Our strategic life path must “have a little help from our friends.” No life is complete without a cast of characters and relationship health, love, and loss must all eventually support our goal. The people that come into our lives fill many of the other archetypes of mentor, adversary, and companion.
By seeking out (and giving our all to) the relationships that we need to collaborate with to achieve our goals, we form a team capable of supplying willpower when our’s is diminished, enlightening us with an idea that takes us to the next milestone, or being a confident guide through a difficult problem.
At the end of the path, the speed at which you arrived will not matter, indeed it may just hinder your ability to gain a transcendent purpose. Shortcuts are not rewarded. Even the attainment of all the milestones on the way to the goal is no guarantee of wisdom, love, or enlightenment; instead, how you journeyed and the way you helped and treated people on your quest will determine its success.
Love design starts with understanding. Late night conversations that develop understanding, shared experiences that challenge preconceived notions are the empathetic elicitation required to get the most personal prototype. Empathy is the key, the ability to take the narrators view, third-person omnipotent, and understand The Other’s experiences from within their shoes.
“…for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Understanding is ongoing. People change and even those closest to you will not react predictably to different situations. AND THAT’S GREAT, why would we want people in stasis? The best that you can do is to always seek to understand by really listening to others and asking yourself, “what would I do if put into a similar situation?”
According to the wonderful mix tapes available from the Stanford d.school, empathy is the process of observing, engaging, and immersing in order to develop insight from human engagement. Human oriented design thinking starts only with the customer in mind, human oriented love design engages your spouse, friends, and family on a deeper level, investigating wants and needs, likes and dislikes.
The next phase in love design, ideation, should keep the relationship fresh. This is about getting crazy creative, doing something fresh and new, but based in the comfort of what you learned from listening and empathy.
And finally, you should experiment — try out some of these crazy ideas. You don’t have to buy all the gear in order to try rock climbing. These are the love design prototypes, the ideas that you start and upon finding mutual enjoyment, add further efforts to.
Maybe after finding a shared love for the outdoors and the “problems” of the rock wall at the local climbing gym, you deepen your experience and buy some gear. As this deliberate practice together becomes more gratifying, the next step might be to share it with others, enter a competition, or take a climbing vacation to the beautiful state of Utah!
Each prototype should be able to be developed into a minimally viable product. That is, if you are happy at the climbing gym and don’t have the money or desire to climb outside, that is fine, so long as this is the product in your relationship that you are each happy with. Too many relationships think they have failed when the don’t like the second prototype and scrap the successful first one — but there is no reason to not get back on that first hobble-horse and try again!
One example of where it took me a long time to get this is in bike riding with my wife. She picked up the sport late in life and enjoyed the exercise of it. I had biked all my life and hate the way it hurts my butt. Still, we went and I enjoyed being outside, together with my wife. That is until she broke her ankle on the bike.
I was there behind her and saw it all — still see it all. We were lucky that the road had not been a busy one, that her crash had not moved her into traffic. I never wanted to ride a bike again.
After years of a path where we each did our healthy activities more or less (and much less than more) on our own — we got back on the bike, but back to where we were comfortable — on trails, where traffic was nonexistent, exercise was available, and we shared an outdoor activity together.
Write a love poem or a love song, I dare you.
Spill your guts. Admit that you are human and that you have caught the bug of giving your heart over to another person.
No real gentleman will tell the naked truth in the presence of the ladies.
— Mark Twain
We are at our best when we give up our inhibitions and try to convey what we truly believe, as if we were speaking the words on our deathbed. It is not about making an attempt to gain favor, but instead to gain authenticity, to become worth loving.
Love must not entreat, or demand. Love must have the strength to become certain within itself. Then it ceases merely to be attracted and begins to attract.
— H. Hesse
Sometimes you don’t get the rose or the thorn, sometimes you get the shaft and have to be mindful that love is a complex interchange of love, loss, and miscommunication.
You love what you love, not what loves you.
— N. Cage in Adaptation