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.

Expressions of Love

People speak and understand emotional love when it is expressed through one of five languages:

• Words of affirmation
• Quality time
• Receiving gifts
• Acts of service
• Physical touch

From “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman

Not Just Criticism

Too many performance evaluations are after-the-fact criticisms based on standards that were never clearly identified.  Effective performance management begins with a discussion of measureable objectives and requirements followed by an objective evaluation of final results based only on the criteria agreed to by all parties.

Reflection Basics

Look inward (what am I trying to accomplish?)
Look outward (what matters to others?)
Look back (what new things have I tried?)
Look ahead (what will I do differently?)

David Peterson - Director of Learning and Development at Google

Leaders and Rulers

The difference between leaders and rulers is that leaders need permission to lead, from willing followers.

Too Many Choices

Researchers have found that more isn’t always better when it comes to decision making. More options can actually reduce the chances that someone will make a decision at all. Read more about decision making research in an article by Nick Tasler, author of “The Impulse Factor.”  Link to Article


Cultural differences disappear when it comes to parenting.

Little children, headache; big children, heartache.
Italian Proverb

Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life.
Yiddish Proverb


“Closure is for bystanders. Victims will always live with the impact a tragedy has on them.”
Rural County Sheriff


“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”
Humpty Dumpty


Inexperienced presenters worry about saying enough.
Veteran presenters worry about saying too much.

CEO Sins

"They are control freaks. They are vain. They are ditherers. They don't listen. They are bullies. They are afraid of conflict. And they can't do small talk."

From "The seven deadly sins CEOs won't admit" by Lucy Kellaway.  Link to full article


"The difference between a beginner and the master - is that the master practices a whole lot more."
Yehundi Menuhin


"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Maya Angelou

The Pursuit of Happiness

Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.

Stress Relief

Navy Seals go through intensive training to think clearly in stressful situations. In addition to training drills they use four practices to combat stress. My son recently used these practices to help him pass the road test for his driver’s license.
  1. Goal Setting – Set small achievable short term goals
  2. Mental Rehearsal – Visualize success
  3. Self Talk – Keep an optimistic internal dialog
  4. Arousal Control – 4x4x4 breathing (Inhale four seconds then exhale four seconds for four minutes)

Big Brother Robot

In this TED video Eli Pariser talks about the information distortion we each experience as automated filters decide what to show us on the internet.

It’s Complicated

In “The Fifth Discipline” Peter Senge talks about the difference between detail complexity and dynamic complexity. Detail complexity necessitates data capacity and analysis while dynamic complexity requires intuitive pattern recognition and flexibility.


“The difference between impulsive and decisive is direction.”
Nick Tasler author of “The Impulse Factor”


My financial adviser gave me an article titled “The Seven Immutable Laws of Investing.” One law seemed particularly relevant during the great recession which began when overly complex investment vehicles collapsed. Link to Article

Law #7 – Never invest in something you don’t understand.

Today's Problems

"Today's problems come from yesterday's solutions."
Rule #1 from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

Allies and Confidantes

You can depend on an ally so long as your goals align but you must be able to trust a confidante indefinitely.  Confusing the two can lead to disaster.

Weak and Powerful

"A weak person in power can never be generous with power because they see questions or alternative possibilities as threatening their own supremacy and dominance. If you are going to be creatively confrontational with such a person, you need to approach that person very gently in a nondirect manner. This is the only way that the word of your truth can reach such a frightened, powerful person."
From Anam Cara by John O’Donohue

A Farmer’s Wisdom

When I was a kid I asked my Grandfather how he decided what crops to plant. “I plant the crops that had a low price the previous year because most other farmers plant the crops that had a high price.”

Why Do It

"All great things are done for their own sake."
Robert Frost

Breakfast Culture

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
Peter Drucker

The Power of Words

How we say something profoundly changes the impact.


Autonomy will deliver greater engagement and productivity only if people have sufficient skill and accountability.

The empowerment triad:

  • Able
  • Autonomous
  • Accountable

Amateurs vs Professionals

Amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics.
Modern Military Saying


Dan Pink illustrates the hidden truths behind motivation.

MBA Hippocratic Oath

Harvard Business School students created an oath in reaction to the contribution of business school graduates to the most recent economic crisis. Here are three of the seven promises contained in the current version of the oath. Link to Entire Oath.

  • I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.
  • I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.
  • I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.

The Old Fashioned Way

The internet mega giant Google makes its money the old fashioned way, advertising. Advertising has always paid the lion’s share of production costs for network television and radio programs. It turns out that Google pays for its services the same way.

We Are Here

It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said, “Being here is so much.” It is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here.
From Anam Cara by John O’Donohue


One way to define creativity is, “combine disparate things to make something new.”  This video shows two cellists playing a rendition of Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.  It’s incredible.


Any level of progress brings an equivalent level of risk, which necessitates a corresponding level of faith.  In the end, we need to decide how much faith we can maintain, not how much risk we can tolerate.


“Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it that I won’t be worthy of connection."


I had a boss who was fond of saying, "I want you to hurry, but not rush."

Organizational Improvement

Changing organizational culture is very difficult.  One technique for improving an organization without wholesale changes to the culture is to look for those areas that operate well within the current culture, study them and replicate them. 

Those Who Can’t

There’s an old adage that those who can’t do, teach. This insult to teachers might actually contain a pearl of wisdom. People gifted in an endeavor may never develop the learning skills and strategies necessary to teach as well as someone who had to struggle.