Peter Drucker’s Transformative Wisdom in Bruce Rosenstein’s “Living in More Than One World”
December 29, 2010
The blizzard that belted and bleached the Northeast the day after Christmas, stranded me in a house by a frozen pond in Massachusetts— and gave me the chance to read Bruce Rosenstein’s “Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life.”
The book, published in 2009, four years after Drucker’s death, at 95, is a synthesizing primer on the wisdom of the man considered the father of modern management and how his insights can be applied to the management of our individual lives. It’s valuable reading before preparing one’s New Year’s resolutions, or resolutions vowed any time of year.
Rosenstein, who teaches at Catholic University and worked for 21 years as a librarian and researcher embedded in the news section at USA Today (where, full disclosure, we were colleagues in the 1990s) is proud to have reduced Drucker’s vast cannon to “the self-help book that Drucker never wrote.”
Why shouldn’t he be?
Rosenstein, whose many interviews and articles about Drucker appeared in USA Today’s Money section, is an affectionate admirer, and he offers a handy, interactive guidebook to creating a multi-dimensional life.
“The—I wouldn’t say happy people but satisfied, contented people I knew were more people that lived in more than one world,” Drucker told Rosenstein in their final interview on April 11, 2005. “Those single-minded people— you meet them most in politics— in the end are very unhappy people.”
Rosenstein distills Drucker’s thought into a simple but profound roadmap for improving our lives and work. Rendered to its essence, Drucker’s advice: live a multi-faceted life.
“This seemingly simple idea has myriad implications,” Rosenstein writes. “For example, if you have a setback in one area it won’t destroy you. But the idea does deeper… 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.”
Interestingly, it is precisely that kind of diversification of learning and activity that neuroscientists now believe is the hallmark of cognitive reserve that helps our brains withstand the insults of such neurological disease as Alzheimer’s.
Drucker himself was an exemplar of the multi-dimensional man.
In the business world, the Vienna-born Drucker was revered for his management theory, his penetrating studies of organizations like General Motors, and his predictions of the growth of the Japanese economy.
He was also a beloved teacher, a recognized expert on Japanese art, an inexhaustibly generous pro-bono advisor to non-profit organizations, and an ever-ready mentor to former students. He was a regular swimmer and, until his knees gave out, an avid mountain hiker. He wrote 40 books, the majority of them after the age of 65.
In the age of the “knowledge worker”—a term Drucker coined in the late 1950s when he predicted the shift away from manual and skilled labor to portable work dependent what we know—he believed we would be best served by creating and living a “total life.”
Visionary that he was, Drucker predicted that living a “total life” would be critical to cushioning our careers and identities against the evaporation of the organizations that employ us. He viewed teaching, volunteering to the benefit of others, and continual learning as essential components in that diversification. He also advocated preparing early for a new career in the second half of life. To do so, he urged people to develop parallel careers while still engaged in their first by leveraging their experience and knowledge in novel ways.
With obvious affection and admiration for Drucker, Rosenstein’s book coaches the reader in preparing a “Total Life List” as a practical way of creating a life with many dimensions and acquiring the ingredients for a long life of true fulfillment.