3 Key Questions #LifebyDesign

There's tons of questions we can ask ourselves to assess our lives, careers, goals, etc.  Studies have been done and courses taught on scientifically proven methods to do this assessment.  For me, questions should get us to think, to dig deeper and to look at possibilities - not to lead to quick, "do this and you'll be happy" answers.  So here are the 3 questions I ask to start a Life by Design.

What do you like/love to do and are good/great at doing?

Make a list! These can be hobbies, skills, work, stuff you like learning or doing, anything - don't restrict yourself, take a holistic approach of you - personal, professional, academic, etc. And, if you want, try prioritizing them.  You want to do a lot of these things in your life.

What DON’T you like/love to do and are good/great at doing?

Make another list.  Same guidelines as above -  hobbies, skills, work, learning, etc. and try to prioritize them.  The goal is to minimize these - maybe you can even eliminate doing some of them, but we all have to do things we don't like so at least do less of them.

What do you want to learn, explore, discover, experience in the next 2, 3 or 5 years?

A few years ago, one of my students asked me to help her lay out her 10 year plan.  I told her to write it down, put it in a drawer and then we'd talk about the next 2-5 years. Our world is changing too fast to plan what we will or want to do 10 years out, but we can plan, to a degree, who we want to be, what we will stand for, and what we won't stand for. 

Think about the next 2-3 years, maybe 5. What do you want to learn, explore, discover, and/or experience? Learn how to code, make bookshelves, do graphic design, become a product manager for 3D-printed products, understand the Patagonian ecosystem, discover biomedical uses of Antarctic sea anemones, para-sail?  Here's mine ->

Start thinking about the steps you can take to start! What does it entail? Who do you know who can help or inform you? What 1 or 2 small things can you do tomorrow to start? Go for it!

The Lego Kit of Life (by Design)

What if I said that life was a set of Lego® bricks ~ all sorts of sizes, shapes, colors with a few bricks fixed together, unbreakable, but mot of them easily taken apart and rearranged?  If you're like me, you love (yup, you still do, face it!) playing, building, creating with lego (that's why I hang out with engineers and makers).

Life is a set of legos, all sizes, shapes, and colors. What will you build today?

Our life's lego bricks are made up of family, friends, pets, hobbies, curiosities and interests, experiences, physical-mental-emotional-spiritual health, knowledge, education, street smarts, common sense (or lack thereof), culture, rituals, beliefs, values, skills, talents, accomplishments, places lived and visited and more.

Take a look at your Lego set.  What bricks do you want to toss, just plain get rid of? What bricks do you want to get more of or even create (a new color or shape or size!)?  What bricks do you want less of? How would you like to rearrange your bricks for tomorrow, the next 2 years, or maybe even the next 5 years? I'm serious, think about this.  There is so so much you can do with your bricks and very few of them are permanently connected together!  

What did you learn from pondering and organizing your bricks? What's holding you back from tossing some bricks, adding new bricks, rearranging bricks? Why? What are you afraid of? We're all afraid of something.  What would you do if I took away those bricks and gave you the ones you wanted? What would you do if you weren't held back or scared anymore? 

What would your best friend, significant other, colleague or mentor advise you to do with your bricks? How would they arrange them for you? What if you looked at yourself that way?  

Here's my challenge to you - try thinking of your life as legos.  Decide which ones you want to keep, toss, rearrange for now and the next couple of years.  What does that look like? What could it look like if you had not brick-limitations? And hey, if you need to go buy a set of bricks, this is your excuse! Take it! 

 

 

How to Create an Amazing Life by Design ~ 5 Fundamentals

From the floorboards of Jackson Pollock's studio in the Hamptons, NY. The paint spatterings can be traced to specific pieces of his art.

Two and a half years ago, I was invited to share my story, Life by Design, at Brown University's Creative Mind Lecture series.  Since then, it's taken on a life of its own with my mentees who now use it as a noun.  They've asked me to formalize it in case I get hit by a bus, so here's the start.

After several years of mentoring and advising, I've discovered 5 (at least) fundamentals to creating an amazing Life by Design (through very non-scientific methods).

1. Very little you do in life is irrevocable.

Aside from dying, very few of the choices we make in life are permanent and can't be undone, redone, mitigated or benefited from.  Even losing a limb is no longer necessarily life-altering.  Once we view life that way, opportunities are endless sources of learning and exploration.  We don't need to be afraid that if we do X today, we're stuck doing X for the rest of our life.

2. There are many paths, solutions, answers, right choices - not just 1.

Following #1 above, rarely in life is there just one way to do something - there are many ways.  Many times we feel the path a role model or someone we admire took is the only path to get to the same place. Unfortunately, our education system reinforces the one way - there is THE right answer or way not A right answer or way.  Well, guess what, rarely is that the case.  Life isn't binary.

3. Your major or job isn't destiny.

The world tells us that our college major and even our current job is destiny.  Engineers should only look for engineering jobs, not design, product management, etc.  English majors should only look for writing or PR jobs, not design, product management, etc.  Drop the "should" - it's a horrible word!  Our job or major is not our destiny.  By looking at how that major or job has taught us to think, approach problems, communicate, see connections and patterns, apply to different situations, we can use our experience in so many ways!

Kandinsky - Composition V1, 1913

4. "Man plans, G-d Laughs"

This age old yiddish proverb is so true.  A student came to me a few years ago asking for help laying out her 10yr plan. 10 years!!!! I told her to write something out, put it in a drawer and then come back and we'd discuss the next 2-3 years.  Think about life in 2-3 (maybe up to 5) year chunks - what do we want to learn, experience, explore, discover over the next 2-3 years, why, and what are the best places and ways to do that! Yup, it's that simple... but not easy.

5. Experiment -> Learn -> Apply -> Iterate

At the age 99.5, my grandmother said, "The day you stop learning is the day you die." Life, personal and professional, is a continuous experiment - we try things, we hopefully learn, we apply those learnings and experiment again - til we die.  Learn to be curious, love to learn, try stuff - often, question your assumptions, question your questions, as why, why not, what if, and one of my favorites, where is it written (e.g., is it a rule or guideline?). 

Next week? I'll share my view of Life as lego blocks! Your comments and thoughts are welcome!

Mentoring - A Gift

I’ve been privileged to have had great mentors in my time at Bell Labs, AT&T and out on my own. These people have shaped my life--not only giving me guidance, but also showing me what it means to mentor.

In 2009, I started participating in Brown University's Women's Launchpad Program (WLP), pairing women alumni in business with senior students for career, grad school and other post-grad planning. My mentees have been mechanical engineering majors.

Our love of Brown gave us an immediate common ground and we quickly found others. Both young women have a passion for designing--which is really a passion for solving problems, for improving, for creating.

What did mentoring entail? Guidance on choices, pros/cons, looking at options, proper ‘business' protocol. But the most important thing I felt was to teach these women to learn to network. That is, how to find people, to reach out, to get exposure to as many ideas, types of people and interests as possible.

While the young women keep thanking me, I am the one who is richly blessed. It is an honor to know them, to be a small part of their future real, to see what wonderful things this next generation can--and will--do.

They are more mature, thoughtful and passionate than I was when I was their age! It is easy to become optimistic the future of our nation and world when you see what these ‘kids’ are capable of and committed to doing. While the WLP program is “for” the students, the greatest benefit is to us alumni, allowing us to help this great generation as they innovate the future for all of us.

So, go find someone to mentor:  in your company, your division, your alma mater, wherever...the rewards are priceless and enduring!