The World According to Peter Drucker (And Michael Lewis)
March 10th, 2017
Michael Lewis has long been one of the top-selling and most recognized nonfiction authors of our era, with such culture-defining books as Liar’s Poker, Moneyball and The Big Short. His recently published The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds tells the story of the friendship and collaboration decades ago of two Israeli psychologists, the late Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate. (Kahneman, who achieved further fame with his book Thinking, Fast and Slow; writes about his life and work with Tversky in his Nobel biography.)
Lewis is clearly adept at writing about great minds. I was interested to see that he wrote about Peter Drucker, in a New York Times January 11, 1998 review of Jack Beatty’s The World According to Peter Drucker, which Lewis describes as “a fine intellectual profile.” I interviewed Beatty by phone and wrote about the book in the December 29, 1997 edition of USA TODAY. In the review, I called it a “stimulating study of the man many acknowledge as the greatest management thinker-writer of all time.” I finally met Beatty in person in 2010, when we were both on a ‘Drucker Authors Festival’ panel in Claremont, California.
In 2005, I wrote a review of several nontraditional leadership books for USA TODAY, including Lewis’ Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life; about his high school baseball and basketball coach in New Orleans, Billy Fitzgerald (Coach Fitz). In 2003, I reviewed a book by Kevin Ryan, Write Up the Corporate Ladder: Successful Writers Reveal the Techniques That Help You Write With Ease and Get Ahead, which includes a Q&A chapter with Lewis. In the review, I noted this tip: “Whenever I have problems getting something out, I’ll often turn the music on loud, drink three cups of coffee, and write something just to get started. Once I get something on the page, all of a sudden – it’s amazing – the ideas start to flow.”
Besides the fact that Drucker (who died in 2005 at 95) was a best-selling author, as is Lewis, there are other commonalities: Being prolific, with many books and articles. Working in banking early in their careers. Writing extensively about business, as well as a wide range of other subjects. Living in London as young adults. Lewis’ review of The World According to Peter Drucker is thoughtful and nuanced. He writes of Drucker’s “deep ambivalence towards capitalism,” and that “he regards as his finest piece of work an essay on Kierkegaard.” Recalling Drucker’s 1949 essay “The Unfashionable Kierkegaard,” which has been anthologized several times; and touching on a subject that I explored in my 2013 book Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way, Lewis writes: “One way of viewing Peter Drucker’s career is as a spiritual exercise performed for the spiritually impoverished.”