It’s a “Wicked” Challenge — But You Can Design Your Life (Yes!)



When I look at a Parsons table (designed at Parsons Paris in the 1930s) — I see a thing of great beauty.

Fresh simplicity.

Lines that sing.

A presence that cannot be ignored.


Legend has it, the iconic design emerged from a design class where its instructor, Jean Michael Frank, challenged students to design a table that would retain its design integrity sheathed in various materials, such as mica, burlap, etc. From Frank’s sketches and student participation came the elegant minimalist design. (Read more of its history here.)

It was the product of an inspired design moment and is a thing of beauty.

What if we could take the same engine that drove this type of creation — and apply it to our own lives?

What if you could design a life that sings for you?

I’ve spoken to countless people who are less than thrilled with their lives. Something seems off. Something isn’t working. However, the more telling question must be posed — is there something better out there for me? The authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, explore the dysfunctional beliefs that stifle the answer to that vital question. The answer is likely a resounding “yes”.

But how? We are rarely offered the tools to unpack such a problem. But, that is changing.

At Stanford University, students have had the opportunity to explore their life as a design challenge, in a course named: Designing Your Life. The crux of the course involves applying design principles to build a happy, fulfilling, post-student life — prototypes and all. Initially an experiment (the brainchild of the book’s authors Bill Burnett & Dave Evans), the class became such a campus phenomenon within the engineering department — that it was then offered to all Stanford students. (The information is now being shared with other universities – from Harvard to Cal State Dominguez Hills to Trinity College, serving students across the country. That works.)

The most important element of the course is to build a life that holds meaning. What might you want to build or leave behind? That exploration is much more than money — or a job. It is about living a coherent life; congruent with whom you are.

So, this is where the book comes in. It is jam-packed with observations concerning the history of this now 10-year-old course experiment.

Interestingly, the concepts in the book are now being offered to the public in a workshop format and there is one version especially tailored to women. (See the dates below — you can still register). Course instructor Susan Burnett, describes the workshop as perfect for anyone who finds they are at an “inflection point”. Whether that is leaving college, a marriage, job or career, or just being ready to try something new. As Stanford Life Design Lab’s Kathy Davies describes, “the course for women was born from the observation that women engaged with the process with a different perspective. The workshops provide the time, space and a community of support to have those life design conversations.”

Hooray. We all require help with inflection points.

So, pick up the book or register for the course and get ready to break down that petrified view of your life — and then put it back together again.

Only better.

Now do it again.

And again.

What do you see?

Click on book icon to learn more.


The Designing ​​Your ​​Life ​​for ​​Women Workshop

Overview: Designing Your Life for Women is an intensive, hands-on workshop experience where you will learn and apply the Life Design© method to your own life.  We will focus on balance and energy, use ideation techniques to help get you unstuck, build Odyssey Plans for three potential futures, and define ways to prototype the compelling parts of these futures. Best of all, you will do this in a community of women who have come together with a common purpose and who will support you on this life design journey.

UPCOMING DATES: We’ll update you when we have more information.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk writes about life and career as an Influencer at LinkedIn. Her posts have also appeared at various outlets worldwide including US News & World Report, Forbes, Quartz and The World Economic Forum.



Building a Company in Your 20’s: An Interview with Influence & Co.’s Kelsey Raymond

Kelsey Raymond

We are thrilled to have landed this interview with Kelsey Raymond, co-founder and president of Influence & Co — an agency built on the belief that great content has the power to build an individual’s presence. Kelsey started this journey shortly after college in 2011 and navigated a wide range of challenges, peaks and valleys. (You’ll likely see yourself in her journey). She has most generously shared some of these moments with us and some solid advice — so we might learn from her experiences. (BTW, the topic of confidence does come up.)

As a team, Influence and Co. is committed to “keep it real”. They develop an individual’s presence authentically, through crafted content that retains a true voice —  transforming a client’s knowledge base and experience into credibility. Their work is rooted in a “sharing not promotion” vantage point, where their clients offer something meaningful to their potential audience. This action in turn, could serve as fertile ground for a future relationships. (They really intended to leave the whole “ghost-writer” concept buried in the dust.)

Like many successful leaders, Kelsey has a firm belief in mentors and mentoring — along with a strong strategy to invest in people. She relishes the opportunity to help others grow within Influence & Co’s culture.

I have always loved the fact that she employs so many great journalists many from the mid-west. (I’m a Detroiter.)

Who says that you have to be on the coast to rock a start-up?

I’ve watched this group grow over the years — and I couldn’t be more excited for them. Since 2011, Influence & Co has grown from 2 to 70 members, earning a coveted place on the Forbes Most Promising Companies in America list.


As a note, I’ve barely edited Kelsey’s responses to our questions. (I didn’t want you to miss a thing and honestly, I couldn’t really improve upon a journalist’s unfolding story.) If require guidance in building influence through content, learn more about Influence & Co. by visiting their site here:

  1. What key factors came together that helped you to find your current path?

There were a few factors that led/helped me to start & run my current company, Influence & Co.

  • Family Influence: First, I was raised in an entrepreneurial family. My Dad ran a real estate business (as did my sister) and my brother ran a music venue. I grew up knowing that entrepreneurship was a valid career path — not some kind of crazy dream.
  • School: At the University of Missouri I studied Marketing & English, but the majority of my knowledge base came from my experience with an Entrepreneurship club called “The Entrepreneurship Alliance” (EA). Through this group, I was able to meet with entrepreneurs, pitch ideas, win seed money and start a business with a friend.
  • Testing Entrepreneurship as a Path: Because of EA, I was able to start a small marketing company. We learned much about sales, writing contracts, good customer service, and even hiring and firing employees. It empowered me to feel confident to start another company after college.
  • Mentors: More on this below!
  1. Did you have a mentor? A teacher, boss, relative, etc. — that impacted your career/life direction?

Absolutely! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have two fantastic mentors in my life.

  • My Dad, Jerry Meyer — He was my first mentor and taught me a lot of what I know about managing people (treating them right) and a good work ethic. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to ask him for advice — knowing that even though our companies are very different, he understands people and what truly matters.
  • My Entrepreneurship Alliance Professor, Dr. Greg Bier: Greg introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship through EA and has been an incredible support system to me throughout my career. He challenged me, supported me and most impactfully – he opened doors. He introduced me to the people who would become my first clients, my first investors, and even my first employees. Oh and he introduced me to my husband. Greg was the officiant at our wedding in May.
  1. None of us are perfectly suited for our own path. What aspect of your own personality or work style serves as an obstacle? How do you manage that challenge?

One aspect of my personality that did serve and currently serves as an obstacle is insecurity. I was 22 when I started Influence & Co. — and I would frequently feel like I didn’t have the right to be in the position I was in (imposter syndrome big time).

Mentors in my life have helped me build confidence. However, it is still something I struggle with. One thing I have started to manage this (which may sound incredibly cheesy) — is to remind myself that I have earned the recognition I’ve received. That I have worked very hard — and that I have earned the right to be in the room or conversation or at the table (wherever that might be).

Literally saying these things out loud — helps me overcome an insecure moment.

I’ve also realized that my expressed confidence helps other young women on our team gain their own confidence, so I can help them.

  1. If you had an observation concerning what separates those who love their work, from those who do not — what would that be?

One thing I do notice, is that people who don’t love their work, frequently do not enjoy the people they work with. Even the most tedious jobs can be enjoyable if you’re working with people you genuinely enjoy being around. For this reason we invest a lot of time in the interviewing process to make sure we are hiring people who we will enjoy working with.

  1. With success can come complacency. How do you draw energy from your successes and stay grounded. How do you stay sharp for what might come next?

It’s all about what motivates you. What motivates me is helping companies connect with their audience on a human level (which helps grow our client base) and creating jobs for the most people possible, so that they enjoy coming to work every day (which means growing our team).

With those two things being motivators, it’s not difficult to avoid becoming complacent. I don’t have a 5 year goal of numbers I’d like to hit — it’s more about continuous growth and improvement.

  1. In your world, what activities or tasks most energize you? What advice would you give to young women in college concerning finding the right career path?

The activity that energizes me, is working with people to help them come to their own conclusions – so in a sense, coaching my team members. I’m thrilled that as we’ve grown, I’ve been able to spend time on this. However, it didn’t start out that way.

The advice I would give to young women in college concerning finding the right career path, is to think about something you’d love to be doing five or ten years from now – talk to someone who is in that role, and ask them what skills, experiences and responsibilities you need to have developed over that 5 years to get there.

Don’t discount the importance of understanding financials if you want to be in management, don’t discount the importance of meeting deadlines – realize how each of those things will help you get to where you want to go.

  1. Whose life or career do you most admire? Why?

I admire Sheryl Sandberg – I’ve just finished reading her book Option B — and admire her resilience and attitudes toward life. I’ve also read Radical Candor by Kim Scott, and she tells a few stories about Sheryl as a boss at Google. I was simply floored by how Sheryl was described as a boss. From Kim’s stories, she seems to have the perfect combination of empathy and willingness to provide critical feedback. She earns the trust and respect of those she supports.

  1. Lastly — what is your favorite book and why?

Such a hard question!! Since my list of favorite all time books is much too long, I’ll go with my favorite from the last two months, “Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?” by Alyssa Mastromonaco.

Thanks Kelsey. I know I learned a lot.

Please note: Don’t miss our interview with Influence & Co.’s employee #3 — Alyssa Patzius,Vice-President of Client Experience — as she explains what it’s like to be a part of a growing start-up!

Kelsey’s Book Picks* (Click on the photos to learn more):

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

The Everyday Guide to Workplace Confidence: Work Hard & Yes, Feel a Little Entitled


Confidence — one very tough customer.

If you’ve stood tentatively in front of an audience — or felt like an impostor after being praised or promoted — I would place a wager that those nagging feelings were rooted in your level of confidence (possibly a lack thereof).

When you consider confidence in the workplace, there are many platitudes, but few really ring true. How do you truly “believe” in yourself when faced with the moments that matter most? Those situations simply cannot be tackled by adages or quotes.

So…how do we really build confidence?

Well, I’ve stumbled upon one perspective that hit a nerve of truth (reading it stopped me cold).

I don’t often read magazines. Yet, when I visit the hair salon, I leave my phone at home and unplug. I thumb through Glamour, Vogue, Allure — and they all offer their own brand of career advice. One particular career column in Glamour was guest authored by Mindy Kaling. (She is not your traditional career writer. However, she has managed to accomplish career-wise what few have in her industry.)

Her thoughtful response to the following question (posed by a nervous young girl at a speaking engagement, which she admittedly got all wrong in the moment) is a game changer:

“How did you build your confidence?”

Her revised response was direct and unapologetic.

It went something like this (So sorry for the word choice, they were hers and would lose something with an edit):

Work very hard. Know your $hit. Show your $hit. Then feel entitled.

I absolutely agree that confidence is rooted in mastery.

In experiences. In owning what you bring to the table. Confidence comes from feelings of self-efficacy in a wide range of situations. It requires challenge, balanced exploration, failure, mentorship, guidance and exposure.

True confidence includes the notion that we are not entitled to rewards simply because we desire them. Rewards come with time and work. Confidence comes from putting forth concentrated effort.

  • It requires patience — and the belief that you can learn something from every person and every scenario.
  • It requires feedback and reflection.
  • It requires a hard look at our strengths and weaknesses.
  • It requires a deep sense that you can handle the problems (and people) that stand before you.

When you embrace these elements  — confidence is your entitlement.

  • Seek broad experiences and “challenge assignments”.
  • Develop a deep knowledge of your industry and its current experts.
  • Push yourself. Get up when you fall. Alter your course. Rebound.
  • Find a mentor who helps you recognize and invests in your talent.
  • Be aware of the competencies you may require ahead of the “disruption curve“.
  • Continue to learn.
  • Grow.

And then — yes — feel entitled to some measure of success.

Through all this, I suspect that confidence arrives unannounced — with little fanfare.

It takes hold and lives in your workplace soul and cannot be measured by the sum of your individual experiences.

It’s more akin to letting a gorgeous, glistening wave roll over you.

Thanks Mindy.

That clears things up.

What are your thoughts on building confidence? Share them.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect handbag. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.