Thursday, August 15, 2013

If you read only one book this year, let it be this one

Back in August last year I had published a post about an inspirational book I had just finished reading.

I was so impressed with the thoughtful advice and thought-provoking ideas offered by Clayton M. Christensen and his co-authors in How Will You Measure Your Life? that I wanted everyone I know, especially my students, to read it. (That post "Reading this book will change your approach to life" — continues to be among the most popular on this blog.)

Recently, I was asked to review the book for the August-September 2013 issue of Books & More.

Here is the review (based partly on my original post) in its entirety:

A life changer

Book: How Will You Measure Your Life?: Finding Fulfillment
Using Lessons from Some of the World’s Greatest Businesses
Authors: Clayton M. Christensen, with James Allworth and Karen Dillon
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 206
Price: Rs. 299 (Flipkart)

IT IS RARE to find two people separated by some forty years in age raving about the same book.

When I wrote about How Will You Measure Your Life? on my blog some time ago, one of my students, Archita Nadgouda, who is in her twenties, wrote to say, “I cannot thank you enough for recommending this book to us! This was just the book I needed at this point of time when I’m embarking on a new relationship and planning a new career.” A few days later, Patrick Michael, executive editor of Dubai’s Khaleej Times who will soon be turning 60, posted his comments: “This is a must-read book for all, especially those starting out in life.”

On second thought, however, I am not surprised that both Archita and Patrick were entranced by what How Will You Measure Your Life? has to offer.

Like me — and like you — they must have asked themselves these universal questions many times over the years:
  • How can I be sure that I will find satisfaction in my career?
  • How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness?
  • How can I avoid compromising my integrity?
Unbelievable as it sounds, How Will You Measure Your Life? not only provides the answers to these questions but also explains, with the help of real-life examples, how we can find fulfillment.

Slim in size but big on ideas, this book does not claim to offer simplistic answers. Instead, as in the introductory chapter, it provides insightful illustrations of how the theories this book propounds can help us in our lives. We first learn that people often think that the best way to predict the future is by collecting as much data as possible before making a decision. “But this,” the authors tell us, “is like driving a car looking only at the rear-view mirror — because data is only available about the past.”

The authors then explain why experience and information by themselves are not enough: “There are many times in life where we simply cannot afford to learn on the job.… This is why theory can be so valuable: it can explain what will happen, even before you experience it.”

Then, in the first section titled “How to Find Happiness in Your Career”, the authors examine what it is that really makes us tick, and follow it up with an enlightening debate on "incentive" versus "motivation". By the time we are through with this section, we understand clearly why motivation trumps financial incentive every time.

Section 2 deals with "Finding Happiness in Your Relationships". Too few of us seem to have understood that there is much more to life than our career. That is why we focus a great deal on becoming the person we want to be at work — and far too little on the person we want to be at home. We indulge in this self-destructive behaviour because, the book tells us, investing our time and energy in “raising wonderful children or deepening our love with our spouse often doesn't return clear evidence of success for many years”. Consequently, we over-invest in our careers, and under-invest in our families. What is the danger here? If we don’t nurture and develop those relationships, the book warns us, our family won’t be there to support us if we find ourselves traversing some of the more challenging stretches of life, or as one of the most important sources of happiness in our life.

The third and final section, which happens to be the shortest, is devoted to the topic of living a life of integrity. Titled "Staying Out of Jail" (how appropriate), this section explores a theory that, the authors say, will help you answer your final question: How can I be sure I live a life of integrity?

And, finally, here's a quote from the book that should motivate you to grab hold of a copy right away:

It is frightfully easy for us to lose our sense of the difference between what brings money and what causes happiness.

If you read only one book this year, let it be this one. Especially if you are young and have embarked, or are about to embark, on a career and a relationship.

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