How Will You Measure Your Life?
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I didn’t know Clayton Christensen and I hadn’t read any of his writings. He was a Harvard professor best known for writing The Innovator’s Dilemma. He died on January 23, 2020 at age 67.
I recently read his seminal article, published in the Harvard Business Review, called How Will You Measure Your Life? It deals with a subject I often think about.
The article was inspired by his students who asked him to explain how they could apply his principles of “disruption innovation” to their personal lives.
His insights are so profound I wanted to share them with you, although I encourage you to read the original article in its entirety.
Resist being the all-knowing advisor
Is the value premium disappearing? I suspect you might answer this question by referencing the historical data and conclude it supports a likelihood that this premium will return at some future date.
Kenneth French who, along with Eugene Fama, identified the value premium in 1992, would give a much different response. According to French, the short answer is you “pretty much can’t say anything.”
If he doesn’t know, neither do you.
That’s probably the response Christensen would give. When asked for advice, he rarely responded directly. Instead, he discussed his basic principles and let the other person reach their own conclusion. He reported they often answered their own question more insightfully than he could have.
Advisors are asked many questions by prospects and clients. Christensen’s example might be better than providing a quick, definitive response.
Finding career happiness
Christensen’s students (like most of us) were concerned about being happy in their careers. He referenced a theory espoused by Frederick Herzberg. Herzberg believed money shouldn’t be the primary motivator. Instead, it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.
I found this observation particularly meaningful: Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.
In my life, I’ve made more money from my business activities than writing books and blogs. But my writings have provided far more satisfaction because of the feedback I’ve received from my readers. I share Christensen’s view that impacting people in a positive way is a critical element to happiness in our careers.
Finding personal happiness
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Christensen notes many of his Harvard classmates come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I’ve met advisors in the same sad state.
He attributes this failure to bad asset allocation, although he doesn’t use that term. He believes the problem is the lack of having a purpose in our lives which informs how we spend our time, talents and energy.
Being an advisor is a demanding job. So is being a husband, wife, parent, colleague and friend. We make choices every day about how we will allocate our “assets” to accommodate the demands on our time.
Christensen’s point is that most of us don’t give a lot of thought to these issues. We often just let life “happen.” But if you want to find personal happiness, Christensen believes you have to plan for it by making hard decisions and designing a culture in your personal life that fosters your values.
He notes that, “[Y]our decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.”
The time we spend analyzing the proper asset allocation for our clients is important. So is planning the time you spend with your loved ones and what you hope to achieve when you do.
It is a good strategy for a happy life.