#001: Duke Stump

Rethinking Business, Lessons From Nike, Lulu, & Lime, Finding Your Perfect Day

Today’s guest is Duke Stump. If you’ve not had the privilege of getting to know him, this is what you need to know. He’s been the former VP of Product Marketing at Nike and had a tenure at Nike for 15 years. Duke was also the EVP of Community and Brand at Lulu and, more recently, CMO at Lime. To learn more about what he’s up to now, you have to listen to our conversation. He shared about his upbringing, the values his parents instilled in him, how he deals with conflict, and the tools that he uses in his day-to-day life. One story that might surprise you involves him using a specific tool that gave him insight to quit Nike at the peak of his career…. Spoiler: it turns out it wasn’t the peak.

Interactive Video Transcript


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Duke Stump

They were going to cut my brand budget by 90%.

Deepa Pulipati

Did you say 90%?

Duke Stump

In that moment of pause, I realized my chosen response could be, I could flip this table upside down, flip them off and just head out, which I really, really, really wanted to do. Or I said, people would remember that and I don't think that's a good memory. Or I could be like, handle it with grace. And I got up there and I, you know, I joked. I said, hey, I feel as if I'm about to share my eulogy. And then I was very honest. I said, hey, there's no doubt that this number gives me pause. It creates a lot of tensions.

Duke Stump

And if that's the number of the number and we'll have to figure it out. So how does scarcity become abundance in terms of how we go forward?

Deepa Pulipati

You have developed a self-awareness of who you are and where you want to go. But now what? Sound familiar? In my 20 years of practice as a superior court mediator, clinician, executive coach and parent, I've noticed one thing above all. No meaningful transformation can happen unless you find and apply the tools and skills that are right for you. See, the thing is, without tools, without a recipe, you might as well flip a coin and hope it works.

Deepa Pulipati

Or you'll get burnt out listening to bad advice and following tips that just may not necessarily be useful in your situation. I have been there and I've seen thousands of clients right there as well. My name is Deepa and Recipes for Life is my show where you and I learn the ingredients of high-performing, well-adjusted humans and how they get through their own life. All to create a recipe for life of our own. Today's guest is Duke Stump. If you've not had the privilege of getting to know him, this is what you need to know.

Deepa Pulipati

He's been the former VP of Product Marketing at Nike and had a tenure at Nike for 15 years. Duke was also the EVP of Community and Brand at Lulu and more recently, CMO at Lime. To learn more about what he's up to now, you have to listen to our conversation. He shared about his upbringing, the values his parents instilled in him, how he deals with conflict and the tools that he uses in his day-to-day life. One story that might surprise you involves him using a specific tool that gave him insight to quit Nike at the peak of his career.

Deepa Pulipati

Peak of his career. Spoiler, it turns out it wasn't the peak. By the end of today's conversation, you will have new ingredients to explore ways of unlearning business in the traditional way that we have been conditioned to think and ask the most important question and that is, what does the world need most that you are most uniquely qualified to offer? Much food for thought and the ask is to think outside the box. Before we jump into the episode, I have one more ask. Teach what you've learned to someone you care about within 48 hours.

Deepa Pulipati

Research shows that it'll help you internalize the tools beyond just listening to them. With much pleasure, I give you Duke's stump. One of the things that I've always often heard you saying, what does the world need most that you are uniquely qualified to offer? Tell me all about this idea.

Duke Stump

Man, that's a lot to unpack from the first question, but I love it. Thank you. I think in many, I mean, the way I look at it is this. I think a lot of times when we look at ourselves or companies, we tend to place small because we hold ourselves as small. As an example, when I was at Nike, we didn't say we were in the sneaker and tea business. We said we're in the business of bottle and inspiration because what the world needed...

Duke Stump

Was this hefty amount of inspiration and innovation, and that was our role. And so when I asked that question, it's specific to one, like: what makes you relevant, what's the need, and then also what's the niche or niche, which I think, when you can establish a niche or niche in something that to me isn't scarcity, it's the, you know, it's the bullseye.

Deepa Pulipati

I love that. First of all, bottling inspiration. I think that's not so valid. And tell me, if you were my coach and if you were to ask me this idea, how would you break it down? Like, how would I think about it? What is it that I am uniquely qualified to offer?

Duke Stump

That's a good way, that's a great question. Because I would start with: let's for a second, just obsolete, the idea that you're a coach. Okay, so we're not going to use that word, but we are going to say, like, in the process of your work, what is it that you're delivering to people? What is, what is the need that they have? And then, on the outside, like, what do they walk away with? So you're beginning to understand, like, okay, like, if I'm coaching in someone, like, what is the, what is it you're delivering to them? What's what's relevant to them?

Duke Stump

And then what is the impact it has in their lives going forward? And to me that's the, the lightning rod or the energy ball of what it is. And you know, like I said another way, there was one time that was I was working with a teacher and she was like: I'm a teacher, but I just feel stuck and I said, okay, what is it that students need like? And they're like, they need to grow, they need to learn and they need to develop.

Duke Stump

And I said, all right, well, you don't have to express this hourly, but hold your role as I'm a gardener, I'm there to grow kids on a daily basis and for for her, that kind of unlocked a lot of different energy for her in terms of how she approached the job, because it wasn't going into every day. I'm a teacher, which isn't a bad thing for a lot of people, but for her she was stuck.

Duke Stump

So when she started viewing herself like, Hey, I'm here to grow, I'm a gardener, I'm growing things, it just took on a different demeanor and I think, uh, energy for her, uh, that was quite helpful.

Deepa Pulipati

I really love that because, as I'm thinking about the clients that I work with, so many people are stuck in like the day to day and the basics of their job, like they have to do 20 different things, and I almost feel like this feels like a mini reset. When you're stuck and you ask that question, you go back to what inspires you, what motivates you about doing what you do or what you love to do, or if you feel like you've lost your way. Am I understanding this as one of the ways of making this question work for somebody?

Duke Stump

Yeah, I just think. Once again, I mean the idea for me. There's a principle I use called widen the lens, and the question you asked at the beginning is fundamental to it: what does the world need most that you're most uniquely qualified to deliver? And widen the lens is just about changing the aperture, really looking bigger picture around. Well, what is it I'm, what is my work really about, or what is it that really makes me feel free or feel alive or versus?

Duke Stump

I think sometimes we're just stuck in these ruts and we can't get out, and so to me, I've seen it in business, I've seen it with individuals- that when you, when you have the courage or the curiosity to change the perspective of how you're looking at something, it can bring forth a lot more possibility and abundance, and it also can be really simple. It's not like you have to do a million different gyrations, it's just reframing how you look at things, what questions you're asking yourselves, et cetera, and then moving on from there.

Deepa Pulipati

I really like the possibility and abundance because most of the times when we're looking at a situation, I feel like sometimes we get so like wrapped into the situation where it's really hard for us to get out of it. But when we ask this question in our contextual situation- what does the world need most that you're uniquely qualified for- I almost feel like that just allows us to like look at different possibilities or just like take a step back.

Duke Stump

Yeah, cause I think what you really want to do is to for people to be in inquiry at that moment. You want people to like: all right, I have to create a different level of awareness and understanding, but also possibility, and so I think, once again, it it forces you to look inward, to be reflective, like, well, what is what does the world need most that I'm most uniquely qualified to deliver? And maybe it's something that you've never really thought of or held before, you know, and so I think that's the gift.

Duke Stump

Is that this idea to be in just constant inquiry and curiosity through you know, that question. What I've seen once again is we're can do, we condition ourselves because we've been maybe like looking at things in a myopic manner and that's all we know, and sometimes it just takes a little bit of a spark to be like: oh my God, there's like there's a whole new world out there. But I have to look, I just have to reframe how I'm looking at you know, myself and the world itself.

Deepa Pulipati

Some of the words that I'm catching is like spark and possibility and motivation and inquiry. And these all seem to be sort of like a couple of your themes that I see in most of your conversations and curiosity and inquiry seems to be one of the most constant things that you apply to most of your life.

Duke Stump

I would ask my dad a question and he would give me another question. He wouldn't give me an answer and you know, growing up, it would drive me like literally batshit crazy because I was like, I just knew the answer and he's like, he would ask another question and I think the gift in that moment was the role of inquiry in our lives is such a powerful tool. But so often we just, we want to live in statements. I mean, there's a great line and it's a U2 song, I think it's a 12 o'clock or something like that is the song.

Duke Stump

And it says, uh, uh, it wasn't the answers we had, right. It was like questions we had wrong or something like that. I mean, we didn't ask the question. We just went to some statements. Um, and I think it's also interesting in today's world, like the, the resurrection of first principle thinking, you know, like I know Elon Musk has kind of hijacked it, but really Aristotle was the one who was like, when you look at something, break it down into these components, these first principles and ask versus just immediately reacting to something.

Duke Stump

So you ask questions. So I can must case, which I'm not pro or against, but when he was looking at space travel, he's like, well, they look, well, why is that? Why is it done that way? Why is this done that way? Versus mimicking what's done and trying to make it better. They literally broke it down to individual pieces using first principle thinking. And I think that's when just the power of inquiry is such an amazing tool. And, um, but I don't think we're taught, you know, once again, how inquiry can be this effective mechanism for us in life.

Deepa Pulipati

I totally agree with you. I mean, this whole idea that let's not be reactive, but be more self-selective and a question is posed on us, I think completely changes how we have even the most basic conversations, right?

Duke Stump

It totally did. So like, I know in your work, you do a lot of conflict resolution. So I think in those moments here to your point, there could be, you could react to things, or I think it could be like, all right, you could start asking questions. Well, why is this happening? What I, you know, through a sense of empathy, like, what are they feeling? Like, what's their, what's their path to get to this point, you know, that led to this conflict.

Duke Stump

But there's the role of inquiry versus once again, I think human nature is we just want to react to things and answer or make statements versus, you know, a question has the power to take sometimes a really high tense moment and just diffuse it in a way that is really beautiful. And I feel like, once again, I I'm obsessed with the role of how did the role of inquiry, I'm not great at it. It's a constant practice, but when it's done well for me, I think it's really, you know, honestly, it's a powerful tool.

Deepa Pulipati

Well, Duke, I actually have to, would have to challenge you when you say you're not great at it because I've really seen you do this all the time and in all the conversations and all the meetings and all the board meetings that we've been together, I think inquiry has been your thing, like the way you say the questions. I just want to acknowledge that for a quick second. I also want to circle back to your dad, by the way, I feel like he was a coach. What, what, what did he do for a job?

Deepa Pulipati

Like everything you're saying to me, he's like a therapist slash a coach.

Duke Stump

Well, he was literally a coach early on. I mean, he was an amazing athlete in school. He was, uh, he went to Northwestern university and he played football and baseball there. And, um, then he became a high school teacher and high school coach. So he coached football and baseball. Um, and my mom was the Dean of students and was teaching as well early on. And he coached me throughout my, uh, life in sport, which was great. Um, you know, there's this, um, there's this Harvard philosopher who, when the students take his class, they really don't enjoy it.

Duke Stump

They take his class and their biggest beef was that was very unsatisfying. It didn't give me the answers I needed. And then years later, when they reflect back on the class or like it was the most profound and most significant class I took because it was, he was teaching us how to think.

Duke Stump

And I feel like that's one of the things my dad did really well through me serving a question in his coaching path was another question was I was, he was really once again, conditioning me to like, okay, I'm, I need to be thinking, you know, I need to think about this versus just the, I think sometimes we get lazy. Give me the answer.

Duke Stump

In doing so, I don't think if we really truly understand the essence of things, we truly know things. But through my dad's mechanism, I was like, all right, I got to really understand this. I'm great. One time early on in my Nike career, I was like, hey, I want to go on my own and create my own thing. It was like two years in, I was like, whatever. He just asked me a bunch of questions. He didn't say, wow, I think that's pretty foolish at this point, which it really would have been given what I was thinking about doing.

Duke Stump

But I respect how he approached that. He was like, you need to come to your own conclusion, but I'll help you through inquiry.

Deepa Pulipati

Oh, my God, Duke, I love that. As someone who does work with parents all the time, I just wish there was a way to translate that specific way of talking to your children in the moment, because what it does and what I'm hearing you say and what I'm seeing in your own life is that it really doesn't give us the answers that we need or want. It just allows us to think for ourselves.

Duke Stump

I think that's just it, Deepa. The ability to think for ourselves is a superpower. I also think it's a confidence builder. When you feel like, all right, I can think for myself on things, I think in many ways you feel like you can take on the world at a different capacity. Once again, I'm just really curious, and I appreciate you saying that you think I'm good around the role of inquiry. My dad would thank you if he was around. But it's interesting, and I'm also just observing.

Duke Stump

I love observing meetings and dynamics and what's working, what's not working. I think when people surface brilliant, burning questions, it's amazing. But if it's a bunch of people shooting over answers, I don't know how effective that is, especially compared to burning questions.

Deepa Pulipati

I absolutely agree with you. I wanted to do one quick thing before we move on to another question, is that you mentioned that you were so frustrated sometimes when your dad wouldn't give me the answers. What was that process? Just break it down a little bit. You were frustrated, and then what did you do with the question?

Duke Stump

Well, it was a one-way street for me, which was I had to go back and figure it out on myself. He literally was unyielding around, you know, I would be like, did you see an answer? He's like, no. And so I had to literally just, whoops. And I do think everything in life is, so many things are a practice, the muscle. And so there was times it would be easy, and sometimes it would be hard. But I would constantly be like, all right, I got to figure this out. So how am I going to do this? And what are the things I need to ask myself?

Duke Stump

Or how do I need to look at this experience in a different way? But it was really, I mean, gosh, I'm just so grateful for that as a learning condition for me, for my parents early on, just because I don't see that enough. And I think, you know, I think we live in a culture that wants instant gratification. So tell me the answer. I'll get things done, and I'll move on. And once again, I think what's lost in that translation is truly understanding the essence.

Duke Stump

But if we can somehow just let go of the desire for instant gratification and just be like, OK, I'm going to slow down here. And there's a horse saying slow down or hurry up. I'm going to slow down, understand things in a way that once you know that, oh, then you're on a completely different jet stream.

Deepa Pulipati

Yeah. Then you can run.

Duke Stump

Goes against the grain, right? Like we, everything is about, hey, Google or, you know, chat GPTs.

Deepa Pulipati

Yeah. I love that idea because what you're really talking about, when you had to rely on your own self, you're talking about developing your agency at a very young age, relying on yourself and being OK with not knowing the answers and being comfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing the answers. And I think that's one of the key things that we are not allowing our young minds to develop.

Duke Stump

Yeah, I mean, even, I mean, obviously, like I love when Krista Morty talks about the beauty of not knowing. And.

Duke Stump

I think that's another thing we've been conditioned around, which is if you don't know something, then you're missing or you're less than or whatever. K.Wood's customary with his quote, to know is to be in prison and to not know is to be free.

Duke Stump

I do feel that in this world where we want predictive outcomes and all that, if you can let go of that, I do think you can be and I think that's where, not having to have all the answers, having to really even say like, I don't even know if I know the right burning question right now and I'll just sit on it for a while. Those are all interesting things, but those are the things that when you can, to your point, when you can have agency, like wow, that is a superpower, right? Because then you're like, okay, I can take on a lot.

Deepa Pulipati

Yeah. And added to that, free from fear, like fear is so conditioned and you and I and in our world of Krishnamurti and Oak Grove School, we talk about this all the time. That's one of the tenants of this, how do we uncondition ourselves from just being fearful of everything. But then the brilliant idea of developing agency from a very young age, that in itself will allow us to be less fearful of what we want to do with our life.

Duke Stump

Yeah. And we're all different, right? And I think there's nature nurtured and however we've developed. But with my parents, I mean, my mom was a dreamer. I've grown up to be a dreamer. And the fear thing, you know, it wasn't really part of our world. Meaning we always looked around challenges, not as threats, but as possibility. And we knew it doesn't mean it always is going to go our way. Like, in fact, there's a lot of times it doesn't, but even there was this, there's this amazing, he's no longer at Harvard, Sean Aker.

Duke Stump

He did this world study on human contentment and happiness. And he studied the most content, happiest people in the world. And one of the conditions, there was three in particular, but one was when you're confronted with an obstacle, do you look at this place of fear or challenge, or do you look at it as, okay, this is a possibility or an opportunity. And the people in this possibility or opportunity tended to be far more content and happier in the world. And once again, it doesn't mean everything goes your way.

Duke Stump

So I just want to be clear on that, but it's your approach. And so for me, I was just blessed with parents that were like, when you have these moments, you know, Viktor Frankl between stimuli and response, you have this magic space. Like, well, how do you want to hold it that they conditioned to be like, they give it as a possibility and work from inspiration, not desperation. And so the fear piece, I've seen it. I have seen it so often in company culture where fear can easily penetrate company. Cancer cell that just spreads.

Duke Stump

And, you know, that's why if we look at the global engagement studies, people are miserable for the most part. It's like, I get it because leadership was leading by fear and it just has a domino effect on the rest of the culture. Yeah.

Deepa Pulipati

As opposed to leadership looking at it or meeting with possibilities, what a change, like, it's just like a, what a, what a difference in how cultures could just, maybe not thrive and there's going to be failure or there's going to be success, but there's at least going to be that, Hey, there's less fear. There's more possibility about what we can achieve and what we can do.

Duke Stump

Yeah. So I'll give you an example. I was at this company called line, which is the world's largest micromobility company. And we're all the executives. We're in a mean meeting. And, um, the number one market in the world was Germany, but it hadn't opened up. And, um, all of a sudden we got the notice that Germany was the government was going to open it up. They were only going to take three vendors. Um, and it was going to be in five weeks and what it required was specific product and everything. And we got one of the three spots.

Duke Stump

And I remember that meeting, it was just like borderline chaos. Like everyone's like, how are we going to do this?

Duke Stump

And I'm an introvert. And so, but I was like, Hey, for a moment, what if we shifted our perspective? Why did, what would it look like? And feel like if we actually did this in five weeks, like what would that take? What if, what if we rebuilt a product and delivered it with all the regulations in five weeks? What if we created the brand experience and everything and did all, and our number one quote unquote competitor at the time was German, and so it was like, that's all right, like, yeah, they're ahead in the race now.

Duke Stump

Cause they know the market, but what do we need to do in that moment? I was like, what do we need to do to out German the Germans? Like, how can we actually take a leadership point of view? And I remember the, I like paused and they were like, God, that's a really cool way to hold it. They're like, and that feels a lot better than this desperate mode. And long story short, we crushed it. Like we, in five weeks we delivered across the board. It was euphoric for our culture.

Duke Stump

Cause it was like, wow, we did this, like against all odds, we climbed Everest without oxygen and like scaled it. And I think so much of that was just okay. In that moment, is this a threat or an opportunity? And so it was vital for us, I think, to shift as a leadership team to be like, don't know if we can do this. It's going to be challenging, but man, we got, let's give it like a best effort and see where it goes.

Deepa Pulipati

Dude, I love that story. It almost is, you know, it's not being unrealistic because a lot of people, when I talk about positivity, they're like, oh, you just want to code, you know, just make people feel better. But what I'm actually hearing you say is that realistic, but also this whole possibility of what if it was like amazing at the end of five weeks? What if it was successful?

Deepa Pulipati

I just love how in a very minute way, they kind of shifted or you kind of shifted the whole, you know, energy of your team, your group, the project and everything else, and it was just simple.

Duke Stump

It was pretty simple in the terms of the framework, getting everybody on board was a little bit more challenging, but that's where I think hope is a very interesting word. Hope by itself, I think can be a little soft, but when there's hope as a consequence of action, I think it's completely different. And so what we were delivering along the way was a sense of hope because we were in action around these things. It wasn't like, Hey, we can do it. And then we'll just, you know, hope, you know, maybe by some miracle we'll deliver in five weeks.

Duke Stump

We were like, every day we had an update. How are we doing? And then momentum started fueling it. And everyone was like, dang, man, I think we can pull this off. Like on the brand side, I was the chief marketing officer and going back to like, one of the things, the questions we had was like, all right, we're in San Francisco, we're not in Germany. We need, we got to partner with somebody who knows. So we found this amazing creative group in Berlin, like amazing. And they were like, and we just trusted them.

Duke Stump

We're like, all right, you got to help us like in this thing. And all of those moments when we were sharing, we're just fueling people. We like, all right, hope is building. Like we, we can do this because the actions around it and the product team was like, Hey, we just passed the standards for the German regulation. It was like, I just remember everyone was applause was like, that's crazy. Like something three weeks ago we thought was impossible. It's just done.

Deepa Pulipati

I love that. I, I almost feel like I was with you in those moments, but even as you're like me sharing everything that happened, I don't know how many other months years ago, I'm like, Oh my God, I, the energy is very positive and active as opposed to negative and fear-based. I love, love that. Okay. So Duke, quickly, you said something in all of this that you're an introvert.

Duke Stump

It's probably the introvert Amberverts spectrum. If you've ever read the book, uh, quiet, um, I can go out into the world and when I need to do what I need to do, I'll do it like, I, I think it's for me, it's cause I, I like dreaming and I don't want to give up in dreams. So just, and so I'm happy to go out, even though at times it makes me wildly uncomfortable. Like even doing this is, this is pushing me like to like, okay.

Duke Stump

But I, in my, if I can carve out most days, I would be living in solitude, like we do. And, um, just be in nature with the animals. Like that's what fuels me.

Deepa Pulipati

I don't know, dude. I, by the way, I love the book Quiet. Great shout out for that book. Um, I almost think like you're an ambivert because I see you when I see you and we are together in like many social settings, especially at the school level. Right. Um, cause we're on the board together. And I see you like really like enjoying that space. And I almost, and I, I can almost also see you like, Oh my God, Molly and I were loving hanging out in the hard, like farm with all the animals and the goats drop by and I can see both of that.

Deepa Pulipati

So I almost feel like you have this like really beautiful, I don't know, balance of both being an introvert and extrovert.

Duke Stump

I think for me, it's like, I also, for me recognize that one of the few times I know I'm growing when I'm at, when I'm uncomfortable. And so I put myself in positions where I'm uncomfortable. Uh, because what's important to me just as a value is that I'm, I'm a, I want to be constantly learning and growing. And so I know I have to do things that probably don't necessarily, it's not top of my list, but I want to deliver on greatness.

Duke Stump

It doesn't mean I, I always, I, in fact, a lot of times I don't deliver on greatness, but if I'm going to do something, I want to commit to it and give it like the best effort out of integrity that I can. And so, um, yeah, so I'll, I'll show up in those meetings with you, Deepa.

Duke Stump

I love you better.

Deepa Pulipati

You're also my, the co-chair for our 50th anniversary, which I'm super grateful for. Oh my gosh. So tell me something, put myself in positions that are uncomfortable for my like amazing audience or something like, uh, like a step-by-step sort of a guide or something that you can tell people to, how does one put themselves in uncomfortable positions? Like our situation?

Duke Stump

Yeah.

Duke Stump

I mean, that goes back to, I think even the role of curiosity.

Deepa Pulipati

Yeah.

Duke Stump

I'm a high observer. So I'm like, Hey, what am I curious about? Like in this world right now? Um, and also like, what are the things that fuel me that make me feel free? And I love when I do things that make me feel a lot. And so I guess an example this past summer, I'm really curious about the role of language in the world, in the world of business culture today. I just feel like it's very lazy, very militaristic, you know, target acquire. Like it's, I just like, wow, that doesn't seem right.

Duke Stump

And then I read David White's book, um, uh, heart aroused when he talks about, you know, soul and business and dance. I was like, wow. Like, I, I think he says the language of business today doesn't speak to the larger territory ahead. And I was like, I'm super curious about that thought. So what would that look like? So I took a poetry class, you know, I signed up for this online poetry class. And it wasn't a fluff poetry class. Like it was, it was hard. And it was seven weeks.

Duke Stump

Um, the irony, it was from a classmate of mine from 40 years ago at boarding school. And, uh, he's gone on to be this revered poet, this, uh, resident at the Langston Hughes home in Harlem. He's just incredible, but it literally kicked my ass. I was so uncomfortable because I dealt, I went into it. I didn't know. I didn't know the difference between a sign and a villain on Iambic pentameter and we would read poems. He's like, what are you, what are you reading? And he would share what his takeaway would be from a line.

Duke Stump

And I'm like, I have no idea how he got there. Like, that is incredible. But at the end of that journey, I just was so grateful because I learned a lot. In going back to agency, I was like, wow, I think there's, I know there's a path for language here that I feel like it can embark, embark on.

Duke Stump

And, um, but that's, and so that all of that really stems from what am I curious about, you know, what's out there right now that I'm sensing your signals that that's interesting and ask myself, like, does it give me, make me feel free and does it make me feel alive? And if it checks a lot of those boxes, I'm like, yeah, like my, you're gonna laugh, but I, my next thing is I'm really, I told Molly, my wife, like, I have to learn how to play the ukulele. Don't ask me why.

Deepa Pulipati

Well, Duke, poetry and ukulele. How about we have like a goal for you for our December meeting?

Duke Stump

Well, a poetry slam, and then I will be, I'll just bust out live music.

Deepa Pulipati

There you go. There you go. But a lot of these questions. So when we really want to put ourselves in, uh, or challenge ourselves or challenge, like when they're in like static mode, what am I curious about? What are the things that make me feel free? And for you, one of the recent things that you did was when you were asking questions, especially around, you know, language around business and what's happening right now, you took a poetry class and I don't, I know I'm not asking you this, but.

Deepa Pulipati

a poem you can share that he wrote? You don't have to, but, you know.

Duke Stump

I don't, I would actually be happy to read, I don't have one in front of me, but David, our teacher was like, put your poetry out there in the world. He's like, you need to do that. But if I had one, I would. There's one on the relationship between a horse and a human. It's called Hestan, it's Swedish for horse. And I just talked about the energy between, because horses feel a human's energy well before you get to them. And so it was this dynamic, you know, of like breathing and not bringing fear. Like if you bring fear to a horse, not a good thing.

Duke Stump

According to David Mills, the teacher, I do need to throw it out there.

Deepa Pulipati

I do, so I'm going to do this accountability thing that I do with my coaches. So we're on October 10th, and how about we listen to your poetry on Bonfire with Soul in two weeks?

Duke Stump

Two to three weeks, I can do it. I'll even post it. I'll just say, hey, Deepa Challenge inspired me.

Deepa Pulipati

You're a talkability person, inspired and accountable.

Duke Stump

Like that, yeah, but I'll do that.

Deepa Pulipati

Okay, excellent. I have it down, so you know I'm going to follow up with you on it when you text you. So Bonfire brings me to the next question. So you're doing this amazing Bonfire with Soul, which I just started with you. I joined this course. So tell us, tell my audience a little bit more about the idea behind Bonfire with Soul.

Duke Stump

Yeah, so I mean, I feel fortunate. I've lived a diverse range of different business environments and cultures. So I've been a part of large billion dollar public health brands. I've been a part of startups. I've been a part of smaller private enterprise. I've been a part of nonprofit. And once again, as an introvert, ambivert, and even I think for my mom, who was an engineer in mind, I'm not really curious how things work. And so part of my burning question for me is like, why am I in environments where things are flourishing?

Duke Stump

And why do I go to certain environments when they're languishing? And so over the last 30 years, I just, I've been operating on these 12 principles that I have. Each has also a burning question attached to it. And so during COVID, I needed a creative outlet. And I said, you know what? I'm gonna create a new school of thought around business, but it's about unlearning business as usual. And I really wanted to also just bring in much more of the human element of things that are important in business. So compassion, empathy, courage, conviction, rigor.

Deepa Pulipati

And it's been fine.

Duke Stump

I mean, it's an online learning course. I did the first two cohorts, a thousand people from 35 countries showed up for the first two. I'm blown away by that. I wasn't expecting that. I guess a lot of people are yearning to unlearn business as usual, and it makes sense given the state of business culture today. And so then, yeah, I just launched the new, after almost 900 days of pausing, I launched the third cohort again, and a couple of weeks ago, of which you are kind enough to join in participating.

Deepa Pulipati

I love that. So the two things, the two takeaways that I got from it is a new school of thought in just doing business today without even talking about everything else that's happening, and also specifically bringing in the human element of it. So let me ask you this, is Bonfire's sole idea to replace core business academics, or should it be treated as like a complimentary or elective course to unlearn some of the practices currently taught today?

Duke Stump

That's a really good question, because my answer is probably going to be more radical than what people would think, but I love Buckminster Fuller. I think he was the Da Vinci of our time, just an amazing thinker, system thinker. And he would have this thought, is if you want to change existing reality, obsolete would currently exist.

Duke Stump

And so as much as I would love to like blend or merge, like conventional teaching with my own thinking, I just would rather invite not just my voice, but other new voices around a new school of thought and build from there, independent of the current teaching. Because I think the other thing is, I half-jokingly said my goal is to obsolete, or make Harvard Business School obsolete.

Deepa Pulipati

You've said that, yes.

Duke Stump

But the half-joking part is.

Duke Stump

If business school and all that teaching is growing so well, then why is it the output, the actual, when I look at the global engagement studies, and 80 percent of people aren't engaged at work, quiet and quitting is a dominant feature in most cultures. Fifty percent wouldn't wish their job on their worst enemy. There's scary, what is it? Sunday scaries and blue Mondays. If the status quo is great, I'd be like, hey, why change it? But my foe in this endeavor is the acceptance of that status quo.

Duke Stump

I've lived cultures that have been rich and beautiful, and I think it's sad that people don't want to go to work on Monday. Best majority of my life, I'm like, I love Monday. I just think work is great. As not an antagonist, but as an inspired protagonist, my goal is to spark a different conversation on how we could operate business from a different perspective.

Deepa Pulipati

What are your thoughts on bonfire at the high school level? Because you and I are very, so inspired and motivated by Krishnamoorthy and O'Grove. You moved here to send your children here. I moved here to send Surya here. What are your thoughts on teaching this at the high school level? Or even, I don't know, younger kids?

Duke Stump

Yeah. It's interesting because I don't know if you would take one of the principles. One of the principles I talk about is live empathy. I think empathy as an element in business is so often not even understood, it's not nurtured, it's not cultivated. How is it we could learn this muscle around empathy so that we really truly understand the essence of things? To me, I think what's nice about, let's take O'Grove's goal as a model. I think for me, O'Grove is always about the wholeness of life.

Duke Stump

You're putting individuals in this experience that give them this rich soil around the wholeness of life, and they're learning empathy. You can't have 15, 18 kids or humans per grade and live with them day-to-day and not have to understand them. I think the school does a really nice job of ensuring that there's a level of empathy within a school structure, classroom structure, whatever. Whether it's a direct translation of some of the principles or taking the intention behind some of the principles, yeah, like empathy, courage, compassion, rigor.

Duke Stump

I think those are all things that would be helpful beyond just the standard level of pedagogy that we're taught.

Deepa Pulipati

Duke, what are one or two tools or practices that you can maybe tell our audience when you talk about developing empathy, courage, rigor, compassion, that all the things that you feel are not only critical for just us in our interpersonal level or as humans, but also in business. Is that a practice or a tool that you would recommend?

Duke Stump

The last principle is my favorite principle, and it's dare to suck. I think it really is about courage, honestly. That's what that whole principle is about. For me, it's about you can't just say, hey, be courageous. I think that's not going to help, obviously. I break it down in the course, and I share this exercise that was shared with me, which is start with this whole thing of imagine a day. Your two feet hit the ground, and you're super excited for the day. You're like, this is what a day looks like that I enjoy, that fuels me.

Duke Stump

You're not talking about, I have this job, and I make this much money or whatever. You're just like, this is a day. And it's a day because you're not distinguishing or bifurcating your personal life from your work life. You're blending those in a way that there's this greater sense of flow between the two. And then in that exercise, when Molly and I have done it together in the past, we just begin to plot on paper like, okay, this is what a day looks like. This is what would really fuel us.

Duke Stump

And then once you have this mosaic and this picture, the next question is like, all right, well, what's preventing you from living that day? That is really cool self-introspective inquiry because you're like, and as an example, when I decided I was ready to leave Nike after 16 years, nobody leaves Nike. I mean, it was, and for me as a former athlete, it's like, it's my identity. I'm Nike, I'm a Nike guy. That's a pretty interesting thing, at least it was.

Duke Stump

And I realized the two things for me that were preventing were ego, letting go of Nike as my identity and finances. So I was like, I can, this place has been really good to us. Like, why would I want to leave that?

Duke Stump

But I also realized that, and this is the second part of that exercise, when I asked myself what makes me feel free or alive, or Molly asked that, I didn't feel I was going to continue to grow. I took the next 16 years, and for me, that was painful. I was like, I don't want that. I want to be thrown into environments like that poetry class, where I can be uncomfortable again, because then I'll know I'm growing.

Duke Stump

I went from Nike to Seventh Generation, which at the time was 50 people, $50 million, small environmental household good product company in Burlington, Vermont. But it was pioneering corporate responsibility. I remember my first meeting at Seventh Generation. I was with Greenpeace, and I was like, okay, I never thought I'd be in a meeting with Greenpeace, but here I am, because we were partnering with them on this college activist program.

Duke Stump

And so this idea of imagining a day versus like, what's your career like, that's a lot to hold for me and my small brain. But I could draw with Molly, my wife, a portrait of a day. I could identify the things that make me feel free and alive. You know, what type of culture, what kind of culture, but also just internally, you know, am I letting go of certain fears or whatever? And that's what I've been using all along. And once again, it's not for everybody. Some people were in positions that they love, and I'm like, that's amazing. Like, that's great.

Duke Stump

I think for me, I always had this constant itch in me, because I'm a dreamer as a kid growing up. I'm always like, it wasn't about never having enough, but I was curious to be like, wow, I have like this itch to do this or this. And so if I felt that way, I was like, yeah, I'm going to do that, I want to do that. It's like creating a bonfire with soul. That was part of my master plan. It made me wildly uncomfortable to like, put myself out there, but I was like, I will be really disappointed if I don't do this.

Duke Stump

The pain of not doing it is worse than the pain of doing it and failing.

Deepa Pulipati

Oh my Lord, dude, there's so many things over here. The first thing that comes to my mind is almost like, can we do this workshop with our high school children at Oak Grove, that it would be called like a fun afternoon of dare to suck. And that's the name of the day. Cause you know, as much as Oak Grove does amazing things, I always, you know, working with so many young high schoolers, young adults, dare to suck is such a brilliant concept. I feel just even sitting with that for a moment, like being okay with that, without even going to the exercise.

Deepa Pulipati

And the other thing, what's preventing me, once you do Imagine Today, what's preventing me from living this day? I love that. And so when you did that exercise, do you remember a critical point on your life when you did that exercise? And what was the outcome of that?

Duke Stump

Well, it was, I made the decision to leave Nike. And I remember one of the executives at Nike was like, hey, you've just committed career suicide. And I was like, I'm good. I'm really at peace with this decision cause I had done the work. It wasn't an impulse thing. And I went to Seventh Generation and I was the chief marketing officer. I loved it. It was like a whole new, I mean, I always say, I learned a role of solo business at Seventh Generation. And it was just a remarkable journey that set me on all these other different paths.

Duke Stump

And so I am forever grateful for that. It doesn't mean by the way, like, and I've done that exercise where I wanted to go on my own. And so I went on my own. I left Seventh Generation to go on my own two months before the financial crisis in 2008, which obviously terrible timing. And that was a really rough, that was a rough period. But what was amazing was Molly was incredibly supportive. I think finding somebody in your life that it's good to have the rational people.

Duke Stump

I also think it's good to have somebody who's just, I think your biggest cheerleader. Like I just watched the Tanya Tucker documentary on Netflix and who, for those who don't know, Tanya Tucker was an icon country singer, 70s, 80s, but to see Brandi Carlile is an amazing contemporary artist.

Duke Stump

The way she lifted up Tanya Tucker to create an amazing album two decades after her last album was amazing. So I think it helps when you have those people, especially in those turbulent times. But my point really was, not everything goes well. Once again, that's that moment where you're like, all right, what's my chosen response? Think another thing we can teach in school is just resiliency, because things don't go your way. You think, yeah, it's how to respond to that. My dad was great at that in sports.

Duke Stump

If I was benched in a game for whatever reason, a coach was like, hey, you're benched. My dad was like, you have two options. You can get mad at the coach, that's one thing, or you could look at yourself like, what do I need to do to get back out there on the field or on the ice? I hope you choose to let, because the first thing is not going to get you anywhere. Matt is, a few times, kind of gave me direction with answers. He's like, you can choose. But going back to resiliency, his thing was like, accept it. This is not good.

Duke Stump

I'm on the bench, but you can control how you want to respond. Use that as from a positive path, not this anger.

Deepa Pulipati

I can almost translate that Duke, that concept and that way of thinking to a lot of my coaches who look at receiving or leaders or managers who are wanting to look at receiving feedback. So when you receive feedback, that's just such an amazing shift of saying, of letting your ego come into play or not listening or saying, you know, what's the, you know, this is like, I didn't expect this or being feeling defensive or resistant towards that feedback.

Deepa Pulipati

How about we just shifted that to say, and just completely what you said, like, you know, maybe there's something to it. Maybe there's something over here. Maybe I can explore what my manager or leader said in this feedback, and maybe I can improve. Maybe I can change.

Duke Stump

Yeah, the only thing I'll add on that, and it's my own growth opportunity is, I do much better on feedback when I feel the source, I trust the source and respect the source. Then I can take really any feedback. I think when it comes from sources that I, I may not have the ultimate respect for or trust with, then it becomes a little bit more challenging. And that to me is something that I need to work on, obviously, I think, because I'm more challenged when it's that dynamic.

Deepa Pulipati

That completely makes sense. And then what we're really talking about when you talk about trust is the relationship that's built between, you know, teams and managers and leaders or the culture of trust that's built in companies, right? When there's a certain level of trust built in, or people make the effort to build that together, then you can receive feedback or you can give feedback more freely. When that fundamental trust is not there, then it's just much more harder.

Duke Stump

Yeah, I think a big part of that for me is, there's a horse idiom that says, a horse doesn't care how much you know, it wants to know how much you care. And I think when