Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life

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9781576759684: Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life
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For business legend Peter Drucker, the secret to a truly meaningful life was thriving in more than one world—having a diverse set of interests, activities, and pursuits. Drucker managed this despite extraordinary demands on his time. In this inspiring book, journalist and Drucker scholar Bruce Rosenstein reveals how, by following the key principles Drucker lived and taught, you can build a multifaceted life and career for yourself. Replete with all the tools you need to follow Drucker’s example, Living in MoreThan One World is the next best thing to being personally mentored by the man himself.

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About the Author:

Bruce Rosenstein is a journalist and research librarian. He was with USA Today, in McLean, Virginia, for twenty-one years, until the final stages of writing Living in More Than One World. He was the “embedded Librarian” in the News section, and regularly wrote about business and management books for the newspaper’s Money section.
He wrote about and interviewed Peter Drucker extensively for USA Today, and wrote a series of columns about him in 2001–2002 for Information Outlook, the publication of the Special Libraries Association/SLA. He has studied Drucker’s work for more than twenty years.
In addition to USA Today and Information Outlook, Bruce has written for such publications as Leader to Leader, ON- LINE, Library Journal, News Library News, and ARSC Journal, a music publication. He scripted and selected the recordings for a weekly rock music radio program heard worldwide on e Voice of America, from 1974 to 1988.
He is also a lecturer in the Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science, in Washington, D.C.
Bruce has a BA in Communications from the American University in Washington, D.C., and an MSLS from the Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Designing Your Total Life

The—I wouldn’t say happy people but satisfied, contented—people I knew were more people that lived in more than one world. Those single-minded people—you meet them most in politics—in the end are very unhappy people.1

On the morning of April 11, 2005, seven months to the day before he died at the age of ninety-five, Peter Drucker told me something that riveted me. I was interviewing him in Claremont, California, on the campus of the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. With cameras whirring in the background, we videotaped the interview. As I listened to his responses, the phrase “total life” popped into my head. I remarked to him: “What I think I’m hearing from you, at least partially, is that one needs to look at one’s total life, one’s family, friends, one’s various organizations, and perhaps not be too focused on any one thing.”

It was then that he gave me the answer, quoted above, that became the cornerstone of this book. He added that there is little room at the pinnacle, and it is difficult to last long at the top. The answer is to spread out your time and talents on more than one activity, and to live and work among different groups of people, so that you are not overly reliant on any one thing for your happiness, sense of worth, and so on.

This seemingly simple idea has myriad implications. For example, if you have a setback in one area it won’t destroy you. But the idea goes deeper. By living in more than one world, you constantly meet different people who can enrich your life. You learn more about how other people think, live, and work. You can gain different insights into yourself as a person. You become a more multidimensional person who is not overly dependent on any one particular area of life. You consider life not as a series of compartments, but as an ongoing series of activities, achievements, and commitments that give you a sense of meaning and fulfillment.

Peter Drucker drew strength, energy, and a sense of fulfillment from his three-pronged career: writing, teaching, and consulting. He had a wide circle of friends and professional contacts worldwide. He was a valued mentor to many former students and others. He wrote about and consulted for organizations in both the business and nonprofit worlds. The example of his work and life make him a great role model for today’s knowledge workers, who feel overworked and out of control. In this chapter, we’ll consider some the benefits and challenges of living in more than one world, and look at some of Drucker’s bedrock principles that will help us lead more multifaceted lives.

The Knowledge Worker

No one but the knowledge workers themselves can come to grips with the question of what in work, job performance, social status, and pride constitutes the personal satisfaction that makes a knowledge worker feel that she contributes, performs, serves her values, and fulfills herself.2

IN THE LATE 1950s, toward the end of the Eisenhower era and before the profound changes in society of the 1960s, Drucker identified a new class—the knowledge worker—which he defined as people who work with what they know and can learn and who thus own and control their own means of production. Their knowledge is portable and not dependent on any particular employer or industry.

He saw the coming shift away from manual or unskilled work to the type of work we do more with our brains than our hands. He had the foresight to see ahead of time the often-painful changes in the economy as it moved from a dependence on manufacturing jobs to knowledge-based work. He alluded to this change in making a reference to his 1946 book Concept of the Corporation, which was based on an intimate, two-year look at the inside activities of General Motors: “The automobile factory, which I knew and studied during World War II and shortly afterwards, is gone. That today is a number of computerized work stations.”3

Some contemporary examples of knowledge workers are people in the computer and information technology industries, teachers, doctors and other health-care professionals, scientists, lawyers, librarians, clergy, and people who work in the media. The concept of the knowledge worker is a powerful one, because it isn’t tied to one definition or one group of people. The work of all people in this category has become even more crucial since Drucker articulated the concept, long before the era of personal computers, the Internet, and the World Wide Web.

Although managers were the ostensible audience for most of his books, Drucker had a following beyond management, and his work and ideas are too important to be appreciated only by managers. The 2008 publication of his Management: Revised Edition (the update of the “bible” of his books, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, originally published in 1973) showed an emphasis on the individual knowledge worker that had been absent from the original book. The last part of the book is entitled “New Demands on the Individual,” beginning with the chapter “Managing Oneself.”

ASK YOURSELF

What knowledge do I apply to work? If I work in more than one job, do I apply different knowledge to each?

Beginning with his first book, The End of Economic Man, in 1939, and continuing for the next three decades, Drucker in his books focused more on business organizations and societal issues than individuals; the major exception was his classic from 1967, The Effective Executive. Even this had a business orientation, with an emphasis on how executives could run organizations not just efficiently but effectively. Doing the wrong thing efficiently is counterproductive. Yet beginning with The Age of Discontinuity in 1969, more space in his books was explicitly given over to the development of the individual as he began to flesh out the concept of the knowledge worker. In that book, he writes, “Today the center is the knowledge worker, the man or woman who applies to productive work ideas, concepts, and information rather than manual skill or brawn.”4 At the time it was first published, many more people were going to college and computers were becoming more sophisticated. The seeds of the Internet were planted in the same year the book was published. Microsoft was formed not long after, in 1975, and the early years of personal computers helped further the concept of the knowledge worker. Today it is difficult to think back to the late 1960s and see just how radical this idea really was.

DRUCKER’S LIFE AND WORK

One reason Drucker’s ideas resonate so powerfully for knowledge workers is that he is a perfect prototype of the species. For many years, he lived a complex life, juggling multiple careers as a successful teacher, writer, and consultant, and made it work. He thought through his own contributions, and said it was important for his readers to be thoughtful about their own lives. His writing evolved, and he kept up with world events and remained relevant and sought-after deep into old age. He wrote not just about management, for which he is best known, but about society in general.

Peter Drucker’s Extraordinary Life

Here I am, 58, and I still don’t know what I am going to do when I grow up. My children and their spouses think I am kidding when I say that, but I am not. Nobody tells them that life is not that categorized.5

WE CAN’T IMITATE THE details of Peter Drucker’s extraordinary life, but we can be guided by them. The outlines of his personal story are fascinating yet daunting. He and his wife, Doris Drucker—a remarkable person whom we’ll meet later in this book—were married for sixty-eight years, with four children and six grandchildren. He published more than forty books and hundreds of newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. He was a longtime columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and often contributed to such prestigious publications as the Atlantic Monthly and the Harvard Business Review. In 2002, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

From 1971 until his death in 2005, he taught at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California, although he stopped teaching formal classes in 2002. The school was named after him in 1987, and the name of Ito, a major benefactor and admirer of Drucker, was added in 2004. As mentioned in the preface, Drucker was an in-demand consultant for both corporations and nonprofit organizations.

ASK YOURSELF

What patterns do I see in the outlines of Drucker’s life? How could I apply any of them to my own life now, or soon?

In these details, we can see the outlines of what made him so successful, and how we can emulate him. He built variety into his life by working with different types of organizations and people. His distinct worlds complemented one another, so that what he learned in one area he could apply in another. His experience in working with organizations would inevitably find its way into the pages of his books and articles. Drucker had a wide range of friends from the worlds of business, nonprofits, academia, and the arts. There is nothing stopping us from cultivating a similar group of talented and diverse people who are a regular part of our lives.

DRUCKER’S LIFE AND WORK

Drucker kept in contact with many of his former students long after they graduated. Many phoned or visited him, and many more saw him at Founder’s Day, the alumni gathering each November at the Drucker-Ito School. Until the final years of his life, he would randomly pick names of former students and call them to see how they were doing. He also asked them if, in retrospect, the school had been effective in their education.

Multiple Worlds, and Beginning Your Total Life List

What matters is that the knowledge worker, by the time he or she reaches middle age, has developed and nourished a human being rather than a tax accountant or a hydraulic engineer. Otherwise, a few years later, tax accounting or hydraulic engineering will become awfully stale and boring.6

SELF-DEVELOPMENT IS AN IMPORTANT theme in Drucker’s books, even if it’s not the one for which he is best known. When he advised managers, he was careful to say that the individual manager must develop as a whole person, and the same goes for the people he or she manages. In the upcoming chapters of this book we’ll consider what constitutes your core competencies—the things you do with a sense of excellence and workmanship—that represent the best of what’s inside you. We’ll also explore what other activities fit in with this core sense of excellence. This means possibly finding a parallel career to what you are now doing, a type of work that may one day become your new core. We’ll also look at the importance of continuous learning, which kept Drucker’s mind active and alert for so many years.

ASK YOURSELF

Is there a mentor or a friend I could contact now who could give me ideas on how to add more multidimensionality to my life? Is there someone I could contact to offer assistance in defining life goals or priorities to explore new directions?

Closely allied to learning is the power of teaching. There are many benefits to adding teaching to the mix of your life. As Drucker said, you can learn a lot from your students besides what you teach them. A student has a unique personality and set of life experiences and skills that can be quite illuminating. As Drucker often pointed out, teaching something is often the best way to really learn a subject well. Teaching may well turn out to be an ideal parallel career, as well as a form of volunteerism—for instance, if you volunteer as a teacher in a church or other religious institution.

Another way to live in more than one world and increase your multidimensionality is through the concept of generosity. For many people, this means volunteering in nonprofit organizations. More people are also starting nonprofits, using skills they learned in a previous or parallel career, and becoming social entrepreneurs. For some people, generosity means becoming a servant leader, in either for-profit or nonprofit organizations. Servant leaders put the needs of their followers ahead of their own, and make sure that they have the tools to accomplish their mission. For still others, generosity means mentoring. Also key to living a holistic life is having serious outside interests that provide a sense of fun, enjoyment, and fulfillment.

To consider your total life, and figure out ways to develop a different, improved life, start by giving yourself an honest reality check of where things stand now. Begin by brainstorming to determine the sum total of your life, listing the people with whom you associate, and your various work and nonwork activities. You can also broaden it to include future goals and aspirations for people and activities in your life. “The effective people I know,” Drucker said, “simply discipline themselves to have enough time for thinking.”7 This kind of self-assessment can be a challenge, but Drucker believed that thinking was hard work, which is why many people either devalued it or rarely did it seriously. We’ll start on this at the end of this chapter in the exercise called “Hints for Creating Your Total Life List.” It will be an ongoing activity throughout the book, and something you can continue creating long after you have finished reading.

DRUCKER’S LIFE AND WORK

In Drucker’s life, many of his outside interests, such as his appreciation of art and music and love of literature and history, found their way into his writing and teaching. He was a recognized expert on Japanese art, and taught this subject for several years at Pomona College while he was also teaching management.

The Benefit to Others

Knowledge workers therefore need to develop, preferably while they are still young, a noncompetitive life and community of their own, and some serious outside interest—be it working as a volunteer in the community, playing in the local orchestra, or taking an active part in a small town’s local government.8

LIVING IN MORE THAN one world can be an excellent strategy for many professionals. Consider each possibility in a variety of dimensions. Think continually of your options, while being mindful of possible pitfalls and drawbacks. This kind of life is rewarding, but it takes time and effort. There will inevitably be periods of frustration, but you’d have those anyway if you were living in just one world.

ASK YOURSELF

Who benefits from what I do in my work? Who are some other people I can serve in some way in my present job or through volunteer work?

There are many advantages to adding other dimensions to your life. Drucker often pointed out that you could obtain leadership opportunities and experience that might not be available in your present job by volunteering in a nonprofit organization. You can combine leadership opportunities with work-related fulfillment by pursuing leadership positions within professional organizations related to your work. If you have more than one dimension to your work with a parallel career, you have multiple chances for these kinds of positions. Professional organizations are often desperate for people who will take the lead in committees, annual conferences, and so on. You can develop yourself as a person and as a professional while giving back to your profession and helping others.

DRUCKER’S LIFE AND WORK

The more worlds you inhabit, the more networking opportunities you have. The complementary nature of some of these worlds can be ...

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