During a recent long cross-continental flight, I have read the book “How will you measure your life?” by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen and his co-authors James Allworth and Karen Dillon. The book is building up on a graduation speech that he gave in 2012 at Harvard Business School.
Christensen had come through a phase of intense personal reflections. He had just overcome the same type of cancer that had killed his father. In addition, Christensen had made surprising findings at the 5-year reunions with his own business school classmates at Harvard. Many of his former classmates were struggling with personal dissatisfaction, family failures, professional issues, even criminal behaviour (Jeff Skilling, the former Enron CEO who ended up in jail was also one of his former classmates.).
Christensen had noticed that succesful people often struggle to balance their personal and professional lives. With his book, he aims to help people to lead and live better lives. Therefore, it is essential to find answers to the following questions:
-How can I be successful and happy in my career?
-How can I be sure that my relationship with my family is an enduring source of happiness?
-How can I live my life with integrity?
Based on business research, business case studies, management theories and tools, and personal experiences and learnings, Christensen provides guidelines and advice for finding meaning and happiness in life. He states that business can teach us a lot about life.
Let me share some of the key takeaways of the book with you:
-Job satisfaction / Job dissatisfaction: The authors point out that it is possible to love your job (e.g. for the perks, wealth coming along with it) and hate your job at the same time (e.g. having a boring job, not aligned with your own personal values, disliking your boss etc.). You need to find the right weight between the hygienic factors (money, other compensation, status, job security etc.) and the motivators (challenging work, recognition, responsibility, personal growth etc.).
-Relationships: You need to deal with the struggles of being successful at work and at home. You need to build strong relationships. The only way to have those relationships bear fruit in your life is to invest long before you need them. Investments in our family (e.g. in our kids) often don’t pay off for a very long time while investments at the office or in our career are often very tangible and result in immediate achievement. You need to balance your business life and your family life.
-Strategy: Real strategy – in companies and in our lives – is created through hundred of everyday decisions about where we spend our resources. It is not decided by top managers in a meeting based on best numbers and analysis at that time. Therefore, determine your priorities and align your goals and your efforts in all points of life.
-Personal Integrity / Principles: It’s easier to hold your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold them 98% of the time. The boundary – your personal moral line – is powerful because you don’t cross it. If you have justified doing it once, there is nothing to stop you doing it again. Christensen states that you need to decide what kind of person you want to be and what you stand for – and how often you want to stand for it; not some of the time, not most of the time – but all the time.
-Leadership: Christensen recommends if you want to help other people, be a manager. He genuinely believes that management is among the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers more ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.
I enjoyed reading the book very much. Immediately, it became one of my all time favourites. I highly recommend it. The book will probably make you pause and reflect on your life which is a valuable exercise because it might well lead to positive change.