March 15, 2013

How Will You Measure Your Life?

How you measure things has a huge impact on what you will do.

- Clayton Christensen

Since 1990, the Omniquest program has been an important part of Northwood University’s unique value proposition. Chosen from a wide variety of authors and literary categories, each Omniquest selection is intended to foster critical thinking in our students, faculty, and staff system wide.

Over the last 23 years, we have read, discussed, and debated a range of compelling books from nationally and internationally recognized leaders. Many also come from notable individuals like Mitch Albom, Steve Forbes, and Josh Linkner whose work appears regularly in the pages of leading newspapers and magazines across the country. Selections have included everything from George Gilder’s Recapturing the Spirit of Enterprise and Stephen Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership to Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and Edward Wilson’s In Search of Nature. Each work offers substance and insight aimed at personal and professional improvement.

Our current selection, How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, with co-authors James Allworth and Karen Dillon, keeps this time-honored tradition alive and well. A professor at Harvard Business School, Christensen is the author of several best-selling books and was named the world’s most influential business thinker by Thinkers50.

How Will You Measure Your Life? offers a holistic message aimed at achieving happiness in our careers, our relationships, and ourselves. At the foundation of it all is the need for a clear and stated purpose. Like all well-run businesses, Christensen asserts a fulfilling life is the culmination of a life built on purpose. Meaning and happiness are found in identifying the “likeness” we want to achieve in life, committing to it deeply, and accurately measuring its progress along the way.

Not to be mistaken for a work full of “feel good” platitudes expressed in the language of business, Christensen and his co-authors strike deep and hard in exploring how our choices and the ways we measure success determine the kind of lives we lead. Poor planning and marginal-cost thinking have not only led to the demise of some of the most notable corporations and industries in history but they are also responsible for derailing some of the most promising lives.

What makes Christensen’s book even more timely and poignant is that it comes on the heels of his having dealt with serious, life-threatening health issues over the past few years.

I had the good fortune to personally interact with Clay Christensen on many occasions and can attest to his authentic and inspiring character. One such instance, which I want to share with you, came during the annual conference of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities (AAPICU) this past February.

Drawing on the experiences of companies like Bethlehem Steel and Toyota and industries such as semi-conductor fabrication, Christensen offers a distilled version of the message in his book. His conclusion, which includes a call to action to those who share his worldview, may not appeal to everyone. But like The Northwood Idea, the inherent principles in his invitation are something we can all apply comparably to our own lives and work at Northwood.

As we endeavor to lead our University into the future, I invite you to take this opportunity to read Christensen’s book, watch his AAPICU speech, and consider how you will plan for and measure success in your own work and life.

Have a great weekend!

Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640