[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.
- El que anda con lobos aula aprende.