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.

When David Usually Wins*

Ivan ArreguĂ­n-Toft is a post doctoral fellow at The Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He recently wrote “How the Weak Win Wars” where he states that in asymmetrical conflicts, where one side is significantly stronger than the other, the stronger side wins about seventy percent of the time. What’s fascinating is that when he looked at the conflicts where the weaker side used unconventional strategies the win loss rates were reversed. It turns out that David usually beats Goliath, if he uses unconventional strategies. Related Article by Malcolm Gladwell

Late Bloomers*

While you will pay much more for a Picasso painted in his twenties you will pay much more for a Cezanne painted in his sixties. It turns out that talent can emerge at either end, or the middle, of a person’s life depending on the nature of their creative process. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a wonderful New Yorker article about this topic.


There is a growing global dialog about sustainability and responsible use of resources. Although the discussion centers on environmental impact, the fact is, we're going to run out of resources sooner than people realize. Here are the world population figures for the last three centuries, with each of us using a lot more resources than our ancestors did three hundred years ago.

1700 – 0.6 billion
1800 – 1.0 billion
1900 – 1.7 billion
2000 – 6.1 billion

What Are You Planning*

Much of what I've learned about strategic planning over the years can be summed up in the following statements.

More is not a vision
Hope is not a strategy
And the first casualty of any battle is the plan

Dog Gone*

We recently lost our beloved beagle Beans who was so difficult to train we had to keep him on a leash in the house. We soon got another rescue from the Humane Society, a border collie named Rio. The difference is remarkable. He seems to know what to do before we give the command. We loved having a smart dog, right up until we caught him sneaking stuffed animals out of my daughter’s room and opening the gate to his pen. Border collies are considered the smartest breed of dogs while beagles are in the bottom ten percent. In the end, this just means different kinds of challenges. Dog Intelligence Rankings

On The Mark*

"If you don't know who the mark is after 30 minutes -- it's you."
Old Poker Axiom


“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Delusional Leadership*

In a study done by Bain & Company 80% of the CEO’s polled believed their brand provides a superior customer experience, but only 8% of their customers agreed. From a slideshow by Futurelab.

Creative Genius*

I recently watched this video of Elizabeth Gilbert talking about the way she learned to deal with the success of her book “Eat, Pray, Love” which was on the New York Times #1 bestseller list for over a year. She looked to the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed that creativity was a gift from divine spirits that ebbs and flows through the artist. The Romans called this spirit a "genius." This belief does not diminish the work but provides a buffer from the creative roller coaster that can claim so much of their lives and sanity.

Clarity Out Of Chaos*

A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter and Gamble, wrote a Harvard Business Review article about the function of a CEO. His thoughts express one of the key challenges for leaders; making clarity out of chaos. One of the big surprises for new executives is the complexity at the top generated by a constantly changing world and complex organizational dynamics. Many of them thought that any lack of clarity by the previous leadership was simply a communication problem or lack of clear thinking. They are soon on the phone with their predecessors looking for advice.

Telescopic Time Machine*

It turns out that the Hubble telescope isn’t just for looking far away but also back in time. If you look at galaxies a billion light years away you‘re also looking at them a billion years ago. It’s how astronomers are studying the origins of the universe. If digesting that concept gives you a bit of a headache you should listen to this astronomer explain what they’ve discovered.

Ancient Quotes*

Ancient quotes are always my favorites. They make me realize that modern society is not losing ground; we're right where we've always been.

Angry Quotes*

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. Marcus Aurelius

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone; you are the one who gets burned. Buddha

Whatever begins in anger ends in shame. Benjamin Franklin

I Hit My Head*

Studies on concussions have concluded that the recovery time is significantly longer than previously thought and that a second concussion on top of the first is extremely dangerous. There’s a new system emerging for evaluating concussions by medical professionals called the ImPACT Test and some states have passed laws that require children under 18 be examined by a doctor after a significant event.

Stone Cold*

We hear each day that terrorism makes the world a dangerous place for Americans. We can’t seem to comprehend the thirst for violence and destruction of those who would attempt to frighten us. It makes me wonder how a group of these terrorist would fare if placed in proximity to one of our most violent street or prison gangs. I’m not certain who would start the fight, or who would win, but I’m sure there would be one.

Other Languages*

Anyone who watches the Dog Whisperer knows that dogs communicate primarily through touch and body language. People also communicate through these more primal methods. Politicians understand and use these “other languages” very effectively. So do most successful leaders.

Not What It Seems*

My son plays Lacrosse and I recently discovered that the primary function of a mouth guard is not to prevent injury to the teeth but to prevent concussions. Teeth slamming together during a fall is actually a major cause of concussions. While I was learning Spanish I came across the word constipada. You can guess what that means but you’d be wrong. It refers to nasal congestion. Sometimes things are just not what they seem.

Authentic Humility*

It seems a more authentic display of humility to commend others than to denigrate oneself.

Who's Flying The Plane*

The National Transportation Safety Board found that 73% of the incidents in its database occurred on a crew’s first day of flying together, before people had the chance to learn through experience how best to operate as a team—and 44% of those took place on a crew’s very first flight. Even more frightening is the way airlines decide on crew assignments. A computer decides crew assignments based on the most cost efficient use of individual crew members. From a Harvard Business Review interview of J. Richard Hackman


A colleague and I were surprised how little time and effort it took us to put together a new training program. We deduced that we moved quickly and efficiently not because we knew what was necessary but because we knew what was unnecessary. That’s the true gift of experience.

Sounds Too Good*

A talented presenter can make even the most mundane or insignificant topics seem dramatic and important. They use charts without a zero baseline to make changes look more extreme. They show astounding hindsight before they predict the future. But most of all, they cultivate a manner of speaking that exudes authority and knowledge, a British accent helps. I’m always a bit guarded when people present too well.


A thirteen year old from Florida recently took his dad’s credit card, the keys to the family car, his report card and a flight across the country, without the knowledge or permission of his parents. Even more amazing than his age, he has aspergers, a mild form of autism. Sounds like he’s a lot more functional than anyone thought. I'm sure our friends at Homeland Security are scrambling to figure out what this means and what they should do next. News Broadcast