《生命该如何度量?》 / “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

《生命该如何度量?》

我刚注意到一位网友对我近期的博客提出了一个问题:“人这一辈子到底什么最重要?”这个问题问得很及时,因为恰好呼应了我本周博客的主题:一本名为《生命该如何度量?》(”How Will You Measure Your Life?”)的新书。

本书作者克莱顿•克里斯滕森是哈佛商学院的教授,被誉为世界一流的创新思想家。他的两本书——《创新者的窘境》和《创新者的解答》——均堪称经典。

2007年我有幸聆听了他在新德里“《财富》全球论坛”上的讲话,题为——《财富》世界500强:创新和分裂者的影响(”The FORTUNE Global 500: The Impact of Innovation and Disruptors”),讲话的内容启迪心灵,振聋发聩。

考虑到克里斯滕森在创新研究上的知名度,我对他能写出这本貌似自救手册的书籍有些好奇,于是就赶在出版之前在亚马逊网站上预订了一本。

这确实是一本自救书籍,但它并不普通。它不是那种基于传闻、传统智慧或常识的自救规则汇编,相反,作者把创新工作中用到的缜密分析同样运用于对个人成功策略的研究,搜索并提供了有助于解释我们所做出的选择与个人幸福之间因果关系的理论。

书的结论十分精彩,让人忍不住一口气读完,其中的精华对每个普通人、经理人乃至企业家都大有裨益。

克里斯滕森提出的理论和总结也引发了我的共鸣,为回顾人生旅程提供了有价值的视角。虽然很多价值观和态度都植根于人的本土文化,但类似生命的意义等人类最基本的问题是放之四海皆准的。在这个意义上,本书包含的智慧和见解跨越了文化的疆界。

但是,书的题目却未免有些引人误解,似乎在提示如何度量自己的生命是一个将来才需要考虑的问题。但这和书中所包含的重要信息不符,书的本意是说很多人在认真考虑这个问题之前都耽搁得太久了。

本书如果能用《生命度量之法》(”How Are You Measuring Your Life?”)作标题会更为恰当。掌握书中的信息意味着要尽早考虑并明确人生的要义,还要着眼于实现长期的、可持续的幸福。

作者给出的一个观察是他发现很多天资聪颖的校友——无论来自哈佛商学院还是牛津大学“Rhodes学者”项目——后来都过着很不幸福的生活。这让他思考,并最终引领他不断探索,集结成书。

克里斯滕森在这项研究和创新研究之间作了一些比较。集中向人们展示的不是应该想什么,而是应该怎么想。他探求可以超越相互关系而达到因果关系的适用理论,并向读者建议了建立人生策略的方法。

他写道:“好的理论可以帮助我们分类、解释,最重要的是预测。”

同时他也提醒道:“人们常认为预测未来最好的办法是在决策之前尽可能多地搜集数据,殊不知这和开车只看后视镜一样,因为数据只代表着过去。”

关于个人策略,他注意到“从根本上说,策略就是你想实现什么和打算怎样实现。”

最开始要考虑的是优先顺序,其实也是决策的核心前提。接下来就像商业策略一样,要在长期计划和(有时会意外出现的)机遇间达到平衡。最后就是执行,对个人而言就是如何在各种优先之间分配时间和资源——这是我们忙碌生活中每天都会遇到的挑战。

克里斯腾森用很多有趣且具说服力的商业案例来佐证他的观点,其中包括英特尔、迪斯尼、沃尔玛、本田、苹果、摩托罗拉、宜家、戴尔、皮克斯、奈飞、纽柯公司的案例。

这本激发灵感的图书饱含至理名言,老少咸宜,其中有很多都适用于职业规划、担任领导、从事管理甚至是养育子女。

对他的其中一项观察结果,我举双手赞成:

“我真心认为至爱亲朋是幸福人生的最大源泉。虽然听起来简单,但要建立这种关系需要不懈的关注和关爱……如果你不培养和开发这种关系,万一生命中遇到艰难时刻,你就会发现没人会在那儿支持你。”

我想对这句话进行的唯一改动是,把其中的“万一”换成“当”,因为现实生活中早晚会出现不可预见的严重困难。

“How Will You Measure Your Life?”

I just noticed a reader’s online question in response to one of my recent posts. His question was: “What’s really most important in our lives?” That’s a very timely question, because it is the central theme of a new book which is the subject of this week’s blog post: “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

The author, Clayton M. Christensen, is a Professor at Harvard Business School. He is considered the world’s leading thinker on innovation. His two books, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, and “The Innovator’s Solution”, are both classics.

I was fortunate to hear him present to the Fortune Global Forum in New Delhi in 2007. Entitled “The FORTUNE Global 500: The Impact of Innovation and Disruptors”, his presentation was filled with thought-provoking insights.

Because he’s so well known for his work on innovation, I was a bit surprised to learn he had written what sounded like a self-help book. Curious, I ordered a copy in advance of its publication, from Amazon.com.

True, this is a self-help book, but not a typical one. This is not a collection of self-help formulae based on anecdotes, traditional wisdom, or common sense. Instead, the author applies the same analytical rigor to strategies for personal success as he has in his work on innovation. He searches for, and offers, theories which help explain the cause and effect relationship between choices we make, and personal happiness.

The result is a compelling short read, with useful dividends for us as individuals as well as managers and entrepreneurs.

The theories Christensen outlines and the conclusions he reaches have resonance to me and offer valuable perspectives on the journey of life. Many values and attitudes are rooted in one’s native culture, but fundamental human questions like the meaning of life are somewhat universal. In that sense, this book contains wisdom and learning which can cut across cultural boundaries.

The title of the book is potentially misleading, however. It seems to suggest that the question of how to measure one’s life is something to be considered in future. That doesn’t match with an important message contained within these pages, which is that many people wait too long to adequately consider this question.

A more accurate title for this book would be “How Are You Measuring Your Life?”. Taking his message to heart would mean considering and clarifying your priorities early in life, with a view towards achieving long-term, sustainable happiness.

One observation the author shares is that he saw many of his bright, gifted schoolmates — from elite schools like Harvard Business School and the Rhodes Scholar program at Oxford University — end up as profoundly unhappy people later in their lives. That got him thinking, and eventually lead to the quest which resulted in him writing this book.

Christensen draws several parallels between this work and his work in innovation. He focuses on showing people not what to think, but how to think. He looks for theories which apply beyond correlations, to cause and effect relationships. He counsels readers on how to build a personal strategy in life.

He writes “Good theory can help us categorize, explain, and most importantly, predict.”

At the same time, he cautions: “People often think that the best way to predict the future is by collecting as much data as possible before making a decision. But this is like driving a car looking only at the rear-view mirror — because data is only available about the past.”

On personal strategy, he observes “At a basic level, a strategy is what you want to achieve and how you will get there.”

The starting point is a consideration of priorities, which are in effect, core criteria for decision-making. Next, just as with business strategy, comes achieving a balance between long-term plans and opportunities which arise (sometimes unexpectedly). Finally, execution, which for individuals is centered on how we allocate our time and resources among competing priorities — a constant, daily challenge in our busy lives.

Christensen illustrates his points with many interesting and illustrative examples from the corporate world, including Intel, Disney, Wal-Mart, Honda, Apple, Motorola, IKEA, Dell,Pixar, Netflix, and Nucor.

This inspirational book contains pearls of wisdom for people young and old, many of which are applicable to career planning, leadership, management and parenting.

One of his observations with which I wholeheartedly agree:

“I genuinely believe that relationships with family and close friends are one of the greatest sources of happiness in life. It sounds simple, but like any important investment, these relationships need consistent attention and care… If you don’t nurture and develop these relationships, they won’t be there to support you if you find yourself traversing some of the more challenging stretches of life…”

The only small editorial suggestion I would make concerns the last phrase of this sentence. I suggest changing “if” to “when,” because the fact is that sooner or later, life presents us with big, unexpected challenges.


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