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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Petergeorge

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


Overview In 2010, world-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen gave a powerful speech to the Harvard Business School's graduating class. Drawing upon his business research, he offered a series of guidelines for finding meaning and happiness in life. He used examples from his own experiences to explain how high achievers can all too often fall into traps that lead to unhappiness.

The speech was memorable not only because it was deeply revealing but also because it came at a time of intense personal reflection: Christensen had just overcome the same type of cancer that had taken his father's life. As Christensen struggled with the disease, the question "How do you measure your life?" became more urgent and poignant, and he began to share his insights more widely with family, friends, and students Key Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. How can I be sure that I will be successful and happy in my career?

  2. How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?

  3. How can I be sure that I will live a life of integrity – and stay out of jail?

  • Good theory helps people steer to good decisions not just in business but in life, too.

Section I - Finding Happiness in Your Career

"The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. - Steve Jobs

"I want you to be able to experience that feeling - to wake up every morning thinking how lucky you are to be doing what you're doing"

  • Answer the key question "How can I find happiness in my career?"

  • True motivation is getting people to do something because they want to do it.

  • The theory has two factors hygiene factors and motivation factors:

    • Hygiene factors are things like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices

    • Addressing hygiene at a job isn't going to get you to love it but you will just feel the absence of job satisfaction and not hate your job

  • Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.

  • Feelings of meaning:

    • Full contribution to work arise from intrinsic conditions of the work and not so much external podding

    • We should always remember that beyond a certain point, hygiene factors such as money, status, compensation and job security are much more a by-product of being happy with a job rather than the cause of it.

  • There's a tool that can help you test whether your deliberate strategy or a new emergent one will be a fruitful approach. It forces you to articulate what assumptions need to be proved true in order for the strategy to succeed.

    • Its called discovery-drive planning or "What has to prove true for this to work?"

  • Ask project teams to compile a list of all the assumptions that have been made in those initial projections and then ask them: "Which of these assumptions need to prove true in order for us to realistically expect that these numbers will materialize?"

  • You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy in your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy. In the end a strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it's effectively implemented.

    • You might think you are a charitable person but how often do you really give your time or money to a cause or an organization that you care about?

  • Because if the decision you make about where you invest your blood, sweat and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you'll never become that person.

Section II - Finding Happiness in Your Relationships "In my experience, high-achievers focus a great deal on becoming the person they want to be at work - and far too little on the person they want to be at home."

  • I've had to force myself to stay aligned with what matters most to me by setting hard stops, barriers, and boundaries in my life - such as leaving the office at six every day to play with kids.

  • Work can bring you a sense of fulfillment (short-term) - but it pales in comparison to the enduring happiness you can find in the intimate relationships that you cultivate with your family and close friends.

  • Important Point: 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, l 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 its not necessary.

  • Capital that seeks growth before profits is bad capital.

  • The most important time for children to hear words in their life, research suggests, is the first year of their life.

  • Language dancing is being chatty, thinking aloud, and commenting on what the child is doing and what the parent is doing or planning to do.

  • In short, when a parent engages in extra talk, many, more of the synaptic pathways in the child's brain are exercised and refined.

  • Sacrifices deepens our commitment, its important to ensure that what we sacrifice for is worthy of that commitment.

  • Don't outsource your key capabilities or you would lose your whole value proposition. Ex. Dell outsourcing all the computer manufacturing to Asus and then Asus making their own computer eventually and taking away business from Dell

  • First, you must take a dynamic view of your suppliers' capabilities. Assume that they can and will change.

  • Having your children solve their own problems gives them a sense of pride and confidence that they can handle problems and figure out solutions

  • Children will learn when they are ready to learn not when we are ready to teach them. Therefore you must act and demonstrate your values on an ongoing basis as a family. If you are not with them as they encounter challenges in their lives, then you are missing important opportunities to shape their priorities - and their lives.

  • Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don't even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful.

  • Have one strong mantra to keep following for your family: "We do not let each other down no matter what the situation is"

  • You need to be sure that when you ask your children to do something, or tell your spouse you're going to do something, you hold to that and follow through.

  • Culture example: "We want Christensens to be known for kindness"

  • "This is what is so powerful about culture. It's like an auto-pilot for our mind and how we initially act"

  • Blockbuster followed a principle that is taught in every fundamental course in finance and economics: that in evaluating alternative investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs and instead base decisions on marginal costs and marginal revenues. This is dangerous way of thinking. By this analysis innovation and industry changing ideas will always showed marginal profits aren't worth it and focus on what they are already doing.

  • Instead of thinking "How can we protect our existing business?" Blockbuster should have been thinking " If we didn't have an existing business, how could we best build a new one?

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