Week 213 in Detroit. On Friday, our family participated in a Peace March in Detroit. A group of Detroiters joined public officials, organizers and many state and local law enforcement to walk silently across the MacArthur Bridge that connects Belle Isle State Park to Detroit. For those that are not familiar with Detroit, Belle Isle is an island park in the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. For many weeks, the photo of the bridge that accompanied the Saturday Cup of Joe has been, and is today, the MacArthur Bridge. It’s my favorite spot in Detroit.
The silent walk was powerful. As I walked, I reflected on many things. The pain and fear of so many Black and people of color over so many years in our country’s history. The symbol of the bridge that hearkened back to Dr. King and the Civil Rights march across the bridge in Selma, Alabama. The statement that a thousand or so people silently walking can make. The idea that one of the speakers prior to the march mentioned — we walk in peace, for peace.
We were honored to be a part of the statement of values here in Detroit.
For those that think this is just about police brutality, it is not. There is a complex system of incentives, power and outcomes that are all interconnected. The value and dignity of Black lives is intertwined with stability and economic outcomes. Audre Lorde once said, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” I tried to consider the multi-facets of our personal and professional lives this week.
As I thought through this and how to continue to reflect on questions of leadership, innovation and the future given the critical issues facing our county, I realized that we need leadership and innovation and hope more than ever. Perhaps an idea or comment will be that spark.
Thanks as always for reading.
“Gratitude will unlock all other virtues and is something you can get better at.” — Kevin Kelly
Note: Some quotes from today’s post was published by Kevin Kelly on kk.org for his 68th birthday. I choose a few. If you want to see all 68, click here.
“Don’t be the best. Be the only.” — Kevin Kelly
One thing that has always been important to me in the Saturday Cup of Joe is questioning assumptions and making people think. I’m always struck with a bolt of energy, adrenaline even, when I hear something that I had never considered before or never thought. It’s almost as if the lightbulb moment in cartoons is reflected in my brain. Come to think of it, that’s probably where the inspiration for that came from.
Well, it happened again this week. Not because I heard something I’d never thought about but because I learned about a topic that’d always been kinda mysterious — the International Dateline. Considering I’d never travelled across it, I hadn’t taken time to really understand it. In fact, there are only two occasions that I usually think about it — New Year’s Eve and this episode of The West Wing where President Bartlett is flying back from Japan and the staff is trying to figure out his travel time.
You may be wondering how this ties into my week. I found a YouTube video of someone explaining some of the quirks of the International Dateline. In the video (starting around minute 7), the narrator begins mapping the actual dateline. He shows how national boundaries like between Russia and Alaska became accommodations that causes the dateline to stray from the 180th meridian.
And then he says, “Whatever these are all fake lines anyway.”
And that’s where I couldn’t help myself. I know what he meant. He meant lines that have less to do with nature and more to do with who conquered or declared “ownership” of certain land and now whose laws govern that land. But how interesting it is in the context of nationalism, of race, of identity.
Sure these lines are arbitrary but they are not fake. These lines continue to be used by one group or another to divide. The US Southern border. The US Northern border. The DMZ between North and South Korea. Fake lines? Perhaps based on nature but real consequences in human psyche and emotions (and therefore actions).
Where it went in my mind, given the week we’ve had in this country, is just how capable we are of self-government. Human beings organize around ideas. We are able to change what day it is, simply by bending the rules of the 180th meridian to meet our priorities or goals. If we can change time, what can’t we change? Perceptions of race, perceptions of gender bias, perceptions of family should be nothing compared to bending time. It’s about intent and it’s about purpose.
Watch the video, we decided to change the day to accommodate people’s sense of identity with one country or another.
We can surely change policing, healthcare, education or taxes in this country.
It’s certainly easier than time travel.
How would that change happen? If we have the power to change things, what’s the way it actually happens? Earlier this week, President Obama wrote of the need for specific, targeted demands that address policy changes. He wrote this in the context of policing and public safety. Looking more broadly, for a moment, change happens by changing how people approach problems or changing how people consider value. I wrote earlier that corporations are redefining value or redefining what social impact means. Similarly, the habits and characteristics of leaders and learners are the same habits that we can adopt to be agents of change in our companies and in our communities. “Super learners” is not my favorite term. However, super learners reflect the practices that facilitate both a comfort level with the idea of change and as a result, real change.
1. Read a lot. Gather information
2. Approach learning as a process — it’s a journey not a destination.
3. Adopt a growth mindset. To me, this is best said as “yes before no.” Start with how an idea would work versus how it would not.
4. Spread the wealth through teaching. Leaders share their insights.
5. Treat yourself with respect. Take care of your brain!
6. Embrace balance. The brain cannot go 24/7. Rest and exercise reboot those learning and growth aspects of yourself.
Admittedly, these are 6 random habits identified by Thomas Oppong on Medium.com. Yet, as we consider making big societal changes or discrete personal changes, these are helpful lanes for your approach.
“To make something good, just do it. To make something great, just re-do it, re-do it, re-do it. The secret to making fine things is in remaking them.” — Kevin Kelly
A pro pos of that Kevin Kelly quote, I came across an interview from a recent Howard Stern show with Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld is still touring and recently released an hour special on Netflix. Stern dug in on the question of greatness. How was it that Seinfeld continued to be so great in what he does?
Howard Stern: “I thought (to myself), you know, it is possible to will yourself, maybe not to be the greatest in the world but to certainly get what you want.”
Jerry Seinfeld: “I’m going to adjust your perspective a little bit. That was no will. What you were using, what Michael Jordan uses and what I use, is not will. It’s love. When you love something, it’s a bottomless pool of energy. That’s where the energy comes from. But you have to love it sincerely. Not because you’re going to make money from it, be famous, or get whatever you want to get. When you do it because you love it, then you can find yourself moving up and getting really good at something you wanted to be really good at. Will is like not eating dessert or something that’s just forcing yourself. You can’t force yourself to be what you have made yourself into. You can love it. Love is endless. Will is finite.”
What do you love that much?
What is not a force of will but an endless reserve of energy?
Changing the way we think about value can have a tremendous impact on our business and our world. In fact, purpose-led or purpose-driven business do BETTER than counterparts in moments of stress or tension. One of the senior leaders at Quicken Loans, KimArie Yowell says that her personal mission is “for purpose, on purpose.” Purpose has always been a keyword for me because it so closely aligns with one of my favorite topics — intention. On purpose means intentional.
When I hashtag #BeIntentional on LinkedIn, the goal is to be present in the decision as you are making it. My theory is that companies and leaders alike benefit from being intentional. Candidly, I think the free market does too. More information typically means better information allowing team members and customers to decide. In the end, we all end up working and shopping at the places that most closely align with our view of the world. I’ve always hoped that it meant we avoided conformity and monolithic corporations and encouraged exactly what a free market, competitive economic is supposed to promote — diversity and choice.
Too often businesses and politicians support a binary message. All or nothing mentality only serves the status quo.
The future is not binary. The future is for purpose, on purpose.
The fact that purpose-driven businesses are more resilient in crisis is a bonus. When restaurants and small businesses in Detroit closed down during the Shelter-In-Place and quarantine restrictions, our family tried to consider which businesses we could continue to support with weekly orders. We tried to be intentional with our spending and the result was a fulfilling experience. We felt closer to the places we already know and love.
Leadership is very similar in this regard.
Leaders must also be intentional and thoughtful about responding to rapid change. Deloitte calls it “resilient leadership.” My Dad, who sent me this article, also gave me a book about leading from the heart. For me, the idea of being intentional with purpose and leading from the heart are hand-in-hand. Peanut butter and jelly. Whether it’s called “vulnerable,” “empathetic” or “resilient,” leaders are trying to figure out how to respond within a rapidly changing workplace. Changing notions of work. Changing notions of home. Changing notions of equality.
If you are looking for what you can focus on, as a leader, consider being more human. Your team may be asking questions (or wanting to ask questions) about the company’s role promoting systemic equality, about supporting Black Lives Matters, or about innovation that can speak to historically under represented groups.
Design from the heart. Leading with the heart doesn’t mean ignoring “the head,” but means finding the foundations of our humanity that also align with the core business. Understanding broad perspective means empathy for employees, customers, and their broader ecosystems alike.
Mission first. Leaders find a way to establish stability and find opportunity. Before you let your cynicism get the best of you remember, “Cynicism lives only by refusing to apply the same razor edge to itself as it does to all else. Are we ever cynical about our cynicism?” It is possible to use a moment in time that fuels your mission to create opportunity to be more than profit. Don’t shy away from it.
Speed over elegance. At our company we say, “Take the roast out of the oven” to oppose the risk of over-thinking a decision. Resilient leaders take decisive action. Err on the side of speed if you lead with the heart and elevate mission first.
Embrace the long view. Too often and especially in crisis, we sacrifice the long-term strategy for the changing or evolving conditions. Short-sighted leaders tend to over value the immediate return and under value long term benefit of trust, reputation and consistency. Resilient leaders can make decisions in the moment that continue to maintain the long term success of the company and its customers. If you lead with the heart, don’t deny it in a crisis.
“Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe, and a skill you can get better at. It’s the one skill in life that benefits from ignoring what everyone else knows.” — Kevin Kelly
Trust me when I tell you that I hate traffic jams. #1 pet peeve. Not even sure if it’s a pet peeve, because I think it’s actually universal. I mean, who likes traffic jams? I was investigating a video that claimed, in it’s title, that one car could cause a traffic jam. Long a suspicion of mine, I had to know more. That’s where I was introduced to the term — dynamic instability. The concept that the reaction of one driver in a dynamic environment (i.e. the highway) reverberates for miles.
I immediately became obsessed with this term.
Not just because it might explain who I can blame for traffic jams, but because it is a wonderful term for innovation. And change. I work to try to create new opportunity in mortgage and housing. My innovation team focuses on credit & mortgage products, primarily, but also who and how potential homeowners are eligible. Dynamic instability is the role of any good innovation team. Challenging existing products means questioning “how the system works.”
Dynamic instability is the result of not having data or visibility into the future.
Additional insight or more data on how the near future will respond can actually alleviate instability. In fact, 1 in 10 or even 1 in 20 cars “reacting” responsibly can ease a traffic jam. What if the same were true of people? I think it’s a great term for the rest of 2020. Let’s turn this traffic jam into something productive.
“How to apologize: Quickly, specifically, sincerely.” — Kevin Kelly
Bonus Content: Photographs of the year. Here’s my favorite.
Continued success and continue to answer well,