Wandering Into Wisdom

This blog chronicles the knowledge, insight and wisdom I encounter every day as a leadership consultant, executive coach, educator, father, friend and citizen. This site is dedicated to my father, Louis (Jack) Laughlin, who passed on to me an appreciation for wisdom. A special thanks to my friend Isaac Cheifetz, a businessman and journalist, who helped me understand the value of blogs and encouraged me to write one.

Crips and Bloods*

The congressional vote on the latest stimulus package split almost exactly along party lines. It makes one wonder if gang dynamics have taken over our political system. Gangs form in prisons and dangerous neighborhoods for protection. They require absolute loyalty and lifetime membership much like political parties. Does survival in the current political environment require protection by a political party much like street gang in a dangerous neighborhood? Has the destructive nature of gang dynamics permanently taken over our political system? Only time will tell.

Dependants and Dependence*

I drove my kids to the store today so they could spend some of their allowance. I had a lot of other things I wanted to do but they depend on me to get around. Sometimes having family that depends on us is hard but what goes around comes around. I know too many elderly people who can’t or won’t depend on their adult children because their children could never depend on them.

Gimme Sugar*

I have an acquaintance that recently checked into a treatment center for carbohydrate addiction. Although this diagnosis sounds like a stretch, it might not be. An addiction is, “a dependence on a mood altering substance.” Since blood sugar levels have a significant impact on mood and refined carbohydrates raise blood sugar much more quickly than whole foods, this combination may be a recipe for an epidemic the likes of crack cocaine and crystal meth. Since the body quickly turns any excess blood sugar into fat you also have a recipe for obesity. Although an altered diet will solve the physical addiction, the psychological addiction presents a significant challenge.

Size vs Skill*

I was watching an exhibition match between an unskilled fighter and Naoka Kumagai: a five foot two inch, one hundred and fifteen pound, Japanese women's kickboxing champion. At one point during the match she kicks her much larger male opponent in the leg which he immediately mimics. As he's kicking her he lowers his hands slightly to retain his balance. She sees the opening and knocks him to the floor with a right hook. Despite his significant size advantage he was almost helpless against his highly skilled opponent.

Will It Never End*

I wrote a post a while back about the economic mechanisms that have caused oil prices to fall so precipitously. Even after writing that post I wondered if those mechanisms could account for the magnitude of the decline. Now I realize they didn’t. In fact, some of the market forces I described should have brought prices down much sooner than they did. So what happened? It turns out that many of the speculators who worked for Enron were hired by investment banks to continue their activities. When the bubble they created burst, oil prices dropped seventy percent. I’m beginning to wonder if there is any aspect of our economy the investment banks didn’t significantly impact…and that’s being polite. See related post It's Marginal.

My Hero Bill*

I work out at the YMCA with a guy named Bill. He’s about six feet tall with an athletic build much like a baseball player. He’s in considerably better shape than me but that’s not why he’s my hero. He’s my hero because he’s seventy five. As I thought more about it I realized that we typically pick a hero beyond our reach like a rock star, Olympic athlete, billionaire, supermodel, etc. I think it ultimately leaves us demoralized. On the other hand, I have twenty five years to get in shape like Bill.

If You Die Tomorrow*

I once heard a story about a manager who was a Vietnam combat veteran. He called a new subordinate in his office and said, “Your first task is to train a replacement like you’ll be dead tomorrow. Your second task it to learn my job.” Unless you're in a combat zone it seems a little melodramatic, but after years of managing operations I see the wisdom.

Cops and Kids*

I was watching the TV show Cops one day when I heard my daughter say, “She better not argue with the police or she’s gonna get arrested.” This was a real shock since I didn't know she was there and my daughter argues with us constantly. I don't usually let her watch the show since she's only ten but I realized, in that moment, that she was learning an important lesson. If you get drunk, use drugs, commit a crime or argue with the police you will probably get arrested. Maybe I should let her watch after all.

Critical Thinking*

I recently read about the lack of community development in a marginalized Minneapolis neighborhood due to drug related crime. I kept waiting for the author to propose a solution or plead for help but his examination ended with a condemnation of the police. I wrote an e-mail asking about his next step to solve the problem. His response read, “I have no idea.” Well, I had a boss once who told me that if I walked in his office with a problem and no pragmatic solution, I was just complaining.

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