Insightful, actionable, and interesting – My takeaway from 2 TEDx talks ‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I am happy to usher in 2018 with this twin TEDx talk summaries. It definitely helps me to set the platform for newer goals and tweak my mindset.
‘Designing your Life’ is written by 2 authors, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I aim to bring the best of the 2 talks here today and summarize my takeaway from them.

They run the life design lab lab where they teach the class ‘to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.’ They reframe it to ‘what you want to be next as this amazing life of yours unfolds as none of us want to grow up.’

Design Thinking is a culture of mindsets. It includes the following:
1. Re-framing
2. Curiosity
3. Mindful of Process
4. Radical Collaboration and
5. Bias Towards Action

People get stuck and they don’t know how to get unstuck.
People have a bunch of beliefs. They are called Dysfunctional Beliefs.

Dysfunctional Belief #1 – What’s your passion?
Most of us don’t have a singular passion.

Dysfunctional Belief #2 – You should know where you’re going by now! (and how to get there)
You are wherever you are. Let us start from there. You aren’t late for anything.

Dysfunctional Belief #3
Are you being the best possible version of you?
Are you sure this is the one best life?
Are you worried that you’re settling?
This implies one is a singular best, 2 is a linear thing and life is anything but linear.
There isn’t one singular best. The unattainable best is the enemy of all the betters, because there are many many versions of you, that you could play out, all of which would result in a well-designed life.


5 ideas of design thinking
Idea 1 – Connecting the dots
We want our lives to be meaningful, to have a purpose. Positive pyschology states that there are 3 things:
1. Who you are
2. What you believe and
3. What you do in the world.
If you can make a connection between these 3 things, if you can make a coherent story, you will experience that your life is meaningful.
So, they asked people to write 2 things:
1. Workview – Why do you work, what’s it for – in 250 words
2. Lifeview – What’s the big picture of life, Why are you here, What is your faith or view of the world.
When you can connect your Lifeview and your Workview together, in a coherent way, you start to experience your life as meaningful.

Idea 2 – Gravity and Accept
People get stuck.
You’ve got to be careful. There is a class of problem that people get stuck on. We call them gravity problems. It’s something you cannot change.
If it’s not actionable,
it’s not a problem,
it’s a circumstance

Gravity problems are problems you are not willing to work on.
Only thing you do with gravity problems is you accept them.

Design thinking chart
Accept, Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test

Idea 3 – Ideate

They conduct an experiment with their students. There are multiple parallel universes, one next to each other. You can live in all the multiple universes. You will know about your life in each of these. So, you can be whatever you want simulaneously. You can be the ballerina, and the scientist, and the CPA, and whatever else you wanted to be. Bill asks his students, “How many lives do you want?”. The average comes out to be 7 and 1/2. Most people think they have seven and a half really good lives that they could live. You only get one life. What you choose in life is what makes you happy.

Time to ideate alternate futures – Ideate 3 lives – 3 five-year Odyssey plans (because there are more than one of you). So they always do 3 ideas. It’s transformational.
Plan 1 – Make your current life better. Add your bucket list
Plan 2 – What would you do if the thing that you’re currently doing goes away?
Plan 3 – What’s your wild card plan? What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money or you didn’t care about what people thought?
This helps to make their lives better.


Idea 4 – Prototyping

Prototype to
1. ask interesting questions
2. expose assumptions
3. involve others with your ideas
4. sneak up on the future

There are 2 types of life design prototype. They are:
1. Prototype conversation – ask for their story. Narrative resonance is a potential way of moving forward.
2. Prototype experience – experience it for a while and make your decision.

You have to build a prototype. Set the bar really low, try some stuff, achieve success and do it again.

Idea 5 – Choosing well
You want to make a good decision well.
How do you know
when you know –
ya’ know?

The process of choosing well
1. Gather and Create
2. Narrow down the options
3. Choose a few options
4. Agonize if you chose the right thing
5. Let go and move on

It’s not about being unlucky. It’s about paying attention to details and keeping your peripheral vision open, because it’s in your peripheral vision that those interesting opportunities show up that you were not expecting. Get to being lucky.

If you have too many choices, you go into what the psychologists call ‘Choice Overload’ and then you have essentially no choices. We can’t handle more than 5 to 7 choices. Bill thinks the number is 5 choices.

We all procrastinate – “What if we pick the wrong choice?” You won’t. You won’t make the decision until you won’t decide how you feel about the decision, until the decision is already made. That’s a piece of research done.

Per Daniel Goleman, Writer and Pyschologists – “The wisdom of the emotions is a real thing”. If you get a good emotional response to your choice, go ahead and choose it. Your gut feeling and emotions will guide you.

Per Dan Gilbert, Harvard Pyschologist, “Wanting what you get” not “Getting what you want.” He’s been studying decision making and what makes you happy.
He gives an example of when you have a choice to exchange, you end up not liking anything and hence destroy the option to be happy. The people who didn’t have a choice to exchange were happier with the choice they had made.
If you make decisions reversible, your chance of being happy goes down by 60 or 70%.
So, let go and move on.

Summary of the Five Design Thinking Ideas
1. Connect the dots – create a workview and lifeview
2. Gravity problems – stay away from them and accept them
3. 3 five-year Odyssey plans – have 3 alternatives
4. Prototyping your life
5. Choosing well


Bill glides the talk with number of psychological experiments that have been done and their results to support his ideas.

Do this and boost your creative confidence and shape your life.
It’s simple
1. Get Curious
2. Talk to People
3. Try Stuff

“Design a well-lived and joyful life” – And this, for me, is definitely an “Idea worth sharing”.

You can watch both the TEDx talks here:
Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett –
Designing the rest of your life by Dave Evans –

Leave a like to let me know you were here and you liked the post. Enjoy and have a great 2018. 

One thought on “Insightful, actionable, and interesting – My takeaway from 2 TEDx talks ‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Add yours

  1. Great blog Vijaya. Just as living life gives great perspectives, so does looking at it from different perspectives. I really appreciate the thought provoking insights given by the five design thinking ideas. They are simple and will surely help simplify life. Come the New Year, the gamut of resolutions begin. The process of conceptualising resolutions and actually doing them is often a grey area. However, I am sure that Design Thinking is indeed a great tool to help tide over. Kudos once again.


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