Designing Your Life

Dec 29, 2020 16:55 · 877 words · 5 minute read books


Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who isn’t sure what they should be doing with their life. I like the techniques proposed in this book, but it feels like the authors are trying to sell me on something throughout the book, which was a bit off-putting.

My Thoughts

I recently spoke to a remote class of college students, and they were very concerned with how to find a job and how to live their best lives. I wish I had had this book to recommend to them. This book feels targeted toward college students even though it claims not to be. I think it would have been incredibly useful reading for me in college

There are some pieces of wisdom in the book that I really enjoyed, but a lot of it felt like only partially useful proverbs. Like a recipe that states “Add X until it is enough”.

The best piece of advice in the book is to try things. If you have ever wondered what your passion is, the book’s recommendation is to stop thinking about it and go try stuff. I love this advice.


The book comes with a number of exercises, and I think that most of them are useful. I skipped a few because I recently did a number of similar exercises, and still had those notes.

For example, I worked with someone who used a model for their potential futures. They always had 5 potential futures at any given time, and they would count them on their hand - the hand is important because the thumb represented the “pull the ripcord” future. Maybe this is something like: “buy a farm in the midwest”, or “go become a ski bum”, but it was important to this person that they always have a “pull the ripcord” plan. I like to think of this plan as the “Nevermind” plan. As in: “I have all these awesome things I could do and… well, nevermind”.


The five mind-sets you are going to learn in order to design your life are curiosity, bias to action, reframing, awareness, and radical collaboration.

I think this list is a useful guidepost for things to remember. For example, when I find myself lost, I try to find ways to rekindle my curiosity.

If it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem

This has been said in so many ways, but this feels like the kind of thing I could say in a work meeting, and it would get a reasonable reception.

Most of the time when people tell us “our brainstorm didn’t work”, we find out that they framed a poor question

I liked this quote because it feels scientific, though I do have some criticisms around their brainstorming discussion. Science is just the process of asking better questions.

Life designers see the adventure in whatever life they are currently building and living into. This is how you choose happiness

Life is certainly an adventure, and it feels more interesting when it is lived with intentionality. “Seeing the adventure” is a way to add intentionality to life. Once I see the adventure I’m on, it is easier to decide whether I’m happy with things or if I need to make changes. It also helps identify which changes to make.

Duckworth’s studies on grit and self-control demonstrate that grit is a better measure of potential success than IQ

We romanticise the hero who outsmarts everyone and is 10 steps ahead. But this isn’t how the world works. Persevering is a much better approach than trying to outsmart everyone.

We do believe (and we’ve seen it in others and lived it ourselves) that you really can reframe failures in such a way that you transform setbacks and have a happier, more fulfilling life.

Stuff I didn’t like

In Grant’s hidden unconscious these are all linked back to his original prompt

This quote is about brainstorming, and was frustrating to me. I’m not a big fan of identifying things as opening up a hidden subconscious or whatever. I believe that the subconscious is there, but I don’t think that’s what brainstorming is about. To me, the point of brainstorming is to add noise to a system that is stuck at a local minima, not probe some elusive, unconscious truth. The point of the brainstorming exercises is to arrive at an actionable idea that seems interesting to you.

But it is possible to be immune from failure

This is bullshit. It contributes to the sales-pitch vibe that comes up a few times in the book. Here, they’re talking about reframing failure; if you reframe the failure, then it’s not a failure. But I think it’s important to recognize things that have failed. At some point you have to commit, and sometimes it doesn’t work out. If you learn from this failure, it’s still a failure, and it still hurts, but at least you can get something out of it.

Action items

There were a number of good exercises in the book, and these produced a few action items for me. I think they may be useful to you: - Develop a workview. This should answer the question of “Why work?” - Compare workview to lifeview. See if there are any differences