The book

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon; Harper Business.

The big idea

Individuals should approach life's decisions with the same thoughtful analysis that smart leaders apply to their companies. That means considering questions such as which opportunities to pursue and whether to act for the long or short term.

The backstory

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, is the author of the seminal book The Innovator's Dilemma. He was motivated to help others think through life's challenges after seeing his former classmates and students struggle with personal goals, and after his own battle with cancer.

The business of life

Applying management concepts to one's personal life may sound contrived, but the associations made by Christensen and his co-authors are revealing and profound. The book explains how companies and individuals must test assumptions before making big decisions. They must also identify which job they have been "hired" to perform, whether for their customers or their families.

If you read nothing else

Entrepreneurs will appreciate Chapter Three, which is about weighing deliberate plans against emerging opportunities. Chapter Seven draws a neat comparison between companies that make the mistake of outsourcing their core competencies and families that shortchange their children by protecting them from formative experiences.