How Will You Measure Your Life

How Will You Measure Your Life? - by Clayton M. Christensen #

Date Read: 2023-10-20 #

Notes #

Strategy/Process #

  • Priorities
  • Strategy - balancing plans with opportunities
  • Execution - allocating resources

Priorities #

satisfaction and dissatisfaction are separate, independent measures

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

satisfaction - Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth

Professional unhappiness - money or hygience factors become the only goal.

Balancing Plans with Opportunities #

If you have found an outlet in your career that provides both the requisite hygiene factors and motivators, then a deliberate approach makes sense. Rather than worrying about adjusting to unexpected opportunities, your frame of mind should be focused on how best to achieve the goals you have deliberately set.

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.

Which of these assumptions need to prove true in order for us to realistically expect that these numbers will materialize?” The assumptions on this list should be rank-ordered by importance and uncertainty. At the top of the list should be the assumptions that are most important and least certain, while the bottom of the list should be those that are least important and most certain.

Find ways to quickly, and with as little expense as possible, test the validity of the most important assumptions.

Before you take a job, carefully list what things others are going to need to do or to deliver in order for you to successfully achieve what you hope to do. Ask yourself: “What are the assumptions that have to prove true in order for me to be able to succeed in this assignment?” List them. Are they within your control?

Equally important, ask yourself what assumptions have to prove true for you to be happy in the choice you are contemplating. Are you basing your position on extrinsic or intrinsic motivators? Why do you think this is going to be something you enjoy doing? What evidence do you have? Every time you consider a career move, keep thinking about the most important assumptions that have to prove true, and how you can swiftly and inexpensively test if they are valid. Make sure you are being realistic about the path ahead of you.

Execution #

Look at what you actually do rather than what you say you will do

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.

Relationships #

when parents engaged in face-to-face conversation with the child—speaking in fully adult, sophisticated language as if the child could be part of a chatty, grown-up conversation—the impact on cognitive development was enormous. These richer interactions they called “language dancing.” Language dancing is being chatty, thinking aloud, and commenting on what the child is doing and what the parent is doing or planning to do. “Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt today?” “Do you think it will rain today?” “Do you remember the time I put your bottle in the oven by mistake?” and so on. Language dancing involves talking to the child about “what if,” and “do you remember,” and “wouldn’t it be nice if”—questions that invite the child to think deeply about what is happening around him. And it has a profound effect long before a parent might actually expect a child to understand what is being asked.

In short, when a parent engages in extra talk, many, many more of the synaptic pathways in the child’s brain are exercised and refined. Synapses are the junctions in the brain where a signal is transmitted from one nerve cell to another. In simple terms, the more pathways that are created between synapses in the brain, the more efficiently connections are formed. This makes the subsequent patterns of thought easier and faster.

This matters. A child who has heard 48 million words in the first three years won’t just have 3.7 times as many well-lubricated connections in its brain as a child who has heard only 13 million words. The effect on brain cells is exponential. Each brain cell can be connected to hundreds of other cells by as many as ten thousand synapses. That means children who have been exposed to extra talk have an almost incalculable cognitive advantage.

What job are you being ‘hired’ for? #

I wonder what job arises in people’s lives that causes them to come to this restaurant to ‘hire’ a milkshake?

Like those milkshake buyers, you and your wife can’t always articulate what the fundamental jobs are that you each are personally trying to do, let alone articulate the fundamental jobs that your wife has, for which she might hire a husband to get done.

It’s easy for any of us to make assumptions about what our spouse might want, rather than work hard to understand the job to be done in our spouse’s life. Let me share an example from Scott, a friend of mine with three children under the age of five. One day recently, Scott came home from work to find a highly unusual scene—the breakfast dishes still on the table and dinner not started. His instant reaction was that his wife, Barbara, had had a tough day and needed a hand. Without a word, he rolled up his sleeves, cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and started dinner. Partway through, Barbara disappeared. But Scott kept on, making dinner for the kids. He had just started feeding them when he suddenly wondered, where’s Barbara? Tired, but feeling pretty good about himself, he went upstairs to try to figure out where she was. He found her alone in their bedroom. He expected to be thanked for doing all that at the end of an exhausting day at work. But instead Barbara was very upset—at him.

He was shocked. He had just done all this for her: What had he done wrong?

“How could you ignore me after I’ve had such a difficult day?” Barbara asked.

“You think that I’ve ignored you?” Scott responded. “I finished the breakfast dishes, cleaned up the kitchen, fixed dinner, and am partway through feeding our children. How in the world can you think I’ve ignored you?”

Just then, it became clear to Scott what had happened. Indeed, what he did was important to get done, and he was trying to be selfless in giving Barbara exactly what he thought she needed. Barbara explained, however, that the day hadn’t been difficult because of the chores. It was difficult because she had spent hours and hours with small, demanding children, and she hadn’t spoken to another adult all day. What she needed most at that time was a real conversation with an adult who cared about her. By doing what he did, he only made Barbara feel guilty and angry about her frustration.

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

Relationship outsourcing #

Know which capabilities are important to keep in-house and which matter less.

  • resources - people, equipment, technology, product designs, brands, information, cash, and relationships with suppliers, distributors, and customers.
  • processes - ways that products are developed and made, and the methods by which market research, budgeting, employee development, compensation, and resource allocation are accomplished. Unlike resources, which are often easily seen and measured, processes can’t be seen on a balance sheet.
  • priorities - how a company makes decisions; it can give clear guidance about what a company is likely to invest in, and what it will not.

Never outsource the future


  • resources - material and financial
  • processes - intangible. the way he thinks, how he asks insightful questions, how and whether he can solve problems of various types, how he works with others
  • priorities - how a child will make decisions in his life—which things in his mind and life he will put to the top of the list, which he will procrastinate doing, and which he will have no interest in doing at all.

Outsourcing in families

  • Are the children developing from these experiences the deep, important processes such as teamwork, entrepreneurship, and learning the value of preparation?
  • When we so heavily focus on providing our children with resources, we need to ask ourselves a new set of questions: Has my child developed the skill to develop better skills? The knowledge to develop deeper knowledge? The experience to learn from his experiences?

The end result of these good intentions for our children is that too few reach adulthood having been given the opportunity to shoulder onerous responsibility and solve complicated problems for themselves and for others. Self-esteem—the sense that “I’m not afraid to confront this problem and I think I can solve it”—doesn’t come from abundant resources. Rather, self-esteem comes from achieving something important when it’s hard to do.

We have outsourced the work from our homes, and we’ve allowed the vacuum to be filled with activities that don’t challenge or engage our kids. By sheltering children from the problems that arise in life, we have inadvertently denied this generation the ability to develop the processes and priorities it needs to succeed.

Children Learn When They Are Ready to Learn

When children are ready to learn, we need to be there. And second, we need to be found displaying through our actions, the priorities and values that we want our children to learn.

The theory of capabilities suggests they need to be challenged. They need to solve hard problems. They need to develop values. When you find yourself providing more and more experiences that are not giving children an opportunity to be deeply engaged, you are not equipping them with the processes they need to succeed in the future. And if you find yourself handing your children over to other people to give them all these experiences—outsourcing—you are, in fact, losing valuable opportunities to help nurture and develop them into the kind of adults you respect and admire.

Schools of Experience #

Is the job going to give me the experiences I need to wrestle with?

Sending Your Kids to the Right School - Encourage them to stretch—to aim for lofty goals. If they don’t succeed, make sure you’re there to help them learn the right lesson: that when you aim to achieve great things, it is inevitable that sometimes you’re not going to make it.

Engineer opportunities for your child to have the experiences you believe will help him develop the capabilities he needs for life.

Family Culture #

If you want your family to have a culture of kindness, then the first time one of your kids approaches a problem where kindness is an option—help him choose it, and then help him succeed through kindness. Or if he doesn’t choose it, call him on it and explain why he should have chosen differently.

That’s not to say that any of this is easy. First, you come into a family with a culture from the family in which you grew up. There’s a good chance your spouse’s family culture will have been fundamentally different from yours. Just getting the two of you to agree on anything is a miracle. Then add kids to the equation—they’re born with their own attitudes and wiring. Yes, it’s going to be difficult, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to understand what type of culture you want and to proactively pursue it.

Life of Integrity #

The only way to avoid the consequences of uncomfortable moral concessions in your life is to never start making them in the first place.

100 Percent of the Time Is Easier Than 98 Percent of the Time

Purpose #

  • Likeness - The Person I Want to Become
  • Commitment - Process for committing to your likeness
  • Metrics - What matters when measuring your life