No one could have known, on listening to a commencement address, that the speaker was battling demons no one should have to fight, yet he was doing it and the battle was helping him to form ground-breaking insights, answering many questions that have troubled people for many years.
When Dr. Clayton Christensen stood in front of an audience of Harvard Business School graduates two years ago, no one - unless they were very close friends or family - could have known that he was waging a battle that he ultimately won against personal demons.
The key demon he was fighting - a form of cancer that had already claimed his father - set Dr. Christensen on a path of discovery. Indeed, it is funny how a one's battles with demons like cancer or other serious life issues leads one to question even the fundamental assumptions they have made during their lives.
Usually, one finds that the deeper the questioning, the more assuring are the answers one finds, though one can never be 100 percent certain. In Dr. Christensen's case, his battle with cancer, which most of his students and many, if not all of the parents attending the graduation, probably didn't know of the internal battle and daily worries that he faced.
He used the speech as a chance to deliver to his audience, drawing on his own long experience with business, some guidelines that would help those in the audience to find meaning and happiness with their lives. His speech, which was to become the basis of his book "How Will You Measure Your Life?", also describes the stovepipes of negativism one can easily fall into. They are traps that lead to unhappiness and if one finds oneself in them, there is only one sure cure, changing your life so that they are no longer part of your life.
One thing that Dr. Christensen found, as his battle against cancer deepened, was that the question: "How Do You Measure Your Life?" became more and more urgent and he believed it was very important to share his insights with family, friends and students.
His ground-breaking work, a work that forces us to look inward so that we can become more successful looking outward, tries to answer such questions as: "Will my job be satisfying?;" "Will my relationships be enduring?;" "How can I avoid compromising my integrity?"
Dr. Christensen, who did beat his demon, may find that his work could be seminal as more and more people look at their lives and try to determine whether the course they have chosen or may be choosing is the right one? At the very least, Dr. Christensen's work will help to ensure everyone from a freshman to long-term professionals to the freshman's parents - who are dealing with their own life issues - that the choices they have made are the right ones and, if they are still dealing with issues, Dr. Christensen's work will likely point them in the right direction.