How Will You Measure Your Life: Takeaways and Key Points Summary

After spending many years working alongside high-achieving entrepreneurs, Harvard professor and innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen realized that there had to be more to life than work. In his book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, Christensen guides us towards living a more fulfilled life with purpose, integrity and balance. He spells out how entrepreneurs and leaders can use their business knowledge in their personal life by pairing business case studies with the aspects of life.

Christensen offers us a poignant reminder of what true success looks like, one that is much deeper and memorable. Read on to learn how to get motivation right, why marginal thinking can be dangerous, and how to measure your life wisely.

Key Points From How Will You Measure Your Life

  • High achievers will often put more effort into their jobs than their personal lives because it’s easier for them to see the immediate rewards in their job. They prioritize immediate career rewards over personal goals that will provide long-term satisfaction.
  • We often don’t see the immediate rewards of spending time with our loved ones. It’d be wiser to manage our resources (e.g. time, energy, skills, and money) both for our career and in our personal lives.
  • If we’re stuck in our life or career, it’s usually because we’re not aligned with our true intrinsic motivations
  • Career satisfaction comes from a balance of doing work you enjoy and material benefits. Rich and successful business leaders are not necessarily happier in their personal lives. Studies have shown that money is not the primary driver in job satisfaction.
  • There are two career strategies: deliberate and emergent. Opportunities, too, fall into two categories: anticipated or unanticipated, often used if the anticipated opportunity does not go as planned.
  • Deliberate strategy uses anticipated opportunities; however, if the anticipated opportunity fails, a better unanticipated opportunity may emerge.
  • Don’t be so inflexible in your deliberate career strategy that you’re not open to a potentially better emergent career strategy.
  • Most plans are based on assumptions that tend to be incorrect. Be aware and test your assumptions.
  • Hygiene-motivation theory states that to achieve job satisfaction you need a balance of both hygiene factors (e.g. salary, working conditions, benefits, status, etc) and motivation factors (e.g. contribution, growth, etc).
  • Often we allocate fewer resources (e.g. energy, time, money) to the things that truly matter to us.
  • Spending attention and energy on children is an important investment in your child’s development, even if you can’t see immediate results. Research shows the most influential time in the development of a child’s intelligence is within their first year of life.
  • It’s difficult to let who you teach (e.g. kids, coaching clients, etc) fail, however, this is how they grow, learn, and develop a healthy self esteem.
  • Whether in business or in your personal life, it’s important to understand the needs of others. It’s best to communicate rather than assuming you know what others need.
  • Beware of marginal thinking - letting something go, “just this once.” This can snowball into additional cover-ups and general ineffectiveness, destroying what was built. (e.g. The movie rental company Blockbuster fell into marginal thinking. Blockbuster’s failure to update their business model in light of Netflix’s innovation, resulted in bankruptcy).

In-Depth Insight

Avoid Marginal Thinking. Don’t Compromise Your Integrity

Living life with integrity means being aware of the decisions you make day in and day out, not only at times when you come face to face with a moral challenge but at all times, to ensure you don’t fall into the trap of marginal thinking.

The movie rental company Blockbuster fell into marginal thinking - They were aware of Netflix, their rival, but never thought that the innovative online company could be a real threat to them so they kept their business strategy the same, renting movies via their retail stores. Netflix crushed Blockbuster with customers preferring to rent movies via the post and Blockbuster going bankrupt in 2010, paying the ultimate cost by not updating their own business model.

Similarly, stock trader Nick Leeson fell into the trap of marginal thinking which resulted in the downfall of a British merchant bank named Barings. Leeson incurred a loss on some trades he had managed and decided he would hide the loss in an unmonitored trading account ‘just this once.’ He then had to cover his irresponsible actions which snowballed to include forging documents and fooling auditors, this marginal thinking resulting in a loss of $1.3 billion and the arrest of Nick Leeson who was jailed, the company having to declare bankruptcy and being bought by a competitor for just £1.

Marginal thinking isn’t just disastrous in the business world, but in our personal lives too when we find ourselves faced with a value-based decision and end up making ill-considered decisions, saying to ourselves ‘I’ll let it go this once.’

By allowing marginal thinking to enter your life you set yourself up on a slippery slope so avoid the temptation of any ‘just this once’ occurrences.



On average, 90% of what we read is forgotten within the first hours after reading... Which is why it’s so important to apply what you read.

Click Below to get a free workbook of one of my top recommended books of all times, filled with in-depth insights, action points and self exploration exercises.


Favorite Quote from How Will You Measure your Life

“It's easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”

― Clayton M. Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?.

Get my Start With Why Workbook For Free
Apply What You Read

Editor and Founder

Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating the next generation of leaders to their true potential.

Like what you see? Please share with your friends ⇗

Read The Art of Fully Living

There's no going back-once you embark on the journey you're meant to live, it's impossible to settle for anything less than your dreams.

Click here to learn more

This book just may change your life

Guess what? I wrote another book. It's a 500-page roadmap for living life on your own terms and it just might change your life.

Click here to learn more
How Fully Do You Live? How Fully
Do You Live?