Friday Book Club: Living in More Than One World

October 2, 2020

Friday Book Club: Living in More Than One World

May 29, 2023

One of my greatest regrets is never meeting management theorist Peter Drucker who died just before his 96th birthday in 2005. Why do I admire Peter? Let me count the ways:

  • He turned management theory into a reputable science and had a profound impact on global organizational leadership for the past eighty years.
  • He believed past leaders knew how to tell, but future leaders will need to know how to ask. Questions are more important than directives, unless you’re in the military.
  • He presciently suggested in 1959 that the world would be ruled by “knowledge workers” which he defined as people who work with what they know (and how they create insight out of data) and can learn and who thus own and control their own means of production. Before it became fashionable forty years later with Fast Company magazine, Drucker suggested we are a freelance nation.
  • He wrote about the portability and mobility of knowledge in 1967 (think “digital nomad”). He also realized that knowledge is portable, but also perishable while wisdom is inherent and evergreen to who you are as a human.
  • He wrote ⅔ of his 40 books after the age of 65. He also wrote a couple of novels that got little attention, but it demonstrated his growth mindset for being open to trying new things.
  • Until the final years of his life, he would randomly pick names of former business school students and call them to see how they were doing as he thought he could learn as much from them as they would from him.
  • He habitually chose to learn a new topic every two to three that had nothing to do with his career as a means of priming his mind, heart and soul with curiosity.

I also believe Drucker was an early role model for what it means to be a “modern elder,” who is as curious as they are wise. The world’s leading expert on Drucker is Bruce Rosenstein who wrote this book (with a subtitle “How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life” and also wrote “Creating Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward Focused Mindset”). While this particular book “Living in More Than One World” is relatively elementary for a Drucker addict, it’s one of the best ways to understand how to apply his leadership principles to life in general. In tandem with “The Effective Executive” and “The Essential Drucker,” this would provide a mini-MBA in life.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the book:

  • The title of the book comes from Drucker’s premise that a successful and effective life requires “living in more than one world” which is part of the reason he studied so many diverse subjects from Japanese art to classical music to medieval war strategies. He believed in the power of metaphor and saw that this openness to disparate sources revealed epiphanies that struck only because he’d become more holistic in his thinking. He would have been an amazing dinner party guest!
  • “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.” You never know what may come from investing in yourself as a human focusing on endeavors, in my case, like writing and speaking which ultimately liberated me from my job as the long-time CEO of my boutique hotel company.
  • He was a big fan of finding “think time” as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have popularized. “The effective people I know simply discipline themselves to have enough time for thinking.” He also did an annual review of himself, including focusing on his biggest lessons of the year.
  • He believed deeply in the value of generosity and legacy. When he was a boy in Germany, he said, “When I was thirteen, I had an inspiring teacher of religion, who one day went right through the class of boys asking each one, “What do you want to be remembered for?”
  • Drucker believed you needed to prepare for the second half of life quite intentionally. He was an early advocate of lifelong learning (I wish I could ask him about his opinion of “long life learning”). Rosenstein, the author, offers a variety of questions to the reader throughout the book including: “If I were to design the perfect university class (open to anyone over twenty-two) on creating a satisfying second half of life, what would I like to learn from it? If I had my choice of anyone in the world to speak to my class, who are some of the people I would choose, and what specifically would I hope to learn from them?

As much as I admire Drucker, I also think it’s time we retire his term “knowledge worker” since the world is awash in knowledge all accessible on your iPhone. Oh, how I wish I could ask him his perspective on the emergence of “wisdom workers” and how they will influence our future!

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