Every year I have lunch with a former board member on his annual visit to San Francisco. My friend is a smart, empathic, insightful former attorney turned successful serial biotech entrepreneur. He possesses that rare infrequently encountered quality: generosity of spirit, heart and mind. Our discussions are rich, meaningful and human. We both look upon them as “best lunch ever!”

This year our discussion turned to transitions, next steps, moving on. He recently turned over the reins of his last start-up and was contemplating next moves (oh, did I mention he is a very young 75). Being smart and analytical he began looking for resources and found the book “Design Your Life” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans.

Days later, following up on his comment, I noticed a workshop scheduled in my hometown the following Saturday. What were the odds I thought…. so I signed up.

As the attendees arrived, the universality of the ‘transition dilemma’ was in clear evidence. Participant ages ranged from early 20s to some lovely place past 75. Several continents were geographically represented; England, New Zealand, South America and all parts of the US. As the day progressed the transition dilemma further revealed itself to be industry agnostic as well.


The small workshop was held in a hip place normally used as a producer’s studio, so the energy was great from the start.

There was clear intentionality and openness; the thirty participants were transparent, warm and comforting. They had arrived with a single, unified purpose.

Each applied their personal questions following the book format with the added advantage of intentional input from our group partners.

My ‘partner’ was a thoughtful, kind and insightful former CTO and he, as well as everyone, approached the day with the goal of increasing his own individual clarity while assisting everyone else in achieving theirs.

We came equipped with the requisite homework: a short reflection on our workview and lifeview. Work is defined as our ‘active engagement with the world’ and lifeview as the ‘values and perspectives that provide the basis of our understanding of life’.

Try versus think

The DYL (Design Your Life) self-development philosophy focuses on action. Doing is always better than analyzing.

Doing includes ‘prototyping’ scenarios to get a sense of how an option truly feels to you. The way something feels provides us with critical information.

For example, say you love animals and always thought your ideal vocation would be to open an animal rescue shelter. Before you change your entire life and invest your savings, try (prototype) the idea. Volunteer at the local shelter, get involved in animal fostering, talk to people who have successfully opened an animal rescue shelter. Get a real feel for how each and every day would be.

Problem versus Circumstance:

Accepting reality, referred to as ‘gravity’, is foundational.

Gravity is after all a fact, not a problem. If something is not actionable, it is not a problem but a circumstance.

Gravity cannot be changed. And there are facts of each of our lives that simply cannot be changed (if you are 5’2” and 50 years old you will not star in the NBA).

Accepting reality empowers and liberates simultaneously. When we grab onto reality today, we let go of the past, regret and the impossibility of making a different decision or creating a different outcome in the past.

Accepting reality aids in releasing our dysfunctional beliefs. We can only start where we are.

We can only start right now, not yesterday.

Future versus Past

As we grab onto intentionality, reality and prototyping, we let go of feeling stuck and lost.

DYL suggests working on three different five-year odyssey plans.

1.) What our lives would look like if we continue on our current path for the next five years.

2.) If our current thing disappeared (as it did to buggy-hip manufacturers).

3.) (And, this is the best…) what we would choose to do if money and image were entirely irrelevant and we simply did not care what anyone thought?

In whatever transition we find our self (whatever age, state, attitude), it is important to:

· Affirm our nature

· Restore our inner strength

· Grab onto a future goal.

Grabbing onto a future vision allows us to let go of the false, failed, former and past.

Choose versus Agonize:

What we choose will define our happiness.

One of the more important choices we can make is to stop agonizing over past choices. A close friend is fond of saying ‘whatever choice you made was the best choice’ period, end of story.

We can never go back and choose again, therefore we must let go and move onto the future.

When we move the focus from analyzing (which frequently includes analyzing the past) to doing, we are focusing on forward motion. When we focus on what we can do, we minimize the focus on what we should have done or could have done or would have done.

We start to get curious, investigate, notice and follow the ‘flow’ of our interests. We try things, we release, we accept and we move intentionally into our future.

We know the answer, but sometimes we have to pay special attention. As we let go of who others wanted us to be, we grab onto being more authentically us.

Our life sparkles when we connect who we are with what we believe and what we do. This is not always easy but it is always wonderful.