Sharing this article from Mr. Collins’ website because I admire both his and Peter Drucker’s work.
Foreword to the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Effective Executive
My first meeting with Drucker is one of the ten most significant days of my life. Peter had dedicated himself to one huge question: How can we make society both more productive and more humane? His warmth—as when he grasped my hand in two of his upon opening his front door, “Mr. Collins, so very pleased to meet you; please come inside”—bespoke his own humanity. But he was also incredibly productive. At one point, I asked him which of his twenty-six books he was most proud of, to which Drucker, then 86, replied: “The next one!” He wrote ten more.
At the end of that day, Peter hit me with a challenge. I was on the cusp of leaving my faculty spot at Stanford, betting on a self-created path, and I was scared. “It seems to me you spend a lot of time worrying how you will survive,” said Peter. “You will probably survive.” He continued, “And you seem to spend a lot of energy on the question of how to be successful. But that is the wrong question.” He paused, then like the Zen master thwacking the table with a bamboo stick: “The question is: how to be useful!” A great teacher can change your life in thirty seconds.
We are all given only one short life, composed of the same 168 hours a week as everyone else. What will it add up to? How will other people’s lives be changed? What difference will it make? Peter Drucker—one man with no organization, a modest house, and a wicker chair—models how much one highly-effective person can contribute, and that we should never confuse scale of impact with scale of organization. He was, in the end, the highest level of what a teacher can be: a role model of the very ideas he taught, a walking testament to his teachings in the tremendous lasting effect of his own life.