Notes & Quotes: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

The following are my favorite quotes from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans's Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

  1. A well-designed life is a life that is generative--it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always a possibility of surprise.
  2. Designers love questions, but what they really love is reframing questions.
  3. Your life is not a thing, it's an experience; the fun comes from designing and enjoying the experience.
  4. The reframe for the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is this: "Who or what do you want to grow into?"
  5. Radical collaboration works on the principle that people with very different backgrounds will bring their idiosyncratic technical and human experiences to the team. This increases the chance that the team will have empathy for those who will use what they are designing, and that the collision of different backgrounds will generate truly unique solutions.
  6. A well-designed life is not a life of drudgery. You weren't put on this earth to work eight hours a day at a job you hate until the time comes to die.
  7. 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. These are you design tools, and with them you can build anything, including a life you love.
  8. Life design is a journey; let go of the end goal and focus on the process and see what happens next. 
  9. Passion is the result of good life design, not the cause.
  10. Problem Finding + Problem Sovling = Well-Designed Life.
  11. Our problems become our story, and we can all get stuck in our stories.
  12. In life design, if it's not actionable, it's not a problem.
  13. Here's a little tidbit that is going to save you a lot of time--months, years, decades even. It has to do with reality. People fight reality. They fight it tooth and nail, with everything they've got. And anytime you are arguing or fighting with reality, reality will win. You can't outsmart it. You can't trick it. You can't bend it to your will. Not now. Not ever.
  14. If you're beginning to think like a designer, you will recognize that life is never done. Work is never done. Play is never done. Love and health are never done. We are only done designing our lives when we die.
  15. Our goal for your life is rather simple: coherency. A coherent life is one lived in such a way that you can clearly connect the dots between three things: Who you are. What you believe. What you are doing.
  16. Living coherently doesn't mean everything is in perfect order all the time. It simply means you are living in alignment with your values and have not sacrificed your integrity along the way.
  17. People in flow report the experience as having these sorts of attributes: Experiencing complete involvement in the activity. Feeling a sense of ecstasy or euphoria. Having great inner clarity--knowing just what to do and how to do it. Being totally calm and at peace. Feeling as if time were standing still--or disappearing in an instant.
  18. Life design is about getting more out of your current life--and not only about redesigning a whole new life.
  19. Drill down into the particulars of your day and catch yourself in the act of having a good time.
  20. As a life designer, you need to embrace two philosophies:
    1. You choose better when you have lots of good ideas to choose from.
    2. You never choose your first solution to any problem.
  21. Don't make a doable problem into an anchor problem by wedding yourself irretrievably to a solution that just isn't working. Reframe the solution to some other possibilities, prototype those ideas (take some test hikes), and get yourself unstuck. Anchor problems keep us stuck because we can only see one solution--the one we already have that doesn't work.
  22. If your mind starts with multiple ideas in parallel, it is not prematurely committed to one path and stays more open and able to receive and conceive more novel innovations. Designers have known this all along--you don't want to start with just one idea, or you're likely to get stuck with it.
  23. Life is an odyssey--and adventurous journey into the future with hopes and goals, helpers, lovers and antagonists, unknowns and serendipities, all unfolding over time in a way we both intend at the start and weave together as we go.
  24. We prototype to ask good questions, create experiences, reveal our assumptions, fail fast, fail forward, sneak up on the future, and build empathy for ourselves and others. Once you accept that this is really the only way to get the data you need, prototyping becomes an integral part of your life design process.
  25. The Rules of Brainstorming
    1. Go for quantity, not quality.
    2. Defer judgment and do not censor ideas.
    3. Build off the ideas of others.
    4. Encourage wild ideas.
  26. When you really get the hang of the design thinking approach, you end up thinking differently about everything.
  27. Designing your life is actually what life is, because life is a process, not an outcome. If you can get that, you've got it all.
  28. Everyone participating in your life design effort in one way or another should be thought of as being a part of your team, but there are different roles to be played, and it's useful to name them.
    1. Supporters
    2. Players
    3. Intimates
    4. The Team
  29. What does a well-designed and balanced life look like? Imagine a day cut into perfectly equal pieces of pie--one slice for career, one slice for play and fun, one slice for family and friends, one slice for health. What is your perfect pie?