Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.

— John W. Gardner

The most unexpected John W. Gardner quotes that are life-changing and eye-opening

Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics;

it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.


Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.


Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world's ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all.


The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his education.


Men of integrity, by their very existence, rekindle the belief that as a people we can live above the level of moral squalor. We need that belief; a cynical community is a corrupt community.


Much education today is monumentally ineffective.

All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.


True happiness involves the full use of one's power and talents.


If one defines the term 'dropout' to mean a person who has given up serious effort to meet his responsibilities, then every business office, government agency, golf club and university faculty would yield its quota.


The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.


We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.


One of the reasons mature people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.


History never looks like history when you are living through it.

It always looks confusing and messy, and it always feels uncomfortable.


About John W. Gardner

Quotes 88 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Educator
Birthday October 16

If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.


Perhaps the most promising trend in our thinking about leadership is the growing conviction that the purposes of the group are best served when the leader helps followers develop their own initiative, strengthens them in the use of their own judgment, enables them to grow, and to become better contributors.


One exemplary act may affect one life, or even millions of lives.

All those who set standards for themselves, who strengthen the bonds of community, who do their work creditably and accept individual responsibility, are building the common future.


America's greatness has been the greatness of a free people who shared certain moral commitments. Freedom without moral commitment is aimless and promptly self-destructive.


Whoever I am, or whatever I am doing, some kind of excellence is within my reach.


At home we have lost the capacity to see what is before us.

Travel shakes us out of our apathy, and we regain an attentiveness that heightens every experience. The exhilaration of travel has many sources, but surely one of them is that we recapture in some measure the unspoiled awareness of children.


We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure.


The idea for which this nation stands will not survive if the highest goal free man can set themselves is an amiable mediocrity. Excellence implies striving for the highest standards in every phase of life.


The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.


Excellence implies striving for the highest standards in every phase of life.


When one may pay out over two million dollars to presidential and Congressional campaigns, the U.S. government is virtually up for sale.


All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.


It is not easy to be crafty and winsome at the same time, and few accomplish it after the age of six.


The ablest and most effective leaders do not hold to a single style;

they may be highly supportive in personal relations when that is needed, yet capable of a quick, authoritative decision when the situation requires it.


All laws are an attempt to domesticate the natural ferocity of the species.


One of my less pleasant chores when I was young was to read the Bible from one end to the other. Reading the Bible straight through is at least 70 percent discipline, like learning Latin. But the good parts are, of course, simply amazing. God is an extremely uneven writer, but when He's good, nobody can touch Him.


Leaders come in many forms, with many styles and diverse qualities.

There are quiet leaders and leaders one can hear in the next county. Some find strength in eloquence, some in judgment, some in courage.


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


Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them.


For every talent that poverty has stimulated it has blighted a hundred.


Josh Billings said, It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too. Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves, and the modern world is particularly rich in such stratagems.


A prime function of a leader is to keep hope alive.


We need more than individual value systems;

we need a shared vision. A nation is held together by shared values, shared beliefs, shared attitudes. That is what enables a people to maintain a cohesive society despite the tensions of daily life. That is what enables them to rise above the conflicts that plague any society.


The creative individual has the capacity to free himself from the web of social pressures in which the rest of us are caught. He is capable of questioning the assumptions that the rest of us accept.


History never looks like history when you are living through it.


Nothing can be more readily disproved than the old saw, "You can't keep a good man down." Most human societies have been beautifully organized to keep good men down.


I think that all human systems require continuous renewal.

They rigidify. They get stuff in the joints. They forget what they cared about. The forces against it are nostalgia and the enormous appeal of having things the way they always have been, appeals to a supposedly happy past. But we've got to move on.


What leaders have to remember is that somewhere under the somnolent surface is the creature that builds civilizations, the dreamer of dreams, the risk taker. And remembering that, the leader must reach down to the springs that never dry up, the ever-fresh springs of the human spirit.


Americans have always believed that-within the law-all kinds of people should be allowed to take the initiative in all kinds of activities. And out of that pluralism has come virtually all of our creativity. Freedom is real only to the extent that there are diverse alternatives.


Storybook happiness involves every form of pleasant thumb-twiddling;

true happiness involves the full use of one's powers and talents.


We get richer and richer in filthier and filthier communities until we reach a final state of affluent misery - crocus on a garbage heap.


The world loves talent but pays off on character.


I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.


The play of conflicting interests in a framework of shared purposes is the drama of a free society. It is a robust exercise, and often a noisy one. It is not for the faint-hearted, or the tidy-minded.


If the modern leader doesn't know the facts, he is in grave trouble, but rarely do the facts provide unqualified guidance.


The [nonprofit] sector enhances our creativity, enlivens our communities, nurtures individual responsibility, stirs life at the grassroots, and reminds us that we were born free.


There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling.

If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure-all your life.