Stanford Webinar: Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Stanford Webinar: Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life


And today’s feature
presenter is Bill Burnett. Bill is an Adjunct Professor
of Mechanical Engineering and the Executive Director of the design
program at Stanford University. He directs undergraduates and
graduate programs in design and teaches at the d school. Bill received his bachelors of science and
master of science in product design at Stanford, and has worked
in startups and Fortune 100 companies. Including seven years at Apple
designing award winning laptops, and a number of years in the toy industry
designing Star Wars action figures. He holds a number of mechanical and
design patents and design awards. And in addition to his duties at Stanford,
he is on the board of Voz, a socially responsible fashion startup and
advises several other startup companies. And now I’d like to turn
the floor over to Bill.>>Thank you very much. Let’s see. There we go. There’s the first five. So today, we’re going to talk about
this idea we called designing your life, which is sort of an interesting
sort of grand claim. Can people actually use design
thinking to design their lives? For those of you who are familiar,
I’m sure many of you are with the design thinking ideas,
the diagram that we have for our process, says design thinking process
starts with empathy for users. They would trying to come up with a new
kind of mobile phone, or a new application for dieting or something we talk to users,
we figure out what they really need. We typically redefine and reframe the problem a bunch of times
until we’re sure we’ve got it right. Come up with lots of ideas in the
idealization phase, and then we build and test, prototype and test our way forward, and that’s just the way
design thinking works. It’s a very iterative and
generative process. Companies like IBM, and Apple, and other people are using this
process to innovate products. So the kind of the question becomes, gee, this is a human centered problem solving
approach, can we apply design thinking to this wicked problem, of designing maybe
your job, or redesigning your career, and potentially even adjusting the issue of,
how do I have a meaningful life? And so about ten years ago,
my co-founder of the Design Your Life Lab, the DY Life Lab at Stanford Dave Evans and
I started a conversation about this idea. Could you apply design thinking
to the wicked problem? Wicked problem is a technical term
is problems that are open ended, and they’re hard to solve, and as soon as
you solve them, new problems emerge. Could use design thinking to work on
things like having a meaningful life? And it really gets back to the question
we get asked in office hours, and we get asked when we’re doing
workshops and seminars, it’s the one question that doesn’t
even seem to go away and that’s the, what do I want to be
when I grow up question? Now if we were alive, I’d ask you to all raise your hands if
you’ve ever been asked this question. I think 100% of all humans on the planet, in every culture I’ve done this workshop
in Portugal and Spain, and Italy and in Taiwan, and Korea, and China, everybody
says, yeah, people always ask me, what I want to do when I grow up, and
sometimes I ask myself that question. So here’s our first reframe in design
thinking is big on coming up with the new way of looking at the problem,
we call it reframe. Are we going to ever want you to grow up? At least if growing up means losing that
childlike curiosity about that world, that hunger to learn new things. So we refrain this problem as, what do I want to grow into,
as I explore the rest of my life? Now, we’ve been doing dual workshops
based on the book that came out in September all over the country. And, we have yet to meet anyone. In the very first workshop we did for the
Stanford Alumni Association in New York, we had a woman sitting front and
center in a room of 350 alums. She was from the class of 1950,
she was 80-something years old. And she thought the rest of her life
was going to be very, very interesting. So we have never met anybody who doesn’t
think that it would be worth having some tools and ideas about how to explore
this growing into the rest of their lives. So that’s our reframe, and
we’ve been teaching this class at Stanford since 2006, so
a little more than ten years. And we started out with just
a class called Designing Your Life. So we started out with a class for just
the kids in my major, the design students, called The Designer’s Voice. But that very quickly became a general
class for everyone at the university. Engineers, non-engineers,
science majors, history majors, people from the Drama Department,
people from the Art Department, people from computer science,
all the students trust the board. And we have a class for
seniors called Designing Your Life, because they’re the ones with they’re
kind of of the biggest pain point. They’re about to launch into the world,
and they’ve never been anything but a student before. Then we were asked to do a class for
Stanford Freshmen, so we have a Designing Your Stanford for
freshmen. We say don’t do Stanford
like you did high school. It’s a much bigger experience. And you don’t want to be so ballistic,
you don’t want to just pick a major and go because that’s not utilizing
Stanford for all the resources it has. And we also do a class for designing
professional for master students and PhD students, who are thinking about,
do they want to go into academics or do they want to do a career in industry. And the same ideas and tools apply to all
of these people accept slightly different framing questions because there
are different stages in their life. We also do this off campus with career
professionals, and we just the director of our lab the managing director of our lab
Kathy Davis teaches Designing Your Life for Women weekend down at the Asilomar
down at the coast here in the Bay Area. So there’s lots and lots of interesting
stuff, and we actually measured the results around whether or not taking
the class had an impact on people. And I dug out this old poster, this is
a very busy slide, I apologize, but it’s normally a big sort of 3 foot by
2 foot poster given at a conference. And this was the work of Lindsay Oishi, who was a PhD candidate
studying the class. And one of the things she did was she
studied people who took the class, just a random group of students
who were her controls. And a group of students who wanted to
take the class but couldn’t get in, who just had intention, but didn’t have
the actual intervention of the class. The class outcomes were, you’re looking
at that little yellow box in the middle, the confidence to explore careers and
make good decisions went way up. The belief in these career myths,
what I’ll call dysfunctional beliefs, and I’ll talk about those in a second,
went way down. And the ability to identify and achieve
specific occupational goals went way up. And, if that little chart on the far
right there, the red, green and blue bars, is an indication. People grew in their flexibility
to have new ideas, and in their creativity to
imagine new possible futures. So it’s pretty clear that if you just
take the class, or in this case, maybe read the book that you
can have a higher confidence that you can choose well as you
move forward in your career. That you will be more inventive and
creative, if you practice the techniques
taught in the class. It was really nice to hear that on a
scientific basis with a controlled study, we could have that kind of
an impact on a student’s outcome. Part of that was we get rid of what
psychologists call dysfunctional beliefs. The first one we try to blow up is this
belief that the organizing question for your life is, what’s your passion? Again if we were alive I’d say, how many people have been asked this
question in the last month or two? And experiences any evidence, 90% of you would say, yeah,
this question comes up all the time. It’s a terrible question we think for a couple of reasons and
here’s the data on it. Now I’m not going to say that,
if you knew at age five, you wanted to be a ballerina and you
are now dancing with the New York Company. Awesome that you’ve found your passion and
you tracked to it and you achieved it. But the data says that only 20%
of the population can actually answer this question. Bill Damon wrote a fantastic
book Path to Purpose. Bill is the head of the center for the
study of adolescence here at Stanford and a top researcher in the field of careers,
purpose, meaning. They did a pretty extensive study,
and very few people, one out of five, can say I know what I want to do and
I’m kind of going for it. Everybody else either has many
things that they’re interested in or no one thing that rises to
whatever the level of passion is. So where I’m uncomfortable with
the technique that says okay, you come to the front of the line and
I say what’s your passion? You say, I don’t know. And I say then go to the back of the line. When you figure it out,
come back and I’ll work with you. That just doesn’t seem fair. People come to us all the time and say you know, I should’ve identified
a passion by now, but I don’t have one. And they feel like they’ve
done something wrong. And the data is,
you’re not wrong, you’re normal. So don’t worry about this question. Cal Newport wrote a book called So
Good They Can’t Ignore You, or something to that effect. And in which he tracked this same thing. And he says look, passion is the outcome
of working hard in a field that you love and discovering that it
is truly your calling. It’s an end point,
it’s not a starting point. So if you can take one thing
away from the talk today, the law of this belief that you
have to have a passion is not true. Second, dysfunctional belief is you
should know where you’re going by now. And if you’re not, you’re late and
eye of an eye **** up. That was 25,
by 25 you’re supposed to have sort of primary relationship in the oven and
ready to go. And you were supposed to have a job that
was the thing that you were going to do for the rest of your life. And if you didn’t have it by 25,
you were late. There was something wrong with you. Now my students would probably say 30, but
the point is, it’s a ridiculous question. There’s going to be more than
one of you in there anyway. You’re going to have multiple careers. You can’t be late because you haven’t,
late for which career? The second one? The third one? The first one is often
exploratory in nature, and so the fact that you’re trying lots
of things is the new normal. There’s no such thing as being late. The third one, which probably is
the most dysfunctional one is that you should be optimizing
the very best version of you. There is one singular version of
you implied in this question and you should find it. And if you don’t find it, then you are not
actually having the best possible life and you are settling for
something less than that. And I ran through this with
lots of people that I talk to in our little mini workshops, and
they’re like, you know I picked something, but it’s really not what I wanted, but
I can’t change and it’s not the best. And we’re like well, one, you can change. Two, it’s never too late. And three, this idea of best
implies some singular path. I mean look, all of us,
if we looked backwards in our lives and I asked you to honestly tell me,
how did you get here? How did you get to the thing
you’re doing today? You would have to argue
that some of it was choice. I made some good choices along the way. Some of it was, hey some opportunities
showed up, I put myself in a context where those opportunities might happen,
and that was great. And a bunch of it is luck. I’ll tell you my story. I ended up a professor at Stanford. I never planned to do that. I grew up in the East Coast in Boston,
was just back there recently, and it reminded me that everybody thought
I was going to go to Harvard or Yale and when the letter for Stanford came, and I
didn’t even know what Stanford really was. This was a long time ago before
the Internet and famous colleges. The letter from Stanford came and
I picked it so I could get as far away from my parents
as possible when I went to college. That was my sole criteria. I came here as a physics major. I washed out of physics in about
two quarters and then decided I’d invent my own major, physics and
art, because I was always an artist. When I went to declare that major,
I discovered that this campus has the one singular program in the entire
academic world called product design, which combines physics, art,
psychology, anthropology and a bunch of other things that
I was deeply interested in. It was dumb luck that I ended here. Had I gone to Harvard I’d
have been a lawyer. I always wanted to be a lawyer. I never wanted to be an engineer. That said, I made some good choices and I put myself in the context where
those choices could get realized. There’s no one best version. There’s an old expression in business,
good is the enemy of better, better’s the enemy of best. You should always try to do your best. Dave reframes that as, the unavailable best is the enemy
of all the available betters. There’s so many other ways that you can
experience a life that’s meaningful and a career that is moving in
the direction that makes sense to you, that has a purpose. But getting rid of this notion that if you
don’t have the right one or the best one or the only one, that you’re somehow
settling, which is a terrible feeling. Getting rid of this notion tends to
release people from a lot of inaction and start them towards doing stuff. In the class we kind of support the design
thinking model with two things. We talk about the meaning making layer. In all the research we
did to create the class. And we did a lot of research in
positive psychology literature and general literature of healthy people and
what makes healthy people happy, and also the literature and
research on the students themselves. I did lots of me finding. Everybody said,
the goal of this experience of life is to do something meaningful. I want my life to have a purpose. I want to know what it was for. So we have a meaning making layer we call
the Point of View, the Workview, and the Worldview, and have all these
assignments around that layer. And then we have what we call,
The design thinking piece or and mind mapping, and re-framing,
and all the mindsets of a designer. And then we have the Discovery & Support
layer where we talk about the practices you have to have so
that you are ready to make good decisions. How do you discern things? How do you know and make decisions about things with
something other than just logic. Emotional intelligence, kinesthetic
intelligence, other ways of knowing. We talk about the importance
of mentors and community because you
can’t do this by yourself. We encourage people to work through
the book in design teams and we’re tracking over 400 teams now that are
doing that as like a book or design club. You have to do this together. So this is kind of the visual syllabus,
if you will, of the class. I don’t have time to do
all of these things, but I want to touch on three that I
think are kind of fun and important. One is this idea of flow. A guy named Mihalyi Csziksentmihalyi, who’s got the hardest to pronounce name in
psychology, colleague of Martin Seligman, wrote a book called Flow
the Psychology of Optimal Experience. Now you’ve all been in states of flow. You might call it something different. The zone, if you were an athlete. Or, just in the moment if
you like that framing. But it’s a thing where you’re doing
something, you’re working on something, time stands still. You’re completely involved in the thing. You have a sense of energy. He calls it a sense of ecstasy about that. There’s some inner clarity about
the purpose of the thing you’re doing. And people experience this sort
of a timeless, serene moment. Pretty high, high thing. He has a model that he calls
the flow zone, or the flow channel, where the challenge that you’re facing is tough enough, so
that it’s really challenging your skills. But it’s not so challenging that you’ve
moved over into anxiety or distress. Like this is too hard,
I’m not doing it well. And it’s not so easy that you’re
getting bored of the task. So you’re allowed to hyper-focus
in pushing your skill just to the edge of the limit of
the tasks you’re re doing now. Athletes will do that in a moment in
athletics where they just feel like they’re totally connected to the team or to the moment, or
knew where the ball was going to be. Scientist experience this by
just going into the lab and writing things on a white board, and just
kind of not even exhausting themselves, which is just being completely
inside the problem solving moment. I have moments of this when I’m teaching, I have moments of this during
conversations in office hours. But it can also have these
very simple moments. I like to cook and
I’m sort of chopping onions, doing my Mise-en-place for the meal. Getting everything prepped and ready. That’s a pro moment for me, because
I feel competent in the kitchen and I’m trying new things, and
I’m wanting to make a wonderful meal. So our idea about this is that
you should be finding yourself in your career and in your life,
in moments of flow every week. If you’re not finding that to happen, there’s one of two things that
are possible from the literature and. One is you’re not noticing. A lot of our lives were so
busy now and we’re doing so much that we just don’t notice stuff. And so keeping a journal,
which is one of the principal practices we teach our students, is a good way of
just bringing things to your attention. Now there’s two ways of noticing. One way, which is being in the moment. There’s a lot of mindfulness
stuff in the world right now. I think that’s kind of cool. And then the other way of
noticing is in retrospect. Going back at the end of your day and
journaling about, was there any time where
I felt a sense of flow or even a preliminary flow
moment maybe was possible? Are there times during the day where
things were working for me very well and things that weren’t working? And by keeping a journal,
what the psychologist noticed is once you start noticing,
taking the time to notice in retrospect. Certain behaviors or certain moods that
you’re in, you will reinforce your ability to one, notice those moods and
they will happen more frequently. And there’s an old saying work
isn’t supposed to be fun, that’s why they call it work,
we totally disagree. Since work is the thing you’re going
to be doing 40 or 50 hours a week. In addition to everything else you do,
it’s one of the dominant activities and behaviors of your day and your week. And so you should be enjoying it. Now there’s some startling
statistics around this. Gallup does a poll every couple years and something like 70% of people say they’re
deeply disengaged from the work they do. And another 15% say
they’re just disengaged. So we’ll say 85% of American workers,
get up on Monday morning and say, I don’t want to go to work. It doesn’t mean anything to me. This is startling in dysfunction. You don’t want to be in that 85%,
so one of the ways to notice that the work you’re doing has some meaning
is that it creates these flow states. So a flow journal is our
first recommendation. The other thing about flow is it’s about where your energy is going. To a large extent, our experience of
the world is sort of what’s going on in our head, that part of your head
that’s always talking to you. There’s a part of you head that’s talking
to you saying, hey this is a really fun experience, or hey I’m really learning
a lot, or this is really interesting. Then you’re experiencing your day or
that moment as meaningful. If the talking in your head is,
I don’t know what I’m doing this for, I have no context for this,
this isn’t interesting. Then that’s your reality. And so we developed a little tool that’s
been pretty successful with students and with mid-career people and everybody. A lot of people talking
about time management. If I just managed my week better, my time management just did the important
stuff not the urgent stuff. All that stuff’s fine, but
what we find is it’s a little cumbersome to keep track of, time and
time management systems. And really what we thing you’re actually
trying to keep track of is not so much how many hours did I spend on task
A or B, but how do I feel about it? And so we reframed the time management
thing to energy management. So the way you do this, you take some
things from your flow journal for the week, or just take your Google
calendar, whatever you’ve got. Take it out, write down all of
the repetitive meetings, activities, whatever that you do during the week. And that’s just work things, like I got
the budget meeting, I got this I got that. But I take my kids to soccer games, and I
coach a little league team on the weekend. Any of your regular engagements. And then chart those engagements
each specific engagement and put them in order of beginning
of the week, end of the week. And chart them in terms of how
energetic are those activities? And I don’t mean this in a sort of
California new age energy thing. I’m just saying there’s some stuff you
do and when you do it you’re done. You’re just as energetic or
more energetic when you started. It kind of feeds you it gives you energy,
feels purposeful. And there’s other stuff you do and
you leave the task and you’re drained, you’re exhausted or
you’re tired, or you’re bored. Those are negative tasks. So take those things and
put on a chart, and I’ll show you what the chart looks like. And I just charted my week just
as example for you to use. Here’s my week, so to start out
the beginning of the t method. That long tall thing that says flow
next to it should have art class, somehow that got moves off the slide, but it’s over there art class is the first
thing I do on Monday nights. It’s a high energy activity. I have budgeting meetings,
I’m the executive director of our program. I have to have a budget meeting every
week, it’s kind of a boring meeting, I feel a little bummed out when I’m done. I love my office hours, those are lots
of fun, that’s a high energy activity. I love talking to my students. The faculty team meeting is a funny one. I sit with the faculty who are doing
the robotic cars here at Stanford, robotic medicine, and amazing K through 12
program at the D school, and other things. And when we’re talking about that stuff, the faculty meetings are like this
incredible intellectual salon. And I love them, and then every once in a
while we’ll have a 25 minute conversation on who forgot to write down how many
copies they made on the copier. And now the copier tally is out of order,
and I’m thinking this is the dumbest
thing we could be talking about. I’ve got the smartest people in
the world sitting around the table, and I’m just like here’s 20 bucks,
zero the tally and we’ll start again. I don’t care, so
sometimes those are dumb meetings. I love walking around the campus,
that’s always fun for my little bit of physical health. Teaching is fun,
I don’t like house cleaning. I love date night with my wife. And this was the weird one,
master’s coaching. I should like my master’s students,
I admitted them, and they’re my favorite students, and
I coach them on their thesis projects. And that wasn’t working very well, so you do your chart like that and
you’re looking for two things. You’re looking for moments of flow. And I’ve identified two office hours and
my art class. My art class starts at 6:30,
we’re doing figure drawings. Sometimes by 9:30 I look up and I’m like,
why is the model coming off the stage? Are we done?
What’s going on here, this is so much fun. Thinking with working with my students,
I often go well over time in my office hours, because I just think
the conversation with the students is so interesting and their growth and
development is so interesting. And that’s why I’m here,
children are amazing. Coaching was a little bit odd in
that it didn’t really work for me. And so I came up with some
strategies to fix that. And I’ll show you those in a second. But just one little side
bar on this energy thing. If you really want to talk about
energy in true engineering terms. The human body runs on 2,000 calories
a day, 2,000 kilocalories a day of energy. That’s how much food you eat, and we convert it at some level of efficiency
into the energy that runs your body. So you would imagine that energy
is distributed over the body, sort of pro rata,
the size of the organs, but it’s not. The human brain, which is only about 2 or 3% of the body,
consumes 500 calories a day. It consumes 25% of all
the energy that you run on. And so, what’s really clear is that what,
and if it consumed any more than that, probably the rest of
the body couldn’t function. So we assume evolutionarily it’s evolve
to take as much energy as it can, but no more than will be in balance. But since it’s so
disproportionate to the size and the weight of the organ itself,
it must be important, right? And so this idea that what we actually
spend our attention on what we attend to. We’re paying attention to this meeting. We’re paying attention to something. We’re paying attention to worrying. We’re paying attention
to negative thoughts. That is what the energy of
your brain gets spent on. And so you want to be very aware
of where are the positive negative loads on that attention. Because that changes your
perception of how your day’s going. And I’m not talking about
just thinking happy thoughts. I’m just talking about being mindful
of what you pay attention to, what you talk about in your head,
and in the world. Because that is truly how you
represent reality to you. So in the engagement energy tool, you just notice what’s consuming
lots of your energies. What’s generating more energies, or
what’s generative in the energy space. And then that simple chart, you can use to
redistribute or redefine your engagements. Like when I notice flow states,
I double down on those. I’m actually going back to the studio
tonight to do some more drawing, because my wife’s out of town. And when I notice a negative thing,
I either fix it or understand it. So in the case of, for instance,
you notice I was, the budget meeting’s not that positive, but I’m the executive
director, I have to do budgets. I can’t say I’m not going to do budgets. Sometimes actually the master
stroke is just say, I’m going to stop doing that task,
but that’s not always possible. So what I do now is I
take my masters coaching, and I put it between office hours and
my workout. So I, excuse me, my budget meeting
being off status of workout. And therefore by surrounding a low energy
thing with two higher energy things, I negated it’s influence. And at the end of the week, I feel very
positive that the week was useful. And the masters coaching thing, I realized
I was doing the coaching in our studio. It’s called the Loft,
it’s a great place but it’s very messy. And I couldn’t get the focus and
attention I wanted in that place. So I didn’t want to move it to my office,
because then we’re in the professor’s office, and
the conversation won’t be natural. So I moved it to the terrace
outside the coffee house. And now I buy the students a cup of
coffee, and we have our engagements there. And just by exchanging the place, I totally changed the way the energy shows
up for me, and now it’s a big positive. I’m sure it’s a much more positive
experience for the students as well, because I’m more focused and
more attentive. So you can change place,
you can change sequence, you can change a number
of different things. And in the book and in the class we
have a thing we call the AEIOU method. You can change activities,
you can change engagements, you can change locations,
that kind of a thing. So take a look at that, but
it’s a really simple tool, even just to bring to awareness what
it is you’re paying attention to. And then the last one I want to talk about
is this notion of a gravity problem. I’m sure you have a friend, not you, but
a friend who you’ve been going to coffee with or lunch with for
the last couple years. And they say things like my boss sucks,
or I don’t like my partner, or my job’s terrible, or something. They have a whole litany of problems, and
every time you get together with them, it’s the same problems. And so there’s a class of problems in
the world we call gravity problems, because you can’t actually solve them,
they’re not solvable. And when you run across a problem that’s
not solvable, sort of continuing to act on it, it just causes a huge sense
of disappointment and defeat. My co-author Dave would say, you can’t solve a problem
you’re not willing to have. So the first step in identifying
whether it’s a gravity problem or not is really to identify, is this
a problem that’s not even solvable? Because it’s not actionable in any way,
it’s just a circumstance, like gravity. Dave was dealing with someone who was
working in a family-run corporation. The name of the corporation was
the last name of the family. And he was complaining,
I’m a vice president of marketing, but I can never become the president
of the company because I’m not a member of the family and
my name’s not on the door. And Dave said, you’re absolutely right, you can never become
the president of this company. Now what do you want to do about that? Is that a problem you
want to try to solve, or is that just something you
want to complain about? Because if it’s just complaining,
it’s a gravity problem. Now we’re saying you
can’t fight city hall. If you decide to fight city hall, you
decide to fight systemic racism, if you decide, as a woman, that your mission is
going to be to end sexism in the office. Then it’s no longer a gravity problem,
because it’s a problem you’re willing to take on,
a problem you’re willing to solve. But, if you just want to work, and
you just want to be happy, and you just want to get stuff done, the first
step in gravity problems is to accept. And I’m not suggesting that
you accept systemic racism or anything thing like that. You just have to, this is a system
that I have to deal with in the world. And now to be effective I have to
decide how I want to deal with it. Be careful of gravity problems, because we see people sucked into
these black holes over and over again. And it really keeps them
stuck in their lives. And the one thing we hear in
all the workshops is that, once you recognize what
a gravity problem is, you learn how to reframe problems to
work on them in a more effective manner. And you start looking at things
like the energy and engagement. You can really up the quality of
the experience of you week and of your job and of your life career
partnerships in a significant way. So I want to talk about, I’m sorry,
I meant to do the filter. The solution to gravity problems, of
course, is to start with the first step. And actually we add
accept in the diagram of design thinking with respect to your life,
we add the accept step first. Look, it’s really simple. When we sat down seven, eight,
ten years ago to design this, I said, I think design thinking can be applied
to the problem of an individual and a life, rather than the problem
of designing a new phone. And so
we went looking to see if that were true, because I didn’t want
to force the analogy. So in this case,
well first of all you start with accept. Am I working on something
I’m willing to work on? Is there something in my life, or is there a need in my life that
I need to satisfy or solve? When we teach this idea of need finding,
of using empathy to go out and understand what people need, we say
a need is a gap between what you want and the use or usability or the meaning of
the thing that you’re trying to get to. So there’s some kind of a gap. So we noticed with students and with other people who are thinking about
their lives, the gap was this meaning gap. I’m doing stuff, I’m working, I have jobs,
but I don’t know what it heads adds to. And there’s no structure in the world
that’s going to tell me that, I’m going to have to figure it out for
myself. So all the original ethnography we did
on this problem with our students, and with mid-career people, and with encore
career people, people who are retiring. And they wanted, but
people are retiring earlier now and they’re certainly retiring healthier now. So they’ve got ten or 20 years of
productive life in them after they retire. And they go, well I want to
do something with this stuff, but I don’t know how to get to
the thing that’s meaningful. The thing that gives me
some kind of purpose. The reason I get up on Monday morning and
say, I’m really looking forward to going into work, rather than, my god, do I have
to spend another week during that stuff? So the idea that we could turn empathy on
ourselves, so empathy for our own gaps, for our own spaces between what
we want and this idea of meaning. And that we could also turn
our empathy on the world, that what does the world need from you,
me? They will say when your greatest
gift is given to the world. In a way the world really wants it. Then you have a perfect match right. Just because I’m passionate about
something doesn’t mean the world wants to pay me for it. Just because I’m excited about something
doesn’t mean that the world is excited about what I want. One of the things we try to see is,
would it be possible to use empathy for ourselves and empathy for
the world to close this gap on meaning. To do that we realize, well,
there’s these gravity problems. There’s these things
that keep people stopped. We’re going to have to reframe all of
this stuff, but that’s perfect for the define part of the problem. And then we know that if you have lots and
lots of ideas, you’re going to have better
things to choose from. There’s tons and tons of data, so we
evolve these ideas there’s not one of you, there’s at least three. We’re going to ideate on three
versions of parallel network one. We’re going to ideate and
mind map and brainstorm and do those well,
teach you the way designers do those so they’re highly productive and
outcome driven activities. Not just we had a lot of ideas now and
I don’t know what to do with them. So we knew we could do that and
then fundamentally since you’re trying to create the future of you and
the future is unknowable. You don’t know if the thing you
want to do will be successful. You don’t know if you even
really want to do it. And this notion that you had to
pick something go all in and if it didn’t work well you
didn’t get the best outcome just seemed like that’s not the way
designers approach the problem. Now I was at Apple a long time ago
when we went to the first laptops. So, I wasn’t there when they were doing
the phone, but, if you read about Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson,
you read about the story of the phone, they prototyped the phone
hundreds of times, and they showed it to Steve three times. Twice he turned it down and
the third time he said it was good enough. This notion that we’re going to
work on one singular version, is just not the way designers work. They’re working on multiple ideas for the
interaction, the interface, the screen, the original one didn’t
have a finger-print sensor. There’s all the things
that they put in there, they had no idea what the outcome
would be when they started. They just knew that they wanted something
in Steve’s parlance that would be insanely great and
would reinvent the category of phones. And so
the willingness to sort of build and test your way forward is what’s
the core principle in design thinking. And then when we parted that over to
designing your life it just makes perfect sense. What’s an information interview? It’s a prototype of you talking to someone who might be doing something that
you are interested in doing. They’re actually you and your future,
they’ve been doing it for years. You’ve been just thinking about maybe that
might be something I’m interested in. Having what we call a prototype
interview with someone and doing it well to get their story,
should leave some resonance in you. You’ll hear a story that either
rings a bell in your heart or your mind, or doesn’t. And that’s a great piece of
information about whether that teacher would work for you. A prototype experience going to shadow
somebody for a day during a one-week kind of internship working on a project
together is a great way to discover whether that career path or that activity
set is something that your interested in. So this notion of building
your way forward David Kelley says we build to think. We make something so
that we promote the world instead. This is the possible future what do you
think, and everybody talks about it. And then we get new ideas Is a wonderful
way to protect your life, and it avoids the possibility that
you’ll go all in on something, discover it’s not what you thought it
would be, and then be disappointed and have to pivot or reset, and that can be
pretty costly if you’re far down the path. It’s been wonderful to go out and do workshops on this stuff with
the Stanford Alumni Association. I get to meet tons of really wonderful
alums and they all have wonderful stories. Some of the cautionary stories I hear are,
and it’s kind of paradoxical. Wow, I’m super successful,
I am a partner at the firm. Pick any firm, law firm,
business consulting firm, whatever. I’m making lots of money, seven figures. I’m able to support a fantastic lifestyle
for my family and I’m miserable. And one woman said to me, it steals a little piece of my
soul every day to go to work. And I said well that can’t be,
that doesn’t sound healthy. [LAUGH] Let’s work on that, and
she said no, you don’t understand. I’m stuck, I’m the youngest woman at the
firm, the only woman partner at the firm. I need to do this to uphold this image, I need to do this because I believe in it,
but I hate the work I’m doing. And we built the white cell that requires
this kind of money and everything else. And so, I’m meeting people in other words
that haven’t had a chance to stop on this. They are very successful people obviously. But success distract them into a situation
and a lifestyle that they never wanted. They never thought about it very much, they just sort of went for
the next great shiny accomplishment. Because they’re smart and people full of
capacity, they were successful in getting the things they never asked
themselves do I really want this? And so the earlier you can start engaging
in this design process and saying hey, before I decide that being a partner
at the law firm is what I really want, I probably ought to go shadow a partner. Maybe have a conversation
with a couple of associates, take a few people out to lunch and dinner. Somebody must know somebody who
can introduce me to someone at these situations. Or do I want to be a professor, do I
want to be, you know all these things. There’s a famous science fiction writer
William Gibson who I love and he has a famous quote, our future is already
here, it’s just unevenly distributed. Somebody if you can’t know anything
about your personal future. But someone is probably living
a very similar analogous future, and they’re already doing it,
they’ve been doing it for years, and so they represent a little
piece of you in the future. The ability to learn to prototype
your way into these experiences, try things in a really
low threat situation. Dave and I say, set the bar low,
clear it, do it again. Design these information interviews,
these information prototypes And information prototypic experiences, to learn how to imagine your future,
it’s so critical. And the other thing that’s true,
in product design, I’ll do a bunch of ethnography and
research. And I’ll come back with a product that
everybody, in the group I’m working with, said they wanted, and
then I’ll show them the new prototype. And then they’ll say now that we see that,
I’ve changed my mind, that’s not what I want anymore. And it’s very frustrating
[LAUGH] as a designer or an engineer to hear that the customer
keeps changing their mind. But what happened in the moment when I
showed them the thing that they said that they wanted. When they actually realized what
is possible in this new future, of course they changed their mind. Because their needs changed, because now
they know something It’s possible that they could have not imagined and
that’s exactly what we want to happen, in fact it’s not frustrating is this
notion of what I got in the world I engage the world in radical collaboration
with curiosity to designers mindsets. I’ve reframed the problem and I’m looking
for people who are living in my future. And I’m talking to them and
I’m engaging them, and I’m even prototyping little versions
of what it would be like if I did that. And I’m having the embodied
experience of that, and I’m having the physical experience and
the intellectual experience of that. Something Dave and
I call narrative resonance. Is that story my story? Do I hear myself in that one? When two tuning forks are in the same
room and they’re on the same pitch. You ring one,
the other one rings in sympathy. So do I have a sympathetic resonance
with the future that I’m exploring? And if I do, and if I find myself in states of flow every
once in a while as I work into this, or prototype, or build my way forward,
then I know I’m on the right track. Anyway I want to waste some time for
questions, so let me just kind of hit the takeaways. I believe we have demonstrated through
our research and through the 3 or 4,000 students, on campus and off,
that you can in fact design your life. And kind of you have to,
because if you don’t design it, it’s going to get designed for
you in some ad hoc process. And then you’re just going to
be responding to life, rather than trying to sort of manage and
way find it. For most people, passion’s a poor starting
point, because 80% don’t have one. Again if you have one, awesome, go for
it, that will be an organizing principle, but you will still prototype interview and
prototype experience your way forward, because you still don’t know your
future any better than we do. A flow journal is one way of noticing. Flowing energy engagements
are really important things to know since not the time
you spend on something. It’s the energy you spend on something. Our attention which comes from this funny
three pounds of gooey stuff in our brain. Our attention is what consumes our energy,
we spend our time and attention on the things we
are talking to ourselves about. So be very, very aware of what you’re
spending your time and attention on. Dave has a phrase and
it’s a little bit, maybe, trite. But he says, if you don’t like
your reality, change your mind. Actually, the phrase
comes from his mentor. It’s not as easy as that, obviously when stuff will happen in
reality we like to say biased action, because that’s the designer’s mindset
rather than bias to planning. Planning is great, but
there’s an old military expression, no plan of battle survives
first contact with the enemy. And I would argue no plan for your life
is going to survive contact with reality. Stuff will happen in reality;
you will have to deal with it. Things you will find, bad things will
happen, disappointing things will happen. Opportunities that you want and
will not be available to you, so you will have to re-plan
with action in real time. But what you pay attention to and how you
frame those experiences, the positive and the negative ones is how you will
experience meaning in your life. It’s not a zero sum game and
that you’re never too late. You can reset this counter
at any point and start over.>>With that I’d like to take
a few minutes as time permits to ask Bill a few questions that have come
up and we invite you to submit additional questions we’ll get to as many as we
can in the 10 minutes that we have. So first of all, Bill, one note that
we got from the audience which I liked is someone said that this last
hour has been a state of flow for them. So-
>>So that’s Great. [LAUGH]
>>I was glad to hear that. So I think one question that
came up earlier in the webinar, which I think is important to address and
kind of an elephant in the room, potentially in as you think about careers. What is the role of money in this scheme?>>Yeah. This is one of the most well
researched topics in psychology and positive psychology particularly. Now does money make you happy? How much money do you have to
have in order to be happy? The pursuit of money, which also includes money gives you
capacity to do different things. Is that important? Is that what makes you happy? And particularly for people who are
knowledge workers, folks that are working not on an assembly line where you get paid
by the number of parts you assemble, but doing work that’s cognitive work or some
other kind of work The research is very, very clear. Once you have enough money, and enough
mean you’re not worried about your bills. You’re not worried about your future. You can save enough money to feel
like you’ll have what you need. Once you have enough,
incremental amounts after that lead to absolutely no more happiness or
sense of purpose in your life. So, if you’re Warren Buffet, it doesn’t matter, after you’ve got
a couple hundred thousand dollars and you can live in the house you want to
live and you can do everything else. Having a yacht and everything else does not increase
Warren Buffet’ happiness at all. So this notion that you’ve
got to pursue money for happiness is a really toxic notion. Now if you don’t have enough or if you’re
insecure that the flow of money might be interrupted, because your industry
is in turmoil or something else. Those are all real problems,
and those you can work on. But there’s a thing,
psychologist called the hedonic treadmill. That hedonism is the search of pleasure,
right? And the hedonic treadmill is
just a treadmill of pleasure. So I would go to work and I’m happy for
a while, then I get bored. So I get a raise and a promotion,
now I’m happy again. And then roughly about
6 to 8 months later, I’m back to the exact same state of
whatever my rest state was and I’m bored. So my conclusion of course, is well it was
nice to get a raise but it wasn’t enough. If I could have more, then I’d be happier. So then I get another raise,
I get another promotion. I end up partner at the law firm. I make $650,000 base
with a $2 million bonus. And I’m no happier than I was
than when I was the associate and I’m making $150,000 a year. In fact I’m more miserable, because I have more constraints
on my behaviors and my time. So it’s absolutely clear money does not
make you happy, you of course have to be in a position where your safety,
security and basic needs are met. Once that has occurred, take money
off the table and go for purpose. Dan Pink’s book, Dan Pink is
a fantastic guy that we worked with. He’s written a bunch of different books. But in the book Drive, where he talks
about what motivates people to work hard, All the research says it’s autonomy,
mastery, and purpose, you have to have purpose for your work, mastery means
you’re learning all the time, and autonomy means you’re deciding how to get
the tasks done that you want to get done. Doesn’t mean you work for yourself, doesn’t mean you
have nothing micro managed. If you have those three things,
money will not make you happy, search for things that actually do.>>Yeah, there’s another comment that came
in from one of the listeners that said there’s two amounts of money,
enough and not enough. So I think that’s a nice
summary of that notion.>>By the way, people who win the lottery,
who win millions and millions of dollars within 18 months go back to the exact
same amount of satisfaction and happiness in their life. It makes no difference at all. If they were a miserable person,
they remain miserable. If they were happy person,
they remain happy. Wherever your set point is,
money doesn’t change it.>>All right, so we’re getting a lot
of more questions but we’ll pick one. I don’t think we’ll have time for
more than one question. In the design thinking process, there is a lot of emphasis put on
getting feedback and testing with users, testing your prototype,
how do you do that in this situation? You’ve prototyped a number of live or
a number of activities. And how do you get feedback|? And maybe related to that, what are some
metrics that you use to evaluate the? [INAUDIBLE] Difference.>>Yeah, so quickly the feedback
method is again empathy for yourself. How did this feel to me? I did this little pro shop. I shadowed this doctor for a day. Or I went and I did a one-week
unpaid project with this group. How did I feel about that? What was my internal state? Both my emotional state and
my intellectual state, that’s one measure. And then two, how was my work received? It’s unlikely that you’re
going to be happy and feel like you’re thriving if you
are not excellent at the things you do. You have your own strengths and
weaknesses, we all do. If I’m working from my strength and if the work product that I
deliver is well accepted. Well, that’s exceptional we
really like working with you. Then I’m getting two kinds of feedback. I enjoy the work, and the people enjoy
my output that’s in the work domain. But it would include any other domain. I mean you’re unlikely to be happy
if you’re not good at something. So you’re looking for where in the world will the things
that I’m strong at be well received? And if I’m looking for money for
those things it’s in the marketplace. If I’m in the world of art and
design then it’s about having people who appreciate the quality of my art or
my work in that domain. So I need the feedback loop
from the world to say yeah, the thing that you’re doing
that you’re really good at? We want that too. There’s an acceptance on the other side. Otherwise, you’re the unpaid
artist in poverty. That’s fine,
you can choose to be that person. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you just have to accept that
the world doesn’t want your art. Most artists don’t care about
that problem, so that’s okay. But if you’re planning on this
being something that supports you, and remember there’s your vocation and
your avocation. Vocation is what you do for money,
avocation is what you do for meaning. You may decide to make those the same
thing, that’s a kind of modern idea. My grandfather, who came over from Wales, worked at the National Biscuit Company,
Nabisco, making cookies for 40 years. In the union, working hard, came home,
that was just making money. The meaning in his life was his family. He was a member of the Elks,
he was a member of his church. That’s what drove the meaning in his life. So this notion that you’re going to get it
all in one place is a very modern idea. But in any case, pick the place where
you want to get the feedback from and then listen carefully. Is the world responding
to things I’m offering? What was the second part?>>Metrics.>>Yeah, so the metrics would
be I’m doing my float journal, I’m noticing flow state
are popping up more often. I’m doing my energy mapping and I’m noticing that I’m leaving most weeks
with a fairly high energy reserve. And I’m excited and
enthusiastic about the next thing. And the other metric is, in the vocation
thing, is the world paying me what me what I think I make in order for
this to be meaningful work for me? So as long as I’m getting paid enough. You know [LAUGH] we do run into,
at these workshops, I’m a CEO. I make a lot of money, but
I really want to be a poet. I go great! As far as I know, there is nothing
stopping you from being a poet. No no no, you don’t understand. I want to be a poet, and
I still need to make seven figures, because I got the house and
Teslas and blah blah blah. And I’m like okay, a, a gravity problem,
or b, maybe you should try rap. Maybe you’re the next Dr. Dre. You don’t look like it to me,
frankly [LAUGH] but the only seven-figure poets
I know write rap music. So if you’re not willing to do
poetry on the market’s terms, then my suggestion is to
keep your CEO day job. And go out to poetry slams at night,
and open mic nights at night. And get your avocation to fulfill
that part of you that wants to speak in poetic terms. But don’t blame the world that there
are no seven figure salaries for poets because that’s just gravity, dude.>>Great, wonderful, so
this was very informative. As I said, we had lots and
lots of questions and interests. All of you will be receiving a recording
of this webinar within a week so that you can review it again. And try and practice some of these things. And as we mentioned, we would love to see as many of you as
are interested here with us in June. To try and get some additional
practice with the design thinking and designing your life activities. Have a very good rest of your day and
thank you for joining us.


9 thoughts on “Stanford Webinar: Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

  1. Great webinar! I experienced the power of working during my “FLOW-Time” myself. Greets from Hamburg and thanks for sharing!

  2. Good topic, audio could be a lot better, even for 2017…and it being Stanford…get this professor a better mic or laptop.? seriously after 20 minutes I am wondering if my hearing is going to be permanently damaged by the constant treble of the device he used to record this..

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