Living in More than One World, How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life
By Bruce Rosenstein
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009
When Peter Drucker died, he was found with his Bible open on the kitchen table. That Peter Drucker was a devoutly spiritual man should come as no surprise to his adherents—Drucker was Episcopalian and his first U.S. professorship was of philosophy at Bennington College. What may be surprising is that Bruce Rosenstein’s interpretation of Drucker in his book, Living in More than One World, takes a secular worldview of life, wherein, if there are more worlds, none are spiritual.
Rosenstein unpacks the wisdom of Peter Drucker for the benefit of today’s business professionals, and, a prodigious amount of wisdom it is. Drucker specifically addresses “the knowledge worker of the 21st century,” a term he minted more than 50 years ago. In the early going, we find such gems as:
- The fabled midlife crisis of executives is mostly boredom.
- A sense of achievement is more important than having a goal, like making a lot of money. He writes: “I’ve known quite a few people whose main goal was to make money . . . And, without exception, they were all utterly miserable. They reached that goal and there was nothing left.”
- You can’t be happy with a mismatch of values between you and the workplace.
- When it comes to human motivation, theories don’t matter but insight is always relevant.
Rosenstein’s book finds its sea legs when addressing the value of more than one vocation, shifting into parallel careers, and building a life that has several dimensions. Drucker’s career was a model of such pursuits; he immersed himself in sociology, philosophy, newspaper reporting, writing (the majority of Drucker’s works were written after he turned 65), and teaching—more on teaching and higher education later. After establishing himself as one the Century’s greatest business thinkers, Drucker became an authority in Japanese art, developing the Sanso Collection, a world leader in the realm. It is in parallel careers that we encounter people from new disciplines, new ways of thinking, new manners of interaction, and ultimately social entrepreneurship as modeled by Bill Gates.
For Drucker, primary and parallel careers rest on the knowledge worker and knowledge work. From the understanding of knowledge emerges the most vital of parallel careers, that of a teacher. Drucker claimed knowledge workers learn the most from teaching and today’s knowledge workers thirst for much more than they are getting. The pre-20th Century world was desperate for information. Today, we are awash, nay drowning, in information in fruitless attempts to transform information into knowledge, if not wisdom. The shifting of business executives and knowledge practitioners into to second careers can help greatly through teaching.
Many of today’s university professors are second careerists, coming from long and seasoned executive experience. They impart not new software tools, but advanced management and leadership skills. And, teaching a class holds new challenges for executives turned teachers. For the length of a semester, a class must be managed, during class time and outside it.
Drucker notes, “Time must be managed well, in class and outside. In today’s environment, teachers increasingly must make themselves available to students . . . Grades must be determined, papers and exams read [Drucker read all of his students’ papers three times before assigning a grade], lesson plans and lectures prepared, and so on. You have to hold each student accountable for attaining the goals of your course.”
To Peter Drucker, teaching and learning were twin disciplines and the key to living in more than one world. A second career can be a learning avocation. Late in life, at age 93 no less, Drucker set on a course to become an expert in Shakespeare, twice reading all of the Bard’s plays as well as Harold Bloom’s literary guide. And, wife Doris earned a physics degree only to invent the voice monitor Visivox by her mid-80s. It takes strong commitment to learning, if not living, to reach late-life achievements like these.
But, what about learning, and growth in the spiritual world? Among Peter Drucker’s enormous study and contributions to wisdom, there are fragmentary spiritual teachings. Can we hope for another Bruce Rosenstein to tease out Peter Drucker’s 1933 profoundly philosophical essay on Kierkegaard (reprinted in 1993, The Ecological Vision: Reflections on the American Condition) and perhaps notes from lectures to assemble Living in Two Worlds, Part II?