I recently attended the last day of Professor Clayton Christensen's fall semester class at Harvard Business School.
In his final minutes with eighty of the world's best and brightest 25-35 year-olds, there was so much that Professor Christensen could have used his bully pulpit to say. Interestingly he chose to focus not on building and sustaining a successful enterprise, as he had done all semester, but rather on building and sustaining a happy life.
Paraphrasing Dr. Christensen's remarks, “In just a few months you will graduate from Harvard Business School, and embark on what to many, including yourselves, will be prestigious, lucrative, high profile careers. But if you want to also have happy lives, you need to know the purpose of your life.”
Photo courtesy of Jorge Antonio, istockphoto
He concluded class by encouraging the students to take the time, even if it's between 11 and 12 each night, as he did some thirty years ago, while he himself was in graduate school, to figure out their ‘who they are', and ‘what they are meant to do.'
There was a tear or two.
In Howard Gardner's groundbreaking theory on multiple intelligences, he outlines eight different type of intelligences. The first two, logical-mathematical and linguistic, aptitudes most valued by our society, are no doubt strengths of HBS students.
But what of kinesthetic, interpersonal, musical, naturalist, spatial, perhaps most importantly, existential intelligence — to make meaning of our life — the intelligence to which I believe Dr. Christensen was referring?
Many of us do not have graduate degrees, including myself. Even fewer have degrees from an Ivy League school.
Which is why I found Dr. Christensen's words so encouraging.
Because to be existentially intelligent, even credentialed, we don't need a degree, we just need to know how to ask and answer the really big questions, like — what's our story meant to be? How do we become the hero of our story? The hero of support in others' stories?
Which intelligences do you possess?
Have you ever considered yourself existentially intelligent?
What is your story meant to be?
Will you resolve to be the hero of your story?
And the hero of support in others' stories?