Raw thoughts from Alex Dong

Book review: how will you measure your life

I finished Clay Christensen’s new book How will you measure your life this week.  Yes, the same Clay who wrote the ground breaking book “Innovator’s Dilemma” which defines what is a “disruptive innovation” and why well established companies often failed to compete with new emergent companies who was offering much cheaper and inferior products. If you haven’t read that book yet, go buying one now and do yourself a favor by reading it cover to cover. It is literally the bible in startup worlds.

Ok, back to the new book.  I was a bit surprised to find that he wrote a new book talking about life and family. “The soft stuff.”  But I have to admit that I was secretly happy to see that.  You see, about 4 weeks ago, I caught some flu and became seriously sick. I spent almost a whole week on bed.  The body just gave up under me.  Even reading was too much work.  Since then, I’ve been in the process of recovering for a month.  I quite often feel tired.

I’ve been working 80-hour-a-week for quite a while. This one-week-in-bed experience made me start wondering how long I can keep up with this lifestyle. How long I should wait before I start paying more attention to other parts of my life.  This book comes at the perfect time. It asked the right questions and forced me to think through some major life decisions I haven’t made for myself.

Here is his 20-minutes talk at TEDxBoston. It provides a good overview of the questions he covered in the book.  Notice the crane, yes, he was brought down after his cancer and lost part of his ability to write and express himself.

When I was asked “will you give this book a 5-star”, I’d answer a firm yes. And I’m pretty sure that it’ll become one of the very few books that I will read again in a couple of years.  However I am not sure this book is for everyone.  It seems like it wouldn’t be of much interest to the Alex a few months ago anyway. This is a great book for people who have already got the question in their mind for a while.  Here is some really eye-opening way of looking at the importance of questions:

You’ve probably heard it said that someone can’t be taught until they’re ready to learn. I’ve heard it said that way too. It makes sense, and my experience tells me it’s mostly true. Why though? Why can’t someone be taught until they’re ready to learn?

Clay explained it in a way that I’ve never heard before and I’ll never forget again. Paraphrased slightly, he said: “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.”

What an insight. He continued to talk about the power of questions. Questions are your mind’s receptors for answers. If you aren’t curious enough to want to know why, to want to ask questions, then you’re not making the room in your mind for answers. If you stop asking questions, your mind can’t grow.