Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

5. Design Your Lives

  • Lives is not a typo. In life you get endless mulligans. Start by not thinking that there is one best way to spend your life. The activity here is to design three Odyssey Plan Alternatives. Studies show that pursuing multiple ideas in parallel is better than taking one at a time. If you start with just one idea you may be stuck with it. The plans you develop should have a five-year horizon and be really different. The first plan will be centered on what you already have in mind. Life two should be what you would do if life one were suddenly gone. Life three is what you would do if money or image were no object. This one might be a little wild. For each plan you have to judge if resources are possible, how much you like the idea, how confident you are that you can do it, and how much sense it makes. When you do this, try to share with a group of three to six for feedback and ideas but not critiques or unwanted advice.

6. Prototyping

  • As you design your life a key piece is doing small experiments that can either lead you forward or let you discover dead ends. This is called prototyping. Prototypes must involve a physical experience in the real world, not just thought experiments. It also requires collaboration or contact with others. As part of the process, you want to have Life Design Interviews. These as conversations with people who are doing what you want to try. They should not be structured like job interviews. Ask what they love and hate about their job and how they got there in the first place.
  • Prototypes can be as simple as a day shadowing a person. They can also be a week of volunteer work or some sort of internship. Remember that people enjoy being helpful. If you are having trouble coming up with a place to start, the authors suggest that you engage in a brainstorming process with a handful of your peers. The authors provide the basics of brainstorming here in case you aren’t conversant with the process.

7. How Not to Get a Job

  • This chapter is a reality check regarding the fact that a lot of current hiring practices are dysfunctional. First, most great jobs are never publicly listed. They go to people inside the organization or outsiders who know someone inside. For jobs that are posted, the descriptions tend to be very generic. They tend to be based on the skills of the previous holder and doesn’t consider the fact that jobs tend to change. Sometimes they add skills looking for a super version of the previous employee. They may contain caveats that indicate that at least part of the job sucks if you read between the lines.
  • With these warnings in hand, the authors do give some useful advice. Since resumes are often processed by a computer, be sure your resume contains the same words the company uses. This will increase the probability that your resume will survive keyword searches. If you do get an interview focus on how your skills fit what they are looking for. If you talk about other talents you will come across as unfocused. If a company has already put eight or more through the wringer, it’s a sign that the company might not be a great place to work. Top companies usually reject some top candidates in order to avoid hiring a bad one so don’t be discouraged. Try to show empathy to the hiring manager and focus on this person’s need to find the right person.
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