The Mihir Chronicles

How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen

November 12, 2020

I. Brief Summary

Clayton M. Christensen was a Harvard Business School's professor. His influential work—Disruptive Innovation is well known within the business world. This was a quick read in simple, clear language with good analogies. The lessons between business and life is not drawn by a hard line, but are universal to both ends. Clayton Christensen offers his wisdom on how to live a meaningful life by drawing upon his business research. He shares case studies and scientific research to back up his claims. People often fall into life traps which leads to unhappiness despite of the world-class education such as Harvard. When business leaders ask their employees to think long-term, what does that really mean? When business leaders ask their employees to think strategically, what does thinking strategically mean? The book breaks down all business jargon into digestible analogies and real-life business case studies. I thoroughly enjoyed the section on parenting children and limitation of marginal thinking. I also enjoyed the last two sections on ethics and living life with purpose. I loved the framing of business lessons into personal life lessons and vice-versa. I knew many business leaders looked up to Clayton Christensen, but never understood why until I read this book. This is my newest favorite business book and I plan on coming back to this book a lot. A full disclosure summary below is a disservice to what the book has to offer.

II. Big Ideas

  • Falling into tangible trappings such as better salaries, prestigious title, or nicer offices is a flawed thinking. The next pay raise feels like you are finally happy, but that is not the case for so many. Chasing a mirage is a hopeless quest. Getting the opportunity to be recognized, feeling achieved, and owning responsibilities are the things that motivate people.
  • A strategy, both in business and life, is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about how you spend your time, energy, and money.
  • Watch where your resources flow—the resource allocation process.
  • Hygiene vs Motivation
    • Motivation Factors: the things that make you love going to work. Feeling that you are doing work that is meaningful to you and making a meaningful contribution, challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.
    • Hygiene Factors: status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices. Bad hygiene causes dissatisfaction. But good hygiene factors just mean you are not dissatisfied with your job, not that you love your job.
  • Strategy
    • Deliberative: a focused plan
    • Emergent: unexpected opportunities that arise
    • Ask what has to prove true
    • Ask yourself: what are the assumptions that have to prove true in order for me to be happy with this choice? List them. Test their validity: how do you know the company really has a team culture? How do you know they will be growing this group? etc. Are they within your control?
  • Relationships
    • Relationships with family and close friends equal happiness in life
    • Requires investment, attention and care
    • Early investing does not have immediate payoffs so people don't invest much time in
    • The theory of good money, bad money explains that the clock of building a fulfilling relationship is ticking from the start
  • Purpose
    • Likeness: who you want to become. For example, Clayton’s likeness were:
      • A man who is dedicated to helping improve the lives of other people
      • A kind, honest, forgiving, and selfless husband, father, and friend
      • A man who doesn't just believe in God but who believes God
    • Commitment: to becoming that at every step. Actually spending your time and energy in ways that get you closer to your likeness
    • Metrics: to measure your progress towards becoming the likeness

III. Quotes

  • We all are vulnerable to the forces and decisions that have derailed too many.
  • With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and your money, you are making a statement about what really matters to you. You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for 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.
  • Many products fail because companies develop them from the wrong perspective. Companies focus too much on what they want to sell their customers, rather than what those customers really need. What’s missing is empathy: a deep understanding of what problems customers are trying to solve. The same is true in our relationships: we go into them thinking about what we want rather than what is important to the other person. Changing your perspective is a powerful way to deepen your relationships.
  • We all recognize the importance of giving our kids the best opportunities. Each new generation of parents seems to focus even more on creating possibilities for their children that they themselves never had. With the best of intentions, we hand our children off to a myriad of coaches and tutors to provide them with enriching experiences—thinking that will best prepare our kids for the future. But helping our children in this way can come at a high cost.
  • Helping your children learn how to do difficult things is one of the most important roles of a parent. It will be critical to equipping them for all the challenges that life will throw at them down the line. But how do you equip your kids with the right capabilities?
  • Most of us have or had an idyllic image of what our families would be like. The children will be well-behaved, they’ll adore and respect us, we’ll enjoy spending time together, and they’ll make us proud when they are off in the world without us by their side. And yet, as any experienced parent will tell you, wishing for that kind of family and actually having that kind of family are two very different things. One of the most powerful tools to enable us to close the gap between the family we want and the family we get is culture. We need to understand how it works and be prepared to put in the hard yards to influence how it is shaped.
  • Most of us think that the important ethical decisions in our lives will be delivered with a blinking red neon sign: CAUTION: IMPORTANT DECISION AHEAD. Never mind how busy we are or what the consequences might be. Almost everyone is confident that in those moments of truth, he or she will do the right thing. After all, how many people do you know who believe they do not have integrity? The problem is, life seldom works that way. It comes with no warning signs. Instead, most of us will face a series of small, everyday decisions that rarely seem like they have high stakes attached. But over time, they can play out far more dramatically. It happens exactly the same way in companies. No company deliberately sets out to let itself be overtaken by its competitors. Rather, they are seemingly innocuous decisions that were made years before that led them down that path. This chapter will explain how that process happens so you can avoid falling into the most beguiling trap of all.
  • Without a purpose, the value to executives of any business theory would be limited.