195: Dr. James Kelley The Crucible’s Gift

Dr. James Kelley is the author of The Crucible’s Gift and a professor of marketing at the United Arab Emirates University. In today’s episode, he sits with Christopher Lochhead to talk about why failure and losery make us who we are, why every crucible moment is a gift, and why being an authentic leader matters.

“The reality is if I just step back, the only person I need to prove myself to is me.” – Dr. James Kelley

Three Things We Learned

    The struggle of proving oneself

Dr. James Kelley has had an ongoing struggle of wanting to prove himself to somebody. This constant bout of inadequacy all stems back to a time when he felt like he wasn’t the kid that could amount to anything. But in the end, he knows that he can only do so much about what other people think.

    Striking the balance between family and profession

There’s a fine line between being great at our career and doing a great job family-wise. Whatever our profession, we all want to achieve a level of mastery, success, and recognition in our field. But ultimately, the people we need to be kindest to are the same people who will take care of us when we’re past our prime and have done what we must.

    Writing to be part of a crowd can be hard

Dr. Kelley admits that writing a book is tantamount to being part of a group of people who have written nice books, bias and all. But he also confesses to feeling like he could’ve done better, that there are parts he could’ve made stronger. If he were to rewrite these parts, the book perhaps wouldn’t be any better, but at least he could be happier.

Some people have gone out of their way to do their own thing while others are trying to jump in. Some people write books to capture moments in their lives or to capture history of their long-standing endeavors. We all have different journeys, crucible moments included, and we’re all trying to get through them.



Who is Dr. James Kelley?  

His path is still being built brick by brick and the current brick is his inaugural book: The Crucible’s Gift: Five Lessons from Authentic Leaders Who Thrive in Adversity.  

The book is based on interviews from 140+ executives, from Fortune Two companies to entrepreneurs and everything in between.  

The book unpacks the journey a leader takes to become a more authentic leader, starting with their crucible moments as the springboard.   

Against the laws of nature and human belief, in 2010, Dr. Kelley completed his Ph.D. in International Marketing at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia and ascended to higher education to work in Philadelphia. Prior this miraculous event, James spent time living in Japan, New York City, San Jose, Portland, and Chicago.   

At each stop James added work, life, and failure in his bag of experiences.   

Today, James, his wife Mary, and his four kids live just outside of Dubai where he teaches, writes, and produces is bi-weekly podcast Executives After Hours.  

The podcast is predicated on interviewing executives about their personal journey. The shows motto, “I care about who you are, not what you do, because what you do defines who you are.” In addition, he is a professor of marketing at The United Arab Emirates University.