Episode description:

Welcome to the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast, a show that explores the entrepreneurial community at the University of Denver from the perspective of our alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends. 

Entrepreneurship can be lonely, stressful, scary; but it can also be a vehicle for change, freedom, and a journey of self-discovery. On our first episode of season two, we have not one but, two amazing guests—Lora Louise Broady and Bob Kumagai providing their expertise and experience on life design; designing a life that provides opportunity for, both, personal and professional success; for those who want to take agency over their life. 

Don’t miss out on this episode, as it transforms the way you apply life design to entrepreneurship, your career, and to provide insight as to how to make smart choices and prioritize tasks to support your broader life goals. 


Joshua Ross (00:02):

Welcome to the Entrepreneurship at DU podcast. This is the first episode of our second season.

Lora Louise Broady (00:08):

Success of an entrepreneurial venture is success in the marketplace.

Joshua Ross (00:13):

Lora Louise Brody, who has had a long distinguished career marketing new solutions and executing brand strategies across industries. And for the past 15 years, she has been an affiliate marketing professor in the Daniels College of Business.

Bob Kumagai (00:27):

These were tools and a thought framework for applying process and process discipline to something that people need to get good at. It’s a way for you to get very intentional about planning for the future.

Joshua Ross (00:40):

Our second guest, Bob Kumagai. Bob is the executive director for career services in the Daniels College of Business. The concept of life design has been around for centuries, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years as we have become more aware of taking control of our own lives, using design thinking to address critical decisions such as our education, our career, our purpose, and our passion. The term life design was first popularized by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in their book, A New York Times Bestseller. Designing Your Life.

Lora (01:13):

Success of Life Design is the whole purpose, creating a meaningful, joyful Life.

Joshua (01:20):

I’m Joshua Ross and this is the Entrepreneurship at DU podcast. Welcome to the Entrepreneurship at DU podcast. Let’s jump right in. Lora Louise, for our audience, we summarize the what and the why. What is life design, what is the purpose and to you, why is it important?

Lora (01:46):

Oh, thank you Joshua. So happy to be here with Bob Kuga and we’re so happy to be talking about life design. So life design is all about taking a proactive approach to designing a life that reflects who you truly are and what you want to achieve. It’s about taking agency, shaping your life through intentional practices and exercises that align your values. They kind of mine your values and align them with your passions and goals, making conscious decisions that reflect your career, that balances your passions and your life. And so what’s the goal? The goal is to create a fulfilling and meaningful life that’s true for entrepreneurs or anyone. And so using the design thinking principles that are adopted by life design and mindsets and actively focus on what matters to you, then you’re able to take steps towards achieving that meaningful life. I would just say also lastly is that why is it important? It’s important for personal fulfillment. It allows you to identify and pursue your passions in very intentional way, so you align your choices and your actions with your core values. You’re more aware of your strengths and your weaknesses, which can help you decide different paths in your life and it reduces your regret maybe as you go through your life by taking responsibility to live the life that you truly desired. So we always call it in life design that you’re building forward a life that you really want intentionally.

Joshua (03:29):

I like that term of reducing regret. I’ve never really thought of it that way for our audience. Can you clarify one point you just made around design thinking? Can you explain what is design thinking?

Lora (03:42):

Yeah. Design thinking is developed and really practiced at IDEO at Stanford, and Tom Kelly and his brother are the ones that have really brought that to market. And what they’ve done is create a five-step process for designing anything. So I’m looking Joshua at your water bottle. So to design the best water bottle, there are five key steps and they really have taught engineers over and over and over and it’s just been adopted worldwide. The first step is empathy. So to understand who’s using that water bottle, the next step is design. So you’re ideating and thinking about the design of that. The next step is really truly ideation. Once you have an initial design, how do you ideate the uses for that, the features, functions and benefits, et cetera. And then the next is to test, test and learn. Is it working for you, the intended audience? And then the last is to really continue to put that back into action through prototyping.

Joshua (04:42):

Yeah, I’m a huge fan of design thinking and I think it’s wonderful in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship, but I think you can apply it as you were saying to your life. I think it can be applied in so many different ways and we’re really pushing that here in the entrepreneurship program. We actually have a sprint on design thinking, so thank you for letting our audience know a little bit more about that. So I’m going to stick with you for a second. You’re a life design consultant and certified at the Stanford Designing Your Life Workshop. What motivated you to become an expert in this area and to build programming for students?

Lora (05:16):

So my mom was attorney general in California and she’s a contemporary of Sandra Day O’Connor’s and Sandra Day O’Connor always said, you could do it all, you can do everything, but you don’t have to do it all at the same time. And so that motivated me to create this snowflake model, which I used with friends and colleagues forever about identifying different things that you want to do in your life even though they’re not at the same time and taking incremental steps to achieve them. And then that all meshed together with the work that I do in my day job, which is serving 44 million people that are underserved in America and trying to help them so people a bachelor’s degree and earning less than a living wage and trying to help them create careers and lives of purpose. That’s our mission. That’s my day job. And my night job is for the last 15 years being a professor in the business school at Daniels, and I’m with students all the time who are mixed up about what to do next.

Lora (06:16):

And so my husband then introduced me to the Designing Your Life book. I immediately cornered Bob Kuma guy who’s here with us today, literally in a corner at a cocktail party and said, Bob, what do you think about this for this approach for career services, career development? And Bob was convinced that it helps in the transformational aspect of students going forward instead of just the transactional, let me help you get your first job. And then together I found a thought partner and I think it’s been a great partnership together. We created curriculum and Bob went around and evangelized how to bring this to different pockets of different students at Daniel’s, and that’s where we’re today.

Joshua (07:02):

Okay. Bob, first impression at that cocktail party, you get cornered by L L B.

Bob (07:09):

Yeah. What are your thoughts? Cornered is accurate, and I’ve known L L B for a while and she’s delightful, but I thought I read the book, this was five plus years ago I guess, and I’d read the book and honestly I thought it’s nice words and decent framing for some things, but not all that helpful. That was two or three years prior. I think in my role here, I’ve come to learn or I’d come to learn after being in private sector for 30 plus years being an entrepreneur and being part of the startup world that we were doing a pretty good job of helping students from a transactional standpoint, but that we didn’t have a good strategic framework for why we were doing what we were doing. So my thought was we’re an expensive private school, we charge a lot of tuition. Students have high level of expectation of what comes next, and if the best thing that we can do is kind of help them connect to their first job and then we say, okay, we’re good.

Bob (08:14):

That’s pretty sad. And so I was looking for a way to bring together a more developmental framework for students because we know that students that are coming out into the work world now, the days of you get a job or two, you work there for 30 years, they throw you a nice party and give you a watch. I mean, those days are long gone. And students now are going to go out into a work world where they’re going to be working at 10, 15, maybe 20 different jobs across different sectors. Most of those jobs, we don’t even know what they’re called. And so job search and career planning is going to be a perpetual activity. So from a purely transactional standpoint, if you’re going to have to do it all the time, job search that is, you should be good at it. And this was a way to kind of give students some specific tools to go do that.

Bob (09:00):

And secondly, from a more longitudinal standpoint, as an institution, the Daniels College is committed to supporting our graduates over time and we were really not, I don’t think being very effective at providing much other than, well, yeah, talk to a couple of alums and maybe they’ll see what happens and you can find a job that way. This was something that I thought connected in a couple of different ways. These were tools and a thought framework for applying process and process discipline to something that people need to get good at. So that was number one. I think secondly, it puts the agency firmly with the student and eventually the former student, the alum, it’s not the world is happening to you, conditions are happening to you, job skills are necessary today are not necessary tomorrow. And those things just happen to you. It’s a way for you to get very intentional about planning for the future.

Bob (09:59):

At a business school, we work with optimization problems typically, and I think your students in the entrepreneurship program deal with business optimization, but they’re also thinking about what comes next? What do we build forward? And it just seemed like this was a way to kind of marry those things up. We could both be transactional, meaning we could help students connect to meaningful and rewarding work right now, but more importantly over time to provide a framework and a thought discipline that was very consistent with the way that they would be doing business, particularly for entrepreneurs where design thinking methodology and that kind of process orientation is just something that they’re going to be eating and breathing every day. It seemed to fit nicely. It gives entrepreneurs, I think, a really great way to, I think, about how to develop their staffs and support their teammates in addition to building their businesses forward. So I dunno, lots of good stuff. So cornered at the cocktail party, I thought, eh, this is okay. And then as they say, there is no worse zealot than a convert. And that is kind of what I ended up being.

Joshua (11:08):

So really interesting what you just said because when you think about the traditional career services and a student going through undergraduate or graduate school, they’re looking to get a job and at some point in time they’re going to build that resume and they’re going to build that broad cover letter and they’re going to start applying it for jobs and they’ll either get an interview or they won’t get an interview. It’s very binary. And what you’re asking them to do is take it much further, take agency to use your word, but also along those lines, do a lot more work without really knowing if it’ll pay off. Does it work? Do the students lean into it? Do they, this agency?

Bob (11:55):

I think so. I think at Daniels, within the perspective of career services, we need to be good at both things. We need to be very good at helping students in that transactional moment of finding an internship, finding first job post-graduation, that’s table stakes. They need to be good at it. But we also know that that same process is going to repeat itself 18 months, 24 months from now and then 24 months from then and then 24 months from then. And so arming students with a thought framework, problem solving and really more problem identification framework for the future seem to be something that would be very potentially very valuable. I think our students have told us across levels really everything from an 18 year old first year student, that’s first job, first internship to mid-career switcher that’s finding themselves maybe dumped out of the industry or changing skill sets. And really I think it gives them the ability to kind of take agency plan forward, design what they need to learn so that they can position themselves appropriately. So yeah, resumes, interviewing skills, networking skills, all that good mechanical stuff, students still need to do that, they’ll always need to do that, but I think this is kind of an underpinning that helps support them over time.

Joshua (13:11):

So is this the right age? Is this the right target audience? Is higher education, can this be applied and used in high school, middle school, post-college, or do you feel this is the right time in which to introduce this and work with these young adults?

Bob (13:34):

It’s a great question. I think it lands differently for different age groups and different folks that have different levels of life experience. So

Bob (13:45):

A mid thirties student graduate student maybe who’s looking at doing a career pivot, that’s a very different life experience set than a 20 year old 19 year old. But I think using that sort of design thinking, empathize with the user, and now you are essentially you’re the user of the product that we’re designing in a way it gives students at all different levels the ability to do a couple things. One is they can look at themselves and their life experiences to date and be able to speak to them in a way that is less functional, less, I did this, I led that, I did whatever. But it’s something that a resume would say. It gives ’em the ability to speak to it in terms of value that they can provide based on their prior experience. I think it gives ’em some confidence and the ability to self-identify where they bring value, where they have competencies.

Bob (14:47):

And also the adverse side of that is that it helps them identify areas that they need to work on, things that they need to go do. So it’s different for every age group. For example, with our first year and second year undergraduate students, we take some of the worksheets and some of the exercises as sort of discreet activities and get students to work on those things and they kind of will think, oh, well this is kind of fun. I’m doing something, I’m talking with people in my classroom, whatever. But it’s starting to build the muscle memory around things that are, go seek information, try something a little bit at a time, get feedback, iterate, go push it out into the market again, see how that lands very design thinking kind of stuff. That will begin to look very familiar later on. If you’re talking about that mid thirties professional, they’ve probably had some exposure to design thinking or maybe they’ve had some exposure in a firm that uses agile methodology. And so the notion of building something small, putting it out to market, testing for result, taking feedback, something worked, let’s go do more of that. Something didn’t work, let’s kick that to the curb and try something different. It just builds that muscle memory. So in that way I think it lands differently and more or less effectively as a whole. But I think there are specific kind of tools that those different age groups can take.

Lora (16:09):

It’s a really neat way for younger students to design their educational experience. So if they have an inkling that they’d like to be an entrepreneur, they can take this life design approach and life design class to really explore what was your path getting there, what were the influences that made you want to become an entrepreneur, you’re 18 or 19 or 20 years old, what are those? Let’s look at them and then let’s look at what you’re really good at and how can you balance those and then look forward to your actual educational career And maybe more intentionally take the courses that you think can lean into either the areas where you’re vulnerable in order to be a successful entrepreneur or lean into your strengths.

Joshua (16:56):

So I’m going to push back a little bit. Some may argue life design is unrealistic. It assumes we can control our lives in a way that it’s not possible. Is life designed for everyone?

Lora (17:09):

I think taking personal agency as Bob says, or taking the opportunity to look deeply into yourself is always a good thing. So better understanding yourself will help you design a life forward that is coherent with your strengths and your interests. So life is for sure complex and unpredictable. Life design does not help you to work on your circle of control. It works really on the sphere of influence. How do you make decisions at the margin? Knowing really your center, what your purpose, your purpose driven, it helps you with those very uncertain times that you need to pivot

Bob (18:02):

The process of design thinking and life design by extension allows a student or allows an individual to articulate, this is a thing that I want to go work toward. And then we challenge them to say then what do you need to go do? What resources, what skills, what kind of support mechanisms do you need to make that happen? So if you want to be a cowboy grade, but what is that going to take and how are you going to block that out over the course of the next three years, five years to get there? And I think that bit of process discipline is something that for students that are a little bit hesitant and skeptical about some of the more, oh, I’m getting in touch with my inner self, some of that part that they don’t feel so comfortable with, we can kind of ground them in, okay, what does that actually mean?

Bob (18:49):

What does that actually look like? And I think particularly for students that are more pragmatically oriented, transactionally oriented, it helps them to think very clearly about some of the steps that they need to take to go build and fill gaps and identify problems. We often tell students the world does not need problem solvers. There are lots of people that know how to solve problems. What the world needs are people that can identify problems well, because if you don’t identify the problem correctly, then whatever your solution is going to be wrong a hundred percent of the time. So whatcha going to go do to be better at that? I think that’s kind of an orientation that Lora Louise and I have taken when, because in every classroom it runs the range. There’s some students that this is amazing. I feel so much better about myself, I feel more confident, which is great. That’s part of the goal. And then other students that have initially come in going, what is this come out going, okay, there are three or four things that I need to go do right now and this has been helpful in that way.

Lora (19:41):

I just want to say one other thing about backwards and forwards. So if you take a student where they are and ask them, I want to be an engineer, but with an entrepreneurial slant in our life design work, Bob and I asked them to identify what are the influences that made you get here? And then to really look at them carefully to say, what do you want to release? Maybe is it your grandpa that wanted you to be an engineer but you never really wanted to, but they’re paying for your intuition. They want you to be an engineer. There’s a lot of the hot breath of family influences affects a lot of entrepreneurs. And so we really have them look into what brought them there and we call it the entrepreneur’s journey. And then beyond that, we don’t just say, oh, you want to be an engineer? Okay, what are you going to do next? We actually have them chart out three different five-year plans. What does that mean exactly? How will you take that in year two and in year three and in year four? It’s not exactly a prescribed roadmap, but it’s just getting them to think, oh my gosh, I can forward and then help to design what I need to do to get there.

Joshua (20:53):

It’s really interesting because what you’re having them do is really think strategically about their lives. But what I start to think about when you bring that up is things happen in our lives potentially. I mean, I met my wife at 22 in college. That wasn’t part of the plan, but it happened. Different things happen in our lives that can veer off that path. But it seems like if you have that three or that five-year strategic plan and then these tactical things that you want to do along the way, even though life veers us in different ways, you could still keep working towards that strategy.

Lora (21:29):

One thing that the founders of designing your life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have taught us is that we all carry a lot of dysfunctional beliefs that kind of steer us wrong. So let’s just expose ’em and talk about ’em. And one of their favorite ones to talk about, and Bob and I always talk about this in our classes, I should know where I’m going. Like okay, I am 22, I’m in a really nice school. I’m in classes, I should know where I’m going. And the best way I think to reframe that, at least what they tell us and have taught us all in life design is instead of saying, I should know where I’m going, it’s saying I won’t always know where I’m going because life’s going to happen, but I should always know what direction I’m heading. And so that helps you be more malleable and adaptable to what life throws to you. You always know your center, your core because taken a little bit of time to understand that and that’ll serve you well.

Bob (22:23):

I think that manifests itself, particularly with our career advisors that are working one-on-one with students and they will often have a student say, I have to make the right decision. I just have to make the right decision. And the kind of the reframe, which is core to design thinking is sort of redefining the problem set. The reframe to that is your choosing process good. Have you defined a good way to choose? Because the choice may or may not end up being right. You only find that up by looking backward. But if your process of choosing is solid, then you’re probably going to be right more often than not. And I think that ties into that strategic sense of lots of things are going to change over time. A lot of variables change always, but if your process around how you evaluate information and how you make choices that you’ll probably end up on the right side of things.

Joshua (23:18):

That’s a great way to think about it. So are there ways or examples you can provide that students that you’ve worked with have used your program to create meaningful and fulfilling lives?

Lora (23:30):

Yeah, absolutely. I have a few that come to mind, Bob, and please add in yours. But we had one student in our entrepreneurship sprint that was, remember she was going in to get her doctorate in physical therapy or her master’s and then doctorate, and I remember her very well. She kind of pivoted a little bit. She’s still going to go to her physical therapy program, but she was really interested in this idea of five-year odyssey plans. And we always talk about the plan you would do right now, starting right now, the plan, second of all the plan that you would do if that first thing didn’t exist. And the third plan is if time and esteem by your colleagues and family weren’t a factor, what would you do? And she said, it made me change why I am doing this and what I’m going to do with my physical therapy. I realize I have different interests than I really thought I did.

Bob (24:29):

Yeah, I mean I think that one of the things that we find really useful, particularly for younger students, we often are really good at giving lots of tips. And a tip would be go network with people. And for some students, 20% of them maybe they’re like, sure, I’ll go talk to whoever. But for the majority of students that’s like, what does that even mean? So one of the things that I do, I think about this platform as well is that it provides a common vocabulary. And so we take the idea of a prototype, which is very familiar to a designer, very familiar in design thinking and apply that towards something that we might relabel as a prototype conversation, also known as going and talking to somebody, also known as networking, Informational interview,

Bob (25:14):

Informational interview, all those things that sound like, oh my god, that’s so transactional, I’m not ready to do that. But if we frame it as you need information, you want information about something that you don’t know, you just want to have a conversation with someone, small conversation, a prototype conversation, practice, bring information back, go do it again. That becomes a very familiar sort of cadence for students and they find themselves networking. They don’t think they’re networking, but guess what they are. And so from the time that they are then looking for internships, looking for jobs, all those mechanical transactional things that we want them and think that are important to do to land that job or that internship become part of their pattern of practice becomes part of, oh, of course I will go talk to people and seek information. I will just like I solve a problem, I want to know where to go for spring break.

Bob (26:02):

Well, I’ll go talk to people that have gone on spring break to different places and I’ll hear from them, it’s sort of no different. And then when that sort of muscle memory is applied towards something that seems very scary, like, oh, go talk to somebody about a job, they’re kind of used to it. And so I think in a more collective sense, we’ve seen really good results in just doing something as small but kind of interestingly profound as changing the vocabulary that a student becomes familiar with. And it’s also something that’s vocabulary that is extensible across their time at Daniels. So they might be a first year student and exposed to the idea of a prototype conversation. Well, by the time they’re fourth year or they’re in a master’s program, same thing, same language.

Joshua (26:47):

I think it’s also very effective to have that common vocabulary. So as you’re talking to students and they’re talking to people even outside of the university, they actually understand what these people are talking about and it would probably be very effective when they’re interviewing for jobs and different things like that. Alright, so I want to switch gears and focus on life design for entrepreneurs. This is an entrepreneur podcast. So can you give me an overview of what is life design for entrepreneurs and how is it different from traditional life design that we’ve been discussing so far today?

Lora (27:25):

So life design for entrepreneurs, Bob and I worked on this very specifically and I happen to be lucky enough to be in a life design for entrepreneurs global working group. So this question is being addressed in Madrid and in Berlin and in Toronto all over the world. So we are in a large working group to do this. And so I think we start with the goal of an entrepreneur. So the goal is to create and sustain a business that’s financially successful, but that also is personally fulfilling and aligned with your own passions and goals. It’s the entrepreneur that brings that business to life. Life design helps that entrepreneur. So we have reshaped our standard life design class for entrepreneurs by having emphasis in business ventures. So identifying, aligning the business ideals and strategies with the personal values that the entrepreneur brings their passions and goals.

Lora (28:26):

Then also as Bob says, with design thinking, it’s an iterative and adaptive process. We through the process of life design for entrepreneurs, we embrace the idea of constant learning, adjustment improvement that they have to do in order to bring their product to market, to understand their market and to bring their service or product to that market. And the last thing is we talk a lot about mindsets. So there’s commonality between entrepreneurial mindsets and design thinking mindsets and life design. So that’s in the willingness to take calculated risks, just kind of the creativity, the adaptability, problem solving. So we work specifically in the entrepreneurial world, applying life design and design thinking there.

Bob (29:16):

So I spent some time in the entrepreneurial sector and the one thing you learn is that whatever you thought was going to happen probably isn’t going to happen and you will always need to change and adapt. And design thinking I think has gained a lot of traction with entrepreneurs and with startup ventures, with accelerators and those that work with entrepreneurs. Is that in that it provides a framework for not formally, but at least a structure for an entrepreneur to begin to think about what comes next in a systematic way that is being very sensitive to the end user, who is ultimately the person that’s going to make your business a business or not. And so I think that the design thinking piece of it just resonates well with entrepreneurs. Number one. I think secondly, entrepreneurs, particularly the founders are often so they’re running so hard every day that some of the things that have to happen around delegating tasks and authority about building trust with their teams beyond just the thing that I want to go do as the business scales, you need to be able to let go of those things and develop trust.

Bob (30:30):

I think it gives the employees of an entrepreneurial venture more of a stake in that the business’s success also connects with their success and gives the entrepreneur maybe something of a framework for helping to retain and develop team members beyond just, are we hitting our next goal? Are we hitting our next deliverable for our founders or whatever. So I think it has a lot of nice applications and gives a consistent framework that doesn’t ask an entrepreneur to divert from the sort of thought processes that they’re using to run and develop their business every day. I think it really runs in parallel.

Lora (31:13):

The one thing I just want to emphasize there, Joshua, is that Bob is so great to have in class with these students because he brings a sensibility of saying, you are studying to be an entrepreneur and you will need to have teams and you can use some of these exercises and this mindset that we are helping you to develop with your teams so that they’re aligned with your vision and that spells success for the entrepreneurial venture. And Bob is so great and he brings these wonderful stories to play about not just why life design is good for you, but it’s good for you in developing your team so that you can be more successful with your venture.

Bob (31:58):

And I think when it comes time to funding, from my days in working with private equity groups, we were less concerned often with the particular idea or product that a new venture would have. We were very concerned about who the team was and were they going to be able to work well together to scale this thing or to adopt it to whatever the market conditions were going to be. Because if you’re super great business idea, it turns out to not be super great and you need to pivot the people that you have riding shotgun with, you are critical. And that was often the decision point around funding or not funding with all things being equal if you had a better team or you would show the ability to build and develop a better team. And I think that this is, again, it’s a framework that an entrepreneur can use without really diverting themselves or diverting their attention away from their core mission, but it’s a way for them to learn and develop those skills so that when it comes time to get to funding that looks really good from the standpoint of the investor.

Joshua (33:00):

So how do you articulate that value proposition to entrepreneurs? Do you ever get asked the why should I spend my time this way? I mean, I remember when I started my company, I worked 18 hours a day and I was very specific about the things that I had to focus on such as product fit. Do I have the right target market? Am I building the right team? Am I building the right culture? If somebody had come to me and said, you really need to focus on life design, I’m not sure if I would, because there’s the things that are right out in front of you that are so important and they will determine whether or not you stay in business, you’re going to make payroll, and there’s this other thing that albeit very important, it’s much bigger picture. And how do you convince someone to say no, you need to spend some time doing this.

Lora (33:53):

I think the investment in the clarity of your purpose, your personal values, your long-term aspirations will serve you forever.

Bob (34:04):

Yeah, I think the other thing is the way that Laura Louise has really built specifically this life design for entrepreneurs program is that it’s not an all or nothing. It’s not a, you need to do this whole thing and go through all these steps in this order and ta-da at the end, you’re going to be great. No, by the way, it’s going to take 30% of your time. Totally agree. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, just trying to stand a business and get it up off’s, an easy not going to happen. But she’s done a great job, I think, of bringing sort of a modular approach where she can say, here is a thing, we’re going to work on this framework to get to this thing. And it allows, I think, for an entrepreneur to be able to say, okay, I understand that funding is coming. I need to go plan for that.

Bob (34:52):

I understand that developing a team is something I’m going to need to go do and that how do I do that without boiling the ocean around it? And I think being able to build and develop through these individual kind of work exercises that are 30 minutes, 20 minutes, maybe a long one, might be an hour, that’s a bite-sized way to be able to take that information. It’s not necessarily linear. So I think an entrepreneur can pick and choose because part of being an entrepreneur is I have to deal with the fire that’s going on right now. And I think she’s built a way for them to plug into this overall framework in a very modular way that allows ’em to say, okay, here’s my fire today. It’s around I’ve got this guy or this woman in my team who I really need to keep. And she’s starting to say, what am I doing here? And that gives that entrepreneur the ability to try and use one of these kind of activities and build some cohesion with that student or with a student, sorry, with that worker. And maybe that puts out that fire for the day. But it’s something that I think builds kind of relationship equity over time with their team and they kind of find that they’re learning how to become a better leader, a more trusting higher trust leader. So

Lora (36:10):

I would just keep saying it’s intentional instead of just letting your business unfold, it’s really taking, I mean, we are intentional about financial planning for an entrepreneurial venture. We are intentional about market planning. I’m a brand manager, so you’re very intentional about that. You might as well be intentional about the purpose and the innovation that you could create in concert with others. It’s just being intentional I think is the winner here.

Joshua (36:41):

So how do you know if it’s working? How do you know if life design is working? Is it something that evolves over time? There’s these key performance indicators or metrics? How does that entrepreneur, are they able to hone in on that?

Lora (36:56):

Well, the success of an entrepreneurial venture is success in the marketplace, but the success of life design is the whole purpose creating a meaningful, joyful life. Do you feel that you’re in balance and that you’re pursuing things in all aspects of your life that are in harmony, that you might have a lot of hassles every day, but in general, I’m heading in the right direction. And so how do you measure that? It’s difficult. There’s this woman, Dr. Heather Butler at Cal State Dominguez Hills who created an attempt at trying to measure that. And through the Stanford Life Design Lab studio, which I’m part of and I’m so grateful to be, I took Dr. Butler’s work and I adapted it to 12 factors, as I just mentioned before, that measure, are you doing better on those more ephemeral scale? Do you feel like you are living a life of purpose that aligns with what you’re good at and what you want to do?

Lora (38:02):

Is your entrepreneurial venture aligned with you? It’s really what helps you be more resilient in life, lets you pivot easier. And so trying to measure that is difficult, but we have found some great success in those numbers. But Bob and I think we like this way to show class after class after class longitudinally. We haven’t started measuring, but right away students are saying, oh yeah, I feel stronger sense of purpose now of what I’m going to do because I’ve looked at what my purpose is in trying to articulate my perspective on life and on career and how that measures. So I think the true measure, long story short, is living that purposeful life. How do you measure that immediately with this work? We measure 12 of those aspects that try to get to living a purposeful life.

Bob (38:59):

Yeah, I mean I think specifically for entrepreneurs, there’s a mindset that most entrepreneurs have at various points, and that mindset kind of at the risk of making a big generalization, everything that is happening with this company is happening because I decided it should be right or wrong. And inherent in that is the idea of being intentional and one of the downfalls, one of the challenges for most entrepreneurs in making the next jump from, it’s just me and my idea to scaling it to where it can actually grow into a business beyond just my idea, is being able to build teams, being able to build resilient strategic plan or resilient execution plans that align with the strategic plan and vision. And this seems to me to be very part and parcel with that. The idea of this is build things small, test them, bring back information, try it again.

Bob (39:56):

There is no fixed endpoint, right? You’re never going to get to the point where you say, oh yeah, I’m done. I think for entrepreneurs, that resonates and if we can develop entrepreneurs that are more effective at bringing that intentionality, that single-mindedness of this is here because I said it should be to my team is here because we decided that it should be this way. We learned from the market by through our process, and so now we can go scale and repeat that and bring greater success. I think that will be a really good effective measure.

Joshua (40:32):

So what are some of the outcomes you hope to see from students that participate in your program?

Lora (40:38):

Well, again, I think an increased sense of purpose and an understanding ability to articulate your perspectives. I think increased clarity and feeling of that purpose, enhanced wellbeing, which is so important as we emerge from the pandemic. I think a lot of these things really take, we could have a whole nother session on wellbeing and it’s so foundational, I think, to entrepreneurship, but also to life design. We talk a lot about that. I think your intentional progress towards your goals, imagining and envisioning your goals is that how do we know if it’s working? So continued exploration, your adaptability.

Bob (41:27):

Well, I think from a career perspective at Daniels, we know that there are lots of students who are really interested in entrepreneurship and will go on to become entrepreneurs and will hopefully go on to be successful. We also know that some of ’em may try entrepreneurial ventures and find out that not for me, and then they go to work in the corporate sector. So my team’s goals are really twofold. One is transactional. As I mentioned before, we need to land them in meaningful and rewarding careers or jobs out of their undergraduate or graduate programs. We need to do that. There are steps that they need to take, things that they need to learn, skills that they need to develop. We think that design thinking and life design helps to encourage them to do so and take agency around this. The second thing is really a developmental thing.

Bob (42:12):

So knowing that that entrepreneur today may not be an entrepreneur in year three or the offers, they may go to work for a big corporation and five years later go, screw this. I want to start something on my own. It’s a skillset and a platform that allows them to use these sort of design thinking principles and think forward for themselves for their career. And just as I mentioned before, just the way that the world is now, you aren’t going to work for somebody for 15, 20 years. I mean a handful of people will, but most of us are going to be out there just trying to figure out what to do and some new technology comes along. Right now I have students that are coming in and they’re terrified of ai, and our answer is, AI’s not going to take your job. Somebody who knows how to use AI and adopt their work and their interest to ai, they’re going to take your job. So who do you want to be? Which of those people do you want to be? And I think that it builds that flexibility and plasticity of thought that will serve them well over time. So whether they are an entrepreneur today or tomorrow or never or always, I think that it’s a really useful platform

Lora (43:26):

Here. I would just reemphasize that it’s how do you know if it’s successful? Well, it’s an enhanced sense of wellbeing, sense of purpose, fulfillment, and the ability to adapt to changes as they come. And that is what the life of an entrepreneur is.

Joshua (43:44):

No, it’s a great point. We make it all the time with our students is we offer over 30 sprints these one day, one topic, one credit courses. And the idea is for them to have a tool belt. And when they leave the university, they have a tool belt and confidence that if they see an opportunity, they can go after it. Or if they go work for a startup or a large company, they can use those tools. And to Bob’s point, five years from now they’re working for some company and they look at a problem they want to solve or an opportunity, they have that confidence because they have those skills. That is what I believe is so important. And YouTube, both of you articulated that so well. So how can our audience get started? Are there programs, obviously you have one books, podcasts you recommend. What is the first step in this life design journey for our audience?

Lora (44:33):

Well, I think the first step is just feeling the desire to not just master financial ratios and market adaptability and operational aspects that will drive success for your entrepreneurial venture. But it’s really understanding, have I done everything and invested everything I can to really understand my sense of purpose and how that’s going to translate to success for my venture. So first of all, it’s just the interest, the curiosity, which is a mindset. Second of all, you do offer a sprint here. It’s five hours and it’s just the greatest taste. As Bob said, it’s modular. It’s the greatest taste of a few different core aspects of designing your life. If that wets your whistle and you want to learn more, there is a life design podcast. There is a lot of life design programming at Stanford’s Life Design Lab. Kathy Davies is the executive director, a good friend of Bob’s and mine, and she’s terrific, so she could help.

Lora (45:35):

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have a fabulous book called They Have Two, designing Your Life and Designing Your Life Workbook. So if you never wanted to take a class, we’ve kind of found that the workbook isn’t great on its own because who wants to do this by yourself? It’s so much better to, I think, be in collaboration with other people. And so those are some of the key ways. There’s some great TED talks as well. And Bill Burnett has a great TED Talk. Dave Evans has some great videos on it. I would just say there’s so many schools. When I was certified into this, Joshua, I was 199, so DU was the hundred 99th school that was certified to help students with this methodology. Now there’s over 500, so it’s really spreading and we can learn from each other.

Joshua (46:27):

Okay, we’re going to wrap up with rapid questions. Good. And these are questions I’m going to ask you and just off the top of your head, provide an answer and each one of you’ll have the opportunity. And Lora Louise, we’ll start with you first, best advice you received in your twenties.

Lora (46:46):

Again, I would say you can do it all, but you don’t have to do it all at the same time.

Joshua (46:51):

Do you remember who gave you that advice?

Lora (46:52):

My mom. She wanted me to have babies and I went to a prestigious business school and was not on that track.

Joshua (46:58):

Excellent. Bob,

Bob (47:01):

Never have lunch alone. My dad told me that.

Joshua (47:05):

I’m actually reading the book right now. I never eat alone. It’s fantastic. Alright, so Bob, I’m going to start with you on this one. Looking at your 22 year old self was just maybe what, three or four years ago. What advice would you give that person?

Bob (47:23):

Just be a little bit more open to hearing from somebody else? I think when I was 22, nobody could tell me anything. And even I think if I had been exposed to this, I just wasn’t ready for it. But what I take from that is there are probably students that are a little bit like that, and so to be able to just give them a little bit of an entry into it, one or two things that they can try, and then they’re off and running. So I think just be open. It’s

Joshua (47:51):


Lora (47:52):

I’d say test and learn, baby. Take a lot of taste tests like you’re at the ice cream store. Take a test, a taste of that, a taste of that, a taste of that. How will you know? Do as many internships as you can, shadow as many people reach out to people. Bob always says this, no one will ever say no if you call and say, can you just tell me your story, Joshua, how’d you get here? No one will ever say no to that call. But if I said, Joshua, can you give me a job in your program or whatever, but just ask people for their stories. So test and learn as often as you can.

Joshua (48:26):

That’s great advice. Lora Louise, favorite book you’ve read recently?

Lora (48:33):

I guess I would say, well, I love remarkably Bright Creatures, and it’s a book written about a quirky character and the intelligence of an octopus that solves mysteries, so it’s fabulous. My other one would be the Dolly Parton songbook. I’m a huge fan of the multipotential aspect of Dolly Parton to be different people all at the same time, and her amazing gift of philanthropy.

Joshua (49:05):

Wonderful. Bob, what about you?

Bob (49:07):

Well, I hate to be such a trend follower, but I’m reading Oppenheimer and the American Prometheus biography of j Robert Oppenheimer, brilliant guy who was just dragged through the mud and reputation was destroyed in the fifties. And just a cautionary tale of a brilliant guy and sort of political system that didn’t often recognize the value that he brought.

Joshua (49:37):

The final question, and Bob, I’ll start with you. How do you define success?

Bob (49:44):

I think within a professional context, waking up, being excited to go get after whatever it is that you want to do that day. If you can show up on Monday morning and be excited about what you’re working on, you’re probably doing the right thing.

Lora (50:01):

I have the exact same answer, but a different way of phrasing. It is a purpose-driven life, and Bob and I are both seen a few years between us, but I think the most important thing is to feel that you are leading the life that you want to and that you have created for yourself.

Joshua (50:19):

Well, Lora Louise and Bob, thank you for your time today and sharing your expertise and experience on life design. Thank you for coming by.

Lora (50:26):

Joshua. I just want to put this in. We are so appreciative of your program. What a neat way that you have unfolded entrepreneurship for these students. They’re very lucky. So kudos to you.

Joshua (50:37):

Well, I appreciate it, but when you start with the student as a customer, it pretty much drives it for us. Thank you. That’s great.

Bob (50:42):

Thanks, Joshua.

Joshua (50:47):

The entrepreneurship at DU podcast is recorded in Marjorie Reed Hall on the University of Denver campus. This episode was engineered and edited by Sophia Holt and produced by Kevin Douglas. You can find us on Instagram at du Entrepreneur on Twitter, at du entrepreneur, and on Facebook at entrepreneurship at du entrepreneurship. At DU is part of the Daniels College of Business, which has its own podcast. Check out Voices of Experience wherever you get your podcast.