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Top Leadership Quotes from All Blacks Rugby Great Dan Carter

Quotes on Sport, Life and Leadership from The Art of Winning book


We often look to successful people for quotes about life, and quotes about leadership. So, a new great source of inspiring quotes is The Art of Winning by All Blacks rugby great Dan Carter.

Fresh from our Author Access interview with Dan Carter on his new book, we have pulled out for this article more than 100 of our favourite quotes about winning at sport and business, top quotes about life lessons, and many quotes to inspire leaders.

Who is Dan Carter?

Before we get to our quotes from Dan Carter, here's a quick overview of this exceptional leadership ambassador.

Dan is a former All Black rugby legend and Unicef Ambassador, and is widely regarded as the greatest fly half in All Blacks history.

Over his illustrious 20-year career, he achieved multiple world records, notably securing New Zealand's 2015 Rugby World Cup victory with his match-winning points, earning him three World Rugby Player of the Year Awards.

Carter is the most-capped All Black Flyhalf and the highest point scorer in Super Rugby history. Beyond rugby, he is a dedicated philanthropist, known for his bestselling autobiography "Dan Carter: My Story" and was honored as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2019. In 2021, he became the inaugural Leader in Practice at Oxford Foundry, aspiring to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Best Quotes by Dan Carter

Our top 3 quotes by Dan Carter would have to be:

“Ok, so what does an All Black great do?”

At the age of 21, Dan Carter played his first game for the All Blacks, against Wales in Hamilton. It was 2023 and he scored 20 points, a “dream debut” as he calls it. He decided that he didn’t just want to be an All Black. He wanted to strive to be an All Black great.

This quote “Ok, so what does an All Black great do?” was his question to himself at that moment, and led him to create a set of values that from that moment on guided his career. Even today, in other walks of life and as a retired player, he will sometimes ask himself, “What would an All Black great do?”

“I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for the setbacks, the difficulties and the injuries along the way.”

At one high point of his career, chosen as captain of the 2011 All Blacks World Cup team and aged 29, Dan Carter sustained an injury that meant his World Cup campaign was over for that year. He admits he burst into tears.

The team went on to win the World Cup, but as proud as Dan felt for his team, there was something missing in the victory. So, he focussed on creating a process and a structure for a full recovery and to overcome future setbacks, and in 2012 won the World Rugy Player of the Year award.

As this quote shows, instead of regretting his injuries and setbacks, Dan reframes any hurdles as opportunities for personal growth.

“The battle is with no one other than your own mind, but it’s one I believe you have to consistently win if you’re going to achieve great things.”

Dan Carter talks a lot about mind control techniques in his book The Art of Winning. In this quote, Dan shows how it’s those moments when no one is pushing you or holding you accountable that you have to find your own source of motivation.

“Not everyone has this level of willpower, but if you want real, meaningful success, you need to develop it,” he says. As Dan says in another quote, “I like to earn my beer.”

He also talks about controlling damaging self-talk and rumination, and using a mental skills coach to help in the good times as well as the bad.

While these top quotes on sport, leadership and life stand out for us, decide for yourself what the best quotes are for your situation. Here are dozens more to choose from:


Quotes on retirement and career change

“Walking towards something new inevitably means walking away from what you have now.”

“At a time when many people are contemplating the next step in their career, working hard towards achieving their goals, those of us in sport are contemplating the end.”

“Retirement was a dirty word to me, conjuring up the kind of images no-one needs in their head: Washed up. Has been. No good anymore.”

“I dreaded retirement, feared it, avoided it at all costs.”

“I had one of the best games I’d ever played in the black jersey. I got my fairytale ending.” (2015 Rugby World Cup)

“My international career had ended but I didn’t want to finish playing.”

“No amount of physical pain could match the depths of my dread about retirement.”

“Time without purpose is dangerous for me.”

“If I’m not Dan Carter, rugby player, then who am I?”

“I’m not in retirement. I’m in the process of repurposing.”

“I looked back at my career in rugby and asked myself, 'What exactly is it that you love about this game and want to take into the next chapter of your life?'.”

“When reviewing my career, it isn’t the three World Rugby Player of the Year awards or two World Cups I’m most proud of, it’s the impact I’ve had on the next generation.”

“One idea that I kept returning to during this time was the idea of winning being an art….You have to learn as you go, try new things and evolve.”

“I’m at the starting line of the next stage of my career, not the finishing line, and I’m excited about what the future holds.”

Quotes on Purpose

“The experience of being an All Black was so special, so unique that I didn’t want it to stop.”

“I didn’t just want to be an All Black. I wanted to strive to be an All Black great.”

“The discovery of this sense of personal purpose was an incredibly liberating and focusing moment for me.”

“Every Sunday evening I would sit down with my notebook and plan out the week ahead, all with my goals and purpose in mind.”

“Purpose – Goals for the year ahead – The competition ahead – The game ahead – The day ahead.”

“I love planning and being super-organised, and it was a quality that was fully encouraged in the All Blacks environment.”

“In my life now, after rugby, I still map out my week ahead and maintain this meticulous approach to planning.”

“Sometimes I will have reached my goals the preceding week, but sometimes I won’t, and part of this review is to ask why.”

“Just like when I played rugby, I like to go into the weekend knowing I’ve done the work – I’ve earned my beer.”

“While going from good to great was one thing, what we were talking about was going from great to great – to follow success with success.”

“Our coach Steve Hansen came up with the purpose that would come to define the remainder of my time: ‘What about being the most dominant team in the history of world rugby?’”

“There’s no mountain summit where you plant your flag and declare We’ve done it! The purpose doesn’t have an end point as such…”

“….you can’t have passengers on the road to excellence.”

“Everyone wants to win. But that isn’t a purpose, it’s a goal. Your purpose is something beyond that.”

“You never really stop being an All Black.”

“Sport is unlike the real world in many ways because it’s built around clear metrics: win or lose.”

“It’s only really in retirement that I’ve truly come to appreciate just what a struggle discovering one’s purpose can be.”

“In my experience, purpose-led businesses achieve real, meaningful success.”

“I will still find myself on occasion asking, What would an All Black great do?”

Quotes on Leaving a Legacy (from chapter 'Whakapapa')

“When looking at the culture of any organisation, it is vital that a leader looks first to the past to establish the core values and derive strength and direction…”

“When you start to learn about your past, it gives you the motivation to continue and enhance that legacy.”

"A culture needs to absorb the legacy of those that have gone before, and yet also point towards the future.”

“Looking to the past and learning why we were there helped foster a great sense of belonging in the environment.”

“A new haka for a renewed culture. We were leveraging our past to build our future.” (2005 – ‘Kapa o Pango’ haka debuts)

“Great organisations know how to use their legacy and remain faithful to it while still being able to evolve and grow.”

“It’s an incredibly confronting and conflicting process to actually sit down and answer that question clearly. To ask myself, Who is Dan Carter?”

“One way to overcome self-doubt involved bringing yourself back to short-term milestones.”

“Set yourself small, achievable goals, and then things can snowball from there and self-belief can build.”

“When you do the work, you have the confidence to know you’ve done everything to give yourself the best chance of performing to the best of your abilities – and the outcome takes care of itself.”

“What are your core values?”

“We live by the standards and demands made by our ancestors.”

“It was only through looking back and examining where I’d come from that I could see in what direction I wanted to go next.”

“Through being a custodian of the jersey, we had a very real stake in the All Blacks – it made us feel like co-owners in a company whose future we had a strong investment in beyond our own playing career.”

Quotes on Humility in Leadership

“No individual is bigger than the team was always an All Black value. In fact, I would say it’s a Kiwi value too. It’s how we are as people.”

“You need everyone aligned to play the game your way, from the most junior in the organisation all the way to the CEO.”

“Culture has to be at the heart of any onboarding process.”

“Any conversation or debate needs to be resolved with this simple mantra in mind: What’s best for the team?”

“Everyone in the organisation needs to be moving in the right direction together, and it only takes one person moving the other way to disrupt the harmony and threaten a culture.” 

“For a young player entering the environment, it can be a bit of a wake-up call to realise they’re no longer the ‘main man’.”

“As it happens, sport and the world have a beautiful way of bringing you down to earth.”

“Never forgetting where you come from is such a strong value for me.”

“I worked for everything I was given...”

“[All Blacks mantra ‘Sweep the Sheds’] is also driven by humility: Who are we to think we should be making a mess?”

“No one should consider themselves above doing the little things that help set the standard, which is as true in a business environment as a sports one.”

“Having your people drive the culture means your people also have to police it, and that’s how it worked. We’d discipline our teammates.”

“In any environment, if the policing of the culture is coming from a manager it loses its impact over time. But coming from a colleague or a teammate? It hits home a lot more…”

Quotes on Mind Management

“At the start of my career, people would think there was something wrong with you if you were getting help from the team psychologist. By the end of my career, they’d think there was something wrong with you if you weren’t.”

“We were held accountable in front of our peers which was a hugely important part of our player-driven culture.”

“We started by concentrating on what I was doing right here, right now.”

“[Learning] to ask for absolutely vital if you’re serious about thriving in a high-performance environment.”

“Allowing yourself to relax or cruise isn’t what greatness is – certainly not in that All Blacks environment.”

“I would have a few critical things to focus on – say, ‘Attack the line, fast line speed, huge accuracy in my passing’ – and know that if I did these three fundamentals well then I would have a good game.”

“It’s probably one of the hardest things to do, to have success after success – to go from great to great again.”

“It’s easy to relax after success, but if your aim is high performance then you need to put steps in place to guarantee you can back your success up.”

As soon as I started talking about how I was feeling, a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.”

“There was great power in knowing I wasn’t alone.”

“At the end of my career, people were asking me: ‘Hey, man, if you were just starting your professional career what would you do differently?’ And the simple answer is that I would use the mental skills people from day one.” 

Quotes on Pressure (from chapter Pressure is a Privilege)

“The All Blacks losing even a single Test match comes as a shock. The whole country can go into a minor state of depression if we don’t win the World Cup.”

“It’s my firm belief that the work on our mental game that started after the Rugby World Cup in 2007 provided the foundation for the All Blacks’ strength and was a major reason why we were the number one team for almost a decade.”

“There’s never a game you won’t go into the red [opposite of cool, calm and collected]; it’s the ability to get out that counts.”

“By focusing on the right process, the outcome will take care of itself. And, if it doesn’t then you review and you iterate, until you get that process right.”

“I look down, look up, visualise the ball flying between the posts (visualisation is a really important part of my kicking process). I look back down at the part of the all I’m aiming to kick (the sweet spot); I tell myself to breathe, breathe again, then I go into my run-up and kick the ball.”

“…the more consistency in the routine and process there is, the more consistency you have in the result.”

“If you’ve ever seen highlights of me playing and noticed I’ve just given myself a slap on the leg, you’ve witnessed me trying to get out of a state of red and into a blue-head mindset.”

“Pressure is a privilege. If you want to win World Cups and be the number one side, then you need to embrace those pressure moments.”

“The thing I’ve come to realise is that the pressure I put myself under is far greater than any external pressure.”

“I feed off [pressure], and thanks to the work I’ve done on my mental skills it’s a positive force for me.”

“If I don’t get nervous or have to prepare for something – if I’m not getting the butterflies again, I feel like I’m just cruising through life.”

“All the most successful people in the world live with pressure every day.”

Quotes on Resilience

“When we look at any high-performing figure, we only get a partial view of the picture. We see the success and the glory, but we very rarely bear witness to the hard work it’s taken them to get there.”

“I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for the setbacks, the difficulties and the injuries along the way.”

“The one thing I learned above all else during this period was that in order to overcome a setback, you must first make time to grieve.” (2011 injury during Rugby World Cup)

“Allowing yourself time to deal with your difficult feelings after a setback means you’re building towards coming to terms with it.”

“We have to learn to accept that setbacks are part of life, part of everyone’s career.”

“For a serious injury, I would give myself 24 hours [time limit to process the challenging feelings]”

“After this time limit, you are then faced with a choice: park it, dump it, deal with it.”

“Only once you are able to accept the reality of the new situation you find yourself in will you be able to move forward effectively.”

“If you’re moping around for weeks on end you can find yourself in trouble. It becomes harder to get out of that state the longer it goes on.”

“When you’re dealing with any kind of setback, learning to focus only on what you can control and throwing your energy into that is the key to making progress.”

“The one thing I can control is the process – so I get on and do that.”

“You can’t just focus on a four-year plan, there are too many potential pitfalls along the way. You need to start with the here and now. What does the next year look like?”

“If you aren’t failing sometimes, it means you aren’t playing hard enough.”

“It’s only by having the courage to challenge our own capabilities, to reach beyond where we know we can go, that we can hope to do great things – but at the same time risk failure.”

“History is full of those who failed, often many times over, before they succeeded.”

“I know that there are few darker places in rugby than the changing room immediately after a defeat.” “Sunday sucks, but then you look to the week ahead.”

“We’d learn the lessons from our defeats and then we’d use this to deliver a response in the following game.”

“There has to be a response to setbacks, and an acceptance that at the heart of the Art of Winning, there are a good few losses in there too.”

Quotes on Leadership (from chapter Make Yourself Heard)

“I, for one, was not certainly not born to lead I had to learn how to do it.”

“In the All Blacks Culture we had created, we were all encouraged to embrace the opportunity to be leaders.”

“What I learned most of all as I developed my role as the number 10 in the team was that communication in any environment needs to be clear, precise and direct.”

“Talking for the sake of talking is terrible communication.”

“As a leader in any organisation, you need to hae a good line of communication with the key people necessary to your role.”

“Earlier in the game the opposition is pumped up and coming at you, and you have to absorb that pressure – but all the while you’re learning from it, working out any weaknesses, probing for where the space is.”

“As with anything at the highest level, it’s how you deal with it under pressure that can make the difference between winning and losing.”

“Clear, precise, direct was my mantra, my process for communication.”

“If you’re able to control your mind, get out of the state of red, and stand up looking strong, the opposition will have no idea about what’s going on in your mind.”

“If it’s five minutes to half-time and you’re already exhausted, you don’t show it. You sprint off….”

Quotes on Adapting to Change (from chapter Staying Ahead of the Competition)

“As I evolved I also began to understand that a bigger part of my role was working on how I can get the best out of the players around me…”

“Being open to these opportunities to push yourself, to always be open to learning, filters through everything that you do, building confidence and fulfillment in ways you hadn’t considered before.”

“How can we change this so it’s not ‘coaches and players’, it’s ‘team?” (playing for Racing 92 in France, post the 2015 Rugby World Cup)

“What I learned is that, in fact, you can change a culture. You just can’t change a culture too quickly.”

“A big part of evolution, whether it’s on an individual level or a collective one, is the ability to be open to new things – to have a growth mindset.”

“What I’ve come to learn is that you can make all the plans you want, but change is often a result of circumstances, sometimes out of your control.”

“The Art of Winning could just as easily be called the art of evolution.”

Quotes on Identity

“I’m not perfect, far from it.”

“I’ve tripped up on many occasions, maybe read my own press at times, started to believe the hype on some level. But my friends, my family and especially my wife have always been there for me, They are key to my identity.”

“No matter where I am in the world, I still see myself as being a country boy from Southbridge.”

“We all need people who aren’t afraid to give it to us straight…”

“Never forgetting where you came from is about staying true to your key values, who you are deep down.”

“In the All Blacks environment we used to talk about how necessary it was to bring your real self, not ideal self.”

“There is no ‘ideal’ version of you – only you.”

“Develop your own leadership style and make it unique to you, because people will quickly see through you if you’re faking it.”

“This sense of gratitude in lots of things in my life and career is one that became more prevalent and important as I got older.”

“We aren’t all made the same, but even the gifted can’t be great without the graft.”

“I was so lucky to be able to play for so long, and I was incredibly grateful for that.”

“Making gratitude a habit trains the brain – repurposes it, if you like – to tune into the more positive things in life, to seek out more reasons for gratitude.”

Quotes on Work-Life Balance and Sacrifice

“My family didn’t care if I was a professional rugby player or not. They just wanted me around.”

“I’m a dedicated family man who hasn’t always put his family first in the pursuit of professional excellence.”

“Having children changes everything, and you soon learn that it’s very challenging to be both a world-class performer and a world-class parent.”

“If you’re striving for greatness, exploring the limits of what you’re capable of, then a strong personal purpose has to be about yourself.”

“It was my strong personal purpose, my mental drive that allowed me to drag my battered body first to France and then to Japan, to carry on playing and contributing to the game.”

“What I’ve discovered is that walking towards a purpose involves no small amount of the art of subtraction.”

“While the art of subtraction might sound like an inherently negative thing – saying ‘no’ more often – it’s actually a positive approach. What you’re actually saying is ‘yes’ more frequently to your core purpose, the thing that is going to deliver you the most satisfaction and success.”

“A lot of people think I’ve had a lot of opportunities just fall into my lap, that’s I’ve been lucky…..But you don’t get consistently lucky throughout a career. Nobody does.”

“The battle is with no one other than your own mind, but it’s one I believe you have to consistently win if you’re going to achieve great things.”

“At this level, the biggest competition is with yourself.”

“I always prided myself on the work I did behind closed doors – doing right when no one’s looking.”

“When you’ve worked so hard for something and you achieve it, you need to celebrate that.”

“What is absolutely crucial in any environment, however, be it sport or business, is that you all celebrate success together.”

“My favourite time of the week as a player was in the dressing room after the game on a Saturday. That’s when we know if we’ve had success or not.”

“Do you ensure that your support staff are valued and share in your success?”

Quotes on Making a Fresh Start (from chapter Your Next Peak)

“I found myself…at the finishing line of my rugby career – a point at which my identity was still defined by my past – yet at the starting line of an unknown future in which I needed to leverage that past to repurpose and build something new.” (Classic All Blacks game 2022)

“I found myself at times wishing I’d retired years earlier, so that I could have learned new skills throughout my thirties and be in a much stronger position by the time I reached forty.”

“..If the Art of Winning is about anything, it’s about being able to win those battles with your mind.”

“Nobody wants to be an ‘ex’ forever.”

“If, at some point in the future, I could be known for what I’m doing then rather than still be labelled ‘Dan Carter, ex-rugby player’ then I know I have done something right.”

“Everyone I spoke to offered me this piece of advice: ‘Don’t rush into anything. Take a bit of time first.’” 

For More Work-Life Quotes See Adam Grant in person in 2024

If you liked these quotes from Dan Carter and more leadership and life quotes from the world's brightest minds, don’t miss Adam Grant’s highly-anticipated Australian tour in 2024 ADAM GRANT – LIVE: WorkLife Reimagined. Tickets are selling fast, with some sections already sold out. 

About Adam Grant

Adam Grant is a renowned organisational psychologist, bestselling author, and global influencer. As Wharton's top-rated professor for seven consecutive years, his expertise in motivation, generosity, original thinking, and rethinking has made him a leading authority in his field.

His five New York Times bestselling books Think Again, Give and Take, Originals, Option B, and Power Moves have resonated with millions of readers in 45 languages. His latest book is Hidden Potential.

With hugely successful TED talks and his TED podcasts WorkLife and ReThinking, plus a substantial social media following and popular monthly newsletter, Adam Grant is one of the world's most inspiring thinkers and speakers.


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