The Big Design Problem? Designing Your Life

Iโ€™m deep in the throes of reading two books by one of my favorite authors. Before I tell you who it is, I want to include an excerpt from one of the books:

Iโ€™m a welter of insecurities. Iโ€™m insecure about not understanding what the next person does, about not being as smart os the people listening to me, about teaching in schools that I could never get into, about running conferences where everybody is sharper and faster than I am.

When I was a child, I once saw someone in a wheelchair. My mother told me that the person in the wheelchair had been in an accident and would recover, but would need to learn to walk again. That was a revelation to me because it seemed that once weโ€™d learned to walk, that weโ€™d always know how to walk.

The notion of learning to walk has lingered in my mind, and Iโ€™ve contemplated the process of teaching someone to walk again. I realized that this process has a lot to do with thrusting a leg out into the terror of losing your balance, then regaining your equilibrium, moving you forward, then repeating with your other leg. Failure as loss of balance, the success of equilibrium, and you move forward. Terror of falling, confidence, regaining your balanceโ€“itโ€™s a fascinating metaphor for life. Risk is half of the process of moving forward. The risk of failing is inherent in achieving a goal.

My life has been marked by a continual series of failures, interspersed with successes. I am grateful for my failures โ€“ because of them I had nothing to lose, and could indulge my interests with occasional crucial successes, as well as more failures so I was able to design my life. By designing my life, I have been able to choose the projects I have worked on for my entire life.

This quote is from Richard Saul Wurman, an architect, designer, author, teacher, and project โ€œdo-er.โ€ His work lies in the field of understanding; of making information readily understandable to others. You may recognize some of his accomplishments: he wrote the books Information Anxiety and Information Architects and founded the term โ€œinformation architect.โ€ In 1996, he created and chaired the first TED conferences (Technology/Entertainment/Design), and he chaired the conferences from 1996-2002. He has written 81 different books and he has taught at several schools, from Cambridge University to Princeton to UCLA.

When remarking on his teaching, he notes:

My opening line to my students, and a recurring theme in my classes, was that the big design problem isnโ€™t designing a house for your parents or yourself, a museum, or a toaster, or a book, or whatever. The big design problem is designing your life. Itโ€™s by the design of your life that you create the backboard off which you bounce all your thoughts and ideas and creativity. You have to decide what it is that you want to do each day.

This is a great reminder, worth posting. The books are worth reading, too.

You have to decide what it is that you want to do each day. TC mark

When it comes to matters of opinion, discover some of the most intriguing, informed points of view you’ll find anywhere — at The Opinionator, from The New York Times

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