He Who Walks with Wolves …

By | April 3, 2018

[April 3, 2018]  There’s an old Mexican proverb that goes something like this, He who walks with wolves, learns to howl.1  This is a variation on advice that is found in since ancient times in the writings of ancient philosophers and from the Bible.  It means that when we associate ourselves with good and wise people, we will learn good and wise things from them.

Conversely, if we are a companion of fools and the wicked, we will be unavoidably infected with their ways.  It will come as no surprise that many leaders have yet to learn the most basic of human conditions; that we mirror the people we keep as friends and acquaintances.  That is the danger of failing to use good judgment.

“He who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.” – Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general

Sun Tzu, in another variation on this theme, refers to “them” which he means the enemy.  If we know the enemy (and ourselves) then we will be victorious.  If we fail to know the enemy (or ourselves) then we will surely be defeated.  Sun Tzu, however, meant this to mean more.  He also wrote that military officers and generals must associate with wise men; for this is the way of the victorious general.

Years ago I knew a young man who wanted to be in the U.S. Navy and learn as much as he could about the Soviet Navy.  He told me that it was his idea to be the U.S. Navy’s “go to officer” for all things in the Soviet Navy.  In this way, he thought, would be best for his career and prestige.  To learn Russian quickly and before his commissioning, he went to live in the Soviet Union for a year.

His plan worked well for him.  He not only speaks fluent Russian with an undetectable American accent but he became one of the U.S. Navy’s most valuable assets on all things Russian.  The young man was thoughtful, showed good judgment, and good follow-through.  It worked well for him.

In Proverbs 13:20 from the Bible, we read that He that walks with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.  Human nature is what it is and while we are easily led astray, it is best to attach ourselves to people known to be both of good character and of success in our lives.


  1. El que anda con lobos aula aprende.
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

31 thoughts on “He Who Walks with Wolves …

  1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    I just ran across this leadership blog post and liked it.

  2. Ken F. Brown

    I heard about this post from a long-time reader of theLeaderMaker.com. Truly, it is a great post. Thanks, man!

  3. Darryl Sitterly

    I like your website alot. You seem to focus on practical information that anyone can use.

  4. Edward Kennedy III

    One of my favorite blog posts. Thanks.

  5. Martin Shiell

    … and I thought it was just me that was weird as a kid when I didn’t want to be around the bullies who intimidated other weaker kids.

  6. Danny Burkholder

    Good one today. Thank you Gen. Satterfield for providing rich content.

  7. Joey Holmes

    Interesting and I learned a lot today.

  8. Greg Heyman

    I too learned this lesson the hard way. However, the sad news today is that kids are LESS likely to be taught this lesson. In fact, there is a movement to protect our children to the point that they fail to learn how to cope with failure and with how to get along.

  9. Tony B. Custer

    My friends and I also learned this lesson the hard way by being part of a gang that liked to bust up old people. We did it for fun. After my uncle caught me and bet the hell out of me, I stopped.

  10. Joe Omerrod

    I like your blog post today because it hits close to home for me.

  11. Mark Evans

    We are judged more by our associations and friends than any other attribute. At least that is what my experience has been. If you think people don’t judge you based on factors such as this, then you are asleep at the wheel of life.

  12. Billy Kenningston

    I wish my brother had paid attention to this when he was younger. His life would have been better. He learned this the hard way when he was fired from his first job as a gas station attendent. His boss saw him with a known local thief. The next day my brother was out of a job. Duh!

  13. Dennis Mathes

    So many stories about my relatives who got themselves into trouble because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This occured often when they were around folks they should have known better to hang out with.

  14. Shawn C Stolarz

    Good story today. Yes, we are judged by those who we chose to surround ourselves with. My dad taught me this early in life. He also taught me to help others but to be careful in my associations with those who are of shady character.

  15. Jonathan B.

    We are judged by our associations. Those who do not understand this had best reevaluate their life. If you are a “real leader” then you had better be focused on this as well as character development.

  16. Janna Faulkner

    Good info today General. Much appreciate the proverb too.

  17. Max Foster

    I like this Mexican proverb. Sounds pretty neat and I think I’ll use it for a message to my kids.

  18. Kenny Foster

    I have a niece that was a kind girl. She helped those in school who were poor and from drug-ridden families. Later, she began to hang out with them in high school. By the time she was ready for college, she had decided it was more interesting to be with young folks her age that had fun going to drug parties, etc. After years, she finally got her act together and joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

    1. Anita

      Most of us have similar stories. Thanks for your’s.

  19. Army Captain

    Very good. An interesting look at the value of knowing the value of associations with others who are smart and have good moral character. The U.S. military teaches this and tells us to watch carefully our association with anti-American groups.

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