Clayton Christensen on the Well-Lived Life

Well-known Mormon author and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen was quoted at length in David Brooks’s New York Times column, called “The Summoned Self.”

Brooks contrasts two ways of thinking about one’s life: the “Well-Planned Life” and the “Summoned Life.” Brooks suggests that Christensen typifies the former, based on Christensen’s recent Commencement Address. Brooks writes:

Christensen is a serious Christian. At university, he was the starting center on his basketball team and refused to play in the championship game of an important tournament because it was scheduled for a Sunday. But he combines a Christian spirit with business methodology. In plotting out a personal and spiritual life, he applies the models and theories he developed as a strategist. He emphasizes finding the right metrics, efficiently allocating resources and thinking about marginal costs.

When he is done, life comes to appear as a well-designed project, carefully conceived in the beginning, reviewed and adjusted along the way and brought toward a well-rounded fruition.

In the “Summoned Life,” by contrast, “Life isn’t a project to be completed.” Rather,

it is an unknowable landscape to be explored. A 24-year-old can’t sit down and define the purpose of life in the manner of a school exercise because she is not yet deep enough into the landscape to know herself or her purpose. That young person — or any person — can’t see into the future to know what wars, loves, diseases and chances may loom. She may know concepts, like parenthood or old age, but she doesn’t really understand their meanings until she is engaged in them.

Which raises the question: Is the Well-Planned Life a more “Mormon” way of viewing the world than the Summoned Life?

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