Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘purpose’

Back when Harvard Business School’s class of 2010 started grad school, those best-and-brightest had no reason to expect that their high-flying dreams might crash along with a tanking economy.   Which may be why they asked HBS buisness administration professor Clay Christensen to deliver a commencement address that focused on his strategies for measuring a life.  Not in terms of business success, but regarding their personal lives.  His point?  Find meaning in your life. All else follows.

Thanks to a friend of a friend’s (and probably his friend’s) Facebook feed, you can read the full-text of his talk here.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

My class at HBS is structured to help my students understand what good management theory is and how it is built. To that backbone I attach different models or theories that help students think about the various dimensions of a general manager’s job in stimulating innovation and growth. In each session we look at one company through the lenses of those theories—using them to explain how the company got into its situation and to examine what managerial actions will yield the needed results.

On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.

He goes on to enumerate his strats for success, applying five business principles to life itself.   They are:

Create a strategy for your life:

I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces.

Allocate your resources:

If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.

Create a culture:

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.

Avoid the marginal costs mistakes:

The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up Remember the importance of humility;

Choose the right yardstick:

I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.

Finally, when you click on the full text of his remarks, which were published in the Harvard Business Review Magazine, you’ll find some comments, probably from alums, who are presumably smart folks who have stayed out of jail.  I especially liked this one comment on purpose from someone I never heard of but probably should have:

I’m sure that people who can find a purpose for their lives early in their careers might be happy but I’m not convinced that it is all that easy to do. It sounds like trying to decide whether you like a certain kind of food before you have tasted it. I think one’s purpose is something that has to be discovered over time, through experience. I find that regular reflection over many years increases my self awareness and my sense of purpose but I don’t believe it is something I could have decided in my university days. Also, I think it is possible for one’s purpose to evolve and change over time. I think that the best we can do is to expose ourselves to multiple experiences and reflect regularly on what they mean for our purpose.

Which, in a way, reiterates much of what we’ve talked about in this space.  Finding purpose:  it’s trial, it’s error, it’s being willing to take a risk.  And — checking back on that humility business — being willing to make a mistake.  And learn from it.

Read Full Post »

Overheard last week on a college campus:

Two twentysomething women — call them Hannah and Suzanna — engaging in some chat about life, family and all things in between. Hannah reveals that she has three older sibs, and she’s the only girl. Which ultimately leads to this:

Suzanna: If you could give your brothers some advice right now, what would it be?
Hannah: It would be to do whatever makes them happy despite how much money it would make them or if it would lead to a successful life…

Suzanna: Do you think you’ll end up following your own advice?
Hannah: Yes. However, I think in my family dynamics it’s easier for me to do whatever makes me happy because the boys have more pressure to be successful breadwinners.

Makes you wonder, yes? Is this still true of most family dynamics? And if so, does it hold women back — or give them permission to follow their passion?

Interesting question, especially when you backdrop it with a couple of new studies out there: one on the so-called “stress of higher status“; and the other on what millennial women take into consideration when deciding what to do with their lives.

In the first study, researchers from the University of Toronto found that the more successful you are professionally, the more likely your work will wreak havoc on your personal life:

“We found several surprising patterns,” says [Sociology Professor Scott] Schieman. “People who are well-educated, professionals and those with job-related resources report that their work interferes with their personal lives more frequently, reflecting what we refer to as ‘the stress of higher status.’ While many benefits undoubtedly accrue to those in higher status positions and conditions, a downside is the greater likelihood of work interfering with personal life.”

What wasn’t measured in this study, but may follow, is that when 50 hours or more a week go into your work, your good hours — not to mention your emotional energy — are usually spent with colleagues or clients, or left at your desk. When you finally straggle home, it’s likely you’re spent. Which doesn’t do a whole lot for your personal life, regardless of gender.

Which may be what millennial women have seen in their older sisters, their parents — or brothers, for that matter. Which could explain why they want something different. In that second study, Accenture found that what women between 22 – 35 want from their career is work that matters (i.e., purpose) and a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives:

Some 66% of young women define success as doing meaningful work (i.e., “the type of work I want to do”), and 59% cite maintaining a balance between their personal and professional lives. Only 37% cite “being seen as an expert in my field” and even fewer (22%) cite “receiving awards or recognition internally.”

Which brings us back to Hannah and Suzanna. What at first whiff may have smelled like a pre-feminist dynamic may, for today’s women, be the impetus to carve out a new definition of success. Going back to Friday’s post, beating the boys at their own game? Not really a case of lowered expectations. Or limited expectations, either.

But expectations that all of us, regardless of gender, will eventually get it right. What do you think?!

Read Full Post »

Sometimes it’s not what you do that matters, but why you do it. Case in point, the video above. (Don’t click on it quite yet.) Someone who has been there, done that sent it to me — this being an anniversary and all — making me wonder yet again whether finding that sense of purpose is the antidote to the choice conundrum. Maybe you’ve been there, too — doing back-breaking work that made your head spin and your neck ache, making you wonder what on earth you were thinking when you signed on — and yet, bottom line, loving every minute of it. Embracing the tangibility of it all.

On the other hand, maybe you’re still searching. In which case, click on the video. You’ll get a taste.

Purpose is where you find it. Sometimes in the strangest of places. A lifetime ago I did a story on a college buddy who, one Christmas, rallied a crew of grown-ups who knew better to spend incredibly long nights building a 60 square foot gingerbread house, replete with lights, moving parts, a chocolate-coated amusement park — including a computer controlled ferris wheel, roller coaster and carousel — hundreds of individually sculpted and hand-painted people, and dozens of chocolate and gumdrop yum-yum trees.

The biggest draw was that there was no real reason for the project — other than to rekindle the Christmas spirit. That, and the fact that once completed, the gingerbread compound was the centerpiece of a fundraiser later that month. But the magic was the soulcraft: the nightly stream of lawyers, doctors, engineers, chefs, writers — clearly folks with better things to do — who rushed in after work, chucked their neckties, their heels, and their briefcases into the corner, and ditched their iconic selves to immerse themselves in something that was literally bigger than they were. As one member of the crew, a lawyer with a loosened tie, said at the time: “The best thing about the project is that it makes you feel that everything else you are doing is less important than this.”

Purpose is like that — whether it’s gingerbread houses or presidential campaigns. It’s something that’s about more than you. You can’t always define it, but you know it when you feel it. Or when you watch this video. Turn it up.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers