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Jill Ellis’s Rules for Life

Continuing with my notes from watching The Playbook on Netflix. Here are Jill Elli’s Rules for Life.

Wait, who is Jill Ellis

Jill coached the 2015 and 2019 US Women’s soccer team to the winning the World Cup! She masterfully navigated the challenge of coaching a team that was already #1 in the world and keeping them there. 

And if you think coaching a top team is easy. You’re so wrong! Teams that are at the pinnacle have a lot to lose than others. Because every other team is trying to be better than them, it’s like they’re the constant target. It’s easy to become paranoid and get into survival mode — yes, even when you’re at the top — so that you can stay at the top! 

These teams’ most significant challenge isn’t competing with others but with themselves while ensuring they’re continually evolving from their previous best version. There’s no room for complacency. 

Can you draw parallels to the world of business and high-performing leaders? Of course, you can. That’s why I’m sharing these notes because they’re powerful and relevant to whoever you are and whatever you do. 

Let’s get to the rules. 


Rule No 1: MOUNTAIN TOPS ARE SMALL. AND THE AIR IS THIN.

Climbing a mountain isn’t the most challenging part of all. Staying at the top is. Ellis says, “you get up there, enjoy the view briefly, and must climb again.” Milestones are to be celebrated, but you’ve got to move on to the next. That might mean you’ve got to change often and always be on the move. 

Rule No 2: HOLD FAST. STAY TRUE

People are quick to criticize and complain about your decisions if they don’t seem to work. As a coach and leader, you’ve got to get used to criticism. But most importantly, you’ve got to stay true to your beliefs. It may seem tough, harsh, and even insane, but if the intent is right, it’s only a matter of time before you achieve a breakthrough. 

“I’m not coaching to keep my job; I’m coaching what I believe.” 

Rule No 3: RISK IS OPPORTUNITY

Making decisions is risky. But some of the most significant discoveries, inventions, and opportunities came about from risky decisions. Jill took an 85% cutback on her paycheck to coach a women’s soccer team! 

As I say, if your heart’s in the right place and your intent aligned to a greater mission, choosing passion over paycheck pays off, eventually. 

Rule No 4: BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

Authenticity has become an overused term these days. Ironically, being authentic is still rare. As a leader, one has to be bold not just about the hard decisions they make but also stay true to their beliefs, convictions, and values. In Jill’s case, it was how she communicated her being gay to the team after adopting a child with her partner. She was apprehensive about the repercussions, but she knew she had to be true to herself. 

Rule No 5: IF YOU WANT TO BE HEARD, MAKE A STATEMENT

Besides following rule # 2 to the core, there will be times when you have to make statements not with words but with our actions. That could mean proving critics or the skeptics wrong by playing to your strengths, always. Keep at it long enough, and they will finally get to hear what you’ve been trying to say all along, and then shut up.


These five rules made me ponder the actions, beliefs, and values that I’ve been living and practicing this year. There are gaps that I need to fill to become a better person and professional. And fills those gaps, I will, because as a coach, I believe (as does Jill) in sharing my successes while owing my failures. 

What about you?