I've recently become friends and squash buddies with someone fairly new to Chicago, a former US Air Force tanker pilot turned private banker. I asked him the other day why he got out of the Air Force. He told me that while he loved flying, someone once told him that you should judge the prospects of your career by the company you keep. Most of his older friends were retiring at a relatively young age and content with living off their pension. But he was not -- he wanted, in his view, something better for himself. He told me: "Look at the five closest professional colleagues you have and average their salaries -- that's what you're most likely to make the rest of your life."
It's an interesting thought -- especially if you expand it out past salary and income in and of itself. Don't get me wrong. Money is a great thing that can do even greater things if used right. But for me at least, I'm after something larger, provided I can support my family at the lifestyle we desire and ultimately make a big difference through supporting organizations that I believe in -- not to mention steering politicians and voters down the path of free trade, free markets and open dialogue.
Still, there's some fascinating irony in my friend's comment if you apply it to overall outlook and happiness. Take five of your closest colleagues and mentors and look at how satisfied they are with what they’re doing. It's not a question of working hard or more than others. But at the end of the day, are they more likely to be envious and wanting, or satisfied and optimistic? If it's the former, I'd suggest finding a new set of friends and mentors. There's no place for bitterness and jealously when it comes to improving oneself. And when you surround yourself with negativity -- which often happens when you don't even think about it -- you drag yourself down in the process.
Some of the best, most creative people I've met in the procurement and supply chain fields over the years often share a few traits in common -- passion, creativity and an innate ability to lead and influence others (either by example or with their ideas). These are not necessarily traits that we're born with. They often come from surrounding yourself with the best peer group you can and learning from their actions and ideas. So ask yourself -- are your surrounding yourself with the right people inside and outside of work? If they're not happy with their professional lives, chances are that you won't be either. Save bitterness -- even in rough times -- for the beer you drink with those whose positive energy and insights can rub off on you and others. There's no place for it outside of the pint glass.