Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

1101875321.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Book – I’ve been hearing about Stanford’s life design course for a few years now, one of those bits of news that makes me nostalgic for being in college. Run through Stanford’s Institute of Design, it teaches students how to develop a life they will enjoy to the fullest, using design mindsets and principles. It sounds terrific – and the class has been full every year for nine years.

Well, for those of us who no longer have any hope of getting into a Stanford class, waitlisted or not, the course designers have written a book. It’s not the same – you’ll need to develop your own group of peers, and you’re probably starting from a very different place than a college junior or senior – but it’s a great start. After introducing the basic concepts, the book dives right into exercises you can try (based on one of the five core design principles, bias to action, or as the authors put it: Try Stuff). If you want the full schoolwork experience, you can even download worksheets from their website.

There isn’t a lot of direct advice in this book – the authors aren’t trying to get you to do anything specific with your life, but to think differently about your life and the choices you make about it. Maybe that means making a few small changes so that you appreciate what you have all the more; maybe it means quitting your job and moving to Alaska. Either way, a few hours spent with this book would be a great way to kick off the new year.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful ThingsBook – I listened to the audiobook of Tiny Beautiful Things, which was read by the author, Cheryl Strayed (who also wrote the bestselling memoir Wild). The book is a compilation of articles from her online advice column, “Dear Sugar.” Her readers seek advice on topics ranging from relationships to self-loathing to addiction. Strayed interweaves her own personal experiences in her replies and her emotional availability and perception is what makes this book different from a typical advice column book. Strayed’s unflinching honesty and her interesting perceptions intrigued me. As the story of her personal life unfolds, from her mother’s early death to her experiences with love, drugs and sex, she relates it to the knowledge she gained and its relevance to the issue at hand. I found myself reflecting on the dilemmas of her readers, the issues discussed and their applications to situations in my own life.