19 JANUARY 2022

How to design a life

Wisdom-flow through podcasts, self-authoring and dreaming without fear

As cliché as it might be to say this, it is beautiful to step back, every once in awhile, to realise how powerful a reliable internet connection can be in unlocking one’s access to information.

Information in such abundant quantity and wide-ranging quality, that the focus on ‘what should I search for?’ is important but so is stopping to ask the question of ‘what should I discard or ignore?’ There is always going to be too much information for a single individual to make sense of, because curation is not the point of the network.

It is due to this overflow or unrestricted addition of information onto the internet that creates the additional work that is required to shape and hone in the raw material so that it can actually become useful.

It is important not to get intimidated by the overflow of information and to continue to ask ‘what should I discard?’ while seeking out ‘what should I search for?’

There is no spoon-feeding feature that is inherent on the internet, any form of curation goes through a middleman and this is fine, but realise that this is a filter.

Wisdom flow

One particular medium I’d like to touch on is podcasting, with the typical format being long-form conversations via audio, video or both. The medium has been around for quite awhile, starting in the early 2000s with the proliferation in portable digital audio devices. I had found podcasting for myself much, much later in 2017 after going on a deliberate search for something more than just listening to music during the daily commutes to-and-from my job at the time.

In seeking out people to listen to, the process was pretty serendipitous and the focus was mainly on finding discussion topics that were relevant and that I was curious about. The podcasters I had found early on were people like The Tim Ferriss Show, The Rich Roll Podcast, The Knowledge Project, The Joe Rogan Experience, Finding Mastery by Michael Gervais and Jocko Podcast.

I found that, not only were the podcasts entertaining for the daily commutes, but there would more often than not be ‘aha moments’ — when I would gain a fresh insight to something I had been thinking about or learn something new that I could continue working on after. Podcasting to me became all about learning, and it was incredible having the ability to ‘learn anywhere and anytime’, particularly useful for the many moments I would be doing mundane things or working with my hands.

I have always preferred audio-only because it seems to create an almost surreal feeling of being ‘a fly on the wall’ where these conversations are happening; there is something about witnessing a visual recording that creates a barrier, of no longer being in the same room and instead feeling like an external observer.

It was, and continues to be, all free! All you need is an internet connection and a way to access the podcast material itself, be it on YouTube or through a dedicated application. The ability to listen in to a seemingly-infinite guestlist of interesting people from all around the world — this is crazy.

Some of my all-time favourites are below, take what you wish:

Lex Fridman Podcast:

Jocko Podcast:

Finding Mastery:

The Tim Ferriss Show:

The Rich Roll Podcast:

Self authoring

A couple days ago, I was listening to Debbie Millman on the Tim Ferriss Show.

“Debbie’s done it all. Her artwork has been exhibited around the world. She’s designed everything from wrapping paper to beach towels, greeting cards to playing cards, notebooks to t-shirts, and Star Wars merchandise to global Burger King rebrands.”

Having not heard about the guest before, it was the title of this particular episode that caught my ears. It was titled ‘How to design a life’.

The ‘aha moment’ from the 1 hour and 50 minute long conversation is what I will go into further detail here. To the spirit of the title of the conversation, Millman spoke about the importance of self-authoring “a 10-year plan for a remarkable life” — while this exercise is similar to what I had learnt previously from Jordan Peterson, I really appreciated how effortless it was to get started. This is how she described the process.

Imagine what your life could be, if you could do anything you want without a fear of failure.

It is January 2032. What does your day look like, from the minute you get up in the morning to the minute you tuck yourself back into bed at the end?

Start writing this down, take your time, do not edit yourself and dream without any fear.

Then in a year’s time, come back to it and see what has changed for you in your life.

Putting money where my mouth is

I sat down yesterday morning and wrote ‘how to design a life’ on the top of a page and a few of the prompts from above, and then just waited to see what happened.

Getting over the cold start of staring at the blank page was critical, so I just started writing in detail what would I like to get up to in the first few waking moments of 18 January, 2032, and then the floodgates opened up.

As much as I could share a screenshot of what I had eventually written down as fuel for inspiration, I do not think the personal and particular details matter as much as sitting down, doing the exercise and just seeing what happens. Maybe there might be 10 pages or just 1, but I would wager that you would have more to say than you think.

In my previous ‘Life Warriors’ post, I did some exploratory work along the same tracks by asking the question of ‘what would a great life look like?’. Yet I feel like the nature of this exercise has revealed even more of what I had not seen, through considering the smaller, finer details of what ‘a day in the life’ would look and feel like.

It is pure magic, and I hope you get to try it out at some point. If you do, I’d love to hear how you went.

Alice looked round her in great surprise. ‘Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!’

‘Of course it is,’ said the Queen, ‘what would you have it?’

‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’

‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’

- Lewis Carroll