Staying out of prison? Odd but good advice

Part of the New Guinea Commerce Winners Don’t Cheat Series.

By Sean Jacobs

Clayton Christensen, the Harvard innovation expert, wrote an insightful speech a few years ago titled ‘How will you measure your life?’

Christensen, with unique perspective and a strong business mind, prompts his Harvard Business School (HBS) students with three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

This last question, he says, is far from flippant. ‘Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class,’ he notes, ‘spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.’

It’s not hard to see people of iron will and heroic achievement – the Lance Armstrongs, David Petraeus’ or Tiger Woods’ of the world – possessing obvious flaws in their character. In their own lives, too, young Australians will notice people who, even though having fine attributes and sound achievements, run into similar bother.

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