For five years, I’ve chased down and shared stories with you of Work Life Play. I’ve knocked on strangers doors, cold called CEO’s, drug microphones through airport screenings, interviewed mountaineers, best-selling authors, a sea kayaking guide on the sea shores of Scotland, mommy bloggers, ultra runners, triathletes, entrepreneurs and buddies on road trips.
Every word I’ve written and every podcast I’ve released has beat the drum of these mantras…
Create a life that matters to you.
The narrative we tell ourselves frames our life.
Work can’t be about survival.
Capitalize on the small margins of your life, they add up.
Learn to play.
Love the people that you’re with.
Five years later, I know I’m onto something.
Meet Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, co-authors of the Stanford course turned book providing a methodology to Designing Your Life: How to build a well-lived, joyful life. Our conversation provided me a meaningful crescendo to my two hundred and forty field reports here on Work Life Play. This book is new quantifiable proof to my work.
Podcast Highlights from Designing Your Life
Your life can be designed, created, authored, shaped and reshaped. Bill and Dave have initiated over 2,000 Stanford students in their life design methodology. Their widely popular Stanford class helps students answer key life questions like; What they want to do, Whom they want to grow into, and How to create a life they love.
- Everbody gets stuck, start where you are
- Learn how problem solving used in product design can be applied to designing your life
- The idea of Work-Life balance is totally wrong and approaches the problem with a win-lose outcome
- Understand why your life needs a dashboard in five categories: Work, Life, Play, and Health & Love
- Dysfunctional beliefs require Reframed Thinking in order to Design Your Life
- You’re never too late to Design Your Life
- Watch Designing Your Life trailer here
Friends. Welcome to work life play. I'm your host, Aaron McHugh. I'm here to help you find work. You love, learn to play live. Adventurously become curious and live your life with joy and purpose. Ready? Set, go. Today's podcast. I interview two guys, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. And I want to tell you about their work before we get into the interview.
The title of their book that they came out with just the last few weeks is called “Designing Your Life- How to build a well-lived joyful life”. These guys live in the world of academia, they are two professors at Stanford university and they started teaching this course a number of years ago. And it turns out it's one of the most popular courses there at Stanford. And then one of the base premises that they start with is this idea of design that you can design and create as an iterative, ongoing process, a life and work and play and health and relationships that you want that are meaningful to you so that you can experience a well lived life and, and a lot more joy and satisfaction.
Bill and Dave, they do teach one day courses multi-day courses. They do have a bunch of exercises. You can take here as a result of this book for designing your life and they go through and help you dashboard those key categories. So to hear these guys have been running thousands of students through this course, there at Stanford, they've had, as they said, 10,000 conversations about how to design your life. And the idea that the categories of worklife play are on their dashboard. And then they subset out life and relationships as additional categories. I have included those in my writing and work underneath life as a segment of as I go through and say, here's your health emotionally and spiritually, and then here's your relationships. And so it's super affirming in that is I'm onto something. And five years later, 240 blog posts and 85 podcast episodes. I'm super convinced that I'm on to something good. And you're along for the ride with me.
So Bill and Dave, thank you. And I cannot wait to attempt to crash in on one of your courses there, So I've got the book here. I've started underlining it. I'm moving my way through. This one to me is uniquely the crafted for this idea of design. That if you, actually thought of your life as you're in charge and you get to author it and you had to design it and you get to make it what you want it to be. And this is like, some of these are nuances. Some of these are tiny little turns of the, and some of these are total course corrections and total reboots like my wife and I have been through this last 18 months.
Welcome to the work-life play podcast. Really excited you're here. And Dave and Bill, I think this is going to be a fun conversation. So welcome. Who wants to go first and how can he kind of kick us off and tell us about the launch of this book, but then take us through how you, how you got from Stanford to now being guys that are helping people architect their life.
Dave Evans :
In 2007, I had already been teaching the class over at UC Berkeley actually called how to find your vocation subtitled is your calling calling going after the same issues from a different point of view Bill and I have known each other in business off and on for a long time and knew lots of people in common. And I heard he got this great new job as the executive director of the design program at Stanford, which I was very familiar having taken Emmy myself, having my son being design and having worked with designers for years in Silicon Valley. So we had lunch and they said, Hey, there's this cool thing I've been doing? And I think your design students might really like it. And I sort of thought we'd be chatting about this and sort of an interesting way off and on for six months to a year.
And Bill immediately said, I totally get it. We should still do this right away. Let's prototype it this summer. We'll launch it in the fall. And we did. We've been teaching for nine years now. And all along the way, when we describe what we do, people say, can I take the class? And unfortunately, if you're not one of the 16,000 students at Stanford up until tomorrow, the answer has been, no, we wrote the book because everybody says, can I take the class and the fastest way to get these tools in everybody's hands is with this really portable thing.
That was my first question to you when I was reading through and doing some research on you guys and your backgrounds and reading up on what you teach. I thought the same thing as like, okay, how can I scheme to do a drop in at least to sit in on a session? So, all right, so this is nine years ago. You guys sit down and have a conversation. You decide you're going to help architect and create help people create their lives back up though. You guys both being career designers and creating products and companies, how did that prepare you to have then a tools and be a guide for other people? How they, whether it was vocation is where you started. How did you make that transition? Because I don't find that to be true often, especially with engineers or creative types. They're not necessarily applying that to life also. So that's a really curious fact I'd love to hear more about.
Bill Burnett :
I went to Stanford and I happened to get lucky and find this design program, which is a unique combination of engineering, design, psychology anthropology. It's a very flexible system and Stanford has been teaching design since the sixties this way. It's really very unique. And now I have a chance to run the programs. I've been running it for about 10 years, but, you know, I started out as a designer and it was sort of intuitively finding my way around, but I didn't really know what I was doing. I think Dave also got terrible advice when he was in college about what to do next. And so, you know, when we, when we got together in 2007, I had been in lots and lots of office hours with my students. And we had been talking about, you know, Hey, life is just a design. You can design your way forward. You don't try to plan stuff, just build it.
David and I got together, we started thinking, okay, well this design thinking, which is a lot of people think of design is some kind of a craft or an art form, right? Where you're a graphic designer, making beautiful graphics or an industrial designer, make them beautiful objects. The Stanford program is really different. It's all about this methodology of innovation. And we teach it for, to our students when they go off to Google and Apple and Facebook and all these places in the Valley and elsewhere. And they do innovation in products and services. And this is the first time I think anybody's applied this methodology to lives, but it's the same. It's the same problem. Lives are a wicked problem. You can't predict the future. It can't really plan because things change too quickly. So our idea was, I guess our big idea was let's apply design thinking, which starts with empathy and, you know, redefine the problem in prototypes a lot to the wicked problem with designing your life. And in addition to it works really well. Product design students, we found that lots and lots of students. We not teach it to everybody on the campus. All the students want to learn a little design, wanna learn it to be a little more creative and they love applying it to the interesting problem of their own lives.
When you talk about rapid prototyping Bill as the listener, as you're thinking through, so these guys have worked for designing great companies. Like you guys have been part of Apple. And I see here from, you know, back in the day, even Hasbro star Wars action figures, too, it looks like Dave, you were part of actually designing one of the first Apple mouses. Is that right?
Dave Evans :
I was the world's first mouse product manager in 1980.
I love it. So listeners, as you're listening to that, what that means is these guys are really highly qualified to talk about what design looks like from an engineering standpoint or creativity design, but then to make this then connection, it sounds like early on, then this methodology of innovation, as you begin to apply it to life, can you walk us through some of the base principles of where do you start? So as someone picks up, the book begins reading it, where are you going to walk them through? What's the starting place for a launch to begin to design your life and apply these innovation principles?
Dave Evans :
Well, first quick comment, just about the whole idea of applying design theory to design your life and geo, why aren't people doing that? It's actually more shocking to me that people have been doing it the way they have instead of applying design theory, the way we teach design and the way we applied design, it's all an empirical process of, you know, going out in the world and iterating prototypes to find out what really works and then keep doing that over and over again, until you get to a really worthwhile solution, you've got to go actually try stuff. Can't just sit there and think it up in a vacuum. So that is such a natural act in life does not mean you're going to what I want to do with my life. And that was on the first corporate culture committee at Apple way back when as well and help co-write the matter festival over electronic arts.
And when we started that company, I been watching organizations, products figure out how to build the place that would create the work environment that would nurture people. And it was all empirical. It's all collaboration with people trying stuff out, getting feedback from others. That's the way wives. And that's what we give in groups of lives called companies really do get built. So it seems like an incredibly natural act to us to do it this way. Why do people try to do it other ways? It was more astonishing to me. The person that we talk about is building your compass. Like the first question, where am I coming from? So we have people briefly write what we call a work view, your manifesto, good work is it's not a job description. It's not, I want a corner office. You know, what it is, is work for, you know, fulfill what has worked for a change in the world has worked for me.
What's worked for, you know, so you can answer the question. Does this work for me? Then the second thing is you write what we call a life view, which is a summary of your most important values, your worldview, how you see the big picture. So you see the big picture of the world into the pretty big picture of your own life. And then those things give you the compass. So you can answer the question. Does this fit me? Does this not fit me? That's probably step number one. And then you get to know what you're really good at what you really like. We have another tool for that. Bill can talk about that.
Bill Burnett :
So it turns out if you look at the positive psychology folks like Martin Seligman and check that my high tech about 12, really taking, becoming aware of what works for you and what doesn't a day to day basis is a really helpful thing.
And it's pretty much like a designer would take it, but with journal his observations, his or her observations about people use a certain kind of product. We say, Hey, do a journal. We call it a good time journal where you notice what happened during the week or during the day. And then you also register, you know, did that give you energy or take energy away? And how did you feel about it? And just, just the act of noticing these things tends to make you more aware of what's working for you. And it kind of comes from this whole idea that we've got, the mindsets of a designer, our curiosity, and a bias to action and radical collaboration, and then reframing problems that that's our that's our big pitch in the book is you can refrain all of these problems and come up with a new way to solve them. And then you mentioned rapid prototyping, and most people think it's like 3D printing or something. The prototypes in life design are really a different thing.
Dave Evans :
They come in two forms, a conversation or an experience. What would involve getting out there in the world? You can prototype things like finding out people's story. You're not asking for a job. You're not asking for money. And you're just asking for the story because you and the other people you're looking for share the common interest of you, both think their lives are fascinating. People happy to talk about. What's interesting to them. And usually if you schedule a 30 minute coffee, you know, we'd wanted to talk with you. So Aaron talks about putting together this podcast. Why didn't you pick this lifestyle? Why is that so important to you? What's on the mind of your readers. That's probably something that you're pretty good at talking about. That's an easy conversation to get. It opens up lots of opportunity. And then maybe you don't want to step all the way into trying something out, set the bar low, make the experiences small. So you can find out what it's really like. And you sneak up on your future.
So give me specifics when we talk about, so I've been, I feel a little bit disadvantaged because I'd rather just listen right now than actually do my job here and interview you so I could just sponge. So I'm going to try and do both and toggle between the two. But what I like is, as you're talking about here in, in companies are building products. Prototyping is one of the things we try. We try things to see if it works. So what is a practical specific example and pick a story that you could tell from any of these 9,000 students that you've run through over these nine years. And tell us a story about how someone prototyped a like part of his lifestyle design to figure out what might work, what might not work
Dave Evans :
Well, the first part of that is what, what, what do I promise that prototype is to ask them curiosity. And most people are prototyping the plan, but we want to make sure that as the key thing for us is we don't think there is a plan. We think there are the plans you can't design your life before you do that. You actually have to figure out how many lives you're designing.
We really believe in all of our anecdotal evidence makes this entirely clear. There is more alive mist and every single one of us, then he single lifetime permits us to express for there's more than one of you in there.
How many lives are you? You know, if you had to actually get to the, to run in parallel universes and you could have concurrent consciousness across them, how many parallel lives would you be able to interestingly lead? And we actually asked bit to answer that question. And on average, you know, kind of the numbers we get are somewhere between three and eight, you know, I mean, we'll occasionally your people say one, mostly people say, you know, three or more, sometimes they'll say a thousand, you know, but there's clearly more than one. Well, there's more than one. I can't plan the one perfect life. There's not a single best life. That's one of the great dysfunctional beliefs we try to get rid of dysfunctional beliefs are a big problem that we kind of help people reframe. And if you found your single passion, have you found out, asked you we think those are the wrong questions because most people don't have a single passion or even don't know what they are. So that's not a good place to start. And there's more than one of you. So if this, this fear of my really doing exactly the right thing, we see a lot of people burdened by that necessarily because there is no exactly right things. There's a bunch of things and they're not even comparable, you know?
You're starting then from a very different beginning premise, which is one, there is no right answer to, there is no one version, the best version of you.
Bill Burnett :
You never pick your first idea. You brainstorm lots and lots of ideas. When we were doing the first laptop spat and Apple, when Dave was working on the mouse team, know, built hundreds and hundreds of prototypes, and there's lots of good ideas. You might end up selecting one or the other based on some specific characteristic or fact in your life, but never start with just one idea or there's no really debilitating notion to boy, if I don't figure out the one perfect thing I'm screwed or I'm too late or terrible.
I'm curious as Stanford university students are coming in I'm gonna make an assumption here that they're, they're highly pliable in terms of their, their age, you know, their life season that they're in. Although they've probably inherited a lot of thinking and the way the world works before they walk in the door with you guys. My guess is in being pliable, they're, they're still pretty moldable and curious and interested in exploring these, this, these alternative suggestions. You guys are making a strong advocacy for a different path. How, how true is that also for when you go into companies and you're doing this with people that are, you know, 40, 50, 60 years old, are they any less pliable or is that is my, is my theory there flawed in the first place and that everybody's pliable if they just choose to be, so talk us through that, your experiences with it.
Dave Evans :
Yeah. I mean, I don't know if the theory is flawed or not. I think our experience does, everybody gets stuck and they get stuck at different points at different ages. When you're coming out of college, you're stuck because you're like, Oh my God, look at all this stuff I could do. And I don't know which one I want to pick. We call it the decision explosion, right? Because in college, things were pretty organized. All you do is pick a major and you know, do it in life. There's all these other things. When you're in your thirties and forties, you know, you're like, wow, that first career, I'm not as excited as I thought it would be. I might need to pivot, or I want to change it when you're in your fifties and sixties. And you're thinking about an Encore career or moving from the moneymaking to the meaning making side of your life, you're just stuck.
And you're just stuck with different problems. So I think once we try to uncover these dysfunctional beliefs, then we try to reframe them. So people have some place to go, you know, with some new solutions. And then we just have them brainstorm lots of solutions. We have them do at least three life plans. We call them Odyssey plan before they, before we even allowed them to start thinking about, you know, exactly what's next. If you're in your thirties and forties, that family is probably a big issue, right? When you're in your fifties and sixties, then, you know, doing something meaningful is a big issue. It should just, I think everybody can be pliable or, or, or creative. If like, if I'll, I'll make that substitution for, to create it, but you do have to kind of turn it on to them and get them to feel confident that they can, that they can do these things.
And we have some evidence in the studies that people have done on the class that it does increase people's ability to ideate, and it does lower their they're attending to their anxieties around these questions. Aaron I'll comment on there. Cause it's really easy to imagine that this is different at different stages of life. And two things that are not different by stage of life is first of all, you know, people sell. Is there a point when this is on your last question, it just really doesn't come up anymore. Well, at what age does someone answer the question? You know, are you interested in the rest of your life? And you go, nah, I'm just waiting to die.
We're doing a seminar for a bunch of stuff for a couple of hundred Stanford alumni right here in downtown New York, tonight that is scanned over the attendees. There are, there's somebody from the class of 61 coming tonight. She's in her late eighties and she's, she's coming to downtown New York on a, on a rainy day to design the rest of her life. Everybody seems to think the rest of their lives pretty interesting to them. You know, the question of, you know, what, what do I, how do I figure out what to do with the rest of my one wild and precious life? You know, that question that the poets has puts before us, Mary Oliver, you know, everybody thinks it's pretty cool. And secondly, when I do that exercise, how many lives are you or build us? How many lives are you? We don't get smaller numbers from older people. In fact, in my experience, we oftentimes get bigger.
When you have some real lived experience and your now how, how demanding life is and how much constraint is required to get anything done. You know, you're, you're, you know, I mean, are you running 42 different podcasts and three TV shows and a little, you know three wheel card startup on the side, Aaron, are you doing all those things right now? You probably aren't, you know, most realize in order to get something done, have to focus pretty tightly. And you realize, man, I, I have a lot more interests than one really lived life allowed to occur at a time. So we get, you know, lots of people realize that there's not just one of them. And the reason we come at it this way. So we have a different starting point. We do have a different starting point, but not because we walked in ideologically said, well, here's where we're coming from.
And we're going to preach differently than all the other guys. That's not how we started it. We did design theory on designing our design class and we talked to a bunch of people and we, you know, Bill and I, by that time together between my consulting client work and Bill Bill's 25 years of teaching at Stanford, I mean, we have been in one on ones probably 10,000 times literally. And, you know, we simply heard from people where they were coming from. So we described, you know, the default orientation to help people address this question from what we heard from real people's lives, it's human centered design. And we started with the way the humans, we talked to describe what their human experience was.
So I love it. So I wrote down a default orientation. I think that's a really key phrase also, as well as your dysfunctional beliefs. So would you agree, is it true from these 10,000 conversations that you've had, that all of us have a default orientation, that's probably slightly askew from what it should be. And then secondly, that all of us have some level of dysfunctional not useful beliefs. And that's a lot of what this lifestyle design piece is helping you reorient and recalibrate redefine. Is that true?
Dave Evans :
Yeah, I think, I think you've got it pretty much, right. I mean, what we find is when we talk to people, they've sort of either, either their mom or their dad or uncle Ned has told them, Hey, this is the way it goes. And so they're, they're sort of struggling with trying to figure out is that the way it's going to go for me? You know? And there's a bunch of stuff in the culture like, Hey, you know, you're supposed to have it figured out by 30, if you don't have it figured out by 30, which in my era was 25. But if you don't have it figured out by 30 you're, you're, you're late and you know, high dude and you're behind. So they're all these people here in the culture, or they hear from friends that aren't useful. And you know, somewhere I'll go.
The one that really tells me is somewhere along the line in school or something, somebody said, Oh, you know, you, you're not creative or you're not an artist, or you can't say, or you can't, you know, the creative people are over there. And you're over here with the kids who can do math or something like that. And people, people had their creativity stopped off and it's really sad and it's not true. Everyone is creative. And so part of, part of our reframes and Arctic kind of overcoming these, these myths are these dysfunctional beliefs that you just, you heard them, you sort of accepted them without really thinking about it. They're really kind of keeping you stuck. And once you reframe them and you start looking at the world and your life and jobs a different way, all of a sudden you feel like, Hey, wait a minute, I've got all sorts of options here.
What am I, what am I thinking? I'm not too late. Are you too late? If you change careers in your forties? I mean, we've talked to, there's an example of a, of a good friend of ours who was a lawyer who was very successful lawyer and decided I didn't want to do that anymore. And pivoted and, you know, became a very successful educator and then is now in our writer and, and you know, kind of helping educate people with different ways. So, you know, anyone can change. You're changing your, your fifties and your seventies. I mean, just coming to the thing tonight in her eighties, Peter. Yeah, that'll be really cool. If you've viewed, you must friends with this, right. People just have these ideas. And if you say, Hey, where did the idea that you're supposed to have? I'll pick it up at 30, come from, they'll go. I don't know. Everybody knows that. And we'll go, what do you mean? Everybody knows that we, you know, we were at Stanford, you gotta have evidence. The evidence is plus 20% of the people have a passion. This is work from building men at the center for the study of adolescent. The evidence is that people that are used to Gallop poll, 87% of the people in the United States are disengaged or highly disengaged at work.
It's terrible. So that's the evidence, that's what we're working with. And that's what we're trying to kind of help people. You know, it's crazy that you don't like your job. Let's, let's redesign it. And again, we actually don't have the assumption that everybody's got something wrong. That's that's still a bias. Yeah. We just, we've heard from a lot of people we've done, you know, we've read other people's research. And so when we offer a dysfunctional belief, we don't start with, well, you know, you guys all think this and you're all screw it up, but kind of go, you know, a lot of people were saying the following and we think there's another way to look at it. That's helpful. Great. We do not the book and the class are not a system. This is not five steps to clarity. This is not the technical assumption that gives you an acronym to describe your personality tool.
It's a tool kit of ideas and reframes and specific exercises and tools you can do out in the world. And we think these pretty intelligent and competent people that have enough money to buy a book or come to a class, you know, configurable to those tools they need, the starting place is wherever you are engaged. You know, we, we just give you a tool set. You take it from here, you're growing up. You know, you're the expert on Aaron. That's, that's just the, of course we say it doesn't have to have a passion. You don't have to have some, you know, singular organizing principle and you're not too late. So just start from, I ended design.
So I'm hearing, as you're describing this as way less, here's the solution, here's the formula and more of an invitation into a journey. Cause these would be individualistic experiences. So if I go, if I go, you go, if the 10 people I talk to today and say, Hey, we should all do three different life plans and go through these exercises. It really is more journey based with an unknown outcome, but you're just trying to unhinge or reframe or look at a problem a different way. Like you would in a design, you know, getting, going back to the design methodology. So is that an accurate depiction of journey versus outcome solution?
Dave Evans :
Yeah, I think you've got an exactly look at, you know, when we started out to do the first laptops at Apple, I was on that team. We didn't know what they were going to look like. We didn't have it if we didn't have the, the end goal in mind and we just designed to it, we were discovering along the way. And we think that's, that's a pretty human way for people to, you know, design their lives. It's not a system, it's not a five steps to an epiphany. It's literally start where you are taking a little bit of assessment, try a couple of things, prototype your way forward and doesn't take your build your way forward. And most people, when they either take the class or read the book, they go, Hey, you know, I could probably do this because the steps are pretty simple.
We set the bar really low. Step one have curiosity. You have to go talk to some people that are doing interesting things that you might be interested in the experience, those, you know, those conversations with those, their stories, and maybe she'll shadow some folks and see what they're doing or walk into the situation and experience it for yourself. Cause we're, you know, we're an embodied intelligence. Sometimes we feel things more than we know things and how that everybody can do that. That's not, that's not super hard. We'll say this booklet and you know, the stuff in the book takes five or 10 or maybe the most 20 minutes to fill out, you know, a little story about yourself. So it is very much a journey like you say, and we're just of trying to facilitate people along that journey.
Bill Burnett :
the range of response, there's no preprogrammed level of drama and we've had people walk in the door or pick up the bunker.You know, I kind of think I know what I'm doing. I sort of like the approach you guys take. There might be a tip or two in here out of my gleaned that might make it a little back, you know, and they'd come back and kind of go, yeah, it really, it really, you know, it just helped me to confirm what I already saw by the way I really like to reframe on network. Networking is not sleazy. It's just asking directions. I can explain that if you want, that was really helpful. And that's it, they've got one tidbit or somebody, you know, I mean, I was just totally committed to being, you know, an orthopedist ever since I was six and I got to my junior year and I really don't want to do this just, but I don't know, Oh my God, you know, this really allowed me to, I'm not broken. I'm just 21. I can do this in a different way. I did my honesty plans. I met these people. The end up the sky part is a pan is opened up the feasts, ran back into the source. My life was completely changed all the way from people, you know, really having a pretty dramatic, you know, alteration of, of the way they're engaging these questions up to. It's kind of helpful. We don't have people going, you know, this just flat doesn't work. You know, you guys suck, you know, now we're self selected. Nobody walks in the door that doesn't already think design might be useful question.
Dave Evans :
Which bit as soon as you w what the research said is ask the question, you know, is just the willingness to take the class. What makes people better, as opposed to the class itself is the most important thing who would come not, what did you learn? And in fact, we actually did a parallel study of students who had nothing to do with the class at all versus students who signed up and couldn't get in. Maybe they had the motivation, but they didn't have the tools and the students who took the class and it turned out that sure enough, the class actually helped them just wanting to go wasn't enough.
Well, guys, one of the things that I think you'll find interesting is my, my wife and I, so my wife and I have been married almost 23 years have three kids. And, you know, I've had a 20 year career in sales and marketing and software and all these things. And about 18 months ago, we went through a what we term as our life reboot. And very similarly to some of these, we use the same terminology. So it's fun to hear you guys, you're doing this formally. We were doing it informally, just kind of finding our way. But reframing was, is one of the ones that we use. So a year ago, we kind of did what I just say is an assessment that you are here, acts that you mentioned that's in the design lab. So we kind of went through and looked at where are we?
So 20 years into a career you know, we're 20 years into marriage where, you know, kids are growing and launched and no longer at home with one remaining. And kind of just kind of plotting what I call is like plotting the trajectory. What's the current trajectory that we're on. And it reminded me a lot of like the space shuttle missions, you know, like, where is this headed? What's the velocity, what's the direction of course, you know, where will this end up if we just keep playing this out? And we really looked at it and said, a lot of it, not in a place I want to any more. And it wasn't that things were, it wasn't that there was, I say bad decisions. It was just things that happened that were unwanted in life. So this thing about you guys saying if you've ever been stuck, we found ourselves, I just say stuck in some patterns and places and relationships and ways we lived in lifestyle and different things that we just said, Hey, time out.
What if we redesigned? What if we rebooted our whole life and just started over and was really helpful to say, just kind of even giving ourselves the permission to say, yeah, well, what if we actually went through and everything from took a leave of absence from my day job and said, let's just recalibrate and figure out what do I really want to do with my life? And actually went and sold our belongings and our house and our stuff, and thinned out a five bedroom house to basically fit into a little small one car garage. We moved into 500 square feet and went to a camp and volunteered for six weeks and just kind of renovated everything to then allow it to all come under reconsideration and everything under reevaluation of what do we keep? What do we get rid of? What do we change? What a rethink frame.
And then now here we are 18 months later with a very similarly interesting, very similar life in a lot of ways, but drastically different. And I'd say some of the biggest changes has been these in these terms that you use about what are our assumptions, you know, where are we pursuing curiosity? And that permission, like you've mentioned like how many people are there in me, you know, I've just that permission to pursue, like, I don't know where this is going to head, whatever it may be, but I'm going to give it a try because curiosity is leading our path. So anyway, it's been a really fascinating and difficult, frankly, at times, reinvention and reboot of changing everything. And then on your subtitle about how to build a well lived slash joyful life. I would say we have increasing measures of joy that we didn't have before when we were just kind of stuck in that pattern of rut and some of those formerly dysfunctional beliefs. So that's why all this resonated with me. And I wanted to jump on making sure we, we got on the phone together and could connect, and I could share this story with, with the listeners who have already heard me tell some of that. But a lot of ways, we're just, again, we're speaking the same language.
Dave Evans :
Well, it's a fascinating story and I'm good job by the way. I think we're all, we're all in favor of living intentionally and with curiosity, because that is really what makes human beings tick. And somebody, you know, so many people, you know, 20 years in with three kids, I mean, gosh, you know, you get in a group, you're getting a rent, you're getting a groove, you're getting the job done. And you know, and then you wake up one day and you go, how do I get here? How did I get here? Oh my God. Yeah. So fantastic that you guys had that insight and that you've been able to pursue it with both, you know, create creativity and joy.
Yeah. So say more before we started recording, you mentioned, as I was telling you, this podcast is titled work-life play and you had a fourth component and you then started riffing on redefinition of balance. So I'd, I'd love to do some exchange on that. So once you guys tell me what your forward.
Dave Evans :
Sure. Okay. Well, I'll, I'll give you the reframe that I'll let Bill walking through the four steps. So the rebrand was, you know as we started taking our work, you know, so w we knew that if we are going to answer the question, can I take the class other than know, you know, to everybody that wasn't an on campus student at Stanford. And the book was one thing, but also do we can to do a workshop and a corporate workshop or public workshops. So we didn't the last few years developed the one day who's on your life intensive workshop. Can you take this 10 week, 20 hour, you know, small group, intensive cohort based experience and cram it down into a traditional one day workshop and actually make it work. And the answer is, yes, it took some, some work. We knew it could be entertaining, and we've taught long enough that we know how to keep people entertained for a day, but does it stick a lot of training doesn't last past next morning's breakfast.
So we've done that. And we feel confident in the efficacy of that demonstration. So, particularly as you began to talk to people who weren't students, I actually, even some grad students are, you know, well into their late twenties, asked this question, what about work, life balance? And we weren't addressing that very directly. And we get asked it all the time and what we don't like. We think what's dysfunctional about the question. Is it just saying, well, I've got a work life balance problem, your brain, as soon as it has two things in opposition, and you set it up as a binary problem, your brain will make it a Teeter totter, and we'll make it a zero sum game. Work is expensive life and life as if the expensive work zero sum game one goes up. The other goes down, that is not a helpful point of view.
We’re not going to answer the work life balance question. Cause it's a lousy question. It starts with screwing up the whole thing. So we've got to reframe it. So he says, okay, you gotta have more than one item. And it's not just like, there is a, a balance you're supposed to attain and everything else has imbalanced. What you have. There's a whole portfolio of experiences in what you want to bring is that you were saying earlier intention. So we said electrical set up though. Well, we ended up with four things and you know.
Bill Burnett :
We do a bunch of research and the positive psych guys have some models on what makes people thrive. What makes people happy? What makes people fulfilled? And we were looking at those models now, a little complicated for the average reader. So we, we ended up with four things.
We ended up with your health, because health is both mental and spiritual health of any sort. But however, however you define your physical, mental, and spiritual health work cause work is the thing. Most people do most of their day, right? It's the number one biggest thing play because, you know, there's just this element of playfulness in every life is critical and then love and love, really thinking about love in terms of relationships and how you express yourself in the world, who loves you, who you love, who you care for. And that comes from, you know, the observation by almost everybody in the positive psychology world and every wisdom tradition on the planet that engagement with the world, caring for something other than yourself, is what makes people, you know, happy and fulfilled. So we put those four things in the dashboard.
You say, it's not a balance. You don't one doesn't go up. And the other goes down and just four of them suck. When you're looking at your card, your dashboard, how's your love gauge. How's your health update? How's your work gauge? How's your play gauge? And you do a very quick assessment. I did it in the book and I mentioned, you know, like, wow, I don't have any play in my life. You know, I spent so much time on everything else that there's no, there's no activities that I do just for the joy of doing other people have used it. And they found, you know, wow, we had a balance or way too much work in my life. And I really need to figure out how to knit that, that, that gauge is up in the red zone, you know or overheated there.
Dave Evans :
Yeah. It's another way of looking at it. I think it's pretty straightforward people and we allow them to interpret the words their own, again, their own way. What is, you know, what is love and engagement in the world mean to you? What does play mean to you for some people, you know, being in that a master's swim, swim team and competing there, but just competing for fun is part of it play for other people you know, work. And we're very clear in the book that, you know, if you're a full time house, a housewife or a full time person takes care, caregiver, caregiver that's work. That's a hell of a lot of work, the value back.
And we don't think we do. There's not a little line down the middle where you're supposed to be, you know, there's no, there's, there's no green, yellow, red on our dashboard.
It's just a bar and you'll fill it in there. Cause the question isn't are you, is everything in balance? What we call the perfect parfait, every layer is equally spaced and the colors are nice and it just looks perfect. You know? That's not what we're looking for. What we're looking for is here. Four things to pay attention to. And at this moment in your life, at this current season of your experience, does this look the way you'd like it to look? Yeah. It may be very lumpy and that might be a good answer or that may be all even, and that's not the right answer it. Look, we don't know. And one of my older sister has got her PhD, you know, in her late fifties, she was working full time as the director of graduate program of an education school and going full time to school and getting PhD. She had literally six on scheduled hours over a six year period.
She had been putting off this PhD for 15 years and her husband said, we know that he's the next six years are going to go by anyway. What if he just spent that in a way that you had a PhD when it was done? Well, that's a really good point, you know? And so she, she gets the PDC and she completely shelled everything except work in school and a tiny bit of research for her four adult children and growing number of grandchildren. And that's it. And then when that was over, she went back to a little more bit. So during that period of life, you know, her, her dashboard looked crazy and that was exactly the right balance for those six years.
So just even the concept, do I like retracing through Bill and Dave, what you guys just walked through is that I, I wholeheartedly agree. So I'm five years into this story of work, life play. And where I started was very similarly, as I just thought, without the quantifiable research data to back it up, like, like you just stated was that this idea of this tension of it's work and life, and you're somehow supposed to be on the scales, like a Teeter totter, like it's suppose to be imbalanced. So just like, this is ridiculous. There's, there's more to it than this. So as I have summarized it with play in the subset of life, I call out, love the relationships and health, very similar, emotional, spiritual, physical health, and then play this other part of us, this light and easy, you know, I call it like, when we felt like when you were 12, riding your bike, you know, where is it that you just are off duty, you're offline.
So what I've been narrating my way through and bumping my way around to try and discover and having lots of conversations like these is why, cause I'm on a hunt to discovering sustainable rhythms of adventurous living and curiosity and finding work that you love and living well. And, and so it's, as you said, it's not a tension of one wins, one loses. And I like in this sustainable rhythm idea is that, that way it gives a flow to it because like you just stated there, Dave, that sometimes you just may be out of rhythm of, but it may be an intentional, you may, for six years carve out your life in such a way and say, I'm intentionally doing this and I know what the costs are and I've calculated those. And then after six years, I can get back into a more sustainable flow and rhythm for the rest of my life.
But I think a lot of people life happens to them and then they're surprised by their results. And they're surprised why their life is just about the tension between kids and soccer games and braces and work. And they forget about the fact that there's actually people involved in their life or their physical health, or just having a good time. Like how about we just go actually use our vacation days and not let them lapse. And then we lose 20% of them cause we didn't ever, you know, we didn't withdraw the vacation days. So that's kind of the same again, really affirming to me to listen to you guys and say, Oh cool, it's Stanford there. They're proving this stuff out because I've been over here in my, you know, my corner here in Colorado climbing mountains and talking about how the fund to play more and make sure you have a whole hearted life, which includes the people in the work that you do and that stuff. So really fun and affirming to me.
Dave Evans :
Sometimes, you know, we get asked to speak about things like, you know, the efficacy of our pedagogical intervention. I mean, you know, it's just different language pops up in that, in that world. There's, they're called lexicon. And we, in that framework, when we describe what we're doing, what's the, what's the goal. What's, what's the educational outcome goal. The educational outcome goal is to enable people to acquire a conscious competency in life and vocational way fondant i.e. get good at figuring out how to do the next thing. And so there's conscious competence. If it's intentionality this, you know, living it on purpose, a big outcome for a lot of people who work with us is they actually then go back through what they're doing and kind of go, no, this is the life I choose. And, but bringing the intention to it is everything. My mentor reminds me. Don't forget your experience of your life because overwhelmingly just an idea. You don't like your life change your mind.
Bill Burnett :
Sometimes it's just being able to, to have our own mind about our own lives.
All right. Cool. And then tell us, so tell us a little bit about where we can find you online. Tell us about the formats that books come in and then tell us if there's any other way we can find you, whether that's through social media or speaking events or anything else that you guys are out on the road, doing.
Bill Burnett :
Sure. Sure. So the book is available on Amazon and good reads and Barnes and noble and almost all online bookstores. Now I think it could be an order in the next five minutes. Amazon could get it to you by the time it launches tomorrow. Then the it's also available as a Kindle book itself. We actually got a chance to record the audio book. So if you want to listen to them for six hours, it will actually create a three, which is what's really a fun experience. The website is designing your life. And if you go there, you'll see you know, a lot of the social media stuff that we've been doing, a bunch of other talks and then all of the worksheets and exercises from the book are up on the website.
Dave Evans :
So you can just download the templates and things like that. It's pretty straight forward way to get ahold of us. It's also a way to, you know, literally send us an email or, or send us a comment on something that you've read. We're going to try to put together. Part of this idea is that, you know, it is a journey, as you said, and it's fun to do the journey with other people. Some, I always find more fun to travel with somebody else. So trying to put together a little book club, book, reading groups that do the, the lifetime together and you know, we're always curious about how that's working for people and they can check in with us. And we sent out a, not a newsletter, but a blast about some new information. Every, every once in a while, two or three weeks, we'll also probably be running our one day workshops for people who want to take the whole thing and kind of as a, as a booster shot to the book.
And that really will just depend on demand. And you know, I have a day job of running the design program at Stanford. So there's, there's only a little bit of time for that stuff, but I'd say a tweet us at de your life the email@example.com. And you can interact with us and get a lot more information both about where we'll be, and it we'll, we'll be speaking, but also how you can interact with us and others who are doing the light design exercises, come on. He doesn't want that the best way to sort of, you know, keep abreast of what we're doing or influence us about.
Bill Burnett :
And you know, where the next workshop ought to be will be to register at that side. So if you go to designing your.life, this is like next, actually just license up then register. Then you will hear from us about the latest and greatest.
Yeah, that's awesome. Gentlemen, congratulations.
I'd love to hear what you've been listening to work life play. If you like what you've heard, please do us a favor and rate us on iTunes. It really does help. You can get more information about this and other firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening. Thanks for being part of this adventure for being part of braving, the pioneering work of discovering sustainable work life, play rhythms, love your work. Live your life, play a whole lot more. I'm Aaron McHugh, keep going.
*We’ve done our best for this transcription to accurately reflect the conversation. Errors are possible. Thank you for your patience and grace if you find errors that our team missed.
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