Washington D.C., which has been our family’s home for 35 years, is perhaps the most transient city in our great nation. The proverbial revolving door spins like a top.
My wife and I lost count long ago of the sheer number of going-away-parties we have attended. Limitless numbers, and each one leaves us with moist eyes.
Such great friends from all walks of life – the military, media, politics, law and legal professions – have made Washington their temporary homes, only to move-along to other parts of the country and world. Just two weeks ago, we said good-bye to two wonderful sets of comrades.
When you live in Washington, it is a rarity to really befriend, and remain friends, with someone for more than a few years, at best. It is almost a way of life.
Happily, there are rare exceptions, and the revolving door has not spun in the case of my wonderful friendship with Chris Ullman.
We met eons ago when we were both young pups working on Capitol Hill; in those years, the denizens of the Hill were dubbed “hill rats” because of the way we scurried about the Capitol complex: there is the House of Representatives; there is the U.S. Senate; there is the U.S. Supreme Court. Hither and yon, those were marvelous days.
Rarer still, Chris was a fellow bow-tie-wearer, fancying all kinds of superb colors and patterns while I favored the standard Brooks Brothers repp-stripe-models. Chris became – you cannot make up this – one of the world’s most famous whistlers, and then he did something even more notable: he became one of the most successful communications specialists in the United States.
From Capitol Hill to the boardrooms of the Fortune 500, Chris was the person every VIP wanted on his or her team for Chris’ sheer brilliance in the world of his chosen specialty. And as his success and achievement grew, he retained the three qualities everyone loved about him: his faith, his humility, and his willingness to impart to others all the wisdom he had garnered along the way, motivated by wanting to help other people achieve sheer excellence.
When we had lunch a year or so ago, I quipped that he really ought to think about writing a book containing his best strategies for success, and lo and behold, he told me just such a book was almost completed, and he kindly and graciously shared with me the manuscript. I loved it from the beginning.
It is a little-known gem that you need to know more about; and if you have children and grandchildren who are contemplating not only going into business but also thinking big thoughts about how to succeed in life, this is the book to commend to them: Four Billionaires and a Parking Attendant: Success Strategies of the Wealthy, Powerful, and Just Plain Wise(Amplify Publishing Group, 2023).
I could not put down this book; it is truly that electrifying. Page after page of the most insightful, witty, easy to absorb advise about how to navigate the waters of the professional world, with character at its core.
Just last week, during a Focus on the Family event in Michigan, I met several parents and grandparents who were conveying to me their concern about their children and grandchildren: How to convey to them the basic building blocs of a career and a good life. I recommended this book time and again because it is easy to read, easy to absorb, and is powered by a light-touch-faith that makes it such a useful tool in the toolbox.
Chris provides eight strategies that are user-friendly, thus: Be Purposeful; Innovate and Accomplish; Build Bridges; Be Productive; Solve Problems; Be Authentic; Think of Others; Be Humble. I particularly revere that last strategic point because the author has demonstrated so faithfully the conviction that everyone matters.
There are plenty of VIPs here with whom Chris has worked closely: David Rubenstein, the Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the Carlyle Group; Arthur Levitt, Chairman, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; and a host of other worthies that comprise an impressive list.
But my favorite section of the book is when Chris zeroes in like a laser beam on the expertise not of the glitterati (worthy though their advice is at each and every turn) but rather on a parking attendant, Salah Alworeshid, who Chris learned a truly remarkable lesson from – and whose example he wonderfully weaves into the book’s engaging tapestry with elegance and verve.
If you want the rising generation of young Americans to really understand and learn about the centrality of relationships – and the practical day to day wisdom of how to succeed with authentic purpose and mission and meaning – this is the book to read and enjoy.
A mutual friend, Harvard’s Arthur Brooks, said of Chris’ book with welcomed fleetness, “This is a blueprint for building a career and a life.” Indeed it is, and the book’s goodness and worthiness both spring from its author’s timeless worldview that integrity and character are the non-negotiable coins of the realm.