I was a sophomore at Stanford, and I was studying very hard for the midterm in Math 202, with was linear algebra, and I can remember walking into the classroom, after the midterm, and sitting in the bowl-shaped amphitheater of the class, and I remember nervously awaiting to get my midterm back, 'cause I had worked really hard, but it was a very tough subject for me. And, the professor started to mark out the curve on the chalkboard. And, he drew the curve and he started announcing that the lowest grade was a 43, the hightest was an 86, therefore, an A is 76 to 86, and a B is, and I started to raise my hand, because circled on the page in front of me was a 13, meaning that I had the lowest score, not by a small margin, but, actually 1/ of the next lowest score in the class. I decided not to embarrass myself, and then I had to walk out of there realizing that I had completely failed at that midterm. And, it wasn't as though I failed for the wrong reasons, I failed for the right reasons. ...
I had put all the effort in and still failed. And, this was a real lesson for me, because that actually turned out to be one of the most important and best days of my life. What happened next is I had to switch majors. I was trying to be a mechanical engineer, and that wasn't gonna work out, because I wasn't gonna finish math. So, I switched to the closest adjacent major, which was product design. And, two weeks later, I sat down with my new academic advisor, which was a guy by the name of David Kelley, who founded IDEO, and also Stanford's d.school, and I learned the world of product design and design thinking. So, that same failure actually led to the career I have now, and I've actually seen that over and over again in my life. When you fail for the right reasons, so the wrong reasons would've been not trying, not putting in the time, partying too late and not being ready, failing for the right reasons is actually a lesson in, alright, this isn't what you should be doing. When you put the effort in, and you don't have results, that means it's probably a guardrail for the future to avoid things like theoretical math, in my case. So, I'm gonna cover design thinking in short order, and then we'll tell some stories. So, accept, define, empathize, ideate, prototype, this is a five-step version of design thinking, there's a four-step, there's a six-step. As David Kelley says, there's 27 versions of this, it doesn't really matter, they all work together. But, the first step in creative problem solving, in this case, design thinking, is do you have a problem? Do you accept that you have a problem? Or, as David Evans, from Stanford, says, "If the problem you're having is with your problem, "then the problem is your problem." If you don't accept that you have the problem, you can't actually solve for it, so that's the first step. Second step is you have to define what is the nature of your problem. Do you actually know what your real problem is? A lotta times, when we're stuck in life, it probably means you might be solving the wrong problem. We'll keep coming back to that. Then you have to have empathy for whoever, or whatever, you're solving for. So, if you're solving for a customer, for example, you need to be in their shoes. If you solve a problem in front of you from your perspective, that doesn't really solve the problem. You have to be in the shoes of the situation or person you're solving for. I can remember Brendan Boyle, another Stanford professor, he came in my first product design class, actually, this was a few weeks later, and he stood in front of the room, sort of all professorially, and then, he started jumping up and down, he put his arms at his sides, and he started jumping up and down, like a crazy person. And then, he started jumping around the room, and he made a full circle, jumping up and down. And, all of us were sort of whispering to each other, has this guy lost his marbles, what's going on here? And then, he stood and got back professorial, and he said, "Our first challenge involves springs. "If you don't know what it's like to be a spring, "you can't solve for a spring." And, that was a really great lesson in empathy, because you have to be in the shoes of whoever, or what is it you're trying to solve for. Then, and only then, do you actually get to generate ideas. True creative visionaries don't like to wait, they wanna jump right in. But, if they haven't accepted and defined the problem, then you're probably solving the wrong thing. And then, finally, prototype, test, and repeat. So, this is the design thinking process, it's quite simple. I explained it to you in less than a minute. What's always sitting underneath is are we asking and answering the right question? So, what we're gonna cover today, in three module, is three different questions. And, these are three commonly asked questions that I hear often, and, I think, are the wrong questions. The first one, which is this module we're gonna cover now, is how do I fix my weaknesses? This is a commonly asked question in almost every corporate atmosphere. Most people's performance reviews are a list of weaknesses to fix. And, I submit to you that's probably the wrong question. The right question is how do you design for and leverage your native strengths? So, that's the first module we're gonna cover now. Later today, we'll cover another one we hear all the time, which is how do I manage stress, how do I reduce stress? How do I get work-life balance back? I hear this all the time, and the reality is it's not getting any slower. So, a better question, probably, is how do I perform better under greater stress and learn to like it? And then, the last one is, instead of having more years in your life, instead of extending your lifespan, which is a noble, but, sort of, futile effort, a better question might be how do I expand time such that I live more life in my years? How do I reverse the perceived acceleration of time and live summers longer than when I was a kid?