Live Inspired Podcast with John O'Leary

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Now displaying: Category: business, architecture, art, empathy, leadership, management, st. louis, mackey, design, special needs, noise, quilts, purpose,
Feb 22, 2018

"It turns out, sometimes you have to start by asking a really stupid question."

Marcus Adrian has spent nearly 20 years at Mackey Mitchell Architects in St. Louis, MO; however, Marcus isn't your typical architect. He aims to design buildings to "speak to the human experience." He is nationally recognized for designing spaces for people with special needs and an expert in classroom acoustics. 

His great-grandfather was an architect, one grandfather was a woodworker, while another mined stone in the Ozarks. So, building and creating is in his blood. From his mother, a nurse, he developed a strong sense of empathy. Marcus shares how his career, his passion, is much like his mother's, grandmother's, and great-grandmother's tradition of making quilts. How they would pray as they stitched in thoughtful reflection of the creation they were making. He challenges us to "count the stitches in a quilt" in order to see the effort and thought that goes into creating something with meaningful purpose.

Marcus shares his story of how a stupid question taught him more than he could have imagined and how the way we shape our spaces continue to shape us. He is an expert in creating spaces where you maximize human potential.

Today, Marcus teaches us how it is possible to build empathy into our creations and our lives. He also shares how sometimes, it all starts by asking a really "stupid" question. 


  • Marcus's parents would often tell him to "do something meaningful."
  • By the age of 9, he knew he wanted to be an architect. His designs consider "from birth to everything."
  • Empathy is something we can build into an institution. The solutions are going to have to be found at the intersection science and public policy. 
  • "Empathy ignites because it starts with curiosity. You could do it because of altruism, but you won't be doing it for long." 
  • Buildings need to speak to the human experience. Taking into consideration: Physical Ability, Sensory Ability, Social Ability, Cognitive & Empathy.
  • "It can be difficult to differentiate signal and noise. The way we design schools today is very different than 20 years ago."
  • "The word is "balance." You have to put up those reminders. Am I owning this or is it owning me?"


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.

2. Tomorrow you discover your wealthy uncle shockingly dies at the age of 103; leaving you millions. What would you do with it? I would have to build a comprehensive center for kids with developmental needs. 

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? Easy one. I have a quilt that my great-grandmother and grandmother made. 

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? I got to do that yesterday with my wife. If I could do it now it would be with Eugene Mackey. I'd ask him, "am I doing it right?" 

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Eugene gave me some good advice about managing: "If you accept that now than it will always be true."

6. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at age 20? Listen. Learn how to listen. Listen to your wife. 

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? He listened. 


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I can’t wait to see you here next Thursday! Today is your day. Live Inspired.

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