How Will You Measure Your Life Book Summary


Hi Success Titan reader, I’m Sal Damiata, and that’s the book summary of “How Will You Measure Your Life,” written by Clayton Christensen. 

Why this Book?

What if I told you that pursuing a life where you only chase money will leave you empty and unfulfilled in the long run? If you want to learn how not to live such a life that you will probably regret on your deathbed, keep reading.


How Will You Measure Your Life is a book that is aimed at teaching you how to predict how your life will unfold based on business theories so that you can live the best life you can. But is it really true that you can predict such life outcomes? Let’s discover it together.

Who’s it for? 

  • People that don’t like their jobs or find them meaningless;
  • Individuals or professionals that would like to get a happier life;
  • People who feel like missing out on other aspects of life apart from work.

What You’ll Learn from it

  • What are the real motivational drivers for people in their careers;
  • How to create a long-term fulfilling life in every aspect of it;
  • How to carry on with your professional life without compromising on your happiness.

In a Nutshell

  • The most successful professionals do not only invest their time in their work or career, but they also do in their relationships and lifestyle. That’s the only way you can achieve authentic and long-lasting happiness in your life.

3 Sentence Summary

  • Whenever you’re pursuing a strategy that seems to be working, you’d usually be better off by keeping going with your original plan. However, if you are faced with a seemingly better opportunity, your best bet might be to consider an “emergent strategy” and change your plans.
  • To build a successful career, ask yourself what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning. This can be doing service to other people, getting public recognition, or connecting with the infinite. Whatever your answer, if you manage to align your values with what you do for a living, your motivation to work will skyrocket.
  • Successful businesses can be destroyed when organizations fail to look at things in the long-term. This also happens to people when, for a short-term benefit, they hijack their long-term success.

Big Ideas

Those are the most relevant ideas expressed in the book that we’ll explore together.

  1. Career Success & Happiness Can Go together
  2. True Happiness Lies in Relationships
  3. Let Your Children Grow Alone
  4. Balance Calculation with Serendipity
  5. Beware of Marginal Thinking 

Time to learn more about them now!

Big Idea #1: Career Success & Happiness Can Go together

When it comes to forging a successful career, thinking in practical terms is necessary, but personal satisfaction is also important. To create a fulfilling career, thus, you should ask yourself questions that go beyond the simple “How much money can I make with that?” 

A question you should start finding the answer to is, “What motivates me to get out of bed in the morning?” It has been seen that people who found the answer to this question were usually happier because they found their own reasons to do things in life. 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE  Stan Lee's Net Worth

For some of them, it was doing service to other people; for others, it was getting public recognition, for others working meant connecting with the infinite. Whatever your answer, discover your unique purpose, and you will ensure you happiness in the long-term.

When you manage to align your values with what you do for a living, you’ll be much more motivated to work, and you’ll also learn faster. In fact, it has been seen how the hardest working people are the ones involved in NGOs and other humanitarian institutions. 

Those people usually get paid less, but with their meaningful work, they keep going hard, proving that money is a correlation to a happy career, not causation of it.

A Relatable Example

In the Motivator-Hygiene theory, it’s explained how personal satisfaction in the workplace can only come if what you do matches your needs and personal values. The hygiene factors are related to the salary you receive, workplace security, and company policy. 

The Motivator factor, instead, relates to the achievement, responsibility, growth, challenges, and recognition that the job can give you.

Big Idea #2: True Happiness Lies in Relationships

Another way many people lose sight of the juice of life is by focussing too little on their relationships. Usually, they do that because work gives fast rewards, while relationships generally bear their fruits only in the long term.

The connections you’ll have made with people will be what will ultimately last in your memories much more than the amount of money you will have in your bank account. 

Invest and nurture your relationships as much as you can because your job is always to understand the needs of others, both in business and personal relationships. 

Relatable Example

In the book, he brings the example of a company that used to sales its products by marketing them as “soft drinks and sports drinks,” just like their competitors did; this approach, anyway, caused their sales to be low. 

Then they changed their marketing and started to understand what the customer really wanted. They found out that their core customers (parents) had a pain point because they couldn’t get their children to eat vegetables. 

The company, having this intuition, produced a milkshake with vegetables and, not surprisingly, their sales went up. 

In the same way, don’t project your needs on your spouse, instead try to understand what she needs and give her what she wants. 

Sometimes we assume what people really want, without really asking them what they might need; don’t assume but ask, and you’ll be far better in helping others. 

Big Idea #3: Let Your Children Grow Alone

In the past, most children used to work with their families, and because of that, they started to develop specific skills related to the field where they worked. 

Now today’s children have so much free time that doesn’t spend much of their time trying to improve a specific skill. That’s really bad as they won’t be as good with their problem-solving skills as they should be.

This means that, especially today, children shouldn’t be shielded from life challenges but rather encouraged to face them and even fail at them. That’s essential as only experience and failure will eventually create strong and self-sufficient adults. Make them face their everyday problems by themselves and let them cope with those problems individually.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE  So Good They Can’t Ignore You Book Summary

A Relatable Example

An example of that can be brought to children that have to face their challenges at school, with their peers, struggles with love, and so on. A good way to make them grow thus is not by intervening in their lives but by supporting them in their choices.

How a parent should intervene, instead, is by creating a family culture where certain noble values are honored, so that the children will grow in a healthy environment that will inevitably contribute to their maturity. 

This will happen because your children will have certain guidelines that will help your children face their challenges.

Big Idea #4: Balance Calculation with Serendipity

Sometimes, along with your career, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you won’t know what to do. 

That usually happens when you decided to go into a specific direction, but then maybe you find out about another opportunity, leaving you with the dilemma “Should I keep up with my path or change it?.”

The author, in his book, talks about how there are usually two distinct things that happen whenever we try to pursue a goal, those are:

1: Anticipated opportunities, that are the things that you can consciously see and choose in order to reach your goal. Those anticipated opportunities constitute the elements that will eventually build your “deliberate strategy,” as the author calls it. 

2: Unanticipated opportunities, on the other hand, are the things you can’t see when you plan your strategy out, but that happens unexpectedly. They usually fight your deliberate strategy, force you to modify it, and to go through what the author calls an “emergent strategy.”

Then the new emergent strategy becomes the new deliberate strategy, perpetuating the process forever. This might get you frustrated and make you ask yourself how to make the decision between following an anticipated or an emergent strategy. 

Generally, the author advises that whenever you have a strategy that is working, you can stay there and keep going with your plans. When, however, you are faced with a possibly better opportunity, your best bet might be to go for an “emergent strategy.”

A Relatable Example

Before getting famous, the Japanese motorbike company “Honda” wanted to penetrate the US market. They, in fact, developed a project where they designed a bike that was supposed to compete with Harley Davidson and Triumph. 

They entered the market with this motorbike, but the attempt to penetrate it was rather unsuccessful; in fact, it almost killed Honda.

Their deliberate plan, thus, seemed like it wasn’t working. Honda, anyway, had another motorbike in its product line called the “super cub” that used in Japan as a way to deliver things in the urban streets. 

That bike was different from the typical US bike as it was smaller and more versatile; in fact, when Honda employees started to use it, they grabbed the attention of other traditional bikers. 

Those curious people eventually pushed Honda’s team to purchase more of those bikes, until they became super popular. 

Honda was low in sales, but by selling those small bikes, they could recover the costs. They continued producing such motorbikes until, well you, know as the rest is history.

Big Idea #5: Beware of Marginal Thinking 

If you enroll in any investment course, they’ll almost always teach you the concept that when evaluating alternative investments, you should ignore sunk costs and fixed costs and base your decisions on marginal costs and marginal revenues instead.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE  The Intelligent Investor Book Summary

This approach is really dangerous, though, as usually, when making those evaluations, the marginal costs will almost always appear to be lower while the marginal profits will be higher. 

This biases companies to keep doing what they were in the past and not focus on future capabilities they might need. This means that success can be destroyed when people or organizations fail to look at the long term. 

A Relatable Example

Blockbuster dominated the movie renting industry in the late 90′ by making money with their DVD’s rental service. Some years later, Netflix entered the market, but it was very small compared to Blockbuster. 

Blockbuster, to see if their business strategy was sound, applied the Marginal Cost & Revenue formula, finding out that Netflix niche didn’t look attractive at all per their goals.

The problem? Blockbuster focussed so much on their numbers and on protecting the business that they lost their market share in a few years and declared bankruptcy just one year before Netflix got to 24 million customers.

How could Blockbuster have avoided such a failure? The company should have asked itself how to create a successful new business instead of how it could have protected it from failure. 

Their failure teaches us how important it is to give a look at the future instead of only being focused on how things are in the present.

Conclusion & Takeaway

Happiness and long term success can’t come if we only care about making money and neglect our core values. 

The most important things in life rarely have something to do with materialism, they rather are linked to the nurturing of healthy human relationships and to the contribution of other people’s lives.

My Advice For You

Observe your life objectively from outside and see if you can spot the areas of your life where you’re falling short. Then ask yourself how could you live a life that’s truly inspiring to you, and that could make you become your best version. 

About the Authors

Clayton Christensen is a best-selling author, businessman, and professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. Along with his successful career as a professor and writer, he has written many articles for the Harvard Business Review. 

Clayton is also an expert in business innovation, and his masterpiece “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is considered to contain one of the greatest ideas of the 21st century.

James Allworth is an American author and businessman. He graduated with a bachelor of commerce in the Australian National University, after which he got his MBA at Harvard Business School. 

He started his career in a big four management consulting firm, after which he dedicated himself to his passion for cracking strategic problems in the areas of business, technology, and innovation.

Karen Dillon is an American Investigative journalist. After graduating from the University of Missouri, at first, she started working for many newspapers. 

Later on, she started working as an investigative documentarist, earning the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting for her excellent service.

Reading Suggestions

  • “The Innovator’s Dilemma” – Clayton Christensen
  • “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” – Clayton Christensen
  • “Finding Your Element” – Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
  • “Disrupting Class” – Clayton M. Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn
  • “The Prosperity Paradox” – Clayton M. Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, and Karen Dillon

How would you improve this book summary? Comment below and let us know so that we can serve you better!

Armin is an online entrepreneur and writer in the dating, psychology and spirituality areas of the self-help industry.
Latest posts by Armin (see all)