How Will You Measure Your Life? – Clayton M. Christensen

What are some life lessons that we can take away from such an accomplished man, Clayton M. Christensen, who is a Harvard Business School graduate and Professor, author, entrepreneur of four companies, and a five-time recipient of the McKinsey Award? To Christensen, life is about finding your purpose and fulfilling it. He addresses that your life should be measured against yourself on how well you’re living out that purpose. Here are some of the points to the book:


1. Make sure that you understand the real cost of pursuing/focusing on “success” as there are always tradeoffs in life; sometimes you bite off more than you can chew. Don’t get so caught up with focusing on the tree that you don’t get a chance to look at the forest. Among my classmates were executives at renowned consulting and finance firms like McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs; other were on their way to top spots in Fortune 500 companies; some were already successful entrepreneurs, and a few were earning enormous, life-changing amounts of money. Despite such professional accomplishments, however, many of them were clearly unhappy. Behind the facade of professional success, there were many who did not enjoy what they were doing for a living. There were, also, numerous stories of divorces or unhappy marriages. I remember one classmate who hadn’t talked to his children in years, who was now living on the opposite coast from them. Another was on her third marriage since we’d graduated.


2. I’ve heard and read several times that chasing money is never a good game plan as it never ends well. Don’t let others influence your decision on how to make it and what it means to you. This is especially true with the media showing flashy lives of others and how they acquired it. What they show is just one side of the story and may be staged. The pressures we all face-providing for our families, meeting our own expectations and those of our parents and friends, and, for some of us, keeping up with our neighbors-are tough. In the case of my classmates (and many graduating classes since), this manifested itself in taking jobs as bankers, fund managers, consultants, and plenty of other well-regarded positions. For some people, it was a choice of passion-they genuinely loved what they did and those jobs worked out well for them. But for others, it was a choice based on getting a good financial return on their expensive degree. By taking these jobs, they managed to pay back their student loans. Then they got their mortgages under control and their families in comfortable financial positions. But somehow that early pledge to return to their real passion after a couple of years kept getting deferred. ‘Just one more year…’ or ‘I’m not sure what else I would do now.’ All the while, their incomes continued to swell. It wasn’t too long, however, before some of them privately admitted that they had actually begun to resent the jobs they’d taken-for what they now realized were the wrong reasons. He later states, For many of us, one of the easiest mistakes to make is to focus on trying to over-satisfy the tangible trappings of professional success in the mistaken belief that those things will make us happy. Better salaries, A more prestigious title. A nicer office. They are, after all, what our friends and family see as signs that we have ‘made it’ professionally. But as soon as you find yourself focusing on the tangible aspects of your job, you are at risk of becoming like some of my classmates, chasing a mirage. The next pay raise, you think, will be the one that finally makes you happy. It’s a hopeless quest.


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3. Having a clearly defined life plan is probably a waste of time. When was the last time you planned out your life and it went according to that plan? In my experience, my life has never played out according to how I planned it; it’s funny how life is like that. The next best thing to do is to be able to adapt to your situation and go with what works. Life has an interesting way of taking you on a path to your destination. Once you understand the concept of emergent and deliberate strategy, you’ll know that if you’ve yet to find something that really works in your career, expecting to have a clear vision of where your life will take you is just wasting time. Even worse, it may actually close your mind to unexpected opportunities. While you are still figuring out your career, you should keep the aperture of your life wide open. Depending on your particular circumstances, you should be prepared to experiment with different opportunities, ready to pivot, and continue to adjust your strategy until you find what it is that both satisfies the hygiene factors and gives you all the motivators. Only then does a deliberate strategy make sense. When you get it right, you’ll know.


4. Having good social relationships in your life is so imperative to your happiness. Don’t underestimate the ability of your close friends and family to lift your spirits up when you’re down. Never neglect those important to you as they can bring you more happiness than anything else. The relationships you have with family and close friends are going to be the most important sources of happiness in your life. But you have to be careful. When it seems like everything at home is going well, you will be lulled into believing that you can put your investments in these relationships onto the back burner. That would be an enormous mistake. By the time serious problems arise in those relationships, it often is too late to repair them. This means, almost paradoxically, that the time when it is most important to invest in building strong families and close friendships is when it appears, at the surface, as if it’s not necessary.


By Ryan Lee


My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon USA
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


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