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Marching to Success

“Success is the peace of mind that can be obtained only from the self-satisfaction of knowing that you have made the effort to do the very best of which you are capable.”

— John Wooden

March Madness is here again, a time when it seems as if everyone from kids in elementary school to CEOs of billion-dollar companies can’t wait to complete their NCAA tournament bracket. With all those teams in all those rounds, it’s almost impossible to make the right picks, given that even a single loss will eliminate a team, and possibly eliminate your bracket. An injury to a key player, an illness, a long delay on a plane flight, a bad decision by an official or a coach, a missed free throw, or just a team having a bad day, any one of those things can change the entire tournament. The real madness of March is trying to figure out who’s going to win the tournament when you consider everything that can go wrong.

But if you think it’s hard to pick a winner, imagine how hard it is to actually win the tournament. And winning it twice in a row? Forget about it. That’s been done only twice in the past 40 years.

That raises an interesting question. Has the men’s tournament ever been won three times in a row by the same school? Yes, but only once, and therein lies a story.

For starters, it wasn’t just three times in a row, it was seven times in a row. In fact, from 1964 to 1975 a single school—UCLA—won the tournament 10 out of 12 years, including that unbelievable seven years in a row. Even more remarkable, during that string of seven championships UCLA won 47 tournament games in a row.

Think about that. Over eight seasons, with eight different teams, in a tournament in which a single loss meant it was all over, at a time of year when they were facing the best of the best, all of whom were determined to beat them, UCLA won 47 single-elimination games in a row. When they did finally lose a tournament game, it was in the Final Four, after three overtimes, against the eventual champion, and then they came back and won it all again the next year.

How did they accomplish so much when no other men’s team has ever come even remotely close to what they did, in the entire history of college basketball? What was their secret?

The short answer is this: John Wooden. Ever hear of him? He hasn’t coached since the 1970s, and championships are only part of his story. If you think that winning an NCAA Division I tournament is hard, what’s even harder is to go undefeated for the entire year. In the 42 years since Coach Wooden retired that has been done by a men’s team only once. But his teams did it four times, including one stretch in which they went undefeated for an incredible 88 games in a row.

So how did he do it? What was his secret? People have been asking that ever since he started winning championships. What’s fascinating is that there was no secret. If you’d asked Coach Wooden he would always have given you the same answer, which was the quotation at the beginning of this piece:

“Success is the peace of mind that can be obtained only from the self-satisfaction of knowing that you have made the effort to do the very best of which you are capable.”

Believe it or not, that’s all there is to it. But as with most important truths in life, there is far more there than meets the eye.

Whether you care about sports or not, if you care about success in your life, or more importantly happiness, then Coach Wooden is worth paying attention to. Statistically speaking, his record made him what today we would call an outlier, a statistical anomaly. His achievements were so far beyond what his peers were able to accomplish under similar circumstances, facing similar obstacles, that it’s hard for us even to make sense of them. Either he was a freak of nature or he was on to something. I prefer to believe the latter. But what he was on to was so deceptively simple that it’s tempting to dismiss it as a cliché. Yet it has the power to change your life.

I didn’t understand any of that until a few year ago when I read an interview with Mr. Wooden, long after he had given up coaching. When he was asked how he scouted the competition his answer shocked me. We didn’t worry much about the competition, he explained, we worried about ourselves. We didn’t go out to try to beat somebody, we went out to try to play the very best we could.

That contradicted everything I thought I knew about winning. To win in today’s world you have to know your opponent. You have to be prepared for whatever your opponent is going to throw at you. You have to be able to exploit his weaknesses. Isn’t that why coaches and athletes spend countless hours watching film of their competition? Isn’t that why business people, and politicians, and others who compete for a living spend so much time on opposition research?

Anyway, that’s what I thought, at least until Coach Wooden rocked my world with a deeper truth.

When we focus too much of our attention on our competition we’re missing the point. We’re the point. The winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA history won because he didn’t care as much about winning as he cared about something far more important. Coach Wooden’s philosophy, and what he taught his players, was that the only real success in life is the peace of mind that comes from the self-satisfaction of knowing deep down inside that you have made the effort to do the very best of which you are capable.

Winning is merely a byproduct of making that effort, and not even the most important byproduct. What is really important is the peace of mind that can come only from knowing that you have made the effort to do the very best of which you are capable. That’s the real payoff. That peace of mind is success.

Coach Wooden’s “secret” was that he relentlessly coached his players to take that philosophy to heart. He taught them to focus on making the effort to do the very best of which they were capable. He explained that they would be the only ones who would ever know if they had made that effort. He helped them understand that their resulting self-knowledge would either give them the peace of mind that was the ultimate success, or inspire them to dig deeper the next time.

Wooden expected those young men to live that way, and he expected them to play that way. In any game, if his team made that effort, then they were successful, even if they lost. But if they didn’t make that effort, then they would never be successful, no matter how many games they won.

For Wooden, it wasn’t enough for his players to compete with their opponents, each player had to compete with himself. Each had to live with the self-knowledge of his own efforts. Wooden knew that a player might be able to fool others, might even be able to defeat others, but couldn’t fool himself. No player could truly be a winner until he knew in his heart of hearts that he had made the effort to do his very best. When Wooden’s players took that message to heart, the byproduct was that their opponents simply could not keep up with them.

Coach Wooden was the winningest men’s basketball coach in history because he refused to settle for winning. Winning wasn’t enough. Even winning national championships wasn’t enough. He wanted more from his players. He challenged them every day to make the effort to do their very best, every game, every play, every player, from superstars to walk-ons. Against weak teams and strong teams. Even in practice. What Wooden really wanted was for a player to win his battles against himself—against fear, injuries, complacency, personal problems, inexperience, overconfidence, illness, immaturity, lack of focus, bad luck, fatigue—and he wanted each player to win those battles every time he went out on the court, regardless of the final score. That was Wooden’s idea of winning. Win that inner game and you will achieve the peace of mind that is the only real success. The score will take care of itself.

Coach Wooden didn’t care much for winning games in which his players gave less than their best. Those wins were never really victories for him because his goal wasn’t just winning, it was for his players to know that they had made the effort to do the very best of which they were capable. His mission in life was to teach them how to experience the peace of mind that could come only from knowing that they had made that effort. That was the one thing he could give them that would make them better and happier human beings. He knew that winning, in itself, could never do that.

Think how much higher that standard is than what most of us live by. In Wooden’s world, it was never enough to come out on top. You had to know that you were making the effort to do your very best. Winning wasn’t an end in itself, it was merely the result of a certain point of view, a certain approach to life. Winning wasn’t the cake, it wasn’t even the icing. The icing, the cake, the whole reason for competing in the first place was to experience that remarkable peace of mind that could come only from the self-satisfaction of knowing that you had made the effort to do the very best of which you were capable. There were no shortcuts and there were no substitutes. Not even winning.

Imagine how that outlook might play in your life. Have you ever gotten an “A” on a test that you didn’t study for? Have you ever been given a compliment that you knew you hadn’t earned? Have you ever won a competition that you knew you didn’t deserve to win?

From now on, instead of winning, what if your goal is to achieve the peace of mind that comes only from knowing that you are making the effort to do your very best? How much better might you perform? How much better might you feel? What would your life be like if you refused to settle just for winning, but insisted instead on achieving that far more challenging goal of knowing deep down inside that you are making the effort to do your very best? Do that and whatever you “win” along the way will pale in comparison.

The irony of Coach Wooden’s career is that the world measured his success in wins, but he won by refusing to be measured that way. He insisted on a higher standard, a standard that produced results so far beyond his peers that what he accomplished is almost beyond comprehension.

But not quite. This March Madness, while you’re keeping track of your bracket, keep in mind how difficult it is to pick the winner, and how much more difficult it is to be the winner. And then remember the guy who did it 10 times.


Keith Ellis is a bestselling author, and elearning evangelist for He is the author of the heart-pounding thriller NO SECRETS, as well as THE MAGIC LAMP, the classic book about goal setting for people who hate setting goals.

(Copyright 2017, by Keith Ellis)

It’s not who you know, but what you do about it.

To paraphrase Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a network is proportional to the number of connections. That may be true in a technical sense, but in the world of social networking there’s more to it than that. It’s not who you know, but what you do about it. I call that Ellis’s Law of Networking, not because I invented it but because I never want to forget it.

What good is a network of connections—friends, business acquaintances, professional contacts—if you don’t have anything to do with them? Consider the social networks of which you’re a member and ask yourself, why am I here? What is my contribution?

As with most things, quality is more important than quantity. Getting the most out of any network is not about how many connections you have, but how you connect with them. The best prescription I know for getting the most out of life—and out of networks—is to give more than you expect to get. Ask yourself, how do you contribute to your networks? How do you make them better for having you as a member? How do you make yourself better by being a member?

As social networks go, LinkedIn is unique. It’s not about baby pictures or where you ate dinner last night. LinkedIn is about what you have to offer the world. It’s about how you want to be known by your peers, your employers, your colleagues, and the people you would most like to influence. But most of all, LinkedIn is about growth. To get where you want to go in life, what do you need to learn, and from whom? More importantly, how can what you know benefit others on their personal journeys?

LinkedIn is about more than simply connecting with people. It’s about interacting with them. It’s about giving help and asking for help. It’s about learning and teaching. It’s about following persons of influence and becoming a person of influence. It’s about growing and helping others to grow. It’s about giving and receiving. LinkedIn, in its essence, is about your development and your contribution.

But where do you begin? There is so much buzz these days about LinkedIn as an indispensable daily resource that it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the possibilities. If you want to make more of LinkedIn, to improve your profile, grow and interact with your network, enhance your professional credentials, search the enormous wealth of quality content available to you on LinkedIn, or simply increase your contribution to others, where do you begin?

Not surprisingly, there are some excellent resources on LinkedIn itself. One of my favorites is their Help Center.

Another favorite resource, naturally, is Lynda’s training on LinkedIn can help you focus on how to get and how to give the most on LinkedIn. Check out these courses and see for yourself :

Up and Running with LinkedIn

LinkedIn for Business

Social Selling with LinkedIn

And while you’re discovering the riches of professional networking, keep in mind the principle at the heart of it all:

It’s not who you know, but what you do about it.


Keith Ellis is a bestselling author and elearning evangelist. He is the author of the 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 Sales for

 (Copyright 2015, by Keith Ellis)

Curiosity is the gateway drug to learning

What have you learned today? I love to ask people that question. You know what the most common reply is? “I didn’t have time to learn anything today.” But if I ask, “Did you check Facebook today?” the reply is almost always yes.

This illustrates an important characteristic of human nature: We always seem to find time for the things that really matter to us. Kinda makes you wonder why we don’t find more time to learn.

Bruce Heavin, Cofounder and Chief Innovation Officer at, likes to say, “Curiosity is the gateway drug to learning.” Truer words were never spoken.

Kids are born with curiosity. For the first years of their lives their only job is to learn how the world around them works. How to eat, how to walk, how to talk, how to play nicely with others, and so on until they reach a point when curiosity is no longer the driving force in their lives. Typically, that’s when they move from spending most of their time playing to spending most of their time doing tasks assigned by others, including parents, teachers, and eventually employers. In that long and gradual process kids don’t lose their curiosity as much as they stop indulging their natural inclination to follow where their curiosity leads. Who has time to be curious when we have tests to pass, work to do, and bills to pay?

We can be forgiven for getting lost in the busyness of our lives. From first light, it seems, we are swept along in an irresistible current of activity that carries us through the end of the day. So the real question is, how can we restore a little curiosity to our lives? Do that, and the learning will take care of itself.

For example, in the middle of a busy day, I often find myself engaged in a task that is harder than it ought to be. Maybe I’m creating a presentation, or trying to figure out how to use my new smart phone to send a text message, or wondering how I’m going to finish a project on time, or rehearsing a conversation I’m going to have with a difficult colleague, or wading through twice as much email as I have time to read. Sooner or later I find myself wondering, how do other people do this, especially the folks who are really good at it? Do they know something I don’t?

In a word, yes. And in a nutshell, that’s what learning is all about. Find someone who knows something you would like to know, something you’re curious about, and then pay attention.

I don’t know if I have more or less curiosity than other people, but I do know that when I’m curious about something I indulge that curiosity. Maybe I’ll Google it, or lynda it, or ask a friend. And eventually I’ll locate a nugget of information that helps me with what I’m trying to do. Interestingly, even though I’ve interrupted my day to be curious, I generally finish the task at hand sooner than if I hadn’t followed where my curiosity wanted to lead. I’ve actually saved time on what I’m doing by taking the time to learn how to do it better.

Derek Bok, when he was president of Harvard University, said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” That’s good advice, and here’s a variation on that theme: “If you think learning is time consuming, try ignorance.”

Which brings us full circle. What have you learned today? If you really don’t have time to learn anything, but you’re curious about those who do, check out these resources. (And if it helps, just pretend you’re on Facebook.)


Keith Ellis is a bestselling 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

A Dickens of a Christmas gift

Every year about now, no matter how often I’ve read it or watched the various movie versions, A Christmas Carol renews my faith in how profoundly we can alter our future by what we set in motion today.

In his classic, published 171 years ago this week, Charles Dickens teaches us that no one is too far gone to make whatever changes are necessary to become the kind of person he is meant to be. As we watch Scrooge transform from a scraping, clawing, ruthless miser into a compassionate human being, we know that the same magnitude of change is possible for us, whatever our challenges might be. To be sure, Scrooge has help from some ghostly friends, but they can’t change him. He has to change himself. That’s the point. The good news for the rest of us is that we can do the same.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t as hopelessly lost as Scrooge was at the beginning of the story. But we all crave change. We all want to improve our job, our relationships, our health, our society, our bank account, or to accomplish whatever we find ourselves wishing we could do. We long to change our lives and our world for the better. But sometimes we don’t know how to get started.

That’s where A Christmas Carol can make a difference. The story shows us how to change simply by looking at where we’ve come from, where we are now, and most importantly, where we’ll end up if we don’t change. That’s the kind of jolt that can strike brain. I learned that the hard way.

The Gift of Hindsight

When I was in college, I decided I was going to become a writer. But for the next decade I barely wrote a thing. Then one afternoon, while I was sitting in an easy chair daydreaming, I had one of those life-changing revelations that takes a baseball bat to the side of your head:

Ten years ago, if I had decided to write just a single paragraph a day, every day, I would have completed three books by now.

I was stunned. In that pathetic moment I suddenly realized just how much time I had wasted without lifting a finger to pursue my dream of being a writer. I felt as if I were standing on the bank of a river watching ten years of my life float by without me. All because I hadn’t had enough sense to write even a single paragraph a day. What kind of idiot was I?

Before I could answer that, a new thought presented itself, like a sunbeam punching its way through a thundercloud:

You’re missing the point. This is a wake-up call, it’s not Judgment Day. At least not yet.

And that’s when I understood. Life isn’t about regretting the past, it’s about not regretting the future. If your life hasn’t been all you’ve wanted it to be to this point, then why not turn that hindsight into foresight, and unlock the key to a better future?

Hallelujah! I had been handed the secret of the universe. I felt as light as a feather, as giddy as a schoolboy. I was delighted, elated, overjoyed.

I was also terrified. What if I couldn’t change? What if I couldn’t muster even the minimal effort necessary to write just a little bit every day? I hadn’t done it in the past, so why would I think I could do it in the future?

Right on cue, my thoughts leaped ten years into that future, and it was as bleak as could be. I saw myself wringing my hands in frustration because I still hadn’t written a thing. I was miserable, wretched, a failure still tormented by regret, and ten years older in the bargain. And I knew that I would remain a failure until my dying day. I knew that I would struggle through life without the joy of accomplishment, without fulfillment, without happiness, without…

That did it. I’d had enough. I was a changed man. As surely as I knew my own name, I knew that I would never let such a future take place. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I had looked upon the Ghost of Things Yet To Come, and it scared the daylights out of me. Like Scrooge on Christmas morning, I had been given a second chance, and I knew I would make the most of it. The next decade was going to see a very different Keith Ellis than the decade that had just passed.

And it did. I became a writer, then a published writer, then a best-selling writer, just as I had always hoped. But far more importantly, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life:

We are all wise in hindsight. The secret to making our dreams come true is to turn the gift of hindsight into foresight, and use our past to empower our future. If we begin doing today what we regret not having done yesterday, then we will set in motion a far more fulfilling tomorrow.

Just ask Scrooge.


If you have the urge to become a writer, you might want to check out these courses on writing, on


Keith Ellis is a bestselling 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

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, but NOT Public Speaking

The popular wisdom that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death has been repeated so often it’s a cliche, although I’ve never seen any serious research to back it up. But whether public speaking really is a fear worse than death, or not, many people are afraid of performing in front of a group, some to the point that their stage fright makes them physically ill. If you’re one of them, I’d like to offer a word of advice.

But first, full disclosure. I’m not afraid of public speaking. Just the opposite. Being a motivational speaker by background, I get a kick out of being on stage and running my mouth. Some people love the adrenaline rush from surfing Mavericks or snowboarding the side of a mountain or sky diving. I love public speaking.

But it wasn’t always that way. Being on stage used to terrify me. So I started watching people who were good public speakers, and tried to imitate them. To put it bluntly, when I got on stage I simply pretended to be one of them, rather than me, which was a whole lot easier than facing my fear. But after a while, I didn’t have to pretend anymore because I was no longer afraid. I don’t recall the precise moment, but somewhere along the line I realized that public speaking wasn’t a God-given talent, it was a skill that anyone can learn, like riding a bike. Sure, some people are better at it than others. They do have a gift. But those who don’t can develop it.

Public speaking is just like any other skill. If you don’t know it, you can learn it. If you do know it, you can get better at it. You can even teach it to others, your coworkers or your family or anyone else who dreads the prospect of presenting to a group.

Once I figured out that public speaking was a skill, I set about learning it, and I’ve been working to master it ever since. I still have a long way to go, and I’ll never become the world’s greatest speaker, but at least I’ve learned to enjoy it.

If you’re not quite there yet, if you’re one of those people whose hands sweat, whose heart pounds, whose stomach churns whenever you get in front of a group, then hope is on the way. There are many resources that can help you become a better public speaker, and even help you learn to enjoy it. One of the newest and most intriguing is this:

Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking, with Todd Dewett


Keith Ellis is a bestselling 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 Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]

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.