Brain Food #387

How we measure our life

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

Clayton Christensen, who passed away on January 23, was known as the gentle giant of innovation. His legacy is too large to summarise in one email, but his How Will You Measure Your Life speech is certainly one to linger on, and return to. The speech was delivered to the Harvard Business School graduating class of 2010, and like most commencement speeches, it offers invaluable life advice from some of the world’s greatest minds.

The main thing it left me thinking about was the general notion of giving advice to people. The best advice we can give and the most important way in which we can influence others is not by telling them what to do, but by teaching them how to think. 

Here are some standout quotes, but if you have some spare moments, the entire speech is well worth reading:

On knowing where to allocate our resources:

“If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.”

On why ‘Just this once’ is not OK:

“But looking back on it, resisting the temptation whose logic was “In this extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK” has proven to be one of the most important decisions of my life. Why? My life has been one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed.”

And, finally, on how what matters in life is how we influence others:

“I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.”

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