Hastings Intermediate principal Andrew Shortcliffe is taking his own advice and seizing an opportunity.
Starting September he is the new principal of Fairfield Intermediate in Hamilton, one of the largest intermediates in New Zealand with a roll of 800.
In his eight years at Hastings Intermediate it grew from a roll of 215 students to more than 500.
Every morning he greets every student by name at the school gate.
"As they get involved with school I want the children to feel safe, happy and challenged," he said.
"The second thing is to aspire for excellence."
Success was an attitude.
"When you play at school you play for fun. When you leave the school you play to win or you walk home."
It is a "Yes Sir, no Sir" school and boys who do not agree with requests the first time are invited to perform push ups.
He said he employed the tactic a lot less than when he started. Despite half the school moving to high school every year "word got around" on the school's changed expectations.
"It's not for everyone but that is the wonderful thing about New Zealand education - you can pick and choose what you like, but we were quite clear on high expectations. We wanted the kids to value social skills - be able to shake hands and be polite - we wanted traditional values and to punch above our weight."
Hastings Intermediate has more strategic partnerships with private and public organisations than any other Hawke's Bay school, helping to deliver school programmes.
"I hope whoever comes in values those types of relationships."
It is dominant in sports and was commended on its turnaround-success at a visit by Prime Minister John Key in 2012.
It became a victim of its own success two years ago when its decile rating dropped, losing $100,000 of operational funding.
Decile funding is determined by the socio-economic status of enrolled students using census data. Thanks to an influx of students from as far as Napier and Central Hawke's Bay, Hastings Intermediate's ranking went from decile two to decile three.
Mr Shortcliffe was given a pay cut and the school lost access to programmes.
The Government's assumption is higher-decile schools can tap into parents for funds, but he did not increase school fees.
"Initially it was a bitter pill but it is one of those things you take on as a challenge and you just become a bit more efficient and effective."
Partner organisations were "so good at supporting the vision and the kids have benefited from it".
Still with one term to go, he said he enjoyed working with "fantastic" staff, students and strategic partners.