The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 94

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Designing Your Life

Are you stuck in a rut? You can’t just think your way to a better future, say Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, you have to design it. They’re the authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, which applies design thinking to life’s most pernicious problems. Discover the five design mindsets, how to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, and whether you should work through or around your problems.


Website: DesigningYour.Life
Book: Designing Your Life
Bio: Bill Burnett is the Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford. He directs the undergraduate and graduate program in design at Stanford, both interdepartmental programs between the Mechanical Engineering department and the Art department. He got his BS and MS in Product Design at Stanford and has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects ranging from award-winning Apple PowerBooks to the original Hasbro Star Wars action figures. He holds a number of mechanical and design patents, and design awards for a variety of products including the first “slate” computer. In addition to his duties at Stanford, he is a on the Board of VOZ (pronounced “VAWS – it means voice in Spanish) a social responsible high fashion startup and advises several Internet start-up companies.

From saving the seals to solving the energy crisis, from imagining the first computer mice to redefining software — Dave Evans’s been on a mission, including helping others to find theirs. Starting at Stanford with dreams of following Jacques Cousteau as a marine biologist, Dave realized (a bit late) that he was lousy at it and shifted to mechanical engineering with an eye on the energy problem. After four years in alternative energy, it was clear that this idea’s time hadn’t come yet. So while en route to biomedical engineering, Dave accepted an invitation to work for Apple, where he led product marketing for the mouse team and introduced laser printing to the masses. When Dave’s boss at Apple left to start Electronic Arts, Dave joined as the company’s first VP of Talent, dedicated to making “software worthy of the minds that use it.”

Dave holds a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford and a graduate diploma in Contemplative Spirituality from San Francisco Theological Seminary.



Peter: Welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast. I’m Peter Bregman, your host and CEO of Bregman Partners. This podcast is part of my mission to help you get massive traction on the things that matter most.

We have a fun podcast for you today, we’ve got two people on, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They have recently written together the book, Designing Your Life. It’s a number one New York Times bestseller for a good reason, I really loved it. The subtitle: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

It’s coming out of the school of Designing Your Life, of thinking carefully about where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and making choices that will lead you to a life that is more in line or aligned with who you are and what you want to accomplish in the world.

Bill is the executive director of the Stanford design program and co-founder of the Life Design Lab, as well as the former leader of Apple’s PowerBook product line and CEO of a design consultancy. Bill, thank you for the PowerBook.

Dave Evans is co-founder of the Life Design Lab, a lecturer in Stanford design program, a management consultant, and formerly a co-founder of Electronic Arts. I’m delighted to have you both here, I’m delighted that you wrote the book.

Welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast.

Dave: Thanks, Peter. Good to be here.

Bill: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Peter: You start with a few basic premises that seem so straightforward and yet are difficult for people to live their lives by. One is, you’re not defined by your earlier choices, the other is that, problems can actually be a good thing, because they indicate an opportunity to close a gap between something unsatisfactory and something super cool.

The closing the gap is less about thought experiments and more about action experiments and playful failure, and step by step movements towards super cool and the process never ends. You’re never at a point where you say, “Great, I’ve designed my life and now we’re done and I can live it for the next 40 years.”

I love these premises and this is a little weird, I don’t exactly know what my question is here, but I would love your thoughts on them, or how people perceive them or how difficult it is for people to understand them, or anything you want to talk about around these design premises.

Dave: I’ll say one thing to kick off with, one of the, because you know, we’re literally having the first year anniversary of the book this week, so this has been the year of the book and we’ve been very humbled and honored and astonished by the response to it, which has been huge, and so we’ve been out on the road.

I think between us, together, Bill and I, probably done about 100 gigs this last year. We’ve talked to thousands of people face to face and, many, many, many people are being helped and a lot of them were really stuck behind one of this, what I called, Dysfunctional Beliefs and then can fairly quickly get freed, “Gee! Now that I think about it, it doesn’t really make any sense, what else would I do?” “Hey, try this approach.” “Okay, great.”

I think the most astonishing thing to me has been, how powerfully pernicious a popular but ungenerative and unhelpful idea can be, when the metanarrative of culture all agree is that well, whatever you majored in college, that’s what you got to do, which is completely stupid, then we fall for it and it’s not that hard to break out.

The first observation is, it’s a lot easier to break out of these problems than you think.

Peter: You know, it’s interesting because when you say that, I think of sum-costs and the challenge that we have of acknowledging that, you know what, maybe I’ve spent the last 14, 20 years being a doctor, but it’s not really what I want to do. That’s hard, I imagine for people to let that go, how do you help them?

Bill: Well, I love the idea of sum-cost, that’s exactly what’s been-

Dave: We’re still there right now, yeah.

Bill: … yeah, that’s exactly what’s going on, right, is that people get over invested in something that doesn’t work for them and for whatever reason they found themselves doing that. We’ve been on this book tour and I meet a lot of people who are doctors or lawyers or partners at the firm of some sort, very successful people and feeling really miserable because it’s not what they wanted, they just kind of chased the brass ring, they kept getting it. They are now in a position of power and some money and it’s just not working for them.

You mentioned our core idea of, “Hey, let’s,” … you can’t think your way to the future, you’re going to have to design your way and to build stuff, so we call them, Life Design Prototypes. You’re going to go out in the world and you’re going to make these little experiments, these little prototypes in the world to see, “Hey, what’s available to me right now and this interesting, is this interesting?” You’re going to follow your curiosity, so two mindsets of the design of curiosity, follow your curiosity, biased action. Get out and do something because it isn’t a thought experiment, it’s your life and it’s going to unfold in the world with other people, that’s radical collaboration, third mindset, so it’s …

Then I like to say, set the bar low, prototype something, learn something. This idea of lots and lots of experiments to learn things, and then listen both to your head and so much to your heart about what’s working for you and you can get unstuck from any situation.

Peter: I’m curious about the uncertainty and how uncertainty plays into this, right? I’m going to give you a crystal example that’s all about uncertainty and then maybe it’s not really applicable, but I’m faced with this decision about disability insurance and I pay a lot of money for it, it seems ridiculously high and my insurance guy is saying, “Hey, you know what, I’ve got a client who has Parkinson’s, I’ve got a client who has cancer, you never know what can happen to you.”The sense of, you know, how do I make a decision where, when the future is so uncertain and I’m thinking about this disability one, but the doctor who’s saying, “I might flow this path and there’s so much uncertainty, I want to be an artist but then I won’t be able to pay for school.” There’s so much uncertainty to that future, it freezes us in making decision.

How do you help people with that uncertainty and two, if you have an answer to my disability question, I’d love to hear it because I’m still trying to figure that one out?

Dave: Yeah, on your disability, it’s actually, your disability metaphor is a really good example of a lousy situation to apply design thinking. This is … you can know everything there is to know about the probability of Parkinson’s and the cost of the various suppliers of this form of insurance.

Peter: Right.

Dave: Now you know everything there is to know, there’s nothing to prototype, there’s nothing to think about, you simply have to make a decision and accept the ambiguity, like, I’m spending a lot of money and I think it may not happen, so that’s actually-

Peter: Dave, I love that.

Dave: … it’s actually acceptance, yeah.

Peter: I love it because, there’s some decisions where the universe will figure it out in the next 20 years, you’re never going to know, you just make a choice.

Bill: Right.

Dave: Well, I mean the number one reframe with different people is, there is no one right answer to your life. There are lots of great yous, there’s no one single best you and by the way, you never actually know about the ones you didn’t get a chance to try. We’re all getting partial credit on easy questions, not right, wrong on true or false, on all the big issues of life.

That’s the same, once you accept that, that’s the nature of being a human being, then how’s it going to day, you know, it’s going reasonably well, which is fabulous because that’s as good as it gets.

Peter: Right.

Bill: By the way, you can make that, although it’s not necessarily a design decision, you can make the decision about disability insurance or any of these other uncertainties, you can make that good decision well. If you look at the work of Dan Gilbert of Harvard and some other guys, the way you make this decision, is you decide, I’m going to buy it, I’m not going to buy it, whatever you decide, you picked a thing and then you burn the bridges and you move forward, you just simply say, “Decisions done, I love it, I made a good decision,” and you move on.

If you continue to reevaluate the decision, if leave the decision revocable, like I might change my … or open, you will destroy, one, your happiness with the decision and two, your ability to kind of just let go and move on. That we have a decision making model in the book, it becomes right out of the positive psychology guys. If you want to make a good decision well, make it irrevocable.

Peter: Great, so you mentioned five mindsets, be curious, bias for action, you’ve already talked about those, radical collaboration, you talked about that although you may want a sentence or two about what makes it radical and two others, reframing problems and awareness, knowing that it’s a process. Can you give us a sentence or two on each of those?

Bill: Oh! Sure, yeah, curiosity is the thing I think that drives all human beings, we’re naturally curious creatures and we just have to kind of, in some cases, when we’ve been doing something for a long, long time, we have to sort of just reawaken our curiosity and get curious about either the thing we’re doing or the thing we might want to do next.

Curiosity is just a natural … we all had it as kids, school and life beat it out of us, so we have to kind of go find it sometimes. Biased action is just like we said, go out and do , run the little experiments, we call them prototypes, run lots and lots of experiments to discover, because the answer is in the world, it’s not in your head. If you knew the answer, you’d be doing it, so you have to go get some data, the data is out in the world.

Radical collaboration is simply, get out of your bubble, stop talking to all of your friends and people who are just like you, because they probably have the same concerns and questions you have and they don’t have any new data. You’ve got to go meet people, you’ve got to meet people who are different than you, in order to find out where in the world is your next adventure. The mind full of process steps, you just knowing it’s a process.

There’s times in design when you diverge, you’re looking for lots and lots of new ideas and there’s times in design process where you converge, you pick a thing and you test it. If you’re on a team of people and half the people are diverging and half the people are trying to converge, it’s very confusing, so just stay mindful of where you are in the process.

What was the one I missed?

Dave: Oh! Reframe.

Peter: Reframe.

Bill: Yeah, good Dave, reframe is the big one-

Dave: Reframe pops out of, you know, I mean the first thing we do is acceptance, of the first thing we do. Out of that radical collaboration, the radical part by the way is not radical ideas or radical people, it’s radically inclusive. Go listen in from everywhere, have heard everything, problem find before you problem solve. Then once you’ve listened deeply into a situation and listen deeply into a decision or an idea, what can happen is you’re going to have a new point of view form. Now you’re coming from that new point of view, you’re reframing.

“Gosh! I noticed I really can’t … companies are flattening now, they are beginning to stabilize, there’s no way to go up, I can’t get promoted, I’m done now.” No, let’s look at what’s really going on in the company? “Oh! We’re diversifying,” okay, I’m going to reframe. “Gee! What else laterally is going on that’s interesting horizontally with high growth curves for me intellectually,” that’s a different framing than,”How do I become a manager and get more money that way?”

I reframe into information that tells me there’s a different story going on.

Peter: I like that idea, which is that, your mind is viewing something in a certain way and if you shift the way your mind is viewing it, then you’ll appreciate it, or approach it in a completely different way.

I also really love this bias for action. For those of you that are just listening in we’re speaking with Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life, is their most recent book. We’re at the one year anniversary of the book, so I’m happy to be celebrating that with you guys.
If you’re a coach listening to this, I really urge you to buy this book and read this book because when I think about these five mindsets, the be curious, the bias for action, reframing problems, understanding the idea of a process and radical collaboration, that’s what coaches do with people. If you’re going to be an effective coach, you’re going to be working to help people increase their curiosity and actually take actions, not try to figure out everything in their heads and understand the idea of a process. I think it’s really a fantastic book.

You have lots of examples, guys, in this book of people who are in the wrong jobs, the wrong majors, they’re truly miserable, right? It’s a very clearly defined problem, but what about malaise, what about a nagging soft sense of dissatisfaction? It’s not as clear of a problem as being a biology major but hating biology, it’s the sense that, I can be happier but … something’s bugging the …

How do you help people address that sense?

Dave: Most of our clients and readers and students, don’t do the big radical shift. I mean the college students come out and they’re doing something for the first time, so by definition it’s dramatic for the most part, but most people don’t jump out of the airplane or sign up to become a French clown. That’s not the move they’re mostly making. They’re mostly making things a little bit better where they are and so to make things a little better where you are, you really got to get underneath what’s bugging you, what is working for you.

There’s this exercise that we call the Good-Time Journal that help you find out where are the points of engagement in your life that working, where are the points of engagement that are not and start understanding that, which can then lead you to taking a couple of steps and I’ll throw it back to Bill and say, “Did you hear … Bill after I do my Good-Time Journal now, what do I do?”

Bill: Well, you know again, you probably start doing some prototypes and there’s one, I was going to mention one other is a tool we have. The book is just full of these tools and ideas and things you can try and you can do then in any order you want, but if malaise is the issue and I actually was going through this a little bit when we were doing the book and we have this thing we call the Balance Dashboard.

A lot of people are talking about work-life balance, but the problem with work-life balance as a duality is that, your brain likes to take this dualities and make it a zero sum game. If I have more of one, I have less of the other and that’s really not the way life is, so we did, health, work, love and play is our little four things on our dashboard, so access … and you can have a 100% of all of them. It’s just like a dashboard on your car.

Dave: You can move one dial, without the others moving, yeah.

Bill: Yeah, so if something’s out of work, and for me what was out of … and when I did that dashboard, I went, “Oh! You know, my health is pretty good, I could probably workout some more, but my health is good, my work is fantastic. I love the teaching and the writing and stuff that I do.”

Play was almost at zero, I wasn’t doing anything playful in my life and that’s where the sense of, ‘Wow! Something isn’t right,’ come from. Do the work, love, health, play dashboard and see if you can … that’s an instant assessment. Then if you came up, if you journal for a while, if you practice just writing down, how I’m feeling and looking for moments of high engagement or high energy, then we can double down our notes.

This concept of ‘Flow’ that comes up a bunch of times in positive psychology-

Peter: God! Try to pronounce his name.

Bill: Yeah, impossible name to pronounce and we probably do it wrong every other time, but it’s this notion of looking for places where you’re fully engaged. When we started the book, we’re designers and when we started the book we did just start writing, we did a bunch of need finding, went out and did empathy with people.

Number one thing is people say, I want my life to … At the end of the day, I want someone to say that life was purposeful, it had meaning and I did something bigger than myself. I don’t want to just … at my eulogy I don’t want people to say, “Wow! He did really good PowerPoint X.” I want something bigger than that.

Meaning comes from engagement and engagement is where you spend your energy. What you actually do, what you actually work on, so if you can take either the work, love, play, health dashboard or something like the Good-Time Journal and just start noticing where are my points of high engagement. “Oh! Those are probably things I either want to add into my vocation, the thing I’m doing for work or my avocation, the thing I’m doing for love,” and there’s also, just split those two out, they aren’t the same.

Peter: Great, so I’m going to give you a concrete example and I love the dashboard, and when I look at myself for the example, for the dashboard, work, play, love, health, I’m actually pretty happy with where I am in each of those. The play category, I fall short in, and here’s the dynamic, I begin to play, like I want to play with writing, I think writing is kind of fun, so I begin to play with writing but then I start a column and now I have to do something every week and now, suddenly play becomes work.

I love skiing, and I was a ski racer as a kid, so now I teach it on the weekends. I enjoy being physical and now I’m really pushing myself to optimize my health and so … there’s someone, a girlfriend many, many, many years ago, I’ve been married for a long time, but so this is probably 30 years ago or something said, “Is there anything you do that’s not for a purpose?” My answer is always, “I really love everything that I do, like there’s nothing I don’t love, but there is always something that I’m trying to get out of it in the end, or that I use it to be efficient or et cetera.” I think underlying that, is some nagging insecurity of like not having enough or not needing more money or … whatever that is.

My question is, how do you, you know, when you look at each of these four things, and it goes, okay, play is kind of an interesting one, everything I do for play becomes work, so what are your thoughts?

Dave: This simple Peter and by the way, we don’t do therapy, so if you want to go down to the nagging, you know your mother took the teddy bear away too soon, you know and give you something about –

Peter: Right, and I hear you saying that probably therapy would be helpful for me, but if we go beyond that-

Dave: No, actually I’m not, what I’m saying is, we agree with the trend in therapy, which is figuring it out is kind of helpful but actually behaving differently is hugely helpful.

Peter: Right.

Dave: Again, biased to action, actually creeping into phycology, finally where it deserves to be too, we would say, “Look, paying attention.” In the latter part of the book we talked about personal practices and paying attention and so if you’re paying attention you go,”Oh! I notice that Peter has an incredibly strong habit of instrumentalizing everything.”

You are a business guy, we talk about business thinking is organized around optimizing and systematizing and that’s what you will do. Given a chance to optimize and systematize to an instrumental outcome, you will go there every single time. Now, you have a new design goal.

I have a design goal to create an activity or even a habit in my life, which has no instrumental outcome and cannot be systematized. Now either I’m going to be a discard against it like, “No, I will not be the ski teacher, I’ll just can be your demo bunny once a month every …” or I pick things that really can’t be instrumentalized, right, I mean, Bill’s working on his art and he’s a little ways away from being a fabulously successful artist who has to spend all his time at the gallery, eventually he may have that problem, but what you just do, you design for what you want.

All you have to do is go, “Oh! I’ve learnt something, I’m noticing an increment forward and I’m going to try to, for just once, I’m going to pick one fun thing I do, that could be instrumentalized, I’m going to do it six times without structuring it, grading it, scoring it and my goal, I have my goal, my goal is to be a score free person,” six times, so you game it, you just game yourself.

Peter: Right, I love your limitation of six times, because it feels like the combination of curiosity and awareness and a bias for action that says, you need a point at which you try something and stop and reflect back on say, how’s it going.

Dave: Finite is your friend, I lead a small discussion group of young professionals on these kinds of issues for six weeks and they weren’t quite done and we renewed another six week. We did that, some 20 odd times over two and a half year period and a year and a half into it I said, “Guys, can we disagree we meet on Wednesdays?” and everybody goes, “No, I just can’t deal with that,” so we just did six weeks at a time for two and a half years.

Peter: That’s great.

In your experience in helping people design their lives, and a lot of my questions might lean towards the psychology because I feel like the challenges we often face is kind of, bridges that gap between psychology and action and I imagine that people are trying to solve problems but there’s underlying problems, you know that adage that wherever you go, there you are, right?

Dave: Yep.

Peter: In other words if we’re unsettled, there maybe elements of ourselves versus what we’re doing, that we’re unsettled about and I could fantasize about leaving New York and living in the Berkshires and having a garden and living that life, but then I actually get to the Berkshires and I’m just exchanging one set of problems for another and that ultimately, the issue might be my sort of dissatisfaction with something, I don’t know what. How do you see that play out with people whose lives you helped to redesign and when you watch them redesign their lives?

Bill: Well, my guess is Peter you get to the Berkshires and you start growing tomatoes and then you decide, I’m going to enter the tomato growing competition and I’m going to grow the biggest tomato. You know when-

Dave: [crosstalk 00:21:44] Incorporated, yeah.

Bill: Yeah, in our model-

Peter: You’re on to me.

Dave: Yeah.

Bill: … the standard design thinking model, we say you start with empathy, then you redefine the problem, but in our model we say, you start with accept because as Dave was just famous for saying, “You can’t solve a problem you’re not willing to have.”

First of all you got to say, okay, “I really do want to … I want something to change, I need something to change in my life.” I’ve got this malaise, or I’ve got this problem, I’ve got this thing, or I’m just curious and I just, wondering if there’s something that could be better.

You start with accept and then you look out for two really nasty kinds of problems. One is called a Gravity problem and one is called an Anchor problem, I’ll describe anchor and Dave can do gravity because he does it better.

The anchor problem is, “Oh! Gee! You know, what I’d really like to do is have a garden but we can’t afford the move to the Berkshires, so I can’t have a garden,” right?

What I’ve done, is I’ve said, the solution-

Dave: I must be unhappy.

Bill: Yeah, so the solution to my problem is, the presenting idea is, “Gee! I’d like to do be a gardener or do something in the garden,” but I’ve decided the only solution, are anchored on the solution of moving to the Berkshires. Since we cannot move to the Berkshires, I can’t have a garden, therefore I can’t be happy. You see what you’ve done, is you’ve baked the solution into the problem.

The solution has been defined as the problem, can’t move to the Berkshires. Look, I’m sure there’s community gardens in the Upper West side of Manhattan. I’m sure there’s ways you can put a container on the porch, there’s a million different ways you can do it, but we notice people all the time pick a solution, pretend it’s the problem and then say, “Oh! Gosh! Since I can’t have the thing I want, I can’t, quite, solve this problem.” They’ve mistaken solution for a problem, they’ve anchored on it and now they can’t move forward.

Once we explain it to them, it’s almost laughable, they go, “Oh! You’re right, I could reframe this and there’s hundreds of ways to be a gardener in Manhattan.” That’s an anchor problem.

Peter: Maybe it’s not even an anchor problem because the reality is maybe it’s about not spending time outdoors in Central Park. Maybe it’s about growing something, and what you’re saying is very consistent and really helpful to what you said at the very beginning, which is, redesigning your life doesn’t mean picking up, learning surfing and moving Malibu, although it might for somebody, but there’s often these little shifts that we can make in our lives that bring us closer to the sort of deeper connection of who we are and the way we want to live our lives.

Bill: The ability to reframe these problems is really critical. You know there’s a … Your Business Guide, there’s a Peter quote that, there’s nothing, so and absolutely nothing so useful as solving something very well that never needed to be solved in the first place, right?

I mean, so many people are working on problems that really don’t exist and the gravity is an example, Dave.

Dave: Well the gravity , I was like the question you were really asking Peter is, I’m I really working on the right thing, or once I put the solution in place I’m I going to get the benefit out of it, or is this masking some other underlying thing, whether it’s personal or what have you. I mean, I always get to that too because that’s the subtlety of problem selection.

A classic, in fact this has probably been the number one surprise for us, I mean what are the things we hear back from people on the book all the time about? We hear this one a lot, which is gravity problems and gravity problems are like, “I’m a cyclist and I’m aging, so I didn’t get the freshman 15 in college but I am getting the 64 year old guys 12 pound edition, so my gears are working less well going up hills and, hey, Bill you know I got this problem, it’s gravity, it’s making me crazy. It’s just ruining my cycling experience, can you help me with gravity?” Off course the answer is, no, gravity is not a problem, it’s a force of nature. You can’t fix gravity.

A lot of people have a problem, which isn’t actionable at all, I mean it’s actually an actual issue, right, but the problem is unactionable. As the designer say, If you can’t act on it, biased to action, then it’s not a problem, it’s a circumstance, so the reframe is, you’re just heavier Dave, so if you accept that you now weigh 220 not 210, then what are you going to do? I kind of go, “Okay, well, I could look into lighter biking materials, I could look into flatter routes, I could into just more gears. I could look into like, get over it.”

There a whole bunch of ways that free me to move into solving the problem I actually have that’s actionable but I don’t like. When you notice that you really are having a problem with your problem, that’s a problem. When your problem isn’t your problem, but it’s your problem with your problem, you probably have a gravity problem and that’s a problem.

That’s what you got to watch out for and a lot of people … and as soon as you realize your problem, is a gravity, it’s an un-actionable the way it’s currently framed. People often hate that like you mean, I’ll never … well, I’ll probably never get rich being a poet, well okay, but can I live and do poetry? Sure you could in a variety of ways.

You could grow something Peter even if you’re not tracking the train in from the Berkshire.

Peter: Let’s actually take this gravity problem and apply it, certainly to something that you wrote in the book. Dave, you’re now from this podcast a famous procrastinator-

Dave: Yes, right.

Peter: … right and so you also said in the book that there’s not much for you left to learn there, like it’s a weakness and it’s something you do, so how do we tell that a weakness … I’m going to make a link now to what you were just saying, to what extent does a weakness become a gravity problem, which is, I’m just not going to change that about me, that’s just the reality … or to what extent can we change anything about ourselves because we can?

I’m kind of curious to know how we know when a weakness is something that we still try to get better at or something we give up on?

Dave: Yeah, Oh! Boy this is a … I think this is a really, really tough growing up call. I can hear Carol Dweck’s voice screaming in the background even now on persistence and grit.

Peter: Yeah.

Dave: The way we frame this, is all of us, many times in life have to decided when is it time to work through something and when is it time to work around something and that’s a judgment call, that’s really a judgment call.

Peter: Right.

Well and it’s interesting because you’ve got Carol Dweck for example, who’s been on this podcast, who will say and who I love, you know, he’ll say, you have a growth mindset, you can improve on anything et cetera-

Dave: Yeah, go for it –

Peter: … you’ve got Marcus Buckingham and Gallup who we’re going to say, you know leverage your strengths and you can’t fix a weakness and don’t bother doing it and just-

Dave: Right.

Peter: … and I think this is what people are often faced with, which is these differing perspectives and it’s like, “Aha! What do I do now? Lots of experts are telling me different things.”

Dave: What we’re going to tell you is, think about it, frame the problems accurately as you can. Recognize your probably not going to, quote, ‘solve it,’ but you’re going to put a design solution in place for a while, evaluate it and then try again.

So first of all, I think you probably want a bias towards over-comer to some degree, I mean we would certainly agree with Carol in that regard but after a couple of tries, you have to decide, I’m hitting the point of diminishing return, is this really worth it anymore.

In my early career, I was trying to be a really effective executive in start-ups and being a great father, my father he died when I was very, very young and I didn’t have a dad, I thought being one was really, really important. I kept working at it and working at it, and working at it and I finally realized at the pace I’m going, being the really efficient smarter not harder executive, by the time I pull that off and I’m still an awesome dad … so I’m killing it in business and I’m coaching little, and I’m teaching Sunday school and I’m showing up for dinner on time and I’m amazing. You know, the kids will be about 25 and I finally said, you know, I think I’d rather get a B on time than an A, too late.

You just make judgment calling and then you put some support around you, we haven’t talked about teams and support yet by the way. I think you need some feedback from some people and this is about return, back to ROI, what it is my life working for me or not.

Peter: If it is not working for me in any particular way, it doesn’t have to be huge, then making slight changes that you reflect on and experience and play with, in a way that allows you to see if there’s an impact. It’s like a food journal and you’re right, tofu didn’t feel so good afterwards, great I should probably stop eating tofu.

Dave: Yeah, I mean to what degree, I know an artistic gentleman, we’ll call him John who lives in a big city in this country and John can’t do left turns, just can’t do them but three rights is a left. Now, in his city there’re a lot of one-way streets, so frankly it’s a little bit, he just has to leave early, but he can get there.

Now, we could hire a psychiatrist and a psychologist and a super coach and have John have the left turn break through. We could break the barrier and probably break his back doing it but I mean life’s too … I mean look, I’ll just leave five minutes earlier, okay, I’m just making three right turns, so there are tradeoffs here. Give yourself a little break.

Peter: I wish we could go on forever, we’re running out of time but I so appreciate both the book and your comments on the podcast.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, their book is, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. It’s as enjoyable to read, as these guys are to talk with and listen to. Thank you so much Bill and Dave for being on the Bregman Leadership Podcast.

Bill: You’re welcome.

Dave: Peter, been great to be here, thanks so much.

Peter: I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Bregman Leadership Podcast. If you did, it would really help us if you subscribe on iTunes and leave a review. A common problem that I see in companies is a lot of busyness, a lot of hard work that fails to move the organization as a whole forward, that’s the problem that we solve with our big arrow process.

For more information about that or to access all of my articles, videos and podcasts, visit Thank you Clare Marshall for producing this episode and thank you for listening.