THE QUICKEST WAY TO LEARN AND MASTER ANY SUBJECT*
SEPEMBER, 2017 | William A. Cohen, PhD, Major General, USAF, Ret.
It was Peter Drucker, The Father of Modern Management, who discovered the quickest way to learn and master any subject and he used this method himself to become world famous, wealthy, and recognized as the world’s most renowned management expert and consultant. He wrote that it was to teach that subject. Most readers thought that he was only talking about teaching in a classroom. But there was a secret supplement to this advice that few know. This “secret supplement” was very powerful and he used it outside of the classroom to teach until he died at the age of 96. This was to write and publish. The written word, is yet another way of disseminating knowledge and Drucker used it skillfully at every opportunity. Of course, he wrote about the subject for which he came to know and understand best, management. However, he wrote also about other subjects in which he became interested and wished to become expert, from politics to economics. He even wrote and had authored a book published about Japanese art, a subject that he also taught in the classroom after he felt that he had the acquired expertise.
A Drucker Parable
Peter loved to tell stories to illustrate his concepts. One of these stories was that a popular and well-known CEO passed away and his senior associates from his company were surprised by a large group of Egyptologists attending his funeral. These Egyptologists had no idea that he was a corporate CEO. Nor did those from his company know that he was a world-famous Egyptologist who had also been teaching Egyptology at a university in town.
Getting Published is not as Difficult as You May Think
If you have never written or published before, I know this may sound difficult and a major challenge. However, like everything else in the world, things are always difficult if you have never done them before, but once you know how, like riding a bicycle or driving a car you would consider them easy. I know, I started out with a single article and now while maybe I don’t have the fame and fortune of Peter Drucker, writing has helped me quite a bit in my various careers first as an Air Force officer and later as a graduate school president, a management consultant, an entrepreneur and more. And if writing was once difficult, it’s certainly is a lot easier now. But there are challenges and missteps as you progress. That’s natural. And though I’m told that I am the published author of 61 books which have been translated into 22 languages, I never considered writing to be my main profession any more than Drucker did of his career. Moreover, I was rejected by more than 24 publishers for my first book.
One of Drucker’s Missteps
Of course, it is not unusual to stumble along the way. Drucker, who was born in Austria and was studying and working in Germany stumbled on the way to writing success. As a new journalist, he wrote an article about the stock market predicting that it would continue to rise. Two weeks later the market in the U.S. crashed, signaling the beginning of the worldwide Great Depression. If that weren’t enough to stop him, only a couple years later Hitler rose to power in Germany. Drucker, who was of Jewish heritage, immediately fled to England and got a job working for a bank. Not only did he need to work and write in a different language, but his native language was German. This and his Austrian accent easily identified him as an enemy alien as war approached and relations with Germany became strained, despite his being a refugee from Hitler.
Drucker’s English may have been imperfect, but over a four-year period and with difficulty he mastered it sufficiently to write a book. It couldn’t have been easy. He selected a topic that few knew much about, but everyone wanted to know more. Drucker already knew more, first hand: the rise of fascism and Nazism. Moreover, his views while not popular then, were similar to that of a well-known English politician who was also controversial at the time. Drucker made sure that this politician, Winston Churchill, got a copy. Churchill wrote a favorable review of the book. Two years after the review was published Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Drucker left England for the U.S. in 1937, and before the book was published, but its success a few months later led Drucker to almost immediately write another book, based on what he had learned in the U.S. during his struggles to reestablish his life, first in England, then in the U.S. The Future of Industrial Man, was his theory on the development of society for the future, based on developments in the U.S. and England since the industrial revolution and extrapolated to be worldwide. His predictions were based on a technique he developed called “looking through the window.” It was simply to imagine looking through a window and noting events that had already occurred. But then he took it one step further and reasoned what these events meant for the future. Using this technique, he was able to make some very accurate predictions throughout his career.
The Book Leads Drucker into the Management Consulting Business
This book was read by a senior executive at General Motors who had been looking for an outsider who could write analyze organizational developments at GM. Drucker was hired on a two-year assignment. This led to a third book, Concept of the Corporation which basically described what he had learned at General Motors. That book led to speeches, Drucker’s getting hired as a Professor of Management at New York University, and it also led to his becoming the most well-known independent consultant of all time. Moreover, this was a major shift in career since his PhD was in international law and his previous teaching at two girl schools, Sarah Lawrence and Bennington College was as a Professor of Politics and Philosophy, not management or business. He came to what was then Claremont Graduate School in 1971. Today it has been named the Masatoshi Ito and Peter Drucker Graduate School of Management.
All This Can Be Yours
The rest as they say is history. He continued to teach until the age of 92 and basked in worldwide fame. The school was named after him 1987. I’m not saying that writing alone got him there, or that you can duplicate Drucker’s results. However, one thing I do guarantee, if you do what I suggest in this article and write, your career will be enhanced and you’ll have a lot of fun at the same time. And you may even make some money.
Don’t Try to write – WRITE!
I’m not going to attempt to teach you how to write in this article. You can teach yourself on your own, and there are a lot of books on how to write at your public library or through amazon.com or some other book source. You don’t need a course, but there are many community colleges that offer courses in writing at low cost, so you can take this route if you want. My recommendations would be to start with short articles of 500 -2000 words and then when you achieve the absolute best polished article you can, send if off for publication.
Start with Non-Paid Articles
I began writing about something I was familiar: air navigation. At the time, I was in the Air Force assigned to the giant B-52. I didn’t begin writing books until I became Peter’s student many years later. Though what he had done inspired me, he never helped me in writing or to find a publisher for my books. There are many Ezines and printed magazines in your subject area who want to publish your articles, including the one which you are reading now. That’s a great place to start. They may not pay, but you can already see where this can lead. For Peter Drucker, and many others, it leads right to the top.
*Adapted from the book Peter Drucker on Consulting: How to Apply Drucker’s Principles for Business Success by William A. Cohen (LID, 2016) and syndicated elsewhere.