Peter Drucker is known as the “father of modern management.” His business writings remain widely read and highly influential six years after his death at age 95. Yet even Drucker’s disciples might not realize that the famed guru was an expert in life management as well as business management. What can we learn about succeeding in life from the man who taught the world so much about succeeding in business? Bottom Line/Personal asked Bruce Rosenstein, author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, to identify three of Drucker’s core life strategies…

Strategy 1: Live in more than one world

Most people assume that the best way to achieve success in any one area is to devote themselves completely to that area. Devote all of your energies to your career… your family… or your favorite cause… and the odds of a positive outcome in that area seem certain.

Drucker strongly cautioned against such single-minded focus. He recommended that everyone find at least one interest outside his/her primary area, then expand that secondary pursuit into more than just a hobby. Example: Drucker devoted considerable time to the study of Japanese art. He even taught college courses on the subject.

Drucker noted that people who have just one goal or one passion tend to wind up unhappy for several reasons…

  • If you have just one interest, your circle of friends and allies is likely to be very limited. That’s unfortunate, because having lots of friends is highly correlated with happiness… and having lots of allies means more open doors, increasing your odds of success.
  • Having only one goal leaves no fallback position should you be dealt a setback. Example: Devote yourself completely to a political cause, and you will feel crushed if the vote goes against you.
  • People with multiple interests tend to spend less time ruminating over mistakes and missed chances. Obsessing over failures only reduces the odds of future success.
  • A single-minded person tends to feel like a failure unless he/she is 100% successful in his focus area — and total success is rare. Example: Anything short of reaching a desired spot in a company can feel like failure to someone who has devoted his life entirely to his career.
  • Outside interests provide unique viewpoints, which can increase the odds of success in one’s area of primary interest. Example: Drucker found that studying Japanese art gave him insight into Japanese culture, which helped him find perspective on — and gain influence in — the Japanese business community.
  • Strategy 2: Choose a nonfinancial primary goal

    Peter Drucker observed that most of the people he knew whose life goal was to make lots of money did, in fact, make lots of money. But Drucker also saw that despite their wealth, most of these people were miserable.

    Drucker was not opposed to wealth. He simply believed that there never is a true sense of satisfaction when wealth is the main motivator of achievement. Set out to earn $1 million, and you probably won’t feel successful when you do it — you’ll decide you need even more money… or wonder why money doesn’t make you feel fulfilled.

    Drucker thought a better goal was to leave something of value behind when you’re gone. You could leave behind…

  • A happy, loving family that will continue to be happy thanks to your positive example.
  • A history of treating everyone you meet with respect, encouraging them to treat others with respect, too.
  • A profitable company that will continue to provide employment and products or services after you retire.
  • If you’re not certain what you can leave, spend some time teaching, mentoring or volunteering with a charity. These are among the surest ways to feel you have created a worthwhile legacy.

    Added benefits: Teachers and mentors tend to improve their own mastery of the material… while volunteers benefit from a halo effect — others view them more positively because of their public service, increasing the volunteer’s odds of success in all aspects of life.

    Strategy 3: Know and develop your core competencies

    In 1990, a pair of management experts named C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel coined the phrase “core competencies.” The crux of their idea was that a company should focus on the things that it does better than its competitors. This philosophy has been widely adopted in the business world.

    What few realize is that Drucker advanced a similar idea more than a quarter century earlier, only he called it “strengths analysis.” This strategy works just as well for individuals as for companies. Three ways to put strengths analysis to work in your life…

  • Abandon whatever isn’t working. Regularly question your habits, your hobbies, your relationships, your projects and your time commitments. For each, ask, Would I start this again today knowing what I know now? If the answer is no, end it or at least scale it back — your time is better spent elsewhere.
  • Drucker disagreed with the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” He advised, “If at first you don’t succeed, try once more, and then try something else.” Example: Drucker published two novels. Neither succeeded, so he never wrote fiction again.

  • Engage in ongoing self-reflection. Consider what you expected to happen in the past year… what actually happened… and if those two answers differed, why they differed. This analysis could point you toward areas where your abilities are greater than you realize — or away from areas where your abilities are less than you think.
  • Focus forward. People get too caught up in day-to-day tasks and activities. They don’t spend enough time focusing on future opportunities and how to make those opportunities happen.
  • Our future is more important than the distractions and errands that absorb much of our time in the present. Do not treat the future as a low priority just because it has not yet arrived.

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