Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo.

Absence of Failure

Mandy Brown’s recent note on the essay Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker reminded me that I had the book sitting in my wishlist at Amazon. I put off purchasing it out of hope that it would be published as a Kindle book at some point. After seeing Mandy’s post I decided to just grab a paper copy (something I rarely do these days).

It was certainly worth it.

Drucker touches on many topics throughout the book about managing your own career, knowing yourself and your co-workers. He draws contrasts between the working life now and how it was before we had a vast majority of the workforce as knowledge workers. There are a few good suggestions on working in teams (the book would be a great team building exercise) and learning to work with your co-workers instead of just alongside them.

But out of everything contained in the 55-page essay, what really stood out to me was his discussion of success, which comes in the last few pages of the book.

In a society in which success has become so terribly important, having options will become increasingly vital. Historically, there was no such thing as “success.” The overwhelming majority of people did not expect anything but to stay in their “proper stations,” as an old English prayer has it. The only mobility was downward mobility.

In a knowledge society, however, we expect everyone to be a success. This is clearly an impossibility. For a great many people, there is at best an absence of failure. Wherever there is success, there has to be failure. And then it is vitally important for the individual, and equally for the individual’s family, to have an area in which he or she can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody. That means finding a second area—whether in a second career, a parallel career, or a social venture—that offers an opportunity for being a leader, for being respected, for being a success.

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There’s more to read in the archive.