How Will You Measure Your Life?

In How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton M. Christensen shared the three questions he used to ask Harvard Business School’s graduating class:

How can I be sure that…

1/ I will be successful and happy in my career?

2/ My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?

3/ I live a life of integrity — and stay out of jail?

In order to make good decisions, we need to do more than collecting past data because those data are only about the past. We need to construct theories that could explain what causes what to happen and why. Only with such theories can we better predict the future.

Finding Happiness in Career

Many people pick jobs for the wrong reasons and settle for them. Gradually, they accept that it’s not realistic to do something they truly love for a living. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. As I often tell my friends, you have the agency to design your career.

Professor Christensen pointed out that there are many events that cannot be explained by pure financial incentives. Compensation is in fact a hygiene factor. It has to be fair, but it won’t make you love the job. To escape the reality trap and find happiness at work, you need to seek meaningful opportunities that could satisfy the following motivation factors:

Hygiene Factor VS Motivation Factor

1/ Combining Deliberate and Emergent Strategy

Think of deliberate strategy as the current job you are doing and emergent strategy as the wildest dream you always want to pursue. For me, being a product manager is the deliberate path. At the same time, I am openminded towards all kinds of opportunities ahead.

During college, I would write down a list of experiences I think I would enjoy and test them with different kinds of projects and internships. Through this rapid experimentation, I quickly iterated, adjusted my expectations, and found the work I love.

2/ Testing Major Assumptions

Now you may be wondering whether your current or next job satisfies your needs. Here is the question Professor Christensen recommended us to ask:

What are the assumptions that have to prove true for you to be happy in the choice you are contemplating?

By writing down my assumptions for major projects, decisions, and life transitions, I was able to better wind up projects that fail to deliver promises. If you want to check whether you are implementing your desired strategy, take a look at your calendar and see how you spend your time.


Finding Happiness in Career

1/ Do The Jobs Well

In our daily lives, we have many “jobs” that we need to do. A good product or service is what does the job well. This job-to-be-done mindset is what differentiates IKEA from standard furniture stores.

IKEA does the job of furnishing a new apartment well. If you are moving to a new city tomorrow, you know that IKEA can provide the basic furniture that serves your needs. Specifically, IKEA has a big store to ensure that furniture is in stock, a large space to keep your kids busy, and a restaurant to keep you in the same building. IKEA provides a full experience that helps you get your job done.

In the product landscape, Alan Klement describes the process as finding a “better me.” A good product would help people feel better by using the product. A good example is Tiktok. Tiktok didn’t simply go viral because of the younger generation. The underlying principle is actually because it taps into the human desires of self-expression and creativity in its own unique way.

This principle also applies to your professional and personal relationships. By applying the job-to-be-done mindset to relationships, you will develop empathy to see what job your partner needs you to do the most. By doing that critical job well, you will not only make your partner happy but also strengthen your commitment to a more fulfilling relationship.

In Professor Christensen’s words:

The path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.

2/ Navigating The School of Life

Nolan Archibald, the youngest-ever CEO of a Fortune 500 company, shared the key question that drove his trajectory towards becoming CEO of a successful company:

“What are all the experiences and problems that I have to learn about and master so that what comes out at the other end is somebody who is ready and capable of becoming a successful CEO?”

While this is often not the most prestigious or high-paid job, this question helped him take on challenges that would lead to high growth.


That’s a wrap for Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life!

If you are interested in another life analysis, I recommend David Brooks’s The Second Mountain. ✨

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