A book review of “How Will You Measure Your Life?” something better than Dr. Seuss.


In the early 1990’s a book was published by Dr. Seuss called, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” This book quickly turned into the quintessential book to give as a gift to high school and college graduates. Why I am not sure and I don’t know if it is still given but this review, in part, is to ask parents to stop giving it and replace it with, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth & Karen Dillon.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing personally against Dr. Suess, as a matter of fact I have been known to quote him several times in the past, I am just saying that achieving a fulfilled life take more than a brightly colored outline. Sending your newly graduated people off into the big bad world with a 56 page cartoon book depicting the perils they will face is well, shameful.

The complicated and complex subject of “living a good life” can and should be broken down into simplistic terms but it doesn’t mean that the audiences for the message are simpletons. (A paraphrase reference from an Edward Jones commercial right there.) Dr. Suess not only had a life time of teaching children to read, but took the opportunity to show adults the beauty of KISS (keep it simple stupid). The lesson is there in his writings if you are willing to look for it. But in this case new graduates will need a little more meat and potatoes to fill their bellies for what they will face moving forward, Christensen’s book fills that need.

In the book, Christensen covers personal and professional aspects of live and how they intertwine with each other. Perhaps that is the first and simplest lesson of them all, personal and professional lives are the yin and yang of the whole life, except that and you heading in the right direction. He stresses, in a seemly gentle way, the idea of process. Life is a journey not a destination.

At my book club meeting last night, some took issue with the word “measure”. They felt that no one should measure their lives but are they using the word in contexts of comparing it to others? I don’t know what the answer is, but I feel that Christensen point was to create your own stick, to measure your life not how it stands up to the outside world. All in all, I don’t think you should get hung up on semantics, if you don’t like the word they use CHANGE it, that is why we have thesauruses. Make it mean something for you. Rearrange it so it speaks to you and sparks your fire. Christensen sums it up in one of the last paragraphs of the book,

“I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life’s purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they will ever have discovered. I warn them that their time at school might be the best time to reflect deeply on that question. Fast-paced careers, family responsibilities, and tangible rewards of success tend to swallow up time and perspective. They will just sail off from their time at school without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life.”

I encourage you to read this book and share it with the ones you love because I believe there are plenty of spark-able messages for anyone in any phase of life. I really don’t believe that we have to wait to the end of our lives to look back and see how we did. Clayton Christensen calls us to be pro-active about our lives. He calls us to embrace the process. He calls us to be present in every moment.

The real question is, do you hear the call?

Photo by “Dan” www.freedigitalphotos.net

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