Monthly Archives: October 2014

Resilience: The Immune System for Mental Health

The best piece of advice I ever received was this: It’s not what happens to you in life that matters, it’s what you do about it.

That’s awfully easy to say, but how do you put it into practice? How do you live that way?

One essential ingredient is resilience. We all know people who can’t cope with misfortune or can’t handle pressure or can’t be counted on to get going when the going gets tough. Truth be told, we’re all guilty of this at one time or another.

Resilience isn’t about tackling the tough problems in life, it’s about how we respond when those tough problems tackle us. I like to think of it as the immune system for mental health.

Every day our bodies are bombarded with germs, but when our immune system is strong, we stay healthy. And if we do get sick, we get better. I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t even play one on TV, but I’m convinced that something similar happens with our mental health. The world never ceases to bombard with us challenges, misfortunes, and unexpected reversals. But if we have a strong mental immune system — if we are resilient — then we tend to have positive responses even when life is dumping negatives on us. And when we do feel like we’re coming down with something, mentally speaking, we get better quickly.

Some people are naturally gifted in this way, just as some people are gifted with naturally healthy bodies. The rest of us have to work at it. The good news is that we can. Just as there is much we can do to boost our body’s immune system, such as eating right and getting enough exercise, there is much we can do to boost our mental immune system —our resilience —so that we are better able to respond to the emotional and psychological challenges of life. In fact the two immune systems are related. The healthier we are, the more resilient we tend to be. And the more resilient we are, the healthier we tend to be.

The important thing to remember is that resilience is a skill. If you don’t know it, you can learn it. If you already have it, you can get better at it.

Here’s a great place to start:

Building Resilience, with Tatiana Kolovou


Keith Ellis is a best-selling author, elearning specialist, online training mentor, and management training consultant. He is the author of the bestselling thriller NO SECRETS, as well as THE MAGIC LAMP, the classic book about goal setting for people who hate setting goals, He serves as Head of Federal Training and eLearning for

I love the smell of innovation in the morning.

Sometimes it doesn’t take a new interface paradigm, or radically new features, to change the way the world works. Of course, the world probably isn’t ready to move to Apple yet because Microsoft is so deeply entrenched (and is also busy innovating). But at the very least it’s nice to see how thoughtfully Apple is integrating their mobile experience with their desktop experience.

I’ve been struggling for years trying to get files back and forth between my Macs and my iOS devices. There have always been tools to do this, but they were so hopelessly clunky, and so un-Applelike (even Apple’s tools), that I had to hold my nose every time I used them. Now, between Yosemite, iOS 8 on the iPhones 6, and with a new generation of iCloud to glue it all together, Apple just might have put in place the pieces necessary for a more enjoyable, and far more useful experience.

And how cool is it that there is already training available on Yosemite, as well as the new iCloud, on the same day they launched? It’s not Stephen Colbert, but it’s helpful.

Mac OS X Yosemite New Features, with Nick Brazzi

iCloud Essential Training

iOS 8 New Features


Keith Ellis is a best-selling author, elearning specialist, online training mentor, and management training consultant. He is best known as the author of a classic book about setting goals, THE MAGIC LAMP, as well as the thriller, NO SECRETS, an Amazon Kindle #1 best seller. He is Head of Federal Training for, home of the world’s most effective online training and elearning.

Would you like to play a game?

Apparently, that computer in “War Games” was on to something. People do like to play games, even adults. Okay, especially adults. Not only are games a huge business, generating more revenue than the movie industry itself, but gamification has made its way into everything from eBay to elearning.

People who want to sell us things have become adept at making us feel like we’re playing a game when what we’re really doing is spending money. For example, every time I leave the checkout counter of my grocery store, the clerk reminds me of how many “points” I’ve earned from my shopping, points that can be used to “earn” discounts when I buy gas. Sure enough, when I buy gas I look for participating gas stations. I even try to time my purchase to maximize my discount, which gets me even more emotionally involved in the game. And when I fill my tank for $.50 less per gallon, or $.80, or whatever it is, I feel like I’ve won something.

How about scratching that silvery stuff off a ticket to see what’s underneath so we can find out what we’ve won, whether it’s from a box of cereal or an in-store promotion or a lottery ticket? It’s just another way to get us to buy more. And don’t get me started on eBay. Inducing buyers to “compete” against other buyers, in a rules-oriented, game-like setting, all to jack up the price, that’s sheer genius, at least if you own stock in eBay.

Even sales promotions tend to be presented like games. If you buy a certain amount, by a certain date, under certain conditions, then you just might qualify for higher levels of discounts, so you’re encouraged to play the game with gusto in order to “save”.

Gamification of commerce increases interest, emotional involvement, and in the end, how much we spend. But there’s a lot more to gamification than just selling things.

Games can help us learn. In fact, playing games is how we learned most of what we learned as kids. It’s how we learned to play by the rules, to cooperate, to compete, and to focus our attention on accomplishing meaningful goals, goals that were given meaning by the game. Games for adults need to be more sophisticated, to be sure, but even grown-ups still appreciate rules, competition, rewards and achievements, mystery and discovery, and in the best games, the story.

When we apply gamification to education we engage students of all ages in the most natural learning process in the world, much the way we were engaged in games as kids. After all, just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

If you’d like to know what makes games fun, and learning fun, here’s a useful resource:

Gamification of Learning, with Karl Kapp


Keith Ellis is a best-selling author, elearning specialist, online training mentor, and management training consultant. He is best known as the author of a classic book about setting goals, THE MAGIC LAMP, as well as the thriller, NO SECRETS, an Amazon Kindle #1 best seller. He is Head of Federal Training for, home of the world’s most effective online training and elearning.

Intelligent Disobedience

“Intelligent disobedience” allows service animals, such as seeing-eye dogs, to interpret commands in a way that honors their master’s intent, while avoiding hazards that their master might not anticipate. For example, imagine a blind person at an intersection who hears an audible beep from the traffic light that tells him it’s safe to walk. He orders his dog to take him across the street, but the dog sees a car about to run that red light. Though trained to obey his master’s commands, the animal is also trained to disobey those commands in an intelligent way when it’s in his master’s best interest to do so.

Have you ever found yourself in a position where following orders would be like walking in front of a car running a red light?

Organizations have a mind of their own, with policies, procedures, rules, and chains of command that help them function. Without such guidelines they wouldn’t be very organized. But sometimes going by the book is the worst thing we can do. Sometimes we have to intelligently disobey what we’re expected to do in order to produce the most desirable outcome for the organization.

The most successful organizations tend to understand that. They realize that as useful as “the book” might be as a management tool, it shouldn’t be a straitjacket. Sometimes people have to think for themselves. Sometimes they have to act on instinct, based on information and insights unavailable to the larger organization, even if it means that they have to intelligently disobey what they are “supposed” to do. Of course, there are also organizations that know nothing beyond “the book.” Yet they too can benefit from intelligent disobedience.

What can you do when you find yourself in one of those tricky situations where you know that going by the book will produce an outcome the opposite of what your employer intends, or it’s just plain unethical? And how can you do it in a way that benefits your organization without destroying your career? How can you learn to challenge strict orders, voice unpopular opinions, take risks, and come up with creative solutions, all while keeping your organization’s goals in mind, and your career (and conscience) intact?

Here’s one resource that can help you answer those tough questions:

Modeling Courageous Leadership: Intelligent Disobedience with Bob McGannon


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Keith Ellis is a best-selling author, elearning specialist, online training mentor, and management training consultant. He is best known as the author of a classic book about setting goals, THE MAGIC LAMP, as well as the thriller, NO SECRETS, an Amazon Kindle #1 best seller. He is Head of Federal Training for, home of the world’s most effective online training.

No Secrets: A Thriller

A while back I wrote a thriller that became a #1 bestseller on the Amazon Kindle, and remained on the bestselling list for six months. Yet even after it was published I kept thinking about ways to improve it. Evenutally I rewrote it and published it again. But that still wasn’t good enough, so I’ve just rewritten and republished it one last time.

Think of it as version 3.0 of what one reader called “a thrill ride on steroids.” The first incarnation was entitled QUANTUM ETHICS. The second was SONG OF THUNDER. For this final revision I have returned to the original working title—NO SECRETS—for reasons that, these days, should be obvious.

The story is straightforward (at least until it’s not). We know that the NSA is moving mountains to build the world’s first quantum computer, a device so powerful it will give them the means to break into every computer on the planet, and access every secret.

But what if a brilliant young scientist beats them to it?

What if a rogue agent tries to steal her device?

What if terrorists get there first?

Please understand that this is not a sequel, nor is it a third volume in a series. NO SECRETS is a revision of a previous version, much in the way that software gets revised, or the “Producer’s Cut” of a movie creates a more finished product. You’ll find some new or revised scenes, a thousand tiny tweaks, and several bug fixes, all designed to make for a faster and more enjoyable read. Despite all that, if you’ve already read either (or both) of the previous titles, then one can hardly expect you to read NO SECRETS. Unless, like I do, you believe that even a good story can get better.

Click here to check out the Kindle version.

Click here for paperback.

What is the difference between elearning and online training?

What is the difference between elearning and online training?

Most people use these terms interchangeably, but I tend to think of online training as something you take, while elearning is something that happens to you when you’re lucky enough to learn something online.

I make that distinction because so much of what is generously called online training is hard to take. It’s dull, lifeless, and boring, in a way that only online training can be boring. Worst of all, it’s useless. But it doesn’t have to be.

It all begins with finding the right teachers, of course. Teaching an online training course is very different than teaching a group of students in a classroom. Some people, even some very competent people, simply aren’t cut out to be online trainers. So the trick is to find experts, real-world professionals who live and breathe what they’re trying to teach you, who are able to do so effectively even at the other end of a video stream that was recorded asynchronously (in other words, before you see it).

Once you’ve solved the biggest problem, which is finding the best teachers for online training, you still have several technical problems to solve to produce online training that actually yields elearning.

Pedagogical theory teaches us that different people learn in different ways, and we ourselves learn differently at different stages of our lives, and with different types of topics. Well-crafted online training should take all of that into account.

For example, for those who learn best by watching, video training is ideal. But the training needs to be so well produced that it seems to come alive. It should be well shot, well edited, high definition, and include special effects where appropriate, just like our favorite primetime TV shows. Granted, I’m biased toward what I call prime-time quality because I tend to learn best from videos. The higher the quality, the more engaging I find the training, and the more likely I am to actually learn something.

Of course, not everyone cares for video, so effective training should also offer engaging audio, again well recorded, well produced, and professionally edited— prime-time audio, if you will. In other words, it should sound great on your audio system, even though it’s “just” online training. The better it sounds, the more the “audio learner” is likely to learn.

But good online training should also provide something to read, something that allows the learner to follow along with the audio and video. That’s trickier than it seems. If you’ve ever been in a gym or in a bar and tried to watch the closed captions scrolling across the bottom of a TV program, you know how hard it is for even well-heeled, prime-time networks to translate spoken words into text on the fly. The results can be annoying, and sometimes downright ridiculous.

Unfortunately, online training providers tend to use the same kind of voice recognition technology that you see in your gym or your bar to produce the transcripts of their training. That’s assuming they offer transcripts at all; most don’t. It’s awfully hard to read that kind of transcript, full of gibberish and misinterpreted words, and even harder to try to use it to follow along with the video and the soundtrack. For those who like to learn by reading, a mistake or an absurd word substitution can deflect their train of thought into an entirely new direction that jumps the tracks of what they’re trying to learn. Low-quality transcripts actually impede learning.

Only a handful of training providers are willing to go the extra mile to edit their transcripts, word for word, correcting mistakes introduced by voice recognition technology. It’s time intensive and expensive to do so, but it’s more than worth it because it yields two substantial benefits. First, it makes the transcript readable. There’s something almost magical about being able to read along with someone who is teaching you something you want to learn, and getting it all word for word just as he or she is speaking it. Imagine if you were in a classroom listening to the teacher explain something, and you had everything that person was saying, word for word, right in front of you. (Boy, if I’d had that when I was in school I might have made something of myself.)

But there’s another benefit of high-quality transcripts that can take online training to a new level, and facilitate elearning in such a way as to cross the border into something new under the sun, something akin to a new breed of on demand, always on, expert tech support.

If the transcripts in an online training library are accurate representations of what the teachers actually say in all those videos, then with the right technology you can search that text just like you search Google, to find the specific information you most need to learn, or review, at the very moment you need it. That allows online training to morph from the classical training model of sitting down and taking a class for a couple of hours, into a 21st-century model of learning exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. On time, on target, and on demand, 24/7.

A library of training videos with high quality, searchable transcripts can become a knowledge base unlike anything the world has ever seen before. Suddenly, you have random access to what experts have to say on a range of topics and information that can open up whole new worlds for you. And with the right technology, once you find the information you need, all you have to do is to click a link to be transported directly to that spot in that video, where you’re able to watch/hear/read those few minutes of training you actually need, rather than having to wade through potentially hours of training that you don’t need. That kind of random access, just-in-time training feels like you’re able to summon a guru to your desk or mobile device whenever you need to learning something, wherever you are, 24 hours a day. It’s like having a training genie, without having to carry around the magic lamp. Pretty cool, and pretty useful, assuming you can find an online training provider who can actually pull all this off.

So back to where I started this post. There is an enormous amount of what passes for online training available on the Internet. Probably millions of hours. But there is a vast chasm between taking online training and actually learning something. That’s what I mean by elearning. (Or e-learning, or e learning, or however you want to spell it.)