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.

May I Help You*

I remember when my children began to develop independence, easily recognized when they pulled away while saying, “Do it myself!” Regardless of their ability we allowed them to do it themselves so that they could develop a sense of competence and independence. As adults we need to offer aid in a way that allows others to retain their dignity, regardless of how much we think they might need our help. Allowing someone the opportunity to decline help shows them honor and respect.


Lori Drew was convicted of three counts of computer fraud, with a possible three year prison sentence and $300,000 fine, for creating a false My Space identity to torment a teenage neighbor girl who had allegedly spread gossip about her daughter. Sadly, the deceit contributed to the suicide of Megan Meier who thought the teenage boy she had befriended on the internet was suddenly rejecting her for mistreating her friends. It’s difficult to parse out all the lessons contained in this story about good parenting, civil behavior and social responsibility. One thing is for sure, you can’t assume that what happens in cyberspace stays in cyberspace.

Letter to The Editors*

I want to make the posts for this blog clear, succinct, impartial, relevant, insightful, provocative and, when possible, entertaining. I could not do this without the feedback I get from my wife, and other readers. Mark Twain saw the importance of editors to keep his writing clear and concise. "I hate editors, for they make me abandon a lot of perfectly good English words.”

Simply Secure*

With security measures, sometimes less is more. I worked in an organization that had so many project code names we couldn't keep them straight. We wanted to limit code names to critical projects but our boss, who had an affinity for bureaucracy and secrecy, suggested we regularly send everyone a master list with all the project names and descriptions. This would have been an even bigger security risk than not using code names at all. Another company I worked for decided to require a new network password for each user every month. After about four months people could no longer remember their passwords. At least half the computer screens in the building had a post-it with the user’s current login password.

Walk More Slowly*

I went trekking in Nepal a few years ago. During lunch one day I joked with my guide about his incredible stamina. He just smiled and said, "Don't worry, you are doing fine. When clients need lots of breaks I just tell them that we will arrive much more quickly if they will only walk more slowly."

An Act of Compassion*

A client recently said he had reached the limits of his tolerance with a colleague's inexperience and management's decision to put him in the position. Since there was nothing he could do, and his patience was at an end, I suggested that he be compassionate toward his coworker. Certainly he could empathize with being new and inexperienced. Although compassion and understanding aren’t always our first reaction they can be considerably more positive and abundant than our tolerance or patience. His attitude improved quickly and so did his colleague’s performance.

Virtually Stressed Out*

An article in the New York Times reported on a research study that found elevated levels of anxiety among people who use the internet to self diagnose health problems. Since internet diagnostic tools don’t consider the likelihood of a particular condition, or the emotional impact of a diagnosis on the patient, it’s the equivalent of having your doctor nonchalantly say, “Your headache could be an inoperable brain tumor, a terminal case of ALS or eye strain.” Apparently this phenomenon has led to a newly coined condition called “cyberchondria.” That’s all we needed.

Just Ask The Expert*

In one of my postgraduate classes we watched an interview with Salvador Minuchin, one of the founders of family systems theory and the creator of Structural Family Therapy. We listened intently as he recounted his experiences helping families attain healthy dynamics and saving countless children from the wounds of dysfunctional family systems. Toward the end of the interview someone in the audience asked him what it was like raising his own children. He didn’t even hesitate, “It was impossible.”

He Grew Out Of It*

My son was born ten weeks premature so we were told he would have developmental delays. When he was eight, a neuropsychological assessment indicated he would struggle with math. Last year, he failed seventh grade math so he had to repeat the class. About two months into this school year he told us that he would like to move up to eighth grade math. We put together a plan to help him, hoping he would not be devastated if he failed. In three weeks he has completely caught up with no help from me or the teacher. We're still scratching our heads.

Should You Be Ashamed*

People feel guilt when they do something bad. They feel shame when they think they did it because they’re bad.

Is That So*

For the fourth time one of my students tried to turn his homework in late. I told him I wouldn't accept it but he explained that his Uncle had died and that the school policy permits absences for funerals of family members. Not wanting to add to his trauma, I graded the assignment and gave him a copy of the school policy stating that there are no excused absences of any kind. He apologized and turned the rest of his assignments in on time.

Guilt or Consequences*

Despite my request to keep his cell phone number confidential, my son gave it to a couple of his friends. Here is our conversation.

Son: What are my consequences?
Dad: None, you‘ll just have to deal with what happens.
Son: But why don’t I get any consequences?
Dad: You’re old enough to take responsibility for your actions.
Son: But my friends get consequences.
Dad: Don’t worry, you'll pay if your account runs low.
Son: Can I have some consequences?
Dad: Why do you want consequences so badly?
Son: So I won't have to feel so guilty.

Good and Evil

The 9/11 attacks and the wars in the middle east have caused us to face the nature of good and evil in the world. Except in extreme cases, we all have the potential for both good and evil. Since we tend to judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intentions, we are left only with our current choices and honesty about our past mistakes to determine our true character.

What Scares You

Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” examines the role of a fear-based culture in the Columbine shootings. Candidates talked about a “Culture of Fear” as they attempted to neutralize messages that leveraged fear in the recent election. Normal levels of fear serve to keep us away from danger. Excessive fear of disappointment and loss make our lives smaller as we become controlling, selfish and reluctant to take risks. Pathological fear makes us paranoid and incapable of normal social interaction. In the end, it is only through acceptance of our limitations and vulnerabilities that we prevent fear from ruling and ruining our lives.


When we adopted our first child I wrote down three things I wanted to give our children. My fourteen year old was reading the framed copy on my desk today so I asked him if we had given him those things. I’ve never been so nervous waiting for a response. He nonchalantly walked away, as teenagers tend to do, and said, “yup.”

Love, so they always have a place they’re accepted.
Confidence, so they believe in themselves.
Understanding, so they know their place in the world and what gives life meaning.

What Goes Around, Comes Around*

Some time ago home owners in our area voted down a school bond referendum. I spoke with someone who clearly hadn't considered the impact that the quality of the local school system has on their home values, not to mention national economic and social stability. They saw education as an expense rather than and investment.

We Have Arrived

Because of John F. Kennedy, I grew up knowing that anything was possible for an Irish Catholic American. Obama’s election has impacted my friends of color, in much the same way.

Not A Prophesy

Military planners have a wonderful saying, "The first casualty of any battle is the plan." Although this maxim expresses a fundamental reality, it does not make planning or plans irrelevant. In fact, in a dynamic environment, a well conceived plan can help detect significant changes and quickly adjust strategies and tactics to take advantage. Just remember that a plan is not a prophesy.

It's Odd

Advances in medical diagnostics have changed the way we view physical and mental ailments. In my youth, I wondered why people no longer died of blood poisoning. I found out later that people still died of blood related illnesses, the classifications had just become more exact. A friend of mine has a child with aspergers. A hundred years ago we would have simply considered him odd. The dark side of these advancements is our growing tendency to pathologize anything about people we find unusual. In the end, some people are simply unique.

What Do You Owe

Why, in a society so committed to individual freedom, do people so readily accept the imprisonment of debt?


People become famous when they accomplish something extraordinary but we rarely see the effort required to develop their talents. Mozart’s genius wasn’t that he could write a beautiful symphony in his early twenties but that he could write a symphony at all when he was eleven. It still took him a decade to do it brilliantly.

“Unlike reality TV, there is no overnight success." Spike Lee


HAL was the ship's computer in the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” that killed almost the entire crew. By 2001 computers looked a lot different than the film makers had imagined. They did get one thing right, the way a computer can destroy life as we know it. I decided to install some software on my new PC that I had installed on my old computer with no issues. I selected yes when the computer politely asked permission to uninstall existing software, restarted my computer, and you can guess what happened next. I had to use my phone to e-mail an S.O.S. to my technical guy.

It's Complicated*

One must realize that the second most complicated thing in the world is a human being, and that the most complicated is a group of them.

This is an axiom, or maxim, I use often in my work with executives and students.

Axiom: In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be self-evident. Therefore, its truth is taken for granted, and serves as a starting point for deducing and inferring other (theory dependent) truths.

Maxim: The succinct formulation of an ultimate truth, a fundamental principle, or a rule of conduct. The word derives from the Latin word maximus, "greatest", via an expression maxima propositio, "greatest premise".

I Cracked Up*

“It’s a glimpse of heaven, at the gates of hell.”

Quote from a recovering crack cocaine addict reflecting on his initial experience with the drug.

The Face of Corruption*

During the adoption of his daughter in Mexico City the attorney of someone I know paid the clerk to get official copies of the documents they needed. He was incensed when it took almost two weeks to get the copies because he assumed they had paid a bribe to speed up the process. It turns out that the five dollars per document they paid was not to speed up the process but to avoid the fifty dollar per copy fee charged by the court. A friend of mine living in Switzerland was upset that the Swiss DMV clerk would not take a bribe so she could skip the driver’s test. She didn’t hate the corruption back home, she actually missed it. Bribery of government officials in China is common but the Chinese FDA Minister was executed this summer for taking them. Corruption, and the reaction to it, is not as straight forward as one might think.

Are You Being Psychomanaged*

A client and I were discussing a previous boss of hers, who I labeled a micromanager. She got very agitated and said, “More like psychomanager.” As we discussed it further we defined a micromanager as someone whose anxiety about results, and lack of trust in the competence of others, makes them overly controlling of operational details and processes. A “psychomanager” is someone whose pathological need for control eclipses their concern for results.

Double Edged Sword

Technology tends to produce both wanted and unwanted outcomes. The development of nuclear technology gave us significant advances in medical and other technologies. It also amplified international tensions to the brink of annihilation. Makers of Motrin recently launched this viral video ad which takes advantage of emerging social dynamics on the internet to broadcast an advertisement. That same techno social phenomenon blew up when women who disapproved of the ad's portrayal of mothers started blogging and twittering their objections. The ensuing magnification of their protests created a PR nightmare for the company. Read the Fast Company Article

Abundance or Scarcity

In my travels around the world I have noticed that the poorest people seem the most willing to share and that people generous with their time and resources believe they receive more than they give. Although this abundance mentality might not be a formula for financial success, it could be one for happiness.

It's My Honor*

In our effort to fairly compensate others we can lose sight of opportunities to honor them. We pay a modest “honorarium” to guest speakers where I teach. Many of the speakers for my business class are highly successful, highly compensated people. I still make sure they each get a check because I want to honor their contribution, even though I can’t sufficiently compensate them. I also try to graciously receive what people offer me, even for things I’m willing to do for nothing.

Why Change

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my mother, who made me take typing classes long before the creation of the personal computer. Interestingly, the QWERTY keyboard owes its odd configuration to the limitations of early mechanical typewriters. Although experts have proposed more efficient layouts, this throwback to an ancient technology persists. Like language, typing skills become “hard wired” so most people don’t think it’s worth the effort, or possible, to make the change. Many other skills operate in a similar fashion, and provoke the same resistance.

A Better Culture

Organizational consultants propose that cultural change can significantly improve the effectiveness of an organization. That may be true, but organizational culture is like individual personality, it tends to be very persistent. Here is a quote from Ed Schein, Professor Emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

“The term ‘corporate culture’ is frequently misused and misunderstood. We talk about a corporate culture as if it were a thing that can be shaped and molded at will. But, culture is much more complicated than that. At a minimum, it factors in the underlying assumptions about the organization’s goals and what the company has learned from its successes and failures over the years."

But I Assumed*

During the depression, when many farmers simply walked away from their farms, my grandfather drove a hundred miles to the bank to tell them he couldn’t make his loan payments. The banker told him that no one else could either, so he should go back to farming and when things improved they would sort out the loan. He kept his farm and became one of the most successful farmers in the county, all because of that one bold act.

Command and Control

I got an excellent explanation of command and control from a client who is an ex military officer. You are in control when you are in physical control of something. You have a key, a password or some other device that puts you in control. You are in command when you have legal authority over someone or something. There are legal consequences if a command is not obeyed. In both cases there are repercussions for the person in command or control if something goes wrong. In the military you can go to Leavenworth and in civilian life you can get fired. Because command and control both create bottlenecks in an organization they should only be used when necessary. They should also be pushed down in the organization, the company president should not keep the keys to the company cars.

How Do You Know That

One of the best, albeit most difficult, bosses I ever had would regularly ask, "How do you know that?" Even if a fact was widely accepted, he wanted substantiation if it was a key factor in a decision. We changed quite a few decisions because of his inquiries, and lost a few colleagues who couldn’t get the hang of it.

Hey Stupid*

I remember telling one of my teams at General Mills not to make me call the president of the division stupid. Of course they didn’t understand so I explained how it would occur. First, we would base our recommendation on a prediction of what the president would do. Second, he would tell me that the recommendation was “stupid” and ask why I made it. Finally, I would tell him that we made it because we thought it’s what he would do. I challenged my group to always think for themselves regardless of whether or not they thought the president would agree.


“The gift of humility is relief from the burden of needing to be right.”
My Wife

"Humility isn't thinking less about yourself, it's thinking about yourself less."
A Friend

Are We Negotiating*

I remember a negotiation we settled for significantly less than we planned because the other party did a poor job of negotiating. They negotiated by justifying their demands which served only to give away their position. All we had to do was listen. Although skillful reconciliation looks much the same, the dynamics and outcomes are significantly different. Whereas negotiation minimizes what you give, reconciliation maximizes the respect and honor you show. Pushing the other party to understand you first serves only to widen the divide you are trying to close. What you need to do is listen.

Killing Creativity

Many executives struggle to find a response to bad ideas because they don’t want to kill the creativity that could also generate good ideas. A colleague of mine once suggested I articulate the virtues of the idea then follow with a request to meet additional requirements. Truly creative people respond positively to both the praise and the subsequent challenge. There are, however, people who do not realize that the difference between an idea and an innovation is utility.

“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others.”
Thomas Edison

Say What*

"When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity." John F. Kennedy, Indianapolis April 12, 1959

It's such a profound insight into eastern culture that people have used this quote for decades, with one small glitch, Chinese experts say it's wrong! How many times have we repeated something we heard only to have someone tell us that it's misinformed, naive or downright ignorant? Unfortunately, we can also suffer this humiliation by association.

"The problem with the French is they don't have a word for 'entrepreneur'." George Bush

My friends in France made fun of me for weeks, since the word originates from French.


What kind of friendship is this when friends give advice?
I wish they knew healing or simple, ordinary sympathy.

From "My Destiny" by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib 1797 - 1869
Translation by Robert Bly and Sunil Dutta

Why Do You Believe

"Religion is for people afraid of hell, spirituality is for those who’ve already been there."

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings.

Back to Basics?

I had lunch with our financial advisor yesterday. He has navigated us through the financial crisis brilliantly. He continues to examine which fundamentals will change as the financial markets worsen. People are most at risk during a crisis when they assume that basic principles, on which they have always relied, will continue to hold true.

Protect Me

The key difference between a protector and a bully is the way in which, and the purpose for which, they use force. I read an interview in Harvard Business Review with Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, that challenges the way our country conducts itself in foreign affairs.

Cause and Effect*

There’s an old adage that, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” One example of this is politicians who take credit for positive changes to economic and social conditions they had no role in changing. This kind of thinking isn’t limited to politics. I see businesses draw erroneous causal conclusions from correlated data all the time. Well, my son once thought that if I slept in late the sun wouldn’t come up. It came up anyway, and now that he’s fourteen he no longer makes those kinds of mistakes about my impact on his world.

The authors of Feakonomics, a wonderful book dedicated to this topic, now have a blog. Link to Blog

Hidden Gifts

I watched the cat jump effortlessly onto the counter this morning and then walk away like it was no big deal. That's fine if you're a cat, but I see people treat their talents with the same disregard. Don’t mistake this for humility. At the very least, this blind spot prevents them from fully appreciating and utilizing their gifts. What's worse, they tend to assume everyone else has the same abilities and become frustrated with people less capable than themselves. Much of my work with executives and students involves creating a better awareness and utilization of their strengths, and compassion for any lack of these skills in others.

Getting to Wonderful*

“You can't get to wonderful without passing through alright.”

A quote from Bill Withers, the award winning songwriter who performed "Ain't No Sunshine," "Lean on Me", and "Just the Two of Us".

Who Do You Love

A neighbor talked to me about the bizarre behavior of her ex daughter-in-law. The dishonesty, lack of empathy and singular focus on self fulfillment leaves her thoroughly perplexed. She’s probably dealing with a narcissistic personality. People with narcissistic personalities may appear arrogant but the behaviors stem from a lack of self esteem rather than an over abundance of confidence. They’re so defensive they’re usually impervious to feedback and self reflection. The only way to get along with them is to massage their ego and avoid any hint of criticism. They have difficulty forming normal relationships and may have behavior so destructive they should simply be avoided.

Tell Me A Story

A longtime acquaintance spoke to my business class about his highly successful design and branding firm. He gave a thoughtful presentation on his passion for the business and the lessons he learned along the way. At his request, I asked the students how they liked his presentation and they responded positively enough. When I asked what he could do differently someone said, "more stories," and the class heartily expressed their agreement. It was clear that the lessons contained in the stories he told were by far the most impactful.

Didn't See That Coming

Predicting people's reactions and behaviors is a bit of a fools' game. In Richard Attenborough's biography of Gandhi, Gandhi has this response to the revolutionary rhetoric of an Indian separatist, “It’s a clever argument, but I’m not sure it will produce the end you desire.” One question I often ask executives is, “What reaction would make you wish you hadn’t taken this action?” It usually works better to prepare for a broad range of reactions than to attempt to predict or provoke just one.

Arriving Early

My intercultural training and experience has taught me at least one important lesson: it’s not the cultural differences you expect that get you. When I was on a business trip in Switzerland I showed up about ten minutes early for a meeting with a Swiss colleague. It was our first meeting and, being American, I didn't want to risk insulting him by arriving late. I fully expected to wait patiently in his outer office until the time of our meeting but he came out in a flurry and whisked me into his office. It took me a bit by surprise when he mumbled, “You Americans are always in such a hurry.” It turns out that Swiss punctuality is intolerant of both earliness and tardiness. Who knew.

Do The Math

Something I learned from my experience in marketing is that consumers don’t always do the math. I know people who drive five to ten miles out of their way to pay two cents less per gallon for gas. They spend more than they save. What’s even more surprising is the people I meet who follow similar emotional reactions for business decisions. I had a very good friend, and boss, who wanted to buy a used piece of production equipment. Even after I showed him the financial analysis he had a very difficult time buying the newer, more efficient equipment.

Mouth and Ears

There's an old adage that God expects you to listen more than talk, which is why he gave you two ears but only one mouth. I recently read a wonderful Harvard Business Reveiw article written by the Global CEO of Chanel that supports this insight for executives.

Time to Rethink Capitalism?

I recently read a very provocative Harvard Business Review article written by a professor at IMD in Geneva. He points out that investors have historically governed businesses because, in an industrial economy, their capital is most at risk if the business fails. He goes on to suggest that investment in large corporations has become so dispersed that employees now bear a more significant risk than investors. In addition, the knowledge and skill base of the workforce has eclipsed access to capital as the key source of strategic advantage. At first, his proposition for shared governance seems socialistic but his reasoning is much more strategic than social.

Dishonesty and Denial

Everyone hates a liar, but what about a denier? Denial is a psychological defense mechanism: defined as an unconscious mechanism for the purpose of lowering anxiety. The key word here is unconscious. Lying is a conscious act, denial is not. Confronting a liar with the truth usually produces either an admission of guilt, or another lie. Confronting someone in denial usually makes them more defensive. Except in critical situations, it might be best to leave them alone. Therapists avoid breaking through defense mechanisms too quickly because it can make patients so anxious, and then depressed, they become suicidal.

Time and Energy

When a task comes across our desk the first question we ask is, "Who has time to do this?" Experience teaches us that interest, passion and energy are usually more important considerations than time so maybe we should ask, “Who would love to do this?” If the answer is no one, perhaps we should reconsider doing it at all. In addition, people who consistently turn away work for lack of time may actually lack passion. It might be time to reconsider them too.

I Had A Dream

We have all gone to bed with a problem on our minds, exhausted by attempts to find an answer, only to wake up the next morning with the perfect solution. We experience a similar phenomenon when our first instinct is more accurate than the subsequent analysis. Instincts, intuitions and other unconscious phenomena are the voice of our experience. Accomplished people learn to listen to them.

"The only real valuable thing is intuition. " Albert Einstein
Link to the Fast Company Article, "What's Your Intuition?"

Feed Me

Feedback is the bread and butter of executive development. As a consultant I make sure executives seek, receive and act on relevant feedback. I also make sure they have the tools to continue their development after I’m gone. The trick is to get them to embrace openness and humility over defensiveness and hubris.

Link to Fast Company article "Dying for Compassion"

Assertive Anger Management

I was on a flight with a sales executive who had a useful perspective on assertiveness. He counsels his colleagues to be more assertive at the beginning of a process so they'll be less frustrated, and aggressive, at the end.

Calling All Cars

This was posted outside the cubicle of one of my favorite administrative assistants.

"A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

Ockham's Razor

"All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."

William of Ockham (14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar)

Original Quote; "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate" (plurality should not be posited without necessity)

Teaming With Life

Many of my clients and colleagues throughout the years have confronted a team determined to stay together long after it has outlived its usefulness. Like an organism clinging to life, a team confronted with dissolution can present significant resistance. An empathetic message with a reasonable explanation for disbanding the team may not completely eliminate that resistance but it has a much better chance than a simple, “Stop working together on that.”

Humor and Wisdom

My Dad was one of the wisest men I ever met. Everyone who spoke at his memorial service mentioned two things about him, his wisdom and his sense of humor. It made me realize that every wise person I ever met also had a keen sense of humor.


My Dad was a very spiritual man. Last night, at his memorial service, my sister read his favorite prayer. Here is the abridged version.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.

How To Teach

Teaching, training and delegating all involve learning. One useful learning model has three modes; study, observe and do. Most people employ all three modes in their learning process but have a preferred sequence. Some choose to try something out first while others would rather begin with study. Understanding the learning style of your individual students, subordinates and trainees allows you to work with them more effectively. For group work you can present material in all three modes so no one is left out. That said, some skills require a particular pattern. We wouldn’t want doctors to begin their learning process by doing open heart surgery and teaching your son to skateboard probably won't start with a trip to the library.

Seeds of Revolution

In business school about 50 of us marched in a community parade as “The Briefcase Brigade.” To the crowd’s delight, we executed coordinated turns and spins with briefcases at our sides or on our heads. Unfortunately, we thought it would be funny to sing the alleged Harvard Business School fight song. “That’s alright, that’s OK, you’re gonna work for us some day.” The smiling crowd became considerably less friendly when they heard that song. I particularly remember the scornful look from one of the crowd control officers. Even as a joke, they didn’t appreciate a display of arrogance from a group aspiring to positions of power and authority.

Leadership Essentials

The successful leaders I’ve worked with and studied exhibit three essential characteristics.

Vision, to give supporters and followers a sense of direction.
Competence, in the skills necessary to lead the effort.
Service, to the success and well being of others.

Although they all do it differently, they all do it.

The Best Advice I Ever Got: Michelle Peluso, President and Chief Executive Officer, Travelocity

When Is a Team a Neighborhood

An executive development client was telling me about the complaints from his group regarding the lack of team spirit. But every time he brought them together for a team meeting they complained about its lack of relevance. It turns out that his group might not have been a team at all but a community, like a neighborhood or a village. Unlike a team, their individual outcomes were not directly beneficial to other members of the group. He had much better success when his “team” meetings were more like Amish barn raisings, everyone pitching in to lend support to the member in need.

Warren Buffet on Nudity

The current economic and stock market distress, and accompanying revelations about greed on Wallstreet, bring a couple of Warren Buffet quotes to mind.

"You never know who's swimming nude until the tide goes out."

"Be afraid when people are greedy, and be greedy when people are afraid."

The Mistake that Saved the World*

Yesterday’s election results made me think of John F. Kennedy, who was a young, inexperienced senator when he was elected. History recorded one of his first big mistakes as the Bay of Pigs incident. What is less clearly documented is the way he later applied the lessons he learned to the Cuban missile crisis. We should all be thankful he failed on the former so he could apply those lessons to the later.

Sherlock Holmes on Truth

"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

"It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts."

Take Time to Be Brief*

I remember the opening words to a speech I attended as an undergraduate. It was a large university where we were accustomed to long, dry, humorless technical speeches by brilliant, but socially impaired, research scientists. We were all stunned when the speaker put his notes on the podium, adjusted his glasses, and said, “Before I begin, I'd like to apologize for not taking sufficient time to prepare to be brief.” His speech was still shorter than most and, when he finished, we gave him an unusually hearty round of applause.

"I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter." Blaise Pascal

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." Abraham Lincoln


I recently heard someone define the nature and impact of resentment. The word "resent" originates from the Latin word "sentio" which means to feel. To resent is, "to feel something over and over." Under the right conditions, the resulting amplification of emotions results in destructive behaviors. We have all experienced a colleague who uses the same grievances repeatedly to justify their contrary or disruptive conduct.

Belief, Faith and Trust

My dad recently passed away. As I sit in my office reflecting about the impact he had on my life I remember what he taught me about spirituality. He told me that spirituality is about belief, faith and trust.

Belief that there is a power greater than ourselves
Faith in that power's capacity to plan and guide our lives
Trust in the wisdom of that plan and guidance

I will miss him.