《生命该如何度量？》 / "How Will You Measure Your Life?"
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。
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。
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。
"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.