banner james carlini - Carlini's CornerBy James Carlini

How can you learn from proven leaders’ wisdom? One quick way is to get an insight to their thought process by reading up on their quotes.

Years ago, a business acquaintance I had met in San Francisco while consulting on a high-tech real estate project for Santa Fe Southern Pacific in Silicon Valley got me started on looking at quotes from different leaders in various industries.

John Rigdon, Harvard MBA, former USMC, and former president of a Savings & Loan out in San Francisco had a box of 3×5 cards with hand-written quotes from various CEOs and business leaders. I looked through some of them and liked the way some of them sounded. From his taste in cars (a couple of Jaguars – that included an X-150) to his broad knowledge of Chinese provinces and their food (we used to go down to Chinatown in San Francisco), I always enjoyed his perspective.

Rigdon was (and is) an interesting executive. You learn from people like him. He was also one of the first people I know to use online data bases to look things up. One of his qualities is that he shared his perspectives as well as his “treasure” of quotes he had in that 3×5 box of cards.

One that really hit me at the time was Malcolm Forbes’ “He who has the wheel, sets the direction” quote. Forbes, besides owning Forbes Magazine, was also an avid yachtsman. Later, I found another quote of his I liked, “Any fool can handle the helm in calm seas.”
One of the first quotes I put out was when I was at Arthur Young (1984) and it became timeless.

“Leading-edge organizations do not maintain their position by using trailing-edge technologies.”


What a way to get some perspectives of people that you wish you could have spent time with, discussing leadership, management, and overall perspectives on life. Here are some:
General George S. Patton – “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

Ben Franklin – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Alexander Hamilton – “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything”

Henry David Thoreau – “In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.”

Harold Geneen,
former Chairman, ITT – “Words are words, Explanations are explanations, Promises are Promises, but only Performance is Reality.”


When I taught at Northwestern University, I wanted to share some practical insights with students taking the courses. They came in with various backgrounds and some were not confident about the subject matter and others were over-confident. I started every course with this:

“There are no experts in this industry. The best you can be is a good student, always learning.”

This seemed to put many at ease as well as letting the “experts” know that they did not know everything. It really helped the class start off on the right foot.

As time went on, people always wanted to know “what was going to be on the test?” I started emphasizing things and also gave them some “rules-of-thumb” that one student remarked, “That sounds real important. It’s a Carlini-ism and will probably be on test.”

From that day on, I called my helpful hints “Carlini-isms” and also included them at the end of all my articles.

Soon there were some quotes that people hung onto for years. Seeing former students and having them quote some of these years after they took classes made me feel good that at least some of what I taught really stuck in their mind.

“Just like one course in First Aid doesn’t make you a Doctor, one course in technology doesn’t make you a Technologist.”

“There is no such thing as a new $5,000 Rolls-Royce” and conversely, “If all you have to spend is $5,000, there is no such thing as a Formula 1 Yugo.” (you pay for engineering, luxury and performance)

“If you don’t learn this, start practicing ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart’”

“No single vendor has all of the answers, all of the time.”

“Best Practices are a moving target.”


The more you work in an industry, the more clarity you have in seeing what is happening as well as what should be happening.

After working on many high-tech real estate projects as well as mission critical networks over the years, here are some insights more should be adopting:

“Economic development equals broadband connectivity, and broadband connectivity equals jobs.”

“Whoever has the most educated workforce, will be the toughest competitor.”

“If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a region to raise economic viability for all.”

“You cannot navigate and solve 21st century real estate problems
with 20th century solutions.”

There are so many good quotes to share. I hope that some of these will hit home with you and give you a better, broader perspective. I will have more in an upcoming book about Intelligent Infrastructure and regional economic development.

CARLINI-ISM : You don’t get Superman by paying Jimmy Olson wages.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at http://www.TWITTER.com/JAMESCARLINI
Copyright 2013 – James Carlini



  1. I believe what you focus on expands.

    I have met many leaders and successful people that have carried quotes in their pockets to remind them of what is important to them and to focus on what counts for them.

    I have also found that although you should follow the example of the leader you want to be, it is even more important to find the quote or saying that speaks to you no matter who the guru, speaker or famous professional is.

    In fact, I have found that many gurus and leaders do not always do what they say or measure up to their beliefs. This is true for most of us. We should strive to, but as humans it is always a challenge.

    The truth is that the brilliance is within you. I have been to conferences where the speaker said something I thought was so profound that it changed my whole life paradigm, only to find out that others at the conference didn’t even hear the quote….

    As it turns out the brilliance was already in me, I just needed someone to put it into words for me. It did not matter if the speaker lived up to my expectation of the profoundness of what he / she said; it was all up to whether or not, what was said meant something to me.

    Great piece James!

  2. Wayne Jablonski

    Great stuff Mr. Carlini, keep on “keepin on”

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