Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Stanford University design program professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is based on the authors’ wildly popular course on how to leverage design principles to create a more satisfying life and career. Although the Burnett/Evans course is geared towards undergrads, the program is equally useful for people of all ages, and so is their book.
Designing Your Life is built on the premise that you can’t just think your way forward; you must build your way to the future. Since few of us have one guiding passion, the authors say, the only way to discover what you really want to do is to continually test things out in small, but impactful ways until you find what works.
One of the fastest ways to test out ideas, say Burnett and Evans, is to conduct what they call Life Design Interviews: design-speak for getting someone’s story. By talking with someone who is either doing or living what you’re contemplating, you’ll quickly get a sense of whether your expectations measure up to reality.
The authors do a masterful job explaining their five-step life-design process (be curious, try stuff, reframe problems, know it’s a process and ask for help) and then showing how to put those steps into action. Initially, I was skeptical as to how product design techniques related to career design. But by the end of the book, I was a convert. An engaging read, this is one of those books you’ll circle back to for guidance more than once during the course of your career.