2006年的一天，在哈佛商学院（Harvard Business School）开创了著名创业课程的霍华德·史蒂文森教授在哈佛校园中走路时突发严重心脏病。幸运的是，他倒下的地方附近就有一栋大楼备有心脏除颤器（整个哈佛校园只有两栋建筑备有除颤器），而且恰好有一个人知道如何使用除颤器，还把除颤器拿到了他身旁。不仅如此，那一天正好有一辆邮政速递车驶过附近，而且两英里外就有一家非常好的医院。于是，这位66岁的教授在鬼门关走了一遭又回来了。一位医生说，“这种事发生的几率只有百分之一”。
这就是辛诺威（与美林·米德合著）的新书《霍华德的礼物》（Howard's Gift）的由来，发人深省。这就像是写给MBA学生的《相约星期二》（Tuesdays With Morrie）。这本书的长处在于，它不像很多这一类的大部头书那样试图灌输过于简单或浅显易见的建议，而是通过深入的对话，探讨真实职场问题和追求令人满意事业的不同途径，史蒂文森称之为“一生的工作”。
Howard Stevenson,a professor who started the now-legendary entrepreneurship program at the Harvard Business School, was walking through Harvard's campus one day when he suffered a massive heart attack. Luck had it that he fell to the ground near one of only two university buildings that had a defibrillator and that someone who knew how to use it just happened to be there to bring it to his side. Not only that, an EMS vehicle that day was driving nearby and an excellent hospital was only two miles away. The 66-year old survived -- as one doctor put it: "a one-out-of-100 chance."
When a friend, Eric Sinoway, visited the professor in the hospital, he asked him whether he had regretted anything in his life. Besides ruining his favorite sports coat during his fall, Stevenson said "not a one." This made Sinoway, the founder and CEO of the consulting firm Axcess Worldwide and, at the time of Stevenson's heart attack, a fundraiser at Harvard, realize that he had almost missed a huge opportunity. Over the years, Stevenson and Sinoway had spent hours talking about life, careers, family, and entrepreneurship; if Stevenson hadn't made it on that fateful day in 2006, Sinoway would have missed a chance not only to thank the older man for all his sage advice but also to record his ideas so others could benefit.
That was the genesis of Howard's Gift, Sinoway's new, thought-provoking book (written with Merrill Meadow). Think of it as Tuesdays With Morrie for MBAs. The strength of this book is that it doesn't try to hit you over the head with over-simplified or obvious advice, like so many other tomes in this genre. Instead, you follow in-depth conversations that delve into real-life career issues and use them to subtly examine different ways to achieve a satisfying path -- pursuing what Stevenson calls your "life's work."
Adding a few additional layers to work-life balance
Stevenson, writes Sinoway, scowls at the term "work-life balance," arguing that it's much too simplistic. He likens one's life to "juggling an egg, a tennis ball and a knife while walking on a balance beam -- at the Olympics." He says we all struggle to live at least seven lives: the family self, the social self, the spiritual self, the physical self, the material self, the avocational self, and the career self.
Most of us, Stevenson argues, try to get an A+ in each of these categories -- a noble pursuit, but one that inevitably leads to burnout. As one entrepreneur quoted in the book said, "I wake up every morning wondering who I'm going to disappoint today." Life is a dynamic process where one is constantly making choices and compromises among those seven selves. The trick, Stevenson says, is to constantly assess which groups take priority at different points of your life, and then shift the emphasis as your situation changes.
To know where to place the emphasis among your seven selves, you have to figure out what's important to you at various stages of life. At one point, Sinoway tells Stevenson about a friend of his, a successful entrepreneur who had sold his company for a large sum of money. He had managed to lead a life where he balanced work, family, and his golf game, and was at a point where he could do anything he desired -- but he still felt lost.