Finding Inspiration from Pearl Jam

Sep 10 2015

pearl-jam-bandThe beauty of a common vision and idea is something I have always found exhilarating. Whether watching a great sports team work collaboratively, or listening to a symphony play to perfection, it always astounds me when a group of individuals collaborate to make something beautiful happen.

I was listening to Pandora while running on the treadmill yesterday afternoon. I am part of Generation X, so my stations range from Guns and Roses to Daft Punk to Children’s Lullaby music (totally clutch for knocking your kids out on drives). When I work out however, I generally toggle between two stations, depending on my mood. Nirvana and The Notorious BIG (aka Biggie Smalls) always have my ear when I am in the gym. I feel like these two artist’s musical sensibilities define me as a person, and their genre of music always gets me fired up while I am in the gym.

On this particular afternoon I was listening to the Nirvana station and they were playing Pearl Jam live in concert. There was this great moment where Eddie Vedder was singing and he turned the mic to the crowd, who collectively took their cue and sang the entire chorus. I can’t remember the song or the exact lyrics but I had this unique moment where I thought to myself, ‘how cool would it be to be Eddie Vedder at that moment; to touch so many people with the words of your song to the point that tens of thousands of people would sing the words back to you in unison on a whim at a rock concert?’ While I was listening to this past moment replayed, I couldn’t help but think how this is a representation of alignment around a core purpose, or Why. (I know, I know, I have problems.)

Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder had struck a chord with their fans. This was a moment in which they were completing each other’s sentences in the form of sung lyrics. It’s hard to put into words, but it wasn’t just about the words they sang together, it was how they sang it that grabbed my attention. I felt as though I witnessed a moment long past where a group of individuals were aligned and each was sharing a piece of who they were together. This is what our Why is all about. It is not just about going to work, doing a job, or making a living. It is about uniting as a group to live our core purpose (aka our Why).

At The Money Source and Endeavor America, our Why is to Grow Happiness and respect in the mortgage industry. We have hundreds – if not thousands – of opportunities per day to do this. We do not get the glory of hearing ten thousand screaming fans respond to these moments when we as an organization collaborate and align to make this Why come to life, however we do get the personal satisfaction of knowing that what we do matters and that we are helping make the lives of those around us better, even if just for a moment. That is what it means to grow happiness and respect. When we all do this together as a group, well… I call that a thing of beauty.

Topics: The Money Source, Grow Happiness, Articles, Pearl Jam, Darius Mirshahzadeh, Endeavor America Loan Services, Eddie Vedder, Common vision

Inspiring Leadership and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Aug 13 2015

15 Arnold Schwarzenegger

By Darius Mirshahzadeh, CEO of The Money Source

As a young child, I idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a GOD to me. I remember sneaking into my grandparent’s family room late at night to watch HBO and I’d see him in Commando, Terminator 1, Raw Deal, Conan the Barbarian and of course Predator. I was probably too young to be watching these movies, but Schwarzenegger was the embodiment of leadership and heroism for me.

This is probably why the idea of Inspiring Leadership stands out to me when we talk about our Core Values. Leadership is not a position. Leadership is not a title. Leadership is not a plaque on the wall. Leadership is not a job. Being a leader is who you are as a person. Schwarzenegger always played the leader in his various acting roles. He did so with an ease and charisma that made him a household name. Despite recent personal issues, Schwarzenegger represented so many things we value here in America: hard work, success, strength, sacrifice, and determination, to mention just a few. Even better, he did it all with an amazing Austrian accent that is mocked by many but revered by all, simply because he embodied these values.

My father told me something when I was 16 years old that I have never forgotten. I asked him, “What is your best piece of advice for me for when I grow up?” His response is burned in my brain. “Only listen to people who you believe are more successful than you are.” I did not know what that meant at the time, but it resonated with me and still does to this day. I think what he was trying to say was to find a mentor and make sure they are qualified to give you the advice you will need.

I recently watched a great TED talk by Tai Lopez titled “The Law of 33%” that Lauren Jara’s husband, Fabian recommended to me. It is all about how important it is to find mentors. One of the things Tai suggested is to find mentors by reading books. I also think you can find mentors by watching talks. I have included the link and highly recommend you watch this talk.

Recently, I saw Mr. Schwarzenegger give a commencement speech for Emory University. It is one of my favorite talks of all time. He speaks about the six things that made him so successful. Every time I watch this talk it gives me goosebumps. I suggest watching it before you go workout or even while you work out if you want to get really motivated.

I love these six rules. Although I do not believe that all apply to every situation in life, I do believe on a macro scale they are all applicable to being successful. I often think of these rules when I see how we, as a company, have grown from a one man operation to nearly 400 employees in just a few short years. In 2011 and 2012, our Founder and Chairman Stavros Papastavrou did not let all of the barriers to entry in the correspondent space stop him from being successful. With limited resources, limited capital, and the odds very much against him, Stavros used many of Schwarzenegger’s rules and made our company into what is arguably the fastest growing lender in the USA.

In our market space there will always be someone out there who has more capital to burn, more resources than us, and a larger appetite for credit and regulatory risk. That is just the name of the game. We will have to go out and compete against these companies in any channel we choose. It is on us to be better. I believe that five of these six rules apply in our business. The only one I would disagree with is “break some rules,” for obvious reasons, of course. But the other five rules apply to us at TMS and EA without a doubt. We need to trust ourselves and trust our TEAMS. We need to work like hell and be better than our competition. We need to not be afraid to fail and to learn from our mistakes, as that is the only way we will get better. We need to ignore the naysayers and stay focused on what we are good at and what makes us a unique and special team. We also need to focus on giving something back. Whether it is as a company or to our individual communities, we must always remember how fortunate we are and to share that fortune with others. I am proud of our Ronald McDonald House team build that is happening nationwide this month, as well as the Red Cross Philanthropy Project last month. Giving to those in need is something we should always seek to grow.

I will finish this month’s article with an excerpt from the Schwarzenegger talk that I simply love and think embodies who we are as a company from top to bottom.

“Muhammad Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the ‘70s when he was asked, ‘How many sit-ups do you do?’ He said, ’I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.’

That’s what makes you a champion. That’s the way it is with everything. No pain, no gain. So many of those lessons that I apply in life I have learned from sports, let me tell you, and especially that one. And let me tell you, it is important to have fun in life, of course.

But when you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard.

Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that. Now, if you want to coast through life, don’t pay attention to any of those rules.

But if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work.”

Topics: Inspiring Leadership, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leadership, Dariush Mirshazadeh, Articles, Core Values, Mentor

Four Easy Productivity Hacks That Will Relieve Your Overwhelmed Work Brain

Jul 09 2015

Just like the Starbucks mug merrily sloshing in your center console, the pace of modern life could be figuratively causing your cup, to run over. We are constantly asked to work on multiple projects while remembering our schedules, follow up with our team members while answering email, and plan ahead while the phone is ringing. Our brains are only human; it’s easy to stress over capability overload.

When deadlines or meetings are missed, we often chalk it up to a bad day, when in reality we might just be asking our brains to do too much. It turns out that because of the way humans mentally process events and reminders, the little stuff can have just as much weight as more important reminders or events. Fortunately, simple and smart productivity apps can take the weight of the little things off our minds, and allow us to have more productive, stress-free days.

First off—prioritize. As you’re browsing apps, think in terms of what will help jog your memory, aid in communication with others, or make managing your time easier. Ask yourself whether a hack could take care of an automation that doesn’t require human touch, or make important materials available on-the-go.

Here are four easy-to-implement tactics anyone can use to harness technology and improve your productivity:

Set Calendar Reminders for Every Short-Term Goal

Missed meetings or blown deadlines are only two of the downsides of not putting things on your calendar. The real productivity zapper is the fact that you’re always having to remind yourself about upcoming appointments or projects, which can distract you from the task at hand.

Liberate your mind from all of these distractions by putting your tasks for the day into a calendar with automatic reminders. Simple cross-platform apps worth a browse include Sunrise and Google Calendar. For help easily scheduling appointments, interviews and meetings, try downloading Calendly. This app allows you to send out a link to your calendar so recipients can view your availability and book themselves into your schedule.

You can also use calendar reminders to check back in on projects you have emailed to colleagues, as well as for personal reminders to make sure an immediate project is on track. Calvetica is great for this. It allows you to check off tasks as they are completed.

Keep an Idea or Project List on Your Smartphone

You don’t want medium or long-range projects cluttering up your daily calendar. Instead, set up a project list to refer to for ongoing goals and tasks. Your smartphone’s notepad will help keep you on track. To further breakdown the to-dos, Begin may be helpful. Like that sticky note or scrap paper you keep around to scrawl reminders, this app enables you to categorize tasks based on time needs. Unlike paper methods, you have no fear of losing your to-do list to clutter or a coworker who’s overzealous about recycling.

Project and idea lists are great to review when you have downtime while traveling or in between meetings. Having the list on your smartphone and at your fingertips allows you to add to it, review it, or revise it when a great idea pops into your mind or some spare time falls into your lap.

Check Subject Lines and Sender Before Diving into Email

Email can be the greatest communication tool or a total distraction depending on how you use it. Constantly scanning emails and answering them can throw you off task and break your rhythm. Pace how often you check your emails to every half hour, or even hour. Use email wisely by scanning the sender and the subject line before diving into email. If you know it can wait based on those two items, don’t even open it. Continue working on the task at hand. Don’t get distracted. Only interrupt your workflow for urgent email.

For an all-inclusive email productivity tool, check out the app Sidekick. It enables you to track when people are opening your emails, as well as to view in-depth profiles on the people opening them. If you tend to send and respond to emails from your bed at two in the morning, or send emails with timely material, you can schedule when you want emails to be sent.

Have All the Tools at Your Disposal to be Productive On the Go

Google Apps are a great all-around hack for general productivity needs when you’re on-the-go. They sync in real time with your online calendar, files and emails so you can stay informed and organized. For larger files, like videos, high resolution photos and project files, invest in a storage plan with Dropbox and download their app.

If you’re more familiar with airport terminals than your local streets, it’s time to simplify traveling to-dos, like printing tickets and checking your flight status. Download the apps for the airlines you commonly use. On iPhone devices, you can set your passbook to lock on your home screen so all you have to do is swipe and scan to get through an entire airport with just your phone and ID.

Topics: Google Apps, Sidekick, Productivity hacks, calendar productivity hacks, Ali Vafai, Email productivity hacks, Productivity, Smartphone productivity hacks, Calendly, Articles, Calvetica, The Money Source Inc., Endeavor America Loan Services, Dropbox, Begin, google calendar

The HP Way

Jun 17 2015

HP Founders HP founders David Packard and Bill Hewlett

It has been five months since The Money Source and Endeavor America officially merged as one. The one thing I have realized throughout this entire process is that different people react differently to change. This is one of the biggest reasons I believe that the Core Values of our company need to be at the forefront of all of our minds when we run through the daily challenges of being a part of our ever growing family and team. I was reading an article the other night from a business owner who got his MBA from UCLA in 1988. During his summer before he graduated, he had the pleasure of meeting the founders of HP (Hewlett Packard). At this point the two men who founded this iconic company were in their 70’s and had long since built what had and is now one of the largest most recognizable brands in the world. To put things into perspective, HP did $111,000,000,000 aka $111 Billion in revenue in 2014 with over 317,500 employees. That’s about 100,000 times larger than TMS/EA, from the perspective of number of employees we have compared to HP. Clearly they did a few things right.

In the article the author talked about the number 1 thing he learned from the founders of HP: “For three hours, the answer to almost every question we asked came back to people. They talked about their relationships with each other and with their employees who, by the way, they never called employees. They spoke about the culture they built. They praised their wives for baking birthday cakes to help with retention, because they knew they couldn't afford to give raises. They talked about how they worked together, working through disagreements and recognizing each others' strengths, almost as if they were married.They spoke about what seemed to them to be common sense, which eventually became known as The HP Way. Treat people with respect. Always act with the highest sincerity and integrity — no matter what.”

The article went on to describe how HP changed over the years, but what struck me the most about this article was the similarities I saw in the way the author described what was important to the founders of HP and how they relate to what I see that we as a team find important here at TMS/EA. I then went to check out what The HP WAY was and this is what I found:

The HP Way

We have trust and respect for individuals. We approach each situation with the belief that people want to do a good job and will do so, given the proper tools and support. We attract highly capable, diverse, innovative people and recognize their efforts and contributions to the company. HP people contribute enthusiastically and share in the success that they make possible.

We focus on a high level of achievement and contribution. Our customers expect HP products and services to be of the highest quality and to provide lasting value. To achieve this, all HP people, especially managers, must be leaders who generate enthusiasm and respond with extra effort to meet customer needs. Techniques and management practices which are effective today may be outdated in the future. For us to remain at the forefront in all our activities, people should always be looking for new and better ways to do their work.

We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity. We expect HP people to be open and honest in their dealings to earn the trust and loyalty of others. People at every level are expected to adhere to the highest standards of business ethics and must understand that anything less is unacceptable. As a practical matter, ethical conduct cannot be assured by written HP policies and codes; it must be an integral part of the organization, a deeply ingrained tradition that is passed from one generation of employees to another.

We achieve our common objectives through teamwork. We recognize that it is only through effective cooperation within and among organizations that we can achieve our goals. Our commitment is to work as a worldwide team to fulfill the expectations of our customers, shareholders and others who depend upon us. The benefits and obligations of doing business are shared among all HP people.

We encourage flexibility and innovation. We create an inclusive work environment which supports the diversity of our people and stimulates innovation. We strive for overall objectives which are clearly stated and agreed upon, and allow people flexibility in working toward goals in ways that they help determine are best for the organization. HP people should personally accept responsibility and be encouraged to upgrade their skills and capabilities through ongoing training and development. This is especially important in a technical business where the rate of progress is rapid and where people are expected to adapt to change.

As I read these 5 statements and their descriptions, I kept seeing similarities to our Core Values and what we find important in our business. What that spoke to me was the following. These two gentleman built a world class multi-billion dollar enterprise because they focused on the one thing that mattered most to the success of their company. They focused on the people. This is not a new idea, better yet an idea that HP adopted over half a century ago. We call this culture now. What this means is that people will always be people. We will always have the same needs of wanting to be inspired, trusted and engaged. We will always want to feel as though the work we do matters. We inherently want to do the right thing and most importantly we want to be a part of making our lives and the lives of those around us more meaningful. The founder of HP recognized this decades ago and we at TMS and EA recognize this today.

We have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to be a world class company like HP. It will not be perfect and we will always have the resolve of our Core Values tested on a hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. We just need to do what these guys did and continue to live our Core Values and continue to bring them to life in areas where they might not currently exist. This is a process, but I am confident in our abilities to continue to strive to make a difference in the mortgage industry and beyond.

Topics: Company Culture, Hewlett Packard, The Money Source, The HP Way, TMS Core Values, Articles, Core Values, Endeavor America, Darius Mirshahzadeh, The Money Source Inc.

What the Mortgage Industry Can Learn From the NBA

May 18 2015

Kobe&Tim San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan and Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant

I was speaking with Christina Harbridge, the amazing trainer that did our communication workshop at the Growing Happiness Conference in January, to do a debriefing on the event and the assessment she did with our team back in December. I asked her, “So what do you think?” She said, “Darius, you guys have an amazing team! I was really impressed with their engagement in the event and how much they care about the culture and the company. I noticed however that there appeared to be a theme in the assessment amongst much of your team. There appeared to be an US vs THEM mentality. If I could recommend one area for you to work on this year is to get your team to become ONE unit, ONE TEAM. Not underwriters vs sales, or vice versa.” I thanked Cristina very much and I realized that in our industry we have bred an US vs THEM environment. I have seen it everywhere I have ever worked. Loan Officers vs Processing and Underwriting. Brokers vs Underwriting and Ops. Sellers vs Correspondent Underwriting and QC. It is the age old story SALES vs BACK OFFICE.

In sales we learn that we need to push to make things happen. While in Ops we learn that we need to protect to the company and make sure that sales is not pushing on the wrong file. I believe that it is this mentality that if gone unchecked brings about much of the anguish and heartache that the mortgage industry is known for. Yesterday I was reading an article online regarding who is the best of the best in the last 18 years of basketball, Kobe or Tim Duncan? Now I barely know anything about basketball but it was an interesting idea so I checked it out. It started comparing their accomplishments:

Kobe Bryant – 19 season in the NBA , 5 world championships, 1 Season MVP, 2 Finals MVP, 11 First Team All Star Teams, 2 times scoring leader

Tim Duncan – 18 seasons in the NBA, 5 world championships , 2 Season MVP, 3 Finals MVP, 10 First Team All Star Teams, 0 times scoring leader, 1 Rookie of the Year

Pretty even if you look at the comparison, and based on these numbers one could probably make the argument one way or the other as to who was the better of the two players, the BEST of the modern era of basketball. I then read something that really stood out to me. It was an article quoting Kobe Bryant speaking about Tim Duncan from 2014: “I can’t express to you how much I’m jealous,” said Bryant of the Spurs’ sustained success, "I’ve been up and down.” Kobe went onto say “but the advantage that they've had, and that (Duncan) has had and been very fortunate with, is they've had the same guys since he’s been there. That really helps. You've got Manu there. You've got Tony there. Those guys have been through the ups and downs and they have that familiarity, and then they build with pieces around that. The same coach. The same system. Here, I've had to go through so many different coaches, so many different systems, it’s crazy. But I love watching (Duncan). What they've been able to do is something else.”

Here you have one of the greatest basketball players of all time expressing his envy for someone else in the League. Kobe has been incapable of keeping his team together. He has gone through many coaches and systems and team mates. It has not helped that Kobe is known to be all about Kobe. He makes more than twice what Duncan makes and this has hurt his teams ability to bring in other quality players and he has been known to be very difficult to work with, not considered a team player by many. While Duncan and his team have created a dynasty based on the one and only thing that matters if you want to reach the pinnacle of greatness, they have created the world’s best TEAM in the modern era of basketball. With Kobe it is all about Kobe. With Duncan it is all about the TEAM. This struck me as I read the article as I see this in the mortgage business all the time. My question to all of us at Endeavor and TMS is the following: “Who is your TEAM?” And secondly: “What can we do to become a team like Duncan and San Antonio in an industry filled with Kobes?”

Topics: Team, Grow Happiness, Articles, Darius Mirshahzadeh, The Money Source Inc., Endeavor America Loan Services, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan

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