Thoughts & Blog


The Graduation Advice We Wish We’d Been Given

Posted on May 21st, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

The Harvard Business Review has just posted The Graduation Advice We Wish We’d Been Given. It features some of HBR’s favorite writers, and includes both Karen Dillon and James Allworth. From the article:

Understand the way your mind works in relation to motivation. Money, a fancy title, a prestigious firm — these are what are known as extrinsic factors. Your friends and family can see them, you can put them on a resume, or discuss them in a job interview. But these visible, extrinsic factors are not a source of contentment. Rather, the research suggests they’re actually a source of discontentment — when they’re absent. In other words, having these extrinsic motivators in abundance won’t make you happy; instead, all that abundance will result in is an absence of dissatisfaction. That’s (obviously) not the same thing as being satisfied.

True motivation relies … Read More »


inDay Speaker Series: How Will You Measure Your Life?

Posted on August 11th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

Clay was recently invited to LinkedIn to speak on the topic of How Will You Measure Your Life. They have posted a blog and a full video of the speech:

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 … Read More »


Inc: Success. You’re Measuring It Wrong.

Posted on July 27th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

Inc has just posted a review and discussion of How Will You Measure Your Life? and the concepts in the book:

“Typically, the way you calculate profitability, investments that pay off tomorrow go to the bottom line and are much more tangible than investments that pay off 10 years from now,” he says, before noting that this pursuit of short-term achievement distorts the lives of people as well as companies.

Head over to Inc to read the full post.


Skip Prichard interviews Clay, James and Karen

Posted on July 27th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

Skip Prichard, CEO of Ingram, has just interviewed the three authors on How Will You Measure Your Life?; from the interview:

And that’s the value of theory. Good, causal theory allows us to look out into the future with incredible acuity.

There’s an example I love to share of mankind’s first attempts to fly. When our early aviators looked at the world’s “best practice” fliers—birds—they saw two things almost all these had in common: wings and feathers. So, they strapped on wings and feathers, climbed to the top of cathedral spires, jumped off and flapped hard. It rarely worked out well.

You see, wings and feathers were correlated with flight. But they didn’t cause flight.

Head over to Skip’s blog to read the full interview.


How Will You Measure Your Life at TEDxBoston

Posted on July 23rd, by James in Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

At the recent TEDxBoston, Clay spoke on How Will You Measure Your Life:

Head over to the TEDxBoston site to see all the details.


Don’t indulge. Be happy.

Posted on July 10th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

The New York Times is running a wonderful article about the relationship between income and happiness. From the article:

The catch is that additional income doesn’t buy us any additional happiness on a typical day once we reach that comfortable standard. The magic number that defines this “comfortable standard” varies across individuals and countries, but in the United States, it seems to fall somewhere around $75,000. Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis — but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark.

Why, then, do so many of us bother to work so hard long after we have reached an income level sufficient to make most of us happy? One reason is that our ideas about the … Read More »


Money Life interviews James

Posted on June 18th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

Chuck Jaffe Interviews James AllworthChuck Jaffe, senior columnist for MoneyWatch, just interviewed James for his MoneyLife show. Interested in listening? It’s available right here.


This Father’s Day, looking back on what matters most

Posted on June 17th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. 1 Comment

The Huffington Post is running a blog on Father’s Day, written by Karen and applying some of the theories of the book:

Decades later when I became a parent myself, I began to truly appreciate what my dad had done. I imagine it was extremely tempting for him — it was for me — to assume he could sequence his life. He might have thought he could focus for a decade or so on getting ahead in his career, believing his family would understand. Then, when we really needed him — say, in high school — he could finally turn his attention to his three children having established himself professionally.

But had he done so, he would have unwittingly missed what may have been the most significant years of our childhood. They might not have been high return on investment years for … Read More »


Before you sign up for that extra week of camp…

Posted on June 14th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. Comments Off

The Huffington Post is running an article by Karen, looking at the dangers of outsourcing and the importance of building capabilities in our children:

The same is true for our children. We want our kids to get ahead and believe that the opportunities and experiences we have provided them will help them do exactly that. But the nature of an endless stream of time-consuming extracurricular activities may not actually help them prepare to “compete” in the future. If they’re not deeply engaged and challenged to do hard things, we’re not preparing our children to develop the capabilities they’ll need to succeed in the future.

Our children need to tackle hard problems. They need to learn how to pick themselves up from failure. They need to learn their capabilities. I have wonderful memories of my own summer camp experience — taking my turn … Read More »


Video from the book launch

Posted on June 12th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

The video from the book launch has just been posted. Innosight were kind enough to host a party for the book.

Head over to the Vimeo site for more details.


Excerpt on CNBC: “Building a Strategy for your Career”

Posted on May 24th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

CNBC is hosting an excerpt from How Will You Measure Your Life. Pulling from the third chapter, on strategy, it’s focusing about shaping a strategy for your career:

I’m always struck by how many of my students and the other young people I’ve worked with think they’re supposed to have their careers planned out, step by step, for the next five years.

High-achievers, and aspiring high-achievers, too often put pressure on themselves to do exactly this. Starting as early as high school, they think that to be successful they need to have a concrete vision of exactly what it is they want to do with their lives.

Underlying this belief is the implicit assumption that they should risk deviating from their vision only if things go horribly wrong.

But having such a focused plan really only makes sense in certain circumstances.

Jump over to CNBC … Read More »


Fast Company on HWYMYL

Posted on May 18th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Fast Company is running an in-depth interview with Clay. From the article:

You draw strong parallels in the book between growing a career, a company, cultivating one’s personal or interior life, and building a family life. What is consistent across these four spheres?
The world is a nested space, and so we have our brain as a person, and people are members of teams, and teams are part of business units, and business units are parts of corporations, and corporations are part of industries, which are part of economies. And what we’ve been trying to figure out is, are there fundamental statements of causality that are the same across all of these units? And we really have concluded that there are. They each have their own vocabulary, but the fundamental causal mechanism is very much the same. I would say that one … Read More »


Huffington Post interview with Clay

Posted on May 18th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

The Huffington Post is running a Q&A with Clay on HWYMYL:

Figuring out your purpose in life isn’t what many people go to business school for, but perhaps it should be, according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. In fact, it’s something he believes in so strongly that he’s even created a guide in his latest book How Will You Measure Life? Regarded as one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth, when Christensen was confronted with the same type of cancer that had killed his father, he reflected on what meant the most to him during his life. It wasn’t that he had helped companies make billions of dollars, in fact those things meant very little to him. He realized that it was the impact he had on individual people that mattered most.

Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma was … Read More »


Business Insider Q&A with Clay

Posted on May 17th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Business Insider has just run a Q&A with Clay:

On how to be successful
If you don’t have any idea of what kind of person you want to become, it’s all pointless. You really need to figure out, “What’s the purpose of my life? What kind of person does God want me to become? How do I need to invest my time and energy?” Without that you’re in a boat without a rudder.

And not go to jail like his former HBS classmate Jeffrey Skilling
Just hoping that you’ll become a certain kind of person isn’t enough. Hold to your standards all of the time. Every time you have an opportunity where you can depart — even “just this once under this circumstance”— well, your life is just an unending stream of “extenuating circumstances.” Everyone decides “just this once.”

To become the kind of person … Read More »


Empathy: the most valuable thing they teach at HBS

Posted on May 15th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

The Harvard Business Review is running an article by HWYMYL co-author James Allworth, on empathy and its importance in business:

The place for me, however, where an appreciation of empathy is most undervalued, is in business. The potential upside for those in business who are able to be empathetic is huge, and is eloquently described in Professor Clay Christensen’s jobs-to-be-done theory. Understanding that people don’t buy things because of their demographics — nobody buys something because they’re a 25-30 year old white male with a college degree — but rather, because they go about living their life and some situation arises in which they need to solve a problem… and so they “hire” a product to do the job. This is a big “ah ha” to many folks when they first hear it; but when you really boil it down, the … Read More »


Instilling the Value of Integrity in Your Heart

Posted on May 15th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Knowledge@Wharton has just posted a wide-ranging interview with Clay on the topic of HWYMYL. They entitled it “Instilling the value of integrity in your heart”. From the article:

Knowledge@Wharton: Why is it important for managers and leaders to use the processes you describe?

Christensen: The core problem is that for whatever reason, when God created the world, he oriented us to always be looking into the future. He only made data available about the past. If we emerge into our careers as managers with a belief that we need to be data-driven and fact-based in our decision making, we’ll never be able to take action when it’s salient and always be reacting to things after the game is over. You need to be able to learn how to see into the future without data and evidence. The only way you can do … Read More »


Online interview with Clay, James and Karen

Posted on May 15th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Real Recognition Radio has just posted an in-depth, hour-long interview with Clay, James and Karen on HWYMYL?:

Can high-achievers have it all? On the next episode of Rideau’s Real Recognition Radio, Roy Saunderson and S. Max Brown speak with Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon, the authors of How Will You Measure Your Life? Clayton M. Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the author of seven critically-acclaimed books. A native of Australia, James Allworth writes for the Harvard Business Review, and has previously worked at Booz & Company, and Apple, Inc. Karen Dillon was Editor of the Harvard Business Review and previously served as deputy editor of Inc magazine, and was editor and publisher of the critically-acclaimed American Lawyer magazine. How do you stay grounded in purpose while being … Read More »


Charlie Rose interviews Clay

Posted on May 14th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Charlie Rose has just posted the interview he has completed with Clayton Christensen on How Will You Measure Your Life?

It’s up over at the Charlie Rose Show.


Stand by your personal line, always

Posted on May 14th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Forbes India, as part of a third anniversary special, is running an excerpt from HWYMYL.

The Hypothesis
Companies are biased to leverage what they have put in place to succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabilities they’ll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, that approach would be fine. But if the future’s different—and it almost always is—then it’s the wrong thing to do.

So What?
Every time an executive in an established company needs to make an investment decision, there are two alternatives on the menu. The first is the full cost of making something completely new. The second is to leverage what already exists. Almost always, the marginal-cost argument overwhelms the full-cost. When there is competition, established companies continue to use what they … Read More »


Message to Managers: Your Strategy Is Not What You Say It Is

Posted on May 14th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Bloomberg Businessweek is running an excerpt from HWYMYL on resource allocation:

Here is a way to frame the investments we make in the strategy that becomes our lives: We have resources—which include personal time, energy, talent, and wealth—and we are using them to try to expand several “businesses” in our personal lives. These include having a rewarding relationship with our spouse or significant other; succeeding in our careers; and so on. Unfortunately, our resources are limited, and these “businesses” are competing for them.

It’s exactly the same problem that a corporation has. Your resources are not decided and deployed in a single meeting; instead, the process is continuous, and you have, in your brain, a filter for making choices about what to prioritize.

But it’s also a messy process. People ask for your time and energy every day and even if you are … Read More »


On How To Find Work You Love

Posted on May 14th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Fast Company is running an adaption from How Will You Measure Your Life, on the topic of finding work we love. It’s from the chapter on motivation.

This thinking on motivation distinguishes between two different types of factors: hygiene factors and motivation factors. On one side of the equation, there are the elements of work that, if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied. These are the hygiene factors: status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices. It matters, for example, that you don’t have a manager who manipulates you for his own purposes–or who doesn’t hold you accountable for things over which you don’t have responsibility. Bad hygiene causes dissatisfaction.

But even if you instantly improve the hygiene factors of your job, you’re not going to suddenly love it. At best, you just won’t hate it … Read More »


Excerpt: The Dangers of Marginal Thinking

Posted on May 9th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge is running an excerpt of How Will You Measure Your Life? — pulling from the chapter on the dangers of marginal thinking:

Blockbuster’s mistake? To follow a principle that is taught in every fundamental course in finance and economics. That is, in evaluating alternative investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs, and instead base decisions on the marginal costs and revenues that each alternative entails. But it’s a dangerous way of thinking. Almost always, such analysis shows that the marginal costs are lower, and marginal profits are higher, than the full cost.

This doctrine biases companies to leverage what they have put in place to succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabilities they’ll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past,that approach … Read More »


Video Q&A with Clay

Posted on May 9th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Video Q & A with Clay on Forbes

As part of a review on How Will You Measure Your Life?, Forbes conducted a video Q&A with Clay.

The full article is available here.


Q&A with Clay, James and Karen

Posted on March 23rd, by James in Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

Why did you write “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

Clay: I never really set out to write “How Will You Measure Your Life?”; it was driven in large part because my students urged me to. The subject is something I have explored with all of my students on the last day of class each school year for as long as I have been teaching at Harvard Business School. I’ve always considered it my most important class. Every year, I learn something valuable from my students and I hope our conversation inspires them to reflect on their personal and professional road ahead.

At the end of the spring semester in 2010, I was asked to speak to the entire graduating class about these ideas. Just a few months before, I’d been diagnosed with a cancer similar to the type that killed my dad. … Read More »


In Search of the Zone

Posted on March 23rd, by James in Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

James has a new post up on Harvard Business Review about getting yourself into the zone:

The “zone.” Flow. Whatever you want to call it, at one stage or another, every one of us aspires to get there. It’s when we do our best work, achieve our peak performance. Last weekend, I competed in the New England Masters Swim Championships, and for the past eighteen months I’ve been co-authoring a book. Both of these are endeavors that rely extensively on an ability to get in the zone; they can truly make the difference between a good day and a great one.

The “zone.” Flow. Whatever you want to call it, at one stage or another, every one of us aspires to get there. It’s when we do our best work, achieve our peak performance. Last weekend, I competed in the New England Masters Swim … Read More »


How Will You Measure Your Life?

Posted on March 5th, by James in Thoughts & blogs. 3 comments

In 2010, Professor Clayton Christensen delivered a commencement speech to Harvard Business School’s graduating student body. The class that Clay teaches, Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, is structured around good management theory and how students can use it to be successful in their careers in business. The last day of class, however, Clay asks his students to use those theories on themselves, and on their lives.

The speech he gave in 2010 described what he had learned from his many years of teaching and discussing the topic with his students.

Karen Dillon, editor of the Harvard Business Review, heard about the speech and asked whether his thoughts could be captured for an article in the HBR. That article, entitled “How Will You Measure Your Life?”, later went on to win the McKinsey Award for best article in HBR. It also formed the … Read More »


David Brooks: The Summoned Self

Posted on March 15th, by James in Press & Reviews, Thoughts & blogs. No Comments

David Brooks of the New York Times has posted an article, The Summoned Self, exploring the ways to think about your life. He references the original How Will You Measure Your Life? article posted in the Harvard Business Review. From the article:

Christensen advised the students to invest a lot of time when they are young in finding a clear purpose for their lives. “When I was a Rhodes scholar,” he recalls, “I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth.

“That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really … Read More »