How Will You Measure Your Life

How Will You Measure Your Life? Book Cover How Will You Measure Your Life?
Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, Karen Dillon,
Business & Economics
May 15, 2012

Excellent guidebook for figuring out what is important to you. I am a big fan of "what gets measured gets done." How do you allocate your time? This work was one of many catalysts that got me OFF the climb-the-corporate-ladder treadmill. I started looking at how I was allocating my time. It got me thinking about how dis-satisfied I was with my career. It sparked change.

How can I be sure that I will be successful and happy in my career? My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness? I live a life of integrity—and stay out of jail?

A strategy? At a basic level, a strategy is what you want to achieve and how you will get there.

The starting point for our journey is a discussion of priorities. These are, in effect, your core decision-making criteria: what’s most important to you in your career?

When we find ourselves stuck in unhappy careers—and even unhappy lives—it is often the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what really motivates us.

But incentives are not the same as motivation.

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

The opposite of job dissatisfaction isn’t job satisfaction, but rather an absence of job dissatisfaction.

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. Motivation is much less about external prodding or stimulation, and much more about what’s inside of you, and inside of your work.

If you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well, management is among the most noble of 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.

In almost every case of a project failing, mistakes were made in one or more of the critical assumptions upon which the projections and decisions were based. But the company didn’t realize that until it was too far down the line in acting on those ideas and plans. Money, time, and energy had already been assigned to the project; the company is 100 percent committed; and the team is now on the line to make it work.

In other words, how you allocate your resources is where the rubber meets the road.

“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.”

Here is a way to frame the investments that we make in the strategy that becomes our lives: we have resources—which include personal time, energy, talent, and wealth—and we are using them to try to grow several “businesses” in our personal lives. These include having a rewarding relationship with our spouse or significant other; raising great children; succeeding in our careers; contributing to our church or community; and so on. Unfortunately, however, our resources are limited and these businesses are competing for them. It’s exactly the same problem that a corporation has. How should we devote our resources to each of these pursuits?

The danger for high-achieving people is that they’ll unconsciously allocate their resources to activities that yield the most immediate, tangible accomplishments.

How do you make sure that you’re implementing the strategy you truly want to implement? Watch where your resources flow—the resource allocation process. If it is not supporting the strategy you’ve decided upon, you run the risk of a serious problem.

The hot water that softens a carrot will harden an egg.

In other words, 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 stages 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.

Capital that seeks growth before profits is bad capital.

The insight behind this way of thinking is that what causes us to buy a product or service is that we actually hire products to do jobs for us.

Periodically we find that some job has arisen in our lives that we need to do, and we then find some way to get it done.

This may sound counterintuitive, but I deeply believe that the path to happiness in a relationship is not just about finding someone who you think is going to make you happy. Rather, the reverse is equally true: 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’s 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?” gives you the ability to think about it in the right unit of analysis. When you approach your relationships from this perspective, the answers will become much more clear than they would by simply speculating about what might be the right thing to do.

Has my child developed the skill to develop better skills? The knowledge to develop deeper knowledge? The experience to learn from his experiences?

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.

A culture is the unique combination of processes and priorities within an organization.

The marginal cost of doing something “just this once” always seems to be negligible, but the full cost will typically be much higher.

The first is what I will call a likeness. By analogy, a master painter often will create a pencil likeness that he has seen in his mind, before he attempts to create it in oils.

Second, for a purpose to be useful, employees and executives need to have a deep commitment—almost a conversion—to the likeness that they are trying to create.

The third part of a company’s purpose is one or a few metrics by which managers and employees can measure their progress. These metrics enable everyone associated with the enterprise to calibrate their work, keeping them moving together in a coherent way. These three parts—likeness, commitment, and metrics—comprise a company’s purpose.

Purpose must be deliberately conceived and chosen, and then pursued.

I have a deep respect for the emergent process by which strategy coalesces—and, as a consequence, how I have pursued my purpose has evolved, step by step. Sometimes unanticipated crises and opportunities have felt like a wind at my back as I have worked toward my purpose. At other times they have felt like a numbing wind in my face. I’m glad that I wasn’t too rigid in how I could achieve my purpose.

The likeness—the person I want to become—was the simplest of the three parts, and was largely an intellectual process.

From these parts of my life, I distilled the likeness of what I wanted to become: 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 just doesn’t just believe in God, but who believes God

the only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people. When I have my interview with God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage—a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics that matter in measuring my life.