Finding your purpose – The Clayton Christensen Process v2.0

Clayton Christensen’s excellent book – How will you measure your life? – ends with an intriguing chapter on finding your purpose (summary here). Here, Clay recommends the following 3 step process –

1) Find your likeness. Ask yourself – what would you like to be like? How would you define your ideal you? Define your likeness when you are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, etc i.e. define how you would look, what your family be like, how you would be known, and what you would be doing. (Clay, a very religious man, asked himself – what does god want me to be?)
2) Make commitments. Come back from time to time and revisit your likeness. Does it feel right? Is it you?
3) Define metrics. How do you measure ‘success’ in your definition? In his case, since his purpose was kindness, he always measured it by the number of people he helped. He points out that these metrics are rarely “make more money” or “get a promotion.” Define success and ensure your metrics are aligned.

I was intrigued by this chapter as it definitely felt like the most meaningful part of the book. However, unlike the rest of the book, this part seemed a bit cryptic. Now, I’m not sure if Clay intended it to be so but it resulted in a 1.5 year journey in attempting to really understand and apply this. I’d like to share my learnings from this journey with you.


Purpose process v1.0. I tried following Clay’s exact process and made a first draft of a list of commitments and metrics. After 6 months of testing, I realized there was something amiss. The hardest part about questions that have an existential component (e.g. what is your purpose?) is that you know when something is amiss but you don’t know exactly what is amiss. Cue: Time for more thinking.

I gave myself a break to think about it and got back to “designer” mode. It was time for Purpose process v2.0 that combined Clay’s approach and my learnings from attempting to apply his approach.


Purpose process v2.0 – my 7 step process for giving finding and measuring your purpose a shot. 

Step 1: Visit your own funeral. First, we borrow Stephen Covey’s idea to begin with the end in mind. Close your eyes and imagine you are at your own funeral. Who do you see around you? What are they saying about you? What else do you hear?

Step 2: Draw out your likeness. Pick a few arbitrary points – e.g. 30 years, 50 years, 70 years, 90 years and describe your likeness. Who would you want to be at these ages? Describe your future self – how you look, what your personal life looks like, what you do, etc. Don’t restrict this process. For example, I had a funny moment when I realized I kept describing myself as “fit with muscly arms.” Fit alone clearly didn’t do it for me. The thought of muscly arms somehow always brings out a smile. These details matter.

Step 3: Pick a simple framework to think about your life. This is an important step as we go down the path of aggregating the data we’ve collected so far. Pick a framework that captures life as you know it. I have 2 examples –
a) You could break life down in terms of various states – physical, mental, emotional, spirtual
b) I chose to think of it as 4 layers (or 4 concentric circles) – Myself, the people I love, the work I do and the impact I have on the world. This is ordered in terms of priority in my case.

It doesn’t matter which frame you pick. Picking one is important thought.

Step 4: Describe what success would look like for each segment of the frame. Start describing what success looks like for each segment of the frame. Use all the data you built up as you described your likeness. Here is how mine got filled out..

A happy self..  
– Top physical shape – muscly arms :) and regular sports
– Top mental shape – high learn rate
– Top spiritual shape – Meditating

A loving framily..
– Quality time spent with wife and kids
– In meaningful contact with those afar – either engaged in projects together or in touch regularly

A value adding career..
– Doing work that does good and works toward longer term goals
– Consciously maintaining a board of directors
– Built wealth by adding value and living well within our means

And time spent making a positive difference..
– Spending time giving back to those less privileged
– Actively sharing my life lessons and learnings

Step 5: Make specific metrics. The next step involves creating metrics that you can track every week/month to see how you are doing. Here is what my “happy self” and “positive difference” section looked like.

Happy self

 

 

Positive difference

As you can see, I have a mix of weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly commitments. I didn’t do that in v1.0 and found this distinction to be useful.

Step 6: Track and revise. Set up a recurring invite on your calendar as a part of your week review process. I would suggest checking it every week as it keeps the continuity.

Step 7: Make a “why” statement. This purpose exercise is a beautiful way to put together an overarching “strategy” for your life. It fundamentally defines how you approach your life. It helps keeping the big “why” in mind. I have to credit writing applications to business schools for help with crafting my “why” statement. In my case, it is “To build active relationships with close family and friends, to learn, and to make a positive difference in the world.” Having a why statement helps a lot. There’s no easy way to get to it (i’m sorry!). My first shot was a why statement that didn’t work for too long. This has been a result of continuous improvement and involved seeking advice from folks who knew me well.

A few final notes if you decide to give this process a shot –
– There is no easy way to get through this process. You’ll have to set aside 3-4 thinking hours on a couple of days and wrestle with yourself as you go through this. But, it is one of those processes that changes the way you think about life. If done once, it helps draw attention to what matters and what doesn’t. I hope you’ll consider it. The clarity you gain at the end of the process makes the juice well worth the squeeze.
– It never ceases to amaze me that Clay Christensen did this as a 21 year old. I love his thought process and am thankful to him for sharing this in his book.
– Finally, please do not hesitate to let me know if I can be of help in any way. As you can tell, I’ve stumbled a lot over the past 18 months in my attempts to make this work. v2.0 is definitely working much better than v1.0 but I expect more changes and more follow on posts over the coming weeks, months and years. Until then, I am always reachable on rohan@rohanrajiv.com would love to help

I know this post was long. Sorry! I hope it was worth it.

A few thoughts on age

1. The concept of age is largely a mental construct. Yes, our body does change over time . However, we often exaggerate changes to suit societal norms.

2. Societies  (especially more hierarchical ones) often attach many expectations to age. There are certain expectations on how to behave and how to live. The reason for this is that age is a great tool for enforcing mindless hierarchy. “I am older than you. So, I know better.”

3. The truth, however, is that respecting someone because they are old is completely arbitrary. It assumes wisdom and that’s a flawed assumption. Wisdom doesn’t come with age. It comes with maturity, openness and self awareness. While the probability that an older person may possess these are higher, I’m not sure it is much higher because openness tends to decrease with age. A friend of mine feels respect is one of the most misused words in the English language – I can see why.

4. For illustration of the above ideas – think of five 80+ year olds you know. I’m sure you can name a couple who act and move about like they’ve reached the end of their lives while there are others who still possess extraordinary youthful exuberance (a certain Warren Buffett comes to mind). Think also about a few more older folk you know – would you consider all of them mature, open, self-aware, and wise?

5. Ageing has a lot to do with mental inactivity. I’ve sadly learnt this from seeing this with my grandfather. Until 10 years ago, my grandfather was known to be a 68 year old man with tremendous energy and youth. However, after his decision to stop working, we’ve watched him age at 3 mental years to the rate of 1 physical year. The difference is profound.

6. Television plays a very negative role in an older person’s ageing process. You can almost always be sure that their mental age is linked to the amount of television they watch as the television encourages a permanently vegetative state. Video games are better – perhaps theirs an opportunity in having older folk play video games?

7. If age is largely a mental construct, should we bother about the right age to do this and that? Only to a point. There are some things that make more sense at some ages – like university degrees while we’re young so we’re not a burden to our parents and becoming parents while being relatively young for biological clock reasons. But, beyond that, there is no right age for anything. It is all about being ready. So, the next time you hear about something making sense because you are at the “right age,” question it.

8. The biggest mistake adults make is they forget what it is to be kids (hat tip to J K Rowling). The toughest part about growing up is making sure we mature enough to not be childish but continue to be childlike. This means retaining an insatiable curiosity and a willingness to be open to any possibility that might present itself to us.

9. Age, wisdom and happiness are a wonderful combination. But, as Prof Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, they don’t come as guarantees on our birth certificate. We need to keep learning, we need to keep working hard, and we need to be persistent in the face of our attempts failing. None of this gets easier with age. In fact, I’d even argue it only gets tougher. So, it is up to us to ensure we stay mentally young while growing wiser through increased reflection and self awareness at the same time. It is hard work. But, hopefully, we’ve learnt by now that embracing hard work is the only way forward.

10. The best part? If we work hard enough on it – we don’t just get older, we get much better. Think of what a small daily improvement will mean 25,000 mornings later..

Study groups and learning – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea thanks to TheBuildNetwork.com and our RealLeaders.tv interview with Mark Suster.

In 1986, the Harvard university president wanted to know if there was a way to predict whether a particular student would succeed or fail in college. What was different about kids who succeeded as undergrads?

The subsequent study revealed the single best predictor of college success – it’s all about with whom rather than how you learn, i.e., it wasn’t GPA or SAT scores or a number of any kind. It was a student’s ability to either create or join a study group. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.

Venture capitalist Mark Suster applied this in his own career by creating peer learning groups of fellow CEO’s when he ran his own start-up and of venture capitalists when he started his career in venture capital in Los Angeles.

Perhaps it is time for us to create our own peer learning group.

Study-groups-and-learning

Source and thanks to: www.EBSketchin.com

‘I felt that when I was being open and willing to talk to other people about what my issues were and then tried to solicit from them, that the table actually discussed things. You can do that. Anyone can do that.’ | Mark Suster

Learning and digging gold

An inefficient gold digger needs many good mines to extract a good harvest of gold. An effective gold digger, on the other hand, needs only one.

Learning is similar. You don’t need to have 20 years of experience to have sufficient learning. You can extract 20 years worth of learning from 1 year if you set your mind to it. Growing old is not an option but growing up by making the most of the experiences life throws at you definitely is.

So, while “am I learning” is an interesting question to ask in a situation, it isn’t terribly useful. Yes, you are learning something most of the time. But, asking yourself “am I extracting maximum learning out of this?” changes the game.

Just one trait about effective gold diggers – they don’t stop when they get one mine right. They keep working and widen that gulf. Learning is not different. Ask those who take time regularly to read, for example, and they’ll remind you that there is no difference between the ones who don’t read and the ones who can’t. Learning, like any other skill, needs work – perfecting it requires constant deliberate practice.

Making the world better

Atrocities happen every day of the week on this planet. This was one of those that had me swearing out loud. A man felt it went against his family’s honor for his pregnant daughter to marry someone against his wishes but felt it was perfectly okay to murder her with his son and a few goons.

There is a lot wrong with the world. There is no doubt about that. There is a lot right too that goes unmentioned. It feels, as a result, that we have two principal duties to help make the world better. Focus on the right in our lives and do more of it. This is the only way to keep our spirits up without getting bogged down by everything that is wrong with the world.

At the same time, we must work hard on changing what is wrong. A lot of what is wrong with our attitude towards other races and women can be made much better. It starts within. We have to pledge to be open to differences ourselves and hopefully change the culture of our families and friends to reflect that. Change occurs in ripples. It begins with changing ourselves or, at the very least, teaching ourselves to think. There is a real dearth of people who can do that. Atrocities like the one above are typically committed by men (yes, it is always men) who are unthinkingly following some norm or order.

The world will never be perfect but it can become better, much better. In making ourselves better, we make it a bit better and I think that’s as worthwhile a cause as any.