Oscar Wilde on Development

As one of the most influential satirists, poet, playwrights, and novelist of the 19th century, Oscar Wilde had a busy career, though his life only lasted 46 years. Born in Dublin, Ireland, and educated at Trinity College and Magdalen College at Oxford, Wilde’s most famous works include the Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as many other noteworthy epigraphs and essays. His whit and disregard for normalcy made him an avant-garde literary figure, pushing the envelope through writing, editing, and criticism. Though his career ended with his death in 1900, his thorough portfolio showed the importance of hard work, believing in yourself, and a life-long commitment to personal development.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

One of the most important lessons a leader can learn is to focus on being oneself. Though it is good to learn from others and adopt ideas from successful people, in the end it is imperative to strive to be your best self, not a mirror image of others. As Wilde put it simply, “everyone else is already taken.”

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Focusing on professional development isn’t a resolution, but a life-long commitment. The saying “you are what you read” could be the best motivation for a leader. And while you may be able to learn from what is necessary for your job, book club, or professional organization, personal development occurs when you study outside of your personal requirements.

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.” The Picture of Dorian Gray

Leaders are often noted by the success they and their teams enjoy through the course of a career. However, it is the failures experienced along the way that create lasting leaders. Experience is key to being able to lead an organization, while helping your employees learn from your failures.

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

While education is incredibly important to learn and develop the skills needed to perform a role well, experience is the glue that makes education stick. As Wilde put it, the most important things in life can’t necessarily be taught but lived out.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” The Importance of Being Earnest

Finally, one of the most important lessons you can learn about development is to not take yourself too seriously, but to learn from your past mistakes. Journaling and documenting your professional development are great ways to look back at where you’ve come from and better know what’s needed to get you where you want to be. Just remember to laugh along the way!

Who are some of your favorite leaders and writers? What have you learned by studying their work? Let us know in the comments section below!


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