Glenn Robbins is the proud Superintendent of the Brigantine Public School District in Brigantine, New Jersey. He has served as a public school superintendent in New Jersey since 2016. Prior to becoming a superintendent, he was a middle school principal, a high school assistant principal, a high school social studies teacher, and a high school varsity coach. He is also an author and speaker.

Glenn has been awarded numerous administrative national and state recognitions including the National Exemplar of Education Award, Northeast Innovative Superintendent Award, NJ Visionary Superintendent Award, Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools Member, NASSP Digital Principal of the Year, Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Winner, and SETDA Student Voice Award Winner. He has been invited to the White House and the US Department of Education several times. He is also the proud recipient of a National Superintendent Certification, and serves as an AASA National Governing Board Member, AASA Aspiring Superintendent Mentor, and Chair of NJASA Technology Committee.

Glenn Robbins has been recognized across the globe for his innovative school and district improvement methods, and has been featured in numerous conferences, books, podcasts, and other publications. Glenn is passionate about helping school leaders create schools where every student and educator can have the opportunity to succeed to their utmost potential in a VUCA world.

Ariel Curry helps people make an impact on the world through the power of books. She fell in love with editing and publishing at her first internship in London. She spent the next decade acquiring nonfiction books and editing manuscripts. In 2021, she started Ariel Curry Editorial to work with more authors and expand my work coaching, editing, and ghostwriting books and proposals. Ariel’s passion is to help professionals, thought leaders, and educators make an impact on the world through the power of books.

Show Highlights

Why you need a copy of “Calm in the Chaos”

It is a valuable resource for school leaders that provides practical advice and case studies based on real experience.

Explores using stoic wisdom for school leadership.

Emphasizes the need for stoicism as a leadership tool, particularly in dealing with difficult situations and maintaining a calm mindset.

Helps readers develop resilience and maintain integrity.

Provides reflection questions to encourage readers to think about how they can apply these practices in their own lives.

The book will change your life to help you not get crushed by the waves leaders face in their professional and personal lives.

The 4 virtues that will help you be an active leader.

“‘To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it’.”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“We control the controllables. We control what happens to us as much as we can. We control our attitude, we control our thought process. There’s a lot of leaders out there who I talk to who are struggling and a lot of leaders out there who are ambitious and ready to take on the world. But no matter what, that storm is going to roll in. You’re going to hit those waves. And whether it’s big or small, I think this is going to help a lot. So to both of you, thank you for helping put this beautiful thing together, and I’m excited for people to get their hands on Calm in The Chaos, to hopefully make a change in their lives for the better.”

- Glenn Robbins

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Read the Transcript here.

Calm In The Chaos Transcript

13:27 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I’m here with my friends Glenn Robbins and Ariel Curry. Glenn I’ve known forever. I don’t know. We probably met on Twitter at some point, and face to face, I know, at different conferences around, and that was pretty cool. And at some point, I want you to tell the fuller story. But we had an idea, right? And now here’s the idea coming to reality. Ariel is also known. She’s been on the show before. She hosted the show and turned the microphone around on me to ask questions. But we have a great relationship. She was my editor of the bestseller Mastermind, unlocking talent within every school leader and the world’s best writing partner. And she’s helped me bring a number of books to the market. Right. Recently. So build leadership momentum.

14:20 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Your entry plan book, the remarkable Vision Formula, which is about creating a three year vision. And now our latest book, which is called Calm in the Chaos. And it’s really about how school leaders can use ancient stoic wisdom to find some equanimity and peace. In a sense of control and effectiveness.

14:48 Ariel Curry Thank you so much. Super excited to be back.

14:52 Glenn Robbins Thanks, Danny.

14:54 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Well, Glenn, let’s start with you. I just want to ask, do you remember the. Did. How did this even come up as an.

15:03 Glenn Robbins
I was thinking about that, and I always smile back to that day, Danny. That’s when I was hosting a big conference, and I brought you in and a bunch of other friends to speak with, a lot of great schools that had no money, and we brought everybody in and you all presented for free to help shape the minds, hearts, and souls of all these educators that needed it. And I remember I bought the book from Ryan Holiday. Stillness is the key for every presenter. And you and I have been reading since he first came out with obstacles away back when he first got published. And I just remember going to you and having that conversation. And I’ve been thinking about it for a while, like, who could I co author with?

15:43 Glenn Robbins
Who could I build this with and who had the right mindset for that leadership aspect with stoicism? And I thought of you, man, and I went up to you in the hallway and I said, hey, are you interested in writing a book one day? And this is, I think, 2016, right? 2017 maybe it was.

16:00 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny. Yeah, it’s a while ago.

16:02 Glenn Robbins
I think it was like that and just pitched the idea to you. And he’s like, you know what? I got a plan. I got my vision laid out here and there, but let’s put something together. And here we are a few years later, and here we are now, ready to release.

16:16 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah, this is exciting. And like you said, I talked about it years ago, quite a while ago, but never gave up on the dream and started working on it. I think to make it reality, especially because working with you was a newer thing. We needed some expert help. Right. And that’s where Ariel came in and certainly made this such an easy process. But something I want to ask Ariel, I think this might be your favorite book project that we’ve done. Could I be wrong? I don’t know. So tell me if that’s true.

16:53 Ariel Curry That is definitely true. Yeah.

16:55 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny All right. Now tell us why.

16:58 Ariel Curry
Well, I, too, am a fan of Ryan holidays and stoicism in general. I was introduced to Ryan Holiday, actually, through his book Perennial seller, which is a publishing book. So that’s the publishing connection for me. I read this amazing book about writing and then learned that the author, Ryan Holiday, had all these other books on stoicism. And so I just kind of kept going with it and completely fell in love with this philosophy. And that was back when I was an editor at Corwin. And actually I had two or three times when people came and pitched books on stoicism for school leaders to me when I was an acquisitions editor. And I could just never build a case for it. And it was not something that the upper management at Corwin was ever really interested in pursuing.

17:43 Ariel Curry
And so I personally was very passionate about it. And I feel like I’ve just been waiting for the right project to come along for me to be able to say yes to and it was just never the right time back then. So when you and Glenn came to me and said, hey, we want to do this book on stoicism, I was like, finally, the time has arrived. So I’m very happy about that.

18:04 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah. So here we are. And for us, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. Like, do we want to bring this book to school leaders? Ruckus makers worldwide? But I think I’d like to ask both of you. Glenn, let’s start with you, and then go over to, like, why is this topic so important for ruckus makers?

18:27 Glenn Robbins
Yeah, it’s a great question, and I think that’s something that we live in each and every day, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re married, whether you’re a school leader. And I’ve seen that firsthand in just the last couple of years after the COVID closures and so forth. But the world has changed so fast, exponentially. People have lost patience. People want everything now. People. The entitlements, the anger, the frustration. And let’s be honest, we’re all battling something at home and or in our positions, and it’s not an easy gig by any stretch of imagination for a school administration right now.

19:06 Glenn Robbins
I’ve had countless friends who have resigned, quit, moved on, retired, who are some of the brightest and best in the field because they just could not take it anymore, or they were of the luxury that they could move on, and some of them didn’t have that luxury and moved on to a totally different field. And the stoicism, for me, being in a leadership role, when you’re getting hits left and right, as myself, as a superintendent and principal, you have to be able to breathe. You have to be able to calm down. You have to be able to make sure you have the right attitude and mindset that your staff and families and kids will. You know, to me, when I was reading stoic quotes and Cato and Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, it really always spoke to me.

19:53 Glenn Robbins
And I just kept thinking, I know I’m not the only one getting crushed against these now, and there’s got to be other people out. Ariel?

20:04 Ariel Curry
I think that’s incredibly well said. I know for myself. I mean, I’m not a school leader, but like everyone else, I deal with craziness in my life, too. And we’ve all been through some crazy times in the last few years. I think the stoic phrase that has helped me the most through all of this has been amor fati, which means the love of fate. And that ability to embrace whatever is happening in front of you is a critical skill that all humans need. I mean, that is the foundation of emotional regulation. Right? That’s the foundation of emotional intelligence and being able to interact well and respond with poise and calm.

20:50 Ariel Curry
We kind of gravitated to the word calm in the chaos because that really embodies this idea that we’re talking about here, is just being able to respond well to whatever is happening around us. And that’s a skill that we all need day in and day out, no matter who we are.

21:07 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny True. Very true.

21:09 Glenn Robbins How about you, Danny?

21:13 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Why stoicism? Yeah. I think both of you sort of touched on the point that life is going to happen. And something that I say to ruckus makers on this show, and certainly to mastermind members, is that school leadership will never be easy, but it could be easier. Right? And so do we have tools? Do we have support? Do we have a philosophy that helps you navigate the challenge of the role? And like you mentioned, Glenn, these days it is so challenging. People are leaving. I mean, educators at all levels are running for the exits. Like, seriously, education is in a crisis. That scares me because, like you said, some of the best and brightest are leaving the industry. I look at our mastermind members, and I think if we don’t stick around, who will, right? And that honestly haunts me.

22:13 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Not to talk too much about the mastermind, but something that I’m really proud of when I surveyed our members, we’re outliers compared to industry data in terms of longevity. And let’s just call it sticking aroundness. So that is something that I’m proud of, but a part of that is having a philosophy to deal with the challenges. It certainly helped me. It’s obviously helped both of you. And something else I want to add is just, like, gratitude. Thanks for giving me that. Stillness is the key. I actually remember you giving that to me now. And then I bought another copy and gave that away to Mitch weathers over at organized Binder. And when we had our first live event for better leaders, better schools in New Mexico, were working on vision. I remember seeing him in his room.

23:08 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
There was a fire, and he was out of the rocking chair, and he was reading stillness is the key. Right? So you never know how you impact people and that kind of thing. But that generosity of you giving it to me encouraged me to give it to someone. And so I share that story, too, because for the ruckus maker listening, this book will legitimately change your life. Right? That’s actually not an over promise. And if you take the philosophy seriously and start to think deeply about how it applies to your situation, it will radically change your experience of school leadership. So now we’re talking about our book and we’ll have a link of where to pick it up. This one is we’re just basically going to sell on Amazon. So go over there and pick it up.

23:55 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
But I want to challenge you to pick one up for a friend as well. If you buy one, buy two and give it to another school leader, that could benefit. Thanks for asking. Thanks for asking, Glenn. Ariel, I think you have a question.

24:09 Ariel Curry
I do. I want to know for both of you, and then I’ll share last, what is your favorite of the four virtues? And maybe we should preface this by saying this book, calm in the chaos, is organized around kind of the four virtues in stoicism, which are wisdom, justice, courage and temperance. So do either of you have a favorite of those four?

24:35 Glenn Robbins
To be honest, I think it depends on the day. Each day for me as a school leader brings about a different area that I have to tackle. Perhaps it’s courage for me. And the reason why I say that is I have to make some calls as a school leader. I have to stand by that and I have to be able to justify that, and I need to be able to make the right call. It’s not going to be right for everybody in their mind, but I have to do what’s best for the overall organization. And regardless, you’re going to be ridiculed. Regardless, you’re going to have people that are upset with what you say or what you don’t say, and you have to be able to be okay with that and a peace of mind with that.

25:18 Glenn Robbins
But in order to be a leader, you have to have courage in order to move people forward, in order to influence people, in order to empower people. So that’s where I stand. But like I said, Ariel, it depends on my day, too. There are some days where I need more temperance and other days where I could use some justice and other days where I’m trying to find wisdom here and there. But I always go back to courage.

25:44 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
That’s a good answer. That’s what I would have chosen as well. And mostly because I think for me, that might be the hardest one to implement. Right. Brene Brown says, are you going to choose courage? Are you going to choose comfort? It’s easier. The default choice is comfort. And when you choose that, you often do something that’s selfish, something that’s not better for the greater good, and so it’s courage for me. But since Glenn riffed on that, I guess for argument’s sake, I’d pick temperance at this point. And in the chapter, you frame it up as self control, discretion, moderation, composure, balance. And that’s certainly something to keep in mind.

26:35 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
The podcast has done really well, and if I’m not careful, I think the temperance piece could get blown out of control because of my head getting too big and that kind of thing. And so that’s one to lean into in the quiet moments of my life. How about you, Ariel?

26:54 Ariel Curry
Yeah, those are all really good. I think the one that I naturally gravitate towards the most is wisdom. That’s something I earnestly want and desire and try to seek after in my own life. And in this book, we define wisdom as a commitment to learning, owning your mistakes, learning from others, finding mentors. And I think that’s something all educators can relate to and desire for themselves as well. I think the one that challenges me the most is justice in some ways. I have to say that one, because that is, I think, the biggest challenge for me because we think of social justice, and it is that is part of it. But it’s also just this ability to just be kind and protect others and to take action for the right causes. And I know as someone I like to kind of be behind the scenes.

27:56 Ariel Curry
And taking that outward action is always a challenge for myself. It’s easy for me to stay. I’m an editor, I’m a writer. It’s easy for me to be like, oh, I’ll just pursue wisdom and learning all my life, but actually challenging myself to get out into the world, to take part in things, stoicism challenges me to be a more active participant in the world, and I really appreciate that.

28:21 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Makes sense. So let me ask you, we obviously got book endorsements for this one book praise. There’s a highly accomplished superintendent named Mike Lubofeld out of Illinois, and he wrote a bunch of stuff, but the last sentence really honored us and humbled me for sure. But I sort of want to hear from both of you. Why is this statement true? It’s a bold proclamation, but Mike said, calm in the chaos will become a desk reference for every school leader everywhere. Why is that true?

29:04 Glenn Robbins
I guess I’ll kick it off. First and foremost, Mike and the other people that we had endorsed this book are, in my personal opinion, some of the top people in the entire education field in this country. So I can’t thank them enough for reading that over. But I think the reason why it’s true is after talking with a couple of other people, they mentioned that everything that we mentioned in this book, they dealt with as an administrator, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a mentor. There are so many different stories that we share and possibilities at the end that we share to make the teams think that now, you covered a lot of different areas. And, Danny, I always go back to the one who know.

29:50 Glenn Robbins
When you’re dealing with humans, you’re not dealing with individuals of logic, you’re dealing with individuals of emotion. And that’s what we do each day. We’re dealing with emotions. To have Mike say that is a blessing in my regard and beyond humble and grateful for it because I hold him in such high esteem. But like I said, it covers all these difficulties and all these challenges that you’re going to experience, whether you’re a leader of some sort in your district or assistant principal, a coach, superintendent, board member, whatever it may be, if you’re part of a school system, you’re going to encounter a lot of what we talk about in this book.

30:32 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny Brilliant.

30:33 Ariel Curry
I totally agree. I think the reason why it should be, and like Mike said, hopefully will be a desk reference for a lot of leaders, is because we don’t just talk about the philosophy, but we also show how it could be modeled. Right. So we’ve got, throughout the entire book, we have these sections where readers can practice putting that virtue into practice with these little scenarios. So they’re all hypothetical. However, they are based on real events, in most cases, from both of your experiences where you said, this is a real life situation where some kind of virtue would have been really helpful. And so we describe that experience through the lens of this hypothetical character, and we ask reflection questions like, have you ever felt like this person? Have you ever been in a similar situation yourself? And how would you react?

31:36 Ariel Curry
And what options do you have? So that we’re constantly asking the reader to think about how they would apply these practices in their lives. And I think hopefully that repetition and the mental rehearsal that you can do is going to build those muscles and keep you coming back to the book to say, okay, I did this, I practiced this. Let me come back to it and see again in this real life situation that’s happening right now that hopefully is very similar to what we did in the book.

32:09 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah, I like that point that you highlight there, Ariel, because they’re basically like case studies, right? They’re fictional case studies based on Glenn and my experience leading schools and districts. But then there are the reflection questions, how to put them into practice. So ruckus makers tend to have a bias for action, which I appreciate. But if somebody’s new listening to the show, when you pick up calm and the chaos for yourself and remember one for your friend as well. Don’t just gloss over the reflection questions. That’s the worst thing you could do if you think you’re going to do that. Actually, I probably won’t even buy the book. Honestly, because you’ll just be entertained for a bit. But your life’s not going to change. And we’ve mentioned this book can change your life. It has that opportunity, but if you implement what is practiced.

33:04 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I really appreciate what you all did, Glenn and Ariel, with those case studies and reflection questions because I think it actually sets this book up nicely to be a book study, right. For different school leaders. I know Glenn and I have already heard from superintendents who are buying it for their districts, right. Because they want their school leaders or their executive teams at the central office level to think, like, how would we handle now and to be able to unpack that to start to create some strategy around it is definitely going to set them up for success. I will say this, obviously, if you’re to pick up the book, you want to get it for your whole system, then email me or Glenn and we’ll definitely hook you up with that. I think a bulk order would be considered anything over ten.

34:00 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
We had somebody who said that they wanted 1000. So, yeah, I know it’s pretty crazy, but this book is going to make a splash, so to speak. Glenn, anything you want to say in terms of the book format or the reflection questions, anything you want to add to what I’ve shared or what Ariel shared?

34:18 Glenn Robbins
Well, two things. When were just discussing about the book a second ago, I don’t know how many times we’ve reread and edited this book, but each and every time I went back to do looking at the changes that we’ve all made, I reflected on a totally different story each time that I’ve experienced as a leader. So it wasn’t like the same thing each and every time. So that was the one thing I really appreciated because it always would make me think differently. And I love the aspect of how we put this book together. It reminds me, and I’m not saying it’s meditations or epictetus book, but it’s the book in hand. It’s a small book, it’s a quick, easy book. That will resonate with you, that you can take everywhere and you can thumb tab all the pages however you want to do it.

35:07 Glenn Robbins
But the book is going to speak to you. It’s going to speak to you because these leaders and these individuals were around thousands of years ago and they dealt with, Marcus Aurelius was famous for us, right? He dealt with one of his best friends, tried to overthrow him. He’s dealing with a pandemic. He’s dealing with the death of his children. He’s dealing with all these other factors and people asking him questions to lead a country. And he has to do it in a calm and stoic kind of way. And think about that as a school leader today. You’re dealing with so many different things. And each time you open this book back up, it’s going to help you resonate and slow down and be a little bit more still and be a little more calm to help you make that property decision.

35:52 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Awesome. I have to ask, favorite stoic quote or something that you’re meditating on these days? I’d love to hear from you both.

36:05 Ariel Curry
Well, Glenn, I think you and I might have the same one, and I’m not going to be able to say it verbatim, but basically it’s from meditations by Marcus Aurelius. And it is said to be like the rock that the waves crash over and the raging of the sea. I forget what.

36:26 Glenn Robbins
I always worked and lived near the shore, so I see these massive waves crashing down and that’s us. Whatever position it may be, whether you’re at a board meeting, whether you’re out in the city public or whether you’re anywhere, those waves are crashing. Sometimes it’s low tide and it’s small and other times a big storm comes rolling in and you have to be able to stand there and take it and at the same time put something back out that people will understand back. They might totally know, appreciate it. But you have to remain calm no matter what. Because as Ariel said, life thrown at you Amori fate, right? You accept fate as it comes. And this is fate hitting you each and every time. And you make the best of it.

37:13 Ariel Curry
Here’s the quote. I’ll read it to you now that I have it in front of me. To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over, it stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around. I too, you know, grew up near the ocean on the opposite coast in California. I’ve always loved that imagery as well. And to me, that idea of the rock is all about integrity and being able to stand strong against whatever is coming at you, threatening to topple your virtues. And that’s what this book is all about, is standing strong against those forces when it is so easy to bend and to have things crash over you and to allow that to change who you are. And stoicism is about maintaining your own integrity.

38:06 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I think my favorite quote comes from knowing my Colby score. That’s a personality assessment, too. So if the ruckus maker listening has never explored that, you should go check out Colby. Quick riff on that. It measures your quantitative skills, how you naturally show up at work and solve problems, and it doesn’t change. So if you take this, let’s say you’re a teenager, it’ll be the same when you’re my age, which is 45. But anyways, my score is 3393, which means that I’m a quick start. And that’s another way of saying a ruckus maker or an innovator and visionary. And so, of course, I love Seneca’s. If one does not know to which port one is sailing, right. No wind. No wind will be favorable. And I’m always thinking about that.

38:56 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
If I say it a different way, in Danny’s words, if you’re not careful about where you’re going, you might just end up there. It’s about being intentional, about setting a target for what progress and success looks like in your personal life or on campus, and then having the support of this philosophy or maybe the support of a community like the mastermind to help you get there. So that’s my favorite quote. In closing, we’d love for you to pick up the book calm in the chaos. Like I said, pick it up on Amazon. If you want it for your district or system, email me. [email protected] and we’ll get connected and get that going with bulk book orders. But just last thoughts.

39:43 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Last thoughts in terms of a call to action or thoughts just in terms of stoicism in general that you’d like the listener to consider before we close out here.

39:56 Glenn Robbins There we go.

39:59 Ariel Curry
I think that we should add that the culmination of this book, the last chapter, is on equanimity. That’s kind of the outcome of practicing these virtues. And I know for myself that is what I’m always hoping for, is peace and contentment and that stillness and calm in my life. And it’s a good reminder that one of the things that I felt like really was driven home for me, in doing the research for this book and writing it with you all was equanimity is not the means. Equanimity is the end result of putting these virtues into practice. I want equanimity so much in my life and in order to get it, I have to do these other things. I have to practice wisdom. I have to practice justice. I have to be temperate. I have to do all of these things.

40:55 Ariel Curry
And that was just a good reminder to myself that equanimity is the outcome.

41:04 Glenn Robbins
Parting words, last thoughts. Like we mentioned earlier, the first started this, Danny, we put together, you and I, and then you grabbed onto this amazing individual, Ariel as well. To put something together like this is surreal. It’s awesome. And I hope know, like you mentioned, people do buy this book and help it by sharing with others on their teams because it’s going to make a difference, especially in today’s day and age where we are dealing with so many different things thrown at us, especially when we have newer, younger, indoor veterans joining the field for mentorship. They can use the stoics from this book as a mentor to help them grow because there’s nothing we didn’t mention in this book that they’re not going to encounter in some way somehow.

41:50 Glenn Robbins
And it’ll hopefully put some people at peace of mind and hopefully make people realize that we control the controllables. We control what happens to us as much as we can. We control our attitude, we control our thought process, and that’s pretty much it going forward. But there’s a lot of leaders out there who I talk to who are struggling and a lot of leaders out there who are ambitious and ready to take on the world. But no matter what, that storm is going to roll in. You’re going to hit those waves. And whether it’s big or small, I think this is going to help a lot. So to both of you, thank you for helping put this beautiful thing together, and I’m excited for people to get their hands on it, to hopefully make a change in their lives for the better.


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