As 2016 is coming to an end, I am sitting at University Avenue at downtown Palo Alto, reflecting on the special year that has went by. It was a year that had a lot of impact on my life; relocating to Palo Alto from Boston, getting engaged to an amazing woman, and working on new challenges in my entrepreneurial journey. Therefore, it is timely that I re-read Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen's book, "How will you measure your life" for the second time this weekend. The book had a profound impact on me, and it set me thinking deeply on how I want to build my family and my career. In this article, I seek to outline some of the key strategies from the book and structure it around some thoughts I have.
There are many challenges and obstacles we face in our personal and professional lives share the same underlying premises. Do you have a strategy for your life? Do you have a purpose? Are you actually allocating resources to the things that mattered the most to you? How will you measure your life?
There are three main parts to his strategy:
1. Finding happiness in your career
When you were in middle school and someone asked you what were your dreams, anything seemed possible. Basketball player. Astronaut. Fireman. Travel blogger. Your answers were guided by what really made you happy, there were no limits. However, for many of us, as we grow older, we allow our dreams to go away.
After graduating from college or graduate school, we allow ourselves to pursue that job that was higher paying because we needed to pay off our debts or help the family out. However, as we worked more, we got used to the big pay check that we received, and adjusted our lifestyle to going to that fancy restaurant, living in a big house, or going on that extra vacation. However, in a breakthrough article in the Harvard Business Review, Frederick Herzberg shared that compensation is a hygiene factor, and not a motivation factor. For many of us, one of the easiest mistakes to make is to focus on trying to over-satisfy the tangible success in the mistaken belief that those things will make us happy.
In searching for the correct career that provides motivation, it is important to approach both a deliberate and an emerging strategy. The theory of motivation suggests you ask yourself some questions. Am I learning new things? Is this job going to give me a chance to develop? To continually look for that aspect, one will need to be focused going forward (deliberate), yet keeping an open mind on what truly motivates you, and what will be the correct strategy (emerging) for you.
2. Finding happiness in your family
At Harvard and MIT, there were many talks focused around how to succeed in your career, but there were not many case studies or literature around finding happiness in your family. I truly believe that finding happiness and spending time with my family and close friends will be one of the best investments of our life, and is an area we should study and strategize more on.
In Professor Christensen's book, he shared that investing in family at the short term often seems unrewarding. Washing the dishes, talking to the baby who is not yet old enough to respond, or spending time with your parents, just does not provide the adrenaline rush of presenting at a board meeting, publishing another academic paper, or launching a new product with more profits. However, the short-term rewards may not seen satisfying, but it is in fact an investment in the long term.
By spending precious moments with your family and friends, understanding them and having shared experiences, it is investing in the longer term when your kids become teenagers, or your parents have aged. At that moment, it may not be possible to turn back the clock at that moment as the time to invest has lapsed.
3. Living a life of integrity
Decide what you stand for and stand for it all the time. 100% of the time is easier than 98% of the time. Culture is standing up for what you commit to 100% of the time, and using your actions to show and tell. Building this culture is true both at work and at home.
If you had told your kids that it is important to be on time (or early) for appointments, it is important to see it through. It may feel harmless to miss it once or twice, but your integrity will be tested then. Similarly, it may seem harmless to cheat or take the short cut once or twice, but this mentality led to a $1.3 billion loss by a 26 year old trader from Baring Bank who was trying to cover up for the one initial trading loss he had made. (He was sentenced to 6 years jail, got divorced, and Baring Bank went bankrupt)
Therefore, reflect and think deeply on what purpose does your life have, and commit to your purpose by allocating the appropriate resources to it. Next, come up with a set of key metrics that you will like to use to measure your life, and stick to it. 100% of the time is easier than 98% of the time.
How will you measure your life?
Desmond Lim is co-founder and CEO of Workstream, an automated hiring platform for companies hiring hourly workers. He is a graduate of Harvard and MIT Media Lab, former product manager at WeChat, and investor at Dorm Room Fund. He is based in San Francisco and lived in Palo Alto with his wife and two young daughters.