Why Were History’s Great Achievers Successful?

In the book “Managing Oneself,” Peter Drucker, who is one of the greatest business thinkers of the last century, says,

“History’s great achievers – a Napoleon, a da Vinci, a Mozart – have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers.”

Drucker then says,

“Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. We will have to learn to develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution.”

This ability of understanding how to manage oneself comes down to Socrates’ great old idea: “Know thyself.”

“Knowing thyself” however, is one of the hardest things for an individual to learn how to do.

Even Socrates said that the reason he didn’t spend much time talking about religion or the gods was because he had such a hard time “knowing himself.”

He was spending so much time on self discovery that he didn’t have time to speculate about what happens after death.

And what Drucker goes over in this book are a couple of questions that you should be able to answer about yourself.

Questions such as, what are your strengths? And what are your weaknesses?

Drucker says,

“Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at – and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”

When it comes to self awareness, the first thing you have to realize is that your brain is not wired to be self aware.

This is the fundamental basic idea behind “Know thyself.”

Scientist call this the “Illusory Superiority,” which they define as “a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities and abilities.”

In one study for example which involved one million American high school students, 70% of students believed themselves to be in the top 10% of leadership ability.

According to another survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance to be above the median.

In another survey, 88% of Americans said that they think of themselves to be above average drivers.

But of course, as we know, not everyone can be above average.

Understand that the best way to succeed in life is by knowing how to manage yourself. This means actually knowing what you’re good at, knowing what you’re bad at, and then putting yourself in situations to then act on that knowledge.

If you look throughout history and study history’s greatest achievers, you will find that there hasn’t been one successful individual, past or present, who hasn’t been able to “mange themselves.”

As Drucker said in the beginning,

“That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers.”


5 thoughts on “Why Were History’s Great Achievers Successful?

  1. Another fantastic post. It’s thought/provoking especially for me because I think that I have a bad habit of see-sawing between over-estimating myself and a total lack of the feeling of self-worth. Thank you for sharing this. I’d like to ping back to it when I write about my personal challenges surrounding this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you think my posts are thought provoking! that’s one of the greatest things I think anyone can say about my writing, so thank you Anne:)

      It’s interesting because when you do something well, you tend to love it.

      This means that knowing what you’re good at and acting on that can actually help raise one’s happiness and self esteem as well.

      Again, I always love your comments Anne:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really shows the importance of expanding on your strengths and focusing on working on your weaknesses. The successful individuals of our world know how to play the game to their strengths, and know when to put time into what they aren’t as strong with. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. this is why this topic is so interesting because Drucker actually says in the book that you shouldn’t focus on your weaknesses at all and only care about your strengths. Successful people delegate their weaknesses, they don’t work on improving them. Thanks for the comment Jake:) glad you liked it

      Liked by 1 person

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