Book: How Will You Measure Your Life?


“How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen

The book club at work are reading this book. So, I figured that I should give it a read as well. Given that the author is a Harvard Business School professor, the writing certainly reminded me of cases I read in business school. Although the book started out talking about personal happiness, there are a lot of examples and advice on how to manage a business or an organization. Mr. Christensen do explain how these business examples can also apply at personal level to improve one’s own happiness. I was delighted to see a professor’s name referenced, which was Morgan McCall and I took his leadership class. 🙂

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Good theory can help us categorize, explain, and, most important, predict.”
  • “People often think that the best way to predict the future is by collecting as much data as possible before making a decision. But this is like driving a car looking only at the rearview mirror–because data is only available about the past.”
  • “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 heart, you’ll know when you find it.” –Steve Jobs
  • Motivation theory: “It acknowledges that you can pay people to want what you want–over and over again. But incentives are not the same as motivation. True motivation is getting people to do something because they want to do it. This type of motivation continues, in good times and in bad.”
  • “On one side of the equation, there are the elements of work that, if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied. These are called hygiene factors. Hygiene factors are things like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices.”
  • “Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. Feelings that you are making a meaningful contribution to work arise from intrinsic conditions of the work itself.”
  • “I had thought the destination was what was important, but it turned out it was the journey.”
  • “I concluded, if you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well, management is among the most noble professions. You are in a position where you have eight or ten hours every day from every person who works for you. You have the opportunity to frame each person’s work so that, at the end of every day, your employees will go home feeling like Diana felt on her good day: living a life filled with motivators.”
  • “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.”
  • “The theory of motivation suggests you need to ask yourself a different set of questions than most of us are used to asking. Is this work meaningful to me? Is this job going to give me a chance to develop? Am I going to learn new things? Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement? Am I going to be given responsibility? These are things that will truly motivate you. Once you get this right, the more measurable aspects of your job will fade in importance.”
  • Options for strategy: “The first source is anticipated opportunities–the opportunities that you can see and choose to pursue… When you put in place a plan focused on these anticipated opportunities, you are pursuing a deliberate strategy. The second source of option is unanticipated–usually a cocktail of problems and opportunities that emerges while you are trying to implement the deliberate plan or strategy that you have decided upon.”
  • “If you have found an outlet in your career that provides both the requisite hygiene factors and motivators, then a deliberate approach makes sense.”
  • “But if you haven’t reached the point of finding a career that does this for you, then, like a new company finding its way, you need to be emergent. This is another way of saying that if you are in these circumstances, experiment in life. As you learn from each experience, adjust. Then iterate quickly. keep going through this process until your strategy begins to click.”
  • “Strategy almost always emerges from a combination of deliberated and unanticipated opportunities. What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it’s time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.”
  • “In the words of Andy Grove: ‘To understand a company’s strategy, look at what they actually do rather than what they say they will do.'”
  • “successful companies don’t succeed because they have the right strategy at the beginning; but rather, because they have money left over after the original strategy fails, so that they can pivot and try another approach.”
  • “When the winning strategy is not yet clear in the initial stage of a new business, good money from investors needs to be patient for growth but impatient for profit. It demands that a new company figures out a viable strategy as fast as and with as little investment as possible–so that the entrepreneurs don’t spend a lot of money in pursuit of the wrong strategy.”
  • “once a viable strategy has been found, investors need to change what they seek–they should become impatient for growth and patient for profit. Once a profitable and viable way forward has been discovered–success now depends on scaling out this model.”
  • “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 on our relationships: we go into them thinking about what we want rather than what is important to the other person.”
  • “the path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.”
  • “It’s natural to want the people you love to be happy. What can often be difficult is understanding what your  role is in that. Thinking about your relationships from the perspective of the job to be done is the best way to understand what is important to the people who mean the most to you. It allows you to develop true empathy. Asking yourself ‘What job does my spouse most need me to do?’ give you the ability to think about it in the right unit of analysis.”
  • “You have to do that job. You’ll have to devote your time and energy to the effort, be willing to suppress your own priorities and desires, and focus on doing what is required to make the other person happy. Nor should we be timid in giving our children and our spouses the same opportunities to give of themselves to others. You might think this approach would actually cause resentment in relationships because one person is so clearly giving up something for the other. But I have found that it has the opposite effect. In sacrificing for something worthwhile, you deeply strengthen your commitment to it.”
  • Outsourcing: “The theory of capabilities gives companies the framework to determine when outsourcing makes sense, and when it does not. There are two important considerations. First, you must take a dynamic view of your suppliers’ capabilities. Assume that they can and will change. You should not focus on what the suppliers are doing now, but, rather, focus on what they are striving to be able to do in the future. Second, and most critical of all: figure out what capabilities you will need to succeed in the future. These must stay in-house–otherwise, you are handing over the future of your business.”
  • “children will learn when they are ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them.”
  • “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.”
  • “A culture is the unique combination of processes and priorities within an organization.”

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