Sunday, February 14, 2010

Life By Design

Amazing where the mind will travel during a good meal with a good book. Tonight, for instance, I sat down to a Thai meal and decided both what I should do with my life and how I should live it.

Indulge me for a minute?

Aldo, my boss' boss (and a mentor of mine), recently gave me a book to read. "Glimmer" by Warren Berger is a manifesto on why you should think like a designer when it comes to any problem-- artistic or business, yours or the world's. Despite its tendency to deify a few established design-thinkers (namely Bruce Mau, blessed be He), it is an invigorating book-- the kind that I'll never finish because I keep putting it down to Do Important Things.

My take-away so far is that I can and should 'design' my life, the way one might design an iPod. My life must be functional, with all the right features but not so many that it loses focus and does them all poorly. It must be aesthetic, at least if I want to enjoy the time I spend with it. My life should be confident in its choices, further embracing and refining its design periodically... say, every 18 months or so in a lavish and egocentric keynote address near Cupertino.

Well, you get the idea.

And if you didn't, here it is: How empowering, how cool, to sit and think about your life like it's a simple design problem? To give yourself permission to think Big Picture and not let the tactical details get in the way-- at least not at first.

I am curious to what extent my next two years of business school will take the opposite approach. An entrepreneur needs to think like a designer, but a strategy analyst probably shouldn't if he wants to stay sane in his job.  That's not to knock analysis; in business, reality is important.

So here's what I concluded tonight while eating at Joy's Noodles:

What I should do with my life is start a consultancy that is equal parts design-thinking and analysis. Without the latter, it risks being irrelevant and self-indulgent. Without the former, it seems stagnant, limited and, frankly, not very much fun.

How I should live my life is like an iPod designer: always going for function, aesthetics, and constant iterations.

That, and a new, thinner model for the holiday season.

These lofty thoughts may be displaced by new ones the next time I sit down to a meal with a good book, or by no thoughts at all when I turn on DVR'd Mythbusters reruns in just a minute. For now though, I am attempting to digest these thoughts, as well as a delicious plate of noodles.


  1. Seriously, Noah: WORLDWIDE COZY FRANCHISES. I've never met someone so madly head-over-heels for the thai food. I too enjoy some good dinner/stimulating text nighttime combos. I've seen 1 thai place in Den Bosch so far, but I'll have to ride my fiets back there to try it.
    None of the "design your life" stuff seems especially new or unusual, at least in terms of general inner analysis, though laying design terminology directly on top of yourself is pretty catchy. Keep on writing, buddy.

  2. I've seriously thought about asking Tee (the owner of Cozy) his plans for franchising. Then I realized I can barely communicate with him. But maybe that's the foundation for a good business relationship...

    You're right-- nothing too revolutionary here. Mostly just self-indulgent palaver. I'm going to try to keep that to a minimum on this blog. That's what Twitter is for, right?