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Odyssey Planning – 3 Alternative Futures

Lesson 8 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

Odyssey Planning – 3 Alternative Futures

Lesson 8 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

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Lesson Info

8. Odyssey Planning – 3 Alternative Futures

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson is about odyssey planning, which involves ideating and creating three alternative versions of your future life. The lesson provides guidance on how to fill out an odyssey plan worksheet, which includes a five-year timeline, a story title, and a dashboard to assess resources, likes/dislikes, confidence, and coherence. The lesson also emphasizes the importance of including a wild idea in one of the plans to break down the internal critic and open up possibilities for hidden ideas.


  1. What is odyssey planning?

    Odyssey planning is the process of creating three alternative versions of your future life.

  2. What is included in the odyssey plan worksheet?

    The worksheet includes a five-year timeline, a story title, and a dashboard to assess resources, likes/dislikes, confidence, and coherence.

  3. Why is a five-year timeline used for odyssey planning?

    A five-year timeline is used because it is a balanced timeframe that allows for meaningful planning without being too short or too long.

  4. What is the purpose of including a wild idea in one of the plans?

    Including a wild idea helps to break down the internal critic and open up possibilities for hidden ideas.

  5. Can certain elements, such as raising children or going to Paris, be included in all three plans?

    Yes, certain elements can be included in all three plans if they are important and relevant to your future life.

  6. How long does it typically take to complete an odyssey plan?

    The lesson suggests allocating about 12 minutes to complete the plans, but some participants may finish sooner depending on their progress.

Lesson Info

Odyssey Planning – 3 Alternative Futures

It's time to ideate the future. It is a time to ideate your future. No it's not, doesn't work. It's time to ideate your futures because, of course, there's more than one of you. We're going to limit you to merely three today. We have enough time to come up with three versions of you. So we're going to actually do what we call odyssey planning, it's really odyssey ideation, these aren't plans yet, these are imaginal sets of ideas, of possibilities, which means we're going to do it three times. We're going to give you, on single piece of paper, the odyssey plan worksheet, you're going to come up with three different versions of you. That worksheet's coming to you right now, and if you're working on this remotely or at home, you definitely want that worksheet in your hands. It's very simple, about 15 minutes from now, you're going to have a whole bunch of ideas you haven't had before. Trust me, thousands of people have done this, you can do it, too. So, with that in your hand, let me wa...

lk you through what this looks like. Yeah, we'll walk you through it, exactly how to do it. We'll be very clear, exactly what to do, 'cause this will look a little strange. So, what you'll see is three different panels that look just like this one we're showing up here now, which is, at the top it says simply a five year period of time. Why five years, Bill and Dave? 'Cause two years is too short and 10 years is too long, it's a very carefully thought out exercise. Five years is about as far as we can think. Two years is all plans really work, by the way. And that timeline will include the major milestones of what this version of your life would include. Professional milestones, personal milestones, all kinds of things, we'll give you a very detailed example so you know just what these might look like. After you do the timeline, then you want to name, what's the story, what's the three to six word title of this story? You know, Finally Doing Poetry, or whatever it might be. And then we're going to do the dashboard, how do you feel about your own set of ideas? And the dashboard is a set of gauges you would look at to see how do I think about what I think? Now, the gauges are ones you're not used to. So there are four of them, resources, which simply means do you have the raw material, the training, the money, the contacts, whatever it takes, to pull this idea off? If you're going to live this five year life, do you have what it takes? Do I like it, hot to cold, you know, is this something that really turns me on, it really doesn't, you know, how do I feel about this thing emotionally? Confidence, what is my confidence, that if I actually did this, it would actually happen? Now, by the way, you may think that confidence and resources are just asking the same question twice. No, it's not. Resources is your objective brain analyzing what your situation is, and confidence is your emotional intuition telling you how you feel about it. You want both of those inputs. And lastly, coherence. This is the authentic thing we worked on earlier today where your life you work for your alignment, if I lived this way, is this one of the real mes? Authentic isn't just one thing, but it is within the domain of who you are as a person, is this is real me, or is this, "Oh, yeah, my mom would love this plan." You know, is that the way, that's great. I had one client who did this thing and said, "Gosh, it was really fun, Dave, "and then I noticed I Like It was really low "on all three plans, what do I do?" I said, "You do plans four, five, and six." You know, now that you've got those out of your brain. So, that's what the dashboard looks like, you get the dashboard done, "Gee, what does this look like?" Okay, so we're now going to tell you a story built out of the lives of a number of women we've known together and we've rolled them together to call her Ann. So here is Ann, and she's, you know, part-way into her career, she's a successful HR person working in the corporate world, but once upon a time, she thought she wanted to work with children, and so maybe is it time for a change? So Ann's at that place where is it time for a change? Not just a new job, but a new career. By the way, the research now shows most people have two to four careers, not just three to 10 jobs, so you know, it might time for another career. So the first thing she thinks 'cause she's a business person, she's a highly successful executive, she knows how to run things, "I've got to form a 501(c)(3), "I'm gonna organize this thing. "I'm gonna, you know, prototype the curriculum, "I'm not gonna build this from scratch. "In fact, I've decided to work on reading comprehension. "I want to work with at risk kids. "Back in my twenties, I kind of thought, "you know, maybe I should do that, "and I went the business route instead, "I'm kind of going back to that idea. "So, a lot of people have worked on that. "Reading comprehension, I can go learn "who's got the best stuff, and I can start deploying that "and figuring out how to scale a service around that, "and over time, I want that to be really high impact. "This is not the cute little thing I'm doing on the side, "this is a new career for me. "So that's kind of the business thing. "Boy, that's a lot of work now that I think about it." Boy, don't forget the family. Again, this is life planning, not just career planning, you know, Ann, she's getting to the place where mom and dad are kind of moving on. You know, and we need to be thinking about where they're gonna go at some point. We had the family meeting, and thankfully, mom and dad said, "By the way, we want all you kids to know, "we don't really want to live with you." And the kids go, "Okay, that's fine with us, too." But we do have to find a place where mom and dad can eventually go, and let's do that together as a family. Which also means, "Boy, before we forget it, "we gotta get that family story, you know, "the whole genealogy, the history, the family story, "only mom and dad know that. "They're both the last of their line, "they were only children, and if they die "without us getting this story, it's gone. "Let's not forget to do that. "Boy, and speaking of writing the story down, "I don't really know what I'm doing. "I was interested in kids once upon a time, "but I don't know anything about that. "Maybe I should go to grad school "and learn some of that stuff. "I better do it in the first two years "'cause once that thing starts to scale, "if this works, I'm really busy, so I gotta do that now. "That would be interesting, boy, "speaking of stuff I've got to do now, Paris! "Let's go back to Paris, oh yeah, "Dan and I, you know, when we got married, "we had our honeymoon in Paris and we said, "every two or three years, we're gonna go back to Paris. "We're gonna keep coming back and renew the romance. "That kind of never really happened. "We've never gone back once, so we gotta get that in, "and we better stop at the Galapagos on the way home, "'cause it's gonna be underwater soon, "and I want to see it before the turtles all have to leave." Okay, "Boy, that's really a pretty "interesting life I could lead! "If I do that, I should write a book. (audience laughs) "That would be Life With Ann, how cool is that? "Now, how do I feel about that? "What would my dashboard look like? "Well, you know, my resources, pretty good shape. "Actually, I don't have the money, "I don't have the curriculum, I don't have the people yet, "but I'm a good organizer, so, you know. "I really like this thing. "My confidence is much higher than my resources, "'cause I'm pretty sure I can pull this off. "My coherence is pretty good." Actually, she's a little on the fence about that. "Two things come to mind, number one, "do I really want to get this busy "as mom and dad are getting older? "I can't reschedule their aging. "I hope I don't regret this, not sure about that. "And number two, I loved remembering "I used to want to do this. "I'm not sure if I really care about at risk kids, "or I just have a lovely nostalgia "for having once cared that I cared about at risk kids? "If I really do this, is this gonna work, "or do I just like remembering that I was going to do it? "That's a hard thing to understand, "I may need to figure that out. "I'm being honest with myself, you know. "I'm maybe not that noble." So that's Ann. Now, you know, about at the speed I talked it out, she thinks it out, that's what you're gonna be doing very shortly. But you may be going, "Three?" Yeah, when Bill did the weird thing with the linear accelerator, I said, "14, but three, I have to actually write three down?" Well, if you're struggling, first of all, if you have three wild ideas or three very different ideas right now, great, go with that. But if you're one of the many people, lots have watched at home, perhaps, many of the people we work with go, "I don't know how to come up with three versions of me." We'll give you a little backup tip. So here's the template for if you don't know how to get to three versions. Number one, thing one, the life you're in, the life you're already in, just assume that's gonna go really well for the next five years. Jump in, get it going, this is imaginal, this is not objective project management yet. Just assume that life goes really well, and the next five years come out great. What would that look like? And then, assume you're not allowed to do that at all. Thing number two is that thing you're now doing, it's over! That whole industry, that whole field, died, right? Now, anybody in the room here, actually, has anybody here ever done for a living a thing nobody does anymore? You can't even have that job anymore, the job's gone? Yeah, that's happened to me three times, right? So, you know, how many of you, let's look at it the other way, would love to talk about what you want to be doing 12 years from now, but what you really hope is we can't because it hasn't even been invented yet? Who hopes they find that thing you didn't even know you were looking for? Right? So if those things are true, and they are, then trust me, there might be a time when you have to do something completely different than what you're doing, just assume, "I have to completely restart, "and I gotta get it going, what would I do?" And the last thing is if I could promise you neither money nor shame was an issue, they will not laugh at you, and you will have enough to live on comfortably, just trust me, what would you do? Money's not an object, nobody will laugh. That's thing one, thing two, thing three. So, if you need a backup plan, that's the way you do it. So now, that third one is about a wild idea, we really do encourage that one of them is the wild idea, like that Cirque du Soleil clown thing. Like, you've always really thought about that? We want that in there. Why? You know, the designers get this rep all the time for being the wild idea guys. They love to go through Post-it notes and think up crazy things that can't be done. That seems stupid. Why do we do that? It's not stupid. Not stupid. It's because of your brain. We want to work with your brain, this is human-centered design. How do human brains work? Here's how they work. When you have a nice, respectable idea, the internal critic goes, "Good job, I'm happy with that. "Keep going, you're doing fine." You have a wild idea! The internal critic goes, "Oh, that won't work! "How stupid is that, you're gonna embarrass yourself!" and it puts up a little wall in your brain, protecting you from the wild ideas that will embarrass you in public. The problem is, on the other side of that wall, with the internal critic that's shutting you down, different parts of your brain, there might be all those hidden ideas, including some really interesting, worthwhile ones. And what if one of the hidden ideas was the big idea that would really cool for you? So, we don't want that to happen, we want to get rid of the internal critic, we want to tear down that wall, you want access to all of your ideas. If you force yourself to have a wild idea, you will have knocked the wall down in your brain. You've deferred judgment and you have the green field of possibility, and your intuition can work better with you. We've done this before, trust us, it's good. Do at least one wild idea. Okay, that's why we do it. Now, time to get to work. You've got your plans, you've got your documents. Again, we're gonna give you 12 minutes. What you will find, yeah, "Whoa!" And about half of you will be done in nine. Trust me, once you get going, this thing goes pretty quick. We'll give you about 12 minutes. If you get stuck on one, jump to number two, go back and forth, that's okay. Fill them in as best you can. If you get stuck, raise your hand. We will come and coach you. And you know, things like raising my kids and going to Paris, that can be in all three plans. You don't have to, like, not have children in one of the plans. So if there's certain things that are on the bucket list and they're gonna show up everywhere, just put them on all three plans, that's fine. But make sure... Gonna scale Mount Fuji before the snow melts. Being a project manager at this construction company or another one, or a bigger one, that's just three of the same. So, you know, it's gotta be different, and one of them's gotta be, you know, something really out there.

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Ratings and Reviews


A fantastic class for someone seeking to optimize their life for a greater sense of satisfaction and especially for someone who is considering a career transition. We are taught effective methods for brainstorming, examining, and prototyping our options, and we are given an approach for the hardest task of all: how to make a choice when faced with multiple good options! Also great tips for networking and getting your foot in the door. This class was very timely for me as I've been struggling with making a decision on what my next career was going to be. I now feel equipped with tools that will help me make that decision with less agony and more fun! Also, I'm a huge fan of design thinking, so it was great to see how that methodology could be applied to making one of the most important decisions in our life.

Karen Vitto

Great course! Great for who like me is on their 30's starting life in a new country with a new language and have been out of the industry for 4 years. Designing new goals, making new networking and starting a MBA for some updates on my carrear. Really helped with some focus. Super recommend!


Loved this class! It was high energy, fast paced and well organized, as well as inspiring. It helped me to make more concrete things I've been thinking and dreaming about. I'm so glad I took it. I made great contacts and will definitely use this material in the future!

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