Saturday, January 30, 2016

Of Measurements and Repetition

This week we read How Will You Measure Your Life? by Professor Clayton M. Christensen of the Harvard Business School (HBS). It was published in the Harvard Business Review in 2010. His class at HBS is structured to “help [his] students understand what good management theory is and how it is built.” On the last day of class he asks his students to answer three questions:

  1. How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  2. How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and family become and enduring source of happiness?
  3. How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

He isn’t flippant about question three. Two of the 32 people in his Rhodes Scholar class at HBS spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was his classmate. He said “these were the good guys – but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.

He teaches 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,” which brought him to this conclusion: 

Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.

What do we learn about going off in the wrong direction? “Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended.” If we don’t spend our time doing what we want to become, we will become what we spend our time doing.

Speaking to question 3 he states: “justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of ‘just this once.’” He gives an example of his college basketball days when his resolve to never play on Sunday was tested. He was pressured by coaches and players alike. He remained strong and didn’t play. After that experience he learned it was one of the most important decisions of his life. Why?

My life has been one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed. The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time.

So where does Repetition come in? I read both this and another speech this week, in a previous class. I was thinking to myself “someone really didn’t plan these courses well because they are duplicating the reading.” 

Tuesday was devotional and Elder David A. Bednar spoke. His focus was on repetition. His example was the repetition in visits and message from Moroni to the young Joseph Smith. “This repetitious teaching was intended to emphasize the deep significance of the things that had been communicated.” He then pointed out that even though the message was the same each time, it was different because new information was given with each succeeding visitation. 

BAM! Palm to the forehead moment for me! The information I had read in a previous class was so important, it was presented to me again, however this time it was given with additional information.

Lesson Learned: Stick to your principles all the time. Don’t give in to the “just once won’t hurt” lie.


Clayton M. Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?  Harvard Business Review, 2010

David A. Bednar, Repeat Over Again . . the Same Things as Before, BYU-Idaho Speech, January 2016

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