I was recently handed an article by my CEO, asked to read it and share my thoughts.
The article came from the Harvard Business Review, and was authored by Clayton M. Christensen (Yes, the Clay Christensen who penned The Innovator's Dilemma - the penultimate authority on disruptive technology, and a great read for anyone interested in technology and how it interacts with and impacts society.)
The article, titled, "How Will You Measure Your Life," discusses the common pitfalls college and graduate school students experience when plotting their futures - and puts forth a simple, yet poignant truth - success is defined by how you, not others, measure your value and merit.
A Harvard Business School professor, Christensen's theories on management, disruptive technology, and leadership serve as the foundation of his lectures as he empowers his students to dissect real-life organizations and understand how decisions and practices, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, can have a major impact on an organization.
That's all great, but I know those of you who have bothered to continue reading are wondering, "How does this relate to me? Why is this relevant to the Orr Fellowship, and why do they let you write these blogs, Brandon?"
I was getting to that. But first I had to lay some groundwork. On the last day of class each semester, Christensen asks his students to turn these theoretical lenses on themselves. How have their decisions, even small ones, impacted their lives, and eventually led them to where they are today?
He asks them to study themselves, and find answers to 3 simple questions:
- How can I be sure I'll be happy in my career?
- How can I be sure my relationships with my friends and family become an enduring source of happiness?
- How can I stay out of jail?
After reading the article, I turned these lenses on myself and the decisions I've made that have led me to where I am, and have reached out to others in the Orr Fellowship to do the same here's what I've found:
1) How can I be sure I'll be happy in my career?
This was big for me. Like many other Orr Fellows, and I'm sure many Orr Fellowship candidates - I had offers for distinguished post grad jobs from companies whose names have serious brand equity, companies where my entry-level paycheck would have allowed me to purchase many leather-bound books and housing that smells of rich mahogany, but with me, as with the other Orr Fellows I included in my little experiment - it isn't all about the money, the title, or the bravado that comes from saying, "I work for Company X."
We joined the Orr Fellowship and took positions at high-growth startups because of the opportunity the program offers. The opportunity to network with professionals and leaders in the community, to grow personally and professionally, and the opportunity to create strategies for our lives. What the Orr Fellowship lacked in glamour, our clout, it has made up in spades through the opportunities we've been afforded.
Orr Fellowship companies are some of the best places to work in Indiana, and the entrepreneurial spirit in each organization, and the dedication to the personal and individual success of each employee is something you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere but a high-growth startup.
2) How can I be sure my relationships with my friends and family become an enduring source of happiness?
I know. This is a blog about work, and business, and technology, not the Dr. Phil Show. But, It's time to get personal. Plus, let's face it - to be productive at work, you need to be happy outside of work, and vice-versa. Relating this to my, and others' time in the Orr Fellowship, the common thread was the relationships I've developed within the program ARE an enduring source of happiness for me. Digging deeper, it's not just the relationships with other Fellows that add value to our experiences, it's our relationships with our non-Fellow co-workers, our executive sponsors, and the people who speak at our Business Leader Meetings, who augment our experiences.
Yes, as Orr Fellows we spend a lot of time together and get to know each other on a personal level. But our culture as an organization, goes beyond that. We develop common bonds. We become friends. And these interactions, both positive and negative, ensure we continually grow as professionals and as people.
3) How can I stay out of jail?
I don't really need to go into much detail on this one - it's pretty self explanatory. Just don't do anything illegal. One Fellow went a philosophical on us and asked, "Why does jail have to mean prison?" He continued, "I think sometimes people build jails for themselves as a result of the choices they make, so I would challenge everyone to not only stay away from the illegal, but go one step further and stay away from the immoral, the ill-advised, and the unjust, as well. I'd challenge us to live lives of which we can be proud, not just try to stay out of jail - because a lot of guilty people aren't in prison."
At the end of his article, Christensen offered one extremely sage piece of advice, and that's how I'll end this post.
Only you know what's best for you. Do not measure your success by how others measure you. Choose the path that will allow you to be happy in your career, happy in your relationships and interactions with others, and keep you out of jail.
If you've read this far, I applaud, and thank you. I can be a bit long-winded. If you'd like to read Clay Christensen's full article, and turn this lens on yourself (I'd recommend it), Click Here.