The Office of Development and Alumni Relations recently spoke with James Lee '05 about his time at Texas Lutheran University as well as his pathway to becoming a small business owner. After graduating in 2005 with a B.A. in Business Administration and a specialization in Finance, he received his MBA from the renowned Executive MBA program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in 2020. Learn more about his journey below.
What are you doing for your career?
I have spent the majority of my career in the service of seniors, which to me is really about serving families. Through the senior living industry, I have helped many, many families, including those of fellow TLU alumni. Today, I have the great joy of leading various entrepreneurial endeavors including my own coaching and consulting firm, hosting a podcast called "Level Up Leadership Podcast," and being the CEO and Co-Founder of a dementia training and care company in San Antonio called Bella Groves.
What made you choose to pursue a career in Senior Living? How has this career changed/effected your life and/or perspective?
Like many wonderful things that happen to us in life, choosing a career in senior living was really about just paying attention to all of life's cues and clues. I took a part-time job in 2008 as a caregiver while I was applying for law schools. In what turned out to be a pivotal turning point in my life, I made a conscious decision to forgo entering law school and stuck with this $8/hour job. The simple reason was that I loved going to work, and I felt called to do it. I figured "there are people in this industry who are leading organizations. Maybe I'll rise up the ranks some day too." This career has profoundly shaped my life's perspective of family, legacy, and serving others - both customers and employees - to be positively impacted by my presence in their lives. It has been a pathway to so much joy and love in my life.
What were some of your extracurricular activities on campus?
During my TLU years, my favorite extracurricular activities were anything related to the choir and music programs with Dr. Doug Boyer; theatre classes and activities with Professor David Legore, and just about every intramural sport TLU offered. In my opinion, if you are not whole-heartedly engaged in extracurricular activities, you're leaving half of your education opportunity on the table.
How did your education and time at TLU prepare you for your career?
The truth is that almost any college experience can be a good one - whether at TLU, an ivy league or a local community college - if you do it with intention and appreciation for learning. What I have come to reflect on as the special quality of a TLU education was the spiritual fellowship and community that was ever-present but never pushed. I went from morning chapel to my Corporate Finance class. I studied for an exam about business ethics while on a bus with the choir on our way to sing for people in a nursing home (foreshadowing my career, perhaps). Just imagine what kind of world we'd be living if our business leaders today had had a similar educational experience like the one I had at TLU.
What is one or two of your favorite memories from your time at TLU?
I have a specific memory of singing a beautiful arrangement of "Amazing Grace" with the TLU Choir at the chapel and looking out into the audience and looking at the eyes of the people there with us. I could see in their eyes that every person there had a story they were playing at that moment; a memory, a feeling, or maybe even a wish. I realized in that moment, singing with my fellow choir members, that we weren't there to perform. The audience wasn't there to sit back and listen. Whether you were standing up front singing or sitting in the back thinking of your family, we were all there to be engaged in this moment together. That's all life is really. Connecting with others and being engaged no matter where you are in the room. I can't think of a better leadership lesson than that.
What advice do you have for current and future students?
My advice is simple but not easy: pay attention to what you pay attention to. We all give our attention to things both intentionally and subconsciously. Our brains are really good at picking up on patterns all around us. They recognize patterns subconsciously, but we have to make sense of the patterns intentionally. That's one way of saying, our brains tend to focus on things that are related in some way to our natural skills and interests. During my TLU years, my brain "drifted" from my chosen major (business) to things like music, theatre, fitness, writing, tutoring others, photography, etc. It took me some time to figure out that what connected all those things for me was "helping others through my creativity." Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Your calling isn't discovered in a eureka moment. It is developed by intention and attention