I first came across Clayton Christensen’s theory of Disruptive Innovation when I was in college. I read every one of his books and particularly loved How Will You Measure Your Life?, which completely changed my priorities and outlook on life. A few years later, I was accepted into Harvard’s MBA program. I was excited but was also still trying to weigh this potentially life-changing two years against its opportunity cost. Then came the moment when I saw this Instagram photo of Professor Christensen holding a sign saying, “Welcome Class of 2018!”. I immediately decided to accept the offer and soon after began my two year journey at Harvard Business School.

Like many people, I had once assumed that business schools teach only strategy, business theories, and financial models. In reality, I learned important life lessons during my time at HBS. Specifically, from one of the greatest thinkers of all time, Clayton Christensen, I learned more about myself and the true meaning of life.

Start to Build Your Eulogy Instead of Your Resume

In my second year, I was extremely lucky to get into Professor Christensen’s class, Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise (BSSE), a signature course at Harvard. It was created by Professor Christensen and is now taught by a number of professors, introducing students to frameworks for growing companies and allowing us to make better decisions by putting on the lenses / theories from the course. By the time I took the class, Professor Christensen had difficulty speaking fluently, as he had previously suffered a stroke. He became sicker during the semester and unfortunately was no longer able to teach. Nevertheless, even with his health deteriorating, he always sat in class with us, raised his hand, and made brilliant comments. It was simply inspiring to see him doing so.

On the last day of the class, we were asked to take all the business theories we’d studied throughout the semester, but instead of applying them to companies, we applied them to ourselves. Professor Christensen insisted on teaching this last class himself. His wife, one of his sons, and his daughter-in-law were also in class that day. In those 90 minutes, he shared a number of personal stories. He spoke slowly and sometimes had to stop to gather his thoughts, but those stories really demonstrated that if you live by your values then everything else will fall into place. We talked about many aspects of life and he urged us to stop living for only our resumes and to really think hard about what truly matters. Many of us had spent significant time and energy optimizing our resumes and career trajectories. However, at the end of the day, we are not evaluated by our title, status, or compensation.

On the back of How Will You Measure Your Life? it is written, “This book doesn’t offer easy answers. It won’t tell you what to think. Instead, it aims to teach you how to think — about your life and your purpose.” This essentially summarizes my two year experience at HBS. On our first day on campus, the 900 of us in my class were asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I spent the next two years looking for the answer. Today, I’m still exploring but do have a much better idea about how to approach this question. It’s like what Professor Christensen always said: We are not students at HBS only to study theories and frameworks. We are here to learn how to tell good theories from bad ones, to determine when we can apply which theories, and how to evaluate the circumstances under which the theories will or will not work.

As someone who has influenced countless people, he was incredibly humble. He always encouraged us to challenge his theories and to build our own forms of thinking. I am deeply saddened by the loss of Professor Christensen, and I drew on that sadness as inspiration to write this blog post. I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to learn directly from him, as he has been a huge inspiration to me. With his passing, I feel it’s now more important than ever to share his teachings and life work. Above all, in the midst of day-to-day life living, be sure to take a moment every so often to stop, take stock of where you are and what you’re doing, and to measure your one wild and precious life. It’s the most important lesson I learned at Harvard Business School. Thank you, Prof Christensen.