Ralph Waldo Emerson leads me right into this page:

“Some men’s words I remember so well that I must often use them to express my thought. Yes, because I perceive that we have heard the same truth, but they have heard it better.” (From: Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883) “Character”)

I have loved quotes by famous and not-so-famous people ever since I was a little girl, looking through the pages of the Reader’s Digest magazines my parents bought in India. Ah! The Quotable Quotes section fascinated me. For several years, I read little gems and funny quips and carefully wrote them in my diary. I don’t know where that diary is, but I still collect quotes.

I share quotes in my school and staff newsletters, and now in this blog. I seek them when I need to be inspired or when I need to shake myself out of a foggy patch. I reflect on them and find new topics to write about. I am impressed with the concise manner in which people have said important or simply interesting things. They show me a different way of looking at things, and comfort me when I’m feeling down. They are like the friends I can turn to for a little pick-me-up. I have fun reading them and can always find one to fit my mood or a topic I write about. The diary is lost, but this blog exists. I decided to create this page to share with you my favorite quotes, and ones I find meaningful. Not only have the people who said these things ‘heard them better’ as Emerson says, but they have said them much better than I ever could.

Come back and take a peek at intervals to see the quotes I’ve added. I hope you find inspiration, ideas and enjoyment on this page on topics from leadership to team work, education and just about anything else. Sometimes I add a graphic and post quotes on my bulletin board. I’ll share some of those here. The meaning these quotes have for me will be part of the comments I add below. I hope you enjoy them!

— Subha


I’d like to start with something my husband often says – it helps me put my challenges in perspective when I feel bogged down by the little things that consume me. He pushes me to put my best foot forward, inspires me with his wisdom and humor, and puts up with all my quirks unconditionally! He’ s taught me a lot… and now he knows that!

“So, stop whining.” He said this a couple of decades ago, on a day when I was wallowing in misery about silly little things that bugged me, feeling like the world had ended. That quote has been my reality check since then. Today, when I work with children who have experiences in poverty-stricken homes – conditions for which I have no experiential reference point – I remember the words Raja shared. It makes me grateful for what I have and inspires me to do whatever I can to make a difference (small or large) for others. Life teaches us lots of lessons… sometimes the teacher is right at home beside us to put things in perspective and shake us up at the right time!

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

From: “The Man In The Arena” – Excerpt from President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France. April 23, 1910. This quote was sent to me by Dr. James Mervilde, former Superintendent of MSD Washington Township, Indianapolis – 2011, a school leader for whom I have great respect. It brings me the strength I need to take big steps on behalf of kids. I couldn’t resist adding my thoughts that grew from this quote to a blog post.

“The “first thing,” the most important feature of the job description for each of us educators is to discover and provide the conditions under which people’s learning curves go off the chart. Sometimes it’s other people’s learning curves: those of students, teachers, parents, administrators. But at all times it is our own learning curve.”

Roland Barth said this in his book, Learning by Heart. I’ve always worked hard as a student, and I daresay I could become a professional student if I won a lottery tomorrow, but I started actually enjoying learning once I was in graduate school. It’s not surprising to me that my blog’s title ‘Thoughts About Learning and Growing’ has adorned numerous binders that held notes and other professional documents for several years. Something about the notion that learning curves would ‘go off the chart’ upwards, paints pictures in my mind of the best kind of learning that happens – joyous, freeing us from boundaries, allowing us to think and create and stretching our minds. And the part about ‘our own learning curve’ grounds me. My learning has to be as important as the learning I expect or want others to participate in. Leading and learning go hand in hand!

“You are crew, not passengers.” —  Kurt Hahn

This is the first quote I fell in love with when I started my leadership training. I quickly pulled out a pen and wrote it down. I used it on my first day as a principal, in 2003 and continue to share it today. It says a lot about the kind of school or organization I want to work in. Dive into the quote and you’ll see what fascinates me!


Goals can be scary, don’t you think? We know they are important, we stretch ourselves to set them and then we have to chart a path to reach them – sometimes direct, often meandering. But what a sense of accomplishment and pride we feel when we accomplish them! Big or little, they have the power to make us feel ten feet tall or really small! I love this quote – it urges me to stretch out and try to find the new me. It says I will grow through the process and that’s quite true. And yes, my pride often comes just from seeing how I stretched myself to reach or surpass my goal… not just from having accomplished it. A wise man, that Jim Rohr!


The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

This one always makes me smile! It’s so true, isn’t it? Just reflect on it with regard to the organizations we inhabit. What is it that sometimes makes us keep one foot on the brake? What is it that holds us back?

This one is a quote I will always treasure. It is a quote by Seneca, and it found its way into this song. I spent one year at a school called Harcourt Elementary – an unbelievably wonderful year which I will always treasure – and a few months after I started we learned that the school would be closed. We created a memory book titled, “Elephants Never Forget” and this quote graced the back cover. It was a school with high poverty, and the gracious community of staff and families had built strong bonds that allowed them to weather many challenges.

Our school community was split up across four other schools in the district, the following year. Our team was very close-knit and heartbroken about this. I wanted us to treasure what we had but prepare for the new journey. Being especially fond of elephants I brought them into our story. We talked about how elephants travel together in herds — yes, the grown-ups and kids were moving to different school but we wouldn’t be alone, we would be traveling there in herds. We talked about how when elephants move through an area, they leave quite a mark — we knew that Harcourt had left a deep impression on all of us. Every child made a clay elephant to take home as a memento of our school. We cheered loudly at our end of year celebration – so loudly that the walls wouldn’t be able to forget us! We promised we would never forget this special school community, like the proverbial elephant.

I am truly proud of the attitude this group had, the joy they kept in place until the very last day, and the bonds that still hold them together. Elephants seem incongruous in the land of the Hoosiers, but you know, they fit in beautifully with the Harcourt story. They became a symbol that brought our school community together at a trying time. A school closing that could have been a sad ending, instead became a celebration of the history of it’s life, the people it had touched, and a community that left with a piece of Harcourt – the strong bonds that had held everyone together in the first place.

A year later, when we were raising funds for a natural disaster, a former Harcourt student who was now with my herd at our new school, wrote to me and asked if we could raise money to fix Harcourt and return there. Something at that school touched this child’s heart like it had the hearts of the grown ups. I hope everyone – kid or grown-up – has the opportunity in their lives to be part of an organization to which they can feel a strong bond. It’s a feeling I hope as a leader to cultivate within my school community, and any organization where I work. I am proud to have been a part of the Harcourt team — they taught me lessons I will never forget! The quote was one more thing I relied on to help my team think about moving forward. It helped me move forward as well!


“If you’re a good leader, when your work is done, your aim fulfilled, your people will say, “We did this ourselves.”
— Abraham Lincoln

I believe that leading is about being in the background – being backstage while others take center stage. It is about helping others be the best they can be; building capacity so that regardless of whomever is at the helm, the organization has the capacity to be stable. That can only happen when the stakeholders are active, engaged participants. Well, Abe said it far better than I could.


Ah! What a difference a positive attitude can make! However, we find ourselves getting bogged down so easily sometimes – the little things can really get us down. But the key lies in bouncing back! Here are the quotes I count on to perk me up!

“Do or do not. There is no try.”
— Yoda, “Star Wars” character

“Attitudes are contagious.  Are yours worth catching?”
— Dennis and Wendy Mannering

“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”
— Voltaire

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
— Herm Albright, quoted in Reader’s Digest, June 1995

Linus, “I guess it’s wrong to be worried about tomorrow, maybe we should only worry about today?”
Charlie Brown, “No, that’s giving up: I’m hoping that yesterday will get better!”

I wish I was a glow worm,
A glow worm’s never glum.
‘Cos how can you be grumpy
When the sun shines out your bum!
—Author Unknown


“The secret of education is respecting the pupil.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

This one is a good thing for us educators to remember. Our job is not about us and the things we do; it’s about them and the things they need. I believe any educator who ‘gets’ what Emerson is talking about holds the key to student engagement and success!


My son at age three: “Mommy, do you love me?”
My response: “Sometimes…”
Pat comes his reply: “Sometimes yes, or sometimes no?”

My son is all “growed up” (his words as a little kid) now, but he taught me so much as I watched him move from one birthday to the next. He’s given me much to laugh and giggle about, moments when I was fascinated by how a little mind could work, and a lot to admire. I hope some day I will finish writing all the stories I remember about him – little gems that I treasure as much as I treasure him.

“I refuse to engage myself in a battle of wits with a man who is unarmed.”
— Mark Twain


2 responses to “Quotes

  1. Another great blog Subha…loved the quote about the glow worm!!!

    Also our Sup has the contagious attitude quote in her signature…did you know that?

    • Thank you so much! I love the quote about the glow worm too. I laughed out loud when I first saw it. And, yes, I have to admit, I saw the ‘contagious attitude’ quote in her signature, told her I loved it, and promptly added it to my collection! Thanks for visiting my blog.

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