The Weekend Read – How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

UnknownA good book to read before the New Year gets up a head of steam. In it the author, who is a Professor at Harvard Business School (HBS) and has written several other books on innovation, prompts the reader to consider the most important questions you’ll ever face.

It doesn’t pretend to have answers but it does provoke you to think about your life and purpose.

In the opening chapter Professor Christensen, who was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, considers his classmates from both HBS and Oxford and what happened to them in the years after their graduation. To summarise the fate of several of these highly intelligent and very capable people whose lives were anything but straightforward he writes, “I know for sure that none of these people graduated with a deliberate strategy to get divorced or lose contact with their children – much less to end up in jail. Yet this is the exact strategy that too many ended up implementing.”

That compares pretty well with my contemporaries some of whose problems include alcoholism, marriage breakdown and jail, over and above the random illnesses and business crises that dentistry can throw at one. I could write at some length about their challenges and I do wonder if the questions that Christensen poses were put to us in our final year if it might have been of some benefit.

One of the problems of dentists, and this is something that I explore when I am presenting to dentists and their teams, is that by virtue of their job dentists are micro-managers who concentrate on minutiae. A consequence of this, of course, is that they frequently cannot see ‘the bigger picture’. It is so easy to set off on life thinking you know where you are going, yet the start of any project is the time when you know least of all.

These days the author asks his final year charges three simple questions:

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?

Christensen and his co-authors, James Allworth & Karen Dillon, explore the lessons that have been learnt from businesses throughout their careers and apply these to life choices.

At the start of Section 1,”Finding Happiness in Your Career” is printed a quote by Steve Jobs:

  • “The Only way to be truly satisfied is to 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 the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

In my day to day work I come across many people who are deeply unhappy with their professional lives, some I am able to assist, some are too far down the road to engage in a fundamental change – even when they know they should. They hang on and hang on, hoping that something will change for them instead of building their lives around their thought out core values which are reflected in their priorities.

This is an important book for anyone who thinks their life might be approaching a crossroads or wants to revisit their last change of direction.

You can order from Amazon.

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