Magic, Disney and a Writing Hero

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To ‘combat’ this loneliness, I recommend that authors, or writers who want to be published and sell books, get social with other writers and authors. Find your tribe. Learn from each other. Help each other. Join Facebook groups of writers and authors who write in your genre. Join conversations at K-Boards.

The year I published my first novel, I “met” a fellow writer, Jim Denney. a writing hero. I don’t know one person who writes more than Jim.

I don’t remember where we met. It might have been through Twitter or writing blogs, but we’ve stayed in touch for years and have learned from each other.

I’d love for you to ‘meet’ him, too, and be inspired by his work ethic and his dedication to writing leadership books. I’ve spent the last 18 months with the John Maxwell Team immersing myself in leadership principles, so I can improve my self-leadership skills.  Jim has the best self-leadership WRITING skills of any human I know. 

Don’t take my word for it. Check out this interview below that he allowed me to share with you.
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Q: You’ve written a lot about leadership, especially the books you’ve co-written with Pat Williams. Of the leadership books you’ve worked on, what are your favorites? And why?

Jim Denney: Pat and I have been writing together since 1995. Our first book was Go for the Magic, based on five success secrets of Walt Disney. We went even deeper into Walt Disney’s life and leadership principles in a 2004 book, How to Be Like Walt. I see a lot of Walt Disney in Pat Williams. They are both great leaders, great entrepreneurs, and bold, persevering risk-takers.

People told Walt, “You can’t make a full length animated motion picture — nobody will sit through it. And you can’t build an amusement park out in Anaheim, nobody will come to it. You’ll go broke.” All the experts told him that, his brother Roy told him that, his wife told him that, yet he went ahead and made Snow White and he built Disneyland. Walt Disney changed the world through his leadership.

I call Pat Williams the Walt Disney of the NBA. He’s the guy who brought Julius Irving and Charles Barkley into the NBA. As general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, he put together a team in the 1982-83 season that not only won an NBA championship, but did it by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers — and the 76ers beat the legendary Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lakers.

After that, Pat decided to go to Orlando, Florida, and build an NBA expansion team out of nothing but perseverance, prayers, and pixie dust. Everybody told him he was crazy — “Orlando has no pro sports tradition, the town isn’t big enough to support an NBA franchise, nobody will come, you’ll go broke.” Like Walt, Pat just kept charging forward, and by sheer persistence he built the Orlando Magic. Just think of the jobs and revenue generated because of that one man’s vision. So I am fortunate to call Pat Williams my friend and to have worked with him on so many leadership- and success-related projects.

Some of my favorite projects with Pat Humility — The Secret Ingredient of Success, 21 Great Leaders, Vince Lombardi on Leadership, The Success Intersection, Coach Wooden: The 7 Principles That Shaped His Life, and Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret.

Pat and I just finished a third book on Coach John Wooden, and it may be my favorite of them all. (By the way, Michelle, this new book includes the touching John Wooden story you shared with me from Fractured Not Broken, the book you co-wrote with Kelly Schaefer.)

I think the late John Wooden was one of the purest and best leadership models of all time. He was the kind of leader John Maxwell described — “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” His ten NCAA championships as head coach of the UCLA Bruins — seven of them consecutive — will never be equaled. He never had a losing season in twenty-seven years at UCLA. He won with superstars on his teams, and he won with teams of very modest talent. He never swore, never yelled at his players, never used intimidation. He just kept winning championships by inspiring his players.

In the three books I’ve done with Pat Williams on Coach Wooden (two published, one just completed), I think we’ve uncovered the wellsprings of his incredible leadership ability. This newest book on Coach Wooden doesn’t have a title yet — we’re working with the publisher on that right now — but it will be published in early 2018. I think the leadership world will sit up and take notice of that book. It contains a lot of insight that’s never been published before, including a whole chapter in Coach Wooden’s own words. We’re very excited about it.

Q: How would you describe Pat Williams’s leadership philosophy?

Jim Denney: About twenty years ago, Pat outlined a concept he calls The Seven Sides of Leadership. He has been testing this concept in the real world, discussing it with other leaders, refining it, and preaching it ever since — and it really holds up. He says that if you build these seven traits into your life, you will be a complete leader.

I like Pat’s definition of leadership: “the ability to achieve difficult, challenging goals through other people.” Some people are born leaders, but most must learn to lead. Some of us come to leadership reluctantly. But the Seven Sides of Leadership are learnable skills. Even if we are born with some of these skills, we can build all of these leadership abilities into our lives.

The Seven Sides of Leadership are:

  1. Vision — the ability to see and define what you want to achieve.
  1. Communication Skills — the ability to convey your vision to your people in an inspiring way.
  1. People Skills — the ability to help your people feel confident, motivated, and energized.
  1. Character — a sound moral and ethical compass, which enables a leader to build trust.
  1. Competence — proven knowledge and ability in your chosen field, which gives people a reason to follow you.
  1. Boldness — the willingness to take prudent risks to achieve great goals (boldness does not equal recklessness).
  1. A Serving Heart — a leader is a servant to his people, not a boss; a leader exists to empower and equip his people to achieve a shared goal.

Q: How did you meet Pat Williams? What is it like to work with him?

Jim Denney: Janet Thoma, an editor I had worked with at Thomas Nelson Publishers, introduced me to Pat. She thought I would work well with him, and she was right. It’s been a great partnership. He’s a prince of a guy.

Q: What are you working on next?

Jim Denney: I have a couple of books with Pat lined up, one relating to the military academy at West Point, the other having to do with leadership role models in the Bible.

As far as my own books as sole author, I’ve almost completed a new book about Walt Disney and Disneyland. And I have some fiction projects in the works.

Q: In other words, you’re “writing in overdrive.” Thanks for the chat, Jim.

Jim Denney’s website is at His books for writers include:Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 8.16.14 PM

Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly

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Muse of Fire: 90 Days of Inspiration for Writers

 Write Fearlessly! Conquer Fear, Eliminate Self-Doubt, Write with Confidence  

Please join me in thanking Jim for this awesome interview!


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