Choose Your Friends, Choose Your Fate

When I was about 10 years, I got a t-shirt from my uncle and aunt that said "It's hard to soar with the eagles when you're hanging out with a bunch of turkeys." I really didn't know what it meant at the time, so I didn't think anything of it.

When I got into the Navy, I quickly realized that people made judgments about me based on the people I hung out with. I started out spending time with some hard working new sailors, so I was seen as a hard working sailor myself. Because of this perception, I was asked to join the base's Navy choir, something normally reserved for people that would be spending a long time on the base, and I was due to stay only 9 weeks. This also meant I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time standing duty, and I'd get a nicer room with a telephone and a better mattress with more privacy and carpeting. I realized quickly that, based on the company I kept, I was able to get out of doing duty every 6 days, was given a room that I didn't have to work as hard to keep clean. At that moment, I realized what that t-shirt meant.

At my first duty station, I was stationed with a good number of people who were getting discharged from the service for breaking one military rule or another. These were the only people my age, so I spent time hanging out with them. Several of my "friends" were eventually incarcerated for theft, drugs, or something else. I honestly knew nothing of any of their doings as I was working more often than not, yet I was grouped in with these undesirables and not trusted by many people for a good long time. In fact, I was so untrusted, when I had my skivvies and mail stolen while I was temporarily stationed on a ship (no, I don't know why anyone would want whitey-tighty Hanes underwear with Gerbyshak P R stenciled across the fly), the base security thought I had lost my mind and was just trying to get others into trouble...even though I saw a guy wearing my underwear while sitting in the lounge area!

Two different times in my life, handled in two very different ways, and it taught me a very valuable lesson: Hang out with undesirables, and you get treated undesirables. Hang out with people who are high speed, and you'll be high speed.

So I ask, who are you spending time with that's helping you increase your speed, and who's slowing you down?

Phil Gerbyshak leads a team of IT help desk professionals in Milwaukee, WI, and finds that sharing his knowledge is a crucial component in his success as a leader and as a person. Phil's personal philosophy is paraphrased from Tim Sanders' fantastic book Love is the Killer App: "Share your knowledge, your network, and your love. The rest will follow." Feel free to check out Phil's personal website at or check out more random musings at his blog at

In The News:

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