Winner of Book Review 2017

Managing Oneself – Peter F. Drucker

At first sight, Peter F. Drucker’s book “Managing oneself” seems to be another exemplar of the numerous business guidebooks of a self-proclaimed expert. If you have a look at his biography and achievements, however, this impression will change quickly. As a successful consultant, teacher and writer, whose books were translated in over seventy languages and who is nowadays called the “creator and inventor of modern management”, there might be some truth in his words.

This impression was confirmed when I read the first few pages of “Managing oneself”. In general, it is a guide how to find out more about your personality and abilities and how to use them in the most efficient way. It goes beyond the typical recommendations of bad examples of the genre of self-help books, which advise you to stop being so shy if you want to improve your self-confidence or to work hard if you want to be successful. Drucker has a refreshing and instructive way to explain why you should do something and in which way.

A lot of his own experiences, ranging from failed attempts of companies to put a highly competent person in the wrong position to examples from history and economy, make it an entertaining and easily understandable book. Besides, he includes numerous insights in the changes of the work environment in the course of time and why we have to adjust to the altered workplaces and demands in business.

Drucker starts with a quite disillusioning statement: great achievers like Napoléon or Mozart, who were able to manage themselves without any effort, are rare. But the good news is: according to him, everyone can learn that and this guidebook provides you with the necessary tools.

In the first part of this booklet, he concentrates on a simple, but, at the same time, really effective method of figuring out where your strengths and weaknesses lie: the feedback analysis. Before you make any major decision you should write down your expectations and compare this with the outcome after nine or twelve months. It will show you where your competences are and in which fields you have failed. Afterwards, you should concentrate on further enhancing your strengths rather than trying to work on your weaknesses. That is the way mediocre people become excellent people.

What follows is a comprehensive examination of different types of performance and learning. At this point at the latest one recognizes the importance of being aware of one’s own best practice. Drucker explains impressively why it costed politicians their US presidency if they did not know whether they were a reader or a listener, decision maker or adviser. Unfortunately, this is the part where you are left out in the rain. While he explains in detail the purpose of knowing your own learning and performance method, Drucker gives no hint how to figure them out.

He then deals with the significance of our values and how to stick with them. A method, which is mentioned in this context and is worth thinking about, is the mirror test. It asks what kind of person you want to see when you look in the mirror. This might sound somewhat philosophical, but it means, in essence, that your values should be compatible with the company’s values you are working for. This will protect you from frustration and nonperformance.

As if it were not difficult enough to evaluate yourself in all these aspects, Drucker stresses the necessity of understanding all your teammates in regard to their characteristics, ways of working and values. If one does not adapt correspondingly, even the smartest and most hard working employee might be perceived as being stupid or lazy.

The last chapter, probably not really applicable to students but no less interesting, is about the second half of your life. Drucker elucidates the struggle people in their mid-40s experience and the possibilities to overcome this period. Here again, he underpins his statements with examples, such as the engineer who becomes a church treasurer or the lawyer who runs model schools.

It is definitely one of the more helpful versions of self-help books and gives you some more or less concrete guidelines how to ascertain and manage your competences and how to deal with failings. You can read it on the bus on your way to university or during a free period between your lectures. It is just fifty-five pages long and written in a large font, which one knows otherwise only from children’s books. Nevertheless, Drucker gives some useful advice, enriched with vivid anecdotes. It is, in addition, not only a book for top managers or people who want to become one. It might also help people who are seeking to improve their team work skills or learning strategies.

Whatever you are searching for; the first step to discover your own competencies in order to become a better student or employee or if you just do not know what to do during a break, you cannot do anything wrong with this book.

By-line Friederike Bartling

7 Recommended Reads

1. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Attwood

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, like dissenters, she will be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. However, even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit and astute perception.

 

2. Dear Life – Alice Munro

Dear Life - Alice Munro

Alice Munro captures the essence of life in her brilliant new collection of stories. Moments of change, chance encounters, the twist of fate that leads a person to a new way of thinking or being: the stories in Dear Life build to form a radiant, indelible portrait of just how dangerous and strange ordinary life can be.

 

3. I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who does not exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

However, that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. In addition, it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where he finds the body of a woman face down in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, and her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace, and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush, in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

 

4. Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys

Salt To The Sea - Ruta Sepetys

It is early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore’s The Siege will be very absorbed.

This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff sunk in port in early 1945, it had over 9,000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.

 

5. Managing Oneself – Peter F. Drucker

Managing Oneself - Peter F. Drucker

Peter Drucker is widely regarded as the father of modern management, offering penetrating insights into business that still resonate today. However, Drucker also offers deep wisdom on how to manage our personal lives and how to become leaders that are more effective. In these two classic articles from Harvard Business Review, Drucker reveals the keys to becoming your own chief executive officer as well as a better leader of others. “Managing Oneself” identifies the probing questions you need to ask to gain the insights essential for taking charge of your career.

 

6. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it.

Civil war has come to the city that Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.

 

7. What We Cannot Know – Marcus du Sautoy

What We Cannot Know by Marcus Du Sautoy

Britain’s most famous mathematician takes us to the edge of knowledge to show us what we cannot know.

Is the universe infinite?

Do we know what happened before the Big Bang?

Where is human consciousness located in the brain?

In addition, are there more undiscovered particles out there, beyond the Higgs boson?

In the modern world, science is king: weekly headlines proclaim the latest scientific breakthroughs and numerous mathematical problems, once indecipherable, have now been solved. Are there limits to what we can discover about our physical universe?

In this very personal journey to the edges of knowledge, Marcus du Sautoy investigates how leading experts in fields from quantum physics and cosmology, to sensory perception and neuroscience, have articulated the current lie of the land. In doing so, he travels to the very boundaries of understanding, questioning contradictory stories and consulting innovative data.

Is it possible that we will one day know everything? Alternatively, are there fields of research that will always lie beyond the bounds of human comprehension? If so, how do we cope with living in a universe where there are things that will forever transcend our understanding?

In What We Cannot Know, Marcus du Sautoy leads us on a thought-provoking expedition to the furthest reaches of modern science. Prepare to be taken to the edge of knowledge to find out if there is anything, we truly cannot know.