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Clayton Christensen's new book 'How Will You Measure Your Life?' generates unique buzz from major publications

Published: Friday, May 11 2012 3:56 p.m. MDT

Clayton Christensen is a Harvard business professor and Salt Lake City native who is an active Mormon.

Evgenia Eliseeva, Eve Photograph

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It isn't every day an interview in Forbes explores the nature of God. But it isn't every day that Forbes talks to Clayton Christensen.

Christensen, the famous Harvard business professor, has made a living out of doing and writing about the unexpected: innovations that strike companies between the eyes and knock them flat, counterintuitive ways of framing questions that change how people see the business world and small, ignored competitors that bury industry giants.

Now with a new book set for release Tuesday, Christensen is again doing the unexpected — talking about the deepest implications of his Mormon faith with publications like Forbes, The New Yorker, The Financial Times and Businessweek.

And he is only getting started.

With his book, "How Will You Measure Your Life?" co-written with James Allworth and Karen Dillon, Christensen is being sought for profiles as never before. So far, the book is generating overwhelmingly positive reviews and has even been identified by CNBC as one of its 12 most anticipated books of 2012.

And it is giving Christensen an opportunity to talk about his work, life and faith.

Forbes' Bruce Upbin wrote a short article and posted two videos of a conversation he recently had with Christensen.

Upbin called the book "one of the more surprisingly powerful books of personal philosophy of the 21st century.

"Christensen makes a great point in his book about how hard it can be to commit to doing the work of studying and clarifying your core values, whatever they may be," Upbin wrote in a comment. "By honing his kindness, forgiveness, honesty and selflessness, he's built a foundation that helps him know the right thing to do in all cases."

In the first Forbes video, Upbin tells Christensen, "It's a very different book than your other books."

Christensen responds by saying, "In the scriptures, we are told you can't really understand happiness unless you understand sadness. You don't know pleasure if you don't know pain. It's part of life. So can you learn something from somebody who has gone from success to success to success? I don't think so. It has to be somebody who has failed and failed and succeeded and succeeded."

Christensen talks about how people get off track in life, how to be a better spouse and how children need to work.

In the second Forbes video, Christensen explains why atheism is a religion. He also takes on the alleged conflict between religion and science by explaining a "restored" concept of God shows he is in the universe — not outside it.

"And his power comes because he understands all of the laws of the universe perfectly," Christensen said. "And so he can do all of these things, not because he is outside of the universe, but he is within it and he understands it. And so if that is your view of God, then if you learn something that is true, it helps you become more like God. And there's actually not a conflict between science and religion if you view God in that way."

Not your usual Forbes fare.

And not your usual The New Yorker fare either.

However, Larissa MacFarquhar writes about Clayton Christensen in the magazine and talked about Christensen in an online forum.

"On the one hand, Christensen's faith is extremely important to him, and so is the Mormon community, so that is a large part of his life," says MacFarquhar. "He lives in Belmont, a suburb of Boston, in which there is a small Mormon community (including Mitt Romney) and a Mormon temple.

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