Karen Otis joins us today from Otis Architecture. Having been in architecture, she talks surviving two recessions, one of which, put an estimated 50% of architects out of business and she talks about how to master the art of business and inspired life in her book, Architect Your Epic Life. We talked Frank Lloyd Wright and bad George Costanza jokes. Please welcome, Karen Otis.


00:00:44 – Background and Otis Architecture
00:03:17 – She talks about her projects and other company
00:10:23 – Balancing both companies
00:16:05 – Traveling
00:20:25 – Dealing with stereotypes and having confidence
00:23:20 – Her podcast experience
00:26:13 – Tells about her education
00:29:20 – Architertural responsibilities and lawsuits
00:36:06 – Passion and success
00:42:18 – Favorite architects
00:44:27 – Making a difference
00:46:25 – Random Question Generator

Podcast Episode Transcripts:

Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.

Hey, it’s Damon Burton from learningfromothers.com and Kyle. And today we have Karen Otis from Otis architecture. Karen, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me. So you are from Chile and then the U S so are you a chili born? Uh, uh, native, I guess not exactly my parents are. And then I was the surprise baby in New Mexico during my dad’s a student visa, but then we went back and I lived in Chile till I was about six.

Very cool. Do you have, do you have memories of Chile? I do. I do in Spanish was my first language. So, um, but then we moved here when I was about six and getting ready to go to school. So they would not let me speak Spanish anymore. I quickly learned that I still retained all of it. So yeah. Bilingual, are you still bilingual?

Yes. Yeah, that’s great. Can’t seem to teach my kids that that fell short, but yeah, it always comes in handy. Um, so Karen, from Otis architecture, I like the poster in the background. Architecture is your Epic life architect. It’s funny how there’s always like, Oh, architect, architects. Yes. So why don’t you tell us about Otis architecture started in 1990, right?

I knew I wanted to be an architect since I was 16. I went on this field trip called women in architecture through the career center. And I, I remember coming home from that and telling my mom, this is it. This is my thing. So I’ve been passionate about architecture ever since. And, um, I, um, started working in a firm, but when the first recession hit around 91, um, I was part of the, the group that got, let go.

There were 50 of us down to like two, and that is what really started and kind of launched my own business. It wasn’t, um, I didn’t have that. Cognitive thought like, Oh, I want to be an entrepreneur, even though my parents were so it’s probably in my Jean bowl, but I I’m kind of with start into it. And I, I have had the business ever since, and it’s grown from this tiny little, you know, business in a tiny bedroom in my home too.

A six figure company that is awesome and has helped me make a good living and raise my kids and all of that. You know, I gotta be honest. I’m always a little jealous of those that are lucky enough to find their passions early in life. And then they just follow that path. I know, right. It is rare. I’ve learned.

It’s rare. Yeah. So what is, uh, Otis architecture specialize in? Um, so you’re an award winning architectural practice. Um, you, you do about 20 projects a year. So what are those projects? What do they entail? Yeah, the majority, I say 80% is high end custom homes. So I love the collaboration with my clients and that becomes really important.

So I’m designing their dream home, not just another project of mine. It’s really what they are hoping for. It’s their vision, along with my health. And, um, we also do some commercial projects, um, uh, tenant improvement. Uh, we do a lot of, uh, doctors, offices, but not the kind of sterile. Sort of work, we go for that sort of then feel, and they love it.

And the patients love it because it’s, it’s just much more calming, especially like a, a dentist office. Yeah. Yeah. I can totally relate to the sterile field. That’s a good way to put it. So, um, and then also in 2015, you started a second company sort of, so these two tie together a little bit, they do, they do through, um, a kind of life.

Kind of a journey that I went through that then. Um, so I can share that with you and the audience right now, I was married for 12 years and in 1999, um, I had two little kids, uh, at that point they were eight and five and 1999. I found out about my then husband three year affair. And I was literally like, It knocked the rug out from under me, just pulled it right out from under me and my life seemed to dismantle, you know, very quickly.

And I found myself in the throws of how am I going to make a living? Because at that point I had kind of just started my company and the kids were just with me and there was no child support, et cetera. So there was, it’s kind of a panic that hit. And during that time, um, I tried everything to get my life back on track.

Right. So I, um, I saw a therapist, et cetera, and nothing was quite working. And then in sort of this. I have this kind of epiphany. I don’t think it was really cognitive. Like I wasn’t fully aware of it, but I started to realize that I was putting, I was doing the steps that I used for home building and applying them to life’s building and literally taking those exact there’s eight steps that I use when I design a building every day that I applied to my life and I thought dramatic and really different results.

Because nothing else was working and this changed everything. So then I wrote a book about it because I wanted to share that insight. I call it the architectural method, which is a way of kind of approaching your life decisions in a very different, more intuitive way. You know, um, Western thinking is so about.

Being analytical, right? Like you go to school and you get a certain degree and then you go get the job in that degree. And then you move up in that it’s very linear, but often people do that route. They get there and they’re unhappy with what they have built for their lives. So rather than doing that analytical, um, the architectural method really.

Calls in your intuition, your creative thinking, actually how I put my life back together and I help others do the same now. And that’s what began the architecture, Epic life company. Hang, that makes a lot of sense. You know, what’s interesting itself for me from a search engine marketing perspective, we take a structured approach as well.

So there’s these certain things you do to a website, and then there’s these certain ways you market afterwards. And just recently, you’re a step ahead of me because you actually implemented the thought works in a personal life. But I thought about the same thing where Mike, you know, Why don’t I do these core things in my life and set the structure and then, you know, the marketing you do on a website, why don’t I do those reoccurring things and maintaining wellness in my life.

So I tell him, get rid of him. Yeah, absolutely. It’s sort of like, you know, You have perfected a way to think based on what you’ve done for a living. And it just, I always say like, architects, I feel like I have a different pair of glasses I put on that. I see the world in or through. So it’s basically, that’s how I see the world.

And I started applying yet, you know, in a completely different way, but yeah, really amazing results. So that’s when I turned my life around. So, do you have, um, do you, now that the book’s written, do you go and do personal coaching as well? I do. It kind of has evolved, you know, I did the book and you think, okay, there’s the book, it will market itself.

And that is so not. The real world, it doesn’t work that way, at least not anymore. So what I do is, um, I’ll do different talks. Um, I do a lot of public speaking and getting out there and sharing that message. And through that, then I have done workshops. People have asked to work directly with me. And so that has evolved to a lot of business and life coaching.

I talk about really. Wanting to master the art of business and inspired living. So living in a better level, loving what you do for work, making that an exhilarating career that’s right. Full of your passion. So I have different things that I do, uh, different programs where, uh, we’ve got one, like design your dream job that literally takes you through the steps to do that, to start building yeah.

Career path that you know is everything you wanted it to be. What’s an average time for like length of time that when somebody commits to bettering themselves through you, that, that you kind of work in with, ’em usually it’s about eight weeks, I’d say within, I mean, there’s certainly more, but you will see a dramatic result within eight weeks because what’s cool about what’s really effective about the architectural method is that you start out.

You know, with creative thinking, right? Just like you do in architecture. We first go through some ideas, some visions it’s very abstract. It’s more like arts where your, you know, your, your intuition is kind of guiding your creativity. But then what I love is that architecture evolves to the last phase, which is construction documents.

And those are completely meticulous, right? They are outlined. They’re like, you know, how is someone going to build this? Almost like an instruction manual. Well, the same thing happens when working on building your dream business, let’s say, or your dream life, you’re going to first envision what you want, have your soul and intuition at the core of the decisions.

But then you’re going to get to that blueprint, that like really precise action plan so that we don’t just keep the vision, you know, abstract. We really. Turn that vision into your new reality. So how do you try and balance your two businesses? Where do you find, where, where do you find most of your time spent and where do you find most lost your personal interest?

Obviously you’re passionate about both of them, but now that you’ve been getting into the consulting, is that kind of like your new thing that you’re really following up? I’m passionate about both and I have to be honest it’s yeah. They both pull at me. Right. So, um, While there are definitely similarities in the type of thinking.

Um, they’ve been so different in terms of the people I’m getting to work with. So I like that it gives me a nice balance. Um, I do a lot of work with developers and, you know, you’re dealing with cities and governments and that’s the architecture side. I love the other side, which is. So much more personal that you’re really getting to know your client, you’re doing workshops with them where you’re digging in deep into, you know, what they like or what they don’t like.

And, um, and so that’s been interesting, I would say right now, you know, I think that the. The lifestyle business. Um, is it probably a side hustle for a little while, but now I think it’s, we’re probably at 50% on both. And thankfully I have a team on both that helped me. Um, so that’s, what’s great. So I’m going to be selfish for a bit.

And so I’m in the middle of writing a book too. How, how has your book writing experience been fantastic? I have a phenomenal, um, publisher that I’m happy to recommend. Um, so when I started it, I, I had no idea. I think when I first started it, I just had this idea of a book. I send it out to a bunch of, you know, publishers and I got.

Not that. And then I learned about how do you do a book proposal, et cetera. And I put the book proposal out to two different publishers that I had heard about one helped me right away and wanted to talk about, you know, what led me to this, et cetera. And she was just. Just so interested and seemed, she just seemed personally invested in it.

Like I got that gut feeling, that intuitive feeling of like, she gets this, um, I got kind of nothing from the other one other than a contract in the mail. Right. But I was like, that’s great. But, but then she so sent me a contract and I went with my gut feeling, which is what I always do now. Um, and so she’s fantastic.

And the process was interesting. It took like I had it already written. So some people start with them before it’s finished. Yeah. Um, they assigned me an editor that I worked closely with back and forth then. So it went through that editing went through, um, the head of the department editing and then it went to the owner editor or the publisher herself.

And so they did a phenomenal job of really sifting through it. And it can be hard because you’re like, what do you mean it’s perfect as it is? I wrote it. It’s perfect. Right. They know better. And they just that, and then they designed a cover. So they have designers that, you know, they work with, they designed to cover and this company was so reasonable and so invested in her authors that I really loved it.

It’s um, uh, they have a, a fiction and a nonfiction it’s called write life, right? Like how you would write, however you are ITE, right. Life, um, publishing and nowadays. You kind of have three, um, avenues, one self-publishing, which I didn’t want to do. The other one is a big publishing house, which there are very few now like random house paying when, unless you’ve got an yeah.

Agent and you’ve already written a book, they kind of don’t want you. And then the middle one has become a hybrid. And I think that’s a really great place to be. The hybrid one works with you. You’re not all alone. They provide you the editors and the design, all of that. So they’re a great support system.

And, and how do they negotiate? Um, like did they cover the editor’s time or do you have to contribute some of your own, um, to cover that time, you do have to contribute some of your own, but what I loved about this company is. You didn’t just put down a ton of money. The first one that I got the contract from had just a big chunk of money you had to put down, it was like, we need $10,000 to even start you.

Um, that’s not how right life worked. And I really appreciated that it was, they have a bit of a sliding scale based on how developed your book is, you know, how clean the writing is, et cetera. Um, and it’s typically under 2000. Which was fantastic. And then that’s all I had paid and yeah. Then, you know, they took it from there, but you have to remember once the book is out, their job is done and that’s the case for all of the publishers, unless you’ve got an agent it’s a whole different story and you’re like a best seller and you’ve been around and you’ve got, you know, you’re on your third book, but otherwise it’s up to you to Mark it.

That part is, um, is kind of that way across the board. Yeah, we had a guest a while ago, Sean, Bouschet that? Um, he’s a chef and he’s done a book and, and that kinda leads into what I was going to ask you about next. You talked a lot about traveling to promote his book. Um, how’s travel, but I don’t know how old your kids are now, but, um, they’re gone.

They’re doing their lives. They’re both, uh, you know, in their twenties. Um, yeah, so you can, you can do a lot of travel. I tend to love the public speaking. That’s my big earth, rather than like a book signing or I just love sharing my message in a bigger way. I love the connection I make with people directly talking to them.

So I travel for that, you know, when I need to, but what’s interesting is book tours have. Kind of gone on kind of on the, you know, out at this point and people are doing a lot of virtual book tours, so then there’s no travel. That’s a good alternative for somebody who’s raising kids, trying to, you know, can’t really be leaving all the time.

Um, the virtual book tours is kind of a new happening thing. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. So, so you’ve got the one book behind you and you had, you kind of mentioned offline. You got a second book. Yeah, I am. So throughout this first book, you know, we’ve, um, I’ve gotten, I’ve had the opportunity to help people dream, you know, about a dream business, how to build that.

And then I’ve also worked with people on how to reconnect with that spark in their life, right. How to kind of ignite their passion again. Because a lot of us lose it. Right? You, you might have something you were passionate about, but somehow it you’ve strayed. Um, whether from obligation or whatever. So I’ve done both of those and what I, I definitely have, um, Started to see more of is, is people wanting to know how to actually navigate their work?

So the second book is called hard hat and heels, and it’s really about navigating, um, a male dominated industry like architecture, which I’ve never had. I had an issue with like, I’m not about, um, you know, Oh, I think it’s so male dominated and we need to do something about it. I don’t agree with that for me.

It’s. It hasn’t been difficult, but I’ve noticed, and it’s never hindered me, but I’ve noticed that I have certain tactics or strategies to navigate that well, and that’s really what the second book is about is how do you navigate that without losing your femininity without, you know, coming across poorly.

So did these strategies just kind of come naturally probably to you? Or is it something that you’ve just kind of cultivated over your career? Um, some of them started naturally, but then over my career, I’ve definitely cultivated. I’ve I’ve, you know, been able to see what works, what doesn’t work. Um, you know, when you start out, you’re like a total rookie and everything stresses you out.

Right. You know, every, every interaction I’ll give you one. So I was, um, 25. I had just started my company and I was going to a job site check out the work. Right. So I do that with all my projects and I get to the job site. This is the new contractor I’m working with, who was brought in and I get to the job site and everybody’s kind of talking there’s chatter and this particular job site, a lot of Spanish speaking men.

And, you know, I walk on the job site and. I don’t know where I thought it was. It was going to be super easy. I did not anticipate the cat calling, you know, all that stuff. That is typical construction site banter. I just, I don’t know. I just felt I didn’t anticipate it, which still shocks me. So I get onto the job site and everything kind of shifts.

I can feel it. Yeah. And they all start talking and they are saying, you know, all kinds of things. And they’re thinking they’re totally safe with the language barrier. So I listened for awhile and then I broke out into my Spanish because it is my first language and let them know if you’re going to work for me.

It’s not gonna work that way. And this is how that’s why. So that’s when I had to develop. Right. And let me tell you that first time it at 25 doing that, I was like, Oh God, you know, you’re like sweating, you’re stressed, but now I’ve developed that to not even an issue. Yeah. That’s fine. So construction stereotypes are true.

I know, but what I always tell people is that, you know, you might feel like you have a disadvantage somehow, like there. And I understand because there are a lot of jobs that are male dominated. Like, I didn’t know, architecture, there’s only 16% that are women. Okay. And I would, I really was shocked at, is, I didn’t know that 67% of Americans do not have faith in a female architect.

That was, seems archaic. Um, you were saying something? No. Okay. Yeah. Right surprised. So given all of that, um, I have found that the best way to, to work in that kind of arena is take what you think is a disadvantage and make it an advantage. So I thought it was a disadvantage, you know, here I have I’m from Chilla, you know, I have the Spanish.

I didn’t think that I could use that to my advantage. And I did so same thing for anybody out there going through their work, trying to, or feeling like they might have a disadvantage, find a way to turn that around and make it an advantage. Be one of the few. Yeah, I think that’s, it’s really cool. It brings out a lot, a lot of valid points about, you know, how far competence can go.

Um, regardless of the industry. And I always, I always admire, um, you know, women in general, but when they can come in and, and they can just. On their industry and say, I’m going to kick ass and I don’t care if it’s male dominated or, you know, whatever, whatever the, the stereotypical handicap that they think they might have.

And then they just, they don’t even acknowledge it. I think it speaks a lot. Right? That is. Yeah. And I think because I was so passionate about it from 16, I was just like, I have blinders on. I was just going, you know, so. I didn’t even anticipate that it would be so tough. And what’s interesting too, is that like in school, you know, when I got my masters in architecture, 50% of the class was female.

So, but what happened, but none of my class is still doing it. You know, none of the females are, I think I am the only one. And given that it’s like you realize something in the work industry is causing the women’s either be intimidated or not feel comfortable with it. And I personally think it’s the, the contractor role that becomes hard to, for some women to navigate.

So, yeah. So I think that’s where I love to empower people to take what they think might be, you know, a handicap or, you know, an issue for them and be confident to lead with it. So you’ve got the bucks and you’re rolling. It sounds like you’re kind of snowballing this as a platform because you had mentioned that you’re, you’re now doing a weekly podcast.

How long have you been doing the podcast? And what’s the conference? Not that long. I’d say maybe, maybe six months or so. Um, and that kind of just evolved also. Uh, I’ve met certain people that I think. Have a slightly different message, but really, you know, really blends well with mine. So I wanted to get, get their message out to others so that they can kind of broaden their understanding.

Yeah. So I love meeting entrepreneurs, different people that are basically facing whatever adversity they have and they’re all different. Um, but you know, still just moving forward and that, you know, having that direction that allows me, them to work within their passion. Right. So I think we all, I think too many of us end up at a place where we’re unhappy, right.

There is such, I read it the other day though. It’s like, it’s over 80% of people would say that they are not really happy. That is huge. So they’re feeling kind of void, right. Or some kind of hollowness. A lot of them say, you know, I got to this point and I’m like, is this it like. This is it, this is my job.

This is exciting. It’s going to get, this is this. My marriage is how it’s going to be is it’s not that exciting. And I’m stuck, you know, and I think we expect life to just kind of be handed to us and we react to whatever comes our way, but I love that the word reacting has all the letters of creating just scrambled.

So my philosophy is don’t wait to react to what life throws at you way, get in front of it and create it yourself. You know, create that dream job, create that extraordinary love life, you know, whatever it is you set out to do, make it up here, live your life way up high. Right? Why take the mundane and just so you know, say, okay, I’m going to settle for that.

My philosophy is you’ve got this one life go stellar and make it really Epic and hence the name of it. But, um, yeah, when you do that, Life changes completely. It’s so different and it kind of infiltrates all parts of your life. It seems like a common, uh, Denominator with, with our guests that have found success, just like you were speaking.

Right. I’ll get to a point and they say, you know, is this it? And then they recreate themselves. You know, sometimes it’s subtly, sometimes it’s dramatically, but it seems like everybody goes through a process where they go, okay. You know, I want something different and then they make it happen. Right. Right.

Absolutely. So you had your sights set on architecture. Um, but being that it’s a regulated industry, you had to have some sort of, um, formal education. Right. Um, so yeah. Tell us a little bit about your education. Yeah. So there are really typically two routes to go. You can go to like a five year, um, Undergraduate degree in architecture.

And I did it a little differently. So when I had decided at 16 that I wanted to be an architect, my dad is a mechanical engineer and you know, he come from Chile really to give us all the American dream, right. To really give us that opportunity because in Chile, he would not have been able to really put all of us kids through school.

So when he was always very into what are you going to do with your life? You know, are you going to, what are you going to study? That was like a big topic in our house. So once I told him that he took me to meet a lot of architects and I really encourage people to don’t just assume what that career is going to look like.

Because we can all, you know, make anything sound glamorous, but really find out. So I met, I think about with about six different architects that he introduced me to we’d just go to lunch with them and I’d ask all my questions. And I was probably around 17. And what I realized is a lot of them gave the advice of go for that five year degree.

But I met with one and. It was so different. Um, maybe because she was a female, I don’t know if I connected on that level, but she said something really profound. She said, you need to already decide what direction you want to go into once you get into architecture. And she said, what I mean is, do you want to be a drafts person?

Do you want to, you know, do the line drawings that was before it got all computerized, but, or do you want to be the designer? And she said it’s a whole different kind of, of thinking that you need to develop. I knew I wanted to be the designer. I knew at that point that I wanted all of that. And because I definitely spoke to my creative side, she said, if you do that, you need an undergraduate degree in something broader, something like the humanities, so that you will have things to pull from for your design.

Right. So you’ll have that depth thinking and that understanding of, you know, Humanity, et cetera. So I did that. I went to undergrad at UCLA. I did an undergrad degree in sociology, um, with, with minors in business. And, um, yeah, I’ve been planning and my goal was then to go for my masters in architecture. So that’s what I did.

So it was a long time. Um, yeah, so that’s the education I had. And then even now after you’re done, you’ve still got to put in a bunch of hours and then you’ve still got to take all the licensing exams. And that a lot of architects don’t well, a lot of people don’t get to that point. Quick question about actually being an architect that I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood.

Um, as I understand you do a lot of the drafting and the designs and all that, are you also in charge of making sure things are structurally sound low bearing walls? Like, is that. Also you, you don’t have that. You’re not just a design. No. So I’m not saying the designer, we do the entire house. However, you still need a structural engineer, but the architect is sort of the.

I’m the key person. So you, we do have a couple of structural engineers we work with, um, when I’m designing, I already can anticipate how the framing is going to go have a mechanical, gonna run. Then they do the fine tuning of it, but they come back to us and say, you know, you’re going to need a post here.

And that might be horrible. And I say, no, let’s not do it that way. Let’s do it this other way. So. You don’t have to have that kind of structural backgrounds, but I do, I used to actually teach, um, for the structural exam of the architecture test of the licensing. So I have that and it definitely comes in, comes in handy.

So you can really understand the whole building. Um, not just the design of it, not just the aesthetic of it, but how it really goes together. Okay. Cool. Did you hear a couple of years ago? Um, there was a new casino in Las Vegas. Um, that was at Kyle chime in. If you remember the one that it’s the ones that goes like miss.

Yeah. No, it was part of the RA complex and it was like this billion dollar building and they got it all built up and then they’re starting to do the interiors and then some state or somebody else came in and said that they ran a test and they go, well, this, I think the steel was faulty or something like that.

It was the whole day building a billion dollar loss. Um, so does that fall on. Whose head gets chopped off for that head shot. I see a big pile. Um, the architects always called in, if there’s a lawsuit, that’s just kind of, because you’re sort of the leader of the team. Um, but more than anything on that one, it would be the engineer that would get that because they’re putting their license stamps.

So they’re taking on, you know, the, the liability there. But as an architect, you still have to be aware of things, know what’s going on now, if something doesn’t seem right, et cetera. So thankfully I haven’t had any of that knock on a lot of wood. Yeah. So, um, You, you had talked about earlier, you briefly touched on, on the recession and how the architecture field took a hit.

How long did that hit last for you guys? And how did you stay afloat? And then when did you notice that you were resurfacing? So the first recession that I talked about was like 1991 and that. I don’t know, I was so much younger. It seems so long ago. I don’t think it lasted all that long. Certainly not like the most recent one, most recent one hit architects.

So hard. Um, statistics say that what percent of the architects in this country in the U S went out of business. So that’s huge. And, um, it was brutal. Yeah. What I think. And thankfully, thankfully, um, probably by the skin of our teeth, um, I was able to keep my company afloat. I think there’s a couple of things that worked, um, that I look back on and think, okay, those were, those are the reasons why I stayed afloat.

No one is you have to be always watching and be quick to you to respond, to changes in the business. I think too many people thought, Oh, let’s wait it out. It’ll be fine. We’ll just kind of keep going. That’s that’s so dangerous because you need to streamline your business. Immediately. And so I saw that and had to make adjustments how to let some people go, had to change our hours, slightly, things like that.

That was a huge difference. Um, that I think kept us afloat because if you start the, you know, start doing those changes too late, your money is running out. The second thing is that you’ve got to diversify. Um, so what worked well for us is that during that time, um, Residential commercial markets got hit really hard.

And the biggest thing is like for residential people were using their home equity lines to do all this, you know, construction, and then the banks took that away. And so there were no funds for big remodels or construction. So what we did is we turned to interior design for awhile. So you’ve got to see the different components you’ve got in your business.

And which one could you kind of, you know, work on harder if that one is more viable at a given time. And that was for us, because for a lot of whether it’s interior design, selecting furnishings, all of those things, people were not relying on their home equity line. They were able to do that. And I think that’s what kept us, kept us going.

Do you still keep any of the interior design as a service? Yeah, but now it’s typically for the construction of a whole project. Like we’ll do a project on the ground app and we are also doing the interior. Now. It’s really rare that we would take on a project for just, you know, interior decorating or furnishing.

Um, it’s typically for those clients that have us doing everything. So you have a really cohesive design is, is I’m going to ask you a question about hotels. Is there like an ugly carpet committee?

I have to agree again. What is up with that? Yeah. I’ve never done hotels. That’s not in our wheelhouse so much, but, um, yeah, I think the reason I, I do have a colleague who does them and says they are stained so quickly. You don’t even realize, so they, they want carpet like in the halls because they want that quiet.

Right. Um, You don’t want to hear the heels clicking, but, um, they seem so quickly if you’ve got a busy pattern, hopefully you don’t see it. Uh, thinking behind the carpet. That makes sense because when my kid’s diaper leaks on the floor, I don’t even want to know what else. Like if I stopped that much, I don’t want to mail it.

I haven’t seen that. Exactly. Well, you’re very passionate about what you do. Um, what do you think contributed to, I mean, we kind of talked about how, you know, you’re fortunate enough to find your passion early on. Um, outside of your early passion and, you know, is it your work ethic or, you know, is there something else that you think that also supports your success?

Two things. One is my work ethic and you know, when you’re, um, Parents are immigrants and they have left their entire family, everything they know to move here for you to be successful and go after that American dream. Okay. The pressure is enormous. So I mean, you have to work hard. There is no other alternative and I’m the oldest of the three of my siblings.

So, um, yeah, so that’s part of it. I think it was expected, you know, Yeah, there was so much guilt if you didn’t do it one. Um, but the second thing is I’ve always, um, I think I’ve always wanted life to be bigger. Like I’ve always wanted to not settle and not just. Live in that, you know, mediocrity, I’ve always, I’ve seen, and I’m not sure who my role models would have been on this, but I know I knew very early, you could live loving your life, right.

Or you could just kind of live. And I think because of that, I always pursued. You know what makes me happy and push harder because yeah, my passion was definitely architecture, but then I kind of have this new path of public speaking, helping people coaching, et cetera. So it’s just, um, and you have to stay, I think, a little fluid and flexible because we change, we evolve.

Right. So, um, a lot of people I’ve worked with, they loved something. They went after and it didn’t quite. Fulfill them or might have before, but it isn’t now you have to relook at that and maybe you need a pivot. Yeah. I always find it really fascinating how, um, some people are okay. Just floating along in life and don’t don’t want anything better.

Right? Yeah. I’ve never been okay with adopting that thinking. And I think that’s, what’s made me successful because when you love what you do, I mean, it isn’t work. So, you know, you just. You are so self motivated and that you’re motivated because you love what you do, then success just comes. Right? I agree.

Yeah. So, uh, you’re passionate about work. What else are you passionate about outside of work? You had mentioned painting and drawing. What’s I will. I love, I love anything creative, so painting, drawing, and I do notice that when I’m designing a lot at work. I don’t necessarily paint or draw as much at home, but there are times where I feel like I’m just doing administrative stuff at work.

Just depends on the phase we’re in. If we’re in the bidding, you know, people are sending in beds. It’s not that creative. It’s, it’s more numbers. And then I feel the need to be creative at home. So I love photography, painting, drawing, and then I love being the. You know, being mindful. I love yoga, Pilates, those things.

Yeah. Those are my big tography area of expertise, uh, buildings.

That’s my thing. Yeah. Yeah. Surprised, right? Yeah. Well, Karen, I appreciate your time. If our listeners want to get ahold of you or learn more, what’s your website or social media or anything? No, I would love that. Um, the. Facebook and the website are going to be the same and that is check your Epic life. So see it right behind me here, architectyourEpiclife.com is the website.

And you can connect with me. You know, I answer everything on there. And then our Instagram though is, uh, taking the name after the second book. So the Instagram is hard hat and heels. For Halloween, Kyle, I’ve got a pink, hard hat you can use. Oh, I’d love that. Yeah. I’ve seen those ones, you know, they’re actually OSHA, fruit’s hard hats.

What? They look like a cowboy hat. Oh, that’s funny. That’s a good one. Yeah. Connect with me either way. So please, you know, go to the website. You can, what’s nice about the website. You can then subscribe to the podcast. I do a weekly blog, so you’re just going to get, you know, some other insight and info sent directly to your, to your mailbox.

And if not, definitely find me on Instagram, hard hat and heels. So I kept myself from making any George stanza references. Um, cause I thought they might’ve fallen flat. Would they have, or did I, did I miss that? No, I love those right flat. And there’d be cricket itself. Okay. Maybe next time then. Yeah. No, it’s, it’s a good one.

I think I’ve done a talk once where I said, um, I actually do what George and Stan who wants to do, um, yeah. Now I hear it all the time. It’s so funny. When I say that I’m an architect, I’m just here. Well, everybody says like, Oh, I don’t know any female architects, but what I hear more often is, Oh, I wanted to be that just like George, because stands like this.

I don’t know if it’s like this glorified thing. I don’t get it. You know, what’s crazy about that show too. I mean, it’s. It’s been off the air for 15 years, even then it’s still just such a pop cultural reference. But yeah. And I, you know, I guess, I don’t know. Cause that’s what I thought to architects and I was like, Oh, the Georgia standards.

Isn’t that funny? That, yeah. You think that before you think, frankly right now that’s okay. Well, I have, I have, you know, I’m the opposite and I realized that I’m the black sheep, but, um, I don’t know anything about science. And I have a friend who is very passionate about, about Franklin, right. And he’s always, and there was, I think the house that he built for his son went up for sale like a month ago.

Yes, it did. So I’m, I’m, I’m the opposite. I’m more familiar with that. So she kind of like architecture too. So let me ask you, who are some of your favorite architects? Yeah.

Yeah. Um, I, of course, Franklin, right. I really love his merging as organic architecture. Like he really looked to nature to find that inspiration. I love that Khan. K H, N, and one of my favorites similar in, in terms of. Methodology and philosophy. Um, those are probably my two favorites, but, um, today I’m doing another he’s from Japan.

I believe there’s still a lot of them. And, and what I’d love. I love when the building, um, sort of speaks for itself. There’s not a lot of added fluff or decoration, like there’s beauty in its structure. So for example, Um, we’re building a home in Arizona. I’m opening a second office in Arizona. We’re right now in California and the second office in Arizona.

And it’s on this hillside and there’s the dirt. It’s basically Frank Lloyd Wright territory because that’s where he had Talia in the West. But so we’re doing rammed earth walls. Right where it’s, it’s a mix of all the dirt and the color of the mountain side. Right. Kind of roughed colors, blended with concrete to make the walls.

Right. That’s what I mean by like, there’s nothing to cover it. It’s, it’s, you know, there’s purity in that. That’s what I love it. And I love the fact that architecture, in my opinion should be experiential. It shouldn’t be this, this beautiful thing that just sits over there. You know, like a. Statue. It needs to be something that when you walk through it as a visitor to it, you experience it and you can go there repeatedly.

And each time you see or feel something more that’s when it’s really timeless. Is there something, what do you think it takes? You know, like what the Frank Lloyd Wright reference and the others that your, that you admire, what do, what sets those people apart, like gives it a creative flair that made them different than the others?

Or how do you get to that level? Well, one I think is definitely tenacity. I mean, you know, there are so many roadblocks, you know, um, client issues, you know, jurisdictions and governments. You know, uh, agencies if say no to something it’s, it’s really hard in California because there are so many more environmental issues, et cetera, that we are, we have more restrictions.

I think one is tenacity. They just, you know, if you read some stuff about Franklin, right? I mean, he was, he was kind of to the point of being difficult and obnoxious, but nothing would really stop him. I think that’s a huge part of it, but I think the other is they approach. Architecture with a bigger or higher philosophy.

Right. And maybe it does come down to what that other architects Jack told me when I was 17, that they are pulling from their understanding of philosophy or humanities. Right. So they are knowing that the need to feel contained, but then being open to nature that that’s like an overriding force in their design.

There’s gotta be a bigger kind of driving force. I like to say that building has to have a life of its own. And when you design it well enough, there’s a point where it takes that on. And that’s when it’s really a building that people are going to experience differently. If you just jump into it, to just, you know, start drawing the lines, it’s going to lack that forever.

So you really need to first give it the vision, right? The concept that abstract and intuition. And I think those are the architects that are there, you know? There were touches us, you know, it resonates. Yeah. That makes sense. Well, Karen, thank you again for your time. You know, we, we surprised our guests at the end and we have a random question generator.

Oh gosh. Okay. So, you know, what’s funny though, is that as I was preparing this, like your first two, We’ve already answered, but I’m going to tell you what they were, because it’s kind of funny. So your first one was when you were younger, what did you want to be when you grow up? So then the other one I kind of laughed at.

It was, uh, what are some things you shouldn’t say at work? And we talked about you understanding Spanish and hearing things. So I went for a third one. So here’s your third one? Where did you go on your last vacation? Um, really good one. And we went in April, we went to Europe, we went to Italy, to the Amalfi coast, Rome, and then to Spain, to Barcelona.

And I will say my favorite city, which I almost didn’t even put on the agenda because I hadn’t heard a lot about Valencia Spain. That gem. Nobody knows that that’s the beautiful thing there. Urban planning, like this park that runs the entire length of the , it’s just a gorgeous city. So that’s where we went.

Did you go to the Vatican? No, we did not. While you’re in Rome. No, no. We were only in Rome for a day. Um, I’d been to run before, so we were doing this, you know, places you can’t get to the multichannels without really kind of flying into Rome. So it was just a day that we were there. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Karen Otis, Otis architecture.

Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you.


What did you think of this podcast?

Karen Otis joins us today from Otis Architecture. Having been in architecture, she talks surviving two recessions, one of which, put an estimated 50% of architects out of business and she talks about how to master the art of business and inspired life in her book, Architect Your Epic Life. We talked Frank Lloyd Wright and bad George Costanza jokes. Please welcome, Karen Otis.


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