Clayton Christensen was a towering figure, and not simply because he was 6-foot-8 inches tall. He was number one on the Thinkers50 list of top business thinkers twice. Forbes called him “one of the most influential business theorists of the last 50 years” and The Economist called him “the most influential management thinker of his time.”

Christensen was a consultant and teacher. He worked by exposing students and clients to effective models and theories, then asking them to apply the lessons to their own situations. Throughout the semester, the students in Christensen’s classes applied his models and theories to business problems.

In the Spring of 2010, the Harvard Business School’s graduating class asked Professor Christensen to speak to them about how to apply what they learned in class to their lives and careers. Later he turned his speech into a Harvard Business Review article titled “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

“How Will You Measure Your Life?” only takes a few minutes to read, but it may have an outsized impact on your life.

Fortunately for us, Clayton Christensen had asked that question of himself while he was a Rhodes scholar. He asked it while he was in the crucible of hyper-intense learning and severe competition as the CEO of a start-up. He asked it as a professor and after he was physically ravaged by cancer and a stroke.

His answers made him congruent and effective. He challenged thousands of high achievers to think deeply about what mattered most to each of them, and then to focus on those standards. He wanted people not to be distracted by scores of other causes and activities which would dilute and diffuse their attention.

No one aims to divorce or blow relationships with kids or spend time in jail, but Christensen was aware that many of his classmates and students did those things. They may have been successful in business, but many paid a high price for their success. Too often the costs extended into areas that they naively assumed were exempt.

So how will you measure your life? The professor’s personal answer included a combination of family, faith, excellence, and contribution. It appears that he did a good job of living a life according to his core values. We have control over our life goals and the things we do to achieve them.


How will you measure your life?

If you find the article valuable and want more, you’re in luck. There’s a 40-page extension of the article. Christensen also wrote a 240-page book version with James Allworth and Karen Dillon.


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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