In this post I'll cover what How Will You Measure Your Life is all about. Then I’ll give you a punchy summary of the book so you can use its ideas for your career and decide whether you should go ahead and read the whole thing. All in 3 minutes. So strap in and let's get started.
What is How Will You Measure Your Life about?
How Will You Measure Your Life explores how you can take an alternative approach to your career. One that the authors think is less intense, but ultimately more impactful.
They argue that by taking time away from your work to spend more time with your family and friends, building stronger relationships, you will be happier and can actually have a bigger impact in your career.
It is an intuitive argument and the conclusions make logical sense. But of course, this is a long-term investment and the rewards aren’t immediate.
That’s why most people don’t pursue this approach.
However, the good things in life take time and commitment. It’s a big investment and the authors make a compelling argument for why you should trust the process and make the commitment to follow through on prioritizing relationships over work.
The How Will You Measure Your Life summary in 5-bullet points
Here is what you need to know about How Will You Measure Your Life in five punchy bullet-points:
- Your work and career goals can trick you into unusual behaviors and actions. Work tasks provide instant gratification that relationships often don’t. That’s why you probably find yourself skipping time with family and friends to focus on work related activities. Worse still, your closest relationships will not pull you up on this behavior, because they love you the most and don’t want to hurt you. This is not costless. It negatively impacts your important relationships and this result is hard to reverse. A huge body of research shows that relationships are what make people happy in the long-term. So shift your focus now to providing constant attention to your relationships with your nearest and dearest.
- Treat your relationships like a job. Controversial? Yes. Effective? Also yes! This will make sure you give those relationships the attention they need, and instantly improve them. To do this simply find the job to be done for each relationship. Ask yourself: “What job does this person need me to do the most right now?” This flips the relationship on its head, approaching it from their perspective, instead of yours, and forces you to dig deep to make the relationship healthier. It helps you understand the other party better and then come up with good ways to fulfill their needs.
- Don’t forget your relationship with yourself. If you live with integrity and have a clear conscience, you’ll feel better about the decisions you make and actions you take. Only then is it more likely they’ll work out.
- Marginal thinking is when all you think about are the “edges” of a situation. It’s the times when you give up on your principles and justify your actions as ones you’ll do, “just this one time”. However, the authors argue that it’s easier to hold your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. Recognize marginal thinking and don’t engage in it. Stick to your principles despite the forces pulling you in other directions. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself rarely sticking to anything that matters to you.
- The benefits of these actions take a long time to come to fruition. That’s why you need to invest the time right now and trust the process. Follow through and don’t quit.
How can How Will You Measure Your Life help my career?
Clayton Christensen was a famous business thinker, especially in the area of innovation.
He wrote the book after witnessing his university colleagues go on to great jobs with big paychecks and all the houses, cars and holidays that came with them. However, despite their “success” most of his colleagues still ended up miserable.
As a teacher, Christensen wanted to ensure his students didn't go through the same mistakes. So he began trying to figure out what had stopped him from the unfortunate path his colleagues had taken. Then every year he worked with students to refine the lessons, discuss and expand them, and the result was How Will You Measure Your Life.
This book can help your career by getting you to think deeply about why you’re doing it, what you want to get out of it, and then pursuing it while staying focused on the things that truly matter. Not money and your career, but your family, relationships and personal wellbeing.
Who should read How Will You Measure Your Life?
This book is about family, relationships and personal wellbeing. That means it’s for everyone. But there are some people who will get more out of it. If you are in your mid-20’s or early 30’s and starting to think about how you will balance career with family life, then read this book. If you are in your early mid-40’s to early 50’s and starting to reconsider how you have spent your time and want to reset, then read this book now.
Reading the best books is a surefire way to improve your career and find ideas to bring purpose to your efforts. If you are interested in another powerful way 10x your impact, you should sign up for my free newsletter.