wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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John W. Gardner (1912-2002)John W Gardner


American politician and writer (pictured right) who was President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare from 1965 to 1968.


Key books


Excellence (1961)

The success of a country and its people depends on:

  • the pursuit of excellence in any activity, however humble.
  • talent combined with character, motivation, self-discipline, confidence, lifelong learning and constant striving for worthwhile objectives.
  • shared values with common aims.


Key quote on success

An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher.


Self-Renewal (1963)

Life should be an endless process of self-discovery and learning from your successes and failures through:

  • being interested and curious in the world around you.
  • taking risks.
  • experiencing new things.
  • creating a better future through tough minded optimism – believe in yourself to overcome failures and problems.
  • constantly challenging your habits, attitudes and beliefs (don’t be imprisoned by them and avoid complacency).
  • continuously re-examining your aims – you may be working hard in the wrong direction.


Key quote on learning

We have to face the fact that most men and women out there are more stale than they know, more bored than they care to admit.


On Leadership (1990)

The best leaders inspire people to achieve great results through:

  • continuous learning, self-renewal and improvement.
  • shared values, beliefs and vision for the future.
  • mutual trust and building people’s confidence.
  • sharing power and information.
  • resolving conflict and two-way communication.


Key quote on leadership

The purpose of leaders is not to dominate nor diminish followers but to strengthen and help them to develop.


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