Designing Your Life

Adam Klein interviews Bill Burnett, co-founder of Stanford University’s popular “Designing Your Life” program, discussing the origins of this life design program, which helps students apply design thinking tools to explore their life paths.

Here are some of the topics covered in the Stepping In podcast episode Designing Your Life:

  • The philosophy of viewing yourself as the designer of your life and using prototyping, reframing, and other design tools to “wayfind” an emergent future.
  • Redesigning your understanding of yourself and challenging assumptions about work, meaning, and fulfillment.
  • Developing emotional intelligence and life practices like journaling to tune into your feelings.
  • Helping students get unstuck by setting the bar low with small, incremental prototyping steps.
  • The importance of empathy, resilience, and an openness to opportunities in designing your life’s path.


This insightful conversation provides inspiring perspectives on human-centered life design. Listeners will gain useful frameworks for getting unstuck and proactively creating a life of meaning and purpose aligned with their values.

Resources mentioned in this episode
Designing Your Life project:

Dave Evans: Bill Burnetts, Co-author and collaborator who co-founded the Designing Your Life Program

Angela Duckworth: Author of the book “Grit,” whose research on grit and perseverance are predictors of success.

Bill Damon: Researcher at Stanford who studies youth development regarding dabblers, dreamers, and purpose.

Tony Shay: Founder of Zappos who talks about cultivating an attitude of being “lucky.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: Quoted regarding his views on finding meaning and purposeful work.

Bill Burnett
Bill is the Executive Director of the Design Program and a prestigious Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Thousands of students later, Bill is still drawing and building things, teaching others how to do the same. Bill Burnett is an Adjunct Professor and the Executive Director of the Life Design Lab at Stanford.

He received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Product Design at Stanford and has worked in start-ups 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 toys.

About Adam Klein
Adam is dedicated to creating a more just, sustainable, creative, and loving world. Before joining New Ventures West, he helped create a first-in-class business solution to combat global slavery and relaunch a San Francisco Bay Area center for integral spiritual formation.

Adam has a Master’s degree in Engineering from Santa Clara University. Some time ago he entered the world of Ironman triathlons and ultra-running as a means to further understand the importance of the body and the deep, integral nature of being human.

Adam focuses on integrating NVW’s purpose and bringing it to fruition. He oversees strategy, tech, and the flow of various internal work streams, as well as supporting graduates and ensuring ICF compliance.

He regularly leads the Professional Coaching Course, hosts our orientation events in San Francisco, is the creator and host of the NVW podcast Stepping In, and has his own business coaching leaders and individuals.

About the Stepping In
Stepping In is a podcast of bold inquiry into life’s biggest challenges with one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished coaching schools, New Ventures West.

In a spirit of curiosity, compassion, and honesty, we delve into how Integral Coaching can address some of the most pressing issues we face as individuals, communities, and stewards of our planet.

In the Stepping In Podcast, we explore what it takes to develop the sensitivity and capacity required to live and thrive in an increasingly complex world.

About New Ventures West
From its humble beginnings to one of the top accredited coaching schools in the world, New Ventures West pioneered one of the deepest, most transformative forms of human development available for coaches, leaders, and anyone looking to bring people alive in possibility.

Further Exploration
New Ventures West:
Getting Started with Integral Coaching:…
Free and paid Integral Coaching events:

0:00 Introduction
1:00 Impetus behind Designing Your Life
9:25 What motivates Burnett
11:13 Challenging assumptions about meaning of work
13:45 Developing emotional intelligence and life practices
17:31 Supporting student resilience
22:26 The current generation
25:03 Categorizing students
30:35 Getting unstuck
34:20 Unpacking problems

Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed used with permission
License 1504673862 Date 4/30/24
©EMI Blackwood Music Inc OBO Oakfield Music LTD