The Power of Friendship

forum at WPLast week I spent 3 days with my “old” YPO (Young Presidents Organization) buddies. YPO was a group I had belonged to for 27 years but just recently left. (YPO. No Mo.) Most of my buddies had left YPO prior to me as well. Our friendship lives on.

One of the things I am grateful for in YPO was meeting a group of people who joined my “forum” back in 1992, 26 years ago. A forum is a subgroup of roughly 10 people who you meet with regularly. Many of those same fellows are in my current group, as are several who joined thereafter. They are people who, without YPO, I never would have met. Truth is when I met many of them in my first meeting back then I wasn’t even sure I would like them. Guess I was wrong. This group still exists, albeit no longer associated with YPO. Today we have our own rules which match our current needs and I am the “moderator” which thankfully has evolved largely into an admin task, which I gladly do. In truth we are now a self-moderated group.

Aside from regular meetings, one of the things we do annually is go on a “retreat”, a 2-3-day trip to reflect on our lives and just spend time together. For most of us, we no longer have the intense business issues that we did when we were a hard charging group of 30-40 year-old “Young Presidents” who thought too much of ourselves. We now are a group of men in our 60s, smarter and more humble, and we now have the wisdom to appreciate that the big issues of the past are far in the rear view mirror and perhaps were not as monumental as we had thought. We are now “old Presidents” or past Presidents. However, despite our advancing age we still have a lot of tread left and there is still juice, intellectually and physically, in our group.

Our retreats have evolved from bigger trips—Mexico, Florida, Bermuda, etc. —to closer-in local events. Last week’s retreat was a 3-day trip up to West Point where our buddy Tom Teesdale was a 1971 grad. Tom is the man in front in the photo. Tom lost his sight several years ago, but he sees life far more clearly than most sighted people. His wisdom is not diminished by his lack of sight.

Tom did a great job of organizing the event, and connecting us with resources we never would have had otherwise. I’ve heard Tom speak of West Point over the years (both good and not so good) but now understand him and his experience at a far deeper level. Interestingly, I saw first-hand his appreciation for how his 4 years at West Point, plus subsequent service, helped mold an 18 year-old kid from Philly into a business leader and a good man.

West_Point_Washington_HallAside from the seeing the beauty of the campus on the Hudson River 45 miles north of NY City, I now appreciate the rigor of the experience, mentally and physically, that the Cadets go through. I learned that The mission of West Point is to educate train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character. What I didn’t really understand or appreciate is how talented, smart and focused the Cadets were. We met a few of them and I was impressed. They will be leaders. Not just Second Lieutenants as all grads become, but leaders in life, in industry and in their communities. We saw and experienced all we could at West Point including the Cyber Research Center and the Combating Terrorism Center. Fascinating stuff. I previously never had an understanding of West Point, and at an earlier time in life felt disdain for the military. It was a function of the late 60s and 70s, and I am now ashamed of my earlier ignorance.

But just as important as seeing and learning, was doing so with a group of men who are more than friends–they are my brothers. Men who would do anything to help me, and vice versa.

As I age I appreciate the things that matter most—family and friends. My work, hobbies, interests, are important secondarily as as well. I am also passionate about a baseball team that plays in the Bronx that broke my heart last week. Family is always first, but I am also blessed to have childhood friends, college friends, work friends and my YPO friends. Real friends, not just people you know, make a big difference in life. I never take them for granted. My birthday was the last day of our 3 day trip, so it was doubly nice to spend a portion of that day with people who I care about. It made the trip even more special.

Thanks Tees for making our trip happen.

PS: I now know what Sing Second means. And Army is enjoying the experience again.

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