Leaders Strive to be Tomorrow…Today

One year ago I created a blog and posted my first blog, entitled, “A Renewed Sense of Purpose” (http://tinyurl.com/pjrgds4). I will admit I was reluctant to write a post because, one, I did not believe I had anything to share that anyone would want to read and two, I was not very confident in my writing. One month prior I had sat down at dinner with @gcouros and @patrickmlarkin and together they both tried to convince me that I needed to share my story with others.  For the next month, I continued to put off starting a blog, each time using the excuse that I would do it tomorrow. And of course, tomorrow became the next day and then the next day and so on.  Why did I continue to find an excuse not to start? Simply put, I was scared.  

But what was I scared of?
Last spring, I was fortunate to speak at a leadership conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the request of a friend of mine Brad Black (@bradblack).  One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Sue Enquist, retired softball coach and Hall of Fame Inductee from UCLA (@SueEnquist). During her presentation, Sue shared several anecdotes about her experience as coach at UCLA.  I made sure to write them all down and I have since reflected on her comments several times in my role as HS principal and tried to maintain the same passion, conviction and integrity for her words in my daily work with students and staff.
  1.  33% Rule:  Don’t let the bottom third (B3) suck the life out of you.  The bottom third is those individuals who either can’t or won’t celebrate your successes with you.  For whatever reason, those who  live in the B3 cannot be genuinely happy for others when they experience any amount of positive attention or are recognized for their accomplishments. They tear others down through their negativity and in many instances, relish in others’ personal failures.  These people not only want to remain status quo, but they judge others who strive to be better. Recognize that a positive mindset can help you overcome all adversity. Surround yourself with a circle of greatness in order to protect your excellence! (#PLN)

   2. Don’t Allow Anyone To Take Away Your Excellence:  I believe this is one of the most difficult challenges we face every day in education, especially in a negative work environment.  Our profession is filled with average. Our students and staff deserve so much more.  It is easy to be duped by average disguised as good. Just as success breeds success, it takes excellence to recognize excellence.  I firmly believe that we have too many leaders who are waiting for tomorrow when they need to be excellent today. The truth is it takes courage and a strong will to be excellent, because the B3’s are waiting to bring you down. Bring your excellence every day and don’t let anyone or any organization kidnap your best!
“Excellence Doesn’t Negotiate” – Sue Enquist
   3.  80-20 Rule: Recognize that kids will live up to the standards and expectations that you have of them. I often remind others that kids will do what we allow them to do.  What we model is what we get.  Low expectations of kids or finding reasons why they cannot or will not do something in most cases is a direct result of our expectations and actions. The truth is kids are going to act like their age 80% of the time. However, it is what we expect and demand of the 20% that will determine the level of maturity and leadership kids will bring to a class, a team or an important event when the moment arrives that we need them to respond appropriately.  Sue gave this example when taking her players to an important dinner event.  She allowed the kids to use their 80% while on the bus to act and enjoy themselves like the 18-22 year olds they were, but before exiting the bus, she reminded them how she had shared with them that there are moments when she needed their 20% and this was one of those times. I have long since remembered this when kids are in class, the hallways, an assembly, a recognition event or a performance to let them have their 80%, as long as we have shared with them our expectations for their 20% when the time calls for it. It is amazing the result s you will get in return when you share and expect their best!
   4.  Failure Recovery: Our internal attitudes determine how quickly we can recover from failure.  What is your inner voice saying to you? Is it saying that something isn’t fair? Is it telling you that you can’t do something? Is it telling you that you are overwhelmed? The fact is we fail every day as leaders, but our failure doesn’t have to define us, especially if we aspire to be excellent.  A quote that Sue shared that day “Personal excellence starts over each day” reminds me that each day is truly a new day to be great and what I do with it is up to me.
   5.  Life Board of Directors:  Who would you list on your Life Board? Sue challenged us to think about those individuals who we look up to and aspire to emulate.  So ask yourself today – who would be on your life board of directors and who would you list as the Chairperson of your professional life? Are the people you would list representative of the legacy you want to leave behind?  Do they have the courage and fortitude to always do the right thing? Do they model the importance of serving a greater cause? Take time today to list your personal board of excellence.

About a month ago I was having dinner with my HR Director (@dr_sue_ay) when she made the following statement to me – “Jimmy, you are tomorrow today.”  Her comment to me that evening has challenged me to continue to push myself to be better every day for me so I can be better for others tomorrow regardless of what others may think of me for doing so.

So why was I scared to start a personal blog that would be accessible to my students, parents, staff, colleagues and other educators to see? Well I, I wasn’t really sure myself until I heard Sue Enquist speak and then it hit me! I was scared of the 33% and I was scared to allow others to take away what little excellence I had.  When you go through school your whole life feeling like a failure and lack the confidence to formulate any thoughts in order to put them on paper; well, you find any reason you can not to follow through even though you really want to for fear of what the B3’s will do to you. And then by luck you cross paths with someone like George Couros and Patrick Larkin who push you and encourage you to look past your deficiencies because they believe you have something to offer.  Then a few months later you attend a leadership conference and listen to Sue Enquist, a legendary coach, tell you that “excellence doesn’t negotiate,” and that “personal excellence starts over each day” and you cannot help but get jacked up to change the world!  And the next thing you know one year has passed by and that rookie blogger has written seventeen posts and accumulated over 33,000 reads on his blog from educators all over the world and you wonder, “How did that happen?”
Maybe, just maybe, it is because he decided to be tomorrow…today!

“Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”  – John Wooden


  • Jimmy,
    Awesome post and I thank you for the reminder that we get to start over each day… each day we have the chance to be EXCELLENT! You are definitely an honorary member of my Life Board of Directors… THANK YOU!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank yo my friend. I would say the same thing about you Tony! I take great pride in recognizing individuals who are of genuine character and you definitely are one I am proud to call friend! – jimmy

  • Jimmy,
    Thanks for a great post. It has inspired me to be more faithful to my blog to reflect and write more. Dianne

  • Jimmy,
    Your post has inspired me to reflect and to write more with my own blog. Thanks for the great words!

  • Jimmy,
    This is a fantastic read that every administrator needs to read!!!!! Just awesome!! THank you~

  • Ben Gilpin says:

    Well said Jimmy. I enjoyed how you tied in the last year as a “blogger” to being tomorrow today. I think you nailed it as well. Too often we as leaders or for that matter people in general allow the 33% to dictate our actions. It’s human nature to allow the negative comment to outweigh 10 positive comments. Your post reminds us all to:

    Bring your excellence every day and don’t let anyone or any organization kidnap your best!

    Thank you Jimmy for inspiring for tomorrow as well as today.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank you Ben. It isn’t easy to ignore the 33%, but we have to rise above & keep fighting the good fight. We often forget about the 77% who want to support us to be better. The key is finding them and surrounding yourself with them. I believe I have found one of mine in you my friend! Thanks! #PLN – jimmy

  • Dan Butler says:

    Well written as always, my friend. Always enjoy reading your posts.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank you Dan! Knew the first time I met you that you were someone striving for excellence and you are. Keep at it my friend! Go be great….today! – jimmy

  • Deb Day says:

    Love this post, JImmy. The 33% held me back several times in my life. It’s hard to ignore them, but in order to be the best we can be, we have to put them behind us if they don’t want to move forward.

    Youth Frontiers does a Respect Retreat for our freshmen at the beginning of the year. They talk to kids about how we get a test back and get 97%. Instead of focusing on the 97 right, we focus on the 3 wrong and what we should have done. They stress that we should begin focusing on what we do well, what we succeed at because no one is perfect. I love the analogy to life and try to remind kids of this simple thought when they have things going wrong. It’s nice to remind myself of this too.

    As for the “Lifeboard” That’s a great question. I’m going to have to think about that for awhile. But it could be a blog post 🙂

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank you Deb! Yes, those darn 33 percenters are hard to fend off, but we have to in order to protect our desire to be better. More importantly, as leaders, we have to protect those we serve because they too are getting pushed down by the toxins in our organizations. If we don’t model the courage to move forward, how can we expect them to. It is our duty to protect them & inspire them to be great! – jimmy

  • barry saide says:

    Jimmy, what a passionate, powerful read. I think you redefined the title of your blog with this one. We need to get you in NJ sometime sooner than later.

    Keep Being You,

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Thank you Barry. So cool that a guy from Iowa and a guy from New Jersey can call one another out of the blue one day and half a year later become good friends half a country away. Thanks for being you and for inspiring others to be excellent! -jimmy

  • You’ve said SO much here right now that is not only true, but exactly what I needed to read today. There are so many great folks I would consider on my LifeBoard, and yet, I’ve been seeing that 33%. I will move forward this week knowing that 33% is not the 100%.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration and motivation. 🙂

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Krissy, that a girl! Yes, rise above the 33% & surround yourself with those who are genuinely happy for your successes. There are plenty our there who want to see you succeed and celebrate with you. – jimmy

  • Joan Young says:

    Wow! You have shared so many important nuggets of wisdom here; one that really stands out for me: Excellence doesn’t negotiate. Thank you for sharing your journey and leading by example.

  • Jimmy Casas says:

    Thank you Joan! I hope all is well with you. Seems like forever ago that we were at the Bammys. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and comment. Keep being great! Take care my friend. -jimmy

  • Awesome post, Jimmy. I too took a lot from hearing Sue that day. We need to get her to Iowa! The other thing that struck me was how she had her team define and describe average performance and that, more than defining and describing excellent performance, pushed her to winning National Championships. Turns out the average saw themselves as above but once defined, recognized it in themselves and pushed beyond average. She was awesome – and so are you! So glad you are lending your voice and leading this work. Together we can!

  • Thank you. As a new lead learner/admin there are a lot of opportunities to get bogged down with the 33% and people’s suggestions. I live just outside of Kazoo and am sad I missed hearing you. Hope you ate well!

  • Finally had a chance to read this and I must say, the twittersphere is a better place with your voice and your words. Wonderfully written, powerfully passionate, and inspiring to me as a “wanna-be leader!” Thanks for sharing Jimmy.

  • Joy Kelly says:

    Who says you can’t write? Excellent, as always. I remember talking with you in the parking lot the night you got back from Michigan. Your enthusiasm prompted me to google Sue Enquist to learn more. Working with you everyday, I have the benefit of hearing your voice, seeing your smile, and feeling your passion as I read this. Well done!

  • Celeste says:

    You have no idea what a difference this post makes for me. Timing was perfect serendipity. Needed this.

    Celeste Lopez, First Year Administrator ( 13 years in the classroom)

  • Anonymous says:

    Love this post. Inspires me to continue to be my best and get at my blog. Thanks for your thoughts. Wendy … also a first year administrator.

  • sknoche says:

    Thanks Jimmy!!! I need to step out and make my blog public.

  • Be tomorrow today! Awesome. Thank you Jimmy for modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act and encouraging the heart each and and every day. The leadership challenge is being like you!

  • Don Miller says:

    Great post Jimmy, I strive each and everyday to make a difference in my life and the lives of those around me, but the B3’s are definitely there and do sap some of the energy. Thank you for reminding me to look past them and always seek to do better and be better.


  • Small and doable steps are greater than big dreams, indeed.

  • I prefer to read blogs by leaders anyway. People who makes tomorrow today. You are indeed a leader in your field and I’m glad you keep sharing what you know with us through this blog.