Stanford’s Most Popular Class

How do you design a great career within a great life? In Designing You Life by Joel Evans & Bill Burnett, the authors discuss the art of creating a career that works for you. The book is based on a class that Evans and Burnett taught at Stanford that promised to help students clarify their life trajectory. It was Stanford’s most popular class, the two authors report.


It’s easy to see why. Students blindly go to school because they are told they have to, and end up paying mountains of money for something that they believe will pay off somehow in the future. However, this is a false assumption. Many students, including myself, went to college for the wrong reasons. For me, I went to college as an escape from my hometown. It worked, but at a tremendous cost.

Designing Your Life suggests that you always brainstorm better ways to approach your life and your career. It provides exercises for creative thinking and the creation of new ideas (“ideation”). If you are interested in something, the book says, talk to someone who does what you want to do. If you want to be a journalist, talk to a journalist. If you want to be a botanist, talk to a botanist. After figuring out the landscape, begin prototyping your lifestyle by testing it out in small steps before breaking into a full-blown commitment.

It’s helpful to hear advice like this from trusted experts, since a lot of this should be intuitive. However, our futures are often clouded by our doubts and our malformed ideas of how our lives should be. This makes us indecisive, and ultimately leads us down paths we may not necessarily want to take. I highly recommend Designing Your Life for its clear, concise tools and pointers for creating a functional and well-designed career.

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