Below are twelve powerful quotes that will level up your leadership. They are organized into ten topics: vision, goals, and everything in between. This broad range of topics every school leader should consider.

For each quote I wrote a few thoughts of why these quotes are impactful to me and why I recorded them in my commonplace book.

Essentially, a commonplace book is a collection of remarkable quotes and anecdotes that are categorized by topic. Many school leaders I coach wonder how I remember so much of what I read. Teaching through blog, creating podcasts, coaching, and live speaking challenges me to live with the material. These quotes guide my leadership and more importantly, my life.

I encourage you to do something similar. 

Please enjoy what I have to share with you today in this post. Consider writing these quotes in your journal, some notecards, on your whiteboard in your office. Then, write down what the quote means to you. Start teaching others why these quotes are important and if you want extra credit: write an email to me with your thoughts on these quotes. Better yet, write a blog post yourself and share with the world.

I also want to point out that 25 percent of these quotes come from Stoics. Their philosophy has deeply influenced me and you should trust their ideas because they have stood the test of time. These are not new ideas. They are tried and true withstanding history. Many leaders from Presidents Bill Clinton and Teddy Roosevelt, to modern football coaches like Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, to entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose, have all leaned on Stoic principles to guide their leadership. 

It would be easy to have written an entire post with Stoic philosophy, but I wanted to give you a broad range of ideas from timeless wisdom to modern insights. If you’re interested in learning more on what the Stoics have to say on life and leadership, I created a free download for you: Ten Stoic Ideas That Will Supercharge Your Leadership 

Supercharge Your School Leadership With These Ten Stoic Ideas

The timeless wisdom of Stoic philosophy can supercharge your leadership today.

Get instant access to ten powerful quotes and meditations that will help you level up. I’ll also share my seven favortite books on Stoicism as well.

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1. What’s in your control? 

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country — anything in which we might associate.”


A critical understanding for all leaders is to realize what is in and what is out of your control.

Stoic philosophy is boiled down to these three principles: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what is out of your control.

I recite this powerful Stoic framework everyday in addition to my personal philosophy and my affirmations.

What Epictetus is saying is an important leadership truth. Most of what you experience is outside of your control. Our choices and our values are always in our control. Focus on that.

“…You have passed through life without an opponent — no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” – Seneca


2. A helpful perspective on challenges?

“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent — no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”


I’ve had to learn how to appreciate challenges. This didn’t come naturally to me and it is much easier to throw a pity party than to be thankful for whatever obstacle I face.

Meditation has helped. 

I get curious now when I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, angry, a failure, a fraud, and all the other range of negative emotions I experience when doing something hard.

At my best, I can note that emotion with zen-like-peace — “That’s stress. Okay.” and move throughout the day without getting into a negative cycle of emotion.

“How fascinating!” is an example of a phrase that is helpful. 

Try saying that when something tough happens. You can’t help but laugh and roll with the punches.

Regularly returning to this quote is also helpful. As Ryan Holiday noted throughout the book The Obstacle is the Way, challenges can be “reframed” as opportunities. This quote illustrates that we would never know what we are capable of unless we faced challenges.

Now I try to approach challenges as a gift. 

What will this teach me today? What will I learn? how will I grow? What am I capable now as a result of this challenge, that I couldn’t have done before?

Supercharge Your School Leadership With These Ten Stoic Ideas

The timeless wisdom of Stoic philosophy can supercharge your leadership today.

Get instant access to ten powerful quotes and meditations that will help you level up. I’ll also share my seven favortite books on Stoicism as well.

We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

3. Fight the culture of nice

“Good controversy can be messy in the midst of brawling. But when it works, it is clarifying and cleansing — and a forceful antidote to bullshit.”

-Priya Parker

My friend T.J. talks about the “culture of nice” in schools in his book, Candid and Compassionate Feedback.

It’s a problem.

If you struggle with wanting to be liked and to be viewed as a “nice guy,” then you might shy away from difficult conversations and difficult deeds that need to be done.

I know because I struggle with it.

Priya Parker wrote a great book called The Art of Gathering which is where the quote originates from. The context has to do with adding controversy to events and gatherings to make them remarkable.

But as leaders, we want to be memorable and lead remarkable organizations. 

You can’t be remarkable with a “culture of nice.”

The antidote isn’t nastiness. The solution isn’t poorly timed feedback or feedback that drags others through the mud.

The solution is taking a stand for what you believe and inviting people into a courageous conversation. That is how you create something remarkable.

4. One approach to a powerful day

“My ideal day is 50 percent creative, 30 percent teaching, and 20 percent other.”

-Jim Collins

I hope you know Jim Collins. He writes about world class organizations. He is a hero and mentor of mine.

This quote comes from a podcast interview he did with Tim Ferriss.

50-30-20 isn’t the magical breakdown of your powerful day. What I hope you take away is that Jim has dialed in what is most important to him. He approaches each day with intention.

When I coach school leaders 1:1 or in the mastermind we talk about our ideal weeks. It’s a popular topic.

Do you know what a powerful day or an ideal week looks like for you? Are you percentages aligned with the work you find the most interesting, the most engaging, and what creates the most value for your organization?

5. Level up your culture

“The only time you can get away with a crappy bureaucracy and a culture of distrust is when people have to come to work.”

-Shane Parrish

If school leaders realized this they’d have to step up their game BIG TIME.

Many of our organizations are crappy bureaucracies. Education is mandatory and people have to show up at work. This lets many schools, districts, and their leaders off the hook.

How can we turn this on its head? 

For starters we could start treating our roles in education as sacred work like my friend Karine thinks about it

What if teachers and students didn’t have to come to school? What would you change about the experience to make it so special that people couldn’t wait to get there?

I love many things about the masterminds I run. One of the best parts: when members say, “I look forward to this time each week.”

We’re doing something right.

6. What core values pull you?

“Man is pushed by drives, but pulled by values.”

-Viktor Frankl

What I like about this quote is the idea of pulling. This communicates to me when the going gets tough (and it will) … When things are maybe so bleak you want to give up (and you consider it) … your core values will save you and pull you through. 

So if I asked you what your core values are, do you have that dialed in? Who are you at your best?

Do you have a personal philosophy that is deeply meaningful resonating not just with your head, but more importantly with your heart?

Mine is: 

Create like an artist

Love like a poet

Smile and breathe

Coach Pete Carrol has this as a personal philosophy: always compete.

Do the hard work of identifying your core values or creating a personal philosophy. They’ll pull you in the right direction.

7. & 8. Where are you headed?

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

-Lao Tzu

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”


Two quotes for the price of one! 

I love both of these quotes on vision. Everyone is heading in a direction. Are you confident you’re heading in the right direction?

Supercharge Your School Leadership With These Ten Stoic Ideas

The timeless wisdom of Stoic philosophy can supercharge your leadership today.

Get instant access to ten powerful quotes and meditations that will help you level up. I’ll also share my seven favortite books on Stoicism as well.

We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

9. Spend time each day in reflection.

“Learn from yesterday. The important thing is to never stop questioning.”


Reflection is a big part of my life. One question I regularly meditate on is this: what could I have changed to make my day better?

Even after a day I consider a 10/10 I ask this question. I never want to forget that every day can be better and that I have control over the experience I have. 

It’s up to me. 

Another interesting idea that I haven’t been able to implement consistently yet is this: assign a value between 1-10 aligned to important categories of life. How would I score today for creativity, relationships, service? 

What categories would be important to you? How would you rate those categories.

I also love this quote because it says “never stop questioning.” Curiosity may kill the cat but it absolutely helps leaders level up. 

Good thing I’m not a cat.


10. How good of a decision maker are you really?

“Choices are not reality bound because System 1 is not reality bound.”

-Daniel Kahneman

This quote deserves it’s own blog post and will get one in the future. At the risk of it not making a lot of sense, here is some quick background.

The quote comes from the epic book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, my friend Eileen’s favorite book.

System 1 is our trusted autopilot making decisions in a millisecond. Although it saves us precious resources our brain needs to function, it can lead us astray when not investigated.

System 2 is slow and logical. It requires great effort to make decisions here.

Many of our poorest choices lay at the feet of System 1’s automatic, and at times, emotional decisions. Utilizing System 2 is not the way forward though. That would be paralyzing to laboriously analyze every little choice in front of us.

The reason this idea matters is that leaders develop blind spots. Our limitations are often self-created. They’re invented. 

When in normal day-to-day existence it’s near impossible to get the perspective needed to be your best. According to Kahneman: It is much easier and enjoyable to identify the mistakes of others than to recognize our own.

That’s why it is so important to have a trusted board of advisors that can both challenge you and cheer you onto success.

11. & 12. Isolation is the enemy of excellence    

“The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of perspective on a problem”

-Alain de Bottom

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”


Another 2-for-1!

I wanted to end with a bang. 

Everything we do at Better Leaders Better Schools is guided by this idea: Everyone wins when a leader gets better. Everyone wins when YOU get better.

This principle is our foundation because all of us are better than any of us.

I learned early on that isolation is the enemy of excellence.

Jim Rohn said that “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Your community is everything. 

Within our leadership community we learn from the mistakes of others so that we collectively get better. This accelerates our learning.

Blind spots are obliterated because we have eleven other people serving as our mirror. Through candid feedback, tough questions, and loving challenges we are able to make the invisible, visible.

If you’d benefit from walking this leadership journey with a cohort of other leaders on the same path, I welcome your application on this page to the mastermind.

I guarantee that you’ll lead with confidence and make wiser decisions.

Keep Making a Ruckus,


If you loved this blog post, then you’d love subscribing two my category-defining podcasts:

The Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast on iTunes and Spotify

The School Leadership Series on iTunes and Spotify

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