making plans

Plan Your Life, 1



plan discover message (2)
repeat boom (2) wicked (2)
logical try/tried prototype
messy missing line of business
end up hear of hear/heard/heard
clear stick (3) not necessarily
design solution work your way
in turn thing (2) know/knew/known
insight look for find/found/found
test (2) based on recommend
reality test out think/thought/thought (2)
aim (2) dream (2) keep trying
fix (2) stuff (2) fashion (2)
sector approach what it’s like
delude let’s say run/ran/run (3)
owner search for speak/spoke/spoken
series hindsight investment
career shift (2) approach (2)
step (3) passion make/made/made
chance cocktail stumble across (2)
supper turn out in other words
claim stall (2) might well be
bias response give/gave/given
expect follow (2) opportunity


Video: Planning Our Your Life



Plan your life. That always seems to be the message, isn’t it?

People asking us about our career, plans or where we plan to be in five year’s time. And meanwhile, the media repeats stories about what they wanted to do: their lives are a series of logical steps.

But while planning is good when the problem needs a solution that is fixed and well-understood — building a career is a different kind of problem.

Firstly, you’re missing information about what jobs are out there. In today’s complex economy, your dream job might be in a line of business that you’ve never even heard of before.

What’s more, you’re missing information about yourself; about what you like and don’t like, and how this might change. Stick to a childhood dream, and you’ll end up doing what you wanted to do twenty or thirty years ago, but not necessarily what you want to do today.

Messy and unclear. Life is what is sometimes called in design thinking, a wicked problem. With a planning problem, you can work your way to a solution in a clear, logical fashion.

But with a wicked problem, you don’t know what you’re looking for, until you find it.

Based on this insight, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in Designing Your Life recommend thinking like a designer, and testing things out — in other words, not planning, but prototyping.

The aim of prototyping is to find out information by just trying stuff. You keep trying new things which might not be the solution, but they help you better understand the problem.

So for example, let’s say all you know is that you have an interest in the food sector. A prototype approach might mean running a market stall, organizing a supper club, or even just speaking to someone in the industry to find out what it’s like.

The idea is you’re getting more information without making too big an investment. You take a small step; say you have a coffee with a restaurant owner. That gives you information. Maybe you hear that the delivery business is booming. You try something else — say a shift in a bar, which in turn gives you more information. Maybe you discover you have a passion for making cocktails.

With this approach, you have more chances of stumbling across that thing that turns out to be what you were looking for, even though you never went searching for it.

Besides, even those people who claim they had a plan might well be deluding themselves with hindsight bias. What they remember as clear logical steps, was in reality a series of responses to unexpected opportunities and chance.

So as you are missing lots of information about the economy, missing lots of information about yourself, because prototyping is a great strategy, and because even those who say they followed a plan probably didn’t for all those reasons. Don’t plan your life.

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1. (Young) people are always told to wander aimlessly in life and in a haphazard manner. True or false?

2. Does this mean we should never make plans?

3. What are two arguments (reasons) against making and sticking to definite plans?

4. What’s the difference between a planning problem and a wicked problem? When should they be used?

5. What is “prototyping”? How does it work? What example did the speaker make?

6. All successful people planned everything in detail and everything went according to their plans. Is this right or wrong?

7. What is the speaker’s take home message or advice?


A. I have been told by teachers, professors, bosses and business people that I need to make plans. Yes or no?

B. Have you and your friends or colleagues planned out your entire career? Did it work out completely as planned?

C. I know people whose lives and careers never followed a plan. True or false?

D. What do you think of the speaker’s suggestion?

E. What might happen in the future?

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