With ten plus years of experience creating strategies yielding game-changing results for organizations like Coca-Cola, IDEO, and Dolby Labs – Donald Burlock, Jr. has shared his experience in his first book, Superhuman by Design.
Holding a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University and a Master of Industrial Design degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, Donald skillfully incorporates his knowledge of Design theory and his love of superheroes into this instructional guide on how to be the superhero of your own life.
Here are 5 minutes/5 questions with author Donald Burlock, Jr.:
There are so many thought leadership books out there. What sets Superhuman by Design apart?
DBJ: I’d suggest that the best ‘thought leadership’ books out there don’t feel like thought leadership books to begin with – in fact, I wouldn’t suggest that Superhuman isn’t a thought leadership book at all. Instead, what sets this book apart is how my personal journey can inspire others to think about the value of their own experiences differently. The books that I’m attracted to – for instance, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, is a story, not a thought leadership book, but it’s inspired millions of people around the world to transform their lives. Often, we underestimate the power of our own stories and how they can deeply influence and inspire others to reflect on their lives differently. As opposed to writing a book filled with applications, I decided to share a transparent, beautiful, and messy journey with them.
I love the three C’s: Consciousness, Connection and Community for navigating decision making. How has this approach helped many especially during this time of uncertainty?
DBJ: We all struggle with uncertainty. We also struggle with ambiguity. But, many of life’s greatest experiences are in the unknown. Without awakening ourselves to the possibilities of what our lives could be, we short-circuit our destinies and settle for the mediocre. The 3 C’s of Creativity give us a simple way to engage our most creative, authentic selves. Our creative core powers an explorative, curious mind – a mind that can unlock inspiration and innovation. Growing our consciousness in turn opens our perspective to new mindsets and new people. As opposed to only being outcome oriented – which is so easy in this consumer-oriented culture – we become innately aware of the beauty of just understanding another person. I’m a huge fan of the growth of human consciousness. It’s the very foundation of the infinite possibilities that we can experience. As we embrace a higher degree of awareness, we simultaneously strengthen confidence in our own abilities while dismantling insecurities and biases. It’s a delightful path that helps us see opportunity in uncertainty and not face it with fear.
Many disciplines have different frameworks for process management, LEAN and PDSA are examples. You talk about The Design Process or EDIT (Empathize, Define, Ideate and Test) in the book. What is the value of using frameworks to guide work and why does EDIT work well?
DBJ: I love frameworks. Of course, there are many frameworks out there! The beauty of EDIT (Empathize, Define, Iterate, Test) is that you now have a framework that encourages you to try out and experiment with other frameworks. All of us are trying to find a path of least resistance to accomplish the things we’re most passionate about in life. But, how do we do it? What framework can we adopt that will help us get there? There’s no definitive answer! But, there are frameworks that encourage a process that’ll help us explore what feels like the path to take for lives. The design process inherently encourages all of the themes that help us be gentle with ourselves, while also challenging ourselves to get out there and figure things out! Design thinking has been proven over and over again in industry to be a powerful framework to guide people to see the world differently and come up with new solutions. So, why not apply this thinking to our everyday lives to see if it helps us. Now, if I was to tell you to just go and ‘design your life’ without explaining design, you might scratch your head and wonder how to go about it. The EDIT framework helps. But, even more, establishing your 3 C’s of Creativity practice has to become your practice first. If you don’t value creativity, it will be difficult to see the value of applying a design framework to areas of your life. The 3 C’s of Creativity represent the elements of the fuel you’ll need to live a superhuman life. How you live that superhuman life will be by design.
It’s nice when we receive accolades for a job well done, yet what is the greater value to have intrinsic motivation?
DBJ: It’s tempting to base our identity off of circumstantial experiences that make us feel validated. As someone who has worked as a designer in many high-pressure environments, I know how it feels to receive attention and accolades from peers. It’s hard to let go of the high-flying feelings that boost our esteem when colleagues or friends celebrate what we’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with receiving those words of affirmation from others. But, it’s dangerous to build our identity this way. We all have superpowers. Some superpowers are innate and others we can build into our lives. As we pursue the superhuman by design life, we must come to understand that our value comes from what we can do for ourselves and for others. Our distinct superpowers, when applied well, can help us lead extraordinary lives and can help us escape the trap of asking ourselves if “we’re good enough.”
My book, The Love List changed my life. What are the top three characteristics on your Love List (characteristics or qualities you are looking for in a potential mate or current mate)?
DBJ: I’m recently engaged and on the path to becoming a union by the beginning of next year. So, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to think through the characteristics that I desire the most:
Wit and woo – intelligence expressed through quick and savvy comments, balanced with compassion and understanding; Loving – a kind and thoughtful partner who is open to forgiving my unintentional faults, and mistakes. I wasn’t looking when I met my now fiancée, but I was hoping to find someone who has a deep love for God, and looks to help others. Of course, someone who I found attractive – cute with a fun personality. These were just a few – but some of the most important and meaningful to me.