What it is, Why is it

2008, I faced a life-changing event and asked my dad for advice. He suggested keeping myself busy and focused by reading, running, or getting a dog. So, I downloaded the Audible app and listened to audiobooks while running, which helped me get through tough times.

During my job at ExpenseWatch in 2009, I listened to audiobooks about the Great Recession and the subprime crisis. These books helped me understand the psychology behind subprime lending and how it led to the financial market’s collapse. These learnings influenced my work and sparked my interest in understanding how people think, behave, and make decisions.

My first marathon, not a great showing but i finished
My first marathon, not a great showing but i finished

A year later, I ran my first marathon in Chicago and became more interested in psychology and neuroscience, which led me to incorporate books on these topics into my presentations. I focused on design processes, inspiration, lookarounds, and core UX principles to help my colleagues understand the reasoning behind my design decisions.

What is the story behind the books

The books on the bookslide were the pillars around which I began building my thinking on how to meet clients’ requirements. My old boss described my role as designing business to capture the what of what i was doing for our clients.

This one of the early iterations of the book slide
This is one of the early iterations of the book slide c.2011

What I was learning at the time c.2009-2011 was how to incorporate the concepts and learnings into my work. Humans exhibiting behavior, expressing preference, and participating with a brand began to have meaning in the work. I could see topics and content that could influence how and what we would design by understanding what was happening in the brain.

Gradually, the books piled up, the running miles piled up. I began comprehending and applying what I was learning to the work. By work, I mean every aspect, from learning to think, lead, and apply myself. I would defer to my teammates on whether it helped them or was torture. As you can imagine, I tried to apply everything I learned, but the team tolerated my book nerdiness.

The book slide began to permeate every aspect of what I did and how I approached solutions and became embedded in my everyday. Listening and learning are now a solid habit, 20+ books a year, mostly career-related, but I also love history and have healthy 70/30 job-related vs history nerdouts.

Screenshot of the audiobook list from at least 2017-2023
Screenshot of the audio book list from at least 2017-2023

A link here to the audiobook library. There are over 300 books, mostly career-related.

Above is the book list as of the end of 2023; I have added a bunch of 2024 books, but once I finish a bunch, I will add them. I also this site write up short book reports about the books if they are net new learnings. Click around.

I have evolved my storytelling to incorporate more knowledge and learning into doing things. Pitch prep, discovery calls, workshop preps and classes I occasionally teach.

anxiety slide
Human truths are at the core of what design means. Chip Conley is on to something.

Also, between Maslow’s pyramid of actualization and Victor Frankl’s reflections in Man’s Search for Meaning, there are a few more applied understandings they influence in my everyday.

Aspiration to inspiration, via a little maslow and frankl thinking.

So, it is a living, breathing, applied learning. It comes through in the way of working I was part of with the team, making all this meaningful. The work influenced by this thinking, learning, and leading is some of the best work I have ever had the privilege of being part of.

The current book slide


The work of a designer involves addressing various factors that contribute to human perception. By conducting research and gaining a deep understanding of these factors, designers can create effective solutions that account for how people perceive things. A key component of successful design is curiosity, both on the part of the designer and the client.


Humans have evolved biases over millennia that affect conscious thought and perception of the world around them—understanding how the brain operates on sensory inputs and how cognitive biases and heuristics affect design decisions. These books do an excellent job of breaking down various mechanisms in the human mind that influence conscious and unconscious biases. They enumerate them and break down how precisely or not they produce awareness, cognitive load, and ultimately expressed behavior toward or away from experiences encountered.


Human behavior is a complex system evolving to optimize effort and efficiency over all things. Calorie conservation: as our brains evolved, our belief-dependent realities also evolved. Humans bring patterns or intuition to every interaction. How could we better understand and design systems tuned to this without being creepy? This is a significant place where storytelling and narrative can propel a designed experience. When accounting for this in designs, there is emotion, rationalizing, and a certain level of risk.


“Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without recourse to conscious reasoning or needing an explanation.” That is the dictionary definition of intuition, and when thinking about how important it is in designing something compelling and valuable, it’s even more critical. What about those who argue that intuition is subjective and unreliable and that relying solely on intuition could lead to poor decision-making?

This is often the argument made against intuition in design. In books where intuition is covered in depth, the instinctive intrinsic influence of all prior experiences contributes to a moment where a human encounters a designed experience. This is why intuiting where a user is and what they desire and want is a critical ingredient. In one of the books, the authors refer to thinking fast and slow as a way of explaining how executive function in at least humans is a selected trait to operate successfully in the world.

Designing things for these kinds of humans understands the intuition all humans bring to experiences, and reasonable solutions build on and acknowledge human intuition’s role.


The last pillar is unique compared to the others above. Decision-making systems and choice architecture are literally what a design does. The concept of UX is to create the most efficient and effective choice architecture that is intuitive, engaging, compelling, and beautiful. The practice of this in my own life and work has been challenging, but these books have highlighted for my teammates and me the shorthand feel for how all the other pillars inform this one.

Everything we do is a choice, a fundamental concept in design. Crits are always about understanding how a designer made their choices; the basis of nearly all interactions in experience strategy and design is the quality of information that informs every choice. Habit formation, ‘nudges,’ and trillions of lines of code are written daily to influence the choice to support them. Engagement, conversion events, client acquisition, renewed subscriptions, brand A versus brand b, and paywalls are all choices. Like, subscribe, and hit the notification bell.

Finally, the ability to listen to a bunch of audiobooks does not give me any special powers or abilities. Listening at 2x speed to these books has sparked the maximum amount of curiosity and understanding I have ever had in my adult life. Having the opportunity to apply this to my work with the team and clients to some helpful effect has been and will continue to be my life’s passion.

I wrote recently that I don’t know anything but am curious about everything. As you made it down here, I hope one or two of these books are on your list. #keeplistening #keeplearning #keepmoving