Lee Ellis
Wisdom Unveiled from Captivity

A robust community made an immense impact. In Vietnam, as POWs, we endured suffering, but we suffered together. We also found solace and healing together.

Lee Ellis
Listen Now
Show Notes

Colonel Lee Ellis(@LeeEllis), president of Leading with Honor, is a true leader with a remarkable story. A Vietnam War fighter pilot, Lee was shot down and endured over five years as a POW in the Hanoi system, emerging with resilience and strength. He seamlessly transitioned his experiences into leadership consultancy, sharing his insights through multiple impactful books. Lee’s riveting speeches, drawing from his captivating past, make him a highly sought-after speaker, leaving audiences inspired and transformed. 

“If you have great love and you have responsibility growing up, you’re going to be a healthier person.”

-Lee Ellis


Key Takeaways:

  • 5×5 Code of POW’s: The 5×5 matrix tapping code, initially employed by prisoners of war (POWs) during World War II to covertly communicate through walls, involved a grid with five rows and five columns, excluding the letter K. This ingenious code allowed POWs to tap out messages by indicating specific rows and columns, enabling secret communication within confinement. The code’s success in fostering covert communication led to its continued use in subsequent conflicts, including the Vietnam War, where POWs in places like the infamous Hanoi Hilton utilized this method to share crucial information and support one another in the face of adversity. This code is a testament to POWs’ resilience and resourcefulness across different periods of history.
  • Secure and Insecure: We’re all sliding back and forth between feeling secure and insecure. We all must move toward being more secure and believing in ourselves; in this belief, we want to be confident and humble. When we are confident and humble, then we can be realistic. This allows us to take ownership of mistakes and clean up misunderstandings, which is essential in leadership. 
  • Independent and Interdependent. Maintaining personal autonomy is vital in relationships—an aspect highlighted by the necessity to be independent. Simultaneously, recognizing the significance of interdependence is equally essential, especially within meaningful relationships. Striking a balance between these qualities becomes a cornerstone for personal growth and successful, mutually supportive connections.
  • Kokoro: SEALFIT’s 50-hour crucible, inspired by Navy SEAL Hell Week, draws from Samurai tradition, emphasizing the integration of head, heart, and hands in action and service. Over a decade, participants have experienced transformative outcomes, breaking free from limited thinking, enhancing decision-making, and fostering calm and clarity. The training instills a commitment to service, with individuals channeling their newfound insights for the benefit of others.

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Happy Holidays!

Links for Lee Ellis:




First of all, thanks so much for doing this. I’ve been looking forward to talking to you, and I really appreciate you sending your books. You know, I think I’ve only talked to one other POW. And I wish I could remember his name right now and it’s escaping me. You probably knew him.

Lee Ellis  0:13  

I’ll probably know most of them. 

Mark Divine  0:16  

Yeah, I bet you do. But I always wanted to meet Admiral Stockdale when he was alive. 

Lee Ellis 0:17


Mark Divine 0:17

But it didn’t happen. I’m a little younger than him. I want to talk about that experience. But I always like to start out with like, kind of let’s go back a little bit earlier. You were from Georgia, like, what was the origin story? Like for Lee Ellis, right, what were the parents like? What were the some of the foundational pillars that kind of led you into the military and just made you who you were back then before the whole POW thing?

Lee Ellis  0:44  

Yeah. So I grew up on a farm about 10 or 12 miles outside of Athens, Georgia, between Athens and Commerce, Georgia and Athens toward the University of Georgia is. My mother had graduated from there in 1931, went to South Georgia was a home demonstration agent. Which means she taught, women…

Mark Divine 1:00

Ha, women’s demonstration agent, that’s interesting 

Lee Ellis 1:02

That was a term that state every county had one. And she worked with women and, and men too, but teaching them how to can, how to sew, how to do things, you know, it was paid for by the county. 


Mark Divine 1:14



Lee Ellis 1:15

It was this natural thing back then it was until the 50s actually, but she did that. And then she transferred over to another town and she met my dad in, Cordial, Georgia. They got married. And then her mother got cancer was dying on the farm in North Georgia. So she had my dad and I just been born about a year before, and my older brother, we moved up to North Georgia to the farm. My dad was not a farmer. He was a little towner in south Georgia. But he wasn’t a farmer. But my grandfather was and we lived there near him on the farm. And then when my grandmother died, we moved in. But all that to say I had pigs to feed. 


Mark Divine 1:53



Lee Ellis 1:53

I had wood to chop, coal to bring in and shuttle, and I plowed mules. And I tell people, it was a unique era to be growing up.


Mark Divine  2:01  

Give us the time frame, is this the 50s or the 60s?


Lee Ellis  2:04  

I was born in 43’. So we moved up there in 47.


Mark Divine 2:07

Ok, so this was the 50s. Wow. 


Lee Ellis 2:09

In 53’ I would have been 10 years old. 


Mark Divine 2:12



Lee Ellis 2:12

I started driving a car and a truck when I was 11 years old. Okay, back then you could do that. 


Mark Divine 2:17



Lee Ellis 2:17

That was the kind of person, my brother who’s two and a half years older, he didn’t drive anything till he was 16. I started driving when I was 11. I chauffeured my grandfather to funerals. I went to a lot of funerals, because all his friends were dying. And he’d say, Can I drive? He said, Yeah. And I drive his 49’ Ford to the funeral and sit in the back. I just wanted to be adventurous and that sort of thing. 

Well, when I was five, we went to a little picnic at the veterans park in Athens, Georgia. And they had a world war two fighter plane, sitting there on a pedestal. I climbed up on it. And it was like, this is where I belong. 


Mark Divine 2:53



Lee Ellis 2:53

And then in eighth grade, my homeroom was in the library, we go in there for 15 minutes and check in, I sat next to the A’s. And I would pull out a book, aircraft, aerospace. And I’d read it for 15 minutes every morning. So I was wired. Even though I was playing those mules at age 11,12, 13,14, 15. On the farm, I’d look up and see those airplanes overhead, and I’d say someday, I’m going to be doing that, and not this. 


Mark Divine 3:18

Man, that’s cool. 


Lee Ellis 3:19

It was a unique era, you know, plotting mules. And five years later, I was flying a supersonic jet, the F4 Phantom. 


Mark Divine  3:26  

That’s amazing. And I can imagine, you know, I was born in 63. But I still remember, you know, the early days of all the spaceflight in the Sputnik missions and Apollo missions, and there was a fascination with space. And, you know, the test pilots of the Air Force, and, you know, obviously, all the services, but mainly the Air Force were all involved in that. So I could see that being such a siren call, you know, for young, adventurous folk, similar to how the SEALs were for me. 


Lee Ellis 3:50

Yeah, yeah. 


Mark Divine 3:51

Later on, in a different way. Growing up on a farm too, you know, I wish more people could experience that these days. And I think we probably will, you know, in my opinion, will have to get back to more of that. And you’re starting to see, you know, more intentional communities and people that kind of intuitively heading off the grid. And getting back to that, because, you know, we need that right, warth needs us to have hands on and we need to be hands on.


Lee Ellis 4:15



Mark Divine 4:16

And this movement of the past 30-40 years of this mass industrialization of farming, and everything is actually, in my opinion, is killing humanity. It’s not helping humanity.


Lee Ellis  4:24  

I have a friend whose son is in the mid 30s, former Marine, his son is, and he works here in Atlanta. And we went to dinner one night with my friend and his wife and their son and her wife. And we were talking about their four kids. And they have four kids and the youngest ones about five and you’ll listen to about 11 or 12. And he was talking about he had built a system where they all have chores. A five year old has chores or have simple little chores. And as you grow older, you have different chores and bigger chores. And I thought this is the best idea I’ve ever heard because responsibility and accountability, I know that they love their kids greatly. So if you have great love, and you have responsibility growing up, you’re going to be a healthier person. 


Mark Divine 5:07

For sure. 


Lee Ellis 5:08

And so I’m thinking about going back to them and saying, let’s work on a little book. And I’ll get you an author to help you and you do a little workbook even. To help parents figure out how to help their children become responsible, and take ownership for a task as they’re growing up because so much of the habit and whenever they have a failure nowadays, it’s like they get depressed, they have to go to a counselor.


Mark Divine  5:34  

I know. Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. And working with your hands, it doesn’t have to be growing, but I love the idea of kind of going back to more community, intentional living, where everyone can participate, right. And I think that that’s, again, you’re gonna see a lot of that happen. We don’t I don’t want to get into politics or anything unless the conversation goes there. But like, we all have a sense that our society culture, everything’s kind of on the is on the edge. There’s the doomsayers and the collapsers, and the survivalist but then you know, I kind of approach it from the emergence perspective, like what’s emerging, was trying to, you know, was trying to grow up in the cracks and what’s trying to reassert itself in terms of balance and harmony and living? Living in harmony with the earth and putting aside all the linear extraction and conquer kind of conquest thinking of the industrial age, which has been, of course perpetuated, to this day through the military, pharmacological, industrial, political, you know, establishment, and the concentration of power and energy there is doing a lot of damage, and people see that. So they’re asking questions, how can we be part of the solution? I think that’s one of the reasons that motivates me to do these podcast and have conversations with people like you, because there’s a lot of gaps in leadership, right, so I think we can lead by example, like you are with your kids, and through your work, and I’m trying to do the same thing, you know, through how I take care of my body and take care of, you know, our community is like a living embodiment of healthy, mentally tough, emotionally mature, you know, spiritually grounded. And so people need to see it to believe it, because they don’t believe anything anymore. That’s coming at him from social media and the news. 


Lee Ellis 7:13

You know, I’ll be 80 in October.


Mark Divine  7:15  

Amazing, you look terrific.


Lee Ellis  7:17  

I can still do 30 Push ups.


Mark Divine 7:18

Right on.


Lee Ellis 7:19

I go to the gym some, I work eight or 10 hours a day, most days. In fact, I’m talking about your book earlier, it’s really helping me, I got to focus, refocus, and managing my time, so that I have time to be the person that I need to be and want to be. But still, I feel like I’m on a mission. 


Mark Divine 7:37



Lee Ellis 7:37

I have purpose and mission in my life. And I have been given the opportunity to do it. And so I’m sharing this message about leadership and about teamwork, you have to be both responsible and tough, and you have to be caring.


Mark Divine  7:51  

That’s the hand in the glove, right? You have to have that both. I mean, that’s the yin and the yang, from the Eastern tradition, like it’s the same thing. You have to be strong, but you also have to be flexible and inclusive and loving. Heart, head and hands all united. In fact you would find this interesting, but when I launched SEALFIT, back in 2006, I think originally I called my, I have this 50 hour nonstop like really intense team training event that we loosely modeled after the Hell Week, Navy SEALs Hell Week, big differences, we teach those skills that I introduced in The Way of the SEAL. Like we teach breath control and visualization and mindful awareness and concentration power. And we do it in the context of a team, right, to take your eyes off yourself, put them on your team, we started to see these extraordinary transformations occurring. You knoe 12 hour flow states, you know, people finally opening up and in a loving relationship with complete strangers. 


Lee Ellis 8:46



Mark Divine 8:47

And so I was trying to figure out, what is this? What’s going on? Like, what am I call this and because I was a martial artist, I’ve been inspired by the, you know, some of the martial, ancient Samurai, and you know, those warrior traditions where they were able to fuse the hard and the soft, right, the inner and the outer that yin and yang. And there’s this term that kept popping up to me, and it was Kokoro. And Kokoro means to merge your head and your heart and your hands in action or in service. Isn’t that cool? And so I like that’s what’s happening. These people, as a result of this training, and this experience, are opening their heart, they’re getting out of their head from a limited thinking and opening up their mind and accessing more of their mind; better decision making, more calm, clarity. But then they’re expressing it in service to others. And that’s what I think we need more of in this world. We need people to open their hearts and to be, put their eyes on others and realize, look for the sameness instead of always pointing out the differences and drawing lines and boundaries and borders and pointing weapons at each other like this. Obviously not working.


Lee Ellis  9:50  

I had a session yesterday a two hour session with a bunch of NCOs in the Air Force.


Mark Divine 9:57

Oh great. 


Lee Ellis

And I had a one page handout where they I’d look at the six things that are typical of a person who’s highly results-mission focus, and one who’s more relationship-social focused-people focused, and had them identify which one was their more tilted towards. Because 40% population tends to be toward one and 40% toward another natural go to. And it was interesting because a lot of them admitted that they were more relational, and did not hold people accountable. And so we talked about how to hold people accountable in a loving way. You know, if you’re a parent, you got to learn to do that. And if you’re a leader, you got to learn to show people respect and care about them, but hold them accountable. 


Mark Divine 10:40



Lee Ellis 10:41

I said, you know, you got to engage with them early on, you can’t put it off, when you see it starting to get off track, you got to pull them in and say, let’s talk about it. But it was interesting, because we were talking about this whole thing of caring about your people, but also holding them accountable, being tough, but still caring about them. 


Mark Divine  10:59  

That’s really what tough love means. It doesn’t mean just be tough. And then, in your own mind, say, well, I still love them. I mean, it’s like, literally, let me use another example with SEALFIT, the experience that people have with my SEAL coaches, who are all have put 1000’s of people through our training. If you just watch the YouTube video, what you see is Navy SEAL training, like it’s intense, right? It’s intense. But if you’re there, and you’re standing on the other in front of one of these Navy SEAL coaches, who are one of my coaches, what you feel is love, it’s tough love. It’s for their interests, for their best interest to teach them how to get through this challenging situation, and pointing out where their actions, behaviors or thoughts aren’t working and aren’t going to serve them in that capacity. So I think that requires training, right. It requires. And when I say training, it doesn’t have to be formal training in a training program. But opening up that heart and having those compassionate conversations and developing that capacity for tough love requires work.

Lee Ellis 11:59



Mark Divine 12:00

It’s hard work. The soft, especially for men.


Lee Ellis 12:02



Mark Divine 12:03

You know, you know, developing compassion and having open hearted conversations. It’s hard work. 


Lee Ellis 12:07



Mark Divine 12:07

But it’s got to be done, right. 


Lee Ellis 12:09

Yesterday,I remembered what you would have said, I said, now, you got to set aside time to reflect and meditate, you got to set aside time in the mornings and evenings think about what’s going on in your organization. And listen to your intuition. If something tells you it’s probably not going well over there, you probably need to go investigate and check it out and see whether it is or not. I said I learned this because I had pictures of all my direct reports on the wall. And I would sit there and just look at them. And I felt like everything was okay, I’d keep going and I go to somebody, say something tells me that it’s not right in there. And I call him in and say, okay, how’s everything going in your area? Well, what about so and so? 

Yeah, he’s a problem. If they said, no, there’s not a problem. I said, Why don’t you go dig into it and see, and just come back and let me know if it’s okay, fine, if not take care of it. And I said, taking time to meditate and reflect on your world and what’s happening and where you are, is going to really help you be able to balance and adapt to either be tougher, or kinder and more affirming of people. 


Mark Divine  13:17  

All right, I’d love to learn a little bit more about your actual Air Force career, you know, getting become a pilot and what you flew and what were that was like, and then also, let’s get into the incident, you know, when suddenly you realize you’re falling through the air, your planes going down.


Lee Ellis  13:32  

So I graduated from college in 1965. And three days later, I was in flight school. 53 weeks later, I had an assignment. It said F4 Phantom pipeline Southeast Asia. 


Mark Divine 13:45

You knew what that meant, didn’t you? 


Lee Ellis 13:47

Yeah, I did, because this was August of 1966. So the war in Vietnam is building up fairly quickly then. 


Mark Divine 13:53



Lee Ellis 13:53

So I went to S.E.R.E school, and then to F4 training combat training out in the high desert of California between near Victorville, but it’s between about a third of the way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.


Mark Divine 14:06

Was that Edwards Air Force Base, or?


Lee Ellis 14:08

No, it was George Air Force Base.


Mark Divine 14:09

Georgia, yeah I know Georgia.


Lee Ellis 14:10

Closer, but we were about 120 miles south of China Lake. And we would do all our bombing range was up there. And occasionally we get into a little dogfight with the Navy fighters up there. And sometimes we go down to San Diego and get in a little dogfight. And it was wonderful. We did everything they did in Top Gun, all the air to air and all the air to ground, which they didn’t do in the first Top Gun, but they did in the second one. And it was all for getting ready qualified to go to war. And as quick as we finished, we headed out to Southeast Asia, either to Thailand, we had a couple of bases there, or to Vietnam, and I went to Denae in the northern part of South Vietnam about 60 miles south of the DMZ. Wow.


Mark Divine  14:55  

Wow, so you actually flew missions out of Danang? 


Lee Ellis  14:58  

Yes, I did. And initially, when I first got there, I was in a 366 tech fighter wing, which was the F4 wing at Danang. And they were flying all the missions that were flown into North Vietnam by Air Force. And part of those were bombing missions up near Hanoi. And part of those were mid cap, they call it mid cap, protecting the bombers from the MIGs who were coming in to attack them. 


Mark Divine 15:22



Lee Ellis 15:22

So I was all excited about that in three weeks after I got there. The seventh Air Force in Saigon took away that mission from us and all we did was fly into the southern part of North Vietnam, with air to ground bombing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and trucks, and bridges, and road blowing up the road, as well as close air support for the Marines and the Army up in the northern part of Vietnam and interdiction missions in Laos. But mainly I flew bombing interdiction missions of bombing the roads and trucks in southern part of North Vietnam.


Mark Divine  15:57  

Mhmm, just walk me through like a typical mission, like how long do they last? You know, what were the critical inflection points? And what was your mind doing throughout those missions?


Lee Ellis  16:06  

Well, if you went up on a mission up near Hanoi, that was a total different thing. Because you went in a big formation.


Mark Divine 16:12



Lee Ellis 16:13

There were16 F4’s and a bunch of 105’s and all that, 30 or 40 airplanes going into bomb.


Mark Divine 16:19



Lee Ellis 16:19

To protect the bombers. And there was a lot more surface there, missiles and migs up there. Whereas if you’re in the southern part flying like a was it was mostly in aircraft artillery, and if you got down low, it was machine guns and rifles and all that kind of stuff.


Mark Divine 16:34



Lee Ellis 16:34

We always got shot at almost every mission we got shot at. And you see tracers here and there and especially when you’re rolling in and you’re coming down to bomb. You can see tracers and 7th to November 1967 was on my 53rd mission up north and the tracers were going by, but when the bombs came off, right, we pulled immediately and the airplane blew up. 


Mark Divine  16:57  

No shit. What caused the explosion you get hit by an aircraft gun, or? 


Lee Ellis  17:01  

That’s an interesting question, because we were sure it had to be triple A and aircraft artillery. And that was unusual because they didn’t you normally never blew up an airplane, they’d blow a hole in the wing or a whole in the tail or hit the engine and the engine would quit. But airplane blew into several pieces. And fortunately..


Mark Divine 17:19



Lee Ellis 17:20

…the cockpit was tumbling, negative g’z, I couldn’t want to eject with my head up against the canopy and all of a sudden flip. And we were so well trained and I just I knew exactly what to do. I pulled the handle boom, my partner and we had two pilots in the Air Force. He jumped out and we just totally doing training. I was slipping my parachute planning my PLF (parachute landing fall). I did mine they actually caught him his parachute. He didn’t get to do a PLF. 


Mark Divine  17:45  

Oh, who’s, you mean the enemy?


Lee Ellis  17:47  

Yes, the enemy caught him.


Mark Divine 17:48

Really? Wow.


Lee Ellis 17:49

Caught him as he was hitting the ground. They caught him.


Mark Divine 17:52

They grabbed the reigns, wow. 


Lee Ellis 17:54

And they probably all fell down. But the militia had him and I got on the ground. And I’ve been trying to slip my parachute to get to a river a couple 100 meters south and that river was only about three quarters of a mile from the Gulf. I said if I can get to the Gulf, the Navy can pick me up. Well, I couldn’t slip it and I did my parachute landing fall, and jumped down an old bomb crater, disconnected my parachute, pulled up my emergency radio, called my wingman and said hey, I’m on the ground 200 meters north river start scraping at 300 I’m headed south. Well, within 90 seconds they captured me. 


Mark Divine 18:25

Oh, no kidding.


Lee Ellis 18:26

Two years after I came home, I was at a fighter pilot reunion. And my wingman was there and he said, hey, I heard your call. But you know what? I decided I couldn’t shoot that accurately. I was afraid they were going to close to you. And I said that was very wise because they surrounded me and captured me within a couple of minutes. 


Mark Divine 18:44



Lee Ellis 18:45

So, they stripped me down to my underwear, searched me gave me my flight suit back and then tied my hands, put a blindfold on me. And that could kind of see out in underneath the bottom part. And then they put a rope around my neck and lead me like a dog from village to village.


Mark Divine 19:00

With your co-pilot?


Lee Ellis 19:01

Actually he was the aircraft commander and I was right out of high school. The Air Force was putting pilots in the backseat; the Navy Marine Corps had Rios factor Radar Intercept Officer. So they put me into underground shelter with him for about I heard somebody we’re both blindfolded I heard somebody’s breathing. It was real quiet. This is like a few minutes after I was captured. And I say Ken, is that you? And he said, yeah, you okay. I said, yeah, are you? He said yeah. And they came in and pulled me out. And I didn’t see him again for a week. 


Mark Divine 19:31



Lee Ellis 19:31

The interesting thing was the guy that was in charge militia of taking me North was a great soldier. He was a tough guy. But he was very honorable, and he used his soldiers to defend me and protect me from the wild and crazy people that were trying to hit me with rocks and sticks and…


Mark Divine  19:49  

Really, even like the civilians?


Lee Ellis 19:52



Mark Divine 19:51

The townspeople? How many of you were there, who were shot down and rolled up into Hanoi?


Lee Ellis  19:57  

Well, there are two groups. The bombings stopped in the summer, late summer of 1968. So from August 4th of 1964, when whoever else was captured in the second person was captured in February 65. So he was there six months, for any of us, he was an A4 pilot, and then by 1968, then that’s when they stopped bombing. And so we had people there five to eight years, eight and a half years. And then we didn’t have any more new guys for almost three years, because it stopped the bombing of the North. Now there were some prisoners captured in the South. There were prisoners in there, put them in layoffs and one part of North Vietnam, but they were not in our system. And we have one of those guys stories, one army guy in our book, Captured by Love book, he was an Army guy. 

But anyway, by 1968, there were about 390 of us that were in the Hanoi POW system. They captured, shot down, a lot of them in 66, but even more in the fall of 67. And that’s why when I got to Hanoi, the prison was almost full, chock full in the other prison. The plantation in the zoo were pretty full because they were capturing so many. So I got put in a six and a half by seven foot cell with three other guys. One of them was Ken Fisher, my aircraft commander, six and a half by seven feet, you know, it’s like a gas station bathroom.


Mark Divine 21:21



Lee Ellis 21:22

And it was a bathroom, we had a three gallon bucket, and thank goodness it had lid on it. And we got the empty at every morning in the sewer. 


Mark Divine 21:29



Lee Ellis 21:29

We got fed twice a day, six months of pumpkin soup, then watery pumpkin soup with either a cup of rice or a small bag of bread. And then twice a day, and then three months of cabbage soup, and then three months of sewer green soup and sewer greens were like chopped up lily pads boiled. The good thing was it was boiled, killed the germs, they’d be bugs in it, they’d be rat turds in it, but overall, it was cooked.


Mark Divine 21:55

It sounds delicious. 


Lee Ellis 21:56

Yeah, you know, you just eat whatever you have to survive. 


Mark Divine  21:58  

You needed the hydration too. So they’re smart enough to give you that a lot more people would have died without that probably. I’m curious, you know, why were they so successful at bringing down our aircraft? Was it just because of the close combat nature of the war?


Lee Ellis  22:12  

Yes. One reason is because our targets were controlled from Washington, DC.


Mark Divine 22:18



Lee Ellis 22:19

By people who didn’t know anything about the military. It was stupid, you know. We were flying the strikes over Hanoi occurred like three times a day, four times a day, at a certain hour, you know, here they come.


Mark Divine 22:29



Lee Ellis 22:29

And it was just crazy and here was the other thing, we could not go in and bomb certain parts of Hanoi. And we could not shut down. Haiphong or their harbor was for all the stuff was coming in. We did bomb the railroads coming in from China, where a lot of the stuff from Russia came in to China and China was providing some, but most of their stuff surfaced air missiles, that sort of thing. And American soldiers, fighter pilots was so convinced and convicted to do their mission. And when you rolled in, you got to drop those bombs or whatever, right. That meant that it was the most highly defended area in the world. There’s no area like Hanoi, just no place ever been defended like North Vietnam between Hanoi and Haiphong.


Mark Divine  23:12  

It seems almost like you’re hamstrung, your hands are tied to actually do the important work, which was to shut off the supply of ammunition. 


Lee Ellis  23:21  

Mark, I had been there. I’m a 23 year old First Lieutenant. I’d flown, after about 20 missions, 25 missions, I thought what the hell is going on here? Who’s running the show? I can think of ways that are better to fight this war, air war, then then we’re doing. I’m pretty confident guy. Okay. But I think most of us saw that. But the one much we could do about it.


Mark Divine  23:45  

Right, of course not. Well, we’ll leave the politics of it aside.


Lee Ellis 23:50

There you go.


Mark Divine 23:50

Cuz you could look at every war like that, right? Like what’s going on?


Lee Ellis 23:53

That’s right.


Mark Divine 23:54

So this experience, like most people can’t even fathom, you know, a week of imprisonment, you know, losing your freedom like that. And the shame and the debasement that comes with that loss of freedom. And, you know, some people got treated worse than others, probably, and there’s a little luck involved, but like, talk us through that experience. And we know a lot about Stockdale, and you know, some of the stories and ways that you guys all came together as a team, and kept rank structure, and learned to communicate and tell us about that. And I’ll just let you talk because I don’t really know what question to ask because it’s such a foreign concept to me.


Lee Ellis  24:30  

Here’s the thing. Initially, we were isolated our walls in that six and a half by seven foot cell at one cellblock it didn’t have any touching walls so that separated em, and built those little cells, from what the fridge had, that separated em. and so we couldn’t tap on the wall anybody next door for the first eight months I was there. One day I heard a guy’s voice outside on the inside the camp grounds there on the inside wall, and I heard a guy, english, American voice say hey, you guys know the code, and I jumped up and we had these wooden boards to sleep on, and I was on the top it was like bunk beds, but they were against the wall there was 16 inches apart. 

So we had to take turns walking the seven foot back and forth.

I jumped up and he said, my name is Tscaudy. It was spelledT-S-C-A-U-D-Y. He said, My name is Tscaudy, the code is five by five matrix. A is one one, B is one, two. And about that time, the guard came over and slugged him and dragged him away. Well, I turned around and told my cellmates, what happened and what he said. And one of them said, what’s the missing letter? five by five matrix. 25 letters, just 26 letters in the alphabet. He said, what’s the missing letter? He said, he got dragged away before he told me. So I said, it’s probably z we don’t use it that much in English. So let’s try z. And we did for three or four weeks, and some words worked out, some words fell apart. As we were hearing people out in the in the wash house, there was a wash house in the central courtyard. And guys would get these bamboo brooms and sweep away the scum on the floor. And you can hear em sweeping code. Well, one day, they brought a guy in from an interrogation and he was about my height and had real black hair like I did then. And they opened the door, pushed him in, slammed the door and left and he had mistakenly put him in our cell thinking he was me. And so we got to talk. And you know, what’s, where are you from? We’re doing who’s in your cell? And we said, what’s the missing letter? And he said, it’s k. You use c for k. So then we had it.


Mark Divine  26:32  

I’m curious, who developed that, like, where did that come from? 


Lee Ellis  26:35  

Well, here’s the deal. One guy, of all the POWs one guy at S.E.R.E school, the instructor said in World War Two, the gods were able to tap on the pipes from one building to the other in Germany, to tap on the pipes and communicate. And as they walked out of there, this guy kept walked up to the instructor and says, wait a minute, how did they communicate? You can’t tap a dot and the dash for Morse code. And the instructor said, Oh, it’s not Morse code. It’s the tap code five by five matrix. You use c for k, and this guy remembered it. His name is Smitty Harrison. He was POW number five. He’s 94 years old. His story is in our new book, Captured by Law.


MArk Divine 27:16



Lee Ellis 27:17

And Smitty, passed it on. He was in solitary and he got put in sell with Bob Shoemaker, who was the senior ranking guy there, Lieutenant Commander, Bob Shoemaker, who retired, Admiral. 8 year POW. And so they got put in a cell with three other guys. And then they split them back apart, and they spread the word, and everybody would risk everything, to spread the word and share the tap code. So we all had it.


Mark Divine 27:40



Lee Ellis 27:41

Guys would tap long poems. In addition to all the operational information, we need to know, guys would tap Bible verses, poems, books, even books through the wall.


Mark Divine  27:53  

Now the captors must have known this is going on, because they can hear this tapping going on. So they tried to stop it?


Lee Ellis  27:58  

We had a real good secure system. In it, if somebody heard the guard coming down the hall, they would bump the wall with their elbow, and you hear a bump. And everybody just acts like they’re not doing anything. You know, they’re just, and they finally figured out we were tapping on the wall, but they couldn’t break it. They couldn’t understand it, because we had shave and a haircut to start it, and you had to respond with two bits.


Mark Divine  28:24  

I love that. That’s awesome. Oh, fascinating. That established what letter came next. After two bits.


Lee Ellis  28:32  

Let me tell you about being tortured. So here’s what happened. 95% of people were tortured. When I got there, they told me they wanted me to fill in all of us to fill in a three page biography. FOur of us in my cell. One guy filled it out right away. And he ended up being one of only three collaborators with the enemy out of 390 or so. But he was a senior ranking guy. And the number two guy, the guy I was flying with, Ken Fisher believed him of command until he was court martialed when we got home. But the other three of us were tortured to fill out that three page biography, I figured it was for the Russians to build up a understanding of American pilots or something. Anyway, I was tortured. And I finally gave in. And I filled out that three page biography, and the only thing I put on it that was true was my father’s first and last name, hoping that someday I could write a letter home. Which I did at two years. I got my first letters, six, nine letters at two and a half years. But when I finished that I’m in handcuffs, leg irons, blindfolded…


Mark Divine 29:37

You just made up the story?


Lee Ellis 29:38

Yeah, I just all the stuff in there, we just made up okay, but here’s the deal. I was so ashamed. Oh my gosh, I was the lowest scum that ever worn a uniform because I couldn’t beat them and live up to the Code of Conduct of only sharing name, rank, service number date of birth. I cried. I was so ashamed. Well, they come in and finally they take me back to my cell and one guy one of my cell mates is already back, so at least it lasted longer than him. And then Ken Fisher lasted a good bit longer than either one of us. Well, Ken comes back and he had given in and done the same thing. Ken was a New York state wrestling champion, he wrestled in college at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a toughest guy I’ve ever known, incredible character, great guy. He was my leader for the next three years. And I am who I am today, because of his example, for me, of being a person of great character and courage. But here’s what we all found out. And then a little bit later, we found out that everybody in the camp, they could torture you and make you do something. And you had to give up before you had permanent mental damage or physical damage, so that you could stay in the battle and bounce back.


Mark Divine 30:48



Lee Ellis 30:48

Our leader Stockdale, Riser, Ken, those guys were tortured the most. And that’s what they did they finally give them something and bounce back.


Mark Divine  30:56  

Mhmm. That’s incredible. That resiliency, that that required is mind blowing. And one of the things that I remember reading is, you really didn’t know how long you were going to be in captivity. And I think Stock, maybe this came from Admiral Stockdale, those people who didn’t set a deadline for like, I’m going to be out by Christmas or I’m going to be out by this time next year. But we’re like, taking that kind of like micro goals. Let’s just get through today. They succeeded and survived at a much higher rate or a much healthier rate than those who like had a maybe a hope or a wish and a certain deadline that they were going to be released by. 


Lee Ellis 31:33  

Well, I greatly admire Admiral Stockdale, and Jim Collins is a friend of mine. I greatly admire him. But that’s the one thing that got, Jim didn’t quite understand what Stockdale was saying. What happened was Denton, Admiral Denton, Commander Denton then. They were both about same rank. See, they’re both squadron commanders. So one was a group commander, air group commander, but Denton was an optimist, and more of an over the top sometimes he was more outgoing, more social. Stockdale’s a stoic, but then was tough. And he lasted seven and a half years and resisted just as well as Stockdale did but he was always coming up with this we’re going to be out by next summer kind of thing. And it irritated Stockdale. 


Mark Divine 32:17



Lee Ellis 32:17

But in Stockdale is quote, in Jim Collins book about, you must always believe that you’re going to succeed, but you must deal with every day as it is. 


Mark Divine 32:27



Lee Ellis 32:28

And that’s true, but then believe that too. And here’s the thing. A lot of people would think, okay, I’m gonna be here until next summer, and then we’re probably because the politicians, they got to run for president, we’ll get it over. And then next summer come that’s happened to me. I said, I’m gonna be out. But the summer of 68, I’m gonna go to Mexico City Olympics. President Johnson decided not to run. And then July came, and I was still there. And I said, Okay, I can do one more year.


Mark Divine 32:53



Lee Ellis 32:54

And a year later, I said, well, I can do two more years. But it was really three and a half. So we learned to sometimes we’d set a goal out there but you know, we adjusted it. It became, it was our way of life. 


Mark Divine 33:06


Lee Ellis 33:06

There was not too much problem with, that one thing is the only thing I’ve ever seen, there was a little bit off base in Stockdales’ writing and Jim Collins’ writing.


Mark Divine 33:17



Lee Ellis 33:17

A little bit misleading because of his and Dentons’ competition. He didn’t like then saying we’re gonna get out of here next summer. And that he felt like that was a little bit undermining, I think. But they both were very courageous. And they both set a great example for us. And we all stayed positive. No matter what we stayed positive, we’re going to get out of here someday, we’re going to do our duty to the best of our, and when we get knocked down, and we have to give in, we’re going to bounce back. And our teammates, were really strong and would take great risks to get to us and say, man, we’re proud of you, we’re not leaving without you. We’re proud of ya.


Mark Divine 33:54



Lee Ellis 33:55

See that caring goes back to what we talked about earlier on caring was so important.


Mark Divine  34:00  

Mhmm, I was recently in Washington, DC, and I went to the Holocaust Museum, and it’s just like heart wrenching.


Lee Ellis 34:06



Mark Divine 34:06

And what’s coming up for me now is like, I’m actually like, feeling like you probably have a lot of gratitude for the Vietnamese people. To not be the horrific people that the Nazi Germans were or even you know, some of the atrocities of the Japanese in World War Two like they would have just killed everyone.


Lee Ellis  34:27  

Well, now the communists killed millions of people in Vietnam. When Ho Chi Minh took over, they killed two 3 million people who wouldn’t go along with them to clear the house. Communists can do that. Because the end justifies the means for them. But with us, we were too important to them. They saw us as hostages, and they saw that value. 


Mark Divine 34:47

I see. Okay, that makes more sense to me. 

Lee Ellis 34:50

They would torture you, but they wouldn’t let you die and some of the torture was horrific. I didn’t have to go through the pretzel, rope torture Ken Fisher, my roommate when we were on our way to Hanoi, they tied his elbows together, since them all the way till they touch they stood on them and since them, which was tearing in here, and then they ran a rope over through that, and tied it and threw it over a beam and pulled him up and left hanging for 27 minutes, well hanging by this until everything is just tearing out up here. He was one tough hombre. And he gave in, and he finally answered something other than name, rank, service number, date of birth, but he didn’t tell him anything true. 

I was gonna tell you. One guy was tortured. And they were supposed to tell the communist the interra, interrogator. And he was banned torture. And so finally he said, Okay, they wanted him to tell him who is somebody in your squadron who’s refused to fly combat missions over North Vietnam? Well, no one had, but they have heard that, see propaganda. So he finally said, Yes, it was. And it was Clark Kent. Of course, we all knew and the American people all knew exactly who what had happened. So that’s what we did, you give in, but you don’t give up the battle.


Mark Divine  36:09  

That’s right. I want to talk a little bit about reintroduction, or coming, you know, finding your way back into normal air quotes around that society, you know, after you were released, and of course, then some of the major leadership lessons. Then also, I want to touch on why the prisoners did not suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, like some of the modern combatants are after Iraq and Afghanistan. So let’s just start with like your reintroduction society, what was that like? And how did that, you know, go for you?


Lee Ellis 36:39  

You know, I mentioned earlier that when Ho Chi Minh died, and the pressure they were getting, they stopped to torture. Then, after the Son Tay raid on the Son Tay camp by the Special Forces we had moved out, but they put us all back in Hanoi and these 16-1800 square foot cells, big rooms, and there, we were, with 40 to 60 Guys, for a year and a half to two years. And there wasn’t anything, we weren’t getting tortured. We can kind of live and let live. And we started working on getting healthy. Every day. We were turning loose of shame, anger, bitterness.


Mark Divine 37:14



Lee Ellis 37:14

The issue was we were smart enough to know if we went home with shame, guilt, anger, bitterness, we would still be in handcuffs and leg irons.


Mark Divine 37:23

Right. How did this come about? Were there like spiritual leader who kind of took the lead on this? Or how did that healing process come about?


Lee Ellis  37:32  

It was a little bit of everything. We had some guys that were psychologists in their, psychology majors. We had people who had fought in the Korean War and knew about what some of that was, people have gone through, and people had other trauma. And we were able to be with people who had been through worse than we had, and longer than we had, and to talk about it. And to realize that we did our best.


Mark Divine 37:58



Lee Ellis 37:58

We did our best. And now look at us. We’re gonna go home someday, and we lost three buddies here and two buddies there that are not coming home.


Mark Divine 38:07



Lee Ellis 38:07

I mean, mainly shot down and didn’t become POWs. We didn’t lose that many POWs, but we had lost a couple of our friends and cellmates. And so we’re celebrating that we’re alive. And we’re doing push up, guys would have sit up contests. One guy did 1000 Sit ups, you know, we’re competing, we’re getting ready to go home. We had French, Spanish, German classes. We had no books, but we had majors, people who had majored or spoken it at home. We had Monday, Wednesday, Friday classes. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. We had church on Sundays, we had a choir, we had all these weird fighter pilots to get up and give a homily speech sermon on Sunday morning, you know, about guys think of us. We’re here and doing well. We have buddies that didn’t die. You know, we had one guy that was thinking seriously about suicide there. He had a mental illness problem. And he gave that speech that Sunday morning for that, and I still remember it. But it became a very healthy environment. We cared about each other. We took care of each other. We stayed fairly healthy. We were preparing to come home and pick it up and run with it again. And most of us actually came back and we qualified for flying and went on with our careers. 


Mark Divine 38:19



Lee Ellis 38:19

And so that’s why I wrote this book, Captured by Love: Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs, because almost every guy that I know, either was married and stayed married. Some of them came home and they divorced right away. They remarried within a year, and they’ve been married 48 and 49 years. And our PTSD rate is much lower than the combat veterans who fought in the south. We have very little PTSD,. And our age, we’re out living our peers.


Mark Divine 39:50

It’s incredible.


Lee Ellis 39:50

It’s unreal, isn’t it.


Mark Divine 39:52

It is unreal. 


Lee Ellis 39:53

You know, there’s a great quote from The Return of the King from the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. There’s no glory without suffering.


Mark Divine 40:00

Yeah, this is true.


Lee Ellis 40:01

If you have the right attitude and are able to suffer through it, you can be stronger I think, especially emotionally and mentally.


Mark Divine  40:09  

And the greater suffering, the more strength and courage that you have. But it’s how you approach the suffering, right. And I think that’s where people today have it wrong, right? They don’t they steer away from anything that seems hard or is going to bring a level of even in physical training, right. They’d rather take a pill and lose weight than actually train hard. And they don’t realize that hard work and hard experiences when approached with the right mindset, and in community, and this is a big piece, that you had a community and a lot of these vets getting out, you know, their team just gets left behind. And suddenly they find themselves alone, staring at a bottle, and their bottle is their friend. And that’s not a good friend to have in that situation.


Lee Ellis  40:50  

We have strong community and still do. And that made all the difference in the world. You know, we, we were suffering, but we were suffering together. 


Mark Divine 40:59

That’s right. 


Lee Ellis 40:59

And people stayed positive. You know, it’s like, it is unreal to think about it. It was our way of life. And we all I think grew healthier in many ways. I had to just dream one night, I’ve been there about four or five months, I was a lazy student, the laziest student who ever graduated from the University of Georgia in four years, that was me. I did really well in ROTC, I was in Singers, graduated number two in my class, but in school, I didn’t care. I’m gonna graduate, you know? Well, one night I had this dream, it was almost like a nightmare. But it was a dream, I was in ninth grade science class, Miss Jordan’s class, and everybody in there was my classmate. And she walked over to me, put her hand on my shoulder, said, Lee, you could be a good student, if you just do your homework. When I woke up the next day, I remembered that and I thought about it day after day, and I made a commitment, I will always do my homework. But you know, I would never have written six books, had I not had that dream. 


Mark Divine  42:01  

That’s awesome, amazing wisdom that can come to our psyche that way, in dreams. You mentioned, you live by a code, and I too really encourage or work with my clientele to develop a code or a ethos, right. And we use the Navy SEAL ethos as kind of an inspiration. But everyone’s got to have their own because everyone’s unique. So maybe share with us some of the elements of your code. And I know you have this at your website, right that people can go download and you know, print it out.


Lee Ellis  42:31  

Yep, it originally it was a circle. But after a year or so I said, you know, courage has to be in the middle. Because without courage, you can’t do that other stuff. 


Mark Divine 42:40

Right, not really.


Lee Ellis

Well, you know, the first one, tell the truth, even when it’s difficult.


Mark Divine 42:45



Lee Ellis 42:46

Avoid duplicity and deceitful behavior. The second one, treat others with dignity and respect. Take the lead and show value to others. 


Mark Divine 42:54



Lee Ellis 42:55

And the third one is keep your word in your commandments. A fourth one is be ethical. And they all have all subtitles. Five is act responsibly, do your duty and be accountable. Six is, live your values. And then seven is be courageous. We have a little courage card, same size of business card. And on one side it says lean into the pain of your doubts and fears to do what you know is right even when doesn’t feel safe or natural;  The Courage Challenge. 


Mark Divine 43:24

Mhmm, I love that!


Lee Ellis 43:24

Lean in your pain of your doubts and fears to do what you know is right even when it doesn’t feel safe or natural.


Mark Divine  43:29  

Those are wise words. It’s interesting. I want to share this because it syncs up almost been pretty strong alignment. My last book, I’m putting out number six next year, is called Uncommon. But in my book, Staring Down the Wolf, that was my, leaders need to be emotionally aware book. And it came about when St. Martin said, hey, we want you to write in a Navy SEAL leadership book. And I said, Well, you know, there’s kind of a lot of that out there right now. So but we need a book about teams. So just what can I do a book about teams? And they said, sure. So the way I like to write is you know, if I don’t already know the content, and you know, someone wants this was more like, hey, you do this. And I teach team building. So I could have easily just done something formulaic, but I sat down and meditated on it. And I just just sat down there, for several weeks. I didn’t get busy writing, I just kind of sat down and asked, right? What’s this book supposed to be? Right? 


Lee Ellis 44:20



Mark Divine 44:20

And out of one of my meditations, literally, these seven words kind of came to me in this order. And I ended up calling them the book was going to be titled The seven commitments that forge elite teams that ended up being the subtitle, and I called the book Staring Down the Wolf, which is a reference to like staring down your fears. 


Lee Ellis 44:37



Mark Divine 44:38

And overcoming the trauma and the doubts and the shame and the guilt, right, because all leaders have that right. Whether you’re a POW or just…


Lee Ellis 44:45



Mark Divine 44:45

…have some childhood trauma. Anyways, the seven commitments The first one is courage, like you said, because without courage, nothing happens. 


Lee Ellis 44:53



Mark Divine 44:53

Right, you have to develop that courage because that’s the doorway through which all good things happen. And then the second committed, I only talk about the first three. The second commitment is trust. Is first trust yourself develop the ability to be trustworthy, and then that’ll accrue trust amongst the team. And then that’s something you have to invest in every single day. Because like you said, the SEALs one oh shit can wipe out 1000 attaboys. So you have to invest in trustworthiness. And then the third is respect. Now, those are close cousins, trust and respect, but respect is like, let’s respect everyone, let’s treat everyone with the dignity that he deserves. And those three foundationally and they’re there in your code, if you just start with those, man, everything just starts coming together after that.


Lee Ellis  45:36  

You know, when you were saying that, that’s exactly what we had in the POW camp. 


Mark Divine 45:40

Is that right? 


Lee Ellis 45:42

Courage, trust and respect. 


Mark Divine 4:44

No kidding.


Lee Ellis 4:45

We didn’t talk about that. But when I look back at it, now…


Mark Divine 45:48

That’s what you had. 


Lee Ellis 45:49

That’s what held us together, and inspired us to believe that we can get through this. There’s some stuff I don’t like about you and stuff you don’t like about me, but we’re a team and we got a mission.


Mark Divine 46:00

That’s Right.


Lee Ellis 46:00

I’m going to trust you, if something falls apart, I know that you did your best. 


Mark Divine 46:05

That’s right. 


Lee Ellis 46:06

I trust and respect you. And and so I’m not going to worry about it because I know you’re going to do your best to protect me or to carry the message to that other building over there. 


Mark Divine 46:18



Lee Ellis 46:18

You know, we all have different talents. I’m pretty good at being a risk taker. And I could communicate secretly in a POW camp, very comfortably. 


Mark Divine 46:28



Lee Ellis 46:29

Because I felt like I can get away, now I had people clearing for me to help him protect me. But I just felt like, you know, one time somebody dropped a note in the middle of the courtyard on a camp. And they dropped it somewhere near that where the guard tower was just right out in front of it. And so I said, I’m gonna go find it. And I went up there, kicking rocks and wandering around. Normally never did that, you know, but I kind of slid away from the guards and the turn key. And I was just going to kick in a couple of rocks looking down and I saw that note. And I just scooped down and picked up a leaf and threw it down. But I had the note in my hand and hid it and came back in. And you know, if they caught me, you’d beat the crap out of me. 


Mark Divine 47:10



Lee Ellis 47:10

They might have taken me to another camp, but I just figured I can pull this off. 


Mark Divine 47:15

That’s amazing.


Lee Ellis 47:15

You know, I didn’t last as long and torture as my cellmate did, you know, so we all have a little bit different talents.


Mark Divine  47:22  

So, Captured by Love. this is the stories of some of your compatriots and how they found love and healed through love afterwards?


Lee Ellis  47:30  

About half of them were married and stayed married.


Mark Divine 47:33



Lee Ellis 47:33

And so their wives were running, it’s a lot about what the women did. 


Mark Divine 47:37

That’s pretty powerful that marriage could survive that.


Lee Ellis 47:40

They didn’t know that we were alive. A lot of them didn’t. 


Mark Divine 47:42



Lee Ellis 47:42

Then about a fourth of them were married and their wives divorced them when they came home. Some of them went to Mexico and divorced them before they came home. And then about five of us were single. And we met the right one when we came home. And I was about the last bachelor of all the bachelors of the POWs. I was about to last one and I dated so many wonderful, nice girls before and after I came home. And finally, all of a sudden I moved, I went back to Valdosta, Georgia to become an instructor pilot there. And I hadn’t been there, but eight weeks. And on Memorial Day weekend, I went to the club on Friday night. And these two girls, I’m sitting at the bar drinking with another guy, and there’s music playing. These two girls walk in and I said I’ll see you later, I’m gonna go dance with her. And then we started dating and it wasn’t long till I knew that she was the one. We’ve been married 48 and a half years. 


Mark Divine 48:36

That’s terrific. 


Lee Ellis 48:36

Our story is number 20. The last one, the title  of it is, When You Meet the One, but we are totally opposites in personality. And we’re three standard deviations apart in patience. I tell people, I had to go down to find a parts repair place in town and go down and have a risk that put in my back. So I can turn down my intensity, turn down my confrontation, turn down my impatience before I go home every day.


Mark Divine  49:06  

That’s awesome. Oh man, we got to wrap this up. We’re gonna be going for a while but what a fantastic conversation. Really appreciate you for doing this. And for your time. Wouldn’t you have a place like folks to come to learn about your books? That


Lee Ellis  49:19  

That book, is at Pow romance.com. And actually, you can read several stories there. You can read the foreword by Tony Orlando and also a foreword by Gary Sinise. And then the introduction to the book, by for those of us who were people who are readers who were not around during the Vietnam War, and give a brief history and introduction of the war, the men and the women, and then we go into the stories. And the stories are mostly as I mentioned, some were married and stayed married, what the wives did. Some were married and divorced when they came home. Some how they met some of those how they met you. Hollywood couldn’t write a script like that, you know? 


Mark Divine 50:00



Lee Ellis 50:00

Unreal, it’s like, really that happened. And now they’ve been married 49 years, 48 years, and the resilience and the commitment and the ability to get along with somebody. One story is about a guy came home, his wife divorced him said, I’m divorced out of here. And two months later, he met a widow whose husband been shot down and didn’t come home. They fell in love right away. He’s 91. Now, he still comes to reunion. She’s there, she’s about 86. But the title of their story is Independent and Interdependent. And that’s a great point, because you always have to be independent. But if you’re in a great relationship, you have to be interdependent too. Being able to work that is such a healthy thing for a marriage, or any relationship, you can’t change that other person. And they’re not going to make you who you are, you are who you are. And they are who they are. You don’t try to change them. But just let them be them. And you’ll be them yourself and less see how we can be interdependent on lots of areas, and be committed and be companions.


Mark Divine  51:08  

That’s awesome. And ultimately, you know, when you get to be your age, and you when you look back, this the relationships, right, the relationships you have with your teammates over there that you share that time with, relationship you have with your significant other and your kids. I mean, that’s the most important thing isn’t it?


Lee Ellis 51:26

It is.


Mark Divine 51:27

And as a leader and anyone listening, like, just take that into account, like it’s, it is all about you your health, but then you giving to others, is what makes you whole.


Lee Ellis  51:37  

Exactly. I’ve seen this so much like you have, okay, and I build models. So I got this graphic, visual, I got  it in this five PowerPoints, but picture a continuum on left side is insecure, and on the right is secure. Well, the first piece of it, it shows that, and then it shows people in different shades of color. And today they’re here. But then there’s a graph under it, and tomorrow, they’re over here, because in certain situations, we’re more insecure.


Mark Divine 52:07



Lee Ellis 52:07

We’re all sliding back and forth. So here’s what we want to do, we all want to move toward being more secure, and believing in ourselves. So that we can be both confident and humble. And when you’re confident and humble, then you can be realistic. And when you mess up, you can take ownership for it. And people will trust you more when you own it, when you mess up. YOu know.


Mark Divine 52:29

That’s right.


Lee Ellis 52:29

I shouldn’t have said that we shouldn’t have done that. And that’s my fault. And they trust you more they believe in you more. And here’s the other thing, though, leaders, you must help people become more secure. You must let them know you believe in them find something, affirm them, acknowledge their existence, accept them for who they are, affirm them and appreciate them. Because every human being wants to feel worthy, to be somebody, to be cared about. It’s just we’re not machines, we have a heart. And we have a psyche that wants to be valuable. 


Mark Divine 53:06

That’s right. 


Lee Ellis 53:06

And when you as a leader, help your people feel more valuable. They’re going to perform better, they’re going to be more loyal. They’re going to respect you more, and they’re going to be a better team.


Mark Divine  53:16  

That’s right. Hooyah as we would say in the SEALs. 


Lee Ellis 53:20



Mark Divine 53:21



Lee Ellis 53:21



Mark Divine 53:22

Fantastic. All right, leave. Well, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate you thank you for your service, and for bringing your whole self to the world.


Lee Ellis  53:31  

Well, thank you, Mark, for all you’re doing. And I really liked the fact that you’re helping us think about ourselves in your writings and your podcasts, and on your LinkedIn, I follow there and read it. I was reading about the being more of what’s the word starts with an I? 


Mark Divine 43:48



Lee Ellis 53:49

Intuitive. Yes. And I talked about that yesterday. So you’re going to be a leader, you got to learn to be intuitive.


Mark Divine 53:54



Lee Ellis 53:55

…and listen to your gut and work through it. 


Mark Divine 53:58



Lee Ellis 53:58

And I think you’ve done such a great job of presenting that for us to cause us to stop and think about that in a good way. So I really appreciate your angle of leadership and personal development and teamwork that you’re presenting, because not many people are doing that. And I like it. 


Mark Divine  54:15  

Yeah, well, thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, we do what we do, right? And..


Lee Ellis 54:20



Mark Divine 54:19

…we try to make a difference. And we hold a positive vision for the world. And I say this, that there’s not just one world out there, there’s 8 billion worlds and your world is the most important. So get your world right. First, you’ve been very helpful to help people understand that, you know, hey, we can come out of anything, right? Anything hard. There’s an end to it. And there’s a positive future. A lot of people are going through some tough times right now. And they can’t see the positive future because they’re just caught in distraction and all the fear mongering. So turn off that TV, turn off that news. Start looking within and start looking to your fellow humans and seeing the goodness and helping them out and all of a sudden everyone be like, Oh, actually I feel pretty good and pretty positive.


Lee Ellis 55:00  

Let’s stay connected.


Mark Divine  55:01  

I appreciate that. Yep. Thank you, Lee. Thank you


Mark Divine 55:19

What an incredible conversation. Thank you so much, Lee. Wow, that’s all I can say is wow. Check out Powromance.com for his latest book. He’s also got engaged with honor and leading with honor. This is an honorable man. And what an incredible story. Show Notes are up at Mark Divine.com. You can find me on Twitter at Mark Divine and on Instagram at real Mark Divine as well as Facebook. Or you can find me on my LinkedIn profile. Quick plug for the Divine Inspiration newsletter, which comes out every Tuesday with show notes from the week’s podcast, my blog, a book I’m reading and other cool things that come across my desk, as well as a profile of our sponsors. So go to Mark Divine.com and sign up and subscribe and share with your friends. 

Shout out to my amazing team, Catherine Divine, Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell who helped bring amazing guests like Lee to you every week and to bring the newsletter as well. Ratings reviews are very helpful. So if you haven’t done so, please consider rating or reviewing us at Apple or wherever you listen. It helps keep us at the top of the rankings and help others find us and keeps me motivated. So thanks very much for your support of the Mark Divine Show, check out our training at unbeatablemind.com. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the things that I talked about with Lee on how you can develop courageous heart centered leadership, built upon courage, trust and respect. Until next time, is your host, Mark Divine, Hooyah.


Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai



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