On Friday, June 28th last, the last Friday of the month, Dennis Kelly did what he’d done for the last 25 years of his life. 

As Regional Manager for the North Cork Branch of Acorn Life he gave and received feedback from the significant people in his life, albeit from a hospital bed.

Reilly asked him gently what he thought his legacy might have been.

‘I’d like to think I helped as many people as possible go from destitute to success in life.’

And, when Reilly probed why that was important to him Dennis gave him a comment he’d heard repeatedly over that time.

‘Reilly, nobody wakes up in the morning and proclaims joyously that they want to sell life insurance for a living.’

‘Like me 25 years ago, many people come to our industry destitute.

‘And my greatest joy in life was to see people transform that destitution and hopelessness into success in a short period of time.’

And he did. Recognised by MDRT in Florida last year as one of the outstanding sales coaches in the world Dennis was the ultimate performance coach.

How he did it was a conversation Reilly and he had many times.


  • Earl Nightingale and The Strangest Secret. Dennis regaled numerous Smácht audiences with his rags to riches story from 1988. He revealed that he was going through a period of abject difficulty and despair in his life at the time when a caring and wise man called Gerry O’Connell recommended he listen to a cassette recording of ‘The Strangest Secret’ by Earl Nightingale. What he learned from that tape – which he repeatedly listened to for three months – was the power of stating a clearly defined goal and the date is was to be achieved by. On September 5th 1988 he wrote the letters and numbers ‘MDRT by December 15th 1988’ on a card and positioned it on the visor of his car. He repeated that affirmation every time he sat into his car and sure enough, on December 15th,  he qualified for MDRT for the first of 25 times. 
  • Leaders are Givers. Alice Lynch, owner of the magnificent Maggie’s Tavern in Saint Johnston in Donegal, messaged today to say that Dennis explained the principles of The Strangest Secret to her at a Smácht session once and she was thrilled to receive a cassette tape of the recording by post a few days later. Leaders are givers. They generously share the love.
  • The One Sentence Sales and Life Course. Dennis attributed success in sales to the legendary Frank Bettger who wrote the book ‘How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success In Sales’ and here it is in one sentence. Dennis would counsel newbie desperadoes that the key to success, in sales and life, was contained in the following quote. ‘Show me any person, of ordinary ability, who will enthusiastically tell their story, to four or five people a day, and I’ll show you a success.’ 
  • The Voice of an Angel. They laughed about it that Friday on the week that Míchéal Ó Muircheartaigh was laid to rest. Reilly slagged Dennis that he thought Ó Muircheartaigh had a more distinctive voice than Dennis. Reilly used deliberately not answer Dennis’ phone calls on the basis that he preferred to listen to the melodious voice of Dennis over and over on the voice answering machine. Cultivate and train your voice. For all of us in the communications business – that means everyone – your voice is either a valuable asset or a boring liability.
  • Unbridled cheerfulness; positivity; and good humour. Dennis refused resolutely to allow a scintilla of negativity ever enter his domain. Even over the past week or two, when he was aware he was an shlí na fírinne, he exuded good cheer. On Thursday, when the excellent palliative care team suggested he return to hospital his response was. ‘I most certainly will but I want to watch Cork beat Limerick first.’ This was quintessential Dennis. He said yes to everything and still achieved his own goals.


On his desk in his office in Fermoy was a wooden plaque that Dennis would often quote from. It was Chief Seattles Letter.

“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? 

‘Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

‘The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

‘Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

‘This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

‘One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. 

‘When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

‘We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.’

—Chief Seattle.


1. What could you be or do or have if you had a coach like Dennis Kelly?


Earlier that Friday, he’d delivered the news to Anne Tobin, a core part of his team for 25 years, that she’d been declared salesperson of the month for the entire Acorn Life Organisation for the month of June. In addition, she’d been invited by MDRT – the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table that recognises the top 1% of insurance salespeople in the world – to address international conferences later this year in Dubai and Chicago.

Those were the experiences that Dennis lived for.

D’imir Dennis ar Shlí na Fírinne inné. Cómhbhrón le muintir Úi Cheallaigh uilig – ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

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