It’s Time To Change Course

For those of you that don’t know, I’m actually an English Major, with a great love of literature and theater. For the past 14 years I’ve been reporting on the mortgage industry, but before that I got my Master’s Degree in English and taught seventh and ninth grade. Covering the mortgage industry has ben an amazing adventure for me that peaked with me creating PROGRESS in Lending.

Why did I start this company? Because I felt at that time, and still do today, that the mortgage industry needs a place for thought leaders to come and express their ideas to encourage the whole industry to innovate, evolve and progress. Today I’m going to merge both the world of great literature and mortgage lending to make what I think is a very important point.

For those you that don’t know, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851) is a novel written by Herman Melville in 1851. It is considered an outstanding work of Romanticism and American Renaissance. In the novel, Ishmael narrates the monomaniacal quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, a white whale, which on a previous voyage destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg at the knee. Although the novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author’s death in 1891, its reputation as a Great American novel grew during the twentieth century.

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D.H. Lawrence called it “one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world,” and “the greatest book of the sea ever written.” In fact, “Call me Ishmael” is one of world literature’s most famous opening sentences.

The product of a year and a half of writing, the book is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, “in token of my admiration for his genius,” and draws on Melville’s experience at sea, on his reading in whaling literature, and on literary inspirations such as Shakespeare and the Bible. The detailed and realistic descriptions of whale hunting and of extracting whale oil, as well as life aboard ship among a culturally diverse crew, are mixed with exploration of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of God.

In addition to narrative prose, Melville uses styles and literary devices ranging from songs, poetry and catalogues to Shakespearean stage directions, soliloquies and asides.

In the end of the story, Ahab plants his harpoon in the whale’s flank. Moby Dick smites the whaleboat, tossing its men into the sea. Only Ishmael survives. The whale now fatally attacks the ship. Ahab then realizes that the destroyed ship is actually the hearse made of American wood in Fedallah’s prophesy that was discovered earlier in the story. The whale returns to Ahab, who stabs at him again. The line loops around Ahab’s neck, and as the stricken whale swims away, the captain is drawn with him out of sight.

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In the words of scholars John Bryant and Haskell S. Springer, “Moby-Dick is a classic because it defies classification.” It is “both drama and meditation: it is a tragedy and comedy, a stage play and a prose poem,” they say, and add that it is “essay, myth, and encyclopedia.”

Now that I’ve probably put you to sleep talking about what others have said about Moby-Dick, I’ll come to the point. This is a tale of a great captain that is so blinded by revenge that in the end he perishes. Why? Because Ahab refuses to change course. I hope mortgage lenders learn a thing or two from this.

What do I mean? Many lenders are preoccupied with compliance. Surely compliance is important. However, if lenders don’t use the burden of compliance as a way to look at their whole process and actually improve it, I fear they will go the way of Ahab.

If we look at the new disclosure rule set to go into effect of August as an example, I fear that too many lenders see this as just a forms issue. It’s not. It’s bigger then that. Lenders need to look at each new rule as a singular rule, but also as a way to improve the way they transact business as a whole. Don’t be so blinded by compliance that you let it get the better of you and ultimately cause your demise.

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