How to Rise to the Top of Your Game

by Scott Sery on October 4, 2013

Warren BuffettThe name Warren Buffet is known by many.  As one of the world’s richest men, dinner conversations revolve around how he has been in the news.  But aside from being incredibly wealthy, he is a smart individual who has issued pearls of wisdom to those who are willing to listen.  Because throughout the years he has imparted that wisdom on the public, and there are a great number of quotes that those of us who can never dream of having his wealth can use to better our lives.

“It’s better to hang out with people better than you.  Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift that direction.” – Warren Buffet, 2004 annual shareholders meeting

Many of us may recognize this from when we were little.  There were those children that were just up to no good.  Our parents and teachers knew it, and they would encourage us not to associate with them.  By playing with the children with nobler intents, we too became nobler and more likely to follow directions and be better behaved children.

This was preached all the way through high school, where the differences between the “good” kids and the “bad” kids became more pronounced.  We were encouraged to hang out with certain types, not because our parents did not want us to have fun, but rather they did not want us to experience any physical, emotional, or reputational pain.  As we headed off to college, and got out from under our parents’ wings, that prompting and urging us to keep good company disappeared.  This is where we had to decide for ourselves who we would associate with, and how we would shape our lives.

Now that we have moved on from the younger years, and progressed into our working lives, many of us have families and careers that we are striving toward.  The old adage that you are the company you keep shows up just the same.  However, it is applied to different situations now.

Warren Buffet was applying this quote on how to be successful.  When we first start our careers we notice that there are two very distinct groups in every workplace.  There are the go-getters, often seen as brown-nosers.  They work hard, they give the boss what he or she wants, and they get a lot of recognition for what they do.  Sitting in the back of the meeting hall, often snickering at the previous crowd is the opposite group.  They come to work begrudgingly every day.  They bemoan the fact that they are at work.  They proceed to put in the bare minimum effort, and constantly push the limits on what they can get away with.  At first glance, this looks just like high school.  Upon further investigation there is a whole lot more at stake here.

When you first start your new career you get the choice of which crowd you want to associate with.  While many people have noble intentions thinking they will hang out with the complainers and show them a better way, this rarely happens.  If you hang out with the complainers, they will drag you to their level.  Similarly, if you hang out with the top performers, they will drag you to their level.  Even if you have spent a few years slacking off, you still have a choice.  Go to work begrudgingly, or see it as a challenge to make yourself, and the world, a better place.  If you choose to hang out with the slackers, don’t be surprised that in 20 years you are still stuck in the same boring job.  However, if you hang out with the top performers, they will encourage you, mentor you, and help you get to your dream job.

The choice is yours, and you have to make one.  Most people that try to go through their career without a mentor end up floundering.  Sure, many of them eventually succeed, but most will lead a mediocre career path.  Make your decision now to start emulating those who are working in the capacity you would like to work in.  Befriend them, and then copy their work patterns.  They will be happy to have a mentee (even if it is informal), and you will be happy to learn quickly.  If you haven’t made leaps and bounds in your career within a year, go back to hanging out with the slackers.  My guess is you won’t want to.

By the way, when you were young and in school, the goal was to keep you out of trouble.  Now the goal is to make you a better person that has more to offer to society than someone who barely puts forth an effort.

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • If there is anything I learnt earlier on in life was to have a mentor for the facets of life I wished to improve. If you want to fly, hang out with the eagles, not the chicken, you might not fly as high but you won’t be pecking the ground either and I guess the more you hang out with go-getters the more their enthusiasm, zeal and dedication rubs off on you; ideas get exchanged and things get done. Couldn’t agree with you more on that!

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  • Rory & Robin

    “If you choose to hang out with the slackers, don’t be surprised that in 20 years you are still stuck in the same boring job.”
    One thing I’ve been contemplating lately is the fact that I don’t plan to be on my job for very much longer due to early retirement. As I don’t care for the financial field that I work in (huge ethical concerns), I can’t come up with much of a reason to accept a mentor position nor even look for a promotion.
    I am trying to find interesting and successful people to associate with outside of my avocation, however. What I love about blogging is that I get to talk with these people daily. What I don’t like is that I cannot interact with these awesome people in person.

  • Jay@MoneyBulldog

    Yeah, I learned so much from him too. My favorite quote from him. “Do not save what is left after spending but spend what is left after saving.” Really keep me in line.

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