THE PRICE OF INTEGRITY – The most important building block of a successful business and life

“THE PRICE OF INTERGRITY – The most important building block of a successful business and life”
by Waldo Waldman

I’m a businessperson. I deal with competitors, changing markets, client demands, and a volatile economy.  I do the best I can to support my family and create a fulfilling life.  Some days the mission is easy and on others, the missiles and turbulence are intense.  But that’s what makes the journey exciting.

I don’t want things to be easy.  I don’t like my life being safe.  Safe is boring.  I like knowing that when I wake up each morning, I may lose.  It energizes me. It fires me up.  It forces me to out prepare, out think, and out work my competition.   Because I know deep down I will do whatever it takes to win.   But not at all costs.  Not if I have to lie, manipulate, or cheat.

Winning to me means that I may have to lose. It may not be profitable or feel good, but sometimes losing is the best path to take…the right thing to do.  Truly successful people realize this.  Winning, while an awesome thing, isn’t everything.  It doesn’t have to come at “all costs.”

wingman – someone who you trust implicitly – has to be willing to lose.

Today, the news is filled with examples of people who pay any price to win.  They sell out to their fear of losing.  They do this by sacrificing the most critical building block of a successful business and life – their integrity. Sure they win.  They beat the competition, get the business and gain market share.   But the price that’s paid is character and honor.   The cost normally can’t be measured in dollars, but sometimes it can (i.e. Enron, Bernie Madoff, etc.)

There are many ways to define integrity.  But to me, integrity means:

  • Honoring your commitments
  • Being a man or woman of your word
  • Doing the right thing (even when no-one is watching.)
  • Admitting when you mess up (and accepting the consequences.)
  • Never sacrificing your relationships or honor for money.

How do you define integrity?  What does it really mean to you?

Of course, our integrity will be tested at times. Our judgment clouds as our passion, selfishness, greed and fear fight to take over on our quest to win. Sometimes, we mess up and our integrity gets scarred and cracked. When this happens, we need to fix it ASAP – We need to fess up, apologize sincerely, and pay the consequence. After all, integrity also means becoming whole.   Nobody is perfect. We’re human.

Maintaining your integrity takes disciplinesacrifice and oftentimes an inordinate amount of courage. When you sacrifice your integrity, you erode your character.  And over time, you will likely lose your most important asset – your reputation.

After your reputation, the next casualty is your honor. Without honor, we are nothing.  We can’t be trusted.  And we can’t trust ourselves.   Are you willing to pay that price?

The cost of winning is indeed sometimes greater than losing. If you want to succeed in business and life, never lose integrity.  Lose a sale, lose a client, lose a friend. But lose your integrity, and you lose your life.

Never Fly Solo,

Waldo Waldman

Finding Purpose in Your Goals and Meaning in Your Mission

Finding Purpose in Your Goals and Meaning in Your Mission
Waldo Waldman, CSP

It’s already a month into 2011 and I hope you’re all off to a great start. One of the most effective things you can do to reach greater heights this coming year is to set high but achievable goals in your personal and professional life. Establishing challenging goals that are specific (and measurable) helps you formulate a game plan for success.
A key component in reaching your goals is to write them down and visualize them every day. This makes your goals real. (I put my goals on my bathroom mirror so that I see them every day. I did this when I wrote my book Never Fly Solo as I wanted to become a NY Times bestseller.)

When you see your goals, it challenges you to ask yourself: “What have I done TODAY to reach them?” “What’s my plan?” “Am I progressing towards my goals?”
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Confessions of a Claustrophobic Fighter Pilot

Confessions of a Claustrophobic Fighter Pilot: How courage, focus, and wingmen can help you tackle your fears
Waldo Waldman, CSP

Watch CNN Video

Three years into my eleven year Air Force flying career, my life changed when I almost died during a scuba diving trip in the Caribbean. Thirty feet under the water and exhausted from excessive use of my arms to swim, I inhaled a full lungful of water and had the most intense panic attack of my life. I literally thought I was going to die.

A week later, I found myself back in the cockpit on a training mission in bad weather. Unable to see the ground or the sky, I felt closed in. My mask tightened, my pulse quickened, and I suddenly had difficulty breathing. I became lightheaded and anxious and the panicky feeling I experienced a week ago reared its ugly head again. I screamed to myself, “Get me out of this plane!”
Continue reading Confessions of a Claustrophobic Fighter Pilot

Leadership Lessons from a Homeless Wingman

Leadership Lessons from a Homeless Wingman
Waldo Waldman, CSP

This weekend I gave $5 to a homeless man that looked genuinely down in the dumps. I rarely give money to the homeless as you never know what the money will be used for. But this guy seemed different. He looked around 30 years old and was frail, in dirty, worn out clothes, and was walking slowly with his head down. As I sat in my car, feeling the breeze through the open window while waiting for the light to turn green, I couldn’t help but stare at him. The contrast between his haggard body, the green grass on which he walked and the cool breeze got to me.

I watched as he reached into his pocket, pulled out a square piece of white paper and unfolded it very slowly – as if he was performing some kind of ritual. I looked at the words in black marker, “Homeless and hungry. Please help me.”
Continue reading Leadership Lessons from a Homeless Wingman

Mission: Excellence! How You Respond to Challenges Determines the Altitude You’ll Reach in Life

Mission: Excellence! How You Respond to Challenges Determines the Altitude You’ll Reach in Life

Waldo Waldman, CSP

Imagine being strapped into a single-seat fighter jet at 25,000 feet above enemy territory. You tear through the pitch-black sky at the speed of sound in a cockpit so small there’s barely enough room to shrug your shoulders. You must maintain laser-like focus as you operate dozens of weapons and sensors and fend off surface-to-air missiles.

This was a typical day in my life as an F-16 fighter pilot. But, despite the challenges of combat, I loved every minute of my U.S. Air Force career. I was constantly pushed to my limits and challenged to break my performance barriers. Because in addition to the missiles I faced in combat, I also faced the missiles of adversity and fear. My battles didn’t just occur over the skies of Iraq; they happened each day as I struggled to overcome my fear of failure, self-doubt and a lifelong battle with claustrophobia.

You and I have more in common than you may think. Sure, I’ve flown fighter jets, but we both have to dodge the missiles of change, fear and adversity as we seek to fulfill our mission objective. The flight path to success is never easy, and to stay on target we have to earn our wings every day.
Continue reading Mission: Excellence! How You Respond to Challenges Determines the Altitude You’ll Reach in Life

Failure is an Option!

Failure is an option!
Waldo Waldman, CSP

When I flew in combat, the risk of failure was always present. I could have an aircraft malfunction, mess up a critical maneuver, or even get shot down. Success was never guaranteed. Success never is.

The possibility of failing at something is a beautiful thing. It incites risk and even helps eliminate complacency.

When something is at risk, fear, anxiety and doubt can result. But risk also forces you to stretch yourself and grow. It makes you train, focus, and contingency plan with a greater sense of discipline and attention to detail. And when you train, focus, and plan to the best of your ability, guess what normally results? Success.

Here’s what else happens: you build confidence, ability, experience, resilience and most of all, trust, in the most important wingman you have in your life…yourself.

If you want to take your business or life to new heights, try something where there’s a possibility you’ll fail. Be willing to stretch yourself and push your personal envelope. Step outside your comfort zone. Perform in the face of fear.

Top Gun winners in life take-off and fly even when there is a chance they’ll get shot at or fail. They face their fear, strap in, and fly the tough missions when others stay in the hangar of mediocrity. Winners prepare for failure and in doing so, avoid it.

But winners also accept that they may fail, regardless of how much they prepare. They embrace failure as an opportunity to grow.

So here’s a question: When the tough missions come, what will you do?

Yes – failure is always an option. Just do your part to avoid it. And don’t make it an option that chooses you.

Push it up!

Great new book on technology in the workplace

Great new book on technology in the workplace
Waldo Waldman, CSP


If you’re like me, there may be times when your IT systems are enough to drive you wingnuts! You may find your business struggling with costly computer networks that never seem to perform to your expectations, wondering what will happen if your systems break down, or you may even be experiencing losses in productivity, customer confidence, and even employee morale.

To deal with these missiles, I leverage a reliable IT wingman (Randy Pelkey in Atlanta) who comes to my office every month or so and reviews my network, updates my anti-virus, and makes sure my blackberry, laptop and desktop computer are all in sync.
Continue reading Great new book on technology in the workplace

How to Deal with Bad Weather on Your Flight Path to Success

How to Deal with Bad Weather on Your Flight Path to Success
Waldo Waldman, CSP

For every pilot, weather is always a critical factor in flight. Blue skies and perfect visibility are a rarity. Sooner or later, thunderstorms, lightening and turbulence will appear. When this happens, we don’t turn around and head back to base. If we did, we would never reach our target.

When bad weather strikes, pilots:
1. Alter our flight path away from the weather
2. Seek an altitude that has the least amount of turbulence
3. Slow down to minimize the effect of turbulence.
4. Tighten down our lap belts and hold on for the ride.

The path may get uncomfortable, but we press on until we break out of the weather, hit the target and land.
Continue reading How to Deal with Bad Weather on Your Flight Path to Success

BP Leadership Lesson

BP Leadership Lesson
Waldo Waldman, CSP

Has CEO Tony Hayward Been a Wingman to BP?

The BP gulf oil spill is one of the greatest environmental disasters our country has ever experienced. Not only will the long term environmental consequences be felt for years to come, but the price tag for cleaning up the spill will be over $20 billion. Finally, BP, a once reputable giant in the oil industry, is dealing with a $100 billion loss in market valuation and its brand and reputation has taken a huge blow.

While there are dozens of lessons that can be learned with the way BP has handled this disaster, one cannot shy away from the lackluster leadership attributed to its CEO Tony Hayward. In essence, Hayward committed the greatest sin any leader can make – he lost the trust of his customers and his employees. He lost his trust as a wingman.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed on Fox News discussing Hayward’s leadership challenges and why he lost trust as a leader. Click here to watch the 4 minute clip.

How Do You Define Commitment?

How do you define commitment?
Waldo Waldman, CSP

If you want to examine your results for today, last week, or even this past year, take a look at how consistently you took action to make things happen.

* How did you act in response to adversity?

* What risks did you take?

* When did you try something new in business? Something that may have gotten you nervous.
* Did you get up early and stay focused, or did you slack off when the going got tough?

You see, success isn’t necessarily about attitude. It’s about the action you take in the presence of your attitude.

My definition of commitment is Attitude in Action!

Remember, your customers don’t reward your attitude. They reward your actions.

How do you define commitment? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Push it up!