Legacy – James Kerr

Legacy – by James Kerr
Date read: 2/1/19. Recommendation: 7/10.

A detailed look at the principles and strategies of history’s most successful rugby team, New Zealand’s All Blacks. There are some great quotes in this book and at its core, it’s all about leadership. Kerr examines the things that set apart the All Blacks, including: discipline, self-awareness, culture, adaptation, storytelling, and purpose. It’s an insightful read that will provide immediate takeaways which you can use to become a better person and a better leader.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

My Notes:

Personal Discipline:

  • Post-game the All Blacks debrief and everyone is given a chance to speak. Once they break, something unexpected happens, two players grab a broom and begin sweeping the sheds, cleaning up after themselves. 

  • No one looks after the All Blacks, they look after themselves. They don’t expect someone else to do their job or things to be handed to them.

  • Strong personal discipline translates to discipline on the field.


  • “Only by knowing yourself can you become an effective leader.” Vince Lombardi

  • Self-knowledge helps develop character and integrity. Character and integrity help develop leadership.

  • “What is my job on the planet? What is it that needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” Buckminster Fuller


  • Force multiplier: Any lasting organization has a fundamental set of principles…a values-based, purpose-driven culture. Challenge is to bring that to life and into the lives of those on your team.

  • “My army won because they knew what they were fighting for and loved what they knew.” Oliver Cromwell

  • Establish a higher culture than your opposition and you’ll win.

  • “It’s better to have a thousand enemies outside the tent than one inside the tent.” Arab proverb

  • Multiculturalism - ever-changing sense of what it means to be a New Zealander or an All Black: “Successful cultures are organic and adaptive, they change and flow, yet always just under the surface is a bedrock of values, smoothed by the current above, but unyielding.” See Shane Parrish interview with Shopify founder Tobi Lütke.


  • Sigmoid Curve: Learning, growth, decline.

  • Outwitting inevitability and hijacking the curve: “The key, of course, is when we’re on top of our game, to change our game; to exit relationships, recruit new talent, alter tactics, reassess strategy.” JK

  • Growth comes from allowing yourself, your skills and your sense of authenticity to evolve. Tiger Woods changing his golf swing. Bob Dylan altering his sound. 


  • Leaders create leaders.

  • “Move rapidly into a commanding position, assess your unfolding options quickly and clearly, attack with absolute and ruthless commitment – assess, adjust and repeat.” JK

  • Empower your people: “The competitive advantage is nullified when you try to run decisions up and down the chain of command…Once the commander’s intent is understood, decisions must be devolved to the lowest possible level to allow these front line soldiers to exploit the opportunities that develop.” General Gordon R. Sullivan

  • “Leaders are teachers – our job is to lead people through uncertainty and confusion into self-knowledge and self-possession.” JK

Power of Storytelling:

  • “Using vivid storytelling techniques, including themes, symbols, imagery, rituals, mantras and metaphor, and bringing them to life with imagination and flair, leaders create a sense of inclusion, connectedness, and unity.” JK

  • “We learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord with us…Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies or themselves.” John Kotter

  • “Metaphors are where we recognize ourselves in stories.” JK

  • “The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblance.” Aristotle

Authenticity + Integrity:

  • “Authenticity allows us to author our own lives; to make our own original imprint and to write our own story in a voice that is true to our values.” JK

  • Integrity means being able to count on yourself (and others being able to count on you) to deliver. It’s about honoring your word. 


  • Red head: tight, inhibited, results-oriented, anxious, aggressive, over-compensating, desperate.

  • Blue head: loose, expressive, in the moment, calm, relaxed concentration, clear, accurate, on task.

  • “In the heat of battle, the difference between the inhibitions of the Red and the freedom of Blue is the manner in which we control our attention.” JK

  • To get out of your own head, shift your attention to something external. 


  • Whakapapa - Maori term for genealogy, our place in the ascending order of all living things. Sun slowly moves down this chain of people, signifying life. When the sun is on us we inherit the tribe’s stories, values, transitions. We help advance that, then pass it on to the next person in the chain.

  • Whakapapa is similar to the Stoic term sympatheia (interconnected whole). 

  • “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” Sean Fitzpatrick

  • “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see.” Greek Proverb

  • “Character is also the mark left on you by life, and the mark we leave on life.” JK

  • “If we value life, life values us.” JK