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My Answers to "How Will You Measure Your Life?" – Clayton M. Christensen, 1 of 3

Professor Clayton M. Christensen, best known for his theory on “disruptive innovation,” recently died on Jan 23 in 2020. Since then, many articles reminiscent of his life lessons have circulated. “How Will You Measure Your Life?” is my favorite article among them.

“How Will You Measure Your Life?”

If Clayton’s method of cultivating outstanding managers is to have people approach their problems in business strategy and environment through different perspectives, he suggests a similar approach to our lives in this article. That begins with the simple three questions below.

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 to stay out of jail?

Since these are all vast subjects to cover in one blog article, I would like to introduce my answers to those questions in three or four-part series of articles. This article is about the answer to the first question.

First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?

One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that “the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.”

I want to change the question, “how will I be happy,” into “how will I prevent myself from being unhappy.” I believe that one of the best strategies of pursuing happiness is to reach a state of bliss and maintain this equilibrium without falling into frustration or disappointment.

Previously, I was disappointed when I discovered the gap between my desire and my reality, and I felt discouraged when people were critical of my work and my dreams. Rather than gradually achieving goals, the way I suddenly pursued and declared my dream seemed so grand and unreal, and it was not very easy for me to convince others that I would succeed. Whenever I did, It always seemed to lead to shock, and later, resentment.

There are many other examples from when I received similar reactions, and I was overly disappointed and disassembled, such as:

  • When I was a student who had placed 120th place until my 2nd year in high school and insisted that I would go to a top 3 business school in the country
  • When I failed my bar exam and returned to college with a low GPA, then suddenly pledged to go to McKinsey & Company 
  • When I reached the mid-30s, I started to build a startup to be successful in the United States after spending my whole life in Korea.

Strategic expectations management and design of the feedback process

Looking back, I realize that part of my disappointment came from my own resentment of people who would not believe me. But now, I can see where they were coming from. People naturally gain credibility through rational thinking, and fall into disbelief in optimism about the absurd future when looking at unpromising past results. Besides, even if one has derived successful results in the past, that success may not be a strong estimator of future success when the area you wish to pursue is an entirely new challenge.

If you want to convey your self-confidence to others, you need to manage other people’s expectations more strategically to bring the people into a state of faith, rather than shaking their minds with reckless declarations. This can be done by achieving results gradually and building a sense of credibility through natural means. Finding supporters who can witness my success and spread their belief in my future success, and making them advocate for me can also be an example of strategic expectation management of others. As the famous quote goes, ”actions speak louder than words”; one action is more effective than a white word, and one step requires a sophisticated and profound strategy to draw the trust of others.

Face yourself more productively with uncertainty and fear

Even if the reactions of others are disappointing, I may not feel disappointed or frustrated about it. My frustration perhaps stems not from my reaction of what other people think of me, but from the fear that the response of the other person could be right. Hence, my frustration might be the result of me lacking confidence or faith in myself. 

Compared to my twenties, I have now gained a significant achievement as a result of continuing challenges, and my self-confidence has become more reliable. However, I would like to advise myself, as I will continue to face new challenges, to be more productive with the uncertainties and fears of these potential upcoming obstacles.

When you come back to the old challenges of the past, you have to look back to the dread and fear that you felt and think about the mistakes you would not have made if you went back to that time. By confronting our past mistakes and shortcomings, we can objectively learn to handle future situations better instead of falling into the same traps again. Rather than letting our emotions control us, we can fight fear more productively and improve ourselves for the future.

Do not repeat the mistakes of the past that caused you to panic, feel anger, and put yourself in pain.. That is my answer to the first question of the article, “how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?” in 2020 for my age of 35.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Yoda Goalcast'

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