Book Review: Designing Your Life


If you're trying to figure out your career direction and you only read one book this year, it should be this one.

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans came into being when two Stanford School of Design professors asked, "What if we take the tools we use to solve design problems and use them to create a roadmap for life satisfaction?"

I honestly can’t say enough about this book. I recently listened to it as I was driving across the state and I kept wanting to pause and take notes. Over and over again, I felt that spark of mingled admiration and envy that happens when someone puts your ideas into words and does it more elegantly than you could.

Your Powers, Combined

One of my main annoyances with the world of career planning is the dichotomy between what I’ll call the Dreamers and the Doers. You’ve probably encountered both: one person tells you to follow your passion, the other tells you how to hone your networking skills. You’re either floating in fantasyland or bored by 101 interview tips.

In my never-so-humble opinion, the best sources embody the Talking Heads lyric of “feet on the ground, head in the sky.” They emphasize the importance of a dream and a plan, teaching you how to effectively combine emotion, intellect, and action. Designing Your Life does this better than almost anything else I’ve come across.

Start On the Inside, Work Your Way Out

The book starts out by introducing some basic concepts and mindset tips. You’ll learn the value of staying curious, trying things (instead of getting stuck in endless analysis), and asking for help. It encourages you to start where you are and gather data about your current situation to see what's working and what's not. Then, it takes you through the process of generating possible directions to explore.

The second half of the book encourages you to take what you’ve learned and put it into action. It walks you through road-testing your ideas through a combination of information-gathering and test experiences. Finally, it concludes with some last words about effective decision-making (because they know that even after all this work, it’s still possible to get stuck in second-guessing).

I can't believe I'm saying this, but...

If you’ve participated in a program with me before, this process will sound familiar. It’s very similar to what I do with my people and if you had enough focus and motivation, you would get just as much from this book as you would from one of my 1:1 coaching programs. That’s right - this book is good enough to potentially put me out of a job, and I’m still recommending it.

If you've read Designing Your LIfe, I'd love to hear what you thought! Leave me a comment below.

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