3 Lessons from How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen

The best way to benefit from this post is to watch the video and then read the article below. 

The basic premise of the book ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’ by Clayton Christensen is: Why are we here, and how do we know we’re making a difference?

He tackles this in three sections – Career, Relationships, and Get Out of Jail Free.

Career – Understand Your True Motivators

The problem we have with careers is misunderstanding our own motivations. We often take jobs because of money. This puts us in a bind because our lifestyles will often expand to match our incomes – and then we’re stuck in a job we don’t like. Christensen categorizes money as a hygiene factor similar to other environmental factors.

Instead of being motivated by money, Christensen recommends looking for more meaningful opportunities. That means challenging work, responsibility, and the opportunity for personal growth.

Relationships – Watch Out for the Slow Fade

High achievers tend to allocate resources where they see the most immediate impact. For many, this means a short-term sacrifice in family relationships for the sake of career growth or business opportunities.

Family tens to get put into the bucket of “important but not urgent” priorities. They are important though, because they are the real key to long term happiness. As long as there aren’t any major catastrophes, we tend to think our relationships are just fine. It’s not until years down the road that we realize we had been making withdrawals from an account that didn’t have much in it.

The solution is to set hard boundaries in your professional and personal life. One example that helps illustrate solutions is the idea of giving your spouse veto power over your calendar.

Get Out of Jail Free – Full vs. Marginal Thinking

When Netflix popped up, Blockbuster looked at it and did not do much. The margins to be made from mail-order DVD rentals just wasn’t enough to whet the appetite of a behemoth like Blockbuster. And even if they did compete in that market, if they went all out, they would end up putting their brick-and-mortar stores out of business. We know how that ended.

We often default to thinking in terms of margin instead of looking at the full picture. The full picture in this scenario would have been to ask the question – if we were to start from scratch, how would we build our business?

Christensen connects this principle to our personal lives as well. He says we often make decisions that might go against our values or ethics, and justify it by saying ‘well, this one time won’t hurt anything.’ That is what causes a slow decline.

Instead, decide what you stand for, and then stand for it all the time.

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