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About the Strategy of Life

“How will you measure your life?”
~ Clayton M. Christensen

This section was inspired by the book “How will you measure your life” by Clayton M. Christensen. For me, the title itself was inspirational because I read the Russian version of the book the title of which was changed to “Стратегия Жизни” — “The Strategy of Life”.

The first time I heard about Clayton Christensen when I was looking for tips for running my startup. His other book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” taught me a lot about the nature of disruptive innovation. Clayton Christensen is a professor at Harvard, scholar, educator and a famous business consultant with a very broad range of life experiences. There was a period of his life when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He survived. Professor Christensen passed the treatment and beat his disease into remission. This experience made him rethink what it means exactly to live a life full of meaning. He assembled his meditations in the form of the book. Here, I want to discuss some of his ideas that could be applied immediately to improve the career aspect of your life.

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The two-factor theory.

In his book, professor Christensen discusses the two-factor theory (a.k.a. Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory or dual-factor theory) which by now is considered as one of the pillars of classical management. This theory divides all factors that determine performance of a worker into two groups: hygiene factors and motivating factors.

Hygiene factors can be called external factors as they determine the behavior of an individual by conditioning it externally. They include:

  • Salary and benefits
  • Work conditions
  • The relationship with the boss
  • The relationships with co-workers
  • Social security
  • Work supervision
  • Company policy

Motivating factors are internal. They are defined by the perception and mindset of an individual. They include the senses of:

  • Fulfillment
  • Mission
  • Impact on the world
  • Personal growth
  • Challenge
  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility
  • Promotion

Companies that successfully implement both groups of factors to motivate their employees exhibit a dramatic increase in efficiency. The major implication that Christensen draws from this theory is that in order to succeed career-wise one must integrate the two-factor approach to his work in a similar way.

Hygiene factors are pretty straightforward. All of them are self-explanatory and don’t require further discussion. However, the motivating factors are more perplexing since they keep constantly evolving as we mature through life. Things that give us the sense of fulfillment, the way we envision our impact on the world, our sacred mission — all these internal factors determine our identification with the cause and hence the formation of the sense of meaning. It is crucial to strategically incorporate them into your life design. Let’s come up with a more concise definition.

The Strategy of Life is a plan of a career and life that binds motivating factors to a notional timeline.

The idea of the absolute necessity of a reflexive life strategy must be inculcated in children from a very young age. Even at the age of 10, still being in the process of building their identity, children already display a natural gravity toward certain vocations. At this age, internal factors can be tuned to what will later become a self-sufficient conscious motivation.

This is the Strategy of Life I wish I could send back in time to my past self.

From the age of 10–16.

  • Don’t worry about yourself too much. It’s ok to be an awkward, clumsy and not so good-looking teenager. Be patient. Life will fall into places when the time is right. What you are destined to become will exceed your highest expectations.
  • Find a mentor. Many mentors. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Work for free if that’s what it takes to learn from them. Seek guidance and knowledge. Having a teacher is the fastest way of getting from where you are to where you want to be.
  • You will change. A lot. Your worldview, your perception and your understanding of self will keep transforming as you grow up. Be humble. Nothing is true. We all die foolish.
  • Try things. Learn things. Get broad experiences so that later you could hand-pick those that truly ignite you.
  • Learn a new language. 10 years old is the perfect age for that. Take the full advantage of your young fast learning brain and develop a multilingual mind.
  • Study the fundamentals. Study them hard. Whatever you choose to do in life hard sciences and hard skills will always remain in demand. Build a strong basis for the future you.
  • Start saving money. Develop your financial intelligence. Do your best to understand how the system of money works. If you fail it will be dictating you how to live all your life.

From the age of 17–23.

  • Get an education. For millennials, University is still a key to many doors. Although it’s less applicable to Generation Z and could be not applicable at all to the Generation Alpha, as of today we still live in the system where people get judged by their credentials. The assortment of other ways to succeed keeps increasing. University education is not the only option but still remains a viable one.
  • If you opt for getting University education, choose your major wisely. It’s irrational to involve yourself with something you don’t love for a period of 4–6 years. The choice of the major is critically important as it will shape your worldview and tread a path to your whole professional career.
  • Don’t follow your passion. Be prudent. Pass the MBTI test. Study yourself. Select vocations that well match your personality. Ponder over your choices. Try to understand in what kind of career you would be able to invest next 10 years of your life without regret.
  • List your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your major but simultaneously develop yourself as a good generalist. You need to know a little bit about many things to be able to connect existing concepts into innovative solutions.
  • 10,000 hours rule is not a joke. Accumulate your experience and acquire expertise in your domain.
  • Learn how to make money.

From the age of 24–30.

  • Formulate your mission. Write down a Strategy of Life for the next 20 years. Iterate through it every year. Get a vision of where you want to be.
  • Keep honing your skills. Become a world-class expert. Expertise is a timeless value.
  • Grow your network.
  • Build your personal brand.
  • Build a platform and amass your followership.
  • Teach the youth. Passing on knowledge is the final phase of learning.

At the moment of writing, I am 30 years old, so I don’t feel it is my place to advise my peers and seniors. I would only say that if you belong to Generation Y and you still have a feeling that you are nowhere, don’t panic.

Many millennials shuffle between jobs in their 20s in an attempt to find a career that would suit them. It is our 30s that become the hunker-down years. That’s the decade when we must be doing the most career-wise — getting promotions, raises, and better job titles.

If you are still a seeker, persevere. 30 is a perfect age for a fresh start — you are still full of energy and much wiser than your younger self. Meet new people. Start new projects. Get on with some serious hard work. Your 30s — that’s when it counts.

Think long-game.

I will finish this section with one important mindset taken from the Christensen’s book — a mindset that sets successful people apart.

Many people misunderstand the saying “you only live once.” They indulge in momentary pleasure even when they know that by doing this they deviate from the path to their long-term goals. They fail to see the obvious:

Success requires an ability to resist instant gratification.

Ask yourself: “If I keep doing what I am doing at the present moment, where will it bring me one year from now?” You’ll see that nothing from the collection of things that promise immediate pleasure will matter in the not-so-distant future. Delayed gratification — that’s the only way to true fulfillment.

Success has its price. High social intelligence requires you to swallow the discomfort of social situations. Physical pain is the currency you’ll use to pay for a strong body. And you won’t be able to help it but feel like an idiot every time you crawl the slope of a new learning curve.

The truth is, if we are completely honest with ourselves, we always know which path from those that lie in front of us is the right one. We just have to be disciplined enough to step on it. We must not let the fact that the rightest path is always the hardest dishearten us.

Life is full of surprises. Sometimes it forces us in mysterious directions and we can’t prevent this from happening. All we can do is to surrender ourselves into the hands of fate letting it challenge us. As long as we hold on to a vector that aligns us in the intended direction the storms of life won’t be able to sway us. That vector is the Strategy of Life.

Follow your vision but mind your steps.

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Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.

If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.

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