page title icon Jocelyn Davis

088: Jocelyn Davis: I no longer had a platform

Jocely Davis Show Notes

Jocelyn Davis got a splash of cold water in her face. Being an executive at a consulting firm she was easily published by Harvard Business Press. But when she tried to get her next book published after departing from her firm she learn a sobering lesson. Listen to Jocelyn tell the story of her journey of getting over the hump.

Jocelyn Davis grew up in a Foreign Service family and at last count she has lived in 29 neighborhoods and 8 countries. Some of the places she has lived include: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Kingston, Jamaica; Newport, Rhode Island; Vientiane, Laos; Pittsburgh, PA; Panama City; Boston, Mass; and Toronto, Canada.

After college Jocelyn planned to be an academic. But she didn’t like grad school, so she took off for Los Angeles (having picked up an M.A. in philosophy and my husband-to-be; we are about to celebrate our 27th anniversary) and got a job in publishing. In 1989 they moved to Boston and she answered a classified ad for a copyeditor at The Forum Corporation, a leadership- and sales-training firm. At that time, she’d never heard of the corporate learning industry.

Jocelyn stayed with Forum for 20 years, working her way up to become EVP, R&D. Her team was responsible for developing all the standard training products. One of her proudest achievements there was co-authoring her first book, Strategic Speed (HBR Press), which argues that fast execution is all about the people stuff.

Today, Jocelyn is an independent consultant and author. Her passions are helping others learn and grow, leading creative teams, writing books, designing learning programs, and working at the intersection of business and the humanities.

When she left Forum, she had a vision of a consulting business built on the idea of leadership as a liberal art. She thought, hey, I’ll write a book to support the business. Turned out, the book became the business! It’s called The Greats on Leadership (Hachette UK)—it’s 25 centuries of the best ideas for leaders, featuring great thinkers and storytellers like Plato, Shakespeare, C.G. Jung, Jane Austen, and lots more.

Jocelyn lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband Matt and daughter Emily.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @JocelynRDavis and over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet 

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.” Churchill by Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet

“Often people are a little too eager to be forward thinking and innovative.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet

“When you look backwards it’s all there to be learned from.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“A great leader can come from anywhere.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“You don’t need status in the hierarchy in order to lead.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“Today, there are so many different ways to be successful.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“Having a child is one of the greatest leadership learning experiences.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“If you’re a leader you’ve got to get comfortable with talking to your monsters.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“When things go wrong, remember it’s about helping the other person.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

“This is not about me; I need to focus on that other person.” -Jocelyn Davis Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Jocelyn Davis got a splash of cold water in her face. Being an executive at a consulting firm she was easily published by Harvard Business Press. But when she tried to get her next book published after departing from her firm she learn a sobering lesson. Listen to Jocelyn tell the story of her journey of getting over the hump.

Advice for others

Find a way to be okay, but never give up.

Holding her back from being an even better leader

My extremely introverted personality.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Of the master when his work is done, his tasks fulfilled, the people will say we did it ourselves.

Secret to Success

I do things that scare me. I made a vow to not let things that scare me stop me.

Best tools that helps in business or Life

My daughter. She is not really a tool but I think that being a parent is one of the greatest leadership experiences one could ever have.

Recommended Reading

Strategic Speed: Mobilize People, Accelerate Execution

The Greats on Leadership: Classic Wisdom for Modern Managers


Contacting Jocelyn





54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.


Show Transcript: 

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

088: Jocelyn Davis: I no longer had a platform


Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.


Need a powerful and entertaining way to ignite your next conference, retreat or team-building session? My keynote don’t include magic but they do have the power to help your attendees take a leap forward by putting emotional intelligence into their employee- engagement, customer-engagement and customer-centric leadership practices. So bring the infotainment creativity the Fast Leader show to your next event and I’ll help your attendees get over the hump now. Go to to learn more.


Okay Fast Leader Legion today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show today that gives a fresh perspective on some classic leaders. Jocelyn Davis grew up in a Foreign Service family and at last count she’s lived in 29 neighborhood and eight countries. Some of the places she had lived are Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Kingston, Jamaica, New Port Rhode Island, Vientiane, Laos, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Panama City, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Toronto, Canada. After college Jocelyn plan to be an academic but she didn’t like grad school so she took off to Los Angeles taking her soon to be husband with her and got a job in publishing. 


In 1989 they move to Boston and she answered the classified ad for a copy editor at the Forum Corporation, a leadership and sales training firm, at that time she’d never heard of the corporate learning industry. Jocelyn stayed at Forum for 20 years, working her way up to become the Executive Vice President of Research and Development. Her team was responsible for developing all the standard training products. One of her proudest achievements there was co-authoring her first book, Strategic Speed published by Harvard Business Review Press, which argues that fast execution is all about the people stuff, Huh! doesn’t that  sound interesting? Today, Jocelyn is an independent consultant and author. Her passions are helping others learning grow, leading creative teams, writing books, designing learning programs and working at the intersection of business and the humanities. When she left Forum, she had a vision of a consulting business built on the idea of leadership as a liberal art. She thought, Hey! I’ll write a book to support the business, it turn out the book became the business, it’s called The Greats on Leadership, it’s 25 centuries of the best ideas for leaders featuring great thinkers and storytellers like Plato, Shakespeare, CZ Zhong, Jane Austin and lots more. Jocelyn lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband Matt and daughter Emily. Jocelyn Davis are you ready to help us get over the hump?


Jocelyn Davis:    I am Jim, thank you. 


Jim Rembach:    Thanks for being here. Now, I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you but can you tell us what you’re current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?


Jocelyn Davis:    Sure. My current passion is, well you already mentioned it, it’s this new book that I just came out with, The Greats on Leadership and that’s what I’m all about at the moment it’s really about ticking that book out to leaders out there in the world of all stripes and helping them become better leaders with some of these ideas and great stories from ages past. 


Jim Rembach:    Now, one of the things that I found interesting is that—we often talk about history and why do we study history so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes cause that’s what’s we’re supposed to be doing as one of our main objectives for learning history. But when I started think about these classic leaders of leadership it’s like I would asked myself, how can we haven’t figure all the stuff out already?


Jocelyn Davis:    Yeah, good question. The book starts out with a quote from Winston Churchill, he was a great leader and a great writer, great author and he said: The further backwards you can look the farther forward you’re likely to see. I really believe that’s true and I think the answer to your question why haven’t we figure it out yet is because I think often everybody is a little too eager to be forward thinking and innovative and that’s what you’re supposed to be as a business person, is always looking for what’s coming down the pike but we sometimes forget that when we look backwards you look at everything that’s happened and this great thinkers and this great ideas and stories from the past it’s all there. It’s all there to be learned from, it’s all there to be gleaned, so I think we often forget to do that and we should. 


Jim Rembach:    Sometimes  that look back could prevent us from taking a step forward if we don’t have some type of confidence in that step that we take and we have to have some boldness in a lot of the innovation of today is not occurring because of fear and not taking that step forward. When you start talking about looking at some of these classic leaders and having that boldness grit some of that foresight to be able to know when to go, where do you find it when you’re looking back?


Jocelyn Davis:    Yeah, yeah, great question. It’s actually one of the main themes in the book. This idea a great leader can come from anywhere. That you don’t need a big title or thousands of followers on Twitter or the corner office, you don’t need that sort of trappings of success or that status if you are on a hierarchy in order to lead. And I’m really pretty passionate about getting this message out to people and I think you learn this from looking back at not just great leaders of the past but great thinkers, great masterminds of the past. Because you see that they’re not talking about as CEO, that’s pretty recent invention—the CEO the modern day organization is only maybe a 100 years old. So, you look back at this great stories and you see all kinds of people, people of different genders and tribes and personalities and there’s just these great stories and ideas that anybody can really latch on to and feel great about the impact that they’re already making as a leader and then maybe try to do even a little bit more.


Jim Rembach:    As you were talking, I started thinking about too as I myself has studied—I wouldn’t necessarily say leaders but studied some folks that today we essentially revere as famous during their day and age and their time they may have been so far out in front of the conventional wisdom and thinking that they’re almost ostracized. So when you were going and doing your research, were you finding that there are certain leaders that at that time when they were alive they weren’t considered leaders however posthumously all of the sudden gain this leadership wisdom?


Jocelyn Davis:    Yeah that’s interesting. There were many authors that I’ve looked at are famous today and I was intentionally going for that, for people who are well-known—Shakespeare and Plato and Churchill we all know those names, but then I also found a few authors, thinkers that are not well known at all today. And one of them is this guy named Theodore Dodge, he was a colonel in the civil era was in the United States and then he became a university professor after that. He wrote this book or series of essays called, The Great Captain, it’s about the great war leaders of the past like Alexander the Great and Caesar and Hannibal, and so Theodore Dodge—he’d been a soldier then became an academic, nobody’s ever heard of him he’s an obscure historian but I put him in my book because he has this great, concise stories of these great captains of Hannibal and how he beat the Romans and Alexander the Great and what he did. It’s interesting I think sometimes we have to look to the lesser known, not just leaders but the lesser known thinkers and people who had looked back at these great leaders and had written about and pay attention to what they said.


Jim Rembach:    I think great you bring up a really interesting point on one of the things about the Fast Leader show is that there’s leaders amongst us, they’re all over the place and the beauty about what I get to do on the Fast Leader show is highlight those folks and the things that they’ve learned so that they can teach us all. And thanks for being one of those folks are here because I think you just saying and pointing that out about Dodge is critically important. And I know it may not seem so related but to me I think it kind of fit and this is just my oddball way of thinking, there was something I was reading talking about the types of apples that we eat and just like the—only a 150, 200 years ago there were like 200 or 300 varieties and because of us only focusing on one or two there’s really only eight varieties that are currently really farmed, it’s really small so it’s really amazing what we’ve done and so I think that we can actually enrichen and deepen our bounty if we seek and look for those lesser-known leaders like you’re talking  about and thanks for bringing them to life through your book, I appreciate that.


Jocelyn Davis:    Yeah, absolutely.


Jim Rembach:    Now I know as doing—research and looking at these classics and looking at things that are not as known you probably have come across tons of different quotes and we love those on the Fast Leader show because they will help to inspire us and do a lot of different things. But is there one or two that kind of stands out for you that you can share with us?


Jocelyn Davis:    Yeah. There’s one quote that I came across several years ago by Maya Angelo, who’s a great poet. She was a poet laureate probably in United States for a while’s and what she said—said a lot of great things but the quote of hers that’s my favorite is: “They’ll forget what you said, they’ll forget what you did but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” When I first hear that quote it just took the top my head off cause I was like, ‘Wow! That is profound.” Because that just says so much about how—leaders make this mistake often, I make this mistake of thinking that, Oh, everybody is paying attention to what I’m saying, and they’re paying attention to what I’m doing, and I got to be really good and say all these good stuff and do all this good stuff, but really what that quote says to me is that, nobody’s going to remember any of that and I’m relate them and remember a bit of it, but really what they remember is how you made them feel. Did you inspire? Did you encourage? Did you make people feel like they could be leaders? Did you make them feel good? Or did you make them feel like crap? That’s what it really comes down to when you’re talking leadership. So, I try to remember that quote. 


Jim Rembach:    I think that’s a good point as far as it’s something that it always has to be brought back into the forefront of our mind because it is so easy to lose sight of that. Thank you for sharing that. You and I had the opportunity to chat about a couple of different things previously and I really enjoyed getting to meet you and know more about you. We talked about humps and we talked about a couple of different humps amongst ourselves. Is there a story that you can share with us that will help us get in a better direction like it did for you? Can you share that?


Jocelyn Davis:    Yeah, I’m happy to no question in my mind when you said share a story of hump where a challenge or struggle. There’s one story that immediately comes to mind for me which is the story of how I got fired from the company that I had worked for 20+ years and then went on to get past that and move on to other things but the interesting thing about that whole experience, one of the many interesting thing, is that I had written a book at that company several years back and I was really proud and pleased with that book, Strategic Speed it’s called and you mentioned that earlier, I was reading up to this issue where, and you Jim came in, so things weren’t right and I end up getting fired for insubordination of all things which is I kind of feel proud of that now because I’m not a very insubordinate person and the fact that I got fired for insubordination is sort of makes me truckle a little bit. But leading up to that point I was—I was an executive, I was head of R & D, I’ve written this book—co-authored this book,  and it was very easy to get that book published and I thought at that time, “Oh, it’s because it’s such a great book and Harvard Business Press loved it. It is a good book I think and I’m sure they did love it but what sort of a rude awakening for me after I got shown the door was that I realized when I decided to write my next book, I realize pretty quickly that I no long had a platform. I no longer was an executive at a consulting firm with a platform that would allow me to quickly sell another book. So it was a real cold water in the face for me I guess, because I left and I was like—oh, you know, no problem okay about…the fire that’s kind of drag, but it’s okay because I’m going to go on and write my next book and have my own business and be independent. 


But I quickly discovered that as I started to try to sell this next book to publishers that they we’re like well you know, who are you? You’re not famous, you’re not an executive with the company anymore so you don’t have what they call a platform. So, I had to really sort of take a step back and say, “Okay, what am I going to do here? Am I going to persist and try to build that credibility, kind of do it on my own really do it on my own. I thought I had done it on my own before but I really hadn’t, I had done it based on being a part of this company and having this title. And I realize that I no longer have that title, I no longer have that platform so I was going to have to do it based on other things like just being really, really persistent and resilient I guess. So, that’s what I did and it took me two years to write the book and two years to sell it. So I was writing and selling, trying to sell all along to that whole period and really the answer at the end of the day was that sheer persistence, thinking, realizing that I was going to get a lot of no’s but eventually I would get a yes, and eventually I did get a yes, so that’s’ my hump.


Jim Rembach:    Thanks for sharing that and I know—you and I had kind of talked about  how a lot of those things had strung together in regards to you being terminated and then trying to get the book sold and one of the things that you didn’t share that you shared with me is that there was a lot of rejection along the way. It wasn’t a situation where you continued to beat the pavement on trying to get that thing published. And a lot of people probably sitting there saying, Gosh! It’s easy all you have to do is just self-publish. But that’s not as easy as it seems to be either there’s a lot of a romantic thoughts about the of the whole self-publishing concept but it still comes down to if you want to sell you still have to have the platform. But traditional publishers as well as self-publishing the difference between a book that is recognized and one that isn’t comes down to the marketing and promotion aspects. The traditional publishing houses they’re not good promoters and marketers that’s still left to the person who writes the book even though it may have gotten published.


Jocelyn Davis:    Right. That’s right. And funny because I know you’re going to ask about an epiphany that I had in connection with this this story. And the epiphany that I had was actually related to what you’ve just said about self-publishing because you’re right I got so many rejections. I even went out to get a literary agent, first I thought I could do it on my own, go directly to publishers that didn’t work so I got a literary agent, that’s the whole process filled with rejection in itself. But eventually made it through that, I got the agent. And then thought, hurray, I made it now I’ve got an agent now it’s smooth sailing, but my agent was not able to sell the book either so that again another huge splash of cold water in the face. So then the epiphany for me came after my agent said, “You know what I don’t think we’re going to be successful in selling this book” so no hard feelings and we parted ways. 


And I thought to myself, “You know what, I’m going to keep trying, I’m going to keep trying to get a tradition publisher but I also realized that if I needed to self-publish then I was going to be absolutely okay with that. So there were sort of a mental shift and I really think this says something about, acceptance or just really being okay with wherever you are right now because I remember thinking to myself, “You know what, I’m may have to end up self-publishing this book and if I do that is absolutely okay because I believe in the book, I believe in what I’ve done, I know I can do and it, I know I can get out there and it’ll be okay. And I think that somehow that sort of made the universe, this is sound crazy but I think this sort of made the universe shift a little bit because the next day I went back and I Google self-publishers and hybrid publishers and little publishers, independent publishers and I was just Googling around and I came across this two British based publishers that just sort of there was something about them that I find, “aha, this seem like they’re my people.” So I reached out to them and almost immediately got responses back from both of them saying ‘yes we’re interested, we’d like to see a proposal and then went forward with Nicholas Brealy which was the one that ended up really, really liking the book a lot, and the rest was history. And then they published it and then were bought by Hashet, which is one of the big five publishers so that was fortuitous. But the point is just my epiphany was realizing that at some time in a process like this you have to just make peace with what you’ve done and whether or not anybody buys it, whether or not anybody gives you money for it you need to be okay with what you’ve done. 


Jim Rembach:    I think finding that place as well as you also had the persistence to keep going. You found a place but you still kept going so it wasn’t like you use it as an approval to quit, so good for you. 


Jocelyn Davis:    That’s right, exactly. It wasn’t about saying okay, I’m okay and now I quit it was just that you know I’m going to keep going and whatever happens it’ll be okay.


Jim Rembach:    Yeah. I think that’s a really important thing to point out here, don’t give yourself the okay to qui because time and time again when you start looking at a lot of people who have found success is because of the persistence piece it is not because of the permission piece.


Jocelyn Davis:    That’s right.  You’re absolutely right. There’s so many ways these days to be successful and not just in publishing but in any endeavor. There’s just new ways to get your message out there whether you’re an entrepreneur or you want to be part of a large company or you want to be a driver for Uber or whatever you want to do there’s just so many different ways now to do it. So I think for me it was also about that agility, knowing that I was going to keep moving forward and so I had that goal in mind but there were different ways that I could get there maybe it would be one way maybe it will be another way but that was okay because I knew what the end goal was. 


Jim Rembach:    I know you’ve got a lot of things that are going on. Of course the book and promoting that book and consulting practice. But if you start looking at all of those things, what are some of your goals? 


Jocelyn Davis:    Let’s see. So, my main goal is to frankly, just get this book into as many people’s hand as I can. The other is sort of a sub-goal if you will, is to develop training, learning program that goes with the book, because that’s something that I know how to do that’s what I’ve done my whole life, for my whole professional life is to build learning programs. And so, I’m working on that and again I’m hoping that I will be able to partner with a company to an existing company to do that but that doesn’t work out I’ll be okay doing it on my own. But I really want to get the book out there several different forms, the ideas in the book ** out there in several different forms. 


Jim Rembach:    And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor:


And even better place to work is an easiest solution that gives you a continuous diagnostic on employee engagement along with integrated activities that will improve employee engagement and leadership skills in everyone. Using this award winning solution guaranteed to create motivated, productive and loyal employees who have great relationships with their colleagues and your customers. To learn more about an even better place to work, visit /better. 

Alright here we go Fast Leader Legion, it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay Jocelyn, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster.  Jocelyn Davis, are you ready to hoedown?


Jocelyn Davis:    I am. 


Jim Rembach:    Alright.  What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today? 


Jocelyn Davis:    What’s holding me back is my extremely introverted personality which mean that I don’t really enjoy or I find it tiring to be out there talking to people interacting with lots of people all the time. You know when you’re a leader or trying to be a leader you do need to interact with people you can’t just sit in the room and write book. So, that what’s hold me back.


Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?


Jocelyn Davis:    The best leadership advice I have ever received is from Lao Tzu who is a 6th century BC Chinese philosopher, he wrote the Tao Teh Ching, a very famous work of philosophy poetry. And he has a verse in the Tao Teh Ching it says, “Of the master when his work is done his task fulfilled the people will say we did it ourselves.”


Jim Rembach:     What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?


Jocelyn Davis:    Secret that contributes to my success is I think I do thing that scare me so I’m often scared to do things but I made a vow to myself many, many years ago that I was never going to let that stop me. Being scared of something was not going to stop me, so I do things that scare me.


Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?


Jocelyn Davis:    Okay, so this is not a tool actually but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s a person, she’s not a tool, it’s my daughter. I think that being a parent, having a child is one of the greatest leadership learning experiences one could ever had. My daughter she’s not a tool, she’s a person but she just teaches me every day how to be a better leader. 


Jim Rembach:    What would be one book that you’d recommend to our listeners, and it could be from any genre? 


So, I’m going to recommend, well of course I would recommend my book, The Great’s on Leadership, that’s one but the other one that I would recommend is a book that I talked about in the Greats on leadership, which is surprisingly Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly. And everybody when I talk about this book they were like, “That’s not a leadership book, what are you talking about.” But I will tell you, Frankenstein is one of the best book for leaders that anybody could every read because it is all about a leader who fails miserably engaging with this creature that he’s created, that he’s built. And it’s about this scenario that so many leaders run into when you’ve created this thing, this project and ** new and it’s not working out and what do you do? And Frankenstein is all about a leader who really does the wrong thing, he does not talk with his monster. What I say is that, if you’re a leader you’ve got to get comfortable taking with your monsters because that’s what real courage is is.


Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader listeners you can find links to that and other bonus information from today show by going to Davis. Okay, Jocelyn this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything you can only choose one, what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?


Jocelyn Davis:    So I would take back the knowledge that it’s really never about me. That when there’s a conflict or when things are going wrong or somebody’s screaming at you or whenever things are going awry you have to remember that it is all about the other person. It’s about helping that other person through whatever it is they’re going through, and you can always do that you can always make everything right. But it’s really important to understand that they’re not thinking about you they’re thinking about themselves. So if you’re a leader, you need to realize this is not about me I need to focus on that person help them and that’s what it means to be leader.


Jim Rembach:    Jocelyn, it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?


Sure you can go to my website which is 


Jim Rembach:    Jocelyn Davis, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. 


Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.