Clayton Christensen speaks at TEDxBoston. A lot of laughter from the audience. Strange, because it's not funny. On men and short vs long rewards.


I graduated from the MBA program at Harvard in 1979… When we came back for our 5th reunion, man, everyone was happy! Most of my classmates had married people who were much better looking… they were doing well in their career. But as we hit the 10th, and 15th, and 20th and then the 25th anniversaries, oh my gosh, my friends were coming back not happy with their lives. Very many of them had gotten divorced. Their spouses had remarried, and they were raising my classmates’ children on the other side of the country, alienated from them.

And, I guarantee, that none of my classmates ever planned when they graduated from the business school to get divorced, and have children who hate their guts and are being raised by other people. And yet a very large proportion of my classmates implemented a strategy that they had never planned to do.

And it turns out that the reason why they do that is the very same mechanism; that is the pursuit of achievement. Everyone here is driven to achieve. And when you have an extra ounce of energy or an extra 30 minutes of time, instinctively and unconsciously you’ll allocate it to whatever activities in your life give you the most immediate evidence of achievement. And our careers provide that most immediate evidence of achievement. We close a sale. We ship a product. We finish a presentation. We close a deal. We get promoted. We get paid. And our careers provide very tangible, immediate achievement.

In contrast, investments in our families don’t pay off for a very long time. In fact, on a day-to-day basis, our children misbehave over and over again. And, it really isn’t until 20 years down the road that you can look at your children and be able to put your hands on your hips and say, “We raised great children!” But on a day-to-day basis, achievement isn’t at hand when we invest in relationships with our families, our children, and our spouses.

And, as a consequence, people like you and I, who plan to have a happy life, because our families truly are the deepest source of happiness in our lives, find that though although that’s what we want, the way we invest our time, our energy, and talents causes us to implement a strategy we wouldn’t at all plan to pursue.

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