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Design the Long Life You Love: Ayse Birsel on PYP 540

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Ayse (“eye-shay”) Birsel is an industrial designer, and quite a famous and successful one at that.

How famous? Let's put it this way: if you collected industrial designer trading cards, her rookie card would be worth millions.

Nicknamed “The Queen of Toilets” for her innovative 1993 design of a combination toilet seat and bidet for the Japanese company TOTO (we're definitely not in Kansas anymore), she has also designed concept cars for Toyota, the Resolve office system for iconic furniture brand Herman Miller, and a potato peeler for Target.

In her 2015 book, Design the Life You Love, Birsel shows us how to apply the principles of good design to the biggest project we'll ever work on: our own lives.

Her second book comes out on December 6, 2022. It's called Design the Long Life You Love, and focuses on the latter half of life. Noting that many people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before, she advocates for being intentional about crafting an existence that honors our values and recognizes the true and enduring sources of joy and meaning in our lives.

In other words, Birsel invites those of us who are looking at fewer years in front of us than behind us to consider what's really important to us, and take proactive steps to maximize those elements and experiences.

As Birsel and her team worked with thousands of older people in Design the Life You Love workshops, certain themes arose over and over again. Rather than seeking, wealth, fame, achievement, youth, and status, the happiest and most fulfilled elders designed lives to prioritize love, purpose, well-being, and friendship.

The lessons from those workshops inform this beautiful new book, which celebrates the choices, agency, and wisdom of people who have a lot of years under their belt.

After conducting this interview, I read Connie Zweig, PhD's The Inner Work of Aging, which turns out to be a perfect companion piece. (And Dr Zweig and I are scheduled to record later this week.) Both works deal with the challenges — and massive opportunities — of approaching aging as a gift rather than a burden or a punishment.

In a world that valorizes youth and spends hundreds of billions of dollars on “anti-aging,” it's refreshing to meet and learn from these wise guides to a full and fulfilled life.

In our conversation, Birsel and I talked about the first generation of “astronauts” — older people who are reinventing aging through their extended years of vigorous life.

We spoke at length about the concept of “same but different,” as it applies to the desires and goals and values of people as we age compared to those in our youth.

And we covered several qualities and strategies that go into a creative and satisfying design process, including optimism, empathy, holistic thinking, collaboration, and the power of “What If?” questions.

If you watch the video of our call, you'll notice that I was inspired by Birsel's joyful and playful spirit to show up wearing a painted butterfly on my face (courtesy of my daughter, practitioner of body arts among many other talents).

If you're planning on getting old, Design the Long Life You Love will be a wise, faithful, and valuable companion on your journey.

Pre-order (or, future person, order) below.


Design the Long Life You Love

Design the Life You Love




Birsel's firm:

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You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.

It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.


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1 comment on “Design the Long Life You Love: Ayse Birsel on PYP 540

  1. Cherie says:

    Excellent podcast. I love the makeup too, tell your daughter she did a great job.
    But, what I am left wondering is what is the book you were reading about the alien impersonating the math professor?

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