This past Thursday, January 23, one of my idols died, the Harvard professor, consultant, writer and lecturer Clayton Christensen. It has been one of the great benchmarks of management in the early 21st century. I wanted to take advantage of this post to pay him a well-deserved tribute.
Clayton has been especially known for creating the concept “disruptive innovation“, first introduced in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma“ in 1997. Personally, I liked his second work, “How will you measure your life?” Much more. Published in 2012. In my humble opinion, it is a masterpiece, without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read.
In the book, Clayton recounts the Harvard alumni meetings years after his graduation. Initially, at the fifth anniversary gathering, most alumni seem to have a truly successful life. Very well dressed, with physically very attractive couples, with positions of high responsibilities, living in luxurious and exotic places … what would come to be the image of great winners. Christensen continues, indicating that, at the tenth anniversary meeting of his promotion, many of the students no longer showed up. Asking about the absent alumni, many were occupying positions of the highest responsibility, leading large corporations and making a lot of money. But despite their extraordinary success on a professional and financial level, many of them seemed really unhappy. In his class (academically and professionally one of the best in the history of Harvard), divorces, family breakdowns, loss of friends, psychological problems (depression, addictions …) were frequent. Clayton wondered how it could be that people so brilliant, so smart and professionally successful could be so shipwrecked in the personal sphere. The Clayton narration continues, indicating that in the meetings of the 25 and subsequent promotions, some colleagues did not attend because they were in prison for business scandals such as those of Enron and McKinsey, among others.
In the spring of 2010, Clayton was invited to give a talk to recent graduates at Harvard. At the time, Clayton was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. He stated that he was seeing death closely and that for this reason he could speak properly about what is most important in life and, above all, how important it is to know how you will measure your life when the end approaches. After the talk he decided to turn his speech into the magnificent book that he published 2 years later with the help of 2 of his students who listened to him and were really excited by him: James Allworth and Karen Dillon.
The book, rather than offering answers, provides great questions:
- How can I be sure that I will find satisfaction in my professional career?
- How can I be sure that my personal relationships will be a lasting source of happiness?
- How can I avoid compromising my integrity – and not end up in prison?
The main premise of the book is that the criteria we use to make decisions are what shape our lives. Basically, these criteria are nothing more than understanding how and to whom we pay attention in our lives. In the end, more than our declarations, what really defines our vital strategy is what and to whom we dedicate time. Everything else is superficial.
As Steve Jobs used to say, “Live your life as if it were your last day, someday it will be.” Clayton has lived his entire life focused on his ideals. Keeping in mind how he was going to value his life. Especially during these last 10 years when he has lived with several cancers and with a heart attack. Your journey has already started years ago. Think as soon as possible of the questions that I presented to you previously. Only by being clear about what kind of life you want to live will you finally know how to measure it.
Because, as Clayton Christensen himself said, “think carefully about the metrics by which you are going to judge your life, and commit to following them every day; in this way, in the end you will be able to judge your life as a great success”.