Who is James Kelley? Well, my path is still being built brick by brick and the current brick is a book Crucible's Gift: 5 Lessons from Authentic Leaders Who Thrive in Adversity. But what about all the previous bricks?


I was the youngest of 3 1/2  kids (long story) in a traditional Irish Catholic family, which means loud, sarcastic, passive aggressive and a touch of physical discipline, minus the obligation of Mass. My parents did the best they could with what they knew, having to both midwest Born and raised in Portland, Oregon by a Canadian mom and a work to pay the bills. Consequently, the academic bar was low and I barely got into college. In the middle of my time at university, I spent one-year selling used and new cars. However, one afternoon my life took a turn. After walking into the used car shack, two colleagues were lining up a white substance and rolling a dollar bill and asked me if I wanted to try. Well, having foresight, four months later I was back at university full-time. 


After completing my undergraduate degree, my life is a series of twists and turns, ups and downs and a few zigs and zags. The death of my father, an MBA, a year teaching English in Japan, a DUI, and three jobs later, I was a rudderless vessel at sea. However, one night on Portland State University's campus, while attending an event for potential Peace Corps recruits, my life took an unsuspecting turn. In one brief conversation, with four Ph.D. students, I realized that I wasn't the dumbest person in the room, and thought a Ph.D. was possible.


Against the laws of nature and human belief, in 2010, I completed my Ph.D. in International Marketing at the University of Western Australia and ascended to higher education. My family moved to Philadelphia for a seven-year stint. Now, my wife Mary, our four kids and I live just outside of Dubai where I teach, run a small consultancy, and work on writing my first of three books, which are based on my podcast Executives After Hours. 


It is my belief that my story is unique and one filled with failure, and consistent no's, but what I have maintained through life is a sunny disposition that if you just work hard and be a good person you will end up on top. As my journey continues I can only hope that my wife and four kids enjoy the path as much as I do.  If you want to learn more about reserving me to speak on authentic leaders, inspirational or corporate wellness strategies, please click below to book me for your next event.

 Speaking Topics:

  • Leading out of Adversity

  • Compassion in the Workplace

  • Power of Strength-based leadership

  • The Philosophy of Relatableness