The Metrics that Matter

As I prepare my weekly newsletter, it is not unusual for Monday or Tuesday to roll around and I’m still waiting for inspiration—a thought, event, conversation, a passage read—something that will trigger something I want to share with you. Occasionally, it gets so late in the game that I become anxious about it.

That didn’t happen this week.

Last Thursday, my friend and mentor, and a tremendously influential business thinker, Clayton Christensen passed away, he was only 67. After almost a decade of health problems, his death wasn’t totally unanticipated, but the death of a loved one is an incredible shock regardless of any warnings.

I immediately began to craft this week’s newsletter as a form of grief therapy—my personal tribute to this great man—and I finished my first draft on Saturday – very early for me.

Then, Sunday, I read about the horrible accident that took the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people. They all have bereaved parents, spouses, children, and other loved ones. They all had futures filled with potential. Each of their lives mattered.

Everyone who died in that crash mattered!

But, sadly, the deaths of the other passengers have been overshadowed by the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, which isn’t right or wrong – it’s just the way it is, and understandable to some degree.

I’m sorry to admit the passing of my friend, Clayton Christensen has also been overshadowed by this tragic event, which makes me very sad. Outside of my immediate family, Clay has been the most influential figure in my life. He was a sponsor, a mentor, a teacher, a doer of good, someone who made me better in many ways.

His ideas around disruption changed my worldview—they are foundational to what has become my life’s work. I stand on the shoulders of this giant and will never forget him.

I’ve not been a sports enthusiast. But I use sports examples and analogies in my work – they are a type of universal language. But even as a sports outsider, I understand that Kobe Bryant is one of the great players in professional basketball, internationally influential, a human being whose life was of personal importance to a staggering number of people worldwide, and of symbolic importance to hundreds of millions more.

A thought struck me that the lives and work of Clayton Christensen and Kobe Bryant had a thread of similarity. Clayton’s life’s work was the study of disruption and Kobe was a disruptor. You can read a little about it here. He took his endeavors outside of basketball very seriously, he often did the unexpected. He spent hours reading and learning. It’s even possible that one of the business books he read was authored by Clayton Christensen. I’d be surprised if it weren’t.

Kobe deserves his induction into the “Hall of Fame.” He was one of the world’s great basketball players as well as an innovative and creative entrepreneur that led to his work for the poor, using his rockstar high-profile to champion women in sports. He was a loving husband and father and made time to coach his 13-year old daughter’s basketball team. He was a great human being.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to attend Clay Christensen’s semester-summarizing lecture to an MBA class at Harvard Business School, which later became a book titled, How Will You Measure Your Life, he said,

“While many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics, such as number of people presided over, number of awards, or dollars accumulated in a bank, and so on, the only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people. When I have my interview with God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage – a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics that matter in measuring my life.”

The night before his death, LeBron James broke Kobe’s record as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, an event which he graciously acknowledged with his final tweet.

But in the metrics that really matter. Kobe was moving on to his second act.

It is an unspeakable tragedy that his second act ended just as it was about to fully develop; the second act is so often a more profound measure of our humanity than the first.

. . . farewell to Kobe Bryant, his daughter and all who lost their lives in the helicopter crash, and to Clayton Christensen, a profoundly good and truly great man.

Our podcast guest this week is Angela Blanchard, a woman I have known for some time. When the stories are written, similar things will be said of her and her influence.

Angela, the 2017 recipient of the Heinz Award in the Human Condition, is a woman who stands in the gap when disasters strike, when the unthinkable happens, and helps people rebuild their lives. I admire her deeply. Please join us.

May we each live by the metrics that matter.

My best,

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