I made a decision to summarize books that I read to improve retention of the powerful insights.

After reading the phenomenal book The Innovators Dilemma (a review will soon follow), and watching Christensen’s talks on Youtube (see here and here) I was intrigued and decided to read more from this author.


In the introduction of How will you measure your life, Christensen explains that many “high-achievers” from his Harvard graduation class (e.g. Enron’s Skilling and many others) never properly formulated their life’s purpose, priorities. After allocating most of their life to achieving very domain-dependent “success”, an alarming number ended up in jail, dead by suicide, or divorced.

Christensen lays out his framework, deeply influenced by corporate strategy & religion, to live a good life. Note that some religious anecdotes were difficult to relate with.


  • the trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whatever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward (and by the way, this is typically not family & friends)
  • Big Data is a buzzword. It is all about collecting as much data as possible. However, collecting more and more data from the past to predict the future is like focusing more on the rearview mirror. To predict the future better, you need powerful theory as well

“Data is by definition from the past” – Clay Christensen (about Big Data)

  • Jensen’s Principal-Agent theory (i.e. aligning managers financially will make them act as owners) is not sufficient to explain many anomalies (e.g. highly motivated NGO founders/employees). Two-factor theory tells us that financials incentives are not the same as true motivation, rather they are part of hygiene factors (necessary conditions for satisfaction, but not at all sufficient): bad hygiene causes dissatisfaction, best you can hope for is no dissatisfaction. True motivation comes from feeling appreciated by community for work delivered
  • management is a noble profession because you are able to help and motivate people
  • personal life lessons from discovery-drive planning: force yourself to articulate what assumptions need to be proven true in order for you to achieve success in a new job (same for happiness). What evidence do you have that makes you think [this job] is going to be something you actually enjoy doing?
    • Blogger James Altucher would answer this by saying you need to discover this by actually doing as much of it as possible beforehand)
  • investing in family and long-term friendship is more roundabout with longer term payoffs: what person do you want to be? Short-term, measurable payoffs lure high-achievers into under-allocating resources to life’s long term payoffs
  • lessons from marketing: many products fail because companies develop them from the wrong perspective: they “target” specific segments of consumers, instead of asking “for which job do consumers hire this product for?” Nobody hires a product because he is an 18 to 35 year old white male with a college degree. Examples: 1) IKEA’s success is partly attributable to doing the fast-furnishing job so well (one-stop shop for the job: fast & cheap). 2) McDonald’s milkshakes
  • if you work from the perspective of what job you are being hired to do (both at work and at home) the payoff will be enormous. One of them is being a spouse. It’s easy to make assumptions about what our spouse might want rather than work hard to understand the job to be done. Divorce often has its roots when one frames marriage only in terms of whether the spouse is *giving* what I want. True empathy & acting on it will make you happier
  • through his long life Christensen found that love for others arises mostly by investing in empathy & making them happy and not the other way around
  • create a consistent & good culture at home like great companies do (resources, process, priorities)
  • it’s easier to act 100% of the times in consistency with your values vs 95% (slippery slope)
  • formulate a likeness, a commitment and a metric for your life


“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being” – James Allworth (co-author) via Goethe

This was a nice to read book. Sometimes the parallels Christensen draws between business and life are genius, sometimes they are a bit odd. In any case, it’s worth to go at least through the business case studies of the book. They are almost completely complimentary to those in The Innovator’s Dilemma.