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. 


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. 


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. 

7 Soft Tools to Break Hard Preconceptions (No Hammer Needed)

Girls Who Code broke our preconceptions that girls can't code; Julia Child broke our preconceptions about French food as being a specialty only the French can master; i-Phone broke our preconceptions about what a phone is or can do.

Breakthrough companies, services, ideas are built on broken preconceptions.

To have a preconception in the literal sense means that you have an opinion before you learn or experience something; in design, it is an opinion you have before you create something.

To come up with a new way of doing anything you need to break your preconceptions, letting go of your belief that there is a right or wrong way of doing something.

This can often feel counter intuitive or uncomfortable, so here are some soft tools to help you get through it.

1. Learn your history

Did you know lawns were conceived in middle ages by French and English aristocracy as a symbol of wealth and power? I didn't, until I started reading Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari's great new book. Reading it, I would think differently before I choose lawn for my yard.

In other words, know your history before you go with conventional wisdom or the obvious answer.

"This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies." Yuval Noah Harari

2. Deconstruct

Break your topic into its parts to see what it is made up of. Once you break something apart, you won't be able to put it back together quite the way it was before. I often use the example of Todd McLellan's work about objects he takes apart to help visualize deconstruction.

When you deconstruct you break up all the presumed links between parts. This frees you up to change things around, to add some new parts, delete others and connect the dots in new ways.

3. Practice Wrong Thinking

Come up with the worst possible ideas to break out of your box of traditional ideas. In fact, I wrote about this design tool for Inc., Your Worst Idea Might Be Your Best Idea.

One of my favorite example of wrong thinking is Blackle, the black Google homepage that has saved 6 million watt hours to date by challenging our assumption of the white Google homepage.

4. Ask a Child

Children are honest and without preconceptions. So next time you want to think without preconceptions, ask a kid. They will tell you exactly what they think, without filter and preconception.

"Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." Thomas Henry Huxley

5. Travel

In the US we use cutlery. In Senegal people eat with their hands. In Japan, with chopsticks.

Traveling and even working in different cultures is one of the key traits of successful leaders who think differently. According to Roger Martin, author of Opposable Minds (one of my favorite leadership books), this is because it teaches us to have faith in multiplicity of answers, even when they seem to be in conflict.

Travel to other countries to understand that people do same things in different ways.

6. Nurture a healthy dose of discontent

I worshipped the iPhone in 2007. But in 2017, I am ready to redesign it. Don Norman, the father of User Experience Design, is of the same mind and wrote about How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name.

If you love something, that is a hard preconception to break. A healthy dose of dislike or dissatisfaction is necessary to allow you to develop a new point of view and see problems to solve for.

7. Read the new research

Money doesn't make people happy; judges are more lenient after lunch; sleeping on something is a good idea. Who knew!

There is so much interesting, counter-intuitive information coming out of cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Read them to break the old preconceptions. Here are 2 favorites: The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt and Thinking, Fast and Slow, the New York Times bestseller, by Daniel Kahneman.

With all of these tools you can break your preconceptions and uncover new, often surprising ideas. And no hammer will be needed!

What are your tools or tricks of the trade for breaking our preconceptions to think differently? Please share them with me. I would love to hear from you.

Design the life and work you love!

Design the life you love: Inspiration Journal #6


Hello!

To inspire you this week I'm sharing a creative exercise I learned from my dear friend, Ken Carbone, the co-founder of Carbone Smolan Agency and a renowned graphic designer, artist, musician, author, and teacher. He called this exercise, "An Apple a Day." Enjoy it!

Design the life you love!

Ayse Birsel


HOW TO BE CREATIVE EVERYDAY/CREATIVE PROMPT

For this exercise, also from my original list of 32 Creative Exercises in Inc., I want you to draw an apple a day for one week using a different technique each day. Ken did this for 365 days! Check out how he did it here and be inspired!

Keep in mind the different techniques you can use like drawing, sculpting or photographing and the different materials available to you such as pencils, colored markers, crayons, pastels, paints, paper, or clay. Have fun! 

Do you have a creative exercise you love? If so, please share it with me at info@aysebirsel.com

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


For more inspiration read Ayse's latest Inc. article: This 1 Simple Exercise Will Remind You of Your Purpose.


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. 

This 1 Simple Exercise Will Remind You of Your Purpose

If you're like me, there are moments at work when it is hard to see your purpose clearly. Especially in moments of change and uncertainty, it is easy to feel unmoored and forget why you're doing what you do.

Here is a simple exercise to remind you of what matters in times of uncertainty.

It is called the Heroes Exercise. It's my favorite exercise from my book, Design the Life You Love. In fact for many people it's the big reveal as it provides them with a big "AHA!" about themselves.

It's a simple exercise that will take you about 10 minutes.

Here's what you need to do:

1. Get a piece of paper or open your notebook.

2. Think of your work heroes--the people who inspire you professionally. These are not superheroes but simply people who have qualities that interest you or that you want to emulate. You might know your heroes (a mentor, colleague, family member, friend), you might know of them (Elon Musk of SpaceX, Jacqueline Novogratz of Acumen, Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code) or you might admire who they were (Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Cleopatra).

3. Write down their names, draw a small icon for them (round glasses for Jobs, a sweater for Novogratz after her book, The Blue Sweater), and list as many of their qualities as you can think of. You can have one, three or six heroes. Some people have more.

Here are designer Michael Robinson's icons for his heroes.

4. Once you've listed your heroes and their qualities, take a look at the qualities you wrote. These are your values. The qualities that inspire us in others are actually our own values, those we have and/or aspire to have. We notice these qualities because they're "value-able" to us.

5. Now, cross out the names of your heroes and put your own name down! We are the hero of our own work and life, and our values are our super powers. So, I am serious, cross off your heroes' names and put your own name down.

Our values are the foundation for the work (and life) we love. If we know our values we can decide what we want, what we need to change and what we want to leave out. We can create our very own roadmap.

When Marshall Goldsmith, world's #1 leadership coach and author, took my workshop he listed his teachers as his heroes: Frances Hesselbein, Former Girl Scout CEO, Peter Drucker, Father of Modern Management, Paul Hersey, creator of Situational Leadership Model, and Buddha. For him, they all shared a common quality--they taught him everything they knew without expecting anything in return. The Heroes Exercise inspired Goldsmith to start his feed forward 100 Coaches program which counts Mark Thompson, NYTimes Bestselling Author, Alex Osterwalder, creator of Business Canvas Model, Whitney Johnson, author of Disruptive Self, Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, and me, to name a few, as part of its 1st 25 cohorts.

So next time you're in the midst of change or uncertainty about work (responding to a difficult colleague, changing jobs, taking on a tough assignment, saying no to something), or in your life (entering a new relationship, moving to a new city, having teenagers, becoming empty-nesters) take your heroes exercise out and reread your values.

Your values are the foundation of your work and life. They remind you of what matters. Use them to design the work and life you love.

Who are your heroes? I would love to hear from you.

Design the work and life you love!

Design the Life You Love: Inspiration Journal #5


Hello!

This week we share with you the profile of an extraordinary person, Whitney Johnson, disruptor and corporate innovator. Whitney and I met at Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches program, where we were both among the first wave of 25 cohorts. She is an original who has not only disrupted her life multiple times, but helped so many others to disrupt their lives for the better.

When I asked Whitney what advice she has for those who want to live the life they love, she said, "If it's scary and it's lonely you're on the right path." Inspiring words from a true disruptor!

Design the life you love!

Ayse Birsel


EXTRAORDINARY LIVES / WHITNEY JOHNSON

"If you want to be successful in unexpected ways, follow your own disruptive path. Dare to innovate. Do something astonishing. Disrupt yourself."

The author of Disrupt Yourself and Dare, Dream, Do, Whitney is a self-proclaimed "investor in people, concepts, and dreams." As co-founder of Rose Park Investors, a Disruptive Innovation Fund, she put this approach to practice and now shares it with others through her speaking engagements, writing and her inspirational "Disrupt Yourself" podcast

Do you know an extraordinary person living an extraordinary life? If so, I'd love to hear from you at info@aysebirsel.com


For more inspiration read Ayse's Inc. column 6 Forgotten Leadership Lessons From Childhood.


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. 


What Your Millennial Employees Really Want in Office Design (It's Not Just a Ping Pong Table)

I love working with millennials. They're creative, entrepreneurial, media savvy, purpose-driven and often have a good grasp of life-work balance. When you meet the best ones, you don't want them to ever leave.

What does it take to retain millennials?

As designers of office systems and great work experiences, my studio ran a Design the Work You Love workshop with millennials to figure this out. Seda Evis, our Director of Business and Strategy, captured our insights best:

"Millennials value coherence between the physical workspace and the culture of the organization. They expect to see the office as an extension of the purpose and meaning of work. Although physical comfort is important, it's more than the ergonomic chair and desk setup; it's also about being comfortable in your skin and having the freedom to be yourself."

To create a successful work environment for millennials, as Seda noted you need to do more than just offer a comfortable chair (although that's also a plus!), good coffee and technology. You need to touch their hearts and spirit.

Here are four key learnings that will truly make them feel in their element:

Variety of settings: Curate different kinds of places for different kinds of work.

Greg Parsons is the Vice President behind Herman Millers's Living Office--a user-centered approach to products, places and experiences that inspire and enable people at work. He is also a long time friend and collaborator. I asked him what millennials want at the office. For Parsons, millennials want to move around and choose where they're going to be productive and with whom.

"Millennials were brought up in a time in which creativity and relationships are what define the value of people over machines. Theirs is a culture focused on results, not process. They see the workplace as a community, not just a place to secure their livelihood."

Offer a variety of eclectic places for this generation of workers to choose from--comfortable living rooms, libraries, stand-up tables, outdoor spaces, nooks and crannies--to collaborate, create, contemplate, present. Be comfortable that sometimes these spaces will be outside the office too.

Kitchen: Make the kitchen the heart of your office.

Millennials in our workshop expressed how important it is to bring their whole self to the office. What better way to do this than the activities of the kitchen--cooking, sharing recipes, eating together, talking, laughing. These activities are also incredibly conducive to spontaneous conversations, organically bringing people who do different things together and exchanging ideas. A perfect recipe for innovation.

Products of Design, the graduate design school at SVA, has an amazing kitchen at the center of its studios. Architectural firm Snøhetta (they designed the September 11 Memorial Museum) has people enter their New York offices from the kitchen rather than a reception.

Note: Cindy Allen (more on her below) had these 3 cool kitchen examples: LinkedIn NY has a lounge-y speakeasy designed by M Moser; Sony NY has a enormous cafe designed by Studios; and the super chic kitchen for the headquarters of the Pritzker Group designed by HOK. Check them out for inspiration.

Workshop spaces: Instead of more meeting spaces, start investing in workshop spaces.

Workshops are places of vertical ideation for a generation that truly understands the power of collaboration. Alex Osterwalder, inventor of the Business Canvas, says it best:

"For me the wall is the new desk. Without large wall spaces I can't do knowledge/creative work."

Here are the ideal ingredients for a workshop space: lots of vertical surfaces (white boards, tack-able walls, easels and sticky pads, 4X8' foam core boards, blackboards), projector and screen or a large monitor, lots of markers, erasers, mobile tables you can move around and change according to the number of people, break out tables and stools (or sofas and lounge chairs) for your team to ideate in smaller groups of 2-3 or just to relax and take a creative pause.

I find that the best workshop spaces have daylight, and better yet, an open vista. Somehow they communicate openness of mind and a connection to the world beyond you. If you're in a room with no windows, put in a library full of books, your symbolic window into the world. And don't forget coffee, tea and a big bowl of M&M's!

Purpose-driven spaces. Millennials want their workplaces to reflect the company culture. How do you express your intangible purpose as a tangible experience?

We visited Kelty, maker of outdoor camping and adventure products, for a meeting last summer in Colorado. They met us at their lobby and then motioned us to an outdoor tent, with coolers and camp chairs in their hands. We sat under the tent, ate organic popsicles and talked, with crickets and birds in the background. Message: our purpose is to help you have a great outdoors experience. Even when we're meeting. Simple, but true to their brand and purpose.

At the other end of the spectrum is GE's Design Center. Their co-creation center is designed literally as a Collaboration Machine, with software and hardware that changes the space in real time. Greg Petroff (then GE's Chief Experience Officer, now at Google Cloud) calls its designer David Galullo a genius of culture and space planning. Message: this is a transformational space for people who come up with transformational ideas.

As I was finishing this article I reached out to Cindy Allen, one of my design super heroes. What did she think of millennials at work? Allen thinks that today's office design is all about "joie de vivre"--sprawling sofas, yoga mats galore, and every variety of Ping-Ping table imaginable (trending: ones that turn into conference tables), with a friendly barista presiding over the entire domain. But even more important for her, is the community and strong company culture all that "fun" fosters. "It's all about the human experience".

"As Editor in Chief of Interior Design magazine, I've been publishing the best workspaces for 16 years. It certainly has evolved, become intuitive, and dare I say even cool? (I do!) Funny that millennials may not even realize that today's designed workplace is a luxury their parents couldn't ever even dream of."

Millennials have it good. But we're all benefiting from it too!

Are you a millennial, or work with millennials, and have things to add? Please write to me with what matters to you. I would love to hear from you.

Design the life and work you love.

5 Tricks to Throwing a Conference That Inspires People

When I was starting out in design, you networked over power breakfasts and martini lunches, but they have all but disappeared. These days every organization is putting together a conference, internal or public, for profit or not. Regardless of the size or format, the underlying purpose is the same--creating opportunities to learn from each other, inspire new ideas, network and build new collaborations and alliances.

This March, I attended Design Indaba, a Cape Town conference that promotes design as a business goal and tool for economic growth. Full disclosure: I was one of the speakers, telling my story while at the same time getting an audience of 1500 people started on designing their life. It was one of the most inspirational conferences I had attended in years--and it was quite different than the martini lunches of years past. The event made me realize that putting together a conference is the new way of doing business.

Here is what I learned about how to throw a great conference:

1. Recruit speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines

It is easier to sign up people who are like you and like-minded. It is harder to offer true diversity. You want your audience to see themselves and their interests represented in your line-up and feel included. At the same time, you want to cast a wide net to bring together different colors, gender, voices, mediums, perspectives that will expose them to new ideas and help them connect the dots in new ways.

At Design Indaba, you had talks about from the creator of a solar light that brings us a step closer toward a cleaner future, the creator of a feminist web series who spoke about changing stereotypes about women of color in South Africa, and the creative director of Google's Creative Lab talking about his transgender transition. These topics might not seem like must-haves for a design conference, but went hand-in-hand with Design Indaba's goal about building a better future.

Other conference organizers are now including a diversity adviser or mentor on their teams. At the last IDSA International Conference, we made diversity an explicit goal from the start and made it one of our measures of success.

2. Put a face to your conference

Find a passionate leader who pulls it together. Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference, for example, is synonymous with Marc Benioff, while Design Indaba is synonymous with Ravi Naidoo, a visionary producer, curator, master connector. Naidoo will travel the world, asking his friends for recommendations and going out of his way to meet people they've suggested in person, to nurture and cajole talent globally until he has his next batch of thought leaders.

3. Have a big picture purpose for a conference

Design Indaba's tagline is, "with the right support, a better future can be designed." That purpose is timeless--and it's what's helped the conference stick around for 20 years.

4. Create a worthy experience and people on both sides of the stage will rise to the occasion.

Design Indaba is not simply the sum of speakers and an audience. Design Indaba created a larger-than-life atmosphere that fit will with its "design a better future" ethos by commissioning new art installations specifically for the event, integrating unconventional performances into the conference schedule like Dokter and Misses, a surreal dream staged with talking furniture and professional actors, and daily hipop improv summaries from troupe Free Style Love Supreme, and ending with dancing every night.

5. End with a grand finale

End with a big bang. This year Design Indaba ended with Archbishop Desmund Tutu, known as the "The Arch", coming on stage as the physical arch created in his honor was being unveiled behind him. Commissioned by Design Indaba, developed by Snøhetta, New York architectural studio and Johannesburg based Local Studio, the design weaves 14 lines of the constitution that brought down apartheid. All this with the mayor of Cape Town giving her agreement for it to be installed near the parliament, capped with a choir singing in celebration. An amazing finale which was also a testament to the power of design, done live.

Design the life you love!

We Started Having ‘Life We Love’ Meetings on Sunday Mornings: An interview with Steve and Pam D'Amico

Steve and Pam met when they were 19 and 17, respectively. They have been together ever since. Steve came to Ayse's Design the Life You Love Workshop around the time they were becoming empty nesters and when he went home, he taught his wife Pam the process. They’ve been designing their lives together every Sunday ever since.

 

Steve I was with Procter and Gamble for 24 years as head of their Clay Street innovation arm and am now in the process of figuring what's next. I'm an industrial designer, but I haven't designed products in some time. I'm most passionate about helping companies create cultures of innovation, whether that's at Clay Street or elsewhere.  

Pam I'm a retired stay-at-home mom who started tagging along on the journey with Steve. I worked in the finance industry for 20 years, took care of the kids, and kept everything running. Our oldest daughter is in her second year of medical school and our youngest is just about to graduate from Columbus College of Art and Design in illustration. 

Steve So we are a scientist and an artist. We met when I was 19. I had been dating a girl and it wasn't going very well. My best friend at the time was essentially badgering me about his girlfriend’s friend, so I got him to agree that if he would stop bugging me, I would go out with her. 

Pam I was seventeen at the time and still in high school.

Steve My best friend's girlfriend was hitting on me while I was on my date with Pam. It was incredibly awkward, but somehow we got together anyway.  

Pam We've been married for thirty years since last September.

Steve We were reflecting on that... That's what old people have, thirty year anniversaries, but we're not that old yet. It's gone very quickly. It was David Keeler who originally told me about your workshop…One of the reasons that I accepted and was so eager to try it was because Pam and I knew we were coming up on a life changing event for us with our youngest daughter going to college. We were just on the cusp of a transition. I only knew a little bit about the premise of Design the Life You Love, and I thought, It had never occurred to me before to use the design process to reflect on one's life, but it made a lot of sense. And I think at that point Pam and I were rather disconnected.  
 

Pam We were mom and dad, but we weren't necessarily connected.

Steve You had us reflecting about ourselves individually at the workshop, but it struck me that we could use this as a couple.  

Pam I had been taking a class through the Arbinger Institute about empathy and self, using their book, The Anatomy of Peace. When Steve came back, we put what we each learned together and started to identify where there was some common ground. Steve had more about exploring, more in the mind space. And I was looking at traveling. Suddenly we realized that we both want to explore. And that was kind of the jumping off point for us. We should do this together or combine them.  

Steve I remember reflecting how interesting it was and how Design the Life You Love really made me think about myself and where I was as a person. I went home and was telling Pam about it. I shared with her my notebook and the sketches that I had done and I think I had a rough tree.  

Pam We talked about it and I told you about the Arbinger book and then you lead me through what you did.  

Steve Like Pam said, we realized we had some common points. This whole notion of exploration, which for me meant I sometimes spent too much time in my head. Her exploration was in terms of let's go out and see the world. So then it got us to really clarify what it means when we say ‘explore.' That gave us a launching off point to understand, this is what I mean, this is what you mean and this is what it means for us together. Up until then, we hadn't been talking about that. It's so easy just to be living your everyday life and and this gave us some common ground to actually have goals to work towards together instead of just doing the same thing every day and kind of living parallel lives. This happens a lot. You fall into patterns. I would get up and have my coffee and go to work and and she would get up and get the girls going. So, it kind of forced us to pause and really talk to each other about where we were individually and as a couple. I think I took her through pretty much verbatim what we did in your workshop. To basically have a similar experience to what I had. I think we did it in one sitting on a Saturday.  We had three common themes that were coming out: Exploration; The idea of connection; and then health and wellness. So I did the sketch of the tree. In purple pen, because I love purple. Basically, the vine symbolizes us working on our health, both mental and physical. We were hoping the fruits would be exploration. Health and wellness was our grounding, the roots, and the trunks are connection—connection to each other, connection to our daughters, and connection to our extended family and friends. Exploration became the thing that we both want. Later we changed that to play. Because play sounds a lot more fun then exploration.  

Pam We've been through many many iterations. 

Steve  We've been kind of wordsmithing it. But we really use those three themes—exploration, connection and wellness—and then say, okay, what’s within those is what's really important to us as a couple.   

Pam We started having Life We Love meetings on Sunday mornings. We would go to the local Panera and have a cinnamon roll and coffee. It was fun. It was wonderful for us.   

Steve There were other times we’d go, “Oh, you know we should have a date night" or “Oh, you know we should do this on a regular basis" and we knew that it wasn't easy to keep this going. So we actually picked Sunday mornings, because we said that's a time when the girls are not around and nothing was scheduled.   The Life We Love was the theme of what we did every Sunday. We would pick a topic and both of us, whatever it was, would go out and do a little research and then report back to the other. Now, maybe every six months or year we kind of look at it and say, you know this is working, this isn’t, and then talk about the latest iteration.   

Pam I think that this whole exercise has given us a really good connection and helped us to create a map to move forward in our relationship. This started just as Steve had left P&G and we really had no idea where we were going. 

Steve And I think that was part of also changing exploration to play. You know again there's this idea of being intentional, but it was just less serious and we were at a time in our life where people often get serious, but we needed to lighten up.   

Pam I think part of it was Steve had been the only one of us working for a lot of years. Our life could become in service of his career and his passion for his work, which which was fine, but I had kind of gotten to the point where I was just doing things on my own and making decisions about our life. That wasn't fair to him and it wasn't fair to me. So this also gave me the platform say, ‘wait a minute, we need to talk about this.' That was great, it made us feel like we were both sharing in our life. Not just in service of his career.   

Steve The other thing that I would say is that when we first did the list, we were looking at it a lot. And then, once we got comfortable with it, we put it away for awhile. I think that was important, that we not get so tied to it. But there were a couple of things that emerged naturally that weren't on there, but are on there now. The morning contemplation. We do spiritual readings in the morning and we have for the last year. Pam has her coffee. I have my tea and we have a reading and then we just talk about what that really means to us. So, some things were able to sort of percolate out naturally. That didn't originate on the list, but we very quickly found a home for it to go "oh, let's get intentional about it" and remind ourselves to do that. 

Pam I think one of the things I think that maybe you learned about me is that I was a lot more curious about exploring than you thought I was. I think I found that you wanted to be a lot more involved in our life then I thought you did since you've always been so passionate about your work. That was a very pleasant surprise for me.   

Steve  I think it helped. On a couple of fronts and I don't mean this in a negative way, but it helped me understand how disconnected we had gotten. Just because we hadn't had these kinds of conversations in a long time. There's a lot of benefit to be to be had by couples from Design the Life You Love.  

Pam It was really fun. I mean, I don't think if you were a couple that was having serious problems that it would solve them, but I think to address the every day it’s really good— a good way of falling back in love with each other and reminding yourself of what attracted you to that person and brought you together in the first place. Also, as a reminder of "yeah we need to work on that right now.”   

Steve It's also good to help you look forward. We were in a time of transition and, apparently, divorce rates are highest in couples when children are born and when children leave the house. Again I don't feel like our marriage was in trouble, but we had gotten disconnected. And so it seems to me that this is really great for these transition points, when you kind of have to rediscover each other, It was really great for that and is still paying dividends. We're still meeting every morning. You know we still go to Panera. Probably not every Sunday, but we're working on this every day now.  

6 Forgotten Leadership Lessons From Childhood

You want to know the top lessons in leadership training? It turns out you already know them. They're more or less the same lessons you learned as kids.

The things that your parents and your primary school teachers drilled into you are the same ones the best executive coaches will drill into you to help you be the best leader you can be.

How do I know? I'm one of top leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith's first 25 cohorts of his 'pay it forward' project, 100 Coaches, and he and his cadre of friends--among them Frances Hesselbein, CEO of Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and Alan Mulally, former CEO of the Ford Motor Company--and his teammates, Frank Wagner and Chris Coffey, have been teaching us.

So here is a refresher course on the lessons from your childhood that can be applied to the business world.

1. Say thank you!

Marshall Goldsmith tells this great story in his bestseller, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. He was on a flight when there was an emergency and everyone thought the plane was going to crash. At that moment, his only regret was, "I didn't thank the people I needed to thank." The emergency was averted and the first thing he did afterwards was write thank you notes to everyone to acknowledge what they've done for him.

Thank the people who've helped you become who you are with a thank you note. Just like your mom taught you.

2. Listen more (talk less)!

Alan Mulally taught us that great leaders listen well. Being a good listener is a strength. Look into people's eyes and listen to them attentively. Listen in the present time. You will learn new things. You will let the person who is talking know that you value what they have to say. You will build trust.

There was a reason why our parents told us to "talk less and listen more." We were actually being taught a leadership lesson.

3. Don't interrupt!

Part of better listening habits is not interrupting. We interrupt others because we are bubbling with ideas. Or we know the answer and we want the other person to know we know the answer. Or we think we have bigger, more important ideas then they do. It happens. When it happens, stop and apologize. The more you do it, the less you will interrupt people and start to exemplify the importance of listening to each other.

Next time you interrupt someone, simply say, "I interrupted you, I am sorry, please continue."

4. Help each other!

Goldsmith says no one likes feedback; but everyone can use feed forward. Instead of dwelling on the past, feed forward is about asking each other for help for the future. He has people do this in pairs, each person tells the other something they want to improve on (i.e. I want to exercise more regularly), listens to the answer (i.e., schedule it into your calendar as if it is a meeting), says thank you (you don't say "I don't like it" or "I've heard this before", you just say thank you). You then switch roles. Then you switch partners. The more people you do this with the more help you get and give. It is humbling, empowering, builds trust and it makes it apparent how to be there for each other.

We all need help and we can all give help.

5. Be kind!

Goldsmith says that one of the most important criteria for getting into the 100 Coaches program is not brains, expertise, position or influence. It is kindness. One of the stories he had Frances Hesselbein tell us underscores this lesson--the story of her grandmother being kind to a Chinese laundryman, Mr. Yi, and being rewarded with his only possessions in this country as he was returning to his country--2 beautiful, giant Chinese vases. Why? Because Hesselbein's grandma was the only person who respected him and showed this through kindness. That is the lesson she grew up with and shared with us.

Be kind and respect all people. It is probably also the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

6. Play!

This is my add. Approach work playfully because when we play, we're like kids, we're not afraid of making mistakes. We try things out without judgment and accept we have so much to learn. Playing with ideas, with new ways of doing things, and learning constantly is probably the best way we can move forward, innovate and learn from our failures. Great leaders I know go to work with a smile and a bounce in their step and make work look like play.

Play like a child even though you're an adult.

How about starting today by thanking our parents and embodying their lessons in the office (and in life), everyday. And if you have other childhood lessons that have served you well as a leader, please write to me or comment here. I would love to hear from you.

Design the life you love!

 

4 Ways to Use Constraints to Come Up With Breakthrough ideas

Thinking outside of the box may have become a cliché, but that's because we've forgotten what it really signifies. Take a moment to visualize it. Can you see the box? It is defined, it provides boundaries.To think outside of the box, first the "box" must exist. You need something to push against. In other words, you need your constraints.

Here are examples from serious out of the box thinkers--Elon Musk, Charles Eames, Issey Miyake--on how to turn constraints into opportunities,e next time you bemoan them.

1. Define a game-changing constraint.

Sometimes a given constraint is so extraordinary that it becomes an incredible game changer.

If you are reading Elon Musk's biography like me these days, take note of the many constraints Musk puts in front of his team at SpaceX to arrive at extraordinary solutions that are changing the space industry.

My favorite anecdote is how his team invented a truster engine out of a mind-boggling single piece of metal (made with a 3-D printer) to outperform anything that is normally man-made in parts and welded together.

Next time you want to think out of the box and innovate disruptively, define the box in a radical, counter-intuitive and non-traditional way.

2. Instead of trying to bend the seemingly unbendable, find a way to bend with it.

Everything has constraints: materials, processes, people. Work with them.

Charles Eames, the industrial designer, was a master at working with constraints. His ground breaking work in plywood is a case in point. Imagine what plywood is. It is layers of thin wood, like a ream of paper. If you take a ream of paper and you want to curve it, you can only do it in one direction. It is the same with plywood, you can only bend it in one plane. That was Eames' constraint and chance to innovate. He realized this and then bent with it. His plywood furniture is a testimony to his genius.

"I have never been forced to accept compromises, but I have willingly accepted constraints." -Charles Eames

Like the zen master, who works with the stones in the zen garden, work with the stones and make them part of your solution.

3. Turn an annoyance into an advantage.

When Japanese fashion designer, Issey Miyake was asked to design a travel collection in the 1970s, he didn't know that the project would come to define his work. As a first step, he defined his box by asking what happens to your clothes when you pack them? The answer--they wrinkle. That became his key constraint. So how did he push against that? Instead of working against wrinkles, Miyake turned them into intentionally designed pleats and came up with what is now a big part of his brand, Pleats Please. He saw an opportunity in an annoyance and turned it into a world renowned brand.

So next time you have an annoying constraint, think how you can make it your biggest advantage.

4. Constrain yourself to one basic criteria.

Sometimes the most liberating thing is to be restrained to one medium.

Look at Twitter and its 140 characters. Painter Chuck Close's pixel paintings, now a beautiful part of New York's 2nd Avenue Subway. How Sean Kenny creates art using lego blocks. Real Simple's 3 ingredient recipes. Bach's Goldberg Variations, which are 30 variations on one aria. Japanese haiku, poems with only 3 lines, including one of my favorites here:

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face.

- Murakami Kijo

Define a singular focus, intentionally limit your resources, and give yourself tunnel vision, within which to explore the maximum number of variations, ideas, designs. Sometimes being constrained is exactly what you need to think without limits.

Maybe because I grew up in the Turkish culture, I am determined to see a silver lining in any situation. I love using constraints as a tool to think differently. How about you? I would love to hear from you about how you think outside of the box and turn constraints into opportunities in your life and at work.

Design the life you love!

 

Your Worst Idea Might Be Your Best Idea

Sometimes the best way to get to the right answer is to think of the wrong answer first.

This is especially useful when you're stuck.

Brand consultant and author Marty Neumeier talks about how designers go beyond thinking out of the box by "thinking wrong" in his book The Designful Company, something he explains Jonathan Ive, Apple's chief designer, cultivates:

"One of the hallmarks of the team is this sense of looking to be wrong...because then you know you've discovered something new."

3M calls this "Reverse Thinking--turning the problem upside down" and they've created a simple and user friendly guideline you can try on your own or with your team here.

Here are some examples to inspire you about how and when to use this tool:

Take something that is obviously a mistake or a "no-no" and use it for good

A wonderful example of wrong thinking is reverse graffiti, as illustrated recently by the South African artist William Kentridge who used the grime along the walls of the Rome's Tiber River to create a 550-meter-long work, Triumphs and Laments, to illustrate the city's history.

- Reverse thinking: Grime and graffiti is good for the city.

- Right idea: Let's use grime as an art material to do a mural that shows the history of the city.

Generate ideas that feel like a taboo until they're not

Imagine De Beers "right hand campaign" when it came out. To suggest that women can buy their own ring, from a company that invented the tradition of men buying diamond engagement and wedding rings for their fiancées, was almost a taboo. They broke their own convention and in doing so invented a new market.

- Reverse thinking: Imagine women buying their own engagement or wedding ring.

- Right idea: Actually what if we created rings for the right hand that women can buy for themselves?

Note that once a taboo is broken it doesn't feel so much like a taboo. Today Uber seems very normal but only a few years ago challenging the NYC taxi system was a downright taboo. Until it was broken.

Break your fundamental principles to remember why they matter

At the beginning of the design of the Resolve Office System for Herman Miller, I did a quick exercise that proved to be very useful.Technology was changing office culture so fast that it was challenging our user-centered thinking, so I decided to ask the team the worst question I could think of, "Let's put technology at the center of work!" The ideation that followed was so rich, but so inhuman that it demonstrated the danger of putting an inanimate object at the center of our thinking. It was the best 30 minutes spent, as it drove the number one principal of design--people-centered solutions--so strongly that we didn't waiver from it for the next 3 years of development and it's fueled all of our future work together.

- Reverse thinking: Let's put technology at the center of our thinking. Then we can make smaller and smaller cubicles.

- Right idea: With the person at the center, everything should be human in scale and spirit, follow the body. The system should welcome the person, make them feel valued and at home.

Go against your own instinct

Let me share an example where I tried to apply reverse thinking to my own life. As a working mom of two teenagers, one of the most baffling questions for me is "How do I make my kids happy?" So I decided to reverse the problem statement to, "How can I make them unhappy?"

Easy to answer! Buy less junk food. Take their phones away. Embarrass them in front of their friends. Do less stuff for them. Sing and dance to my heart's content. You can add your own idea here: ___________________________.

Then I used the wrong answers to generate potential right ideas.

- Right ideas:

  1. Buy more healthy snacks > We'll all eat better.
  2. Take my own phone away too > Do more stuff together.
  3. Embarrass them in front of their friends > Nothing to be done there :)
  4. Let them do more on their own > They'll become more independent.
  5. Sing and dance in front of them > Go to a karaoke bar together!

You know what my big AHA! was after doing reverse thinking? That my role as a mom is not to make children happy! Of course I want them to be happy, but I cannot make them happy. That is for them to do. This was such a huge revelation! And I wouldn't have gotten there without this exercise.

Get yourself almost fired

Another metric you should use when conducting reverse thinking is to ask yourself, "what is the worst idea that I can think of? The one that would get me fired if I told my boss." That is the level of "wrong thinking" you want to go for. Remember you're playing with ideas here and deliberately breaking your own prejudices.

We recently used Reverse Thinking as a tool in Design the Life You Love 2.0, in the context of work. The starting point was: how to deal with coworkers who have different political views than you? Here are examples of how wrong you can think and the right ideas it can lead you to--

- Reverse thinking: Spread nasty rumors about team members.

- Right idea: Spread good truths about your team members and promote their successes. You can read more about doing good in Adam Grant's gem of a book, Give and Take.

Next time you're stuck, try reverse thinking. Be playful and remember to push the wrong ideas as far out as possible. This will help break your own preconceptions. Then use the wrong answers to generate new "right ideas"!

Let me know how it goes. I am always on the look out for right ideas that come from wrong thinking to inspire creative teams.

Design the Life You Love!

12 Powerful Tactics That Will Help You Banish Self-Doubt

Often, people stand between themselves and success.

In our work with large organizations and individuals, we've learned that the number one impediment to success is not lack of time, limited resources, or a difficult boss or team. It's you!

We doubt ourselves, fear failure, feed ourselves negative thoughts, and don't show up as our real selves. We are our own worst enemy.

So how can you get out of your own way? We asked 40 respondents this question in a Design the Life You Love survey (all quotes, unless otherwise noted, come anonymously from survey participants). Here are the inventive and effective ways leaders, entrepreneurs, freelancers, managers, and designers get out of their own way to do their best work:

1. Have a routine

When you're anxious or fearful, or the work looms large, have a routine. Brian Koppelman, producer and writer, has a routine he developed to get out of self-doubt quickly. It includes morning pages à la Julia Cameron, meditation, long walks, and going somewhere to write (as discussed in an interview with Debbie Millman for Design Matters).

"By managing fear and rejection, you gain power over them." --Brian Koppelman

Other favored routines of survey participants included having a drink, going on a bike ride, laying in the sun, remaining in the moment rather than letting your mind race to outcomes that don't even exist yet, taking deep breaths, setting aside five minutes every morning after waking up to think about your day, reading something inspiring, listening to podcasts, learning new skills (skiing, calligraphy, karate), listening to people with empathy, visualizing your process and where you want to get to, and going to a spa to soak and clear your mind completely.

2. Positive interaction

Engage with other people in a positive way, which in return will help you be more positive about yourself.

"Little acts of kindness help you feel more positive about yourself, which makes you feel less fearful, more confident."

"I try to add kindness into everything--whether a smile to a stranger in the elevator, thanking the parking attendant and asking him about his day--the positive interaction always puts a lift in my day."

Another survey participant uses a private Twitter account to write down extreme feelings, both positive and negative ones, to be more rational and analytical than impulsive. She says, "I think it's all about developing habits to stay positive about myself. It's a muscle; I need to work on it constantly."

3. Time management

Approach your work with good time management: Put it in your calendar, use a focus technique like Pomodoro, have deadlines, do lists for every little thing you need to do, cross items out when you're done.

"If I want to or have to do something, I just start doing it, because the more time I spend thinking about it or getting ready for it the more discouraged I get."

4. Break tasks into smaller pieces

It is often the enormity of the task that scares us--the book, the report, the big idea. Instead of thinking of the end game, stay in the moment, define a small chunk of the work, and accomplish that--500 words, three sketches, 20 minutes of research. Plan to do a little each day and have them add up.

"Starting anything is the hardest part. I start by making a list. For me, a list breaks everything down into small tasks and achievable goals (I make a list every day). If you just focus on some big obstacle that's in front of you, it can easily become too daunting to take on. But if you break it down into smaller pieces--what you can do in the next hour, the next day, or the next week--before you know it you will have chipped away at what you once thought was too big to take on and it won't be so big anymore."

5. Delegate

Having too many things to accomplish is itself an impediment to doing your best work. List what you need to do, put names next to the tasks, and assign, collaborate, outsource. You will realize that you don't need to put your name next to everything, and that there are people who can help you.

"Creating lists, tediously updating my calendar, and delegating everything are the techniques that I use often."

6. One out, one in

Cross out one project before you add a new one. This is similar to what organizational expert Peter Walsh recommends--if you buy a new shirt, be sure to throw out an old shirt--to avoid overstuffing your closet. We all have constraints of time, energy, and resources. Be mindful of how much you can manage at a given time.

As a participant noted, "I started keeping a list of new shiny things and projects, but I only get to indulge in one if I cross something off the existing project list. One out, one in. It keeps me honest with myself about what I can handle and makes me choose more thoughtfully the new thing to tackle."

7. Get it out of your system

Talk to your friends, discuss it with your colleague, write in a journal, make lists, to get it--your fear of failure, the complexity of the work at hand, your limitations--out of your head and into the open. As one person put it in the survey,

"I connect with people, through a phone call or a coffee meeting, and try to verbalize what is holding me back. I break through the fear of starting, whatever the root of it is, by acknowledging it, and through conversation I always learn again that everyone faces challenges, and that they only pass if we continue to put one foot in front of the other."

8. Do the hard thing first

Instead of leaving the difficult stuff to the end, do it first, when you have the most intellectual energy. Resist the pull of easy stuff. It will drain your brain without giving you a sense of accomplishment. In the morning, when your brain is rested, work on the hard questions, the "knotty or wicked problems," as we call them in design, not on email.

What is hard changes from person to person, which is why this response from a participant is so refreshing. "Start talking with a stranger in the morning. The whole day gets easier."

9. Say yes!

Say yes to things. Yes is an invitation to learning new skills, to experimenting, to showing up. No is a closed door, a nonstarter. Often, we stand in our own way by simply saying no and thinking I am not good enough, I don't know enough, I am terrified of failing. It is so easy to say no--out of fear and self-doubt--but say yes!

"If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes--then learn how to do it later!" --Richard Branson

10. Embrace negative thinking in doses

Ask yourself, what is the worst possible thing that could happen if I do this? Use negative thinking to put the situation in perspective. This will allow you to recognize possible consequences and choices you have to either move forward or adjust your plans. More often than not, you will find that most of your fears are in your head and don't reflect reality.

"I always say to myself, 'What's the worst that can happen?' Since I never know the answer to that question, that's when I know I am tripping myself."

11. Advertise it

Tell others what you're doing until it becomes public knowledge. When you state publicly that you are doing something, the bird is out of the bag so to speak. At our studio, Birsel + Seck, when we want to try something new, we announce it as a public workshop and start taking reservations. As soon as the first reservation comes in, it is too late to back out. It is our way of getting over the fear of the new and to constantly experiment.

As one survey participant put it, "What always works is committing to something in a way that makes it harder to back out."

12. Reward yourself

Try any one of these tricks, and when you get out of your own way and get things done, celebrate! It not easy to leave your fears behind, to get beyond procrastination and self-doubt. Recognize what it takes to do your best work and give yourself a much-deserved pat on the back. Give yourself flowers, have a drink with a friend, buy yourself that pair of shoes you've had your eye on. Jump in the air, and do a crazy dance, and mark the moment. It was hard, but you did it!

You can model badminton world champion Saina Nehwal, who has a reward that may resonate with many of us.

"After I win a match, I celebrate it by having an ice cream."

We continue to make an inventory of habits and tricks. If you have other ways of getting out of your own way, write to me. I would love to hear from you. And thank you to participants of our survey for sharing your experience and knowledge!

Design the life you love.

Source: http://www.inc.com/ayse-birsel/12-powerful...

13 Work and Vacation Hacks That Will Help You Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance

Often what we want and what we need are in conflict.

My favorite example is vacation and work--I want to be on vacation, but I need to be at work.

So if you can work on vacation and feel like you are on vacation while working, you are creating uncommon value. In design this is called dichotomy resolution. It's the ability to have your cake and eat it too, by thinking creatively.

"But in our daily lives, we often face problems that appear to admit of two equally unsatisfactory solutions. Using our opposable minds to move past unappetizing alternatives, we can find solutions that once appeared beyond the reach of our imaginations." - Roger Martin, The Opposable Mind

Here are ideas for feeling like you are on vacation at work and doing interesting work on vacation:

  1. Take a short business course in a different city or country. You'll learn something new and network with other students, while discovering a new city or culture.
  2. Teach a class. I tell my graduate students at Products of Design at SVA that teaching them is my vacation. I enjoy my time getting to know them and talking about things that interest me. I learn all sorts of cool stuff from them too, but hey do the work.
  3. Do breakfast meetings. Find a hotel near your work, a place you'd stay if you were visiting, that has a good breakfast vibe. For me this is The Breslin, at the Ace Hotel, NYC. Meet people there. Then go to work.
  4. You've probably heard of the Pomodoro technique? You focus on a task for 25 minutes, then you take a 5 minute break. Treat these breaks as mini vacations--a 5 minute meditation, jumping rope, dancing, singing, reading (= 3-4 pages of fiction). After 4 focus periods, you will have taken a full 25 minutes off--where you can nap, bake, read a thriller, draw. Great for time management and having a healthy attitude at work.
  5. Practice skills you love but often run out of time for, on your vacation. My friend Theresa Fitzgerald, VP Creative Director at Sesame Workshop, does quilting on weekends to practice her making skills. Ken Carbone, founder of Carbone Smolan Agency (they do brand strategy and experience design) does a live drawing session once a month at the office after work and invites his friends.
  6. Make lunch at work. Peter Miller who owns my favorite bookstore in Seattle cooks a communal lunch with his team. For recipes and inspiration for this ritual, read his book Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal. I've had delicious lunch meetings at 10XBeta and HMA2, design and architectural studios respectively, who have the similar lunch ritual.
  7. Wake up early and then go back to sleep. Get up very early, like 4am, do great work for an hour, but then go back to sleep for an hour or two. Knowing you can go back to sleep feels luxurious.
  8. Have a cocktail with friends after work. This is the English pub idea, or the American happy hour, that adds an element of vacation between your workday and home life.
  9. Have a real coffee break. Instead of making coffee and taking it back to your desk, have a cappuccino and a cookie at a local cafe. Talk to the barista, read your book, sketch, do some people watching. 20 minutes of vacation in a day of work.
  10. Reserve one hour a day while on vacation to work on your own project. Decide on the project before you leave, bring your materials (sketchbook, research material, books, camera), and spend one hour on it each day. In one week, you can accumulate 7 hours that can fuel your thinking for months to come. This is how I started and finished my book, Design the Life You Love.
  11. Is there someone you'd like to meet while on vacation? Do a little research about local people and reach out to them to have a coffee (you will find that people are often flattered and will make time for visitors). You will make a new connection and network without it feeling like work.
  12. Be a tourist for an hour or two during your work day. Schedule one morning to go to a museum, visit new stores, have lunch at a hotel, go to a bookstore to look at the new books in your subject of interest or do a little hike. Bring a teammate or invite your mentor. Back at work, imagine connections between what you're working on and what inspired you most.
  13. Teach a summer (or winter) class. Many schools offer week-long retreats or special classes you can volunteer to teach, in return for travel + boarding. My favorite work vacation was teaching a Design the Life You Love course for 5 days at Boisbuchet, a summer design school in France, in the middle of a secluded forest with very little internet coverage, in the company of some wonderful people and marked with communal meals.

If you liked these ideas, here is how you can do your own hacks for work and vacation--

Make a list of things that you like doing on vacation and think of how you can insert them, intentionally and in small doses, into your work week. Then make a list of things you love doing at work but often don't have time for, and insert them into your vacation time.

Creativity happens at the intersection of what we want and what we need.

I would love to hear about your work and life hacks!

Design the life you love!

 

 

Source: http://www.inc.com/ayse-birsel/13-work-and...