Learn It Like Stanford*: Designing Your Life

Recently I was pondering on the direction I’m going with this blog, some of my friends were asking questions about what lifestyle design is. So I was excited to discover this book and was expecting to find some relevant information on the subject.

But a few pages later, I adjusted my expectation: It talks about something much more vast and purposeful, about life, life-planning, life-meaning, etc… Whereas my blog is more focused on designs for life, lifestyle products and so on.

Even though the subjects we talk about are somewhat different, we do, however, share the same concept I desperately want to communicate: Design Thinking (and how to use it in every aspect of your life).

The enormously profound effects this self-help book has on me has brought me here, promoting the benefits of design thinking, and trying to convince you why this book, “Designing Your Life”, is much more cooler than a regular self-help book.

Because no one wants to be caught reading a self-help book


I love reading self-help books. But I don’t love telling everyone that I love reading self-help books (well I just did). I was once flipping through “Rich Dad,Poor Dad” in the train and the guy next to me was sizing me up and giving me the weird looks. (Even though “Rich Dad,Poor Dad” is not considered a self-help book, but still.)

With “Designing” as the theme, it shifts our mindset to think as though we are all Designers here. When we think like a designer, we get to ask questions, make hypothesis, and build prototypes. It sounds so much cooler to be the mad scientist than the stalker in the self-help section.

To think like a designer, we use these 5 mindsets in Design Thinking:

Curiosity – When you are curious, you see everything with opportunities.

Bias to Action – Designers build their way forward, creating prototypes after prototypes, failing often, until they find what works. They don’t just sit on the bench and think about what could happen.

Reframe – Reframing problems allow you to examine your biases and get unstuck. It is more important to find the right problems than to find the right solution.

Awareness – Be aware that your first idea might not be the best solution. Let go of the good-but-not-great solution and advance in the journey.

Radical Collaboration – A designer cannot create the iPhone alone. It takes a team and many of the best ideas are going to come from other people.


Try treating every problem in your life with these guidelines and you just might find a more interesting solution to your problem.

Because it’s a course in Stanford Run by Stanford Professors


Once you throw in some names, the whole thing becomes legit. (Hang on, I’m going to add it to the title*)

This book was originally a course for Stanford students to help them use design to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

It turned out to be such a helpful course that benefits all human beings, so they have since written this book and created workshops to extend their reach to more people.

Anyone could and should design their lives, no matter how young or how old. It is never too late to redesign your future, even if you’re in retirement, you still have so many years left ahead of you that’s called the “future”.

The Process of Designing Your Life in the book:

  1. Know where you are in life (Evaluate your current situation)
  2. Finding your “True North” (Discover your work-view and life-view)
  3. Find out what you love doing (Good Time Journal / Activity Log)
  4. Brainstorming on your life’s possibilities (Mind Mapping)
  5. Design 5-Years Plans (Odyssey Plans)
  6. Test it out (Prototyping and “Grokking”)
  7. Categorise your failures (Make a Failure Log and learn from it)
  8. Reach out to the world (and the world will reach back)

My personal favourite is Mind Mapping where I get to brainstorm on crazy ideas and really extend on my life’s possibilities. Doing all of them take some time, but they are very enjoyable, because what could be more interesting than building the person you want to become?

Because I would want my son to read it


Thinking back in the days when I was trying to choose between Fashion Design and Performing Arts as my major, I remembered talking it out with a close friend and my family. In the end I even went to the extreme to play Tarot in hope of getting a glimpse of my future. Can you imagine? Using Tarot cards to decide my future??

If only I had these guidelines to help me find my way.

This book for me is like a “Lightning Bolt” moment, as Gretchen Rubin calls it. I would like to bestow this lightning bolt upon my son, too, when he becomes of age one day and starts to find his way.

As David Kelley, founder of IDEO names it “The career book of the next decade”, perhaps it’s not really a self-help book after all.

It’s a book for anyone who is trying to shape their future, anyone looking for a job, or anyone feeling stuck and looking to have a change in life.

Yes, it is a “Career” book. Or better still, a “Design Your Career” book.

Oh, hack, let’s just leave it as “Designing Your Life” book.


à la vie aujourd’hui,



Bookfie with France National Library


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