Saturday Cup of Joe from Detroit


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Almost didn’t make Saturday this week! Thank you for your patience, especially if you generally read the Saturday Cup of Joe on Saturday morning with your cup of coffee as was the original idea. Between traveling for work earlier in the week and our company holiday party last night, I was not able to compile and send the email until today. It didn’t help that by forgetting my laptop power cord on my midweek trip, I was unable to write on the plane the way I usually do. Enough excuse, though, on to the good stuff.

I was in a meeting earlier this week and heard a phrase that I absolutely love — operationalize greatness. It triggered so many applications and thoughts. For starters, even trying to understand or apply the concept to your team or your business is a valuable exercise. It demands a definition of greatness and then determining how to “bake” it into the team’s daily work.

Will you operationalize greatness tomorrow? This coming week? In 2020?

How do you define greatness in your industry?

What expectations are rational and reasonable to put on your team?

How do those things that exist above our work, meaning expectations and assessments, then become part of the work process to ensure they are met?

For the next week or two, while I’m working on my 2020 planning, I’ll be focus on how to operationalize greatness in my own work and my team’s.


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Detroit, MI, USA

In Detroit, it is not surprising that Henry Ford and the assembly line are frequent references even, and perhaps especially, when talking about other industries and other companies. I found that Henry Ford’s legacy and common quotes or phrases were much more common in Detroit than other places I’ve lived. Again, not surprising.

One thought I had this week that I’m still pondering is why is the assembly line still considered the best way to manufacture something (even digitally)? Are we sure it’s the right way?

Pit crews have shown us, I think, that incredible amounts of productivity, progress and physical alteration/creation can occur by not doing things “in order.” Instead, the pit crew aims at working in concert to be better and faster.

In technology development, one way of looking at development includes “swarms” which would leave with the impression of a pit crew. Sorta.

Overall though I don’t think we’ve done enough in manufacturing or other linear processes to disrupt the assembly line or “the process” and attack it more like a pit crew. I’m thinking, of course, only about the mortgage process. I’m sure other industries have already moved well beyond the assembly line. In mortgage origination and processing, the business remains remarkably linear and assembly line-esque even with recent technology innovations.

I don’t know how to apply the pit crew mentality to my business yet but I’ll get back to you when I figure it out.

Does the pit crew exist in your business? If so, let me know how and perhaps we can learn from each other.


Can I ask you for some advice?

What a feeling, am I right? When someone wants your advice, the ol’ ego gets a big boost. Of course, don’t most of us love to give our opinion on almost anything in someone else’s life.

My grandfather used to say “If you ask for my opinion, I’ll give it to you. If you ask for my advice, you better take it.” I think about that somewhat confounding line. On one hand, he might be referring to the quality of his own advice. On the other, he might be acknowledging the reality that when someone asks for your advice and doesn’t take it, it sends a message about how they value you. In fact, you could imagine it would have lasting reverberations in the relationship.

The New York Times published a quick post on giving better advice. I thought it worth sharing.

The science beyond advice is that “People will go along with advice if it was costly to attain and the task is difficult (think: lawyers interpreting a contract).”

The research goes on distinguish expert advice from personal advice. “Advice is also more likely to be taken if the person offering counsel is more experienced and expresses extreme confidence in the quality of the advice (doctors recommending a treatment, for example).”

One way someone can ignore your advice without it effecting the relationship is when they disregard the advice because they are angry or emotional. For example, someone choosing to stay with a romantic partner even after asking for advice about a situation or sending a text while still fuming about the subject.

There are ways to improve or remember key points when giving advice.

The practice:

1. Confirm you are actually being asked for advice rather than just lending an ear

2. Collaborate with the friend or colleague to ensure the resulting advice is (basically) their idea

3. Offer ongoing support afterward, as appropriate

With these ground rules in place, good luck!


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Cliffs of Moher, Western Ireland


Being first and being wrong feel the same. It’s what makes entrepreneurship so hard. It’s what makes innovation so hard. Unfortunately, as a result, we often turn to success stories for advice or guidance and those success stories come with an above average size grain of salt. That grain of salt which tempers the usefulness of looking to those who have been successful in business is survivorship bias. According to a great post on Farnam Street, survivorship bias causes most of us to miss the incredible hard work and sometimes pure luck of who made it and who did not. For example, “…Many of the misfit billionaires who are widely celebrated succeeded in spite of their unusual choices, not because of them.” Just because a decision exists in the path to success does not immediately mean it was a necessary component of the success.

Another reason survivorship bias limits our thinking is that success stories tend to “ignore the role of timing, luck, connections and socio-economic background” in the story.

My advice has always been to look for advice from someone who walked the same path you are on a little bit before you did. In other words, just focus on the next step. For career advice, do not look to Warren Buffet. Instead ask the person who is currently doing the next job you want. If you are worried about internal politics at your company, find someone at a similar company or comparable company and ask them. If your business is hitting an obstacle, do not seek out Mark Zuckerberg, look to another founder who overcame that obstacle a year ago or a few years ago.

This theory is called firewalking (acknowledgment to Josh Watskin). Learning from someone who just had the experience instead of going through the failure yourself. It applies here because it’s a solution to the survivorship bias problem.


“A stupid decision that works out well becomes a brilliant decision in hindsight.”

— Daniel Kahneman


@ramit on Twitter


NextBelt: Detroit is the place for the next startup capital. Ian Sefferman of assembler labs spoke at Google in August and spent a little under an hour speaking about how that might be possible.

This Talk includes:

  • An interesting comparison between Seattle and Detroit
  • Focus on people to create the “beehive effect” … talent, talent, talent
  • Leverage the city’s strengths — international adjacent, nearby to many highly technical colleges & universities, talent
  • Detroit is lacking investors and lacking “the vision” to find the luck


Americans are moving less (and less): A recent article from FastCompany noted that less than 10% of Americans moved this year. Compare that to 18.1% in 1987.


1. Incomes are flat over the last 35 years so Americans are not as equipped to move or retire in the same way.

2. Boomers are working longer and staying active, in their home, longer than previous generations.

3. Advances in technology (and I would agree air travel too) have made it possible to work from home or access opportunities without having to live nearby the opportunity.

Have you considered how this could impact your industry or your business? What happens next? What happens to homeownership overall?


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Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson


Millennials: Ever since I began writing the Saturday Cup of Joe each week one of my favorite topics is millennials and generational trends overall. One topic that I have only encountered once or twice in the 188 weeks that I’ve been recording the articles I come across is millennials & religion. FiveThirtyEight published a post this week that found, for the first time in our country’s history, a generation is almost as likely to declare no affiliation as they are to identify as Christian. What is interesting is how closely tied religious practice is to community affiliations and politics.

The post cites several reasons why millennials could be drifting away from religion. For example, their parents were not raised religious as often either and it is a slowly forming trend. Another example, since millennials are less likely to be affiliated with a religion, it stands to reason they are more likely to find a spouse or partner that is unaffiliated as well.

There is an aspect here that could be good news for everyone. Being more intentional about religion will ensure that no one is simply doing what their parents told them. In fact, I see it as an opportunity for religions to renew the pitch to millennials and Gen Z to attract these people as a personal commitment and not a family-obligation type commitment.

On a more discreet aspect of this, however, it is interesting that religious practice offers an immediate community of trusted neighbors and friends. I wonder whether millennials are seeking out close-knit, trusted communities in other ways or other areas of life? Or is that also becoming less a part of modern life?


Quote: “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” — Abraham Lincoln


Christmas — would you rather?

Garland or Mistletoe

Stocking gifts or under the tree

Real tree or fake tree

White lights or colored lights

Velvet or sparkle

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day

White Christmas or Warm Christmas

Gingerbread or sugar cookies

Spiced cider or eggnog

Christmas music or Christmas movies

Give or receive

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

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

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