#FabReads – How Will You Measure Your Life – Clay Christensen

In his 2012 book, How Will You measure Your Life, Clay M Christensen attempts to analyse three key life pursuits from the perspective of the theories he teaches to his MBA students at Harvard Business School, looking to extract ideas which when applied to life will ensure that the outcomes we get are aligned with the outcomes we say we want. The three areas he concentrates on are Career, Relationships and the very aptly captioned ‘Staying Out of Prison’. A few highlights:


Christensen describes the way to finding happiness as:

In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder.

The process of finding these rewarding opportunities, the theory suggests, involves continuously evaluating the outcomes from a deliberate  strategy against one from an emergent  strategy. [Deliberate strategies are designed to achieve anticipated outcomes. Emergent strategies on the other hand evolve from having to optimise around opportunities and threats we can’t (or haven’t) anticipated. More information here]

Three key components to achieving this goals are identified as:

  1. Identify Your Priorities: Money often is the default metric, but it can be misleading. Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation sheds some more light on the difference between hygiene factors and motivational factors.
  2. Find the balance between deliberate and emergent strategies: The key issue is finding the balance between calculation and serendipity form the looks of it.  Honda’s entry into the US motorbike market is highlighted as a classic example of how an emergent strategy can trump a deliberate one. Finding the balance though can be difficult, hence the use of a discovery based planning process to assess the relative chance of success of a deliberate strategy versus an emergent one.
  3. Execute the strategy: The distinction between merely paying lip service to a strategy and actually implementing one is made time and time again. And it is in how we allocate our resources that our true strategy is shown. Strategy is not what you say it is, it is how you allocate your resources – time, money and energy – through your hundreds of everyday decisions. Our lives are modelled as businesses – family, career, relationships etc – each requiring an investment of our resources. This is complicated by the time frames over which pay offs occur, and we are often tempted to focus on initiatives which deliver value rather over the long term.
Key Quotes:

If the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person



The premise here is that the greatest and longest lasting sources of happiness or sadness in our lives will come from our relationships and connections. The business theory applied here is Bhide‘s good capital and bad capital framework which simply stated is that in the initial phase of building investors should be patient for growth and impatient for profit, i.e. find a small to medium scale strategy that works, and only then begin to address the up-scaling issues.

Key points:

  1. Time scales are of importance: There is a risk in trying to sequence life. By the time we need a harvest, we may not have one!
  2. The job-to-be-done theory: The causal mechanism of every purchase of a good or service is that we have a job that needs doing, and the service fills the role. The big question for our relationships then should be what ‘job’ are we being hired for in each of our relationships. On a relational level, the key to happiness is counterintuitive; the path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to. And in sacrificing for something worthwhile, you deeply strengthen your commitment to it.
  3. Building Capability: Three components to capability – resources, processes and priorities. 
    • Resources are the what of value creation, ie the raw materials that we turn into value
    • Processes are the how, ie how we turn resources into value
    • Priorities are the why, ie our decision matrices, culture etc.


Money Quote (For finding a spouse):

The path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.

Staying out of jail – the ethics question

A great summary of the marginal thinking trap’s over at the HBR.

Money Quote:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts

– CS lewis

Finally, On Purpose

Three components of purpose.

  • A likeness (the target destination, anticipated personality traits hoping to be built),
  • A commitment
  • Metrics for measuring progress towards attaining the likeness

His talk at TEDxBoston on YouTube, and a great precis at the Harvard Business Review website.


Joshua Harris on ‘Sanctuary Moments’

Joshua Harris on ‘Sanctuary moments’ (ones where God steps into our lives to impact change in us) from the message ‘Is He Enough? (New Attitude 2004) [mp3]

… I am not advocating for you that you wait for some sort of mystical experience. I want you to have a sanctuary moment here at new Attitude, but you know what, that’s not going to look like some moment in worship where God just wipes you out, knocks you on the floor, takes away your desire for marriage and sex, and really fills you with a hatred for the opposite sex and you stand up and say I’ve had my sanctuary moment. No…

It means obeying James 4:8 which says come near to God and he will come near to you. wash your hands you sinners, purify your hearts you double minded. It means getting serious about rooting sin out of our lives, it means getting serious about turning away form worldliness, and double mindedness. It means reading and studying god’s word. It means seeking god with all your heart, it means pursuing him in prayer, it means embracing fellowship in a local church, and all of these things are the means and the actions by which we can live not just sanctuary moments, but sanctuary lives.

The Friday Read: Gas is all around…


In the week that saw a cloud of gas leak from Total’s North Sea Elgin-Franklin field, the scramble for gas offshore Mozambique continues apace as Anadarko and Cove announce further finds, adding to the significant plays booked by ENI in 2011. The BBC’s Antonia Quirke ponders the impact exploiting these resources will have on this hitherto pristine corner of the world:

There is a sense on Vamizi of anxious anticipation. Some hope that the Mozambique government will run the project well and money will filter down to the islands which are particularly poor. Many people have feared the worst from the start. An islander tells me that when they heard that gas had been found to both the north and south, they watched all night as the illuminated exploration vessels searched and searched ever closer to their shores.

We stood on the sand, he said, and prayed it would not be found right here, thanking Allah when the vessels moved on.

The vast majority of African countries have not managed natural resources very well. Oil in Nigeria’s Niger Delta and Equatorial Guinea, and diamonds in Sierra Leone and the DR Congo are perhaps the most obvious examples of natural resources fuelling fat cat dictatorships, internal strife and burgeoning insurgencies – arguably with the connivance of the West. Tullow in Ghana and Uganda appear to be setting about it the right way; one can only hope that Mozambique uses this as a unique opportunity to build an industry from the ground up, learning to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen others who have gone before.

Listen to the podcast here.

Image from the Imagine Africa website.

The Friday Read: The True Cost of Parenting

Joshua Gans on The True Cost of Parenting, and why $180,000 may not necessarily be as outlandish as it sounds especially when the opportunity cost of stay at home parenting is factored in:

Parents know their children, have their interests at heart, are on call all the time and mean you don’t have to worry about child care.  This is precisely the utilitarian services that the high priced nannies are being valued for. Once you include stay-at-home parents, you’ll find that we are all paying much more for nannies than we think.

The original article on the $180k nanny here.

The Friday Read: Are Emotions Prophetic?

Are emotions prophetic? The short answer is No, but Jonah Lehrer at The Frontal Cortex offers a good summary of the long answer [pdf]:

Every feeling is like a summary of data, a quick encapsulation of all the information processing that we don’t have access to. (As Pham puts it, emotions are like a “privileged window” into the subterranean mind.) When it comes to making predictions about complex events, this extra information is often essential. It represents the difference between an informed guess and random chance.

Thin-slicing for dummies? I suppose the unasked question is how our prejudices, worldview and the socio-cultural context bias us in one direction or the other when we emotionally thin-slice… It just might be a good time for me to re-read Gladwell’s Blink too.

The Friday Read: Mixed Matches

A few days late but an interesting read nonetheless. Denise Morris explores inter-racial dating and marriage from a biblical worldview over at Boundless.org. Parts One, Two and Three explore her experiences in growing up as a child from a mixed marriage, the pseudo-biblical objections people may have and offers a useful summation:

Will choosing to date someone outside of your race make your life more difficult? Hopefully not, but it could. If it does, remember that the father of lies still has a grip on humanity. He will until the day Christ returns to put him in his place. Are the potential difficulties of an interracial relationship worth it? Of course they are if it’s the person God has prepared for you. Most importantly, all of us are precious in his sight — red, yellow, black and white — and every shade in between.

Even though in many ways my various reservations are being pared down to the bare essentials, I still suspect that going inter racial is (yet) a bridge too far – the rationale being the significant cultural differences (which are not insurmountable) and the perception that they are often marriages of convenience rather than for love. It’s only 2012 though, 2015 might see me singing from a different song sheet..

The line about red, yellow, black and white reminded me of a song [YouTube] from children’s church back in the day.

The Friday Read: Self and The City

From Project Syndicate:

Urbanization is blamed for a wide variety of modern social ills, ranging from crime and incivility to alienation and anomie. But, by infusing us with their unique spirit and identity, our cities may, in fact, help to empower humanity to face the most difficult challenges of the twenty-first century.

What ‘unique spirit and identity’ might Lagos infuse us with?

The Friday Read: The Case for Clawbacks

Michael Schrage mulls over the ‘de-knighting’ of Fred Goodwin  – the former RBS CEO who presided over its meteoric rise from a relatively small Scottish bank to at one stage the largest bank in the world –  and argues the case for better designed incentive systems that reward decisions which are inherently sustainable rather than geared towards risky short term profit:

…institutionalized imbalances in compensation encourage too many people to “game the system.” Traders are notorious for developing schemes that sync with how their compensation and bonuses will be paid out. Their defenders argue that consistent losers will, of course, get fired — so what’s the long-term point of clawbacks? But that ignores the (obvious) behavioral reality that traders who know that their greatest risk is losing their job — instead of their money — might be prone to making even larger bets to win comparably larger bonuses. The upside potential overwhelms the downside exposure. That’s a proven recipe for disaster.

Full text at The Harvard Business Review here.

The Friday Read #2: The Paradox of Options

Jonah Lehrer  (The Frontal Cortex) reviews a paper by Bahns, Pickett and Crandall on the relationship between social ecology (the make up of a community and its characteristics) and how people initiate and maintain relationships. They surmise that a bigger pool only makes us more picky, and keener to gravitate to people similar to us (the so called Similarity-Attraction effect).

The cliff notes version?

When opportunity abounds, people are free to pursue more narrow selection criteria, but when fewer choices are available, they must find satisfaction using broader criteria.

Perhaps LightherLamp put it more elegantly a few days ago. Full text of the paper here.