamental principle is not that everything should change all the time. My point is nothing (and no one) is above challenge. Challenging assumptions, asking better (and better) questions, and always trying to imagine “what if we did this a different way” is the point.
For me it has two benefits. First, it improves my thought-process and problem-solving by opening up me and my team to new ideas. Second, it is a reminder not to take myself or my opinions too seriously. Not to hold onto my conception of the world too strong so that I miss an opportunity to learn or
Generosity is not only good for the soul but it might be good for the body too! According to researchers, Fanny Kluge and Tobias Vogt, strong linear relationship exists between a society’s generosity and the average life expectancy of its members. If there wasn’t an intrinsic motivation, now you can get something for doing something.
I once heard a pastor say that when you do something for the reward or for the recognition of others, you’ve received your reward right then and there. If you do something with no expectation of reward or no expectation of anything other than service, the reward is in the future and multiplied, perhaps even eternal. It’s a helpful remind to remove the ego. True service needs no recognition.
So, go be generous today.
How safe is your password?
“I believe the ability to think is blessed. If you can think about a situation, you can deal with it. The big struggle is to keep your head clear enough to think.”
— Richard Pryor
Bonus content: Google Earth’s amazing photos captured. Thanks Rob.
Continued success and continue to answer well,