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Drucker on Self-Management: Pursue Multiple Interests

Management guru Peter Drucker, who died in 2005 at age 95, was not only a teacher, consultant, and prolific writer, but a world traveler and expert in Japanese art who believed his widely varying interests enriched everything he did. In his book, Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, author Bruce Rosenstein distills self-management wisdom from his interviews with Drucker as well as Drucker’s extensive writings. Here’s an excerpt: 

Knowledge workers … 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.
—Peter Drucker with Joseph A. Maciariello, Management: Revised Edition, 2008

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.

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 professiona and helping others.

Drucker said that a key reason for seeking out more responsible positions in a nonprofit organization was the chance to be a more important person, whose work really mattered. This is important not just for the knowledge worker, but also for his and her family. It adds to a sense of self-worth and self-respect. Such work can also be more fulfilling than your daily job, because you can see the results of your labor more easily, and it aids the cause of your own choosing. Another important factor is that different sides of your personality and talents are elicited by the different dimensions in your life.

There are other tangible advantages to living in more than one world:

  • You live more fully in the present while preparing for the future, but not being obsessed by it. By living in multiple dimensions, you’ll have less time to ruminate on mistakes and regrets of the past, and you’ll know that some of your actions are being taken to create your future life.
  • By being multidimensional, you’ll strengthen your sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. You’ll focus on spending time on activities and people that contribute to these areas.
  • You deliberately choose activities that help make a positive difference in the lives of other people.
  • And, as a bonus, you’ll rarely be bored!

Drucker had a strong humanistic streak. By putting the spotlight on others, by showing his interest in them, by his concern for the outside world in all its forms, he made himself a better person throughout his life. These activies also helped keep him relevant until the end of his long life. His routine and sincere expressions of gratitude to others were also noteworthy. Most of us have many things for which to be thankful, and the people we encounter rarely receive the thanks that are often due.

Excerpted from Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, by Bruce Rosenstein. Copyright © 2009 by Bruce Rosenstein. Reprinted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, California. All rights reserved.

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