Managing Oneself

Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker is a short booklet (monograph I think) on how to live a good and productive life. It provides some ways of thinking about how to manage your own life (vs being lived/going with the Flow).

Read: 1x | First: February 2021

Finding Your Strength

We are often clueless about what our strengths are. Drucker advises to write down what you expected to happen at a key decision, and then to review that. Or in other words, to make a prediction and see which predictions came true, finding your strengths.

From this feedback analysis, he finds several implications:

  1. Concentrate on your strengths, where they can produce results
  2. Work on improving your strengths, fill the gaps in your knowledge
  3. Find where you’re ignorant, and work on this to enable your strength to really shine

Applied: I do monthly and quarterly OKRs (Measure What Matters) where I also make predictions on what I will do. Although this has less to do with decisions, it allows me to plan what to work on and identify what needs to change to realize it.

The last point also made me think about your personality/skills as described in the Early Retirement Extreme. Here, from memory, I think the author described your personality to be a T-shape (or inverted T-shape). One where you are ok in many skills (vs being bad) and very good at only one skill.

This is not to say that you should focus your energy everywhere (or nowhere as there is limited time). No, you should work only on those things that help you improve your strength. 1) execute your strengths, 2) improve them, 3) remove blockages.

What Environment Allows me to Perform Well

So, how do I perform? Is the next question in the booklet. Here Drucker proposes a few different ways of working. The first is ‘reader vs listener’. How do you ingest knowledge to make decisions? The second is the way you learn (e.g. writing, speaking, sketching). The third is your style/level of cooperation, do you work well together or prefer to work alone? The fourth is a distinction between advising and leading/making decisions.

Why ask these questions? Because you’re unlikely to change yourself, but you can choose the environment you’re working in. To find an environment where you thrive, not one where you have to go against your instincts all the time.

Applied: I’m definitely a reader and in work thrive by reading something and then (slowly) exploring those ideas (vs directly responding). And I’m a writer, learning by trying to explain something (meta: as I’m doing here). I like to work together, at a distance, and cooperate with many people whilst having long stretches of time to work on my own. In those relationships, I like to be the leader/decision-maker. And I like to work in small organizations (start-ups) in a somewhat structured environment.

Your Values

What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?” This is what Drucker has dubbed the mirror test, and it shows you something about your values.

This part of the booklet goes deeper into the values or worldview that you bring into work. This can be a long-term vision vs short-term profits, or values around work-life balance that you have.

Your values and strengths don’t always align. For Drucker this resulted in him leaving his financial job (during the Great Depression) and started building his consulting business.

Applied: I value understanding above most other things. Money is something that can enable this, but isn’t a goal in itself. Transparency, honesty, speed of execution, trust, using thinking tools, being critical, are some of the other values/words that come to mind. In time, I should have more on this on the ‘Me‘ page.

Where to take your Strengths, Performance, and Values?

Drucker posits that not many gifted people know where they belong before their late twenties. By knowing what you’re good at, you can become better at knowing where you don’t belong. And it allows you to better say no to opportunities that look good on paper, but don’t match with you specifically.

Applied: I know that my skills won’t do (that) well within large organizations. I love my freedom (to spend my time where I want it) too much. I also wouldn’t do well if I had to work on something that doesn’t have much value to add to the world (e.g. improving the flavour of biscuit X).

What Should I Contribute?

The answer to this question should address three elements.

  1. What does the situation/environment require?
  2. Given my strengths/performance/values how can I add the most? (unique contribution)
  3. What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

Drucker further specifies that the results you plan for can only be 18 months into the future, should be hard to achieve (stretch goals), but still within reach. The results should be meaningful, make a difference, visible, and measurable. Or, to put it in 21st-century lingo, to be SMART goals.

Applied: Currently my goals are related to building out Blossom. Here my competitive advantage is my ability to build something from nothing. And to execute on that vision and build. I have recruited a small team which I will expand, as I will do with the resources. I know that I’m not the best at promotion and should find someone else to help with that part. The results that need to be achieved are the completion of the database and then to add new features. This then needs to be used by everyone from researchers to legislators and help them move the field forward faster.

Building Responsible Relationships

You’re almost never working alone. The first thing about working with others is that you should know they are different (values, strengths, etc). The second lesson is that you should ask them what they are doing and how they do their work (i.e. communication). Or as I have learned from running a study association to my personal life (where, of course, it’s the most difficult) to over-communicate.

Even people who understand the importance of taking responsibility for relationships often do not communicate sufficiently with their associates.”

By telling others how you work (and asking them how they work), you gain valuable information and learn how to better work together. I think this is the strength of tools like the MBTI, learning that other people are different.

Building responsible relationships is about building trust (The Speed of Trust). Knowing who you are and how others think, helps build that trust.

Applied: When starting to work together with others, it could be good to ask them about their values and ways of working. Currently I don’t have a framework for this, but based on this book and other tools like the MBTI could develop something that we could use as a guideline for a conversation.

A Second Career

Drucker thinks that the midlife crisis of 45 year old executives is caused by boredom. He proposes three ways of starting a second career:

  1. Start in a new field (to challenge yourself again)
  2. Develop a parallel career (e.g. help at church)
  3. Become a social entrepreneur (start a non-profit)

You must begin long before you enter [your second career].”

Developing a second career is also a good way to shield yourself from a setback. If things at work don’t progress, you can find challenge and joy in your volunteer work for instance.

Applied: In a way, I’m already working on the second career, second start-up. But as meant in the booklet, I think that I would want to become a social entrepreneur in the field of psychedelics for mental health improvements. But let’s first see how the field develops.