life by design

How to Live a Life by Design

Dan asked me if I would be interested in sharing some design or business ideas… He was probably meaning literal, but I am going to get philosophical… So I thought I would blend two areas together, which gives…  Life by Design!

What do I know about design?

I am a 3D CAD mechanical designer by trade, call it virtual Mechano if you will. I have (mostly) been a drafty since ’98 when I graduated TAFE with a diploma of engineering. I had no Idea what I wanted to be/do in high-school, I was good at tech-drawing, maths & physics, so mechanical engineering seemed the best fit. I just went along with it because Dad insisted on me getting some sort of further education.

Straight out of TAFE I was lucky to be picked up by a small but versatile engineering company that did just about anything. I was their only dedicated drafty so the learning curve was STEEP!

I have about 18 years design experience, doing all sorts of shit from plastic moulded parts (my very first project), TAB ticket boxing machines, Pick’n’place robots, Jigs n fixtures, Sheds, Semi trailers (lots of them), Motor bodies, Dome shelters, Harvester Attachments, Grain carts, and shitloads more….

You could say that I know the design process pretty well… The whole point of engineering is to be able to do for $1 what someone else can do for $2 (think 80/20).

What do I know about life?

Not enough! But I have been through the ringer a few times! Married twice, divorced once (hopefully never again… that shit is expensive), attempted suicide once on my 21st birthday – I obviously fucked that up because I am still here - and contemplated it for a second time in 2014.

The fucked thing was, on paper, I had it all… high paying job, nicely renovated house, lovely supportive wife, 2 kids, 2 cars, 2 cats…

Yet I was still severely depressed and suicidal. Maybe it was the cats, I don’t know…

As the movie title goes, I was ‘Fat,(141kg) Sick (at the drop of a hat) and Nearly Dead (suicidal)’. Fortunately, after years of medications, we finally found a holistic approach to beat my depression, anxiety and stress - Fountainhead retreat in QLD. It worked VERY well!

Since then I have never been healthier and happier!  I am now 114kg (loss of 27kg). I rarely have blue days, and if I do it is usually short lived thanks to new info, tools & techniques. I have two businesses – one designing (bread and butter self-employment), the other business helping others overcome stress, depression and anxiety. Since 2014 my learning curve has shot off once again, studying a diploma of business with ‘The Entourage’ and study a ton of other interests. I have also written a book to help others in a similar situation, which has been a heck of a learning curve in itself!

Do I have it all sorted? Heck no! But I do have a few insights into how to live a better, happier life.

How do we design a better product, life or business?

The process is much the same for each!

1.       Identify the problem(s).

Sometimes the hardest thing is to identify (admit) that there is actually a problem. In our own eyes we all try the best we can with what we have… sometimes that isn’t enough. Often it’s the feedback of a third party (doctor, partner, family, friends, lawyer, etc) that alerts us to the fact that ‘shit aint right’, ‘there’s gotta be a better way’ or ‘WTF?’

2.       Define the problem.

So we have a problem, now we have to get real, and actually look at it... Oh maaaan, can’t we just ignore that shit?… No, deal with it punk, or it could cost you big time!

What are our current stats related to that problem? Weight? Fitness? Ailments/symptoms? Current outputs? Etc.

What is the problem costing me? Time, Money, Happiness, Quality of life, Quality of relationships, etc.

For health related matters check ‘The Basix’ and see where you are weak and where you are strong, as you need to build all six equally:

a)       Choice, Decision & Commitment
b)      Goals, Habits & Growth
c)       Thoughts & Beliefs
d)      Food
e)      Exercise
f)       Peace of mind

3.       Define the desired outcomes.

Ok so how does our redesigned life ideally look? What do we want to be/do/have/perform/experience/improve? Be as definite as possible with

Probably even more importantly… How do I want to feel? Strong, light, agile, healthy, virile, happy, rich, relaxed, whatever…

Then define your why? Write one theme statement that wraps it all up into one sentence and burn that into your brain.

4.       Define a rough budget.

What am I willing to give to get what I want? Time, money, effort, less sleep, anything?  Get very clear about this, because it defines your likelihood of following through. Is it realistic or just bullshit? Because if it’s not realistic your brain calls bullshit and quits before you even get started – ‘Fark that’ it says.

5.       Gather ALL of the relevant information.

Go to the relevant expert and get a checkup (Doctor, Accountant, Lawyer, Personal trainer, etc) get a baseline to see what you are working with and if there are any constraints that you must work around/within.

6.       Brainstorming ideas

Preferrably with someone else, come up with as many ideas as possible, at first they don’t need to be feasible, just smash out as many as you can.

Then, when you feel like you have run out of ideas, look to see if you can cross-pollinate any of those ideas into new ideas

Then get realistic and remove any ideas that are obviously not feasible.

7.       Rough out a concept within constraints.

With your shortlist of ideas, refine by looking at specifics

a) Put all of the constraints in place. Time, cost/cash/flow, room, availability, etc.

b) Look at any ‘off-the shelf’ solutions – mechanisms, courses, groups, trainings, procedures, methods, etc. Then assess if they will cover all bases or if more is needed.

c) Fill in the rest. Come up with the remaining solutions, connectors, pieces, angles, bits etc.

8.       Rough costing

Then figure out what it’s all going to roughly cost (time, money, effort, relationships etc). Add it all up including an estimate for the solutions you have to come up with.

9.       Feasibility check

Go back to your original budget, check your rough costing, and see if it is still worthwhile or does your brain say ‘Fark that!’? The solution has to be realistic. You may need to stretch the budget, but make sure you can comfortably afford the extra costs/demands.

10.   Refine your design with all the sticky details

Get real specific on all details and ensure you can make the solution work! Remember ‘The Devil is in the Detail’ and this is often where the costs blow out if you aren’t careful!

11.       Final Costing & Feasibility.

Still on track/budget?

12.       Details, procedures & documentation.

Before you start it can be good to document the process thus far, or what lies ahead, as this aids in learning, education, feedback, building following/audience.

Detail the plan ahead ready for execution.

13.       Procurement & execution.

You now have a rock solid plan of how to get from A to B. It is time to commit! Remember the saying ‘99% commitment is a bitch, 100% commitment is a breeze!’ because with 100% commitment.

Now execute your plan with 100% commitment.

14.       Manufacture & Assembly.

Now you get organised, shit is flying left and right, the key here is to keep close tabs on what is going on! Make sure you have systems in place with checks and balances to ensure things are where they should be and progress is on schedule/plan.

15.       Feedback & iteration.

You think you’re finished? Realistically you’ve only just begun. “WTF? What drugs you on man? That was fucking hard work and you think we’ve only just begun?”

Yep, now you have a heap of information of what worked, what didn’t, what could have been done better, and what is spot on. Now it is time to feed-back that information into the design for next time.

The thing is with anything of great value there is almost always a next time, a maintenance procedure, an upkeep, another customer who wants the same, whatever… chances are you need to either keep going or do it again to keep getting better. CANI = Constant And Never-ending Improvement.

Chances are if you do this step properly, next time around will be a breeze, you know what you’re doing, you already have a revised plan and shit will go a LOT smoother.

So what do you think?

Is this accurate?  Can you live your life by design? Or is it a total crock of shit? I would love to hear your thoughts, tweaks or objections. Hit me back and let me know.

‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!’

About The Author

Ian Schell

Ian is a machine designer who has fought a long-standing battle with depression and won. Ian's vision is simple: 'Create a better world through growth, progress and innovation'.


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    June 29, 2017

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  • Ian Schell

    June 30, 2017

    Glad you enjoyed the article! I hope it makes a real difference in your life! Much love champ!

  • Ian Schell

    June 30, 2017

    Thank you. I constantly live this process, both in work and in life. I always think CANI – Constant And Never-ending Improvement. Lately I have been applying this to my ‘soul-work’ really trying to listen and honour how I feel. When I ignore that it creates pain.

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