Friday, June 19, 2009

Revisiting the Best Advice of my Career

I knew I'd wind up here again someday.

No, not there, but close. Palo Alto. Well, Palo Alto via Chicago. It needs the Chicago flavor.

Alright, I can already hear some of you squirming in your seats, hoping against hope that I resolve this thread in a safe for work context.

Imagine a large, windowed office overlooking Chicago, near the Mercantile Exchange, in the spring of 1999. Imagine this picture (about 2' by 3' in size) elegantly framed and displayed prominently in the same office.

The office, belonged to Ahmed, a technology company's Vice President of Professional Services, and at the time, my manager. The framed picture in his office, served (in his words) as "a reminder not to take yourself or your surroundings too seriously, lest you become blind and unaware of your more immediate circumstance".

To listen to Ahmed, you'd hear a typical mid-westerner, and an atypical genius in business development, value creation, and mentoring. To see Ahmed, you'd see a man who clearly is as he will tell you, a person whose Egyptian ancestry can be traced back to the land of Pharaohs.

Ahmed was my mentor for all of 1999. During the spring, we were at our company's headquarters in Mountain View, CA. We had dinner one evening at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Il Fornaio, in Palo Alto. Ahmed introduced me to carpaccio, and as the evening progressed, Ahmed shared with me a piece of career advice that had been passed down from generation to generation in his family.

There is an old Egyptian proverb, that if you remember, and practice faithfully, will serve you well:

In business, your loyalty, is to the opportunity.

I've never forgotten that proverb, and it has been the one piece of advice more than any other that I have tenaciously practiced throughout my career(s) - I'm currently on my third. It has brought me success again and again.

Last night, I found myself back in Palo Alto, at Il Fornaio, seated at the exact same table where Ahmed shared his wisdom with me a decade before. His advice could not be more valuable today, compared to any other time I could possibly imagine.

The carpaccio tasted even better than I remembered.


Ging-er (n) said...

And since you told, the best piece of mine.
Harder sometimes to see the opportunities.

Jim Belfiore said...

I'll let you in on an original secret.

In those ten years, I have since learned that, practiced faithfully in this circumstance, loyalty is it's own vision.