How Will You Measure Your Life? – My Letter to Prof. Christensen


This is what I believe is one of the most profound things written about life in a long time!

For someone like me, who believes, that he is the CEO of the thing called his life, Prof.Christensen’s notes are a reaffirmation of the idea that we all create theories about the world and then live our life through the corners of that theory.. For some,the theory of life gets created early on and then becomes a hardened view of life that we choose to never transgress..For some others, the theory of life remains elusive and somewhat diffused as we keep grabbing on straws of experience and learning..And then there are some who objectively let the theory of life evolve through measured experiments and empirical assessments of life.

When you talk about ‘Creating a strategy for your life’ .. what you really are taking about is this theory building exercise.. Theory building is a lot like mapping an unknown part of the world; It is about taking unknowns(new landmarks) in context of the knowns( stars, sun & moon) and building a framework of ‘probabilities’.. I use the word ‘probabilities’ because that is what it is – The landmarks you see today are not necessarily the landmarks you’d have seen yesterday or the landmarks you’d see tommorow! And ‘Purpose’ shapes that theory building pursuit – If you dont know why you are walking through the unknowns, you are less likely to find a coherent framework of possibilities! And purpose works best if it truly evolves in pursuit of the greater common good.

Allocation of resources & creation of culture are an acceptance of our individual finiteness & acceptance of our ability to influence infiniteness inpite of that fact. A coherent framework of possibilities is only as coherent as its ability to connect into infiniteness. Instant gratification is an outcome of a theory of life as an inconsequential spark ; it is an outcome of the idea that ‘ I am no one and I have nothing that I can change, so let me make the most of today for myself and tommorow shall come’. But the world is an infinite unbounded system and quite often larger outcomes require a critical mass of actions to be influenced. Purpose makes the allocation of resources efficient and effective. Creation of culture is a process of adaptive differentiation. When a group of individuals focus on sharing their maps and mental models, a better understanding of the dimensions of life will emerge from it – The caveat here is that such a process should be democratic and should come from a process where each individual has invested in the effort required to build his own theory before he engages in the process of comparing maps. And culture building is an evolutionary exercise that never stops – Any unbounded system of infinite elements has a much longer settling time!

Marginal Cost is often the cost of breaking a coherent bond in that vast map of outcomes we all build in our minds.. The theory of life is the theory of actions, reactions and outcomes ; an extensive repository of possibilities, When we break a bond on that map, we introduce a range of possibilities and reduce the coherence of our map of the world..The marginal cost of doing that would be paid in terms of structural instability of our mental map – For some actions and for some individuals,the price could be negligible and almost like a one-time payment but for many that price could be infinitesimal ,yet bound to infinity of installments!

Humility is again an acceptance of our individual finiteness in the infinite world – It is an acceptance of the delayed effect that our behaviors may have on the mental maps of those around us in the world. In an unbounded world,the sum of opposites is never zero. Humility with confidence is an extreme test of the coherence of an individual’s mental maps and models!

The measure of success is dependent on what qualifies as success to the individual. What matters is that the individual does not have divergent measures.. if you truly wish to have calm stable life and also desire to have a lot of money – That’s a divergent set of goals to have because pursuit of money is a pursuit of differentials of value! We all make choices that require a balance between how much movement with want within our mental maps and how much stability we seek. I know there are people who live happily with divergent goals because they are optimistic, opportunistic and willing to live comfortably in ambiguity. A lot of what gets drilled into people is the idea of individualism/independence/privacy as pursuit of ‘ what pleases me’ .. and that runs contrary to the idea of adding value to others because sometimes what adds value to others may not be something that pleases me!

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~ by exploreamaze on July 17, 2010.

One Response to “How Will You Measure Your Life? – My Letter to Prof. Christensen”

  1. While I agree with almost everything that you say here, one potential difference of opinion I may have is with your end note. I believe we must do what we really love doing even if it does not have a direct impact on something social/humanitarian etc. Because, simply by doing what we love doing, we will be making the world a much better place to live in. We will inspire others, we will not contribute to negativism, unhappiness, stress and the like. Think of Howard Roark in Fountain Head.

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