Only Jonathan Swift’s, Robinson Crusoe could afford to live by himself; otherwise humans, nay all living beings, need companionship.
In the formative years of childhood, I recall, the clearance I had to seek from my elder siblings, for making friends, with either school mates or the children in the neighborhood; even cousins of my age, had to pass ‘their’ test, for me to get a stamp of approval, even as the children, of say today “hang out”. At school too, we were made to read Dickens, Oliver Twist, to learn amongst many things how important influence , “company” plays in forming our character -- Oliver, did not wish to be a Kerchief thief, but was forced by the ill-company of Bill Sykes, and his reluctant girlfriend, Nancy, to do so.
The company you choose to move about with, will either give a positive impetus to your image or damage irrecoverably your reputation. And conversely, you either give that chosen company, respectability or go to diminish their standing - we ought to continuously judge, where do we stand?
For the existence and development of companionship, finding individuals, who share your likes, dislikes, tastes and other interests, is imperative and pre-requisite. Here the dictum of physics, like poles repel, does not apply.
‘A man is known by the company he keeps’, emerged out of an Aesop Fable, where a man who wanted to buy an Ass went to the market. He found one lively looking beast and arranged to take him (Ass) to try out for a few days. Upon reaching home, he put the Ass into the stable, alongside other asses. The new comer took a look around and went to stand next to the laziest and the greediest ass in the stable. Upon seeing this, the master put the halter inadvertently on the ass, and took him back to the seller. Surprised, the seller asked, so you did a short test, why? Said the man, “I don’t need to do any other test. I could see what sort of a beast he is from the companion he chose for himself -- ”Known by the company”. The coinage was first used, in old English form, in 1541, : If a man can be known as nothing else, then he may be known by his companions. The present day adage came about in 1912, when Saki quotes it in the chronicles of Clovis, As “ man is known by the company he keeps”.
The proverb is presumptive and may not be true in all cases; yet even if it doesn’t mean you do the same things or approve of everything a person does, or are even aware of it- you are still judged! A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he really is, gets reflected by the kind of friend he chooses. The shadier, the greater the risk of being mis-judged; ought to be careful. Choose friends/colleagues like books, few but good. A proverb in Bible that I read at school, “can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned”. Unrighteous penny corrupts the righteous Pound. Evil company corrupts good habits.
It is known that life is for a generation, a good name forever. So, it is always better to fare hard with the good man than feast it with the bad. Reputation, within life and business world, is dependent upon the praise by the honest man and abuse by the rogues. Manager’s reputation is dependent upon and based on how he treats, his colleagues and runs the business. Good managers and good colleagues are a fortune that does not waste over time. Honesty and virtue have inspirational effect upon the organisation. There can be no visitations by the angels in the presence of a fast friendship with the devil. A smart manager would always endeavor to surround himself with smart people. Only the insecure nincompoop CEO, will have a collection of Falstaff’s as his core team. Birds of the same feather flock together. Choose your team members wisely, for you will surely be judged. Character is destiny. Life is partly made by us and partly by our own company- a company that asks no questions and that passes no criticism, is a sure death knell for the manager. Even a Lion is ashamed when he hunts in the company of a fox; so choose to weep with wise than laugh with fools. If ever in a dilemma, know it is better to be alone than be in bad company; for at the end of it all, company make the feast. As a man is, so is his company. A good company is an assurance that the road to ascent in career, is the shortest route. Bad friends are thieves of time. It is easy to defend against bad company, but extremely difficult to safeguard against the camouflaged good company -- If you grow with a wolf don't carry this expectation, that you will be kitten whose pulse will be rapid , to merely meow. Dealing with dirt one cannot escape to have dirty hands”. Rotten apples in a pack injures/damages all its neighbors.
Tell me with whom thou goest, and I will tell thee what thou doest. Tell me with whom you go about and I will tell you, where you go about. What is shared and spoken between two people, will indicate their narrative.
The ability of any individual lies in the skill to insulate oneself from the flow of negative energy of colleagues and then attempt to align with those that are possessed of positivity. In any organisation, there is always presence of both positive and negative energy. Only goodness can have evil as its closest neighbor. Some colleagues you would notice are just filled with only negativity of thought and hence exude negative vibes, in their inter-action; opposite to this are those who view the spectrum of work and challenges with positivity of mind and hence what emanate from their words and deeds, is positive energy. Positivity has an inbuilt nobility and against nobility the vile of negative energy is dimmer. Between these two extremes, are the largest set of colleagues, who have mood swings, their positive and negative tendencies are not inherently active; it is events, episodes, circumstances, situations and conversations, they have or face, that propels out these sentiments from their passive state. Such are reactions. I recently at a wedding reception, found myself entangled, with an individual who is a major repository of negative attitude and thinking. Infact, I was for a good one hour in a battle to keep my positive pond intact from the avalanche of negative forces. Here is an abridged version of the dialogue that ensued:
Strong and the weak can’t keep company. An Arab proverb says “A wise man associating with the vicious becomes an idiot; a dog traveling with good men becomes a rational being”.
Finally, when amongst others, keep company with good man and good men will imitate; keep company with beggars and sleep outside some gate. Always keep in mind, “ tell me with whom thou goest, and I will tell thee what thou doest”.
The writer is a senior banker a freelance columnist