Ayse Birsel: If Your life is Your Biggest Project, Why Not Design it? (Full Transcript)

And so I thought of my hero, Rowena Reed Kostellow. I met her when I went to Pratt Institute to do my master’s and I was 20 years old, she was 80 years old and we became friends. And she taught me how to design in three-dimensional space. She had a unique methodology to teach it. She also taught me how to live in New York, how to shop for food at Dean & Deluca, the beauty of living in a loft, she also suggested that I should get a personal shopper. That’s probably the only advice I didn’t listen to.

But Rowena reminded me of my values. Our heroes connect us with our values. And our values are things like constant evolution and having your own voice. Longevity, generosity, curiosity, fearlessly pursuing your dreams and being the best at what you love.

Our values are the foundation of our life, which brings us to our third step: reconstruction, which is the other side of deconstruction, putting it back together again, based on our values, on things that matter to us. So I put my life back together again as a tree. My foundation, my roots were in Turkey, that’s where I grew up. And then my trunk, where I became visible, that’s New York, that’s where I had my products, my process, and it made me realize that my future is the world, that if I’m a tree I should bear fruit and I should have seeds, and suddenly this idea of teaching other people to think about their life with creativity, with a creative process, started to make sense to me. Which brings us to thinking differently.

What I was doing was thinking differently about the same things and realizing for the first time that design can transform lives, even without the intermediary of products, and that this is for everyone, we can all be designers of our life.

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Expression, our fourth step, is giving form to our idea. If I’m designing a chair, I’ll sketch it, I’ll make a model, I’ll write about it, I’ll visualize it to make it happen. Same thing with our lives: if we can visualize the life we want to live, we can make it happen. And Stef Stefan from Amsterdam expresses her life as the big bird; she stands tall, she’s gentle, she’s strong, and this director of leadership development sees himself as the Zen master of his garden, working around stones, hard stones, that he cannot move.

And this young father who’s a strategist in New York is the center of his life tree, with projects dotting every ring from here to 2050 on a life based on his values. And my graduate student at SVA, he’s Tintin. He is pioneering, loyal and steadfast and brave. And I, I am Katy Perry of Design the Life You Love. Why Katy Perry? You have to remember I have two girls.

When they were younger, we watched Katy Perry’s documentary together. And I fell in love with how Katy Perry connects with young people and their parents through the beauty of her music and I thought, “That’s what I want to do, I want to connect with young people who have their whole life in front of them and show them you can design your life.” And I want to connect with their parents, with you, and show you you can redesign your life. And here we are, I’m on tour, at Palais des Congrès, with an amazing audience, you. This is my Katy Perry moment. Thank you!

Now more than ever before, we need to think about our life differently. I grew up in Turkey and Bibi grew up in Senegal. We grew up in very different places, but our parents gave us a very similar roadmap. They said: “Go to school, work hard, find a job, get married, have children.” That was the definition of a good life.

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But today, I don’t have that roadmap to give to my children. Things are changing so fast and so dramatically, our kids live in a different world. There are no road maps and that’s an incredible challenge. But every challenge is an opportunity when you think creatively. There are no roadmaps, so create your own roadmap.

Imagine your life with creativity, playfully, with optimism. I cannot give my children a roadmap, but I can share with them how to apply a creative process to their lives to approach problems with creativity and courage. And I can share that with you as well. So I have found my voice. Design your life, design an original life, a life that looks like you, that feels like you, that even smells like you, an original life that is coherent with your values.

Design your life and then go live it. Thank you.

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