I am a numbers guy. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. What are your metrics for measuring the success of your life?
You can have a meaningful life by maximizing personal happiness through relationships, achieving your professional purpose, while leading a life of integrity.
One of my gurus Clay Christensen passed away a few days ago. He went away too soon. We will sorely miss him.
Clay was a professor at Harvard Business School and one of the best business thinkers of our time. Clay made a massive dent in the universe with his business and life theories.
Clay wrote all his life about business, innovation, and management theories, including one of his classics, Innovator’s Dilemma, and created the renowned disruption theory.
He wrote a book titled “How Will You Measure Your Life?”. This book and Clay had a profound impact on my life.
Clay brought some of those theories literally to our homes, to our families, and our lives. I love the parallels that his management theories have with our personal lives.
In his book, Clay asks three straightforward questions -
How can I be sure that I will be successful and happy in my career? My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness? I live a life of integrity — and stay out of jail?
These are fundamental questions, but most of us forget to remember these constantly.
These three questions constitute the three pieces of our equation of life —
Life Score = (Happiness + Purpose) x Integrity
Building relationships takes effort. Building meaningful connections is more than a full-time job. You have to focus all the time on your relationships to score high on this part of the equation.
Your kids are your most valuable product
Within our companies, one of our goals as leaders is to set a culture that allows others to do “the right thing” when we are not around.
With our kids, there comes a time when we set them to sail to college. We expect them to do “the right thing” when the moment arrives to make tough decisions when we are not around to help them.
People are complex. Groups of people bring even more complexity into this equation. You have to think about building culture into your family that you like, and that brings happiness to you.
You have to talk explicitly about what your family stands for and what values they exude.
Did you get the job done?
Clay has a milkshake marketing theory. According to this, your customers hire your product to get some job done.
What do you think is the reason for McDonald’s customers to hire milkshake?
“Job to be done” for McDonald’s milkshake
“Milkshake buyers faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and had (at most) one free hand.”
The gist of this theory is a question that you need to ask for your relationships.
What jobs did your parents, your siblings, your significant other, your kids, your extended family, your friends, and your community hire you to get done?
You have to think more in-depth than the physical and superficial planes and be available to her for that job.
Clay was a religious man. He was a devout Mormon.
Your happiness depends first and foremost on your well-being. It would be best if you spent time in silence away from all the noises, internal and external.
Read this earlier post to get recommendations for creating that personal space for yourself. It does not matter what practice you choose for yourself as long as it allows you to look inwards, meditate, and spend time in solitude.
How do we make a dent in this universe? How do we find our goal?
We are so insignificant. We will all become dust in about 200 years, and nobody will remember you and me.
Watch this video to see how small we are in the grand scheme of things and, at the same time, how important and profound we are as a part of this universe.
Let the universe help you
Like in business, our lives also present us with fantastic opportunities, and we do not pay attention to them. We are running too fast to observe and appreciate amazing things around us.
You have to balance the pursuit of aspirations and goals with taking advantage of unanticipated opportunities.
Do not lose sight of serendipitous doors that open up as you walk through the maze of your career.
When the significant role and match shows up for you to make your mark in this universe, make sure you are entirely tuned and have left enough space to explore that.
What makes your heart sing?
We all are in search of our North Star. When I interviewed Bill George, former Medtronic CEO, he explained True North —
“True North” refers to the deeply held beliefs, values and passions. It is how you see yourself as a human being at a fundamental level.
One of the leading thinkers for work satisfaction and motivation research is American psychologist, Frederick Herzberg. He explains two types of job elements that make us happy or miserable. One of them is called hygiene factors, e.g., status, compensation, job security, work conditions, and company policies. Lousy hygiene causes dissatisfaction.
What matters, though, are the motivators that include things like challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. These are the things that are inside yourself and create meaning in what you do.
When we find ourselves stuck in unhappy careers — and even unhappy lives — it is often the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what really motivates us.
Maintaining the integrity and staying out of jail, is critical, as shown by one of Clay’s classmates from Harvard Business School — Jeff Skilling, who was the CEO of Enron.
Jeff was hugely successful in the first two dimensions with a lot of money and professional success but failed the last one as Enron got involved with all the scandals.
Maintaining your integrity all the time is more comfortable than keeping it selectively. If you allowed that crap to seep in only once, it would flood your life.
100% is easier than 98%.
Most of us live our lives in compartments. We have our personal lives, and then we have our professional lives. The most meaningful things happen at the intersection of these two.
Clay suggests investing in our relationships and treating them with all the seriousness we give to our jobs.
We give our best to our life’s work when we bring our full-self, that is not just our business-self to our jobs. It also requires efforts from the business leaders to create a culture that fosters authenticity and ability for employees to bring their complete self to work.
The formula that works for me is not necessarily the one that will work for you. There are some standard pieces though to the life success equation for all of us.
- Happiness — Comes primarily from relationships. You have to work hard to score high with this piece, as there is no short-cut to deep connections.
- Purpose — Focus on the intrinsic motivators and find your place in this universe to maximize the satisfaction that you get from your work.
- Integrity — Honesty is all or nothing. You will sleep well and amplify the other two factors of your life equation if you are on the path of truth.
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