Book notes: Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker book summary review and key ideas.

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Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker


“”Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves – their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.” -Peter F. Drucker

Throughout history, people had little need to manage their careers – they were born into their stations in life or, in the recent past, they relied on their companies to chart their career paths. But times have drastically changed. Today we must all learn to manage ourselves.

It may seem obvious that people achieve results by doing what they are good at and by working in ways that fit their abilities. But, Drucker says, very few people actually know – let alone take advantage of – their fundamental strengths.

Today’s successful careers are not planned out in advance. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they have asked themselves those questions and have rigorously assessed their unique characteristics.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I read this book several years back and I remember it being very concise and impactful. I needed a short book to reread this month so I decided to pick this one up. Plus, it’s always good to go back and revisit good books. I read this before I started taking notes and publishing them, so it’s a good excuse to do so for this one.

Key notes:

Chapter 1: introduction

  • In this age, knowledge workers must manage themselves and be their own CEO
  • You need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself
    • Not only what your strengths and weaknesses are, but also how you learn, work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution
  • We have to learn how to develop and manage ourselves so that we can place ourselves to make the greatest contribution

Chapter 2: what are my strengths?

  • The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis
    • Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect to happen
    • 9 to 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations
    • This method will show you your strengths, weaknesses, and where you have no confidence whatsoever
      1. Concentrate in your strengths
        • Put yourself where your strengths can produce results
      2. Work on improving your strengths
      3. Discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it 
  • Bulldozers move mountains
    • Ideas show where the bulldozers should do the work
  • Feedback will also reveal when the problem is a lack of manners
    • Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization
  • It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence

Chapter 3: how do I perform?

  • For knowledge workers, “how do I perform?” may be a more important question then what are my strengths
    • How one performs is unique. It is a matter of personality

Chapter 4: am I a reader or a listener?

  • Few listeners can be made or can make themselves into competent listeners, and vice versa
    • Understand and leverage which type you are 

Chapter 5: how do I learn? 

  • People learn differently
    • Some people learn by writing, some by listening, some by talking, and some by doing
  • To manage yourself effectively, you also have to ask “do I work well with people or am I a loner?
    • If you do work well with people, you must then ask “in what relationship?”
    • Another question: do I produce results as a decision-maker or as an advisor?
  • Some people are good commanders, others are great subordinates
    • Some are great team members, others work best alone
    • Some are exceptionally talented as coaches and mentors, while others aren’t
  • This is why great decision-makers in the number one spot have great advisers in the number two spot
    • Other questions:
      • Do I perform well under stress or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment?
      • Do I work best in a big organization or a small one?
  • Conclusion: Do not try to change yourself. You are unlikely to succeed
    • Work hard to improve the way you perform and try not to take on work you cannot perform or will only perform poorly

Chapter 6: what are my values?

  • Ethics require you to ask yourself: what kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?
  • To be effective in an organization, a person’s values must be compatible with the organization’s values 

Chapter 7: where do I belong?

  • Most people don’t really know where they belong until they’re well past their mid 20s
    • However, they should know the answer to 3 questions:
      • What are my strengths?
      • How do I perform?
      • What are my values?
  • Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values

Chapter 8: what should I contribute?

  • Ask: What does the situation require?
    • How can make the greatest contribution given my strengths and values?
    • What results have to be achieved to make a difference?
  1. The results should be a stretch but within reach
  2. The result should be meaningful and make a difference
  3. The result should be visible and measurable

Chapter 9: responsibility or relationships?

  • The first secret of effectiveness is to understand the people you work with and depend on so that you can make use of their strengths, ways of working, and values
  • Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust 

Chapter 10: the 2nd half of your life

  • 3 ways to develop a second career:
    1. Start one
    2. Develop a parallel career
    3. Social entrepreneurs
  • Start this well before the end of your first career, ideally before your peak in your original business
  • Having options will become increasingly vital in a society where success has become so terribly important

Chapter 11: the conclusion

Chapter 12: the biography of Peter f drucker

Closing thoughts:

This book was as good as I remember. Very concise, practical, and timeless advice. Highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a quick yet insightful read, or wants some guidance when it comes to one’s career. It covers actionable points on how to build self-awareness and orient yourself towards being successful in your career, or pivot towards your next career.

Ultimately, it’s a great book that I think almost anyone would get value out of. Plus, it’s a quick read so there’s very little risk.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

As someone who feels like they have a high level of self-awareness (at least relatively to the average person) due to my countless years of journaling and reflecting, I feel like I have a handle on the majority of what the book talks about. However, I feel like I’m in the stage of my life where I’m developing my 2nd career while my 1st career is still going on (and I’m definitely not close to my peak).

So therefore, my personal takeaway would be:

  • Develop a 2nd career well before the peak of your 1st

I’m currently doing this with developing a career as a social media influencer across various mediums and in different topics (with book blogging, podcasting, and comedy). I’m also looking into more online business interests and life coaching down the line, so I’m already on the path. But this point is a good reminder that it’s a good idea to work on building my next career in parallel with my first.


Success in your career starts with self-awareness – knowing your strengths, values, and how you best perform.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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