#42: Yet Another Note On Shipping and Life
A crude & casual attempt at dissecting the design of life
In product design, timelessness and usefulness are great goals to have. Dieter Rams have proven this to be true and I can’t argue with that.
The same way that no one can argue that long-term thinking is essential to building products that work, even for a lot of what we deal with in our personal lives. These things sometimes have the tendency to make one feel like a hamster in a wheel: progress-less and dull and impatience to the day-to-day operations. (Opened up a little bit about this years ago — The True ROI of Listening to Yourself / Medium).
Maybe there is some truth to it that is worth synthesizing further.
But most of the time, it’s likely because the process is built with this foundation. We have to constantly deal with the monotony in order to reach milestones. This is the hardest part and what probably no one will tell you.
World-class athletes won’t always have a winning day. Yet, they're out there doing the work all day, every day. They show up, even at the cost of their personal lives, at times.
Entrepreneurs won’t always have a breakthrough quarter. Yet, they’re putting out immense fires, the kind that puts a lot of friction and tests in one’s stamina (physical and mental), on a daily basis. Until <insert-x> goal is met, repeat process.
Top-notch musicians aren’t always born with the prestige and the respect, although some are thanks to genetic lottery. For the most part, the vast majority of them earned it (and are constantly earning it) with hard work, intense discipline and brutal work ethic, probably even all the way from childhood. Yes, even pop stars.
And, guess what, so are the designers in the business of building two kinds of products: body of work (career) and themselves (life).
Intuitively, it always feels like something is wrong whenever boredom is in the picture. We get restless, and we start to question a lot of things, at least I do. I think this is a natural inclination for the driven-types of folks, people with chips on their shoulders more specifically. What I’ve come to realize is, in a lot of ways, it can be a sign of progress, if one examines it a little bit more closely.
After all, just like our day-to-day life, we can’t just measure things by the year, or by the decade. You’ll miss out on the small things frequently if that is your only metric. No, we have to look at things from the lens of a day-to-day experience, as often as we do otherwise. It’s a double-edge sword, really: how does one employ long-term thinking without losing track of the small things that sometimes turn out to be the big ones?
Some days are filled with a lot of excitement, some are void with it. It’s the potent and powerful combination of these elements that make up this ultimate product called Life. And the delicate balancing act of shipping, stepping back and shipping again is what will make it worth living.
Since I consider energy as, perhaps, the most important currency for life, it makes sense to understand where and how it’s being distributed. To study life is to dissect energy, especially if you want to waste as little of it as possible. Below is an updated visualization of my ‘Work/Life: Learning as a Strategy’ concept from my post #29: Why Strategy Matters:
There is nothing else that is worth our time than the practice of designing a life. Perhaps, I can summarize this short post with this question right here: ‘How can I be more intentional with all of the areas of my life to achieve a higher impact in terms of satisfaction, happiness and usefulness?’*
I ask myself this everyday.
Some activities I’ve found that are helping me get more concrete answers on this:
🚶🏽♀️🐕 Walking daily, minimum of an hour. Aside from swimming, this is probably my favorite method of clearing my head. It works better when you can manage to have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting on your phone.
🗓 Blocking off my calendar for high-priority tasks. Checklists are good. Commitment to calendars is better. Don’t be afraid of filling in your personal calendar with things you would like to do. If nothing else, this will force the things you don’t enjoy doing out of your daily life, one spot at a time.
📚 Reading books (fiction, non-fiction) daily, minimum of 30 minutes. It’s a habit that builds up compound interest over time and is, quite frankly, responsible for slowly changing my life. Wrote about this on post #35: Modern Forms of Magic
💸 Investing consistently, and thinking about future investments. This is a new thing for me and the more I wrap my head around this, the more I feel optimistic about the world, in general. I’ll be more comfortable talking about this on future posts…
👩🏽💻 Finding joy on the everyday labor. I love what I do as a UX Designer. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Aside from my day job, I juggle with a lot of things as well: writing, teaching, being a responsible home owner / wife / amateur cook. Make no mistake all of those roles would constantly demand attention and focus. It’s not always fun but I’ve learned to squeeze every pleasure I can get from all of them. I’ve found that to be the single most effective mental model for keeping things going.
🧠 Mind mapping constantly. My favorite tool for this, currently, is FigJam. In UX, this is an exercise and a practice that helps make sense of abstract problems. Equally useful in life as well, in a lot of ways. At the very least, it’ll help you unblock your head and paint you a better picture of what’s really happening.
🎤 Having open and honest conversations about goals and the future, at least once a month. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been vocal, shamelessly vocal about plans, goals and dreams (even absurd pipe dreams from yesteryears). Sure, I’ve occasionally gotten a lot of doubt and unpleasant feedback out of it. Lost track of just how many. But the upside is just phenomenal, and it is a domino effect: Attracting serendipities and self-prophecies through people. Find at least 3 people that can give you a sense of psychological safety and start the conversation. You’ll never know what sort of beans you can plant that can turn into beanstalks.
Curious, do you have any activities / routines that are also helping you think more clearly about this topic? Happy to know.
This post will be continued…
As always, thank you for reading and indulging me,
Book I’m currently reading (and is incapable of putting down):
If you’ve been following David Change / Anthony Bourdain shows on Netflix, you might be familiar with Mind of a Chef. It’s a one-of-a-kind series that is done tastefully well. I was introduced to Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s story which was I think in Season 5, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve been following her career ever since.
Her memoir is a delectably written, engaging and entertaining read filled with lessons & stories from her unconventional childhood all the way to her rise as a top in New York City chef. Highly recommended especially for food writing fans.
Quote I can’t stop thinking about:
“You can’t truly call yourself “peaceful” unless you’re capable of great violence, if you’re not capable of violence you’re not peaceful, you’re harmless” - Unknown, please educate me if you know where this quote came from.
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