“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
- Proverbs 13:20
As a young teenager I had the opportunity to attend a several-weeks-long sports summer camp. My best buddy that summer was a guy named Greg. Greg was a fine athlete whose overall abilities were quite superior to mine, except in certain sports where we competed toe to toe. Even so, I’m not sure I ever beat him at anything. At the end of camp that summer in the final track meet we competed against each other in the 440 yard dash. I was determined to win that race and gave it all I had, but in the end he still edged me out – by maybe half a step. Greg may have beat me at everything we did, but we nevertheless became inseparable friends that summer. And in the end what I gained from hanging out with him and competing against him, besides his friendship, was that I returned home a better athlete and for sure a better person.
Who we hang out with inevitably shapes who we are and how we perform. In my previous corporate career I was privileged to have worked with the finest team anyone could ever ask for. There was not a single individual on that team who was not far superior to me at their job. So not unlike that summer I spent with Greg, I had the opportunity to spend several years working with people better than me, which in turn made me better at my job, a better human being, and collectively we produced superior results.
Abraham Lincoln, indisputably our country’s greatest president, appointed a number of his fiercest opponents to serve on his cabinet, some of whom based on education and experience may have been more qualified than Lincoln to serve as president. Lincoln knew the value of surrounding himself with superior people, a key component to his superior leadership. It is what highly effective people do. Neither do athletes shy from competing against stronger opponents. It is how they become better themselves.
Who we hang out with does shape who we are, or as the Proverbs writer reminds us, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”