I’m starting a business and I’m a little nervous!
I’m also very excited. Let me catch you up on what’s going on with me. And I’m going back to the beginning, because I think you may find the story interesting and applicable to you as well.
In January of 2018, I read the book, “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Designing Your Life is described as “a book that shows you how to build – design – a life you can thrive in, at any age or stage.”
This book describes using design thinking, an approach to creative problem solving, to build your best life. The method involves the practical, creative resolution of a problem using strategies that designers / engineers use during the process of designing. In Bill and Dave’s case, the initial problem to solve was how to help graduating students find jobs and careers.
Author Bill Burnett found his way to a career as a mechanical engineer from a childhood of drawing cars and airplanes. After spending time in the corporate world, Bill made his way to Stanford where he serves as the Executive Director of the Design Program.
Co-author Dave Evans shifted from mechanical engineering with some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies to leading his own business that helped organizations build creative environments where people could do great work and love doing it. As he worked with start-up teams, corporate executives, non-profit leaders and individuals, he found everyone asking some version of the same question, “What should I do with my life?”
Bill and Dave wrote a book and teach students at Stanford how to answer that very question for themselves. But the book and class didn’t arrive in a neatly tied-up package. Using the concepts of design thinking, they developed a prototype of a class they were considering. They invited eight students over for a two-hour, two-night session during the summer. The students were engaged and didn’t want to leave, they felt the discussion was important and impactful.
Fast forward to today. Bill and Dave teach one of the most popular courses at Stanford, an open enrollment class with exercises, as well as an atmosphere in the class that provides a place to answer the question, “What should I do with my life?” They also offer workshops. For more information, visit www.designingyourlife.com.
As I read the book, I began to think about my next phase. Other than high school and college jobs, I’ve spent my entire work life in legal working for my first law firm while in college. I’ve always thought that life after work could include a consulting practice. I love mentoring, coaching and matching legal professionals in the right jobs and the right careers, and my passion is connecting with people and connecting them to each other.
During a week, it’s not unusual to have multiple conversations with various legal colleagues about their dissatisfaction at work, how to discover their passion or their concern about when and how to retire. I knew at some point, these would be people I would be interested in coaching. I just assumed that time would be many years down the road.
But after January, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. How could I stay with a company that I loved, doing a job I loved, yet open myself to other possibilities? My first exploration of the topic lead me to think I could do it all. Perhaps, I could start the business on the side while doing a job that already seemed to require more hours than I had in a week. But if I was passionate about all of it, maybe I could make it work. Finally, I got up the nerve to talk with my boss. It was scary to say any of this out loud. For one thing, I wasn’t sure if I was asking for something or just starting a conversation. For another, there was the risk my boss would cut off this conversation with such certainty that I would be barred from exploring this until my own retirement. I also wasn’t sure it was a viable idea.
But Bill and Dave gave me the courage to have the conversation. And the conversation was received in just the manner I hoped. Lots of probing questions, opportunity to throw out a variety of ideas and at the end of the first meeting, there was a real interest in exploring a consulting company that Lawyers Mutual would support. This seemed to me to be the best possible outcome.
Since that day in March, the conversation has gone in many ways I did and did not expect. My idea of doing it all? Well, that is the part of the conversation that is not viable. I cannot be the Vice President of a 4-person department responsible for our content creation, risk management resources, personally speaking at more than 50 speaking engagements and CLE programs a year, while at the same time launch and develop a consulting company. That was disappointing to me in some small way as it represented the ending of something that I loved.
However, being the President and CEO of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services exceeds my expectations of where I thought the March conversation would lead me. The opportunity to consult and coach legal professionals about the big questions in the practice of law has long been a dream, one that I had not formally identified until I spent time defining my problem, researching ideas and prototyping ideas. My “Designing Your Life” book is full of ideas written in the margins that have already been crossed off the list, but many more notes that I will be developing in the weeks and months to come.
David Kelley, the founder of Stanford’s design school, says you often have to go through the wild ideas to get to the actionable good ideas. My book and (spiral notebook that hasn’t left my side since March) are full of wild ideas.
I can’t wait to see what sticks and what people are interested in.
Bill and Dave share ideas in the book and on their website for personal practices that help them sustain a well-designed life. During this season of developing a new business idea, I often had to remind myself of good self-care habits. They include Whole 30 eating, frequent exercise with a focus on walking outside in the fresh air, and making time for family and friends. No matter where you are in the process of building a well-lived, joyful life, developing personal practices of self-care and promoting creativity are essential.
I get asked these questions frequently:
- How do I find a job that I like where I can fit in?
- How do I build my career?
- How do I balance my career with the rest of my life?
- How do I know when it’s time to wind down my career?
Using the design your life theory, you’ll discover that there are multiple great plans, careers and pathways and that we have the choice to design the life we want. Here’s what Bill and Dave say,
“Designers don’t agonize. They don’t dream about what could have been. They don’t spin their wheels. And they don’t waste their futures by hoping for a better past. Life designers see the adventure in whatever life they are currently building and living into. This is how you choose happiness.”
Good luck as you design your life. Let me know if you want to talk about how to get there.
Camille Stell will soon be the former Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual and the new President and CEO of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at [email protected] or 800.662.8843.