Dave Evans on Designing Your Life

Dave Evans began his career as an engineer, pioneering new technologies at Apple and then helping co-found Electronic Arts. He realized what he loved most in his work was helping build creative environments where people could do work that was meaningful and important. Along with Bill Burnett, he co-founded the Stanford Life Design Lab, wrote the bestselling Designing Your Life, and has been helping people use the design process in pursuit of individual and collective flourishing.

We are thrilled Dave joined us on April 17, 2023 for a conversation about his work. We discussed how life design can inform our teaching in higher education and how it can help those of us in the working world navigate our professions with purpose. We also considered how work is changing, and how to approach these issues through the lens of flourishing and the common good.

Dave Evans has always been trying to figure out what he wants to do. As an undergraduate at Stanford, Dave decided to go to the career center to ask them what he wanted to do. Since they were not in the business of helping people find out what they wanted to do, that staff at the career center thought he was a bit confused. “Look, that’s not the way things work,” they told him, “You tell us what you want to do, and we help you find it.” 

 

Now Dave, of course, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so from there, he says, “I started trying to figure it out, which I found incredibly hard, not only figuring out how to be successful, but how to go build […] the life of a meaning maker.”

 

It has been a long journey, but Dave now has it (partially) figured out. One of the (very many) things he wants to do is help people answer that first question, coming alongside them on the path to finding what they want to do. In Designing Your Life, Dave and his co-author Bill Burnett demonstrate how design thinking can help us create lives that are both meaningful and fulfilling. Alongside the book project, Dave and Bill also created the Designing Your Life Lab, a suite of courses, conferences, and resources meant to help Stanford students discover their vocations.

 

Designing Your Life is not just for rich Stanford students, and can work on any income. Dave shared that the Designing Your Life team has “now trained some 1,400 Educators at 400+ universities,” reaching “over a hundred thousand students, including those in under-resourced communities.” At California State University, Dominguez Hills, Dr. Heather Butler teaches a Design Your Life class that, by Dave’s own admission, is a bigger benefit to her students than Dave’s class is to the students at Stanford. Because Dr. Butler’s students are starting out with far less help figuring out what they want to do, they have demonstrated far more growth than their better-resourced peers at Stanford.

 

Along with helping students to design their lives, Dave has also applied his design model for those who are well past their college years. Designing Your Life was written for all ages, and Dave now spends most of his teaching time at Stanford, not undergraduates, but post-college adults. Through year-long fellowships at Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, Dave now helps mid-career professionals and retirees rediscover meaning in their work and family lives. And as a self-professed Jesus-loving Christian, Dave has also adapted the Designing Your Life framework for Christians who are trying to live out God’s will for their lives. Designing Your Life can work for anyone that wants to make sure their day-to-day lives better align with their deeper values.

 

Despite the enormous success of the Designing Your Life Project, Dave is still discovering what he wants to do. Whether that is doing 11 talks in 48 hours (like he did before this talk!) or spending more time with his 11 grandkids, Dave is still asking himself how he will design his next decade. And as he well knows through helping countless others design their lives, this is a question that only he can answer.


  • Dave’s formative years (3:30)
  • Integrating faith when designing your life (13:00)
  • Does designing your life work for those with less resources? (20:00)
  • How Dave’s students’ needs have changed over time (37:00)

  • “I started trying to figure it out, which I found incredibly hard, not only figuring out how to be successful but how to go build…a life of a meaning maker.” (6:00)
  • “If you want to live what I call a coherent life, you need three things: (1) A telos sufficient for your praxis, (2) a community of like-mindedness, and (3) mentors and advisors.” (14:15)
  • “We’ve now trained some 1,400 Educators at 400+ universities, serving six million students, we’ve probably touched over a hundred thousand students, including those in under-resourced communities.” (22:30)

Health and SocietyCenter for Social ConcernsDave EvansDesigning Your LifeDesigning Your New Work LifeDigest177digest222University of Notre DameVirtues & Vocations

Stay In Touch

Subscribe to our Newsletter


To receive the latest and featured content published to ThinkND, please provide your name and email. Free and open to all.

Hidden
Hidden
What interests you?
Select your topics, and we'll curate relevant updates for your inbox.