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Book Review: How Will You Measure Your Life

June 13, 2022

There’s nothing really wrong with “How Will You Measure Your Life.” (HWYMYL) Just as there’s nothing really wrong with a drive to the grocery store. The issue is that it’s not memorable. And typically you don’t want your drive to the grocery store to be memorable. “I was nearly killed on my way to WalMart” is never a good sentence.

But, with a business book, you not only expect it to be memorable, you need it to be. The best books, whether business or fiction, stay with you. They force you to think. They force you to reexamine previous ideas. They offer you unique perspectives on the future.

HWYMYL did none of that for me.

I really wanted to like this book. It came highly recommended by my dear mother. Clayton Christensen, the lead author, is one of my favorite writers. He wrong the brilliant “Innovators Dilemma,” a book full of concepts that I continually return to even though I haven’t read it in years.

I finished reading HWYMYL about a month ago. It’s been sitting on my desk waiting for me to write this review. And yet, as I started I couldn’t remember a single story or concept. I had to review the book just to remember what it was about.

It’s not badly written. Christensen’s voice comes through strongly. And James Allworth and Karen Dillon bring solid contributions. Like many of Christensen’s earlier works it includes a collection of stories about businesses and how those businesses identified and then solves a business problem. (Honda corporation building motorcycles. McDonalds corporation figuring out how to sell milkshakes.)

Where the book breaks down is in trying to take lessons from those businesses and applying it to your life, or my life. Ultimately it was just a well written collection of business anecdote. Entertaining but ultimately forgettable.

What I Liked

HWYMYL reads like a short story collection. And I love short stories. Each company profile gives an interesting perspective of a business need and a unique, although not often intuitive solution. The pacing and the writing are well done. The Acknowledgment section was fascinating. As a Clayton Christensen fan from his earlier work, it was fascinating to hear how Allworth and Dillon met him and ended up working with him.

What I Didn’t

Like plain pasta without any sauce or cheese, HWYMYL, was ultimately forgettable. The individual company stories did not tie together in any meaningful way. The attempt to tie the lessons together via a more personal narrative simply didn’t work. At 221 pages it felt substantial in my hand, but I kept looking for the “ah ha” moment. Ultimately I got to the end of the book before I found it.

What It Means For You

If you like reading about how some of the most successful products and companies took an unlikely path to success, HWYMYL has those. If you are searching for a book to help you decide how to set priorities and ultimately decide what’s most important for you in your life, this book probably isn’t going to offer you that insight.

My Rating

Two out of five stars.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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