Hate Air Travel? Try This Thought Exercise to Make it Less Painful

I've been traveling a little too much these days. So much that it has become a chore, something I need to do but don't want to do. This is not a great point-of-view, given that most of my clients reside outside of New York. I quickly realized that I needed to think about travel differently. In other words, I needed to redesign the travel I loved.

To me this is a design problem: what are my constraints and how can I think about them differently? So I approached the problem like a design project, starting with the step of deconstructing the concept of travel (the first step of my design process, Deconstruction:Reconstruction) to help break my own preconceptions.

Here is my deconstruction of travel across four quadrants--physical, emotion, intellect and spirit--and how it helped me shift my perspective from problem to opportunity.

Physical

Airports have lost their charm. They're what French anthropologist Marc Augé called non-places, transient spaces where people pass by in almost complete anonymity.

Shift in POV: As I write this, I realize therein lies also the beauty of airports--a passage way where you can watch all the people of the world pass through. Seen in this light, airports are rivers and I can sit at my gate and watch the river pass by--all the people with their weird haircuts, incredible tattoos; people who travel in their pj's with pillows alongside, in their saris, military uniforms, high heels and sandals; big people, tall people, little people, tired people, excited people; people who cry and wrench your heart at departures, and those who cry with happiness at arrivals.

Emotion

The hardest thing about travel is leaving my family. Therein lies the disruption. As Paul Auster put so well, "Whenever I travel, I get thrown off completely. If I'm gone for two weeks, it takes me a good week to get back into the rhythm of what I was doing before." It doesn't help that airplane service is at a new low--any gate announcements looking for people to take the next plane due to full flights makes my hair stand on end.

Shift in POV: How do you get beyond all the negative emotions and anxiety? I complained to my friend Marshall Goldsmith that I travel too much. Goldsmith, who travels non-stop, didn't have much sympathy for me but shared his 2 travel tricks which I have since internalized--sleep anywhere at the drop of a hat, and be happy doing what you love doing anywhere. In other words, stop whining about travel if it lets you do what you love. Now when I travel, I do so with minimum complaining and a box my daughters made for me with little notes to make me laugh along the way.

Intellectual

This is the quadrant that surprised me because I realized that the moment of travel for me is intellectually very rich. I love the bookstores at the airports and pass my time browsing through their books, trying to choose something I'd like. Half of the books I read are bought at an airport and often finished on airplanes.

Shift in POV: Suddenly moving through space in the company of my books doesn't seem bad at all. In fact, this is the time I am free of distractions to indulge in my favorite pass time, reading. Current book bought at an airport: Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Gene.

Spiritual

This is the quadrant that tripped me up because air travel seems soulless. What can I find spiritually redeeming here?

Shift in POV: I love thinking about this quadrant because it helps me to think of universal truths I might neglect otherwise. The spirit of travel is the people who are waiting for me at the other end, at my destination. Some are clients, some are friends who live where my clients are, some are clients who have become friends, some are people I don't know but who've accepted my invitation to visit while I am in their city. We are face to face, building trust, learning from each other and about each other, solving problems, laughing and talking about our life. They make the whole experience worth while.

This is design thinking or thinking like a designer, holistically and with empathy (in this case empathy for myself) applied to travel. It is intentionally shifting my point of view to turn constraints into opportunities when I can, and working around them when I cannot. With the hope the it will help you think about your travels differently too.

Design the travel you love.

Want to Get Better at Selling Others on Your Ideas? Learn How to Draw a Vision Map

Have you ever drawn a map to show someone how to get to your house? Or how to get from your house to the park or the corner store? If you have, you know how to draw, how to visualize, and how to communicate a path in time and space.

These are the same skills you can apply if you are an entrepreneur trying to sell customers on a new product or service, or someone who helps others imagine the future. Draw a map to help people to get from here to there.

When your goal is to describe a vision for the future, information is not enough. People are up to their necks in information. What they need is a way to imagine their life after the change, and compare it with their life today. That's why it's called a "vision" and not a "plan."
--Marty Neumeier, author of The Designful Company

A vision map shows, economically, how to get from point A (where you are today) to point B (where you want and need to get). You can write about it and you should. But if you want people to understand you quickly and intuitively, draw it for them.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- you really can't draw. But remember, your drawing doesn't need to be great. Who cares if the lines are crooked as long as it gives good directions? However, it does need to be drawn by you, because when you draw your idea you create an abstraction in space and time. You show a path. And because only you know the path, you need to draw it for the rest of us.

Contrary to what you think, the ability to draw is not purely a talent. It is having a kit of visual symbols and icons, which is just like drawing a map. New York Times financial writer Carl Richard's napkin sketches are a great example. Alex Osterwalder, author of the Business Model Generation, is both a great visionary and visualizer, as you can see on his Twitter account almost daily.

To help you draw, I broke down my drawings into the visual symbols I most often use. Please feel free to try them out, borrow and adopt them.

My vision-drawing alphabet

Simple geometric shapes: Circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and cubes are simple shapes that can depict an area or category.

1 circle with a word in it: Depicts something central to your idea or concept.

2 overlapping circles: Intersection of two ideas. The intersection is the "sweet spot." This is my favorite way of showing dichotomy resolution.

3 overlapping circles: Intersection of three ideas, or a trifecta.

2 lines drawn at 90-degree angles to each other: A graph. I use this to show the relation of one thing to another over time.

2 lines intersecting in the middle: Four quadrants. I use this to depict the emotional, the physical, the intellectual, and the spiritual.

2 words and an arrow between them: One thing becoming something else. Arrows can also depict direction, movement, or the future.

Infinity sign: I use this to show a continuous feedback loop, like "give and take."

Equal/unequal symbols: When used between two words, they summarize how things are alike or dissimilar. Other math symbols, like +, x, <, and >, are also useful.

A stick figure or a smiley face: A person. As simple as it sounds, adding a person connects the idea to users and humanizes it.

A stick figure in a circle: Depicts being user-centered.

Circle with a diagonal line over a word or symbol: Something that is banned or unwanted.

Simple icons: Heart for emotion, yin and yang for spirit, dollar sign for money, messy scribble for complication, etc.

Throw some of these together to express one of your ideas. Put it on Twitter. Email it to your colleague. Draw it on a white board. You will see that a picture is worth a thousand words.

If you already draw to sell your vision, I would love to hear from you and learn about your drawing tool kit.

Design the vision you love, by drawing.

Bored at Work? Here Is a 1-Day Plan to Turn Boredom Into Inspiration

You might need to get out of the office to reengage.

Summer is here and although you may want to go on vacation this instant, you might not be able to just yet. Work is slow, you're feeling burnt out, and bored by doing the same things day in day out. Here is a simple way to find mental rejuvenation that will require one day of your time but will offer long-lasting benefits.

All you need to do is pick a topic you're interested in, and curate a day exploring that topic. Outside the office--I call this "knowledge tourism."

My most recent day as a knowledge tourist was inspired by our client the Kale Group, and I focused on the topic of the future of retail buildings. But this is the kind of thing you can also do without a client. In fact, I recommend it.

Here is how--

Have a goal

Make it your mission to be a knowledge tourist for a day. Get out of the office to come back with new knowledge, connections and insights to inspire your projects. Imagine you're a bee collecting pollen to make honey.

Start

Block a whole day on your calendar. Pick your area of research--anything that interests you will work. Now you will plan a day around your research topic (just like you would plan a day if you were visiting Paris or Chicago).

Experts

Start with experts--people you know or people you know of. Connect via LinkedIn or Twitter with a brief description of your research. You will be surprised how many will be open to giving you an hour of their time. Go with 3 experts for one day. Once you have them scheduled, use the experts as your anchors and plan everything else around what they suggest.

I reached out to Guillaume Bazouin, the Director of Product and Innovation at architecture firm Bone Structure (he accepted on LinkedIn) and Tish Shute , who works at Huawei Technologies, to talk about VR, AR and implications of humans are merging with their tools (old friend, new conversation).

Exhibits

Check ongoing exhibits at museums, galleries, retail stores that relate to your topic. Plan 1-2 exhibits around your expert interviews. Be mindful of distances.

I stopped by a Sephora store to try their new VR make-up service (proud to say I stuck to research and didn't shop!) and the Target Open House to look at their new startup apps (very cool storytelling).

Meals

Plan a breakfast to review your plan for the day, your interview questions and to get your day started. Lunch is the perfect way to refuel and review your insights from the morning. Dinner caps your day and finalize your insights. If you're feeling adventurous, choose a meal spot that reinforces your research topic

I visited Eatsa, a cutting edge automaton diner. Good food, quick service, no bathrooms (because bots don't need them but we do!)

It will take you 2 hours (20min/day X 6) to curate this day. And you don't have to do it alone, you can take 1-4 people with you. You can also play with mixing meals and experts.

Benefits

- You can write up 3 interviews with your experts for your blog (or for your team).

- Use what you learned to do a further deep dive on things you heard.

- Present an insights summary to your team and open it to conversation: what does this mean for us?

- How will you use this new wealth of information in your daily work? Make a plan.

- Stay in touch with your experts and continue to build your network.

- Share insights via Twitter, LinkedIn.

Now that you know my little secret for having fun and working, block a day on your calendar and start curating!

Design the life and work you love!

These Exceptional Leaders All Agree On This Cardinal Rule of Hiring

I was listening to Sheryl Sandberg on the podcast Master's of Scale, when I heard her say, "You do want to hire people who are better than you are." When someone I perceive as an awesome smart woman says this, it gives you pause for thought. I paused the podcast and wondered why so many great leaders all give the same advice.

Hire people who are smarter than you.

It turns out the real smart move is intentionally not being the smartest person in the room. Rather it is inspiring, cultivating and bringing out the best in people who are better than you.

"I hire people brighter than me and get out of their way." Lee Iococca

Brown Johnson, Creative director of Sesame Workshop, had told me that her secret is working with people who are smarter than her. Johnson, who is known as the mother of Dora the Explorer, is my friend and I thought she was being humble. I was wrong. She was stating a business credo.

Even someone who is not known for being humble, Steve Jobs, gave similar advice: "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."

Here is why working with people who are better, more knowledgeable or more talented than we are, is such a big contributor to success:

They pull you up--Jeff Bezos says this about hiring: "every time we hire someone, he or she should raise the bar for the next hire, so that the overall talent pool is always improving." This creates an upward movement of talent pulling talent. You build on each other's ideas and pull each other up.

Proximity to greatness--I went to graduate school with Stefan Sagmeister, who for many is the best graphic designer today. Seeing Sagmeister in action, up close, I could observe how he approached new projects, feel his infectious enthusiasm, watch him at work, and then go to my studio and emulate him. I learned early on that when you build a team, you want to create that proximity to greatness.

Learning from each other--In design, you need to learn like a sponge and synthesize diverse information quickly with every project. Your team is your first and deepest place of learning, you learn from each other and you learn together. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, says not to hire "people you can't learn from or be challenged by." This is why.

Being different from you--people who are smarter than you are often smarter in different ways. I am great at visualizing ideas and thinking in systems. Couple me with coders, mathematical thinkers, great story tellers and people who are incredibly detail oriented, and together we go from great to amazing. You need the intellectual diversity to help you cross-fertilize from each other's knowledge and expertise. That is the formula for 1+1=3.

I love the way Michael Dell states it: "Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people ... or find a different room."

Design the life and work you love, with people who are smarter.

The Secret to Simplifying Your Life? Learning How to Manage Information Overload

A few weeks ago I wrote about simplifying our lives and that article got a lot of interest. That interest made me curious. What actually complicates our lives?

We put out a small survey with my team and asked our peers--entrepreneurs, designers, working moms, leadership coaches--the #1 thing that complicates their life. And what they do about it.

It turns out that the biggest culprit still is information overload. One of the survey responders called this, "drinking from a firehose."

Here are their tips for managing seemingly endless information flow and digital distraction, with some additions from me. And not to overload you more, I deliberately kept it short.

1. Turn it off

Deactivate Facebook. Turn off pesky notifications. Quit all programs except the one you're using. Use the app SelfControl which blocks your access to sites of your choice for time blocks you set up. Have windows of time where you're 100 percent off technology.

2. Reverse the direction of information

Instead of letting all and every piece of information come at you, choose to go after information of your choice. Whether it is for work or life, curate your own information deliberately and with care.

3. Look for inspiration in the real world

Go to a museum. Take a walk with a friend. Attend a workshop. Watch a documentary. Read a book. Then use them as jumping off points to explore things that interest you.

4. Put limits

Check and answer email in batches and schedule these in your calendar. Have only one professional (i.e. LinkedIn) and one social (i.e. Facebook) network. Clock your time on both. Know not to answer every email (i.e. all emails on which you're CC'ed). Select a number that is manageable for your photo albums (i.e. 100/month) and stick to that (this from a professional photographer).

5. Unsubscribe

Set a separate mailbox for mails that come with an unsubscribe option. Unsubscribe from all except 5 that bring you joy (a la Mari Kondo).

6. Separate work and life

Have a different computer for work and home. Don't check Facebook at work. Ditto for LinkedIn at home. Leave your phone in another room when you're having dinner with your family.

7. Go back to paper

Get the paper edition of your newspaper. Use a notebook for your notes. Create a printed photo album. Buy paperbacks.

Thank you to everyone who inspired me by replying to our Design the Life You Love survey.

If you have tools and tips to manage information overload, please send them in. We can always use more help.

Design the Life and Work You Love!

Design's Best Kept Secret Tool Is All About Contradictions

Sometimes I think that life is just a series of contradictions. We want freedom, but we also want to be in a relationship. At work, similarly, we want autonomy, but we also want to belong. When shopping, we want luxury, but we don't want to spend a lot of money.

These contradictory or opposing factors are dichotomies, two things that are mutually exclusive or that seemingly cancel each other out.

Now for the secret--their resolution is one of the best ways to create unique, long-term value. One of my favorite design mottos is a case in point, "less is more".

In other words, if you can make any two opposites co-exist, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Let's start with nature. In his book The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee explains that you need exceptions or variants to a breed for that breed to survive and continue. According to Mukherjee, for natural selection to happen, "two seemingly contradictory facts had to be simultaneously true."

"For Darwin's theory to work, heredity had to possess constancy and inconstancy, stability and mutation."

Now let's think of something more mundane, like shopping. When H&M does celebrity collaborations, like shoes by Jimmy Choo, Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney or David Beckham, you get luxury at affordable prices. That is dichotomy resolution.

"Karl Lagerfeld was the first, with design greats like Rei Kawakubo and Alber Elbaz following in his footsteps, finding new ways to reimagine their haute aesthetics for the high street." -Steff Yotka, Vogue

One of the more controversial but riveting examples is author and sex-columnist Dan Savage's viewpoint on how to resolve freedom and monogamy, in the New York Times Magazine article, Married, With Infidelities. Savage calls this, "monogamish". The more accepted version in the States is serial monogamy, which itself is also a resolution of opposites.

In architecture, my favorite practitioner these days is Bjarke Ingels work. Ingels explains his work as "Hedonistic Sustainability", a contradictory phenomenon that he finds different ways to resolve. His West 57th Residences in New York, a metal pyramid with a rectangular cutout in the middle to create a garden, is a good case in point as he explains in Archdaily--

"...creating a unique shape which combines the advantages of both: the compactness of a courtyard with the airiness and the amazing views of a skyscraper."

Once you start thinking in dichotomies you start seeing them everywhere. The trick is looking for ways to make them co-exist. Here is a simple guide, using the great chef and author Julia Child as an example--

01. Find a dichotomy--If you grew up with Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or still use her recipes, you are benefitting from her resolution of two opposing cuisines--American and French.

02. List the qualities of each--Before Child, American food was quick, practical and bland (imagine the 50's and 60's). French cooking was time consuming and elaborate, but exquisitely delicious.

03. Mash these qualities up to generate multiple ways to make them co-exist--Child's genius was to make the great taste of French food accessible and practical to Americans. She mashed up the strengths of both cuisines to make a win-win solution that is valued to this day, almost 60 years later.

"She decided that they had to start from scratch--rethinking, researching, re-testing--and with American ingredients, American measurements, and cultural translations (for instance, what the French call le carrelet, the British call plaice, and Americans, sand dab or lemon sole)." Laura Jacobs, Vanity Fair

Now that you're in on the secret, what are some dichotomies you are tackling with and resolving? I would love to hear from you.

Design the life and work you love, and resolve dichotomies to create new value!

Use Metaphors as a Tool to Manage Complexity at Work

Do you want to break your own preconceptions about your work? Recheck your cognitive biases? Gain insight into your team in a new way? Get out of your own head to reframe your organization in a new way?

Think in metaphors.

I first learned about metaphors from Jim Long, then the Director of Research at Herman Miller. Long had done research into organizations where he asked large corporations to describe themselves using a metaphor. People responded that they were a beehive, a circus, a theater, an emergency room. All highly descriptive, engaging metaphors. Let's take beehive as our example.

A beehive can be the best of metaphors--disciplined, hard-working and producing a sweet product that everyone wants. But it can also describe an organization where everyone works under a queen bee and where there is little room for initiative-taking and creativity. A place filled with drones.

As Jonathan Haidt, author of Happiness Hypothesis, notes--

"Human thinking depends on metaphor. We understand new or complex things in relation to things we already know. For example, it's hard to think about life in general, but once you apply the metaphor 'life is a journey,' the metaphor guides you to some conclusions: You should learn the terrain, pick a direction, find some good traveling companions, and enjoy the trip, because there may be nothing at the end of the road."

One of my favorites is climbing Mount Everest. If you are climbing Everest, you'd need a mentor (your guide), have your goal within your sight (base-camp), train and practice your expertise with smaller projects (climb smaller mountains), wait for the right time (favorable climbing conditions) and have a plan for surviving unexpected events out of your control (i.e. avalanches). And beware that, if you fall, the consequences are dire, just like on Everest. I call this the CEO metaphor.

If you want to give this a try, here is a simple "how to" for using metaphors at work--

01. Listen for metaphors. We often talk in metaphors without being aware of them. Listen for them next time you're in a meeting. Make a list.

02. Try them on for size. Visualize the metaphor (you can look up images on Google images) and list its qualities. Which one rises to the top?

03. Now use that one metaphor to think differently about your work. What would you do differently? Below are some examples--

- If you work is climbing Everest, you're taking on a challenge very few people attempt, you need a guide. In business the guide could be a mentor. Do you have a mentor and how is your mentor accompanying you on the journey?

- If your work is a flying carpet, who wove it? You alone, or was it with your team?

- If your work is a high wire act, you need to fall often before you can perform at the top of your ability. What is your safety net so that you can fail without getting hurt?

- If your work is a band, you're creating music together. How do you riff with your team? Does everyone know the piece of music and when to improvise versus when to come back and play together.

- If your work is a tree, like mine, what are your seeds? What are the conditions and the tools that can help your tree to grow and give fruit?

Do you have a metaphor that you use in your work? I would love to hear from you!

Design the life and work you love, using metaphors!

How to Work With Your Friends, and Become Friends With The People You Work With

  

Success comes at a price. And it is often at the expense of your friends.

If you're working so hard that you don't have time to see your friends, I am one of you.

And we're not alone. The author and humorist, David Sedaris describes how our life is like a stove with four burners--work, family, friends and health--in one of his funniest articles, Laugh Kookabura. In order to be successful, he says, you need to turn one burner off. In order to be really successful you need to turn off two. And adds that, for him, the first burner to go was friends.

The lesson is that in life you cannot have everything. There is never enough time, energy and resources. That is, unless you can get creative and make sure that what you want and what you need can co-exist. This is called dichotomy resolution and it is one of my favorite design tools. It helps you figure out how to have your cake and eat it too.

So how can you work hard and have time with your friends?

Work with your friends and become friends with the people with whom you work. This is my motto, and here's how you can learn to live by it.

1. Tap into your friends for talent

Imagine how much fun Beyonce and tennis star Serena Williams had dancing while filming a music video for her 'Lemonade' album. The trust between legendary photographer Irving Penn and Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake was such that Miyake never attended Penn's photo shoots. Friendship between Larry Page, Google Founder, and Ellon Musk, founder of Tesla and Space-X, encompasses Musk staying over at Page's home as well as Page's readiness to leave his billions to Musk so that his friend can continue to change the world. How much fun they must have together while inspiring and supporting each other's vision.

"I was looking for one person who could look at my clothing, hear my voice, and answer me back through his own creation. Through his eyes, Penn-san reinterprets the clothes, gives them new breath, and presents them to me from a new vantage point. He shows me what I do." -Issey Miyake

Enlist your friends in your next big project and suddenly you will have many reasons to talk, laugh and produce something meaningful together.

2. Fail in the safety of your friends

I do all my creative experiments with my friends. They're the ones who helped me refine and simplify my design process, Deconstruction:Reconstruction, before teaching it to anyone else. They were my guinea pigs for Design the Life You Love workshops and to this day, I will test my new tools on them (including a new seminar that I'm leading this weekend).

I say, better to fail in the safety of friends in order to succeed in the presence of strangers.

3. Go to the office to be with friends

My kids love school because it is where all their friends are. They work but they have fun, laugh, support each other in times of need and they collaborate.

Try going to the office like a kid going to school. To work for sure, but also for camaraderie and mutual support.

4. Promote your friends

One of the biggest lessons my friend the author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith taught me and my fellow 100 Coaches cohorts is to augment each other's successes. Goldsmith made us realize that when you are friends with people you work with, you're proud of their successes. So now when one of us publishes an article, gets a reward or gets a promotion, we are unabashed about bragging about our friends.

Be explicit and make a pact with your friends to celebrate each other's wins on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. They deserve it.

5. Be yourself, even at the office

When Sheryl Sandberg posted about her grief over her husband's death on Facebook, where she is the COO, she inspired 70,000 people to reply to show their support and share their own stories (more on that in Sandberg's new book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,which she wrote with her friend, author Adam Grant).

When Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's CEO, talked on camera, very candidly and with great humor, about the challenges of being a mom, she made it ok for so many of us working mothers to acknowledge that it is hard no matter how hard we try.

Be yourself at work and in the process, inspire others to be themselves too. Because that is how we are with our friends and it is how we can make new friends.

You can't have everything in life. But you can have your friends and work with them too.

Design the life and work you love!

Design the Life You Love Inspiration Journal #11


Hello!

This week we warm up your right brain by drawing without seeing. I love this exercise because it encourages concentration and self-trust. And it is about the process and experience, just as much as it is about the outcome—no masterpieces expected!

Also, my most recent Inc. article about simplifying our lives generated a lot of interest. This inspired me to ask about your tools and tips. Please share with me how you minimize choice and simplify your life by filling out our simplicity survey. It takes about 5 minutes to complete. Thank you!

Design the life you love!

Ayse


How To Be Creative Everyday

Drawing Without Seeing

Find an object on your desk, like a stapler, a pencil or a binder clip. Now cover your hand with a paper towel or a large sheet of paper and draw the object without peeking. When you're done, remove the paper. Tada! You'll be amazed.

The opening animation was created by our intern, Meltem Parlak. After she was done, she noted how much she liked this exercise: 

"I think I did it 6 or 7 times and every time I draw a little bit better. I was looking at the object, but actually I was drawing it in my mind. So, sometimes I closed my eyes. It was like a mystery until I saw what I drew. And that feeling made me more excited about it." 


What did you draw? And how did it make you feel? Let me know at info@aysebirsel.com.  

I hope you'll also continue to share examples of how you're creative everyday on our Design the Life Love: How To Be Creative Everyday Pinterest page.

Please also remember to take a moment to help inspire me by completing our Simplicity Survey and providing me with tools and tips on how to simplify our lives. Thank you! 


Our Community

You can connect with us on Facebook @ Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel, via Twitter @aysebirselseck and on her website, aysebirsel.com. Design the Life You Love the book can be purchased on Amazon. 


How Watson Could Improve Your Health, Your Work, and Your Love Life

Did you watch Hidden Figures?

If you have, you'll remember the moment when they roll in the IBM supercomputers to NASA and the head of the team of "human computers" realizes that if they don't learn to collaborate with the machine, her team will go extinct. So they learn the machine's language and become its indispensable operators.

Something similar went through my mind when I saw Hidden Portraits, the collaboration between Watson, IBM's Supercomputer, and a team of artists--Artificial Intelligence is here and we need to learn to collaborate with it.

The project, Hidden Portraits, is about artists', such as Mark Knowles (Creative Director, Taylor James) and Sean Freeman (Typographer and Ilustrator) and Eve Steben (Creative Producer, of There Is), interpretation of Watson's insights about iconic figures, after analyzing vast amounts of data about them.

Based on Watson's research, the fabulous Josephine Baker was an introvert (Watson found her to be only 9.6% extroverted) in contrast to her image. Marie Curie, the scientist, saw her family as her priority even though the public's perception of her is that of a detached mother. Eleanor Roosevelt's speeches had a lot in common with Love songs of 2007-2008(with 95% relevancy). Nikola Tesla was 1/2 inventor, 1/2 artist (his writings revealed 93% artistic interest). Paul Rand, the designer of the IBM logo, was angrier than his work suggests.

We as humans can only get to these often counterintuitive insights and unexpected associations if we have the capacity to go through mountains of data (or a unique, hidden super power!).

Watson can do this vast and wide analysis, quickly.

So what do you do?

You learn to collaborate with Watson.

This is the vision of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.

"It is man and machine. This is all about extending your expertise. A teacher. A doctor. A lawyer. It doesn't matter what you do. We will extend it."

Doctors are already collaborating with Watson for cancer treatment, to personalize gene therapy. Soon it will help with your personal commute, according to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.

As for me, walking out of the exhibit, I was very intrigued by Watson's insights on the lives of past famous people. What about present lives of everyday people?

Watson can provide you with unique insights, even things you might not know about yourself, based on its ability to read vast and diverse information. You can then take Watson's insights to design your life. Your work life, your health, even your love life.

What are different ways you'd imagine your life with Watson? I would love to hear from you.

Design the Life You Love Inspiration Journal #10


Hello!

In this week’s journal we’re highlighting the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, author ofEat, Pray, Love. 

Gilbert courageously lives an original life and is now helping others to do the same with her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and podcast,"Magic Lessons", where she advises people who are artistically stuck how to get over their fears. Very relatable!

Design the life you love!

Ayse 


Extraordinary Lives

Elizabeth Gilbert: "Do Your Dance"



In Eat, Pray, Love Gilbert journeyed from Italy to India to Indonesia as she looked inside herself, and at the influences around her, to rediscover who she was after a difficult divorce. In her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and podcast "Magic Lessons," she shares her process and provides insights into how each of us can tap into our own creativity. About her new book Slate magazine noted: "Gilbert comes bearing reports from a new world where untold splendors lie waiting for those bold and hard-working enough to claim them." Let's claim them!

You can also hear her thoughts on creativity and her process in her TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius.”  

We’re inspired by her fearlessness, desire to share, and incredible storytelling abilities. We hope you will be too. As she notes in her TED Talk, “If your job is to dance, do your dance.” So to all of you, go do your dance, whatever it is.

You can follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter @GilbertLiz and learn more about her and her work at her website


Do you know someone living an extraordinary life? If so, please share their story with me at info@birselplusseck.com. We're always looking for new people to highlight to our community.

And I hope you'll continue to share examples of your own creativity on ourDesign the Life You Love: How To Be Creative Everyday Pinterest page. 


For more inspiration read my latest Inc. article: 7 Tactics Even Introverts Can Use to Become Confident Public Speakers.


Our Community

Want to connect with other DLYLers? Join our Design the Life You Love Slack Channel. Conversations are happening right now! 

You can also connect with us on Facebook @ Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel, via Twitter @aysebirselseck and on her website, aysebirsel.com. Design the Life You Love the book can be purchased on Amazon. 


Design the Life You Love Inspiration Journal #9


Hello!

Paperclips are utilitarian items waiting for us to pick them up and play with them. Let's have fun with them this week as we warm up the creative part of our brains. I've done this exercise many times in the past and the results always put a smile on my face. 

Design the life you love!

Ayse Birsel


How To Be Creative Everyday

Exercise #9: Making Things With Paperclips


This week we're sharing another prompt from my 32 creative exercises Inc. article. Do you have paperclips on your desk? Grab a handful and let your imagination go wild. Make as many different things as you can with them for 5 minutes (or even longer if you want).

My advice remains the same, don't judge yourself and have fun! 

What did you make? Please share it with me at info@birselplusseck.com. And I hope you'll continue to share examples of how you're creative everyday on our Design the Life You Love: How To Be Creative Everyday Pinterest page. 


For more inspiration read my latest Inc. article: Your Organization Can't Afford To Ignore Good Design.


OUR COMMUNITY

Want to connect with other DLYLers? Join our Design the Life You Love Slack Channel.

You can connect with us on Facebook @ Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel, via Twitter @aysebirselseck and on her website, aysebirsel.com. Design the Life You Love the book can be purchased on Amazon. 


The Secret to Achieving True Work-Life Balance? Minimizing Choice

In these complex days of sensory and information overload, I have become increasingly interested in how to simplify our work and life.

One way to simplify anything is to minimize choice (a la Barry Schwartz's Paradox of Choice). Designers often use decreasing variables and choices to save time and money, while helping improve the life of the user.

IKEA, for example, uses one screw as fastener for a whole collection, instead of 10 or 15. This simplifies engineering, manufacturing, supply chain and your ability to put their products together (which admittedly can sometimes be tricky). Amazon's one-click ordering simplifies the buying experience and makes it frictionless by minimizing steps in the process.

What about our life and work--what parts can we simplify to save time and energy? Here are 5 creative ways people have used constraints to improve their mental wellbeing.

Your outfits

Lucy Knops, a student of mine at the School of Visual Arts Products of Design Program, developed, "Nothing To Wear," one of my favorite simplicity projects. Knops minimized her wardrobe to one outfit, one color palette--a t-shirt, pants, shoes, socks, underwear--and wore it every day for 228 days, the duration of her graduate thesis. "We can add value to our lives through subtraction," says Knops.

Your meals

Marcel Duchamp, sculptor who turned everyday objects into art, ate the same food for lunch everyday, spaghetti with butter. Silicon Valley takes this to the next level with Soylent, the ready-to-drink meal (I am not sure I am ready for it, but you can try).

Your habits

Graham Greene, the novelist, wrote 500 words everyday, no more no less.

Twyla Tharp, the choreographer and dancer, developed a creative habit that she repeats everyday. She gets up at 5 a.m., jumps in a cab, and goes to her gym.

I wrote about both Greene and Tharp in 7 Habits of Very Creative People To Inspire Your Everyday Work.

Your phone usage

Tiffany Shlain, the filmmaker, has developed a technology sabbath, where she and her family unplugs every Saturday. They have been going tech free for now for 6 years. She notes, "It's all of the things you don't make the time to do when you have delicious screens in front of you."

Your time with family and friends

When my kids were small, I decided that my weekends would be theirs, 100 percent. I stopped working on weekends. This made for busier weekdays but simplified my weekends and made me be fully present for my kids.

I am interested in gathering more examples of less is more to inspire our readers. And to inspire my own life and work. I would love to hear from you.

Design the life you love!

7 Tactics Even Introverts Can Use to Become Confident Public Speakers

Around the time this post goes up I will be in France giving a talk at TEDxCannes. It's my first time talking at a TED event and I am filled with excitement. And I am nervous.

I am an introvert and my heart starts beating like crazy at the thought of being on stage. But with Design the Life You Love, I had a message and a book to share and I learned to be an extroverted public speaker. I can even say there are moments when I am speaking in front of people that I feel a special connection with the audience and truly love being on stage.

Here is what I learned as I transformed from an introvert to an extroverted public speaker:

Lesson 1: Get a coach

As obvious as this sounds, it wasn't obvious to me until a friend of mine introduced me to Terence Mickey, a Moth storyteller, story coach and host of one of my favorite podcasts Memory Motel. When we met, I told Terence flat out that I didn't have a story, that I just wrote my book. It felt vulnerable to me to tell a personal story, so it took Terence the whole summer to coax mine out of me.

There is always a personal story. Get a coach to help you identify it and tell it.

Lesson 2: Rehearse

There is a reason actors rehearse and rehearse and rehearse again. Even the most talented people need practice being on stage. I totally ignored this until going on a book tour and feeling the needed to do a better job. I have since learned to rehearse my talks at home, on planes and cafes--anytime and place I can find.

Once you have your story, rehearse your story, timing, movements, your intonation, again and again. As they say, practice makes perfect (sort of, or at least it makes you better and better each time).

Lesson 3: Stick to the allotted time

Your organizer plans the whole event around a tight schedule and flow. They need that schedule to work like clockwork. They will tell you that you have 10, 20 or 30 minutes (my TEDx is the beginner's talk which is 13 minutes) because it's a big organization to pull off. Respect that time.

Going overtime is really bad manners. No matter how amazing you and your story are. Don't take your audience and your organizer hostage. Stick to your allotted time.

Lesson 4: Have a great first and last sentence

Lolita's 1st line is legendary, "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins." Mickey taught me you need a strong beginning and a strong end. I'm no Nabokov, but I try to have a punchy start and end. Here is my first sentence for TEDx, "Don't design your life if you already have a perfect life."

Write a strong 1st sentence and last sentence. Then fill in the in-betweens.

Lesson 5: Make it personal and honest

Make your story personal and honest, as difficult as it may to admit to your vulnerabilities and failures. That is what makes our stories human and approachable. Author Neil Gaiman talked about this beautifully in last Sunday's Brain Pickings:

"Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.

Having a place the story starts and a place it's going: that's important.

Telling your story, as honestly as you can, and leaving out the things you don't need, that's vital."

Lesson 6: Do dry runs

Do an off-Broadway show before you hit the big stage. Off-Broadway is the smaller venue with friendly audiences. I tell my dry run audiences (i.e., students at Keens School of Design), "I am doing this talk for the 1st time and I have a big talk coming up, forgive me as it is work in progress." I have learned that they love that they're a part of your process.

Plan some dry-runs in front of live audiences. It will help you gauge and fine tune your relation with your audience.

Lesson 7: It is not about you

I was invited to speak at Design Indaba (a premier design conference that inspired my post, 5 Tricks to Throwing a Conference That Inspires People) this March. I told my friend Scott Osman that just thinking about it made me nervous, and Scott said something that I will never forget, "Ayse it is not about you, it is about them, the people who come to listen to you."

David Brooks wrote about this in his bestselling book, The Social Animal, using the example of a tennis game. If you think about winning instead of playing the game, you'll lose. Just play your game.

Have fun with your next talk. And wish me luck!

Design the life you love!

Your Organization Can't Afford to Ignore Good Design

Last week I wrote about, what makes a design-led or centered organization different from other organizations. Thank you for all the interest the article generated.

I had a selfish reason for the article. As a designer I want to make the value of design apparent for companies. Not only for design-led companies that are already reaping benefits from being design centered (to the tune of 200 percent increase in returns, based on Design Value Index) but especially for those companies who see design as an afterthought or still view it as "styling".

Most people know what a lawyer does and when you would need to call one. Same for plumbers. But designers and the value they bring is not so easy to pinpoint.

This week I reached out to Carole Bilson, President of Design Management Institute (DMI). Carole and her team have been working with design-centered organizations across the world to make design's value tangible for business. Design Value Index is their work. Here is what she said:

"A design-led or design-centered organization differs from an organization in which design is not considered a strategic asset on two levels. From an organization structure perspective, it has a senior level design executive who sits on the company/ organization leadership team, or reports into that team, has the requisite budgets and has a diverse group of experienced designers as part of the design team. From a cultural/ behavioral standpoint, people in the broader organization embrace design and co-collaborate well across functional boundaries, are empathic thinkers, and recognize that everything they do is centered around their customers and leads to meaningful solutions that drive value for the organization. Research done by DMI has shown that design-centric organizations have over the past 3 years, consistently outperformed the S&P 500 by over 200 percent."

Takeaway #1: If you want design to be part of your business, make it part of your leadership.

I then reached out to Debbie Millman, founder and host of my favorite design podcast, Design Matters, and she said:

"In design-led organizations, design permeates every initiative and expression. It's embedded in the culture. Companies that are design-led understand that design is not a deliverable; it is a profound manifestation of the human spirit."

Takeaway #2: Design requires a human-centered culture that puts your user at the center of your thinking. Your customers will recognize that culture and reward you for it.

I also asked Susan Lyons, President of Designtex, a Steelcase company, and a collaborator. She emphasized the symbiotic relationship between commerce + design:

"Commerce is about creating value, solving problems and delivering great experiences for people. Design strives to do the same thing. We use design thinking to look at every aspect of our business--from product to the design of the organization. It works."

Takeaway #3: Design is in every expression of your company. Just think of Apple, Coca Cola, Target, Nike--design defines every experience we have with them.

Then I thought of Steve Jobs. Specifically of the night he died. We all probably remember where we were that moment. I was having an early dinner with friends in Chinatown in NYC. It was someone's birthday and we were celebrating but also acknowledging a big loss for all of us. When I went home I was so moved that I told my 6 year old daughter who was in bed what had happened. I said, you know all the things we use, my Mac, iPhone and iPad? The man who designed them died tonight. My daughter rose from her bed and sat up, and said, "Mom, how will we live now?"

To me that is the value of design. We cannot live without good design. Design makes our experiences simple, delightful, intuitive and coherent; it makes us feel like someone thought of us and took good care of us.

Takeaway #4: Design helps us live the lives we love.

What value does design bring to your company? How is your design-centered company different from its competitors? I would love to hear from you.

Design the life you love.

Design the Life You Love: Inspiration Journal #8


Hello!

In this Inspiration Journal we have a creative exercise that has you listening to music and writing. Those of you who aren’t as comfortable drawing, you'll like this one. Have fun!

Design the Life You Love!

Ayse


How to be Creative Everyday: Exercise #5 Listen to Music & Write (or Draw!)

This is an adaptation of exercise #5 from my Inc. article with 32 exercises to boost your creativity. To do this exercise set aside 15 minutes to listen to music and write ideas that pop into your head (or sketch, for those of you who prefer to draw!). As always, don't edit or judge yourselves, just go with the rhythm of the music and have fun!


What music did you listen to? Please let me know at info@aysebirsel.com and share with me what you wrote or drew.  And I hope you'll continue to share examples of how you're creative everyday on our Design the Life Love: How To Be Creative Everyday Pinterest page.


For more inspiration read my latest Inc. article: What It Really Means to Be a Design Led Company.


Our Community

Want to connect with other DLYLers? Join our Design the Life You Love Slack Channel.

You can connect with us on Facebook @ Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel, via Twitter @aysebirselseck and on her website, aysebirsel.com. Design the Life You Love the book can be purchased on Amazon. 

What It Really Means to Be a Design-Centered Company

What makes a design-centered organization different from other organizations?

Design-centric companies show 10 year returns yielding 2.11 times (211 percent) that of the S&P 500, according to the 2015 Design Value Index Study. The study was done by The Design Management Institute, based on 16 public companies, including Apple, Coca Cola, Herman Miller and Target.

Everything we use is designed more meticulously than we think: from the teacups we drink from to the smartphones we communicate on to the software that let's us bank online to our entertainment experiences and more. Design thinking, applying design tools and process to business problems, has become a preferred business methodology. For many companies, design is becoming how they lead, innovate, get ahead and, most importantly, stay ahead.

There are many ways to define design, but my favorite definition is from Herman Miller (you're probably sitting in one of their Aeron, Setu or Sayl chairs right now) a company we have had the good fortune to work with 20 years.

"Based on values shaped at our launch in 1905, design is a way to solve problems that people care about."

I reached out to Ben Watson at Herman Miller and the Chief Design Officers of several other design-centered companies and asked them what makes them different from other organizations. Here is what they said:

Ben Watson, Executive Creative Director at Herman Miller

"A design centered organization starts with a human problem, then seeks to solve it as purely as possible. Rather than simply responding to trends or the current marketplace, a design organization creates value by truly improving the art of everyday living."

Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer, 3M Company

"Organizations that have a design (thinking) culture are more collaborative and focused on the creation of solutions that really matter. It is a way of life. These organizations are innovative, driven by relevancy and brand experience. This is a win/win/win: happier customers, successful business and more fun to work for."

Sean Carney, Chief Design Officer, Philips

"When design is embedded across an organization-not just in its traditional strongholds, but engaging with customers, leaders and employees at every level-then we start to shape the way the organization behaves. At Philips our aim is to improve lives through meaningful innovation. Design is the custodian of the 'meaning' part--we leverage our position to ensure that the real needs of people are at the centre of every conversation."

Philips Design is running engagements with major customers including Governments, C-Suites of Insurance and Healthcare Companies using their Design Thinking approach to create a shared vision of how to work together to tackle some of societies major challenges. Their recent work with the Red Cross on reducing infant Mortality in Africa just won an award in the Fastco World Changing Innovations Awards this week.

Yves Briantais, VP Global Design and Packaging, Colgate-Palmolive

"Design-integrated companies perform better because they innovate the human experiences while other companies innovate consumer products: those companies intuitively use Design Thinking as a cross-functional unifier that removes silos and promotes cross-collaboration around the passion and curiosity for solutions that, through the lens of their brands, will improve the life of human-beings, everyday."

When I asked Yves for an example, he said that Disney has been doing very well as a company that makes happiness a value embedded in their company and that they consider every detail of your experience to remove any potential friction. At Colgate, "We came up with the idea of FFE = Friction Free Experiences echoing this FFP - Friction Free Packaging- from Amazon."

Human scale and humanistic solutions are the credo of design. What makes design-centered companies different in my mind is that they put people at the center. Take another look at the answers above and you will see "people and their lives" repeated in all of them. This is why design is good for business. And it is good business.

Is your company design-centered? I would love to hear from you and learn more about what you think makes a design-centered company different.

Design the life you love.

This is part one of a two part series on design-centered companies.

 

Design the Life You Love: Inspiration Journal #7


Hello!

Today's Inspiration Journal is about one of my favorite love stories. Hani Hong and Andrew Hessell can to my workshop with eyes only for each other and said, "We're here because we want to design a life together!" I was so moved that two people in love would have the courage and foresight to see life as a design collaboration! Read their beautiful account here.

Design the life you love!

Ayse Birsel


DLYL STORIES

"Let's Just Draw Our Dreams Out Together” Ayse Birsel talks to Hani Hong and Andrew Hessel about Design the Life You Love.

Hani Hong and Andrew Hessel are two nomads who met in 2011. Andrew is a scientist, working to advance synthetic biology, and Hani is an out-of-the-box-thinking marketing director. They came to my Design the Life You Love Workshop in 2013, a few months before they got married. They sat side by side and were obviously very much in love. They were also incredibly open. They shared their insights and exercises not just with each other, but also with the other participants, which helped create an immediate mood of sharing and camaraderie among everyone. One of the most touching moments in the workshop came during the Heroes exercise. Inherent to any design process is the need to gather inspiration to be able to open up your point of view to different possibilities and find examples that represent your design values. The same is true when you’re designing your life. Heroes is about thinking about the people who influence us in one way or another and who have qualities we aspire to have. They help us to think creatively about our life using other people as our inspiration. Hani shared her hero, her mother, and told us the story of her mom who escaped Vietnam with her five kids all under the age of five, leaving her husband behind. Hani explained that the secret to her mom was “unconditional love”. I think at that moment, her mom became a hero to all of us present. They talked about having kids, living a bi-coastal life between New York and San Francisco, about Andrew’s ground breaking work, and Hani’s work that bridged design and marketing.  That was almost exactly four years ago and since then they’ve continued to design an original life for themselves. I talked to them about being at the workshop as a couple, their insights and AHA!s: what they learned about themselves and about each other, what their recommendations are to other couples who might be interested in the workshop, and how they’ve continued to design their life creatively, together as a couple. Their take on it is, if you can't sit down together and design the life that you love, you're in trouble! HANI  Somehow I'd seen information about your workshop either through you or on Facebook. And I wanted to try it because Andrew and I had been talking about where we wanted to go with things and about what we wanted, and it just seemed like the right timing for us.  We did the workshop in 2013 and we got married that July. So it was a few months before we got married. We already knew that we would be together. We were trying to have kids. We had been out to Cazadero, which is where we are now, and we both knew we loved it out here, in the woods. We talked about places we could live, whether it was getting a home in New York City or in San Francisco or outside of those areas. It was still all very up in the air with a sense of direction, but just not any certainty.  Going into the workshop together helped us sync up what we were each thinking—being able to draw what we saw as our future and seeing the things that were important to us and how those aligned. One of the things that has been really good for us about doing the class together was getting synchronized.   When a single person is doing it, they have a general idea of what they might want in life or what they might want to change, or redesign and they can't quite get that clarity until they go through the class and they're drawing out their bubbles and making their priorities. It's like saying something out loud. I think with us doing it, it was putting it down on paper and then sharing it and saying, okay, these are the things that we're both aligned on, here are the things that are a little different from each other, and then recognizing what is really important to the other person and being able to get alignment on those things.     ANDREW  The strongest impression that I have is when we started to visualize it, I recall being pleasantly surprised that we were as synchronized as we were. Because you know we often talk about various aspects of our life, and we are pretty good at doing intentions, but this was really the first time we put it together as a package. And said, this is what we like and this is how we see ourselves as we move forward.  HANI  Our communications have always been very open. So it's seems easy, but having it all in front of you and being able to view it together is what makes it different. Looking at the big picture and saying, here is what I drew and here's what you drew and look at how similar they are.  ANDREW  We are exceptionally honest with each other. In fact other people might be surprised at just how honest we are with each other about our life and relationship. There are very few boundaries and a lot of that comes from how both Hani and I have been so independent for most of our lives. We are secure in who we are, we don't really have any masks. It can be pretty raw sometimes. But one of the reasons why we work is because when you get to the inner core of us, we are really, really, similar. That's literally how we found each other.  HANI  I was traveling for six years. And I had just signed a two year lease for an apartment in New York City. Two weeks later I went to the TED conference in in Edinburgh. It was TED Global of 2011. We were both there at an evening event at the Museum of Scotland and I walked through the crowd and Andrew saw me and stopped and we talked. And for the next couple of days we talked, but we didn't actually get together until later that fall. I had contacted him and we were both very clear about our intentions. And so, he basically came to New York after speaking at Comic-Con and stayed ever since. That was it. It was all very easy.  When I met him he said that he was a nomad, he didn't live anywhere, he didn't have anything. The irony was that I was a nomad up until then. My aunts used to tease me all the time because I was getting older and I hadn't met anyone and I would say, Oh don't worry, he's traveling and I'm traveling and we just haven't met each other yet. And then we met. I believed in it.  ANDREW  Everyone knew that I did not want to have children. I was very comfortable and secure in that until suddenly I met Hani and I realized, "Oh I'm going to have to eat so many words." (Laughter) And people still tease me about it today.  HANI  I've recommended your workshop to friends who are in places where they're sort of at that fork in the road, where they're trying to decide what to do next with their lives. And we've actually mentioned it to other couples that we know. We really enjoyed going through it together.  ANDREW  You know Hani has a design background. I have a different design background in genetic design. But I absolutely recommend your course because if you can't sit down together and design the life that you love you're in trouble. You won't be pulling on the same chords and leavers in your life to make it happen.  HANI  For me, it's just fun to do together. You learn about each other, you learn about yourself. You know what it is, it's "Hey, let's just draw our dreams out together." Why wouldn’t you want to do that with your partner, right?  ANDREW  And we actually designed the life we love! She is here playing with us.  HANI  Her name is Ro! 

Hani Hong and Andrew Hessel are two nomads who met in 2011. Andrew is a scientist, working to advance synthetic biology, and Hani is an out-of-the-box-thinking marketing director. They came to my Design the Life You Love Workshop in 2013, a few months before they got married. They sat side by side and were obviously very much in love. They were also incredibly open. They shared their insights and exercises not just with each other, but also with the other participants, which helped create an immediate mood of sharing and camaraderie among everyone. One of the most touching moments in the workshop came during the Heroes exercise. Inherent to any design process is the need to gather inspiration to be able to open up your point of view to different possibilities and find examples that represent your design values. The same is true when you’re designing your life. Heroes is about thinking about the people who influence us in one way or another and who have qualities we aspire to have. They help us to think creatively about our life using other people as our inspiration. Hani shared her hero, her mother, and told us the story of her mom who escaped Vietnam with her five kids all under the age of five, leaving her husband behind. Hani explained that the secret to her mom was “unconditional love”. I think at that moment, her mom became a hero to all of us present. They talked about having kids, living a bi-coastal life between New York and San Francisco, about Andrew’s ground breaking work, and Hani’s work that bridged design and marketing. 

That was almost exactly four years ago and since then they’ve continued to design an original life for themselves. I talked to them about being at the workshop as a couple, their insights and AHA!s: what they learned about themselves and about each other, what their recommendations are to other couples who might be interested in the workshop, and how they’ve continued to design their life creatively, together as a couple. Their take on it is, if you can't sit down together and design the life that you love, you're in trouble!

HANI  Somehow I'd seen information about your workshop either through you or on Facebook. And I wanted to try it because Andrew and I had been talking about where we wanted to go with things and about what we wanted, and it just seemed like the right timing for us. 

We did the workshop in 2013 and we got married that July. So it was a few months before we got married. We already knew that we would be together. We were trying to have kids. We had been out to Cazadero, which is where we are now, and we both knew we loved it out here, in the woods. We talked about places we could live, whether it was getting a home in New York City or in San Francisco or outside of those areas. It was still all very up in the air with a sense of direction, but just not any certainty. 

Going into the workshop together helped us sync up what we were each thinking—being able to draw what we saw as our future and seeing the things that were important to us and how those aligned. One of the things that has been really good for us about doing the class together was getting synchronized.  

When a single person is doing it, they have a general idea of what they might want in life or what they might want to change, or redesign and they can't quite get that clarity until they go through the class and they're drawing out their bubbles and making their priorities. It's like saying something out loud. I think with us doing it, it was putting it down on paper and then sharing it and saying, okay, these are the things that we're both aligned on, here are the things that are a little different from each other, and then recognizing what is really important to the other person and being able to get alignment on those things.    

ANDREW  The strongest impression that I have is when we started to visualize it, I recall being pleasantly surprised that we were as synchronized as we were. Because you know we often talk about various aspects of our life, and we are pretty good at doing intentions, but this was really the first time we put it together as a package. And said, this is what we like and this is how we see ourselves as we move forward. 

HANI  Our communications have always been very open. So it's seems easy, but having it all in front of you and being able to view it together is what makes it different. Looking at the big picture and saying, here is what I drew and here's what you drew and look at how similar they are. 

ANDREW  We are exceptionally honest with each other. In fact other people might be surprised at just how honest we are with each other about our life and relationship. There are very few boundaries and a lot of that comes from how both Hani and I have been so independent for most of our lives. We are secure in who we are, we don't really have any masks. It can be pretty raw sometimes. But one of the reasons why we work is because when you get to the inner core of us, we are really, really, similar. That's literally how we found each other. 

HANI  I was traveling for six years. And I had just signed a two year lease for an apartment in New York City. Two weeks later I went to the TED conference in in Edinburgh. It was TED Global of 2011. We were both there at an evening event at the Museum of Scotland and I walked through the crowd and Andrew saw me and stopped and we talked. And for the next couple of days we talked, but we didn't actually get together until later that fall. I had contacted him and we were both very clear about our intentions. And so, he basically came to New York after speaking at Comic-Con and stayed ever since. That was it. It was all very easy. 

When I met him he said that he was a nomad, he didn't live anywhere, he didn't have anything. The irony was that I was a nomad up until then. My aunts used to tease me all the time because I was getting older and I hadn't met anyone and I would say, Oh don't worry, he's traveling and I'm traveling and we just haven't met each other yet. And then we met. I believed in it. 

ANDREW  Everyone knew that I did not want to have children. I was very comfortable and secure in that until suddenly I met Hani and I realized, "Oh I'm going to have to eat so many words." (Laughter) And people still tease me about it today. 

HANI  I've recommended your workshop to friends who are in places where they're sort of at that fork in the road, where they're trying to decide what to do next with their lives. And we've actually mentioned it to other couples that we know. We really enjoyed going through it together. 

ANDREW  You know Hani has a design background. I have a different design background in genetic design. But I absolutely recommend your course because if you can't sit down together and design the life that you love you're in trouble. You won't be pulling on the same chords and leavers in your life to make it happen. 

HANI  For me, it's just fun to do together. You learn about each other, you learn about yourself. You know what it is, it's "Hey, let's just draw our dreams out together." Why wouldn’t you want to do that with your partner, right? 

ANDREW  And we actually designed the life we love! She is here playing with us. 

HANI  Her name is Ro! 


Do you have a story of how Design the Life You Love has impacted your life? If so, please share it with me at info@aysebirsel.com

And I hope you'll continue to share examples of how you're creative everyday on our Design the Life Love: How To Be Creative Everyday Pinterest page.



OUR COMMUNITY

Want to connect with other DLYLers? Let us know at leah@birselplusseck.com and we'll send you an invite to join our Design the Life You Love Slack Channel. You can also connect with us on Facebook @ Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel, via Twitter @aysebirselseck and on her website, aysebirsel.com. Design the Life You Love the book can be purchased on Amazon.