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The Unlikely Return Of The Amazing Mustache Pete

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/31/2013 | 11:27 AM

The four-year old implored me to hold him up to the "mirrow" so that he could check on the status of his mustache.  Fortunately, I was able to point out the slight darkening over the upper lip on this, our littlest Latino, and he was visibly relieved.

A little probing and some chocolate chip ice cream uncovered the basis for his concern.  When he had a real mustache, it turned out, he could be a Dad, do whatever he wanted, and eat in the family room.  Laudable aspirations, all.

I thought back to a place and time far away and long ago, before the neighborhood was desecrated by expressways, when one could walk the streets, nodding and greeting the Mustache Petes who sat in judgment of the passing parade on their front stoops, retreating indoors from time to time, to refill their glasses with home-made red wine from the basement.

Wanna-be wise guys deriseively called the men of that generation Mustache Petes, but their attire of undershirts and droopy trousers belied their status as heads of their families, kings of their castles, and, for some, greater roles (and respect) based on affiliation with powerful organizations that provided both security and recreation to the area.  They had earned their status and esteem.  And, yes, many of them had mustaches.

But, a mustache alone does not entitle the bearer to high position.  It takes life experience, and intimacy with joy and heartbreak - and making tough decisions - to gain admission to the realm of respect, or, perhaps even better, admiration.  We are still trying to communicate that learning to our little guy without crushing his spirit.

And, so it is, too, in supply chain management.  A mustache alone does not guarantee free admission, and a degree from a prestigious university, upon which the ink is not yet dry, is not a gate to the shortcut to vice-presidency.  Success is a long-term proposition, a journey with twists, turns, obstacles - and opportunities - in which continuous learning in both technical and social aspects is demanded.

Some newly-minted knights in white satin don't get it, or choose to not believe those who have gone before and learned that pow-wows are better than an exchange of gunfire.  They pomade their metaphoric mustaches and plunge ahead.  When that doesn't pay off in the way that they had imagined, they might try for an advanced degree, and/or a prestigious certification - the equivalent of thinking that the combination of a mustache and a beard might overcome the lack of experience.

Sorry.  Tough news.  The mustache is only an option once you've done all the hard work, paid your dues, and got a good start on handling responsibility.  Don't believe me?  Ask any Pete you run across how much comes with the mustache and how much comes with doing the job.

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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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