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Clay Christensen’s Life Lessons.

Big thinking innovation guru Clay Christensen is pulling life lessons from the world of case studies. We’ll get his bottom line.

Author and professor Clayton Christensen (Evgenia Eliseeva)

Author and professor Clayton Christensen (Evgenia Eliseeva)

Clayton Christensen is one of the biggest names in American business theory. Guru of “disruptive innovation.” Guide to some of the biggest companies in the country. He’s also a very human thinker, seeker and observer.

When he went back to college reunions, he saw so many classmates who had lost their way. Lost their families, their ideals, the satisfaction in their work. One – Enron’s Jeff Skilling – ended up in jail. Why, he wondered, had things gone wrong? How could individuals get it right?

This hour, On Point: Innovation guru Clay Christensen, on how to live.

-Tom Ashbrook


Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He’s the author of How Will You Measure Your Life?

C-Segment: Neil Gaiman at University of the Arts

You can find a video of his full commencement speech here and read a transcript here.

 From Tom’s Reading List

Bloomberg “Ahead of the book launch, I had a long discussion with a reporter about Christensen. The reporter’s question was basically: Why him? He’s smart, but so are many other people. He’s a great storyteller, but there are lots of great storytellers in the world.”

The New York Times “Clayton M. Christensen, a business professor at Harvard and a friend from church, said the question that drove the Sunday school classes — how to apply Mormon gospel in the wider world — also drives Mr. Romney’s life. “He just needs to know what God wants him to do and how he can get it done,” Mr. Christensen said.”

Fast Company “Since graduating from Harvard Business School in 1979, Clayton M. Christensen has observed personal tragedies in the lives of his fellow MBAs, from a string of unhappy marriages, estranged children, and messy divorces, to enormous scandal–classmate Jeffrey Skilling was CEO of Enron. He knew that none had a deliberate strategy for broken homes or jail time–yet that was what they implemented. Christensen is interested in why.”


Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

From How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon, Copyright  © 2012. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins.

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  • Roy Mac

    Who?  And why?  Never heard of him; on a book tour?

    • David

      He happens to be one of the most influential people in the world of business after writing The Innovator’s Dilemma.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a Nobel prize for his work on disruptive innovation.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        The Innovator’s Dilemma?  Whether to waste time and money on an innovation that some corporation will steal from the innovator?

      • nj_v2

        Why would you possibly think that anyone would care what you have to say about someone you are ignorant about?

        • jesus christ

           i care. Funny enough–i dont give a crap what you think.

    • Kestral

      I had never heard of him either until there was an article on him in a recent New Yorker.  He sounds like a pretty great person.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    I think he is one of the characters in “Book of Mormon” that won all those Emmys isn’t he?  Sure looks like one.

    He obviously stole the title from one of my ideas that we should all use the analogy of a yardstick to measure our lives.  The thought I wanted to transmit was that each of us has the power to decide how we “measure” our own lives and what in our lives we think or feel is worth “measuring”.  “Where will you place Life’s Yardstick?” is the question I wanted each of us to pose to ourselves.  I think I might have been under the influence, but I distinctly remember writing it up and gathering together a bunch of yardsticks to pass out to people.  I still kind of like the idea. It is written down here somewhere in my 100,000 pages….and counting. I also remember it was inspirational.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Charles,  More than one of my elementary teachers, decades ago, used the yardstick analogy.  It seemed to be something they were used to using, from decades of use. 
         You are over a hundred years old?

      • Charles A. Bowsher

         No, but I am more than half-way, and sometimes it feels like I’m already there!  Thanks for the smile. :)  <my first emoticon!  Wow!

        • Charles A. Bowsher

           That is not how I typed it OnPoint!

  • Victor Vito

    In the photo above, he seems to be sitting in a furniture showroom.

    • Zing

       Let me guess….that was supposed to be funny in some vaguely derogatory way

      • Victor Vito

        Nope, not derogatory at all.  Just a curious observation.  Doesn’t it appear that way to you?

        • Marcus912

          Appears to me to be a nice hotel lobby or similar.

          • Gary

            Victor, good call. Maybe it’s a hotel expanding their business model to include selling furniture. Zing, go take your happy pill.

      • Kestral

        No, I imagine it is just some business he is trying to help.

      • jesus christ

         it reflects the phony Cheshire behavior of men like him and corporations, and the media and republicans.

  • Guest

    Can’t wait to hear from Clayton! Great thinker. Great person.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Never underestimate the value of slogging away in a stunned daze, with a mix of hopeless determination and perseverance.  It seems to me over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have lived, and for the billions alive today, such a mindset prevails.  

    The occasions for stepping outside of that, and occasion for dreaming up — and broad-brush use of — the words “success” and “prosper” (outside of pure dominion/power), that is very modern, very commencement-speech-at-costly-university modern.  

    “Prosper,” rooted in the ablative of Latin hope, spero, I see, seems to reflect humans learning to coordinate and plan, to look ahead.  Online etymology showed, I think, 1500 for that; and I’m thinking of Shakespeare’s Prospero.   But I think too of Latin spiro, to breathe, as in “aspire,” and that ought to be part of prosper too, as in girding up, gearing up, taking aim, being part of that.

    • Steve

      My brother was married in rural CT in the early ’80′s.

      After driving all night from the Midwest we were put up with a friend of the bride – a women in her sixties.

      After she climbed down from fixing her own roof, she helped fix our car and then proceeded to make us dinner.

      Her house was filled with art, books, and other devices she had made during a very productive lifetime.

      I have had a soft spot for the NE ever since.

      All that is an introduction to tell you how much I enjoy your comments.

      • Ellen Dibble

        Geez, Steve, I was expecting something quite different!  Thanks!

  • ToyYoda

    Getting lost after such a promising start?  This is the story of my life!  I had such promise.  In highschool I won the several local science competitions in physics and chemistry, did ecological research, won the National Honorary Science Award.  

    But alot of it was parental pressure to succeed.  So, not having to ‘find’ myself, I ended up graduating college ‘spent’, and realizing that the ambitions of my parents may not have been my own.  Every year my ambition wanes and now I am delight in being a mediocre worker who listens to OnPoint while on the job!!!  And you know what, I am happy, if dissatisfied.

    • Sam

      aw. me too.
      listening to onpoint at work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    Do your best to do good for those around you and try not to be a dick. Pardon the language.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Another guru with enlightenment to sell.  Lump him in with Deepak Chopra and all the rest and dump the lot of them.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If the pool of subjects in this study is those who have applied to and gotten into Harvard Business School, I can imagine.  Maybe Harvard Business School should shift their emphasis.  Do candidates write about balanced living, about personal integration into communities, and on up the line?  “Like a Russian doll,” Tom Ashbrook is saying — in relation to the business hierarchy, I think.  Hmm.

  • J__o__h__n

    Has he studied the population as a whole or is he just basing his observations on Harvard MBAs and other corporate overachievers?

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    This man wants to sell you a car.  All he needs is a white belt and plaid pants.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    The things that you just named are not “business units.”

  • Dave in Cambridge

    The speaker’s thesis is a little eerie – corporations are people too (and therefore deserve the same treatment as individuals?)

    • Bob

       Agreed Dave, let’s repeal Citizens United as a first step.  Read this month’s New Yorker article on the Robert’s Court….. WOW!!

  • Kate

    What about younger people who are striving to build these successful lives? I am 26 and have returned back to school for premedical studies – what are my “life steps” to get where I want to be with the many life obstacles in my way?

    • J__o__h__n

      Think for yourself.  Learn from other people’s experiences but don’t look for a guru. 

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Religious or not, Live life, as if you know what people will say about you 100 years from now!

    • zendegy

      a hundred years from now there won’t be anyone saying anything about us…

      • Terry Tree Tree

        My Grandpa died in 1967, and people STILL praise him here!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I thought that overachievers at the helm of American Business have a longer range horizon than instant gratification.  Maybe the stock market is viewed day by day, but a lot of us invest for the long term, and we tell our retirement funds that:  Use this for something that I will be long-term glad to have participated in (more or less).   Long-term is always in the back of the mind. I think it’s very hard to do that with the lightning rate of change we are now experiencing, but I’m trying to imagine these people who go for quick and expedient achievements.  It is a draw to be able to say, “I won the 2-mile run for the benefit of battered women.”  Schools train us to beat other people, which doesn’t work too well in families, and actually in communities too. 

    • Brett

      Hi, Ellen!
      This is a good point. The kind of impetus it takes to drive competitiveness is destructive in families, and it really doesn’t work well in the development of a community, either. That paradigm, in part, has served to bring us to a place where it has actually caused some of the disfunction we experience within families/communities. 

      I know it sounds so utterly socialistic of me, but developing an interdependent environment makes for a stronger community, especially when it comes to small businesses (well, not “especially” but in all areas, however, nevertheless). I openly promote other landscaping companies, the nursery where I get my plant material, the place where I get my mulch, other musicians, other music teachers, the local music stores, on and on. It works well, and our community has a very strong and diverse local business community. If one provides something unique, one isn’t in competition with others; if that uniqueness is valued then… 

  • Deborah

    Aren’t people, by definition, always doing what is most important to them, by virtue of the decisions they make? How much control do we really have over what happens to us, given that our perspective is always limited by our biases and blind spots? And how realistic is it to say that we can “have it all”? You really do have to choose between being mega-successful in business and having a life, regardless of what feminists think, and the character defects that bring people down are usually the very characteristics that brought them to the top in the first place.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It seems Mormonism may have contributed to Christensen’s sense that “I will be judged,” in short that “I matter.”  There is a segment of American life that sees itself in context and says, “All this is a bunch of fluff; obviously I do NOT matter, and the correlative is that a lot of intellectual showing off is fluff, and success is a fluffy balloon, and I will share this sense of the fluffiness, and find a lot of resonance.”  Hence there are minds and souls that issue forth without punctuation, as if there were really no meaning to extract, so why bother.  Dust to dust, they would say, citing scripture.  Ashes to ashes.  I am but a blade of grass.  (There is something circular here; but so it goes.)  

  • J__o__h__n

    Most likely you will just be dead.  Don’t worry about your final exit interview with the eternal head of HR. 

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    in the olden days, Corporations used to invest in people. They would recruit and foster good people because the management paradigms of the century recognized the value and benefits of teams. With merger frenzies of the 80′s and 90′s we saw corporations devalue teams and organizations believing that the value of mergers was the in the IP, assets and customer lists.

    Time and again, that approach has demonstrated that the real value was in the people, the teams and the relationships as mergers that did not value them failed. So what’s your view on this and what it says about us as a society? Is there redemption for our corporate culture?

  • Richard

    Once again, Scott Adams (Dilbert) captures the notion of ‘alternative’ skill sets not being fully recognized in some organizations :)   

  • Mattrenna

    I was interested until he started talking about god and all credibility went out the window.  There is no god.  Morality is a outgrowth of the natural order of things.  God is a human construct used to manipulate the natural order of things.  You don’t need a god to act right, and any discussion based in god seems pretty primitive.

    • Lin

      I’m right there with you. That and walking away from jobs because it does not conform to your life. I suppose that’s fine if you have an MBA from Harvard and are a Rhodes Scholar who can move on to other jobs fairly “easily.”

      Tell the woman who, after hours, is cleaning the office where he took such a moral stand to try the same with HER boss–as she works several jobs to feed her children and provide a roof over their heads.

      Another talking head who, while he has valuable things to say, is very out of touch with the lives and pressures of most working people on this particular point.

    • nj_v2

      Yeah, the god thing, again. People like the guest seem to have a need to create external motivations and sources of meaning, to the point of creating mythical “superior” beings.

      I turned the radio off after that.

  • Ellen Dibble

    When I am ready to die, I will return to being universally respectful.  I did begin life very nice, but now if I haven’t gotten under the skin of somebody and found myself licking my wounds in response to the kerfuffle, I would think I’m not pitching in and doing my best.  Being “appreciated” ranks low in the context of the ways people on this planet can get ourselves radically off course.  I think this is called being a “hair shirt,” which was what kept the monks in the old days from being too comfortable.

  • Kathy

    Is this an interview or a monologue? Or perhaps a sermon?

  • Bob

    My grandad, a successful businessman in his day, told me when I was a young that the priorities of a business should be customers first, employees second and then the shareholders would get real long term value.  Today in most all big business because of concern about Wall Street its stock price first (as opposed to shareholders), top management second, customers third and employees last.

  • Steve

    What absolute tripe. This guy lives in a well-salaried dream world.

  • Webb Nichols

    One does not need an interview with God as stimulation for a good life. At anytime , at any place , one can interview oneself and looking deeply find the voice inside that will help you find your way. 

    Consider that the purpose of life may be to wake up and understand what is really going on. With that awareness everything will fall in place.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    I’m glad to hear that Mr. Christensen had ALL those options available to him!  MOST don’t ?

    • Sam

      We, living here in the States, have a lot more options and opportunities, than people in the rest of the world.

      US used to be the country where, if you were able to come here and work hard, you were able to achieve greater financial and social status for yourself and your kids.

      In some immigrant circles it is still true.

      But what pains me to see and realize, is how Americans waste this opportunity and resources, their ability to succeed, (granted lately isn’t been a lot harder to succeed no matter how hard you work), but still, there are still a lot more options available to Americans than people in other countries, poor and middle class.

      You can still come here and “make it” – have a better life – your children will have a better life – than where you used to live. And I am not talking just about Mexico.

      It saddens me to see young people waste their potential and youth, their talents and abilities – wasting away on the streets, selling drugs, getting into gangs, living on welfare, committing crime, “seeing” no way out – just because no one tells them that they could have a better life, that they could work hard and get out of their neighborhoods, that they could have financial stability and a little more safety.

      No one has 100% safety. Well, no one in the 99% has safety. :) But some have a little more than others.

      Everything is relative.

      Who is this dude reaching with his message?
      Listeners of NPR/onpoint and people watching Charlie Rose?

      He would impress me with his message when he gets on the streets and addresses the other 1% – the bottom one.
      When he would commit to making people’s life’s better, to spreading his message of hope to those that need it most.
      But, he would need to work extra hard to be able to get THEIR attention.
      Why should some kid in the ghetto listen to the privileged white male?

      • Terry Tree Tree


  • tom cobb

    There’s a story in my family about (it’s a bit fuzzy) my great-grandfather or great-great uncle who, when he knew that his bank would be closed in the Depression, did not pass that knowledge on to any friends or family to give them time to withdraw assets.  It cost many people significant money, but has always been framed as his living up to his obligations to all of his depositors and immediate society.

    Life is full of tough choices. We should strive to teach ourselves and our society about them, not rely on references to a supernatural judgement.  I agree that is useful as a framework, but it would be better to focus on the impact we have on those around us as we live, and not how we might defend it in an imagined afterlife.

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    For the Tech Staff at OnPoint Radio…  This Scribd thing is HORRIBLE.  It does not scale and has been breaking this entire page over and over again when it doesn’t load.

    And my real comment…

    Actually, the world can be accommodating, but most people are mortgaged up their butts so badly that they cannot afford to take the risk of losing or changing their job to find a more accommodating one.

    Borrow less…   Live more.

    • J__o__h__n

      agreed -scribd screws up the site.  Is there a correlation between creative spellings and poor products (like disqus)?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Loring-Palmer/100000673381066 Loring Palmer

      Yes:  and consider:  what does it mean to be well adjusted to a sick society?

  • Maryrita

    Tom, thanks for pushing back about this dude’s view that a person can just tell the employer, “I don’t work on the weekend.” This guy lives in a rarified atmosphere and apparently has no idea about the struggles of ordinary middle class people–not to mention working class and poor people.

  • Sam

    As a parent, it is a very narrow path – to teach my kid how to self-motivate, while making sure he responsible, but at the same time not pushing your own ideals, values, etc on your kid.

  • Tim

    Come on, this guy has a very unrealistic, skewed view of the world as seen through his Mormon eyes. 

    I will go with the old Buddhist saying on how my life will summed up by those I have encountered, not some “higher power”.

    I am of the nature to grow old.
    There is no way to escape growing old.I am of the nature to have ill health.
    There is no way to escape ill health.I am of the nature to die.
    There is no way to escape death.All that is dear to me and everyone I love
    are the nature to change.There is no way to escape
    being separated from them.My actions are my only true belongings.
    I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

  • Jerry Turcotte

    Fitness is the single most important personal life choice anyone can make. I spent the better part of three decades struggling against my weight – feeling overburdened and overtired. I made the choice to model good behavior for my sons and started a new fitness lifestyle. I even wrote a book to help others find the strengths within to choose a fitter body. The book is entitled Seventy Pounds and Counting: Solving My Inner Vitruvian (& You Can, Too!) and is available in the Kindle Store goo.gl/Hv7LU. 

  • Stackowax

    I can’t remember a guest that has appeared on On Point that is a clueless as this guy.  Talk about being out of touch with reality.

  • FerialDay

    Sorry, but this is such a sorry excuse for an interview. I’ve lost sympathy with Tom’s struggles with Clay’s ir-reality, and I’m turning the radio off now.

  • Guy

    I was one of those people that got off track. Valedictorian. Dartmouth. Started on Wall Street. Lost 15 years to drift, living only in the moment, divorced with a kid involved, job to job without satisfaction. Hindsight: no LONG TERM plan or EXECUTION for anything: what do I really want to do and why; what kind of school would be best; what kind of girl would be appropriate; how does whatever I am doing now contribute to anything at all. The missing link? SELF-REFLECTION ABOUT THE FUTURE and not just HOW DO I FEEL NOW and checking in with friends, parents and mentors. I think it might be generational and consumer-driven that make it easy to not reflect on where we are going.

  • Nikki

    Clay speaks almost nothing to many parents who do not have the resources to truly make these choices.  I suspect that Clay would not be in the positions to choose that he is without the backing of his spouse who probably has sacrificed much for Clay to have the family life he values.

  • skeptic

    this guy’s unrealistic.  he assumes everyone has perfect free will.  we don’t.  everyone is a product of their environment and genetics.  

  • zendegy

    why don’t we all just become harvard grad’s and get ourselves in good with god so that we, too, can tell the boss what hours we can be available to work. 
    must  be tough…

  • anonymous

    enough of this preachy rubbish!  this man is not wise, nor is he in touch with reality.  what a waste of an hour.

    • Wingrace

      go listen to the next segment that filled this hour.  The video is great.  Was a good balance to the first part of on point today!

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    At the beginning of this Clayton talked about how people are short sighted and seek instant gratification and that children are constantly misbehaved and you can’t take pride in the adult the child becomes until they’re 20.  That juxtaposition makes it seem like it is impossible to find instant gratification in raising your child.  I believe that this construct exists, but I believe it shouldn’t and that if parents were more versed in child psychology and stages of development they would be more capable of feeling the instant gratification when their child lies to them in a way that indicates development.  I know that seems far fetched, but I can’t help but think that there should be instant gratification felt every day while raising children despite the exhaustion and despite the frustration.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      I’m Taurus Stubborn enough to believe that I received ‘instant gratification’ from my children, in MANY ways.  Watching the WONDER in their eyes, as they saw new things, the AMAZEMENT when they realized they could do or understand something, the SHEER DELIGHT of their laughter, the pride that I felt when someone complimented them, and SO MANY MORE!!

    • Brett

      I like this comment. A lot! I am reminded of being at the local coffee shop with my friend and her son a few years ago, and whenever we’d meet, she and I would have a coffee, he would have a cookie with some milk or juice. He was almost four years old and just past developing language beyond two or three word sentences. He was in the process of developing his negotiating skills, as it were, and I guess he saw an opportunity to try them out when his mom went off to the restroom. He looked around and said something like, “hey, brett, you and I are friends, right?” I said, “yes, Liam, I’d like to think we’re good friends.” He smiled, as if his plan was starting off swimmingly. “Well,” he continued, “friends can sometimes buy other friends cookies, even if their friends have already had a cookie, right?” I replied with, “I would imagine that in some situations this is the case, but it might depend on how close to dinner time it is, or whether or not the other friend’s mom approves of eating more than one cookie.” He pointed out that, “well, moms don’t always have to know everything their children do, does she?” I smiled and said, “this may very well be true at certain times.” He countered with, “well, you could buy me another cookie and mom doesn’t even have to know!” I said that I’d like to but it may be a little too close to dinner, and that only his mother could say for sure if buying another cookie was a good idea, that perhaps another cookie might be a better idea later in the day or on some other day. 

      I’ll always remember that little moment with fondness; and, in as much as I stayed in character as the responsible adult, inside I was feeling a great delight at Liam’s development, so to speak. BTW, it is such a joy to watch him grow and learn from situations. He’s a good boy who is very sweet and compassionate.    

  • Ellen Dibble

    I heard Christensen a few weeks ago for a long interview on Charlie Rose, and so I am not at all surprised so many people posting here post the way they do.  What I’m thinking, though, is that he is not preaching to the choir, so to speak.  But there is a huge choir.  His views will probably resonate a lot, but not so much with this prickly bunch!

    • Roy Mac

      You’re saying either Charlie  Rose or Tom Ashbrook has good interviewing skills, but not both?

      • Ellen Dibble

        A huge difference, not between Rose and Ashbrook, but between their interviews, is the participation.  With Ashbrook, he seems buoyed by online participation, which must be a very special skill, and depend a lot too on a staff able to filter in a particular way to drive the hour optimally.  The hour does not belong just to OnPoint, although a lot of preparation by probably a few on staff surely is the foundation.  OnPoint is in important ways ABOUT the conversation with one and all (almost all).  Somebody can come to this show to find out how something flies, in a somewhat random way.  The same is not true of the interviews conducted by Rose.  Because those interviews are not open to the public, they are more controlled, and can accomplish different things.  To some extent, Charlie Rose and his staff are probably trying to figure out what The Conversation, the broader conversation, would in fact comprise.  They have to sort of imagine what OnPoint straight out fishes for.  But the objectives of Rose’s show also seem different.  I think I’ll leave it at that.  Apples and oranges.

        • Roy Mac

          So…it’s like all your other posts:  you don’t really know what you’re talking about, but you love to talk.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Roy Mac, you did ask me, by the way.   As to not knowing what I’m talking about, I’d confess it took me a long time to realize that I’m not alone in that position, and that actually a lot of us are making decisions round the clock and even voting based on nothing like adequate foundations.  And it occurs to me that in a world of experts, it hasn’t always worked well to let the experts tell us what to think and feel and do, and that if others on the uninformed side can’t help each other out, trying to fashion an understanding, then we fail as a democracy.  So I volunteer myself from time to time as your local idiot. My message being:  Feel free to answer back.  

        • Terry Tree Tree

          I understand and agree, Ellen.  On Point is quite a bit about listener feedback, and that can take the interview in WAY different directions than a regular interview, like on Charlie Rose.

    • Pointpanic

      Ellen that’sbecause NPR is supposed to be about independent critical inquiry not top down pandering as this show is.

  • tom cobb

    I don’t think Harvard Business School teaches its students to voluntarily obey even unenforceable rules.  Of, if they do teach it, there is much evidence that they failed to teach it successfully.

  • K_dickinson11

    i wonder how many people in the 99% of this country have the luxury to examine their lives at this high philosophical level.  Abraham maslow, the psychologist, would say no one gets to this level if they have to worry about where there next meal is coming from or  if they are safe in their community.  Romney and this guy are also asking us to measure our lives according to their god.  Let us each measure in our own way and lets make sure we build a world where all have the chance to expend time and energy beyond dealing with despair.

    • starfire345

      Why are people responding with such extremes?  Most people are neither the 1%  or the extremely poor and destitute – we are just getting along and more or less managing.   But we DO have the ability to examine our lives at this “high philosophical level”.     It doesn’t take much time each day – a few minutes – to think about one’s direction and life.   Despair?   You’re really pushing it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1631791436 Suz Carter

    Christensen is so interesting and thoughtful, with such a rich life.  Not once since I tuned in (halfway through) did he mention the stroke from which he recovered … in some venues this would be the sole focus of the interview.  Thank you, Tom, and thank you, Dr. Christensen.

    • Roy Mac

      Oh, want to hear about my stroke?  What fresh hell does that have to do with anything?

    • Pointpanic

      rich life alright. He’s a shill for the 1%

  • Bob

    Clay is a great representative of the 1% !!! Sure he has time and the means to worry about things most can’t afford to.

    • http://alum.mit.edu/www/sterlinganderson Sterling Anderson

      Right. Like paying attention to his kids, being faithful to his wife, honest to his associates, and generous to the people he helps. Sure wish us poor folk had the *time* or *means* for that… At the rates my 2-year-old is charging, I can barely afford an hour a day with her.

  • Maryrita

    Best thing that can be said about the Clay Christensen interview: it ended earlier than usual in the hour.

  • Merolph

    Wow, self-improvement for the 1% – and free media for the Romney campaign – what a combo.

    • Pointpanic

      nothing new on “public” radio

  • J__o__h__n

    Next show, stock tips from a Harvard Divinity School professor. 

  • Brothersower88

    Will you work to live, live to work, or something else?
    Who do you want to be and what do you want to leave behind—how do you want it to be measured?
    Don’t lose who you want to be while in the “rat race.”
    Arrange your time to align with your priorities (more challenging than what appears at first glance).

  • Brett

    I didn’t catch much of the show; having just returned from hauling some brush, I did catch the first part of it, though, in my truck. Tom introduced him as a “guru,” a pseudo-title bestowed on all sorts of people with so-called insight. Because of such, those people (the baby “guru” on last week also falls into this category) need to be viewed as suspect in what they tout as insight or the better way of doing something. 

    The Mormon perspective notwithstanding, as well as the faith lens he says he looks through, if you will, he said that through his time as professor at Harvard he developed a theory (or whatever he called it) about causal relationships. He described something he says he came up with that was a kind of series of concentric circles (to give a visual) of relationships; Tom characterized that as “Russian dolls.” Anyway, I had to laugh…I’ve lost count of how many workshops, seminars, college courses, etc., I’ve attended in the field of psychology where there were approaches being generated promoting these very same ideas, some even coming packaged with materials that included actual charts of concentric circles. Some even used those ideas beyond “helping” the “audience” to hone a concept to actual ways of collecting data. 

    My point is that what he appeared to be touting are concepts that are not new and they’re not something he’s come up with, albeit I didn’t really listen beyond the first fifteen minutes or so of his insipid insights. Notice how his voice was self-consciously relaxed and paced (as if he’s come up with some sort of enlightened perspective), not unlike the baby “guru”?

    If one has never examined one’s own life in a holistic way and has never looked at how all of one’s relationships intertwine and affect each other, then I suppose this sort of self-help/self-awareness encouragement might be helpful, but… 

  • brettearle

    Anyone who believes that they have cornered the market on the key to success, and the reasons for failure, is a victim of his own Hubris…..which is, itself, a tragic failure.

    • Brett

      Excellent comment! At best, all we can do is develop our own recipe for success, and that even seems an educated guess most of the time.

  • Roger Runnalls – Wantage, NJ

    America has come a long way considering the
    republicon party’s nominee for president is a cult member.  What’s
    next…L.Ron Hubbard gets a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom?

  • Guest

    Thanks Tom for an enlightening show.  I had no idea how HBS is becoming more about navel-gazing and ‘finding yourself’ than about building profitable industries that also benefit the country.  There’s apparently no social contract anymore.

    I guess the Barbara Bushes, Willard Romneys, and Clay Christensens don’t want to bother their beautiful minds worrying about lack of worker healthcare, declining real wages, and exporting manufacturing jobs.  As long as the quarterlies are good. 

    • Brett

      That last sentence…bravo! In the corporate world, the “powers that be” can’t look beyond the nose of the next quarter, and I’ve seen a lot of so-called data collection that tries to justify a certain direction. Often those data can track the bottom line well and the flow chart of how a business works, but they can’t seem to track why the bottom line increases/decreases. Now, all sorts of corporate heads will say they know why, and will have a lot of good ideas (new products/repackaging old products to look new/ad campaigns, etc.), but they can’t quite capture the true spirit of their companies, especially in what made them successful to begin with and what helps them maintain success.   

    • Pointpanic

      Indeed guest. And tom is eating this right up. Why does he have so many guests like this lately. Is it pressure from corporate underwriters?

    • Intrigued

      Actually, Clay Christensen has been a guest on this same program discussing his research of the health care system and how it could be restructured to make it more accessible and preventative.  Just because he is also interested in finding a formula for living satisfying lives (ones with few regrets) doesn’t mean they have shunned everyone not in their inner circles.  Maybe you should give this program another listen and take some of his advice to heart.  

      • Guest

        I did hear that show and was struck by what seemed like ideological blinders in the discussion. The free market shibboleths about competition and innovation fall short when it comes to health care. People who need it most — the sick, the elderly, etc. — have no power as consumers as long as we have for-profit financing.  Having life-saving, emergency access to doctors and hospitals is not the same as buying a car.

  • Brett

    What has worked for me in my life has been to start with a certain vision of how I want my life to go, including my professional, social and love relationships, and I work to build/reinforce that vision.

    In my landscaping business, for example, I offer a service that is unique. I use only organic materials (plant material, fertilizer, structural material, etc); I don’t use power tools; all of my workers have to dress a certain way, can not smoke on the job, and can not listen to the radio while working. I specialize in Asian-style gardens and English gardens; on the day of the unveiling, so to speak, the day we present our finished work to the customer, if it is a garden with a Japanese or Chinese flair, I bring a portable CD player and play some Asian-type music as I walk the garden with the customer; likewise, if it is sort of an English garden, something that sounds Classical is played. I also treat my workers well, e.g., good pay, I buy them lunch every day they work, etc.

    This is very similar to the way I approach my music lessons (music teacher) and my life as a performing musician. Some of what I do is simply for atmospherics (I might use power tools to construct, say, for example, a bamboo partition, off-site, then assemble it using hand tools on-sight), but all of it is based on how I want my businesses to work. I will never be in competition with others, that paradigm doesn’t work as well as it has been touted. Besides, one is really only competing with oneself, in terms of staying true to oneself.    

  • Brett

    Sure, we all want to leave some legacy, of sorts. We all want to be remembered fondly and as someone with great character, and so on…but the fact of the matter is that, after we die, very few will remember how we’ve conducted ourselves, aside from immediate family members. Beyond that, no one will care. The few who achieve a kind of lasting greatness are, well, very few, and those have been the recipients of a lot of positive revisionism, image building, mythology, etc. 

    We could pretend there is a video camera on us all of the time; in fact, the evidence of reality tv being so popular indicates many already behave as if they are on a stage. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if some Elizabethan playwright from long ago might have even introduced such an idea in his dialogue some where! Unfortunately, too many of us want to perform as if we need to “win,” or that at some point someone or something (God, in the case of Christensen) will pat us on the head and recognize our goodness). It’s sad to think these kinds of mindsets are presented as good ideas in how to manage oneself. I suppose it is why some in society need laws to maintain parameters of acceptable conduct.  

    • Terry Tree Tree

      My Grandpa and Grandmother are STILL well remembered in this area.  Grandpa died in 1967, and Grandmother in 1980.  Not a bad legacy, for two people that helped almost everyone in the area, at one time or another?

      • Brett

        Hey, Triple T! 

        That’s nice, truly, sincerely, and I’d bet they deserved all manner of fond remembrance, but my point is that one shouldn’t work and be a good person by being focused on how he/she will be remembered/be rewarded posthumously. If that helps, okay. 

        Find the balance of a fulfilled, productive, generous and spirited life because it will help one become fully realized as a human being. This carries its own rewards, and if people remember you later for it…icing on the cake.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          Ok, Brett.  I agree with you on this.  I just think people should consider if and how they will be remembered, as a guide to how they choose to live.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Plenty of people end up dying seriously misunderstood, and I think old people sometimes get beyond caring about that.  I’m not thinking only of people falsely imprisoned and so on.  Just that “what people think of you” can be a huge pretense, and very successful, but perhaps a great waste of time.  But a “waste of time” presumes that you actually HAVE a purpose, something that transcends how many stars on in your crown, as we used to say.  It seems to me that “how we are remembered,” and whether we are remembered matters less than the actual tracks that we make, and those lose our DNA pretty fast.  The fingerprints, or footprints, if they are meaningful, are all the more likely to be gobbled up by the sands of time, which I would argue is exactly success.

  • Frenchyt

    Re: Christensen.  Pious Bullshit.  Maybe the 1% can just drop their successful careers to enhance their families’ happiness, but the rest of us, especially single parents, need to continue working at jobs that are not necessarily fulfilling to put food in our kids’ mouths and a roof over our head.

    • Call_Me_Missouri

      To put on my Pious Bullshit hat here… (and mostly to play devil’s advocate)

      Why not get re-married so you have a second income and a second body to do the work?  Wouldn’t that allow you more of an opportunity to enhance your families’ happiness?  Sometimes we don’t marry for love but instead we marry to establish partnerships that allow us to live a more sane life that will create a happier home.

      Life is about the choices we make.  The first step to making decisions to enhance your families’ happiness is to admit the mistakes you have made and continue to make then stop blaming everyone else for suggesting that there is another way to live.

      Ok, taking the Pious Bullshit hat off…

      I do understand you’re point of view and yes he was full of Pious BS.  Especially the part where he seems to say that we should be more concerned about what people think of us than anything else…  what a lovely co-dependent thought that was!  But his point of view is not completely invalid and should not be entirely disregarded.  It never hurts to re-evaluate how we live and consider that there might be another option.

    • notafeminista

      Worshiping/praying/meditating etc – is free.  As is the instruction of to one’s offspring.

      • Pointpanic

        nota read what Frenchyt said. The 1% have ample oportunity to “enhance their familie’s happiness. Your statement does not adress that.

        • notafeminista

          No, it directly addresses it.  As if somehow the so-called 99 percenters have nothing else to do but slave away 24 hours a day for the evil taskmaster preventing them from having any happiness at all.

          Happiness is where and what you make it.

          • Pointpanic

            very nice rhetoric but though I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, it sounds like a smoke screen to cloud over real issues of poverty and inequality

          • Terry Tree Tree

            You’ve figured out nota!

          • Pointpanic

            Well Terry She and I obviously see things differently. Nota if you’re reading this I can’t understand why you’re ‘notafeminist”.For the record, I’m a man.

          • notafeminista

            As I recall it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  However being a member of what passed for the one percent at the time, her credibility may be suspect.

          • notafeminista

            I fail to see the relevance of gender or sex to this conversation.  And I meant what I said.  One makes choices in life – be happy or not  – it’s up to us.  If one is unhappy in one’s current circumstance, then one takes positive steps to change said circumstance.  Only we can do that for ourselves.  The so-called one-percent cannot do it for us.

          • notafeminista

            In other words, George Soros (being a member of the one percent) does not prevent me from being happy or unhappy. 

    • starfire345

      There must  be a way to find both the job to put food and a roof and also – loving attention and time to enjoy and play with our loved ones/children.    Just need to take the time to figure things out and omit things in favor of others.

    • Dan

       I’m not going to defend Christensen—too much of a business mindset for my taste—but I think the overarching point is valid:  whatever your circumstances, whatever your struggles, you can always approach life with kindness and love.  Simple as that might sound, it makes all the difference.  Your whole way of experiencing what it means to be alive undergoes a major shift.

      • Pointpanic

        Dan ,it’s always easy for the well-to do to posture like that and talk it down to the rest of us.

  • Margoc

    I recently read the article in the New Yorker about Christensen’s work, so I was glad to hear him speak. For almost 30 years, my career has focused on people with chronic and life threatening conditions. What he speaks of is absolutely on target. I’ve watched how people heal, how they die, and the legacy many wish to leave. Purpose, be it for a company or a person, is key to healthy well being. Study after study shows this. For many, it takes a massive heart attack, a diagnosis of cancer, or the death of someone much loved to begin to understand other ways of living. Warren Buffet has summed up similar sentiments 
    “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your
    success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do
    love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you’ve lived your
    life.”  Each year in March, I post on my blog Healing Whole an update of our handout 
    Healing the Whole Person: Ways to Increase Well-Being http://healingwhole.blogspot.com/2012/03/healing-whole-person-ways-to-increase.html While some items have changed or been deleted, purpose has always been part of this handout. 

  • Goofyjones

    I find this show fascinating. Many of us might try to come at the problem of happiness and true “success” from a spiritual perspective – this guy is apparently doing it from a Harvard Business School perspective, but if it gets any sort of light in to people’s lives in a way they understand, then bravo. It’s certainly true that many capable, impressive people go off the rails in this world, just like anybody else, and it’s important to step back and ask “what is it all for?”  

  • brettearle

    Just think of how many people there are out there–individuals with great skills and talents (talents and skills that may, indeed, be lying dormant and unused)
    –who don’t have the luxury of time or circumstance, to even contribute to this online discussion about the true meaning and formula for success (much less contemplate these matters on their own)….largely because the issues in their lives are preventing them from even listening to “On Point”‘s hour with Dr. Christensen, much less even knowing about the intrinsic value of “On Point”, itself.

  • Aaronhaslam

    I am puzzled by those that respond the guest is unrealistic. He is talking about principles that have help to find what greater happiness means in his life – not yours. 

    It is fair for us to dream and to want things albeit they are not an accurate reverberations of how your happiness is defined.

    I find that this video gives cause to those that believe that happiness and a meaningful life is something for the 1%. 


    • brettearle

      Wasn’t it really that he came across as self-righteous in his thinking?

      It’s one of those, “I know what’s best for me, so, therefore, it must be best for you!”, routines.

      Who appreciates that?  A sheeple? 

      • notafeminista


    • Pointpanic

      his “principles” seem to sanction the inequality that is poisoning our democracy.

  • Chris

    Some seriously shitty guests here lately, Tom. Let’s tighten up.

  • GMG

    That Dr. Christensen can so blithely claim to articulate the will of God belies an arrogance toward the world, and the rest of us, that is quite chilling.  I am grateful that he seems to have found a relatively harmless line of work, and isn’t out there peddling our next dystopia.

  • Pointpanic

    Okay, I didn’t har this show but from what I’m reading this sounds more geared to Oprah or Sally jesse Raphael not “public” radio

    • Meredithdimola

      listen first

      • Pointpanic

        I heard some of the rebroadcast this evening. Suspicions confirmed.

        • J__o__h__n

          I heard the entire thing.  It was worthless. 

          • Pointpanic

            I thought so JOhn . Thank you.

  • Pointpanic

    I’m also suspect of captialists who promote religion. especially claiming to know the “will fo God”. THis on “public” radio?

  • Different Perspective

    Mr. Christensen spoke of the desire to succeed as being innate. Though I understand that this urge is prevalent and strong, I would argue that it isn’t innate at all. We are not born with the need to succeed. We are born with the need and desire to be closely connected to other people in loving relationships. It is only when we are neglected, ignored, hurt etc by those we are seeking to be close to that we begin to accept success (praise from adults as small children) for the love we actually want and need. The reason the need for success feels so compelling and strong is because it is replacing this very real (and truly innate) need NOT because it itself is innate. This is good news for it means that we don’t actually need success. It means that, though it might be a struggle to stop seeking success (instead of loving connections with other people) that, in the end, we will be happier and healthier because we will finally get what we really need. 

  • Roy Mac

    Wow.  I didn’t catch much of this broadcast this morning.  This guy is really nutso!  Tell me–someone–that he was Tom’s guest this morning because his publisher paid a handsome fee to WBUR or NPR.

    • Pointpanic

      quite possible ,Roy. Tom has had alot of these simplistic, condescending pietistic posturers on lately. why are there never any socialists or citizen advocates on this “public” radio show? Tom’s going the way of Oprah.

  • Maynard

    I personally doubt the accuracy of Christenson’s anecdote at the end about the Marxist economist from China.  He should have given the man’s name.  Even if there is such a person and he said exactly what Christendon claimed, the very law-abiding and predominantly atheist Scandanavian countries belie the notion that without God people would not obey unenforcible laws. 

    • Pointpanic

      I’m not so sure ,China is “Marxist” these days.

  • Susan

    It’s clear to me that Christenson stutters and was working hard to control his stuttering in this interview.  He could do a real service to humanity by talking about his stuttering rather than trying to hide it.  John Stossel talks about his stuttering openly and is an inspiration to children and adults who stutter.

    • Margoc

      He had a stroke. It’s amazing he speaks as well as he does. 

    • Pointpanic

      STossel is hardly a role model. he’s an authoritarian corporate fat cat.

    • http://alum.mit.edu/www/sterlinganderson Sterling Anderson

      Trying to hide it? I have spoken with Professor Christensen about his stroke. He has worked very hard to re-learn the English language (as well as the others he lost) so he can better communicate with — and help — people. To me, his humility and diligence in doing so is yet another source of inspiration. He is not one to complain about hardships; he quietly and carefully works through them.

      …and this particular interview had nothing to do with strokes…

  • Inspired

    This was inspiring.  Thank you.

  • Dan

    Did I love enough during this period between the maternity ward and the crematorium–this very short period we call “life”?  Did I hold back in expressing my loving nature during my life, and if so, why?  These might be valuable “end-of-life” questions that we can ask ourselves now.  If we take them seriously, we might approach our life circumstances with a different kind of mindset, a different kind of consciousness, if you will.  I think Christenson was trying to point us in this direction, but his business-school mindset gets in the way.

    • Pointpanic

      I feel business people always use this touchy feely bullshit to distract from real issues of class induced poverty and inequlaity.

  • Adeniyi Adedoyin

    In what way will you be remembered by those who know your presence? ..  nice question to point to.

  • Bmcg_52

    Tried to call from IL and call failed…..disappointed! Wonderous program about our future. In HS I realized the only reach or influence I had was with the people God placed in my path. Ultimately my judgement would be based on if I was “response-able”. So I learned to chose wisely. I studied Child Development (LOVE Piaget) and worked in Early Childhood Education as a teacher/day care provider most all of my days. Strategies I learned can even be applied to adults the act childishly – LOL! I have had a many challenges since graduating college including a “near death” experience. I learn every day from ‘all my children’ whether biological or not, and each have given my life insight and meaning. I’m on the 3rd generation of offspring.  On the day I meet my maker I will know how  I performed as a ‘child of God’ and I look forward to that day. GREAT program – it made my day!

  • http://www.facebook.com/shari.thurer Shari Lehrer Thurer

    Just because C.C. developed a clever business plan does not enhance his credibility as a preacher.

  • Dufour Camille

    This show was AWESOME! Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003758508552 Ann Gree Weaver

    If this program helps me have less conversations like this;  “What are you going to school for, oh, what are you going to do with that, are you going to get your money back?”  It is sent from Heaven!  Can we encourage women to get an education before being a mom, sorry once they get in their 40′s (my age)they are horrible jealous and bored and interfere with anyone else bettering themselves, while we fund them through retirement, for shaming others and telling us they are the only sacred example?

  • ThePlayChannel Games

    It was a good show, with good advice and words. But it also shows how divorced “business gurus” like Clay are from the real business, real wealth and real powers that are squeezing regular Americans into third-world poverty. Brain-wash millions of young people to saddle them with 15% debt that will drag them down for life while a few “investors” will make billions without risk and effort? Tax cuts for those who export jobs overseas? Subversion of political power to subsidize already fat corporate profits with public funds (e.g. your property taxes pay for the Walmart that destroys all the small shops in your town)? If you do now wake up, Mr. Christensen and speak to the real trends in US business, God will judge you as a useful fool, and the people will remember you as one who spoke nice words while the house burned.

  • Pingback: What’s behind the work? - Brian Shea

  • HerbertGravy

     I’m sure most of the naysayers here consider themselves extremely educated.  Blah, blah, blah!

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