How Will You Measure Your Life shows you how to sustain motivation at work and in life to spend your time on earth happily and fulfilled, by focusing not just on money and your career, but your family, relationships and personal well-being.
Clayton M. Christensen is the world’s leading authority on innovation, most notably due to his all-time classic “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” just about the only business book Steve Jobs ever thought was valuable to him.
This book is more geared towards helping you balance professional life with, well, the rest of it. It points out that counterintuitively, taking time away from work for family, relationships, etc. can have a huge positive impact on your career and happiness – in the long run.
Because these benefits take a long time to shine through, it’s hard to invest the time right now and trust the process, and this is where the book can help.
Here are my 3 favorite lessons:
- Your relationships need your attention. Always. Even when you don’t think they do.
- Ask yourself what your job in relationships is, to better understand others and intuitively do the right thing.
- Don’t fall into the trap of marginal thinking.
Ready to find a new measure for your life? Here we go!
Lesson 1: Relationships constantly require your attention – even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Do you sometimes avoid going to family birthdays? Have you ever felt happy some important work thing happened right at the same time, and gave you a good excuse not to go?
Deep in our hearts, you and I know that the relationships with the people closest to us – our best friends and family – are the biggest source of our happiness. So why don’t we always dedicate the time they need to them?
There are two reasons for this:
Working more presents an immediate reward. It’s really easy to see the benefit of an extra hour at work – you’ll do something that’ll advance your career and make you more money.
Those who you have your best relationships with never ask for your time. That’s why they’re the best! They just support you, no matter what you do. So they don’t ask for much.
In a sense, great relationships are a paradox: they need consistent dedication and lots of effort, even when it seems like they don’t.
It might seem like you can compensate less family time now for more later, but the truth is damage done early can hardly be repaired in later years.
Lesson 2: Build intuition and empathy by thinking of your family life as a job.
So what’s one thing you can do to instantly improve your relationships and give them the attention they deserve? How about treating them like a job?
Wait, what?! Yup, that’s right! Ironically, thinking of your relationships like you do about the thing you’re supposed to give up a bit of – work – will actually make you better at them.
Here’s the single-best question you can ask to improve any relationship: “What job does X need me to do the most?”
X is the person in question. Could be your best friend, your dad, your family as a whole, or your partner. This flips the relationship on its head, approaching it from their perspective, instead of yours, and forces you to dig deep. It helps understand the other party better and then come up with good ways to fulfill their needs.
The more often you do this, the better you’ll become at intuitively guessing what your spouse or son needs, which is a great recipe for a flourishing and loyal relationship.
Lesson 3: Avoid the trap of marginal thinking.
One relationship we mustn’t neglect in all this is the one you have with yourself. A really easy way to protect it at all times is to live with integrity. If your conscience is clear, you’ll feel good about decisions you make and actions you take, and that’s what makes those work out.
For most people, integrity is the default setting. Where we wander off the path of doing what’s right is where it gets icky. How can you avoid compromising your integrity?
Simple: recognize marginal thinking and don’t engage in it. What’s marginal thinking? It’s when all you think about are the “edges” of the situation.
For example, Blockbuster was the incumbent in the movie rental market for a long time. One day, a little company called Netflix started sending out DVDs via mail and had customers return them that way. Weirdos! Because they didn’t want to pay the marginal costs of adding this service to their own portfolio of products, Blockbuster ended up paying the ultimate price instead: they went bankrupt in 2010.
The same thing happens with morals. For example, many bankers in 2007 and 2008 thought it wouldn’t hurt if they covered their mortgage loans’s bad credibility “just this once,” which of course completely spiraled and ended with the world financial crisis. Because they didn’t want to pay the marginal price of sucking up to a bad decision immediately, they completely lost their integrity in the long run.
Simply recognizing when you’re thinking marginally can make a huge difference and will help you avoid making decisions just to avoid consequences of others you’ve made previously.
My personal take-aways
I like it. The book’s statement is not one you hear often these days. Less work, more family! I think I needed to hear that myself. Already reached out to some friends and will delete some contacts from my phone who aren’t valuable relationships and only take away from the important ones. A recommended read!