Man, Know thyself.

It will soon be time for new year resolutions, dos and donts going into the new year. As Socrates put it, We ought to first know ourselves before we can know the universe and God. You’d be surprised how little you really know of yourself – Tosan A.


This reminds me of my 1st ever book review blogpost – that was 3 years ago. It was a top 10 HBRs must read On Managing Others. Like that, this is a compilation of top 10 Harvard Business review articles on Managing Oneself. It has 11 chapters (it is usually 10 but this has a bonus article); each chapter addresses an article, and each article has a summary of the idea presented under the heading – the idea in practice. The writers of these articles are mainly professors, senior editors and other high ranking contributors to the study of human behavior.



I picked three (3) articles to summarize as the book is really loaded and even though some articles overlap since it is all centered on improving oneself; they are all uniquely interpreted. Unfortunately though, I can’t review all here; you will just have to get the book and study how to be a better version of you. Details of the articles and the contributors can be seen below.

How do you stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life? Which means knowing how and when to change the work we do?


Managing oneself by Peter Drucker

We need to understand ourselves deeply by asking searching and insightful questions, studying ourselves to understand our strengths, actively searching for feedback, understanding our values and how we work to produce our best results and deliberately seeking where you belong and can make the most contribution based on your new found knowledge of yourself.

Am I a reader or a listener? How do I learn? For instance, I read a lot of books (hard copies) to gain new knowledge, my husband on the other hand gets more and is only consistent when they are audio books; It takes him a lot more energy when he does the hard copies, energy that can well be put into other use.


Our values are more important than we give them credit for. They are the easiest to discard when faced with life’s juicy offers but the first to affect our performance – those subtle things that makes you frustrated. When values do not align, internal problems state to arise which affects performance. NB: Sometimes though your values may not tally with your strengths.


Midlife crisis most times is usually as a result of boredom. After 20 years of doing the same thing, most people are very good at their jobs; but they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job. That is why managing oneself usually leads one to starting a second career – Peter Drucker


Manage your energy not your time by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy

Most times we wish we had more than 24 hours in a day to complete our tasks, as positive as this looks, it is still very much a wish and a fallacious one at that. Overtime leads to burnout and even with all the time in the world, we still won’t get all our tasks done largely due to the fact that you may not even have the energy for it. Note now that Energy could be mental, physical, spiritual and even emotional.

The writers urge us to shift our focus from time management to energy management. Managing the four dimensions of personal energy – the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Some of the suggestions on how to get more energy include;


 Cultivate positive emotions by learning to change the stories we tell ourselves about the events in our lives. Instead of playing the blame game or owning the role of a victim, we can try to change how we view and interpret our story.

We can do that by asking questions like what would the other person (in the conflict) say and in what ways can it be true? (reverse lens), how will I view this situation in 6 months (long lens), or how can I learn and grow from this situation regardless of the outcome (wide view). – I particularly think this is ingenious.

Devote time and energy to what is important to you, there is usually a divide between what we say is important to us and what we actually spend time and energy on.

Intentionally schedule time for challenging work with long term benefits so they are not always rushed or left undone.

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Reclaim your job by Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch

One of the obstacles to a manager’s success is when there is not enough room for personal discretion or control. The ability to seize initiative is the most essential quality of a manager; however whilst managers complain of too many restrictions to taking initiative, most bosses complain about managers’ failure to grasp opportunities.


The ability to seize initiative is the most essential quality of a manager


There is apparently a case of misunderstanding here or there truly might be lots of restrictions; the onus is however on managers to find ways to reclaim their jobs and grasp opportunities for their companies’ in spite of the option. They break out of perceived boxes of lack of freedom by proactively managing demands placed on them, ingenuously providing resources despite restrictions, recognize and exploit alternatives by aligning their expertise with the company’s overall strategy.

Tosan’s take: Learning about oneself is usually a reflective process, one that must be intentional. You must be intentional about taking a break, intentional about getting feedback (especially when you are high up the ladder with no appraisals & feedback), intentional about reclaiming your jobs. It’s still incredible how the simple things really matter. One of my takeaways from the article by Peter Drucker is that a second career should be in the pipeline to give you an exciting edge when boredom sets in.



How will you measure your life? – Clayton M. Christensen

Managing oneself – Peter F. Drucker

Management time: who’s got the monkey? William Oncken, Jr., and Donald L. Wass

How resilience works – Diane L. Coutu

Manage your energy not your time – Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy

Overloaded circuits – Edward M. Hallowell

Be a better leader, have a richer life – Stewart D. Friedman

Reclaim your job – Sumantra Ghoshal and Heike Bruch

Moments of greatness, entering the fundamental state of leadership – Robert E. Quinn

What to ask the person in the mirror – Robert S. Kaplan

Primal leadership: the hidden driver of great performance – Daniel Goleman, Richard Baoyatzis, and Anne Mckee.



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