Week 191 in Detroit. Haaaaappy New Year! We rang in the new year quietly and casually on the couch. We had roasted marshmallows at our friend’s house a little earlier and muted the TV to hear some celebratory gunfire off in the distance. 2020 had begun!
It was relaxing and refreshing. Despite some ill-advised office humor — “see you next year” — on Tuesday, it was a low-key but productive week as well.
In many ways you can’t go wrong with a Wednesday holiday. If you took the whole week off, you made a great call. If you came back into the office for Thursday and Friday, it was not as busy or intense as usual allowing catch-up on emails or setting the stage for the first “real” week next week.
How are you thinking about the new year? Last year, I wrote a bit about predications and resolutions. I settled on two resolutions that had grown on me this week (and, in fact, found myself using if anyone asked me about resolutions). First, a classic, read more books. 1 a month to be exact, not counting audiobooks. Second, cut out small talk. Whether in the elevator, at parties or waiting for a meeting to begin, find a way to insert meaning, curiosity and better questions into my day. Not one for small talk to begin with, this will be interesting to see if I can take it to the next level.
One of the biggest areas of focus for my company and my team this year is people. Reinforcing our culture and driving our goals, called OKRs, through developing people. The “Think Well, Think Different” column on Benzinga.com dug into some ways of thinking about company culture that caught my attention.
First, it all starts with you as a leader. Leaders bring the weather and set the tone for how seriously culture, goals and work will be treated.
Second, understand there will be tradeoffs. We cannot have the ideal company with the ideal human beings in that company serving up ideal goods or services to the ideal customers. We have to make sacrifices and allowances for humans to be human. Values require investment.
Third, set the tone and then release control. Squeezing too tightly too culture will have the opposite effect. Team members will be boxed in and unable to make decisions. Service and culture will suffer. Demanding your team live the culture of the company does not mean forcing their behavior.
Lastly, embrace the suck. Yes, building a company is super hard. Establishing a resilient and long-term culture will be difficult. Lean into the challenge and recognize that hard is valued. Hard is what will set you apart from the other companies. Hard is good.
Link: Think Well, Think Different.
People living places. Occasionally when I’m adding articles to the Saturday Cup of Joe throughout the week, a theme forms. It is not often because I’ll usually include articles from all over the place — consumer finance, urbanism, future of work, leadership, Detroit, etc. I like to think of it as part of the value (or charm) this project.
This week, I ended up traveling across the planet, really, thinking about the places people choose to live.
For example, one couple built their own homestead on an island in British Columbia, Canada. In this long video tour (11 mins) of the property, the couple discusses how they created and sustain their home. It was truly a remarkable accomplishment. They’ve dealt with weather issues, waste, fresh water, and recreational space. In the video you can hear how they committed to a set of goals and how they’ve adapted in various ways. It’s a beautiful home and amazing what people can do.
One thing I love about working in consumer finance and housing, specifically, is the link to necessity. Other than someone’s health or healthcare, there is nothing more personal than your home. It’s fundamental and fundamentally personal. The choices tend to inform a lot about a person but also determine myriad other factors including income and likelihood to be the victim of a crime.
As a policy issue, housing remains complex and political because of the role it plays in communities and people’s lives. I write a lot about the #NextBelt because I see the potential and value in committing to a place that inspires and supports opportunities. The key to the #NextBelt, for me, was only partially about the potential “deal” in quality of life and property values. It was more about the attitude and the inspiration walking around Detroit.
I believe Detroit is a great place to start a business, to raise a family, to interact with dedicated and passionate people. My motto has been to participate not displace.
That motto came to mind again this week when I read a Medium post on The Bold Italic about moving to San Francisco. The property costs are staggering. Not only is the cost of rent up 40% in the last decade but eviction rates are too. The biggest complaint in the piece seems to be that the new, wealthy residents are not participating in the city. Not experiencing San Francisco makes the displacement worse and the policy solutions harder.
My advice is not to go west but to go Midwest. But either way, wherever you are, the message should be the same — commit to experiencing the place you live. Choose to engage in the community. Find the inspiration and collect experiences that will return any investment whether in Detroit, San Francisco or Siberia.
Because people actually live there. For whatever reason (though I’ll speculate on a reason in a moment), northern Russia and Siberia has always been fascinating to me. Though I’ve never read The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, I remember my father talking about it. The book as always been vaguely on my list to read (maybe that 2020 goal is becoming more clear).
When I clicked on an article about living in Magadan, Russia, I was not sure what I’d find. For starters, it seems to have been the center of the gulags. Not only mentioned in Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag it was the first city he visited upon returning to Russia after his exile. The city of 166,000 is seen by most residents as their temporary home despite the fact that many never leave. The story sparked sympathy for what seemed like a bleak perspective as well as a weird envy for how simple their mission — find as much joy as possible while still there and, if possible, leave. Bars, restaurants and ice cream are a part of making it work but it was a reminder of how complex the question of where and how to live really is. Fascinating glimpse into the life of somewhere literally on the other side of the world.
Lastly, I found a tourist-y video of an Italian village … in Wales. Yup, Italy in Wales.
Portmeirion, Wales. A curious town created by an eccentric designer with color, unique features and hidden gems throughout. Since many Saturday Cup of Joe readers work in real estate, I thought it would be fun to pass along this video. Have you been to Portmeirion? Let me know.
Disturbing fact of the week: We eat microplastics. A lot of microplastics, in my opinion, now that I’ve read this story. How much to a lot you ask? Enough to construct a standard rolling garbage bin!
Totally sucked in: After seeing someone call this one of their favorite stories of 2019, I had to check it out. I could not believe I had missed it. The New Yorker profiled a young paleontologist that made a significant fossil discovery in North Dakota. Digging in (pun intended) I couldn’t stop reading. It was fascinating and has it all — drama, secrecy, wild speculation, and dinosaurs. This story is worth your time (and the writing is phenomenal). Enjoy!
Top Airports as voted by Conde Nast readers. #NextBelt. Thrilled to see DTW #9 but somewhat skeptical of a list that allows Savannah Hilton Head to be listed at all, not to mention #2. Detroit, Minneapolis, Portland and Indianapolis were larger cities included on the list. To me, DTW does it as well as any airport in the country. I’m bias and I tend to fly to the same airports over and over rather than flying all over, but flying Delta out of DTW is as easy as any travel experience I’ve ever had.
“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.” — Marcus Aurelius
Bonus Content: Amazing map of North America drawn freehand.
Continued success and continue to answer well,