Bill Burnett and Dave Evans are professors at Stanford University. 

They are big-brained boffins.

They created a Ph.D. course at Stanford on how to design your life using the same frameworks created with design thinking theories. 

It works. 

They wrote a book about it. It was a #1 New York Times Best Seller. It’s called “Designing your life” 

It’s a design-based framework to decide on the best course of action. 

We are going to use the framework to design your niche. 

There are 3 phases to the design. 

Design. Prototype. Build.

First, you need to address your dysfunctional beliefs. 

Dysfunctional Beliefs

What are they? Common assumptions. 


“I’m no good at “insert whatever here”

“The market is saturated.”

“I don’t have a good enough story”

Use metacognition techniques.

Are you really not good at ‘whatever’ or is that just your self-doubt talking?

Is the market really saturated or does it just seem that way? Are there gaps and leverage points?

Tip — There are always gaps and leverage points in every market. 

Nobody believes they have a good enough story. 

Dysfunctional beliefs are part of all our lives. They prevent us from achieving our potential. 

It’s building creative businesses in niches based on assumptions that lead to most failures. 

A well-designed niche reclaims dysfunctional beliefs and reframes them. 

Action precedes passion:

The search for passion is the number one thing that gets and keeps people stuck!

Passion stems from trying new things, exploring new niches, and discovering the best ways you can solve people’s problems. 

Bill and Dave address this here. 

“We believe that people actually need to take time to develop a passion. And the research shows that, for most people, passion comes after they try something, discover they like it, and develop mastery—not before.”

Passion is not born it is created. Very few people know what they’re passionate about. You need to try out different things. 

Take action, solve problems and then access your level of passion. 


Create a niche of one

Write down your skills + your interests + experiences and then + your personality. 

Bill and Dave call them Odyssey plans. Come up with as many different niche ideas as possible. Do a mind map and be creative. 

Doesn’t matter how small or obscure they are. 

Narrow them down to 3 possibles. 

Research each opportunity. Don’t risk your future on your assumptions of what a business entails. Get into the nuts and bolts of it. 

Write a life plan for each option. Go into as much detail as possible. 

  • What does the niche look like?
  • What problem does it solve? 
  • How would it make you feel to solve this problem?
  • Would you feel fulfilled? 
  • How would your audience feel? 

• How will this niche dovetail with your personal life?

Don’t get FOMO. The truth is, as far as our big-brained boffins, Bill and Dave see it —there is no one perfect path. 

We have a couple of options, each of which can play out to a happier, more fulfilled life. The most important thing is to commit to a path and see it through. 

Factor in what is important to you. 

Flexibility. How much time off do you ideally want? 

What is important to you personally? Remember, you’re designing your ideal career/ business that fits in with your life. 

Design your career around your life

For example, in my business, I work from home ( who doesn’t these days?) so I can have lunch and dinner with my family every day. 

I can always take days off at a moment’s notice. ( this almost never happens but it’s nice to know that it can if needed)

Spending time with my 7-year-old daughter is my favourite thing in the world. 

I have designed a business that allows me the most time with my family. The more options you plan the greater your chances of success. 


Once you’ve decided on a path. Prototype it. Who else is in the niche? 

Do a paid consulting call with someone who is successful in the field you wish to enter.

Get their insights. Find out the cons as well as the pros. 

Have a list of your non-negotiables. If one of your paths is in conflict with them. Bin it. Do the same with the next idea. 

Try your message. Tweak it. Don’t be afraid to shape it.  Your ideal niche is something that develops over time.

It’s unlikely you will nail it off the bat. Don't be scared to pivot.

You will get FOMO. You will feel your niche is too small and that you’re losing out of business. 

The second is the FOMO you feel when you niche down. This is normal. 


Once you’ve successfully completed your prototyping. Commit to your new career/ business and see it through to completion. 

Build your niche — and be prepared to iterate when appropriate. 


  • Gather and create — Get information, prototype, and have a conversation. 
  • Reduce options — get to 3 options
  • Choose your niche: Be prepared to tweak, it’s unlikely you will get it exactly right off the bat.
  • Build your business: Avoid thinking of the alternatives