Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I've been following the Harvard Business Review website for some months now, and back in May I stumbled across this page, and it is one of the most compelling article I've read till date, an excerpt from Prof. Clayton M. Christensen's book "How Will You Measure Your Life".

Something about what he wrote resonated inside of me, something which I can relate to all too well. I bookmarked that page, and went back to reading it from time to time. I'm going to brutally honest with you here, I don't usually read all these stuff. Most of the time, I will brush such articles and books off, thinking these were merely written by high flying folks with fancy Degrees and Masters and PhD's, who think they have all the knowledge in the world to tell you how sucky your life is, and how you should be doing this or that in the first place, to achieve happiness and fulfillment.

I have seen inspirational videos from some motivational speakers, screaming at the top of their lungs, telling the audience just how bad their lives were doing what they were doing, and that they should instead be taking their expert advice to get to where they want. And if you do what he/she tells you to do, you will then achieve what you have set out to achieve... or something along those lines.

"Do you want to make more money???"
"Do you want to lead a happy and fulfilling life???"
"Why are you still stuck there??? Why are you not doing this or that???"

*screams and points to the ceiling/sky*

Fuck this shit. If yelling is your strategy to make me more empowered, then you can keep your shrieks to another audience, cos this chick ain't buying it. I don't need a high strung speaker to constantly shout in my ears and telling me what I should do. If I needed a motivational speaker, I would prefer the speaker guide me to think, not tell me what I should think.

And then, one fine day, I came across the Prof. Clayton's article in the HBR website. And so I took a few minutes to read it. After I finished reading the excerpt, I went back to page 1, and read it again. And then I bookmarked it. And then I started taking some notes down. I shared the link with a close girl friend of mine, who then read it, and bookmarked it, and tells me she wants to share this with her team members.

Image taken from

From time to time, I would open up the article and read it. One day, I decided to buy the book to read more on what Prof. Clayton had to say. I wanted to see if his principles will bring me some sort of guidance to what and how I should think. I would bring the book with me to the work place, and during lunch hours I will have lunch alone to read the book, and jot down notes. I will read it at home, line by line, slowly digesting the Professor's words and sentences. Sometimes, I would re-read the pages I've just read.

I started asking myself questions the Professor had brought up. It didn't help that at this point of my life, I'm having doubts with a lot of things around me. So my struggle to find the answers was a steeper curve than some, to me at least. And somehow, I felt calmer when reading the book. As if his words were telling me... It's alright, we all go through rough times now and then. Life is such. We just need to understand what truly matters to us.

The book was teaching me how to think, to answer the questions I have. The doubts I'm having, is the result of  not just what had occurred to me, but had also revealed something else along the way. Something which has been festering in the background, but which I had buried and was having hope. I had lacked the clarity to see things in the bigger perspective.

Here are some of the lines from the book, which I have jotted down in my little note book (something I can bring along with me wherever I go, and remind myself of those words). Some are from Prof. Clayton himself, while others are from people who he had quoted from.

"Even with good intentions and deep love, we can fundamentally misunderstand each other."

"Exercise selective neglect. You need to first accept that by trying to achieve everything, you end up achieving nothing."

"The price of doing something wrong "just this once" usually appears alluringly low. It sucks you in, and you don't see where that path is ultimately headed or the full cost that the choice entails."

"It is easier to hold on to your principles 100% of the time that it is to hold to them 98% of the time. The boundary - your personal moral line - is powerful, because you don't cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there's nothing to stop you doing it again."

"While many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics, such as number of people presided over, number of awards, or dollars accumulated in a bank, and so on, the only metrics that will truly matter in my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people."