Sunday, February 18, 2024

Q&A with Christopher Ullman




Christopher Ullman is the author of the new book Four Billionaires and a Parking Attendant: Success Strategies of the Wealthy, Powerful, and Just Plain Wise. He also has written the book Find Your Whistle. He is the former director of communications at the global investment firm Carlyle, and is a four-time national and international whistling champion. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to write Four Billionaires and a Parking Attendant?


A: I have mentored college students for 25 years, helping them find their way professionally. I share with them lessons I learned first-hand from the many big-wig bosses I’ve had in my 30+-year career.


I love to write and tell stories, so I gathered up 50 lessons and through anecdote share the incredible experiences that helped me grow as a person and professional, bringing me closer to my best self.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Great story: The working title for 3+ years was Rich People Have Feelings Too: Life Lessons From My Billionaire Bosses.


Around a year before my pub date I gave a talk on the book to a group of public relations professionals. They loved the content but hated the title. They said it sounded too much like a defense of wealth, which wasn’t what the book was about anyhow.


One of them said: “You should call it four billionaires and a parking attendant.” I immediately loved it and called my publisher the next day and said we have a permanent title, which he loved also.


People universally love the title. It grabs people’s attention and sparks their curiosity.


Q: The entrepreneur Josh Linkner said of the book, “In Four Billionaires and a Parking Attendant, Chris Ullman draws from decades of unforgettable stories and life-changing lessons to reveal the secrets of ten-figure creativity, authenticity, productivity, and happiness.” What do you think of that description?


A: I am grateful for Josh’s support. I think he nailed it in terms of what makes the book compelling.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: This book is about being one’s best. It’s not a “get rich” manual. I hope that readers will find lessons that resonate with them wherever they are on their life journey. I’ve had 23-year-olds read it and say the book would change their lives, just as 65-year-olds have said some lessons really resonated with them.


David Rubenstein read it and said he learned a lot and enjoyed it. That was quite a relief, since 20 of the 50 lessons are from him and I didn’t get his permission to discuss them publicly.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My next project is a documentary about Beethoven’s 9th symphony. I will try to answer the question: how can a deaf man write the greatest piece of music in human history?


I was a producer on the PBS documentary series Iconic America, which whetted my appetite for visual storytelling. It’s early and will take several years, but I am excited.


Beethoven is my hero. He overcame many physical and emotional challenges to create such great music.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: We get one go-around in life…this is not a dress rehearsal. God gave us gifts and it is our duty to develop them and make our little corners of the world better than we found them.


The lessons in my book are all about being one’s best, learned from some of the most successful people in the world. The key to change is desire, humility, and discipline. This isn’t rocket science…it’s about wanting to be your best.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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