I've used this phrase before when describing the importance of Truth in Fiction. However, by its very nature, a portable lesson is something that can be learned anywhere. When I first started studying success principles, I was like most people. I didn't understand how one thing related to another. I laughed at the concept that business principles had anything to do with raising a family.
It is true that many businesses are run by tyrants whom we would never want to have as patriarch of a family, but it is also true that many families are run by tyrants whom you would never want as a boss. On the flip side, it is a reality that there are both families and organizations run by people of integrity. In both cases, the lessons of one are easily transferrable to the other. The lessons a father learns from raising his children apply to leading a team of people, and vice versa.
The reason this is true is that all people respond the same to basic principles, regardless of gimmicks, that's why they are basic principles. Helping people identify these and pattern a life-habits after them is the very essence of the Liberal Arts, and why the study and discussion of them is such an important lost practice. Today's management/positional leadership culture is all about the gimmicks and strategies of getting people to do what you want, how you want it, when you want it. However, people want respect, they want to feel appreciated for their contributions, they want the freedom to pursue things they feel are important, and they need the time and space to do it in.
This runs perfectly counter to the dictatorship paradigm most management schools teach, and so media creators developed "solutions" in the form of endless gimmicks, tricks, bribes, and work-arounds. Endless patches to the human psyche by way of propaganda have brought us to the place in time where we believe that tyranny is the path to success in business, while avoiding relationships at home, is the path to success. We actually believe that one organization is different from another. The adage "people are like snowflakes" is true enough, but organizations are all the same. If you can't treat your son or daughter the way you treat your employees without repercussions, chances are you aren't really escaping those problems at work either.
Hence, portable lessons. Because of our complex culture, many of us work in organizations where it is difficult to perceive the total impact of our actions. Short of restructuring the organization tomorrow to allow more interaction between levels in a massive hierarchy, the solution to this problem is to simply look to areas where the impact of human relations is more apparent, then port those lessons to the workplace to give you a better handle on developing your influence and likability. Short of having a solid relationship, turn to the classic books.
These portable lessons are few and timeless. There is something to be said for the techniques of your industry or organization (even if its a family), but without a deep understanding of connecting principles which lead to integrity, you're doomed to make the same mistake in every single relationship you have in life—and that's a waste.