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4 Ways to Refill Your Cup

water cup

There isn’t a day that goes by in the work of a school leader that is free of challenges.  The never-ending stream of problems that flow across our desks during the course of a school year can leave even the most positive and passionate leaders exhausted and depleted.  Those of you who have ever served in a leadership role in any capacity know exactly what I am talking about.  It is easy to get sucked into the minutia of the daily grind and fall into the trap of dealing with trivial things that drain our energy and overfill our cup.

So what can you do to provide yourselves with a little bit of reprieve and keep yourselves fresh and energized?

Empty your cup, shift your focus, and dedicate your time and energy to filling the cup of those who you were relegated to serve – your students, your staff and your community.  When you fill the cup of others, your cup is filled.

I recently ran across this visual that was shared by @justintarte that reinforced how valuable the work we do can be if we are willing to look at things from a different perspective and shift our mindset.  If we can learn to approach our work by thinking about how we conduct ourselves as leaders by seeing things through a different lens, then we can serve as an example by refilling our cup with what really matters in a more positive and effective way.




  1. Reflect vs. Deflect – At the heart of every problem is a conversation to be had. We cannot fall into the trap of deflecting conversations about concerns or issues that are brought to our attention.  All problems can be resolved if we are willing to have more dialogue and take more time to reflect on what is really being said.  Only by taking time to pause and reflect can we truly grow as problem solvers.


  1. Reinvest vs. Invest – Take time to reinvest in your veteran staff members. As leaders we often get caught up in the excitement of hiring and investing in our new teachers that we forget about our veteran teachers. We must not neglect our existing staff that carry with them years of valuable experience, knowledge and wisdom that can be passed on to our next generation of teachers.  Be sure you are providing meaningful, ongoing, professional development opportunities for them as well and using their talents to help grow and develop your new teachers.


  1. Aspire vs. Inspire – If you set out to inspire others to be great, you will not be successful unless you yourself aspire for greatness. You must aspire so you can inspire!  Often times as leaders we desire to make an impact on those around us, but we find ourselves falling short. The truth is it takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable to make the impact we truly wish to make.  To be exemplar, we must model what it means to exist and risk if we aim to aspire so we can inspire.


  1. Act vs. React – The surest way of losing the confidence of your team is by failing to act. Often times we fall victim to not making a decision for fear of making the wrong decision. The irony is that by not making a decision, you are making a decision – the decision to not act! Unfortunately, we then find ourselves in reaction mode based on initial indecision. This can create a feeling of frustration on the part of your team and if done with regularity, damage your credibility as an effective leader.  There is nothing wrong with doing your due diligence (in fact I recommend it) in gathering information before making a decision, but then act on it so you don’t find yourself reacting unnecessarily.

As leaders, we feel a tremendous moral obligation to work until the work is done. We worry about what others will think about the quality of our work or whether or not we are the right person for the job.  But perhaps we should quit worrying about what the attitude of others is about the work we do and shift our focus to our own attitude and our own mindsets.

After all, leadership is not about what others expect of us, but rather what we expect of ourselves.

I think it’s time for a refill……

“Remember, alone we can be an exemplar, but together we can be exemplary.”

  • Jon Harper
    2 years ago

    Jimmy first of all I love the new look of your blog. Awesome! Totally! (sorry, love Spicoli). The suggestions you give for refilling our cups are great and, as always, centered on building others up. I love the play on words for each tip. Anytime you give advice I am going to listen and listen well. I will use these tips and if I have any questions I always know I can count on you. Thanks for being such an inspiration and so real. Have a great summer!

  • I love your posts, Jimmy. They are very real and applicable. Thanks for sharing. You make a difference.


  • Jen Houlette
    2 years ago

    Wow – #4 really speaks to me. I think too many times we find ourselves waiting for the “perfect time” to make a decision, act on a thought, or go ahead with a plan. I love what you said about not acting being a decision too. Definitely a good thing to keep in mind.

  • Lisa Schwartz
    2 years ago

    #2 speaks to me because as a veteran teacher I often feel like my administrators know I will “take care” of things, but I often don’t get the feedback to know if I’m going in the right direction, or affirmations for the job I am doing. It is important to me to get some sort of feedback as to whether I am making postive contributions to the school communities I serve, or what I can do to help grow others I come into contact with throughout my day.

  • Shawn Blankenship
    2 years ago

    Excellent post Jimmy. I especially like the visual and the importance of maintaining a positive perspective. It’s important as a leader or at any level. I’m currently reading “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews and this book provides many examples about the importance of one’s perspective. Thanks for sharing and the new blog looks fantastic! Stay connected, Shawn

  • Albert Canales
    2 years ago

    Great post. I really like everything you wrote. Thank you for sharing. I really like you quote at the end. It takes a team to really move the system forward.

  • Barry Saide
    2 years ago

    It’s funny. As I read each word, I find myself thinking about the complexities of leadership, and how you communicate it so simply and straightforwardly. Perhaps that is your genius. Inspired by your ability to find the right words, and make the complex easily understood. Love you, buddy!

  • Marc
    2 years ago

    Great post Jimmy- especially as leaders work towards 2015-16 being the best year yet!

  • Bill Powers
    2 years ago

    Love the new website Jimmy!
    Great post as always.
    You make great points and always leave me thinking about ways to be a better leader. I fall short daily, but strive to improve daily as well.
    Thank you for being such an inspirational role model.
    I appreciate you!

  • Paul Walker
    2 years ago


    I really like Numbers 3 & 4. I agree that we can’t expect greatness from our staff if we do not have the same goal for ourselves. We must model or exhibit the behavior or standards that we expect from others.

    Number 4 also speaks to me in that we can’t get caught up in “paralysis by analysis”. We must have the courage to make what the best decision possible based on the information we have on hand.

    Thanks for the great thoughts and I love the book, “What Connected Educators Do Differently”!

  • Ann Feldmann
    2 years ago

    Your post is spot on. I agree with your quote, “It is easy to get sucked into the minutia of the daily grind and fall into the trap of dealing with trivial things that drain our energy and overfill our cup.”

    There is always more work than time and it is in how the time is spent that is crucial. So often, the events take over and it is a challenge to keep moving forward. The four ways to fill your cup that you suggest are great leadership actionable ideas!

    Thanks for taking the time to write the post and inspire me!

  • Kristen Eriksen
    2 years ago

    “Perhaps we should quit worrying about what the attitude of others is about the work we do and shift our focus to our own attitude and our own mindsets.”

    A little late reading your post but I so needed this now! Thank you!

  • Dan Kenley
    2 years ago


  • Sarah Weber
    2 years ago

    As a teacher leader in the middle of the school year, I couldn’t have come across this article at a better time. Especially when you are in the “heat” of the work, the task before us can sometimes feel daunting. Teachers are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged (and in some situations a little crabby:), but as a leader I know I need to support the teachers I work with. This article speaks to ways that I, myself, can regroup and truly refocus the work I signed on to do when I became an instructional coach–to help, guide and inspire others to be better. Thank you for bringing it back and helping me recommit to the “why” I became a leader.

  • Derek Dixon
    2 years ago


    I am really glad I was able to read this blog post, especially at this time of the school year. I loved when you said “when you fill the cup of others, your cup is filled” because it is a true reflection of what being a leader really means. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes and worrying more about lifting others to meet their potential is such a crucial aspect of leadership. I also agree when you say that you need to aspire to be great first before inspiring others. Great thoughts by someone who is so passionate about learning and growing for all stakeholders.

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