Subba’s Serendipitous moments

July 16, 2010

It’s not what you think, but how you think that matters!


Clayton Christensen the celebrated Harvard Professor and the guru on innovation speaks to the HBS graduating class of 2010 on how to apply management lessons to personal lives. It is not just an inspiring read, but an instructive read for everyone.

After a preliminary introduction where he establishes with amazing conviction the 30 minute conversation that he had with Andy Grove which led to the development of Celeron, he gives 6 key lessons which should be applicable to all of us.

Create a strategy for your life:

“I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces”. In my view, the pursuit of purpose surpasses all other pursuits. I learnt this quite late in life.

Allocate your resources:

“People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to under invest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most”.

Create a culture:

Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.

Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.

Avoid the “marginal costs mistake:

It’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.

Remember the importance of humility:

If your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too.

Choose the right yardstick:

Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.

My own mid life realizations and some of the life lessons have been written here.

Well, I would strongly recommend that you read his entire lecture as he backs up the brilliant instructions with observations and decisions that he made in his personal life. The entire lecture can be found here.


  1. Long back an entrepreneur came to me and wanted my personal advice. He wanted to start something new . As both his parents were doctors and running a hundred odd room hospital, he wanted to make his own footprint. That boy has so many ideas but none related to his parents. It shocked me and I was very frank with him and called him an idiot. “Are you ashamed of your parents or you’re ashamed of yourself that you cannot be a doctor. Not everybody is cut to be a doctor.” I told him to start looking into his own hospital and see how you can save or increase your revenue. And today he is a successful entrepreneur running few of them.

    My words to him “That if every new person comes in, want to make his own roads or lay his own track, imagine what would happen to the world? We’ll only have roads and tracks and nobody travelling on it and don’t be ashamed of yourself if you’re not a doctor. And look into your own assets and see how you can build. This makes him closer to his parents.” A lot of youngsters do not realise the strength the family has and like to do something on their own and give them a thrilled position but not realising what they could have achieved with their own assets.” Unquote.

    Best Regards
    Karan Singh Thakral
    Executive Director
    Thakral Group of Companies

    Comment by Karan Singh Thakral — July 17, 2010 @ 9:29 am | Reply

  2. Greetings Iyer Sa’ab,

    A very interesting post. The point about humility is a strong one – especially because what we see around us today is a lack of it. Often we find youngsters supposedly armed with an Engineering degree, incapable of making simple calculations/logical deductions; with their noses up in the air – looking down upon everyone else. Humility does require a “feel-good” factor.

    – Gorakh Nath.

    Comment by Gorakh Nath — August 1, 2010 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

  3. […] Clayton Christenson’s address to the graduating class of HBS 2010 had pearls of timeless wisdom. I summarized his address with some comments in my blog post here. […]

    Pingback by Commitments precede choices « Subba’s Serendipitous moments — August 17, 2010 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  4. Tks Subba for the blog which inevitably drew me to the whole article.
    Many great minds think alike. Maybe not in exactly the same terms but in substance. 7-Habits describes some of these concepts in terms of habits of highly successful people. e.g. ‘Start with the end in mind’ sounds a great deal like strategising. ‘Put first things first’ talks of prioritising (which is not the same thing as resource allocation but in terms of importance to be given to priority items, there is an overlap). ‘Synergise’ sounds a great deal like ‘tools of cooperation’.

    Comment by Shekhar Vaidya — August 31, 2010 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

  5. […] Iyer’s post It’s not what you think, but how you think that matters! resonated with a few of my personal realisations and musing recently on business and personal […]

    Pingback by On success in life and work — September 25, 2010 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  6. […] Clayton Christenson’s address to the graduating class of HBS 2010 had pearls of timeless wisdom. I summarized his address with some comments in my blog post here. […]

    Pingback by Commitments precede choices | Expanding Thought — March 14, 2011 @ 11:04 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: