Design Your Life

This speech is delivered as CC #8 in Yeongtong Toastmasters (YTTM)

Good Morning! I wish everyone had a memorable 2015 and I wish a great 2016 for you all. And to celebrate this I have few chocolates with me and they go to few lucky ones here.

And since he is the President of our club, he gets two chocolates but can pick only one. Which one do you want Dohoon?

Thank you.

If you observed closely what I was doing you would realize that when I was giving one chocolate, no one blinked an eye and accepted it immediately. But when I offered options and asked to pick among them, one had to think, analyze and choose.

One chocolate is like our middle-school, we really didn’t have any choice. We did what we wanted or what was asked for us to do by parents or teachers. And two chocolates is like high school or college, you had to decide some things and be careful and weight alternatives like courses, major etc. And life, life is like a box of chocolates.It gets harder and more complicated.

And we have no option but to choose, we cannot run away from it and blame it on others. We are adults, responsible for ourselves and we have to pick. We have to choose our careers, partners, houses, and how we live life. And sadly no one trains us on how to do it. There is no “What to do in life?” manual that comes along with us when we were born. Nor there is “how to live life?” training session in our universities and companies. Common wisdom suggests us this, “You will figure it out eventually” or “Do what your heart says.”

Sadly our hearts’ likes too many things and our brains confuse. So we are back to square one. And to answer this question I did a few experiments myself and searched a lot online and found this amazing piece of advice from professors in Stanford University which I will share with you today.

First let’s look at how we solve problems and find answers.

In an engineering approach, you solve your way forward. As Mark Watney in the movie Martian would say “You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next.” And if you solve enough problems you get the answer.

In a business approach, you optimize your way forward. You increase sales, capture market share, expand overseas. You try to improve a metric and decide your way forward.

To the question of life we cannot use engineering or business approach. The end goals are not clear and they keep changing with time. Today it could be to earn money, but tomorrow you want to do something that you enjoy. And then there is family, parents, in-laws and many other factors that come into picture.

In such “wicked problems” we need something else.

And enter Design approach, where you “Build” or “Prototype” your way forward. What does it mean? Let me explain.

Since we like too many things and want to be a lot of things at once. Say like Tony Stark “Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist and Iron Man” How do we get there, or figure out which one you want to be “a software engineer” or a “k-pop girl group”.

Most people fall back on what they are passionate about to decide which profession or field to enter. But it doesn’t work. No one is inherently passionate about something; they “become” passionate by doing. Look at Toastmasters, none of us knew how much we would enjoy it, until we tried it once and kept coming back. So if passion is not the way forward, how?

That is “Design Your Life” course by Prof Bill Burnett and Prof Dave Evans and I summarized the essence in to four simple steps.

First is to identify what your personal values are? What is your worldview? What do you enjoy and how do you want to live life?

Second you list down what are your expectations from work? You want to do for money, satisfaction, free time, extra vacation or early retirement? You need to think about what you want from work.

Third, you look at what options are available and approachable to you. You think about what your strengths are and what skills you have.

Fourth and most important, you Try. You talk to people, you see what they do, what environment they work in. You can also work after-work or in weekends. Do an internship; take up a project that has elements of say pop-music and android apps; that is how you figure out what to do with life.

You can never decide one day that you will be this. You build yourself towards it by prototyping and failing too. And we fail, we don’t enjoy things that we always dreamed of. We are not the same person we thought we would be in high-school or college. We change, we adapt.

We could debate on and on whether a glass is half-full or half-empty. But the truth is just like life, you could re-fill the glass anytime and define what it is.

Good luck trying and build you way forward.

Resources:

1. http://web.stanford.edu/class/me104b/cgi-bin/

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKEq5iEmMSo

3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPjoCO5Juj0

P.S: I wish I had done the course but this is compilation from the open resources available online and my own understanding of what it means.

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