Karen Dillon has been named one of the Most Influential Women by the Ashoka Changemakers Foundation. Now she shares her secrets to achieving happiness in her professional and personal life. Influenced by the advice of Harvard Business Professor, Clay Christensen, Karen helped co-write his novel, How Will You Measure Your Life?, along with her colleague Harvard Business Review writer, James Allworth.
Here’s her advice for how you can find and follow your passions.
Was there someone who encouraged you no matter what?
My dad always encouraged my sister, brother and I. He wanted us to follow our dreams and find what would make us happy. I took this very seriously. I still have the sticky note he left me when I graduated: “Live your Dreams. Love, Dad.” That’s what I’ve tried to do.
What influenced you to co-write, How Will You Measure Your Life? What was the experience like?
It was an interesting turn of events. I was in my mid-40’s and a close friend had just died from cancer. I was at this place in my life where I asked, “What’s it all about?” I had recently interviewed Clay Christensen for an article. After I left his office, my whole life changed. It made me question: What was I achieving in my life? A year later I figured out what to do. I quit my job as an HBR editor and began working on the book.
How did your interview with Clay turn your life around?
He told me the 3 questions he always asks his students:
- How will you find happiness in your professional life?
- How will you find happiness in your personal life?
- How will you stay out of jail?
I had two little girls who didn’t realize that they were the most important people in my life. I decided to shift my priorities and decided to be a full-time mom and a part-time editor, and I’ve been very happy because of it.
What advice would you give your younger self, who’s just starting out?
The same advice I give my children:
- You can’t make a mistake if you choose a job that makes you happy. Build your choices around that.
- Don’t make your decisions based on what your parents want or what pays the most. Find something that has meaning to you.
- “If you love the work you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Finding and following your passion is the only way to achieve career happiness.
-Monica Wahid, Intern