inDay Speaker Series: How will you measure your life?

July 25, 2012

Editor’s Note: As part of LinkedIn’s inDay Speaker Series, our colleague Deidre Caldbeck invited Professor Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School to talk about his new book How Will You Measure Your Life?. Below is a recap including the full recording of his riveting talk.

Professor Clayton Christensen is well known for his best-selling publication, The Innovator’s Dilemma, and several successful follow-on books where he applies his influential theory of disruptive innovation to social issues like education and healthcare. Clay not only has an incredibly intelligent and visionary mind, but he’s also a caring, thoughtful, and witty individual. I was fortunate enough to get a seat in his popular class at Harvard Business School, and to get to know him on a more personal level as a family friend. After being inspired by his most recent book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, where he takes his impactful business teachings and applies them to an individual’s personal life, I asked Clay to share his thoughts with my fellow colleagues at LinkedIn.


Speaking to a packed and riveted audience, Clay described his motivations for writing his most recent book. Over the last 30 years, Clay has been saddened to learn that many of his former classmates and colleagues – despite obtaining wealth and status – had broken families and messy personal lives. Several had even gone to jail. He realized you could avoid these outcomes if you apply his same impactful business theories to your personal life.

Take Clay’s theory of disruption, which states “the pursuit of profit drives companies up-market, and moving towards affordability and accessibility seems less profitable.” Disruption happens as a result of many seemingly small decisions – decisions that are made with sound business sense. Companies tend to prefer selling products and services with high gross margins. But over time, this pursuit can lead to competitors coming in at the low margin levels, gradually moving up market, and eventually taking over the entire business. This happened most notably to the integrated steel mills in the 1980s, and continues to happen today to companies like Oracle (disrupted by and Toyota (disrupted by Kia and Hyundai).

We are faced with the same decisions in our personal lives. As the overachievers that we are here at LinkedIn, we tend to use every free moment of our day to pursue an activity that will give us the highest level of tangible achievement – shipping a product, closing a sale. Dedicating free time to our family and friends doesn’t have the same immediate benefit. So we tend to invest time in our work, and plan to "spend tomorrow" with the family. Over time, these decisions can lead to, at best, unhappy families, but, at worst, broken homes. After Clay’s talk on Friday, I went home to spend some quality (yet not so rewarding, as she disobeyed my every request!) time with my daughter, in the hope that she and I can both reap the benefits in the long term.

In his book, Clay writes “The type of person you want to become – what the purpose of your life is – is too important to leave to chance. It needs to be deliberately conceived, chosen, and managed.” Just as we have a stated mission at LinkedIn – to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful – Clay has inspired me to have my own personal strategy. I plan to have a successful and happy career, to benefit from fulfilling relationships, and to live a life of integrity. How Will You Measure Your Life?