One Thing Series: The Surprising Truth About Mindfulness and Excellence — #onethingseries

by | Dec 28, 2020 | 0 comments

4 min read
TheSchoolHouse302 · One Thing Series: Mindfulness & Excellence w/ Valerie Brown and Kirsten Olson -- #OneThingSeries

Mindfulness is the capacity to have compassion for ourselves as leaders and to carry that compassion into the world for others. ~ Valerie Brown & Kirsten Olson

Valerie Brown transformed her high-pressure, high-stakes twenty-year career as a lawyer-lobbyist, representing educational institutions and nonprofits, to human-scale work with diverse leaders and teams to foster trustworthy, compassionate, and authentic connections. 

She holds a Juris Doctorate, she’s an accredited leadership coach at the Professional Certified Coach level (PCC), international retreat leader, writer, and Chief Mindfulness Officer and Professional Pilgrim of Lead Smart Coaching, specializing in the application and integration of mindfulness and leadership, and she is a Co-Director of Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership in Washington, D.C.

Kirsten Olson works with leaders engaged in transformational change, sector-shift, and the new demands of leadership in the learning sector, nationally and internationally. She is an ICF-certified leadership coach and an adjunct instructor at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. She holds a doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, where she focused on the systemic demands of large scale educational improvement, and is the author of The Mindful School Leader (Corwin, 2014), Wounded By School (Teachers College Press, 2009) and Schools As Colonizers (Verlag, 2008). 

Also a retreat leader focused on mindfulness for leaders, self-compassion, and permissioning in leadership and social action, Kirsten was a founding board member of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), a national not-for-profit organizing educational leaders, teachers, students, and parents around a vision for education founded in greater equity, social justice, compassion and passionate learning. 

Major Takeaways from the Interview:

  • Valerie and Kirsten vividly describe the issues that many educators are facing and how mindfulness is more important than ever. Full of wisdom, they provide practical steps to achieve mindfulness within the human experience.
    They remind us that although mindfulness takes time, everything that we need to achieve it already exists within us. Using a story about an urban school leader, they discuss ways to become more self-aware and reduce anxiety. Hear what they have to say about microbursts and how cortisol is a killer.
    Quick Tip: As you’re reading this–Pause, put your feet on the floor, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale. Take notice of what you are feeling.
  • Valerie described the power of connection and being a part of a wonderful community, like the Plum Village, which was founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. Don’t miss everything else they reveal about who they value for knowledge and inspiration.
  • Both Valerie and Kirsten describe the “gift of empty time” and the need “to do less” and how “contentment is knowledge of enough.” Taking something out of your day or life is what leads to excellence, not the other way around.
  • Don’t miss what they would love to learn, but more importantly, pay attention to why.
  • Listen to what they say about how leadership is an x-ray of the self and why you shouldn’t live one more day without a community of support.
  • You don’t want to miss what they don’t think anymore and how they challenge contemporary service leadership as misunderstood.

This interview courageously confronts the concept of leading with excellence in a totally different way than our culture might expect from its leaders. The raw humanness exposed in this interview will make you think about how you are living each day and what you can do to be a mindful leader. It was a wonderful follow-up to our latest blogpost on excellence hacks every educator needs to know and the three books we recommend this month at 

Please follow, like, and comment. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow 

Joe & T.J.

Also, coming soon: Our first Masterclass: Candid and Compassionate Feedback — Request info by emailing Or, reserve your seat here. Or, read more about how it works here.


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