brainroads-toward-tomorrows mental patterns


pyramid to dna

Drucker & Me

by Bob Buford




#Note the number of books about Drucker ↓


Inside Drucker's Brain World According to Drucker

My life as a knowledge worker

Drucker: a political or social ecologist ↑ ↓


“I am not a ‘theoretician’;

through my consulting practice

I am in daily touch with

the concrete opportunities and problems

of a fairly large number of institutions,

foremost among them businesses

but also hospitals, government agencies

and public-service institutions

such as museums and universities.


And I am working with such institutions

on several continents:

North America, including Canada and Mexico;

Latin America; Europe;

Japan and South East Asia.


Still, a consultant is at one remove

from the day-today practice —

that is both his strength

and his weakness.

And so my viewpoint

tends more to be that of an outsider.”

broad worldview ↑ ↓


Most mistakes in thinking ↑seeing only part of the picture


#pdw larger ↑ ::: Books by Peter Drucker ::: Rick Warren + Drucker

Peter Drucker's work

Books by Bob Buford and Walter Wriston

Global Peter Drucker Forum ::: Charles Handy — Starting small fires

Post-capitalist executive ↑ T. George Harris


harvest and implement

Learning to Learn (ecological awareness ::: operacy)

The MEMO “they” don’t want you to SEE




See initial bread-crumb trail — toward the
end of this page — for a site “overview”



Amazon link: Drucker & Me: What a Texas Entrepreneur Learned from the Father of Modern Management. Kindle version may be preferable




Bob Buford’s Obits (short and long) — provide
examples of what do you want to be remembered for …


The Inspiring True Story of Two Giants Who Would Change the World

In the tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture, this is the inspiring true story of two men who decided to make a significant difference — and did.

As Bob Buford and Peter Drucker → (The Über Mentor) discovered, when people share a common and compelling vision, anything can happen.


“I personally witnessed this fascinating backstory between two of my best friends, Peter Drucker and Bob Buford.

Now everyone can benefit from the amazing conversations Bob had with one of the brightest minds of all time.”

Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life



Rick Warren — a tribute to Peter Drucker


The memo they don’t want you to seethey want you to stay where you are and be their prisoner of the past.

Who are they? The political and organizational power structures trying to bring back yesterdayS


more reviews toward the bottom of the page







You May Go Now

Beware The Man On The White Horse

First Encounter

Strictly Business

Extraordinarily Ordinary

Lessons From Peter

Success to Significance

Second Half Conspiracy

Peter and the Preachers

Go Big or Go Home

Purposeful Innovation

Mentor and Friend

The God Question

Saving Society

Epilogue: A Catalyst That Fostered A Movement by Ed Stetzer

More Insights from Readers and Friends of Peter and Bob





Foreword by Jim Collins

author of Built to Last, Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall and Good to Great and the Social Sectors


As I enjoyed reading Bob’s engaging story, I noted three primary elements of Peter’s teaching impact.

First, he pushed his (top of the food chain) students to think for themselves, rather than simply telling them what to think.

Peter would ask Bob to write a long letter to him prior to their annual meetings, forcing Bob to think rigorously about the challenges he faced.

Then, Peter would begin his teaching sessions by pushing and challenging not with points and ideas, but with questions.

Peter’s greatest teaching came not in giving answers, but by pushing and challenging with the right questions.

He wanted Bob to think for himself.

And because he taught like Socrates, Peter learned at least as much from his students as his students learned from him, a secret to his own continuous self-renewal.

The greatest teachers begin with humility, a belief that only by first learning from their students can they be of greatest service to them.


Second, Peter changed not just the minds of his students but their lives and, through them, the lives of other people.

Think of a student like a vector heading out into time and space; if you can change the trajectory of that vector even a little bit, those small changes will turn into a large sweeping arc years down the road.


And then if that vector in turn changes the trajectory of tens or hundreds or thousands of other vectors, then a teacher can have a multiplicative impact on the world.

This is exactly what Drucker-as-teacher did.

He changed student lives partly by setting audacious standards for the best students, such as challenging Bob to make his second half of life more significant than his first half, obliterating any desire Bob might have for retirement.

Drucker challenged Bob to “transform the latent energy of American Christianity into active energy” — no small task — and thereby launched Bob on a quest that would consume his most creative and productive years.


Third, Peter got a high “Return on Luck” with the right students.

I’ve become fascinated with the question of luck, and its role (or lack thereof) for those who achieve exceptional results.

It turns out that when we rigorously defined and quantified luck, the best-performing leaders and their companies were not luckier — they did not get more good luck, less bad luck, better timing of luck, or bigger spikes of luck than the less-successful comparison cases in our research.

However, they did achieve a higher return on luck.


They took whatever luck events they got, whether good luck or bad luck, recognized them, seized them, and made more out of them than others.

The question for all of us is not whether we will get luck, but what will we do with the luck that we get.

How does this relate to Peter Drucker?

Think of it this way: For a teacher, one of the most important luck events is when a great student crosses your path; then upon recognizing when he or she is blessed by the unexpected arrival of a great student, a great teacher invests 10x in that student.

Peter Drucker realized that a significant teaching investment in Bob Buford would yield a return far in excess of investing in the average student.


Drucker’s impact derives not just from his ideas, but from his entire approach to ideas, and ultimately his power as a teacher.


Drucker was deeply empirical; he derived insights not by pure theory, but by looking at actual facts and building a theory based on facts, evidence, and practicality.

Once when I asked Drucker the purpose of his consulting, he said, “Ah, that is my laboratory.”

He didn’t just want to sit around and think big thoughts; he wanted to derive insights that would have a tangible impact on people’s lives.


Yet, while Drucker focused on tangible results, he elevated his teachings to a frame much larger than “how-to” mechanics.

He diverted my attention from the nuts and bolts of running a business,” writes Bob in these pages, “and focused instead on the broader horizons of things such as character, vision, and responsibility.”

Drucker saw management — and its sibling, leadership — as a liberal art, not a technocratic exercise.


I believe that Drucker’s work was guided by one audacious overarching question: What does it take — what principles are needed—to make society both more productive and more humane?

Bob Buford once told me that he believed Peter Drucker contributed as much to the triumph of freedom over totalitarianism as anyone, including Winston Churchill.

At first, I was puzzled by Bob’s rather extreme statement, but then came to understand and appreciate that he might well be right.

For free society to function at its best — and to thereby compete with tyranny — we must have high-performing, freely-operating organizations spread throughout society; these autonomous institutions, in turn, depend on having excellent management.

This is a classic Druckerian duality, linking together big and small, practical and philosophical, micro and macro; on the one hand, he stayed grounded in “what works” for managers, and on the other hand, he framed “what works” in the context of one of the most important long-term questions that human societies must address.


Finally, and most important, Drucker infused all of his work with the great compassion and concern for the individual, and this is the cornerstone of what made him a great teacher.

I do indeed believe that Drucker’s body of work is essentially right, that his insights about the workings of the social world have been — and will continue to be — proved right by history.

But there is one place where I believe Peter Drucker got it wrong, at least in part.

When Bob Buford asked what could be done to advance Peter’s legacy, Drucker impatiently waved the question away: “My legacy is my writing.”

True, but incomplete.

An equally significant legacy, in my view, may be found in his students, and their impact on the world.

If Drucker had not been such a great teacher, if he had closeted himself like a hermit with a typewriter, I believe his impact would have been profoundly stunted.

And there is no better testament to that aspect of Peter’s legacy than this gift from Bob Buford, Drucker & Me.

Jim Collins

Boulder, Colorado

April 8, 2013





… But even if in a momentary lapse of judgment I decided to “tell all,” I would fail miserably in that genre for the simple reason that there’s nothing to tell.

Peter was one of those rare individuals who really did practice what he preached.

His motivation for all that he did professionally was to contribute toward a “fully functioning society,” and for Peter that began with a fully functioning human being.

He lived a principled life, uncluttered by unwholesome pursuits or frivolous diversions.

He loved his wife, his family, and his work.

If he had any time left over from those affections, it probably meant he wasn’t spending enough time on them.


In terms of friendship, we were an unlikely pairing.

A generation apart in age.

One of us spoke English with a heavy Austrian accent.

The other spoke Texan.

I owned a cable television company.

Peter didn’t even own a television.

I wore a business suit.

Peter wore a long-sleeve shirt buttoned at the top with a bolo tie in place of a necktie.

I followed the Dallas Cowboys.

He followed Japanese art.

But as we would both learn a few years into our relationship, we shared a passion for a phenomenon that could literally change the world.




1 You May Go Now

How many times had I heard him say, “Begin with the end in sight”?


He had not been feeling well and was taken to the hospital. Family members were flying in from all over the world to say farewell.

There was talk about removing him from life support.


After about a half hour, he abruptly brought our conversation to an end.


“Well, you’ve done what you’ve come here to do, so you may go now.”

It was so typically Peter.

He fully understood why I was there and after giving me the gift of one final meeting to say whatever needed to be said, he released me from my assignment.

I honestly cannot recall precisely what we said to each other, but it didn’t seem to matter.

It was an almost wordless summary of a twenty-plus year relationship between two friends who knew exactly what was going on and did not want to belabor the issue.


And so I left with a mixture of sadness and gratitude.

Sadness at the almost certain belief that I would never see him again — at least not in this world — but gratitude for having been so deeply influenced by this great man.

I left his room, walked to my car, drove to the airport, and flew back to Aspen and waited for the inevitable, only to enjoy one more surprise from Peter.


To everyone’s amazement, he recovered.

Though physically quite frail, he was able to return home.


I am a writer

He greeted us warmly from his favorite chair as I settled in beside him to his right, Derek to his left, and Doris on the couch across from him.

As I began to explain why we were there, Peter listened politely until I had finished and then in his inimitable style crisply ended our “discussion” of his legacy with four sentences that I remember verbatim:


“I am a writer,” he began.

“My legacy is my writing.

I did not create an institution.

Now what would you like to talk about?”


The first three of those sentences pretty much summed up his career.

Peter was a great observer of humanity.

In November 2001, The Economist commissioned the then ninety-one-year-old to write a special twenty-seven page piece about “the next society.”

“Tomorrow is closer than you think,” the magazine averred.

“Peter Drucker explains how it will differ from today, and what needs to be done to prepare for it.”

He was all substance and wrote with exquisite clarity, which is probably why he was shunned by the academy.

As famed management writer Tom Peters once put it: “Drucker effectively bypassed the intellectual establishment.

So it’s not surprising that they hated his guts.”

But Peter didn’t care.

He was not concerned that a building or institute be named after him.


It was almost as if Peter was telling us that if you must have a special meeting to plan your legacy, you really don’t have one at all.

He had been working on his legacy all his life, writing books that contained few footnotes because his thinking was original; he did not borrow from others but left a treasure of wisdom for all.

Peter had a streak of mischief in him that he was normally able to contain, but I thought I detected a sly smile cross his face as he so deftly closed the door on this legacy business.

Had he the energy, he might have nudged me and said, “So what are you doing out here, big boy?”

It turned out that Peter, on his own, had negotiated a deal with Harvard Business Review, giving them the publishing rights to his books whenever their original publisher declared them out of print.

The elegant simplicity of the deal was classic Drucker, leaving Derek and me a bit sheepish and marvelously impressed again with his crystal clear foresight.


But even this brief exchange had taken its toll on Peter’s strength.

Doris, always a fierce protector of her husband of seventy-one years, signaled the end of the meeting.


“Peter! It’s time for your nap.”

(Once, over dinner, I asked Doris what her mission in life was.

She responded crisply, “The preservation of Peter Drucker.”)


With her help he struggled to his feet, and with one hand on his walker, he extended his other to us.


“Bob, so nice to see you again.

Mr. Bell, a pleasure to meet you.”


And then he shuffled off to his bedroom, Doris at his side.


We stood in the living room until Doris returned.

I let my eyes take in his beloved Japanese prints on the wall across from me and tried to recall the very first time I had knocked on the door to this house.

In many ways, nothing had changed inside that humble home.

Yet so much had been accomplished as a result of that unlikely first encounter with a man I once had known only through his writing.


After making sure Peter was cared for, Doris walked us to the front door.

Never one to be sentimental, she pulled me aside and gave it to me straight.


“This time he’s not coming back.”


I stepped out into the warm California sun and paused before getting into the rental car.

Some of my fondest memories traced their way back to this small house.

I smiled to myself as I recalled my youthful chutzpah in assuming that the man who advised the CEOs of Intel and Procter & Gamble would take me on as a client.

I almost laughed at the incongruity of this Old World European gentleman hanging out with a disparate group of mavericks to which I had introduced him.

It had all started here, and I knew this time that it was about to end.

But that it wouldn’t really.

Because Peter had already settled the question of his legacy.

That was Peter — a step ahead of all of us.


Two months later, Peter F. Drucker, my friend and mentor, died.


And this is the rest of the story.

2 Beware the Man on the White Horse

“No century has seen more leaders with more charisma than the Twentieth Century, and never have political leaders done greater damage than the four giant leaders of the Twentieth Century: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao. “


AS WELL AS I thought I knew Peter, it wasn’t until the obituaries started appearing that I learned about his earlier years.

From these as well as other accounts, it seemed clear to me that in many ways, he was born at the right time in the right place.


Vienna in 1909 was widely recognized as the intellectual hub of Europe, if not the world.

And Peter’s parents, Caroline and Adolph, a top trade official for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, traveled easily among the elites of the day.

Indeed, their home on Kaasgrabengasse, a quiet avenue in the Viennese neighborhood of Döbling, embodied the tradition of the European salon society.

Two or three times a week his parents hosted gatherings of state officials, doctors, scientists, musicians, and writers to discuss a remarkably wide range of topics.

Peter, who would become a true polymath, soaked in all of it.


Among his parents contemporaries was Sigmund Freud, who became known as the “father of psychoanalysis.”

Peter was eight years old when he first met Freud and recalled what his father told him later that afternoon: “Remember, today you have just met the most important man in Austria and perhaps in Europe.”

Ironically, Peter would go on to be celebrated as the “father of modern management,” a title that held little interest or fondness for him.


... Shortly after his second pamphlet was banned, Peter moved to London, and by 1937 he had immigrated to the United States.

But his brief time in Germany helped shape his thinking about management because, as he later reflected, unless all sectors of society work effectively, tyranny is sure to fill the void.

“To make our institutions perform responsibly, autonomously, and on a high level of achievement is thus the only safeguard of freedom and dignity in the pluralistic society of institutions,” he once wrote.


“Performing, responsible management is the alternative to tyranny and our only protection against it.”


Managing To Live

To think of Peter only in the context of “management” would be to miss the point of his real contribution to society.

Peter himself tended to reject the labels others used to describe him and thought of himself more as a writer than anything else.


... A few years later, in 1943, he began a systematic study of General Motors, which led to the publication of his landmark book, Concept of the Corporation.

He then moved to New York University’s Graduate School of Business and shortly thereafter heard a fellow Austrian, the economist Joseph Schumpeter, say something that would change the trajectory of his life: “I know it is not enough to be remembered for books and theories.

One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in people’s lives.”


This is really what Peter was all about: making a difference.

He always had the bigger picture in mind even though his particular milieu was the world of business.

None of our institutions exists by itself and is an end in itself,” he wrote in his book Management.

Every one is an organ of society and exists for the sake of society.

Business is no exception.

Free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business; it can be justified only as being good for society.”


While he was intensely interested in management as a profession, he believed that corporations — fast emerging as perhaps our most important institutions — had to be effective and responsible if we were to have a functioning society.

The failure of Germany’s institutions in the 1930s opened the door to a charismatic leader who promised to fix society.

Beware the man on the white horse,” Peter used to warn.

He had seen firsthand the damage these saviors can inflict on a society in decline: “No century has seen more leaders with more charisma than the Twentieth Century, and never have political leaders done greater damage than the four giant leaders of the Twentieth Century: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao,” he declared in The New Realities.


The best way to inoculate against such destruction, according to Peter, is to help people get the best out of themselves for their own benefit as well as the benefit of others.

Management just happened to be the discipline he chose in which to do that.

Interestingly, his most famous text, The Practice of Management, was not so much a strategic career move but was characteristically written to meet a need.

There were plenty of books out there at the time on individual aspects of running a business — finance, for example, or human resources.

Each of them “reminded me of a book on human anatomy that would discuss one joint in the body — the elbow, for instance—without even mentioning the arm, let alone the skeleton and musculature,” Drucker later recalled.

The Practice of Management was the first that put it all together.

The book laid the foundation for the discipline of management and propelled Peter into a career that would include teaching, writing, and consulting.


After twenty-one years at New York University, Peter moved to California to become professor of social sciences and management at Claremont Graduate School.

He continued his prolific writing career and advised a host of companies that included General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and a small, family-owned business headquartered in Tyler, Texas … Buford Television Inc.

3 First Encounter

“Drucker’s primary contribution is not a single idea, but rather an entire body of work that has one gigantic advantage: nearly all of it is essentially right. 

Drucker has an uncanny ability to develop insights about the workings of the social world, and to later be proved right by history.”


Intellectual Soul Mate

My admiration for Peter Drucker rested entirely on his ideas.

As a young and naive manager, I had read everything I could get my hands on, always looking for that edge to help us sustain our remarkable growth.

Much of what I read seemed trendy — designed more to sell books than to guide behavior.

(Anybody remember Robert Townsend of Avis fame?) 

There was also an abundance of superficial pop psychobabble on bookshelves and available for hire through seminars at the local Holiday Inn.


Here today, gone tomorrow.

It was kind of like eating cotton candy at the State Fair before the Texas-Oklahoma game — an important ritual for me each October.

The game had mythical status and long-remembered significance, but the cotton candy evaporated in my mouth, sticky sweet for a moment, then quickly gone.


Peter’s books were different — whole orders of magnitude different.

Deeply rooted in astonishing social observation, Peter towered above the rest.

I had continued accumulating but long since quit reading articles in Harvard Business Review, except for Peter Drucker’ s.


Following Peter’s wisdom was analogous to investing in an index fund.

He wasn’t always right, but he beat the market 80 percent of the time.


Peter’s thinking, so highly principled, felt as solid as granite to me.

… snip, snip …

I had heard Peter speak before in public seminars.

I always imagined that if I had been Moses on sacred ground enchanted by a burning bush and listening to a thundering oracle from above, that voice would have a deep resonant tone with a European accent, just like Peter’s.

In the few appearances I had experienced Peter (that’s the right word for it) beforehand and in all the appearances I have participated in afterward, he had a magic about him.

People would sit in rapt attention, transfixed by the sheer gestalt of this man.

You could hear a pin drop.

People were almost afraid to breathe.

And it was substance, not theatrics, that captivated us.

A Humble Inner Sanctum

At last, I was to meet this great presence in my life in person.

My feeling was one of excitement and anticipation, colored by not a little bit of intimidation.

It seemed almost too good to be true.

Here was the one person on earth whose opinion was the most determinative to my life.

I had carefully written and rewritten — eight drafts before I got it just right — a letter asking for a consulting day.

I suppose I didn’t really expect I would get a positive response.

... snip, snip ...

All too soon, my time was up and Peter politely walked me to the front door and wished me well.


I almost skipped back to my hotel, high on the adrenalin rush of not just meeting a man I admired so much, but having him take an interest in my business.

I could not have known then that this would mark the beginning of a relationship that would continue for the next twenty-three years.

All I knew was that I had just spent a remarkable day with the Peter F. Drucker.


Ironically, Peter’s counsel in a subsequent meeting — and my own enthusiasm to go big into what was called subscription television — led me to lose a million dollars.

Generally speaking, you tend to avoid retaining consultants whose advice causes you to lose money, but I couldn’t wait for our next meeting.

4 Strictly Business

Peter always greeted me genially, making me feel as if he actually had been looking forward to our time together—that I was his most important client.

I got the same affirmation from him as I did from my mother when she bragged to everyone about my football prowess.

Neither was insincere, for just as my mother believed in me more than I believed in myself, Peter treated me as if I was just as important as Jack Welch and in many ways replaced the father that I had never really known.

A Consultation and a Sandwich

Doris always joined him in greeting me in the entryway of their home, but soon she would disappear into the house, and after kindly requesting an update on the welfare of my wife, Linda, and son, Ross, Peter would motion for me to join him in their sparsely furnished living room.

He never mentioned this, but it was clear to me that his interest in me beyond my business was an example of practicing what he consistently had preached: I was a customer and foremost to him was to know and understand me—to care about me as a person—before he had any right to try and help me.

... snip, snip ...

In those first annual meetings, it was strictly business, which was just fine with me.

At that point, I was not necessarily thinking friendship but simply about success; a few sessions with Peter Drucker would surely help me uncover ways to grow my business by a few more percentage points.

What I quickly learned is that Peter was not a technician and therefore quite uninterested in the practical metrics behind the creation of wealth.

While I was certain he cared about the success of my business, I don’t recall him ever asking to look at my balance sheet, nor did we spend much time doing the kind of strategic planning you might expect from a highly paid and even more highly regarded consultant.

Instead, Peter elevated the narrative.

He diverted my attention from the nuts and bolts of running a business and focused instead on the broader horizons of things such as character, vision, and responsibility.

The Questions Behind the Question

His breadth of knowledge was stunning and influenced me to become a lifelong student of history and literature.


My friend Fred Smith once described Peter’s way of answering a question: “He normally begins about a thousand years away from the point and goes in a very wide loop that arrives at the point exactly.

He uses illustrations from many disciplines to shed light on the point he is making, and each story builds on the last.

He wants you to think about your situation in a larger context.”

... snip, snip ...

Once, to a question I penned about leadership, Peter took me on a journey of all the great companies he had consulted with, dropping in occasional anecdotes about a CEO’s leadership style or certain pitfalls that derailed another leader’s effectiveness.

Then he shifted into soliloquy about the uniqueness of television and its potential to change culture for better or for worse, and finally wrapped things up with this startling statement: “You know, Bob, you could be the CEO of NBC if you wanted to.”

... snip, snip ...

That was Peter’s way.

When he started talking you weren’t quite sure he understood the question, but by the time he finished you realized he had done more than just answer your question.

He showed you the reason why you asked the question by getting at the core issue that had been hiding from you until he turned down the final backstretch and connected all the dots that had seemed so unrelated.

... snip, snip ...

Gaining Through Loss

... snip, snip ...

So when on the evening of January 3, 1987, I received a call from my brother informing me that Ross and two of his friends had attempted to swim across the Rio Grande River in south Texas and were missing, I flew down to the spot where they had last been seen and tried to rescue my hero.

I hired airplanes, helicopters, boats, trackers with dogs—everything that money could buy.

But by three o’clock that afternoon, I looked into the eyes of one of the trackers and knew that I would never see Ross again in this life.


As I wrote of this event in my first book, Halftime, this was something I couldn’t dream my way out of, plan my way out of, or buy my way out of.

The only way I would get through this was to trust my way out of it—to accept and absorb whatever grace people might bring to me at this terrible time.


When it became clear that Ross was gone, I flew back home to Tyler to be with Linda, and one of the first of those people who offered the grace I so dearly needed was Peter.

Somehow he had learned of our tragic loss and called me.

The winter sun hovered just above the horizon, casting long shadows that seemed to echo the sadness that flooded my entire being as I settled into a chair to take his call.

For the next several minutes we had a very affectionate, compassionate, intensely personal conversation and his sadness for my losing Ross almost seemed to match my own.

And then he said something that was remarkable in its candor even as it echoed my own thoughts.


Isn’t it a shame that it takes this kind of moment for you and me to have the kind of conversation we just had?


And yet, as I was only beginning to learn from Peter, his real business—his primary interest in management—was not for the sake of business itself, but for the people it touches, serves, and influences.

For the first time in our relationship as client-consultant, I realized that Peter cared as much for me as a fellow human being as he did for me as a young, ambitious entrepreneur.


And I began to see him less as the highly-revered “father of management” and more as a fellow human being—albeit an unusual one.

5 Extraordinarily Ordinary

... snip, snip ...

Peter’s mental horizons were boundless.

The examples he used came from every century and every continent.

The Great Mushroom Hunt

Even Peter’s “vacations” had a certain functionality about them.

... snip, snip ...

More than anyone else I know, Peter lived the good life not so much because of the leisure and creature comforts he could have had, but because he was doing exactly what he loved to do.

That alone is a lesson worthy of our emulation.

Work that you enjoy and that makes a contribution to a greater good ought to be enough to make any of us happy.


Peter was an original thinker, a self-created, one-of-a-kind individual who comes along every two or three centuries.

This may sound overly flattering, but in my opinion Peter was to management what Shakespeare was to literature.

He was an indefatigable observer of human nature and the interaction of human beings with one another and with circumstances.

To that end, Peter wrote from what he observed.

His books were notorious among so-called management scholars for their absence of footnotes, betraying his disdain for much of the publishing that came out of academia.

He once referred to one of the most prestigious academic journals in the United States as being “written by people who cannot write for an audience that does not read.”

... snip, snip ...

A Typewriter And Some Postage Stamps 

What I found most amazing about his prolific output was that he pretty much nailed it on his very first draft—and all without the use of a computer.

... snip, snip ...

I would like to attribute this to his Old World frugality—and certainly there was a bit of that at play—but what I learned from observing Peter is that he possessed an uncanny self-knowledge and understood exactly what worked best for him.

He appreciated technology, welcoming it as a tool to assist people to work more efficiently.

But he wasn’t about to let conventions of the day interrupt or interfere with the processes he had developed for his own work.

And how could you argue with that, given his productivity?

There are a lot of authors and leaders who will never match Peter’s output, either in quantity or quality, despite their having the latest wireless devices and an army of assistants and researchers working for them.


You might be tempted to confuse Peter’s focus and discipline with a sort of rigid parochialism or cultural myopia, but that would be a mistake.

It was his focus and discipline—along with his insatiable curiosity—that allowed him to travel freely outside the lanes of his chosen field of expertise.

Peter may have invented the modern discipline of management, but he was no management geek.

... snip, snip ...

Management As A Human Activity 

One of the first things I noticed on my early visits to his home were the books on his shelves: mostly fiction, with occasional histories—Shakespeare, Dickens, de Tocqueville—but a conspicuous absence of “business books.”

After about my third or fourth visit, my curiosity got the best of me.


“Peter, it appears as if you read a lot of novels,” I said.


“Somehow I would have thought your bookshelves would have been lined with books related more to your discipline.”


He paused for a second, a whimsical smile momentarily forming before he answered with typical authority.

Peter spoke as he wrote, with razor-sharp clarity marked by an economy of words.

“Books about business deal with functions and strategies—the mechanics of running a successful company,” he said.

“Fiction teaches you about human beings—how they think, how they behave, what’s important to them.

I’m more interested in people than I am in how businesses work.”

... snip, snip ...

But that was Peter—curious about people, what made them tick, why they did what they did.

He sometimes described himself as a “social ecologist.”

Others often described Peter as the “greatest futurist alive,” but he had little regard for crystal-ball predictions.

The way he put it was, “You can’t predict the future.

What you can do is look out the window and see the futurity of present events.”


With this insight, Peter was able to see things that most people could not see.

Where others in his field tried to read the tea leaves of market research, Peter studied the broader cycles of history, demographics and, above all, people.

It was by observing people and how they behaved that Peter accurately predicted the transition in America from an industrial economy to one powered by knowledge —probably the most extreme societal change in recorded history.


From that same observation post he was one of the first to foresee the emergence of the information economy as well as the rise of new “superpowers” such as China, India, and South America.


As Steve Forbes wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Peter Drucker’s ability to prophesy—almost always correctly—was uncanny.”

If I thought I had learned a great deal from Peter through his books, our annual meetings became a sort of post-doctorate for me.


Peter had “eyes to see and ears to hear” and an unparalleled memory to recall and relate centuries of human interactions.

It was impossible to spend time with Peter without learning something so obviously true that you wondered why you hadn’t thought of it yourself.

6 Lessons from Peter

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We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

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It was not unusual for Peter to begin a meeting by saying, “Tell me what you’re not doing.”

In other words, not everything you try is going to work out, so what have you decided not to do?

What have you quit doing so that you can focus more on those things that will produce results?

… snip, snip …

Performance, Not Potential

One time I decided to take one of my company’s top executives with me to one of my mentoring meetings with Peter.

He was relatively new and I wanted to give him exposure to Peter’s wisdom and teaching.

Peter, as always, was gracious and made him feel right at home as we began working through the long letter I had sent him earlier.

We had a delightful day together and I could see that my colleague thoroughly enjoyed the experience of learning from one of the great minds in the world.


A few days later I spoke with Peter on the phone about something, and after our brief conversation, I gave in to my curiosity and asked Peter if he thought this particular executive was a good man.


“Good for what?” he replied in his typically direct manner and then went on to explain a concept that I have applied henceforth in personnel matters.


“With people, you focus on performance, not potential.

You focus on what they can do—their strengths—not on what they might do sometime in the future.

What they can’t do is someone else’s job.”


Peter frequently used the metaphor of a symphony conductor when he talked about management.

A conductor would never ask an oboe player to play the violin, or vice versa.

The role of the conductor is to make sure the right people are playing the right instruments so that when the baton came down, the symphony made great music.


Every venture I have undertaken, whether profit or nonprofit, has been a play for rapid growth requiring almost continuous innovation and entrepreneurial energy.

More than once I have employed a person who performed well in a maintenance role in a large, prestigious organization.

It never seems to work out.

It is the difference between Special Forces and holding down a Pentagon job.


Peter taught me to never try turning an oboe player into a violinist.

I learned from him not to complain about people’s weaknesses but to always focus on their strengths and move them into areas where those strengths can thrive.

How Organizations Die

One of the most important lessons I learned from Peter inevitably, in my view, turned our client-consultant relationship into more of a partnership.

That lesson was his conviction that an organization begins to die the day it begins to be run for the benefit of the insiders and not for the benefit of the customers.

… snip, snip …

Writing in Business Week, John Byrne observed that around this period of economic prosperity in America, Peter “began to have grave doubts about business and even capitalism itself.

He no longer saw the corporation as an ideal space to create community.

In fact, he saw nearly the opposite: a place where self-interest had triumphed over the egalitarian principles he long championed.”

… snip, snip …

Peter had disdain for the way large corporations piled up huge profits, not so much because he was opposed to profit but because those same corporations fired thousands of workers as they lavished huge compensation packages on their executives.

“A business that does not show a profit at least equal to its cost of capital is socially irresponsible,” he wrote in Managing in a Time of Great Change.

But he also believed “the worship of high profit margin is likely to damage—if not destroy—the business” (Five Deadly Business Sins online program).

He argued—to no avail—that corporations should compensate their CEOs no more than twenty times what the rank and file made.

Peter saw the raising of capital as a way for the corporation to better accomplish its mission, which was to better provide value for its customers, rather than to provide value for the five guys in the executive suite.


And it wasn’t just the corporation that felt the sting of his criticism.

Peter increasingly viewed government as being run for the benefit of the insiders rather than its citizen customers.

“Fifty or sixty years ago, government programs delivered,” he once wrote in an informal summary of his thoughts on the social sector.

“They don’t deliver anymore, not only in this country, but no place in the world.

It’s all good intentions, for which we pay taxes.

The greatest achievement in the last, well, since World War II, is the social sector.

… snip, snip …

The numbing gridlock we see in our legislature today is a perfect example of Peter’s analysis that such ineffectiveness is always the result of an organization looking out for itself rather than those it was intended to serve.


It would be easy, then, to dismiss Peter’s disenchantment with business and government as just another cranky septuagenarian who has nothing better to do than grouse about the way things are.

Except Peter was never about the way things are.

He always maintained a vision for the way things could be.

Plus, he still had a lot in his tank—retirement was never an option for him—so if business and government weren’t getting the job done, he’d find something else.


And thanks to Peter, retirement was forever banished from my own vocabulary.

7 Success to Significance

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Around the time Peter was becoming increasingly disillusioned with corporate America, I began to hear a still, small voice whispering a haunting question into the deepest chambers of my soul: “What are you going to do with all that you’ve been given?”

… snip, snip …

But the whispering continued: Is my work still the center of my life?

What is my truest purpose?

My destiny?

What does it really mean to have it all?

What would my life look like if it really turned out well?

… snip, snip …

“You Frighten Me”

And then, in one of those unscripted events that seemed to come out of nowhere, I was given a little nudge—well, more of a slap—that infused those questions with a greater sense of urgency.


I was on a mission, and I pursued it with such intensity that my administrative assistant—a woman about fifteen years older than I—confronted me with some unsolicited and initially unwelcome criticism.

I was flying all over the country chasing deals and doing whatever it took to add to the bottom line of my company, but this brave lady saw something that bothered her.


“Mr. Buford, I think you need to know that you frighten me,” she carefully began, obviously aware that this was not the best way to begin a conversation with your boss.

“You are so concerned about outperforming everyone else and making a lot of money that I’m afraid you’re going to lose things that are valuable to you.”

… snip, snip …

Life Was Good ... Sort Of

Determining what I needed to do to correct that was not as easy.

This was not a midlife crisis, nor was this soul—searching interruption brought on by anything pathological.

I wasn’t addicted to anything, legal or illegal.

I was fortunate to be working with people I respected and admired.

Ten years earlier I had written down a list of life goals, and I was well on my way to accomplishing all of them.

Quite frankly, I rather liked my life.


But I could not shake the feeling that despite all the success I was having in both my professional and personal lives, I might be missing something even better.


That something is what I eventually described as significance—investing yourself in a mission or dream that transcends material success and aligns with your most deeply held core values.

… snip, snip …

Whenever I faced new challenges or opportunities in my business, I began by drawing up a strategic plan that not only provided a road map for moving forward, but a yardstick for measuring my effectiveness.

I decided I needed a strategic plan for me!

I hired a brilliant and demanding strategic planning coach to help me with the process.

… snip, snip …

Peter also warned against wasting my time tilting against the establishment.

“Look for people who are receptive to what you want to do, rather than push rocks uphill the rest of your life,” he cautioned.


He also told me not to focus on dribs and drabs, or “fritter my energy away,” as he actually said it.

That’s what most philanthropists do—a little donation here, and a little donation there, and they wake up at the end of the year and have nothing to show for it except that they went to a lot of charity balls.

… snip, snip …

Giving Is Not A Result

As I was casting about looking for ways to invest myself more fully into faith—based activities, I accepted an invitation to be on the advisory board of a ministry that was affiliated with a seminary.

I went to one meeting where I presented a proposal over which I had thought long and hard and included funding that I would help provide.

It wasn’t accepted but referred to a committee for further study, and I realized that it would probably take another several years to push this thing through the bureaucracy of a seminary.

When I shared that experience with Peter he said, “You need to use your energy where you can get results.”

He wisely steered me away from seminaries because, in his words, “I don’t think they really want to know what they need.”


Peter encouraged me to look for things that make a quantum difference, not incremental gains.

“Giving is not a result,” he frequently reminded me.

“Changed lives are!”


Finally, Peter encouraged me to “look for things that are ready to happen.”

… snip, snip …

What new, transformative phenomenon was an ember or spark that needed help in fanning it into a wildfire?


I turned to my good friend Fred Smith, who introduced me to two gentlemen who sat at the helm of a remarkable and successful Christian magazine company based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Christianity Today Inc. grew out of its flagship eponymous magazine, Christianity Today, which was founded by the renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham.

… snip, snip …

As I flew back to Dallas I was convinced of two things.

One, I had found my new calling.

Two, I had no idea what to do about it.

I can say with almost absolute certainty that I was as unknown to those pastors as they were to me.

And although I have attended church most of my life, my church was fairly small and comfortably traditional.

What could I possibly offer these pastors that would make them want to get on a plane and fly somewhere for another meeting?

8 Second Half Conspiracy

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One of the demographic changes that Peter had observed was the increasing lifespan of the American worker, along with the shift from laborer to “knowledge worker.”

Up until the mid-Twentieth Century, life expectancy in the United States peaked at around fifty-five years.

By the end of the Twentieth Century, that threshold had risen to seventy-four years.

… snip, snip …


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He believed that the predominant need in our culture was for individuals to make their lives useful to themselves and others, and he believed nonprofit organizations were best suited to do that.

… snip, snip …

Serendipitously, given my own decision to focus more on my faith, Peter had been doing a lot of pro bono consulting with the Salvation Army.

Where the public generally views this organization as people who ring a bell next to a red kettle during the holidays—or in previous generations, the uniformed half-dozen or so musicians playing their instruments on street comers—Peter studied them from the inside out and had high regard for them: “The Salvation Army is by far the most effective organization in the U.S. ,” he said in a 1997 interview in Forbes.

“No one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication to putting money to maximum use.”

… snip, snip …

He knew the clientele served by the Salvation Army: “the poorest of the poor and the meanest of the mean”; he resonated with its mission of transforming down-and-outers.

But more important, he knew how well the organization performed.

Recovery rates for those who entered the Salvation Army’s alcohol rehabilitation centers hovered around 45 percent, compared with 25 percent for most other treatment programs.

In its misdemeanor recovery program in which parole services are provided for first-time offenders, the success rate is about 80 percent.

… snip, snip …

One of the first things Peter did when he consulted with an organization was to ask them about their mission—what it was they intend to do.

In a Harvard Business Review article he wrote, “The best nonprofits devote a great deal of time to defining their organization’s mission.

They avoid sweeping statement full of good intentions and focus, instead, on objectives that have clear-cut implications for the work their members perform—staff and volunteers both.”

Peter succinctly paraphrased the Salvation Army’s mission statement as: “Take the losers, the rejects of society and make self-respecting citizens out of them.”


Peter also believed that the non-profit sector should assess the performance of their employees just as systematically and rigorously as the private sector.

… snip, snip …

Rather than hold on to underperforming employees, as is often done with nonprofits, he recommended a frank assessment of the employee’s deficiencies and additional training to address those deficiencies.

In other words, a second chance, but with the same expectations in place.

Through Peter’s influence, the Salvation Army has a formal system in place to evaluate the performance of all its employees.

Remarkably, of those employees whose performance is deficient and who are given a second chance, approximately 60 percent are successfully retrained and returned to productive service.

… snip, snip …

Transforming America’s Latent Energy

As I began to share with Peter my interest in doing something for a group of pastors, he listened carefully as I tried to explain the types of churches they led and how they were attracting large numbers of people who had previously not been inclined to have much to do with church.

As far as I know, he knew virtually nothing about this new movement within American Christianity.

But as I had seen so many times previously, Peter was a quick learner.

… snip, snip …

“Your mission, Bob, is to transform the latent energy of American Christianity into active energy.”

… snip, snip …

According to most pollsters, anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians.

And on any given Sunday, roughly 45 percent of all Americans go to church.

You would think that with so many Christians among us, we would have safer neighborhoods, less crime, fewer children going to school hungry, healthier marriages, and other distinguishing features of a “fully functioning society,” to borrow from Peter.

Unfortunately, despite all this religious activity, we don’t.


What would happen if all these Christians took their faith seriously, living out the teachings of Jesus at work, at home, in their cities? 

What if they moved from being latent to becoming active-from going to church on Sundays to being the church every day?

… snip, snip …

Connecting The Innovators

I knew I needed some type of structure or vehicle from which to operate, so with Fred Smith’s help, I launched Leadership Network, whose mission at the time was to “identify, connect, and help high-capacity Christian leaders multiply their impact.”

Our initial idea was to be sort of a fly on the wall, listening to church leaders—primarily senior pastors of churches with more than a thousand in attendance.

We hoped to foster a continuous stream of innovation by finding and connecting the innovators.

We wanted them to share their ideas and teach others in their sphere of influence.

We would use their credibility, not ours—we were the platform, not the show.

Or as Peter once told me, “The fruit of your work grows on other people’s trees.”


The role of Leadership Network would be to provide connections, tools, and resources to help leaders minister more effectively.

Our first major initiative was to try to arrange a series of meetings where Peter would share his wisdom with small groups of these pastors and church leaders.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure any preacher in America knew who Peter was or, if they did, would view him as a reliable guide for their work in Christian ministry.

Nor was I convinced that Peter would have any interest in spending time with a bunch of preachers.


When I finally broached the subject with Peter, he basically said something like, “Well, yes—we have to do this.”

We didn’t really have an agenda other than Peter knew that I wanted to see if his wisdom, which had so enriched my life, could be adapted to churches.

Beyond that, our marching orders at Leadership Network were to identify the church leaders who would be most receptive to learning from a “secular” resource and invite them to come listen to Peter.

As it turned out, I didn’t exactly have to “sell” Peter.

These people not only knew who Peter was but had read many of his books and held him in high esteem.

All I had to do was mention his name, and the RSVPs began pouring in.


One of the first pastors to respond was a guy named Randy Pope, who had started Perimeter Church, a very successful and dynamic church in Atlanta.

“When I got the invitation that mentioned Peter Drucker would be our guest, I could hardly believe it,” Randy recently recalled for me.

“I certainly knew Peter by his reputation and held him in the highest regard, and couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say to a group of pastors.”


To be honest, I was just as eager myself.

9 Peter and the Preachers

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The plan was simple.

Two days of Peter.

I think we may have given them a couple of hours off each afternoon, but I don’t recall seeing any preachers riding horses or trying out the zip line.

They couldn’t get enough of Peter.

Fred and I took turns moderating, but basically each session was Peter talking for about two hours to a completely spellbound audience, followed by a half hour or so of lively question and answer.

Then we’d break for lunch or a snack and go right back at it.


The room in which we met was well-equipped with a podium and whiteboard, but Peter always chose to sit on a table, his legs dangling above the floor in an almost-child-like manner.

I’ve attended my share of “professional development” seminars and other business-related conferences, and attendance dwindles as the day goes on.

Not with Peter.

The only time these guys weren’t paying full attention to him was when they lowered their gaze, almost in unison, to their notebooks to record some pithy thought, of which there were many.

… snip, snip …

Managing The Church To Be More Church-Like

Though we never really announced a topic for the event or his specific sessions with the pastors, Peter basically translated his views of management into a language and context that pastors would understand.

But as Peter always pointed out to them, “The function of management in a church is to make the church more church-like, not to make it more business-like.”

Years before mega-churches were criticized for being too market-driven and business-like, Peter anticipated that criticism and warned these pastors against abandoning their mission.

He reminded them that their success is largely due to the fact that their churches were pastoral, meaning that they served individuals, understood their needs, and cared for their souls.

He understood the tendency for institutions to gradually exist for themselves rather than for the people they serve and exhorted these men to never forget their true calling.

… snip, snip …

For roughly thirty years he had taught courses in Claremont’s Executive Management Program, and he noticed that he always had five or six pastors in attendance.

As his interest in the nonprofit sector grew, he made it a point to get to know these pastors and stay in touch with them.

So he knew enough about churches and their leaders to connect with the group we had gathered in Estes Park.

But he also knew that these pastors were not your typical parish priest or shepherd to an average-sized congregation, so he asked as many questions as he answered.

It was clear to me that Peter found himself in the midst of a unique type of leader representing churches unlike any he had ever encountered.

He wanted to learn as much as he could about them.


I’ve also attended seminars and conferences where the “star” disappeared after his presentation, but Peter was so generous with his time.

He could easily have slipped out after each session and retreated to his cabin to unwind or relax, but he stuck around and seemed to genuinely enjoy his interaction with these guys.

During meals he rotated between tables so he could get to know each of these pastors better, and at break time he was always in the middle of a small group, listening as much as he spoke.


The response from the pastors was universal.

One by one they would approach me during a break and mention something specific Peter had said that would directly influence their own work in the church.

Randy Pope, the Atlanta pastor I mentioned earlier, summed up Peter’s contribution this way:

Practically everything he said applied to my work as the pastor of a large church, but two things stand out.

I had really been struggling with how to take people in my church into greater depth and maturity of faith — to go from sort of adding a little bit of church to their lives to becoming mature followers of Christ.

Peter mentioned that he knew of only two organizations who have successfully made a long-term difference in people.

Larger churches and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

So I decided to look into AA to see how they did it and if we could borrow from them.

I learned that there were two keys to their success: accountability and a qualified sponsor.

So we began forming groups of five people with an effective, equipped leader and it has literally transformed our church.

In fact, it has been so successful that we have hundreds of pastors from all over the world coming to us to learn how to do the same thing in their churches.

It has created a separate global ministry, that we call Life on Life Ministries.


I also learned from Peter how to be the most effective leader possible.

He said that very, few people can do three things well, or even two things well.

Most people can only do one thing really well, and once they identify, that one thing and give themselves completely to it, they are the people who make the biggest difference in the world.

During one of the final sessions, I was standing in the back of the room, and a strong and uncharacteristic wave of emotion fell over me.

Peter was up front with his sneakers swinging back and forth beneath the table he was sitting on.

A select group of some of the nation’s most talented and influential pastors and church leaders were so dialed in you could almost feel their eagerness to go back and put to work what they were learning.

Peter paused with his enigmatic smile, and it hit me.

It was happening!

I left behind a business career to engage in something so much bigger, but there was always that doubt in the back of my mind.

Would it amount to anything or would I just be writing checks to make me feel better?

As I gazed out across the room, it was almost as if the Almighty himself was saying to me, “See?

And this is just the beginning.”


I had to slip out of the room, I was so overcome with emotion.


Thus began a series of similar meetings with Peter.

We invited groups of pastors and other social sector leaders to spend two days with him.

Thirty leaders at a time, five separate events.

Peter taught in the mornings and afternoons, and we carefully arranged the groups so that Peter could have personal conversations with the leaders over meals.

One hundred and fifty leaders in total poured their stories and management concerns onto Peter, who took it all in like the lifelong student he was.

Peter learned by listening.


In my office I keep a framed picture that looks a bit like a high-school class’s twentieth reunion photo: thirty-three men awkwardly posing and smiling into the camera against a backdrop of mountains.

Sadly, some have passed on—men like Art DeKruyter who led one of the most dynamic and influential churches in the Chicago area, Christ Church of Oak Brook.

David Hubbard, the former president of Fuller Seminary, the largest interdenominational seminary in the world.

Ted Engstrom, former head of the international relief agency World Vision.

These were senior statesmen who came and lended support to our efforts to nurture and encourage the younger pastors, and I miss their influence and friendship.


But as I look at that picture almost every day, I’m overwhelmed at what happened at that first meeting and several to follow.

I see Leith Anderson, who led one of the largest churches in Minnesota, Wooddale Church, and now heads up the National Association of Evangelicals.

Terry Fullam, who turned a small Episcopal congregation of a hundred or so in Darien, Connecticut, into a thriving church of more than a thousand members.

Larry DeWitt who started a new church in Thousand Oaks, California, with six families and led it to become a dynamic congregation that now serves as a model for reaching the boomer generation.


And a middle-aged guy from Chicago in the back row with blond hair, a nice tan, and a white-hot intensity.

10 Go Big or Go Home

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For several months, six days a week, eight hours a day, he knocked and began with one question: “Do you actively attend a local church?”

If the answer was “Yes,” he would thank that person for his or her time and move on to the next house.

If the answer was “No,” he then asked a follow-up question: “Could you tell me why you don’t attend church?”

The majority said no, and of those, nearly 70 percent were very willing to express their exasperation and frustration with church.


Hybels charted all their responses, but two stood out.

First, they complained that the church always asked for money, and second, they observed that church was boring, routine, predictable, and “not relevant to my life.”


Before he left, Hybels would always ask, “If there was a church in this community that did not go after your money, that talked about issues relevant to your life, that was creative and stimulating and practical and truthful, would you at all be interested in attending a church like that?”

Many responded that they would.

… snip, snip …

A Mega-Church Is Born 

On October 12, 1975, Hybels opened the doors to a rented movie theater.

The prior week he had invited all of those who responded favorably to his informal survey—close to a thousand—to join him for the very first service of Willow Creek Community Church.

The theater seated one thousand and he was worried they wouldn’t have enough room.


About one hundred and twenty-five—including his own family and friends—showed up.


“It was embarrassing,” Hybels told Peter and me in one of our first meetings together.

“But we kept at it.

… snip, snip …

Not Your Typical Pastor

I first met Hybels in the mid-1980s at the insistence of Harold and Robbie. 

According to them, he was just the type of church leader I was looking for: smart, entrepreneurial, and willing to use management principles to grow his church larger—much larger than what was the norm for most traditional churches. 

As I walked into his office, it was clear that this was not your typical pastor.

He had the look of a business executive and an intensity that was palpable.


As he shared with me some of his story, he stopped at one point and mentioned his sadness that in the process of moving out of rented facilities and into their own building, he had burned through one or two generations of managers.


I appreciated his candor, just as I appreciated his willingness to join us and a group of other church leaders in Estes Park.

In fact, he loved the idea.

I’ll never forget seeing him sit quietly, almost smoldering, for two days.

And then, out of the blue in one of the question-and-answer sessions he said, “I’m from Chicago, and I’ve got eight thousand people coming to my church, and I’m not sure what to do next.”


The other people in the room almost fainted.


But that was just Hybels being who he was.

He wasn’t boasting; he just wasn’t satisfied with eight thousand.

He was relentless about getting bigger, not for the sake of numbers alone but for the sake of transformation—taking people from spiritual infancy to becoming fully devoted followers of Christ.


It was Hybels who coined the word “seekers” to describe those who did not attend church regularly but were curious about Christianity.

That was his target, to use a marketing term, though even in the earliest days of Willow Creek he has been blessed with a core group of committed Christians to assist with teaching and nurturing the seekers.

It was exactly what I had envisioned when I wondered what would happen if the church applied Peter’s ideas in the management of their mission.

… snip, snip …

The Hope of the World

Willow Creek is big and beautiful, but it does not exist only for itself.

Attempting to live out Hybels’s belief that “the local church is the hope of the world,” church members are encouraged to serve others.

The original auditorium, built in 1981, now is used to minister to the area’s Hispanic community.

Over the past twenty years, the C.A.R.S. (Christian Auto Repairmen Serving) ministry has provided reliable transportation to thousands of single moms.

Its Care Center offers assistance in processing applications for food stamps, free health screening and health education services, free legal consultations, one-on-one employment counseling, and ESL classes—as well as a traditional food pantry stocked with fresh produce, meat, dairy products, and other items for families in need.


The church also partners with a local organization to provide hot meals and a warm place to sleep for Chicago’s homeless.

Globally, Willow Creek offers short-term missions—trips that might include building churches in Chile or supporting those afflicted with HIV in Zambia.

In all, more than seven thousand volunteers from Willow Creek serve on a regular basis.

… snip, snip …

In the early days, Hybels told me that he would meet one on one with pastors who traveled from all over the world to learn from him.

He simply couldn’t do that and continue to lead his church, so in 1992 the Willow Creek Association (WCA) was formed to provide vision, training, and resources for church leaders.

More than 8,000 member churches representing 90 denominations from 37 countries now belong to the WCA.

Its annual Global Leadership Summit in 2012 reached 170,000 leaders—70,000 from the United States and 100,000 from 268 cities in 75 countries speaking 34 languages.


And this is just Willow Creek—one of more than 1,500 megachurches in the United States that are similarly serving the needs of people in their communities and around the world.

… snip, snip …

Customer Service in Church?

One of the outcomes of our meetings between Peter and groups of pastors was that we began being contacted by seminaries.

They wanted to know what we were teaching so that they might adjust their curricula used to train “traditional” pastors.

In response, Leadership Network sponsored an extensive survey conducted of seminary-trained pastors.

… snip, snip …

What we learned was that seminaries did a good job of teaching potential pastors about things like church history, theology, and Greek and Hebrew.

But they did a very poor job of preparing leaders.

Here are some of the verbatim responses to the question, “What are seminaries not doing well?”

  • Understanding culture
  • Teaching leadership
  • Teaching relational skills
  • Extremely weak on the practical side of ministry
  • Management skills
  • Too much theory; not enough in the practical hands-on area
  • Not globally connected
  • Teaching vision for ministry
  • Training in the use of modern media

In other words, seminaries were not producing leaders with the same skills being exhibited by the pastors of mega-churches, which helped to explain why so many traditional churches were in decline.


As one of the respondents noted, “Our seminary graduates are being turned out into congregations with no vision for ministry and no capacity to mobilize their members to pursue an excellent agenda for ministry for Christ and to organize for such missions.”

… snip, snip …

I think that’s why Peter was so fascinated with people like Bill Hybels.

He loved how these larger churches paid attention to the needs of their “customers” and adapted to meet those needs.

He seemed fascinated that they were already applying principles of management and professional leadership to their work, something not always seen in religious organizations.

(In fairness to seminaries, since we conducted our research in 1993, many seminaries have updated their approach to training future pastors.)

Peter shouldn’t have been surprised that this new breed of pastors was so open to his counsel.

Just like me, many of these pastors were already Peter Drucker fans before I arranged for them to meet with him.

Part of the professional development curriculum for all the department heads at Willow Creek includes a guided study of Peter’s book The Effective Executive.


Peter also recognized that although the mega-churches shared the same mission of introducing the non-churched to the gospel and helping them grow into mature followers of Christ, they were not necessarily clones of each other.

Or to put it another way, what works in suburban Chicago does not necessarily work in Southern California.

11 Purposeful Innovation

… snip, snip …

An ambitious yet practical visionary, Warren was determined not to pour money into a building until they reached ten thousand people in attendance, a commitment that led to something of a nomadic existence for this church.

Since that first service at the high school, Saddleback (as it is commonly known) has used nearly eighty facilities.

… snip, snip …

Not Your Typical Baptist Church

When I first met Warren, I instantly liked him.

How can you not like a guy with an engaging smile who wraps nearly everyone he meets in a big, warm bear hug?

His enthusiasm is almost childlike, and his humility immediately puts you at ease.


“People want to know my secrets of success,” he once told me.


“But the truth is, I’ve learned by doing, and I’ve learned more from my failures than from my successes.”


When you drive past Willow Creek, you might mistake the campus for the global headquarters of a Fortune 500 company; when you pull into the parking lot of Saddleback, you’re more likely to think Bible theme park.

An interactive playground for children, created by a member who happens to be one of Disney’s top theme park designers, subtly teaches Bible stories, complete with a Jordan River and Red Sea that can be “parted” to demonstrate Moses’s great miracle.

Older kids have their own climbing rock wall, cutting-edge video games, and life-like reptiles to observe in the “Lizard Lounge.”

Saddleback’s state-of-the-art student ministry center, “The Refinery,” serves 2,500 young people every weekend and is considered the premier student ministry facility in the world.

… snip, snip …

When the congregation finally built its very own auditorium, it was a modest facility that seats 3,500.

This means that Saddleback has to conduct six weekend services to handle the twenty thousand or so regular attendees.

Whenever pastors like Hybels or Warren throw around numbers like that, critics sometime accuse them of being interested only in size.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These church leaders have simply adopted an important Drucker principle: Good intentions are not enough; always measure the results of your efforts to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment of time and resources.

“If you would come to visit Saddleback,” Warren said, “you would see Peter’s fingerprints all over it.”


Like Hybels—and most other people who started churches that grew to have thousands of active members—Warren first focused on his potential customers.

For twelve weeks he pounded the pavement, knocking on doors, and listening to people explain why they didn’t go to church.

“I would just listen and write everything down they told me,” Warren explained to me.

“I was basically doing what Peter had taught as being basic to any successful enterprise—know your customer and find out what your customer values.”

… snip, snip …

A Steady Stream Of Innovation

Warren also credits Peter for helping him understand how to be an effective leader.


“It was Peter who taught me that leaders do not start with the question ‘What do I want to do?’ he once told me.

“Instead, great leaders always ask, ‘What needs to be done?’”


When it comes to church, that distinction is important.

In many ways, the last thing the world—or at least the U.S. —needs is another church.

I suspect a lot of young men and now women coming out of seminary would like to start a church.

That’s the “What do I want to do?” question.

By asking, “What needs to be done?” these mega-church pastors learned to pay attention to the needs within their communities and create churches very unlike the churches that may be doing a wonderful job with their congregations but have largely been ignored by those people we call the unchurched.

… snip, snip …

However, yesterday’s innovation can end up being today’s status quo.

As I’ve come to learn through my involvement with these larger churches, they never rest on their laurels but constantly monitor their effectiveness and are willing to try something new if the old ways aren’t working.

It’s what separates a fad from what Peter called “purposeful innovation,” which results from “analysis, systematic review, and hard work, and can be taught, replicated, and learned.”


From the very beginning of my relationship with Warren, I felt his greatest strength was as an ingenious systems thinker.

He could look at the big picture and see how things fit together.

… snip, snip …

He explained to Peter that Saddleback initially started special classes for new members, taught by older, more experienced Christians.

But as they monitored these classes, it became apparent that the new members kept getting stranded on first base.


“So we tried something new,” he explained to us.

“We found that new believers actually grow faster when you put them with other new believers than when you put them with old believers.

And when you put new believers together, they are much more action-oriented.

The problem with most American churches is that they teach too much and don’t do enough.”

… snip, snip …

It is that same willingness to not only monitor results but have the courage to kill the sacred cow when it gets in the way that led Willow Creek recently to make massive changes in the way it disciples new believers.

… snip, snip …

Innovate For Action

When I started working with the pastors of large churches in 1984, there were approximately six hundred churches in America with an average weekly attendance of more than one thousand people.

By 2012, their ranks had ballooned to more than six thousand.

Peter once told me that the essential ingredient of success is a steady stream of innovation.

The first act of innovation is hard enough for many people, but to follow with Act Two, Act Three, and beyond is more of a discipline than a gift.

And it calls for those most vested in the organization to listen carefully to those they serve.

… snip, snip …

Here’s where it gets interesting.

On Easter Sunday in 2012, Life Church (mentioned above) reported attendance of 71,000!

But in 177 different worship events at their various sites.

Which means that the average gathering of people at each service numbered “only’” 401.

Similarly, Mars Hill’s average attendance at each Easter service was 479.

The trend seems to be that as these churches scale up they are at the same time finding ways to build more intimacy.

In other words, the next innovation in large churches might be small.

… snip, snip …

We also facilitate “Leadership Communities” groups of ten to twelve leaders who meet regularly to dream, create, and execute ideas into tangible results.

Thanks to Peter’s influence, everything we do is aimed at action and results: How can we apply these ideas in a practical manner that will help the church transform society?

We basically ask ourselves, “What is God doing now?

How can we join?

What’s next?”

Recently, after speaking to a group we had brought together, Jim Collins handed me a note: “You have helped build the most sophisticated human enterprise in the world.”

And to that, I simply say, “Thank you, Peter.”

… snip, snip …

From my experience in business and with churches, the natural tendency is for organizations to get “hardening of the arteries,” become institutionalized, and focus more on the needs of the inside employees rather than adapting to the needs of a very quickly changing consumer base.

Whether multi-site or a single facility, the key to the success of these mega-churches is their focus on the needs of people, not on maintaining an organization.


Peter was the perfect tonic for the “arteries” of these large churches.


And for mine as well.

12 Mentor and Friend

… snip, snip …

IN 1997, ATLANTIC Monthly editor Jack Beatty, interviewed me for two hours for a book he was writing, The World According to Peter Drucker.

This was pretty heady stuff, even for a Texan, and I confess to at least a small dose of hubris as I awaited the book’s release.

I was smart enough to realize that not all of my erudite observations would appear in the book, but two hours would certainly provide this world-class journalist with a fair amount of provocative material.

When I finally got a chance to buy the book, I quickly paged through it, looking for my contribution, only to discover that all my pontificating on Peter had been reduced to a mere six words: “He’s the brains, I’m the legs.”

… snip, snip …

What Peter Did For Me

Due entirely to Peter’s stature, the business media not only took note of his work with mega-churches, but seemed genuinely intrigued that he spent so much time in a world unknown to them.

In 2002, Inc. magazine published an article about how Peter had mentored me.

In that article, which was given the appropriate title, “The Uber Mentor,” I identified nine contributions that characterized Peter’s influence on me as a mentor over the years.

1. He defined the landscape for me.

From Peter, I saw four “horizons” that would guide my second-half efforts: 

the success-to-significance movement in midlife; 

the reality that people now have options—perhaps the biggest change of the Twentieth Century; 

that nonprofits need to be managed for results and performance, not just good intentions; and 

that organizational skills would be needed in order to grow large churches.

2. He defined the opportunities, the “white space”—what is needed now.

Peter helped me understand that the “externally focused church” is a major social opportunity and that Leadership Network can help these churches become more effective in their communities.

The way we would do that would be to find and equip church leaders willing to commit the time and effort to apply management and organizational skills to their work as pastors.

We would then facilitate these churches teaching their large and growing peers.

3. He helped me clarify my strengths and capacities.

I thought my strength was perseverance and money.

Peter disagreed, telling me, “Your strength is to see the architectural structure of things.”

4. He identified the myths, the false paths, the incorrect assumptions of the “industry” within which I was working.

I think he knew the tendency of people working with nonprofits to think of themselves as the minor league where good intentions are enough.

So he stressed the need to raise the standard of performance in my work with churches and others.

5. He encouraged me to “go for it.”

Peter was all about action.

Don’t just dream big; follow through.

So where he showed me the need for effective leadership to build large churches, he also encouraged me to form (with Fred Smith’s help) Leadership Network.

When he helped me see the need for effective management of nonprofits, I joined with Frances Hesselbein to create the Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.

And when he helped me understand that I had a second career ahead of me, I entered “half-lime” and emerged with a book and an organization that has created a movement of second-half entrepreneurs who are transforming their communities.

Without Peter’s encouragement, those all would have remained dreams.

6. He helped me sort out the right strategies.

I could have spun my wheels for years, had Peter not been at my side sharing his invaluable and practical wisdom.

One of his most important contributions was to steer me away from denominations and seminaries and encourage me to focus exclusively on large church entrepreneurs.

7. He affirmed results.

How can you not be motivated when Peter F. Drucker tells you (and repeats it in Forbes), “The pastoral mega-churches are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last thirty years”?

And also this: “Bob, you have accomplished far more than you think.”

Peter’s affirmation was not given capriciously and always kept me focused on performance, which for me—and him—meant changed lives.

8. He pointed out wasted effort. 

Peter helped me to stop doing things.

Or as he succinctly put it, “When the horse is dead, dismount.”

If something isn’t working—or not working as robustly as it once did—I abandon what I’m doing and redirect the resources to more promising opportunities.

9. He (gently) held me accountable. 

Peter was very kind, yet direct, when he felt I needed a “course correction.”

Once he told me, “When you have no results, perhaps it’s because you don’t know how to do it,” suggesting that I should either learn how to do it or hand it over to someone else.

Peter kept me in a state of constant renewal.


Aside from the twelve apostles, I don’t think anyone could have had a better mentor.


A few years ago, I asked my friend Joe Maciariello to try to make some sense out of the more than one hundred hours of taped transcripts of what came out of my regular meetings with Peter.

Joe collaborated on at least two books with Peter, taught alongside him at Claremont, and is the coauthor of a foundational work, Drucker’s Lost Art of Management.

What Joe discovered, among other things, is that as a mentor Peter was not above learning from the person he was mentoring.

Joe astutely observed that when our consultations moved into the arena of large churches, Peter knew little about the mega-church movement.

So I became Peter’s mentor on a phenomenon that was unfamiliar to him.


In his research into my relationship with Peter, Joe also had access to what I call the “artifacts” of our time together.

For example, he found a copy of a work of art I commissioned to commemorate Peter’s eightieth birthday.

The elegantly framed piece was a marvelous graphic depiction of Peter created by a calligrapher and artist named Timothy Botts.

It included a mosaic of interlacing hands, with three of Peter’s famous questions inscribed across the bottom of the print: 

  • Who is the customer?
  • What does the customer value?
  • What is our business?

When Peter saw it, he responded in his deep Austrian accent, “This is my life.”

The guest list to this eightieth birthday party was itself a tribute to the many great lives Peter had touched: Andy Grove, co-founder and CEO of Intel; Mort Myerson, CEO of Electronic Data Systems and later Perot Business Systems; C. Gregg Petersmeyer, assistant to President George W. Bush and director of the Office of National Service; C. William Pollard, CEO of ServiceMaster Co.; James Osborne, national commander of the Salvation Army; and a host of other leaders from business, government, and the nonprofit sector.

Frances Hesselbein, then the head of the Drucker Foundation and before that the head of Girl Scouts of the USA, helped me organize this memorable event in New York City.

We called it “A Day with Peter F. Drucker: An 80th Birthday Celebration.”


Within a few days of returning to Dallas, I received a letter from Peter, typed on his manual typewriter, complete with a hand-corrected typo.

Peter was perhaps the most courteous man I’ve ever known, and I had grown accustomed to receiving similar notes of encouragement or appreciation.

He never lost sight of the human side of every equation and took the time to recognize the contributions of others.


But this letter was different.

In addition to thanking me for the birthday celebration that I had a hand in organizing, he revealed something that I still find incredibly humbling as it more or less confirmed Joe’s view that in the best mentoring relationships, the mentoring flows in both directions.

As the recipient of Peter’s teaching and friendship, my life has been enriched beyond any measure I could have imagined.

That the working out of my quest for a more significant life had any impact on Peter is a fitting illustration of what it means to be a life-long learner.

This is a portion of that letter to me:

But above all, this is a letter of profound thanks for what you, Bob, have done for me and for the third “half” of my life—the last fifteen or so years.

It is through you and your friendship that I have attained in my old age a new and significant sphere of inspiration, of hope, of effectiveness: the mega-churches.

You cannot possibly imagine how much this means and has meant to me, and how profoundly it has affected my life.

I owe you so very much for your generous willingness to allow me to take a small part in your tremendously important work—I cannot even begin to tell you what your confidence in me and your friendship has meant for me.

In warm and affectionate gratitude,
Peter Drucker


He could not have known then that his “third half” would continue for another fifteen years.

Or that spurred along by his influence, large churches would continue to innovate, experiment, and change in order to do a more effective job of introducing people to God and nurturing their relationship with him.

And that these churches would provide millions of hours of community service outside their own walls.

13 The God Question

… snip, snip …

So the obvious question from those who know Peter as “the father of modern management,” yet saw him hanging around the likes of Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and me: “Was Peter a Christian?”

In an existential way, it really didn’t matter to me, especially in the beginning of our relationship.

I sought his counsel because I considered him to be the most trustworthy and brilliant thinker on the planet.

Even before I met and then developed a friendship with Peter, I sensed from reading his books that he was a kindred spirit.

Someone who valued the same things I valued.

I never gave any thought to what religion, if any, he embraced even as he demonstrated a commitment to qualities such as honesty, fair play, compassion, and decency that are often traced to Judeo-Christian teaching.

I sought Peter’s counsel for my business, not my faith.


Although it is probably accurate to describe my own belief system as falling somewhere in the broad category of evangelical, I’ve never been all that comfortable with what is commonly referred to as “witnessing”—sharing my faith with others for the purpose of inviting them to embrace it themselves.

I suspect part of that has to do with my somewhat introverted personality, but I’ve also always believed that the way I live says as much or more about my beliefs as my words do.

Or to paraphrase St. Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

… snip, snip …

I was timid about even bringing up that subject, but as we were walking from his house, to go to Griswold’s for lunch, I just asked him directly, “Peter, are you a Christian?”


“Well,” he answered.

“I’m a Kierkegaardian.”

He then explained that when he was eighteen he translated a Danish theologian named Søren Kierkegaard into German, and that experience had a profound impact on him.

“But since that time, my religious side has been attenuated.”


I listened and carried on as if I knew what he was talking about, which of course I did not.

Later, with the help of an encyclopedia (this was pre-Google), I learned that Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian existentialist who was extremely cynical about the church but passionate about his faith as an autonomous individual.

He railed against the state-sanctioned church that made it possible, in his words, for people to “become Christian without knowing what it means to be a Christian.”

And from a dictionary I learned that attenuated meant “stretched thin.”

It was the first time either of us had said anything about faith, but it opened the door for many subsequent conversations that ventured beyond my business interests and eventually led to my second-half career.

… snip, snip …

As I began to explain my interest in working with pastors of large churches, it was clear that Peter was very much aware of their existence.

In one of our consultations he pretty much crystalized my own thoughts:

It seems to me that you propose to exploit a unique opportunity.

You have been talking of a “spiritual revival.”

You know that l’m a little reluctant to use such big words.

But there is no doubt that the evangelicals are creating a new mode.

They are making the church available to the modern world.

And they are creating a church that fits the reality of our society in which a majority, or at least a leading minority, consists of highly educated and highly professional people who, at the same time, are increasingly conscious of the fact that they need more than this world, and more than material possessions, and more than worldly success.

And the rapid growth and development of megachurches creates the opportunity for developing an organization that assists pastors and leaders of these churches in learning how to lead, organize, and manage these organizations as their scale increases.

He then went on to give me a lesson in church history, referring to both the First Great Awakening led by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield and the Second involving Lyman Beecher and Charles Finney.

I remember thinking as he contrasted society’s needs today with those during these historic spiritual movements, For a management guy, he sure seems to know a lot about religion.

But as I had already observed, Peter was so much more than a “management guy.”

His curiosity led him to learn from all disciplines, and one of the best ways to learn, he once told me, is to teach.

Peter taught everything from American history to Japanese art to statistics to, yes, religion.


Peter saw religion, properly lived out by adherents, as an ally to his vision for a fully functioning society.

Commitment to the tenets of religious belief—Christian or otherwise—contributed to the ethical and moral health of individuals, communities, nations.

In his 1957 book, Landmarks of Tomorrow, Peter wrote: “Society needs a return to spiritual values—not to offset the material but to make it fully productive … Mankind needs the return to spiritual values, for it needs compassion.

It needs the deep experience that the Thou and the I are one, which all higher religions share.”


Those looking to “’Christianize” Peter might be inclined to point to his work with mega-chureh pastors as an indication of his personal beliefs.

After all, why would a man who could make a lot more money consulting for other organizations devote so much time during the final twenty years of his life to the likes of Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and me?

It certainly is tempting to think that Peter singled out these large churches because he shared their evangelical Christian theology and doctrine, but that’s not what attracted him to this subculture.

This was just Peter being true to his own counsel: build on islands of strength.

I am quite certain that if I asked him to help me work with one of the mainline denominations that was losing thousands of members annually, he would have politely declined.


Whether or not he bought everything these mega-churches were selling, he was completely sold on their potential to have a positive and long-lasting influence on society.

He saw into the future where these large churches could re-energize Christianity in this country and successfully address societal issues that neither the public nor private sectors had been able to resolve.

He even went so far as to describe the mega-church as “the only organization that is actually working in our society.”


To my knowledge, Peter never actually attended Willow Creek or Saddleback or any other of the large churches he influenced.

He often accompanied Doris on Sundays to a small Episcopal church in Claremont.

He possessed an impressive knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, often referring to specific passages and teachings when he spoke.

He knew his Scripture well, encouraging me to be an even greater student of the Bible.

… snip, snip …

Peter added, “I always maintain that the most important phrase in marketing is that wonderful phrase in the King James Version of the Bible, ‘the fulness of time.’

That’s what happened with you—opportunity meets a prepared mind.”

As I indicated earlier, it is not my intention to try and paint Peter as an evangelical Christian.

He wasn’t.

As much as he respected and admired this particular slice of Christianity, he clearly observed and counseled them as an outsider.

I have often described Peter as a faithful disciple who did not wear his faith on his sleeve.

He was devoted to his local church and its leaders, but advised leaders of many religious traditions.


Shortly before he died, Peter granted an interview to Tom Ashbrook, host of the nationally syndicated radio program On Point.

It would turn out to be Peter’s last interview.

After nearly forty-five minutes of engaging dialogue, Ashford could not resist addressing the God question.


“Peter Drucker,’” he began.

“I have a final question, and I hope you will humor me and not consider me too greedy.

You have lived a life and focused intensely on life and how it’s lived.

Now you’re ninety-five.

What about an afterlife?

What about God?

How do you think about the transition that you are inevitably approaching?”


Peter did not hesitate.


“Well, I happen to be a very conventional, traditional Christian. Period!

And I don’t think about it.

I am told!

It’s not my job to think about it.

My job is to say, ‘Yes sir!’”


“That must be very comforting,” Ashbrook commented.


“It is, and I say every morning and every evening, ‘Praise be to God for the beauty of his creation. Amen.’”


Peter went out of his way to not offend people, especially when it came to the subject of religion.

He knew that anything he did that would lead people to say he was biased or cause people to think he favored a particular sect or subgroup would impede his main objective.

For Peter did not think it was his job to spread the gospel.


His mission was to help save society.

14 Saving Society

… snip, snip …

But I must confess that an increasing sense of urgency has crept into my soul when it comes to releasing the latent energy of American Christianity.

If anything, we need Peter’s influence more than ever, and one area where I find hope is in the nonprofit arena.

Peter once told me that the most effective organizations in the world are nonprofits.

He believed that these organizations, if managed properly, could become the best avenues for meeting human needs and alleviating suffering.

And in turn, these organizations could fulfill the needs of volunteers hungry for individual achievement and a sense of citizenship.

I believe that’s what he saw happening as he studied the mega-church.

And in that sense, Peter found a vehicle that just might be capable of saving society.

Or at least, working in tandem with other well-managed nonprofit organizations, it could contribute to a fully functioning society.

… snip, snip …

A Million Organizations Working To Save Society

… snip, snip …

Frances, a remarkable leader in her own right, having just retired as CEO of the Girl Scouts, served for several years as the unpaid president and CEO of the Drucker Foundation.

I became the founding chairman.

Frances’s summary of the foundation’s purpose reflects Peter’s confidence in what nonprofits could do for society if managed well: 

“We are dedicated to support one million social sector organizations sharing a vision of healthy children, strong families, adequate schools, decent neighborhoods—all embraced by the cohesive, inclusive community.”


Since its inauspicious beginnings, the organization has trained more than 11,000 nonprofit leaders and provided facilitator training for 1,500 trainers who work with nonprofits.

It has also been responsible for publishing thirteen books and four videos on leadership, management, innovation, and change for social sector leaders.

In 2003, the foundation developed a documentary, Peter F. Drucker: An Intellectual Journey, which aired on CNBC.

More recently—having first changed its name to Leader to Leader and now to the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute—the organization has branched out to work with corporate executives and fostered a fruitful relationship with the U.S. Army at West Point.

… snip, snip …

Now It’s Your Turn

… snip, snip …

After the meal, we went around the table, giving everyone an opportunity to say something to Peter, and there was much congratulating and reminiscing.

Peter expressed his gratitude to every one of us, and it was really a very warm, intimate meeting—perhaps more so than any other time I’ve been with Peter in a group.


One of the last things Peter said before we all went our separate ways was that he felt there wasn’t much left in him.

He was approaching his ninety-third year and though he was still writing, he knew that he simply did not have the energy or the time to continue at the nonstop pace he had maintained all of his professional life.


That was when John Bachman concluded the evening with a statement that still haunts me, but in a good way: “Well, it’s up to us now.”


And it is, for I am still an optimist at heart and believe that we can have the fully functioning society to which Peter devoted his life.

It will not be easy, yet nothing of consequence is gained without sacrifice and struggle.

It will take people of goodwill and generosity who are willing to invest their time, treasure, and talent into endeavors and enterprises committed to making their neighborhoods and communities better.

Though I believe that the greatest hope for the world comes from the church, I also embrace Peter’s wider vision of people from all walks of life—and faiths—working together to protect the world from tyranny by being good, honest, industrious contributors as parents, neighbors, workers, and leaders.

… snip, snip …

The Drucker Institute

After that final meeting with Peter, my young associate Derek Bell and I attended a board meeting of what was then the Drucker Archives.

As we sat around the conference table in the building that Bill Pollard, CEO of ServiceMaster, had funded in Peter’s honor, we diagnosed whether or not Claremont Graduate University (CGU) was going to fully support the vision we had for taking Peter’s ideas to new audiences in new ways.

By then, the Drucker family was ready to determine whether the university would step up to the plate and champion Peter’s legacy or whether they should move his archives to an institution such as the Wharton Business School or New York University that had expressed interest.

I felt it my job and privilege to push this line of questioning forward by asking Robert Klitgaard, the then-president of CGU, a very poignant question using a line from Louis Jordan’s popular song from the 1940s: “Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?”

In other words, could we count on CGU’s partnership to perpetuate Peter’s work and ideas?


The school’s president affirmed our vision and encouraged us to dream about the idea of launching an institute rather than maintaining an archive since getting excited about an archive is a little more challenging—it sounds like a bunch of boxes in a storage unit.

With that encouragement, one member of our gang asked, “Who is going to do this for us?

We need someone to dedicate time and energy to making this happen.”

Without hesitation, I pointed to Derek and said, “He will.”

I knew that Derek would jump at the opportunity to be a part of a monumental challenge.

With gusto he accepted the assignment and for the next eighteen months flew from Nashville, Tennessee, to Claremont, California, monthly to set the foundation for what would become the Drucker Institute.

… snip, snip …

Nearly thirty years ago, as a young business owner, I set a rather lofty goal for my net worth and with it a promise to give that exact amount away before I passed on from this life, which I estimated, with the help of the Cooper Institute and other assorted data, to occur at age seventy-five.

(The Cooper Institute was founded by the Dean of Preventative Medicine, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, where I get an annual exam.)

Peter’s influence on just how I would give this money away was enormous.

He once told me, “Your job is to release and direct the energy of others, not to supply it.”

Meaning, as I took it, the best way for me to achieve my mission of releasing the latent energy of American Christianity would be to fund efforts of the most innovative leaders to learn from each other and then make what they learn available to others.

So what I have basically done for the last thirty years is get the smartest people doing church and put them in a room together to let them figure it out.

My approach to philanthropy has been “a long obedience in the same direction,” to borrow from Eugene Peterson, author and creator of the The Message translation of the Bible.


As I write this, I am seventy-four years old.

Though I anticipate my seventy-fifth birthday and beyond with every intention of continuing to do what I do, inspired by the fact that Peter never retired, I thought a reckoning was in order.

Am I making good on my promise?

To my own amazement, I have surpassed my goal by about 40 percent, which has more to do with God’s faithfulness than my generosity.


I have reflected many times on these words of Peter to me: “The fruit of your work grows on other people’s trees.”

It gave me permission to remain on the sidelines, offering whatever I could to those who could play the game far better than I could.

In fact, since his death in 2005, there has not been a day that I have not only thought of Peter but felt his continuing influence on my life.

Peter once called me a troublemaker, referring to the Parable of the Sower.

“You are not satisfied that what you are doing is enough,” he told me.

“The Parable of the Sower tells you that you have to produce results of at least four or five fold, if not a hundred fold.

It’s a very, very upsetting parable.”


Upsetting, yes, but it has become the solution to another challenge Peter once gave me when he said an individual’s mission statement ought to fit on the front of a T-shirt.

I have chosen 100x for my “shirt” because I believe it is my calling to become the “good soil” from which innovative, entrepreneurial church leaders can change the world.

This essentially describes my approach to philanthropy, and I do not think I would have arrived at it without Peter’s help.


Several years ago, a young man approached me with an idea that he felt would assist in the transformational growth of large churches.

Out of respect for his privacy, that’s as far as I will go toward identifying this project whose value I eventually came to see and subsequently provide the funding needed to turn an idea into reality.

It worked, adding an inspiring dimension to the large church experience that it previously lacked.

Peter was very much aware of my role in this innovation, and his succinct assessment of it helped me further understand my role in coming alongside others.


“He needed you for a long time.

He doesn’t need you anymore.”


His tree and the fruit it is producing is doing just fine on its own now, which is the philanthropist’s version of a gratifying return on investment.


The Bible says that each of us has a life task “prepared beforehand that we should walk in” (St. Paul in Ephesians 2:10).


King David, in my favorite Psalm, declares:

For You formed my inward parts;

You covered me in my mother’s womb …

I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well …

When I was made in secret …

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.

And in Your book they all were written,

The days fashioned for me,

When as yet there were none of them. (Psalms 139:13-16)

Each one of us has a life task coded into what I call our spiritual DNA.

We don’t have to acknowledge that code because God has granted us free will.

It’s up to us.

The succinct way Shakespeare put it in Hamlet is: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”

The other big question is “how to?”

For me it was never a question of whether or what to do, but “how to?” and Peter was instrumental in helping me answer that question by helping me understand my role in releasing the energy of others.


Another variation of his answer came to me in five unplanned encounters, all during one momentous week.

In each case, I had long ago made a small investment of time or money in someone’s life that provided a stepping stone for them to proceed with a task God had uniquely assigned them.

Every one of these people had already been fully equipped.

All they had needed was a shove.

Someone needed to say, “You can do that,” and to ask, “How can I help you?”

This is what Peter did for me.


I am convinced that many, if not most, serious believers at some level understand what their calling is, but that understanding may be buried under years of busyness and distraction.

Yet, that suppressed sense of calling stays with them for years, and as they leave church each Sunday, it follows them like an accusing shadow.


In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described our diversions in life as “the cares and concerns of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.”

The pressures to keep pushing for success are unrelenting and many—money, recognition, the best table in a five-star restaurant.

People want their lives to count, but they lack two things.

First of all, they lack clarity about their calling, which leads to courage and commitment.

But they also need encouragement—someone to say, “You can do that.

Let’s talk about it until it becomes clear.”


So now I am entering my third career as an “encourager.”

Trying to be for others what Peter was for me.

From him I have learned that encouragement is a mix of:

  • Permission—to be the person God designed you to be.
  • Acknowledgement—a pat on the back that says, “You did it! Great work!”
  • Applause—recognition in small but effective doses from people who actually care about you and genuinely understand the good work you’ve accomplished.
  • Accountability—a critical element in converting “Good Intentions” to “Results and Performance.”

Encouragement releases positive energy, lifts spirits, and makes the challenging and “impossible” seem possible.

Usually, a little encouragement, delivered one-on-one and possibly invisible to the outside world, goes a long way.


A good way to sum this up is what I learned from my good friend Admiral Ed Allen, who was captain of one of the U.S. Navy’s twelve aircraft carriers.

He once expressed my role in this way: “The catapult is what makes the United States Navy work.

It is virtually invisible but it gets sixty thousand pounds that is a fully loaded F-14 off the deck in about two hundred feet.

You are not the carrier.

You are not the plane.

You are not the pilot.

You are the catapult that gets the plane airborne.’’


Admiral Allen gave me a dramatic visual image that brings to mind the goals of all the ministries I’m involved in.

It’s what Leadership Network does for large church leaders, what my book Halftime does for high-capacity marketplace leaders in midlife, and what The Drucker Institute does for business, social sector, and public sector leaders.

They are all catapults.


Peter was my catapult, and that is what I plan to continue to do for others.

More important, this is something anyone can do.

Everything Peter did—everything he wrote—came from his deep conviction that a fully functioning society was possible and that we all can play a role in making our world better and more humane.

It may seem arrogant or outrageous that Peter Drucker and a Texas entrepreneur could conspire to change the world, but that’s what we tried our best to do.

Different in many ways, we both believed that there is a better way, a nobler goal, a higher calling for all of us.

And that if we could even in a small way help mobilize churches to invite others to share in that calling, the world could indeed be transformed into something closer to what God designed.


I continue to be amazed when I hear reports that this is actually happening, and I invite you to join Peter and me to keep the conspiracy going.

Epilogue by Ed Stetzer

… snip, snip …

Buford became wealthy in the cable television business and then decided to make a difference with his money.

It was his influence that led to the rise of significant teaching churches, which has essentially replaced the Church Growth Movement and remapped evangelicalism and beyond.

… snip, snip …

Islands Of Strength

In the book Reinventing American Protestantism, University of Southern California professor Donald E. Miller writes about the rise of new movements like Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.

Their influence on today’s churches is hard to understate.

They did, as Miller explained, reinvent the church.

Your church probably looks a lot more like Calvary Chapel than it does like your grandparents’ church, even if you are in the same denomination.

… snip, snip …

Buford helped take a new approach to ministry, a reinvention of American Protestantism, and fused it with leadership savvy, the principles he learned from Peter Drucker.


Of course, Drucker was interested in the mega-church himself.

He once told Forbes magazine that “pastoral mega-churches are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last thirty years.”


Drucker knew that millions of people had an opportunity to be connected to these churches.

People were genuinely impacted by the community they found in healthy, growing churches—a community that was not available in the business arena.


The large church phenomenon has impacted North America particularly the United States—in a significant way.

The movement has impacted not just those who attend those churches, but the broader society as well, providing a different future, perhaps, than a secular European vision.


Together, Buford and Drucker made a huge impact on the direction of the church.

Simply put, your church probably sings like a Calvary Chapel but is led like a Saddleback.

Those two men are part of the reason why.

… snip, snip …

Catalyzing Change Agents

About thirty years ago, Buford pioneered Leadership Network and began to influence the influencers.

He invested his time to train the trainers.

He sought to create learning communities that might foster mutual learning among high-capacity leaders.

He did this early on with men like Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and Robert Lewis.

… snip, snip …

Their influence spread and, as a result, Buford’s impact was multiplied.


Leadership Network never sought to be out in front.

In fact, the goal was to fly under the radar of other groups.

Instead, they sought to make the clients leaders and churches the stars, not the group, and certainly not Buford.

Being behind the scenes was exactly the intended role—to be the platform and not the show.

… snip, snip …

More Than Meetings

Buford did not just convene meetings.

He funded the impact he desired.

He did so selectively, however, only choosing investments that would create exponential returns.

… snip, snip …

I was brought in as a facilitator on the second wave of the project.

Seeing the names of those who were invited in the first wave, I was struck by how many were almost unknowns at the time but had since become national influencers.


Those were the “islands of strength” that Buford sought.

He would find one and use his influence to build bridges to other “islands” so they could learn from one another.

He made them better and helped them spread their story.


The end result is that churches are better led and more influential, all because of a person that, by design, stayed off stage and out of the limelight.

… snip, snip …

Who Takes The Credit?

While the Church Growth Movement was declining and the contemporary church was emerging, Buford became a key catalyst in remapping the church’s influence in the third millennium—all the while remaining relatively unknown.

… snip, snip …

President Harry Truman is purported to have once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

That epitomized Bob Buford’s approach.

He chose to catalyze his learning from Drucker and his fortune from cable, without much concern over the credit.


You may not have known Bob, but he probably influenced you and your church.

More importantly, though, he’s chosen to be a catalyst for kingdom impact—and I’m thankful for his passion and investment to that end.

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D.

President of Life Way Research




Allocating your life


The memo — navigating unimagined futures




bbx More Insights from Readers and Friends of Peter and Bob

bbx Acknowledgments

bbx more reviews from the beginning

“I personally witnessed this fascinating backstory between two of my best friends, Peter Drucker and Bob Buford.

Now everyone can benefit from the amazing conversations Bob had with one of the brightest minds of all time.”

Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life

“I loved Drucker & Me. I can’t think of two more influential people, not only in my life but in the lives of many others, than Peter Drucker and Bob Buford.

Learning from their friendship and stimulating interactions is a gift you won’t want to miss!”

Coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level

“Being mentored by Peter Drucker was one of God's great gifts to my ministry.

I remain indebted to Bob Buford for making that happen."

BILL HYBELS, Founding Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church

“Only Bob Buford could capture the essence of Peter Drucker in such a moving and authentic way, for who was as close to Peter as Bob Buford?

Bob’s book is pure Peter.”

FRANCES HESSELBEIN Hesselbein on Leadership
President and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute (Originally the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management)

“In addition to being a terrific read, Drucker & Me provides an intimate portrait of Peter Drucker as we’ve never seen him before: as a close friend and mentor.

In this way, it reveals not only important organizational lessons but also wonderful life lessons.

There are lots of Drucker books out there at this point, but this one is a true standout.”

Executive Director of the Drucker Institute and Columnist for

“A remarkable friendship is revealed in a compelling, inspirational, and challenging way, and the reader becomes part of this special relationship.”

Dean of Wake Forest School of Business and Retired Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

“A mentor is a person who multiplies his or her impact by investing in the lives and work of others.

Peter Drucker was such a mentor to Bob Buford and then Bob became a mentor to countless others.

This is the heartwarming story of how two men changed each others’ lives and then leveraged that transformation to meet ‘human needs and alleviate suffering’ through a chain reaction that is still changing our world.”

President of World Vision US and Author of The Hole in Our Gospel and Unfinished

Drucker & Me is absolutely outstanding. I read it once, took notes, and have returned twice again.

I am delighted to be able to publicly recognize Bob and this fine work.

This little book punches well above its weight!

Imbued with wisdom, it is a powerful story of profound collaboration and inspired leadership, teaching us all how to lead more useful lives in service of others.”

Chairman and Cofounder of the Bridgespan Group

“I did not know Peter Drucker personally yet have admired his work from a distance since as far as I can remember.

Drucker & Me provides a perspective on this important man that few would have of any man—one that even further enhances our collective view of his incredible contributions to our work here.

I am grateful for Bob’s effort in sharing this with all of us.”

Executive Vice President and President of Herman Miller North America and Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Drucker Institute

Drucker & Me is a wonderful example of what mentoring is supposed to be.

The story is a warm relationship between mentor and his pupil.

It is a model for anyone who is in a mentoring relationship and demonstrates how both people benefit from it.

I felt I was part of the conversation.

A bonus was the wisdom that Peter Drucker imparted that is valuable to all of us.

It is worth rereading regularly.

One of the best books I have read in recent years.”

Cofounder of InterWest Partners and Philanthropist

“This inspiring story of an entrepreneur’s collaboration with the legendary management thinker Peter Drucker shows that great ideas combined with passionate execution really can change the world.”

Chief Executive Officer and Director of J. C. Penney

“Bob Buford creates another great book—and as an extra benefit we get the perceptive wisdom of Peter Drucker added to the mix as well.”

CEO and Owner of The Anschutz Company and Philanthropist

“Peter Drucker rarely wrote forewords to books by other authors.

Yet he did it twice for Bob Buford.

That gives you an idea of the mutual respect Drucker and Buford had for each other.

Their relationship comes alive in Drucker & Me, and in the process we learn much about the lives of both men that can be a beacon for our self-development.”

Managing Editor of Leader to Leader and author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way

“What an extraordinary story—the life partnership between Bob Buford, the world’s most brilliant entrepreneur for faith, and Peter Drucker, the leading management thinker of the last century—and how it has changed the world!”

CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

“I have been an admirer of Bob Buford’s life-changing books for many years.

Drucker & Me is my new favorite.

The book is very engaging and skillfully personalizes the relationship between Bob and Peter Drucker, providing unique and wonderful insights on Drucker as a man and a friend.”

CEO, Brand Velocity, Inc.

Drucker & Me is about the power of partnership: Peter Drucker’s genius joined to Bob Buford’s receptive, entrepreneurial energy.

Until now, few people have realized this synergistic relationship literally changed the face of today’s church.

A book filled with great insights any spiritual leader can benefit from, this is a story that needs to be told.”

Pastor, Founder of Men’s Fraternity




The following ↓ is a condensed strategic brainscape that can be explored and modified to fit a user’s needs


The concepts and links below ↓ are …

major foundations ↓ for future directed decisionS

aimed at navigating

a world constantly moving toward unimagined futureS


YouTube: The History of the World in Two Hours
— beginning with the industrial revolution ↑ ↓

Management and the World’s Work

↑ In less than 150 years, management ↑ has transformed
the social and economic fabric of the world’s developed countries …


“Your thinking, choices, decisions are determined by
what you have seen edb


Take responsibility for yourself and
don’t depend on any one organization ↑ ↓ (bread-crumb trailS below)

We can only work on the thingS on our mental radar at a point in time

About time The future that has already happened


The economic and social health of our world
depends on
our capacity to navigate unimagined futureS
(and not be prisoners of the past)


The assumption that tomorrow is going to be
an extrapolation of yesterday sabotages the future — an
organization’s, a community’s and a nation’s future.

The assumption ↑ sabotages future generations — your children’s,
your grandchildren’s and your great grandchildren’s — in
spite of what the politicians say …

The vast majority of organization and political power structures
are engaged in this ↑ futile mind-set
while rationalizing the evidence


The future is unpredictable and that means
it ain’t going to be like today
(which was designed & produced yesterday)


The capacity to navigate is governed by what’s between our ears ↑ ↓




When we are involved in doing something ↑

it is extremely difficult to navigate

and very easy to become a prisoner of the past.


We need to maintain a pre-thought ↓

systematic approach to work and work approach

Click on either side of the image below to see a larger view

Harvest to action

Harvesting and implementing Work

based on reality

the non-linearity of time and events

and the unpredictability of the future

with its unimagined natureS. ↓ ↑


(It’s just a matter of time before we can’t get to the future
from where we are presently

Foundations and opportunities ::: larger view


Intelligence and behavior ↑ ↓ ← Niccolò Machiavelli ↑ ↓

Political ecologists believe that the traditional disciplines define fairly narrow and limited tools rather than meaningful and self-contained areas of knowledge, action, and eventscontinue

❡ ❡ ❡

Foundational ↑ Books → The Lessons of History — unfolding realities (The New Pluralism → in Landmarks of Tomorrow ::: in Frontiers of Management ::: How Can Government Function? ::: the need for a political and social theory ::: toward a theory of organizations then un-centralizing plus victims of success) ::: The Essential Drucker — your horizons? ::: Textbook of Wisdom — conceptual vision and imagination tools ::: The Daily Drucker — conceptual breadth ::: Management Cases (Revised Edition) see chapter titles for examples of “named” situations …


What do these ideas, concepts, horizons mean for me? continue



Society of Organizations

“Corporations once built to last like pyramids
are now more like tents.

Tomorrow they’re gone or in turmoil.”


“The failure to understand the nature, function, and
purpose of business enterprise” Chapter 9, Management Revised Edition

“The customer never buys ↑ what you think you sell.
And you don’t know it.

That’s why it’s so difficult to differentiate yourself.” Druckerism


“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete
the things that should have worked but did not,
the things that once were productive and no longer are.” Druckerism


What Everybody Knows Is Frequently Wrong ::: If You Keep Doing What Worked in the Past You’re Going to Fail ::: Approach Problems with Your Ignorance — Not Your Experience ::: Develop Expertise Outside Your Field to Be an Effective Manager ::: Outstanding Performance Is Inconsistent with Fear of Failure ::: You Must Know Your People to Lead Them ::: People Have No Limits, Even After Failure ::: Base Your Strategy on the #Situation, Not on a Formula — A Class With Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World's Greatest Management Teacher


Why Peter Drucker Distrusted Facts (HBR blog) and here


Best people working on the wrong things continue


Conditions for survival


Going outside


Making the future — a chance for survival


“For what should America’s new owners, the pension funds,
hold corporate management accountable?” and
“Rather, they maximize the wealth-producing capacity of the enterprise”
Search for the quotes above here


Successful careerS are not planned ↑ here and


What do these issues, these challenges mean for me & … — an alternative


Exploration paths → The memo they don’t want you to see ::: Peter Drucker — top of the food chain ::: Work life foundations (links to Managing Oneself) ::: A century of social transformation ::: Post-capitalist executive interview ::: Allocating your life ::: What executives should remember ::: What makes an effective executive? ::: Innovation ::: Patriotism is not enough → citizenship is needed ::: Drucker’s “Time” and “Toward tomorrowS” books ::: Concepts (a WIP) ::: Site map a.k.a. brainscape, thoughtscape, timescape


Just reading ↑ is not enough, harvesting and action thinking are neededcontinue

Information ↑ is not enough, thinking ↓ is neededfirst then next + critical thinking


Larger view of thinking principles ↑ Text version ↑ :::
Always be constructiveWhat additional thinking is needed?


Initially and absolutely needed: the willingness and capacity to
regularly look outside of current mental involvements continue

bread-crumb trail end




“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence;

it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker



The shift from manual workers
who do as they are being told
either by the task or by the boss —

TO knowledge workers
who have to manage themselves

profoundly challenges social structure


Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” …

“It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities:
Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life),

and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context



More than anything else,

the individual
has to take more responsibility
for himself or herself,
rather than depend on the company.”


“Making a living is no longer enough
‘Work’ has to make a life .” continue

finding and selecting the pieces of the puzzle


The Second Curve




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving relentlessly toward unimagined futures.



What’s the next effective action on the road ahead


It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then working out a plan for coping with what you’ve rejected.

Your future is between your ears and our future is between our collective ears — it can’t be otherwise.

A site exploration: The memo THEY don't want you to see



To create a site search, go to Google’s site ↓

Type the following in their search box ↓

your search text



What needs doing?




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