Never Fly Solo: Tips for Flying High in Business by Entrepreneur and Pilot Waldo Waldman

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In today's tough economy where jobs are scarce and the daily competition is fierce, professional success often seems like one exhausting, never-ending battle.

One man who knows the literal ups and downs of surviving such battles is Lt. Col. Rob "Waldo" Waldman, author of the book 'Never Fly Solo.' A decorated former combat F-16 Air Force fighter pilot, Waldman is a highly successful entrepreneur, sales manager and professional leadership speaker whose Fortune 500 clients include Hewlett-Packard, Aflac, Marriott, Medtronic and Nokia.

In his book, Waldman uses his military and business expertise to form a unique blend of motivational advice, personal anecdotes and ethics to direct readers toward not only professional success, but also personal excellence. Key to Waldman's message in 'Never Fly Solo' is the importance of having great "wingmen" in your life -- and being one for others, too.

Wingmen, as he calls them, are people who will have your back and support you as you fly the often-turbulent journey of life and work.


Q. How important is the relationship between a pilot and a wingman?

A. In almost every combat mission, you don't fly solo. You fly with your team. A wingman provides perspective and is able to help a pilot see what he or she cannot see. Two sets of eyes. Two brains. Mutual support is very important in combat; they started using this in World Wars I and II, where multiple planes would fly. The wingman would be the supporting fighter to monitor for threats and ensure that the fighter's blind spot -- which is behind you -- was secure and safe. It's just a concept of mutual support and maximum effectiveness in competitive environments.


Q. So how does this wingman concept translate into the business world today?

A. There are simply times when you cannot do it all on your own. Many of us can survive on our own, but we can truly win by having a wingman. When those missiles of life are shot at us, such as the poor economy, health care issues, job loss, budget cuts and more, you want to be able to call out for help to someone you trust, who understands you, who's going to be brutally honest with you and tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

The success in my life, and in many other people's lives, is not just based on our own hard work, discipline and accountability; but also, it's been the people in our lives who are there for us during our struggles that are really fundamental to our success. That's why I wrote this book. It's a principle I learned in the military that I applied to life in so many different ways.


Q. This is a timely and important concept when people seem to be more isolated and more dependent on themselves, isn't it?

A. That's one of the biggest dangers in this sort of "fly solo" mentality. People shrink into themselves and they're afraid to be vulnerable. Often people think when they ask for help from their boss or from a co-worker, that someone's going to think "why are they asking for help? Don't they know their job?"

I always emphasize: Don't ask for help from others, especially continuously, when through discipline, hard work and commitment, you can solve stuff on your own initially. That's where people suck on the life blood of others at work. They're not putting in their own hours, they're not earning their own wings. But, there are those times when you cannot do it entirely alone. That's where your wingmen become so important to you.

You want to create wingman relationships where you can call out for help when needed. You can't call out for mayday until you've planted the seed and nurtured that relationship before you call for help. Work on yourself and take the time to be the wingman for other people. Volunteer, share your ideas, your love, your compassion, your resources and your time. Be the kind of person others can come to for help, and then you'll build those kind of relationships with others when you need them.


Q. The business world is very cut-throat. How can people find someone that they can trust to be their wingman?

A. There are a couple of ways to do this. It's the peer-to-peer relationships that are often important, not just the superior-and-subordinate type relationships that matter. You want to be that trusted resource that people work with, and that they know they can bring you their problems and you can solve them. Create this sense of volunteerism at work; show that you're going to contribute and volunteer for some of the tough projects.

Q. You have a chapter in your book called 'Wingmen lift, Wingnuts drag.' What does that mean ?

A. If you think of an aircraft and how the aerodynamics and engine help it to lift and fly, and the drag is the weight, the landing gear -- all the things that bump up against the wind and cause the plane to drag. I think it's the same thing in life. We need to be with people who lift us up, people who encourage us and support us. That's the sign of a good wingman, the people we call out to. They see the best in us and they lift us up and lend us their wings. Be around those type of people and also be that type of person yourself that gets rid of all that negativity.

Also, jettison all those relationships with those folks that are dragging you down. Many people are so focused on business and work and they may have great relationships at work; but at night and on the weekend, they're hanging out with those wingnuts, those people who may not have the character and the values to be a hard-working American. They may be fun to have dinner with, but are they really giving you lift in your life?

You should also do a personal inventory in your own life and figure out, what am I doing in my own life that's either lifting me up or dragging me down? What are the negative patterns and habits I have? Do I watch too much TV? Am I taking care of my health? Jettison those negative habits and get more self discipline in your life to be more committed to personal development as well.


Q. There's another chapter in the book about integrity being the No. 1 core value to have for success. Explain what that means in today's cut-throat business world.

A. Integrity is the No. 1 core value in the Air Force. Some people talk about integrity as just being honest, and that's certainly part of it. However, integrity also means admitting when you mess up or admitting when you've not been forthright and honest. Many people feel they're backed into a corner and can't say the truth. We've seen it in business and in government. To admit your mistake and then accept the consequences of that mistake is important to fix a problem that may get bigger if not attended to.


Q. In this tough economy, how can workers and businesspeople use your techniques to persevere when many are discouraged and they feel like giving up ?

A. Don't lose sight of what it is in your life that you love, that you're passionate about. It could be your children, your church, your charity, your God; whatever it is, it will give you the courage to push forward. In pilot's language, it will give you the courage to release the brakes when you push up that throttle and go and fly. Once you do that, on the opposite side of that fear is where personal growth is, where life is. It's often not the things that we do that we regret, it's the things that we don't do.


Q. What advice would you give to young people making their first steps in the business word today ?

A. If you're going out into the business world, find that mentor. Don't be afraid to come up to an individual and ask for advice. Join a networking group or even strike up a conversation with a businessperson sitting at Starbucks. There's a lot of adults out there in the business world who would love to mentor other people and who feel it's part of their duty to help. I almost guarantee there are very few people in the business world who would say no to a sincere plea for help.

To learn more about Waldo Waldman, link to his website at : www.YourWingman.com

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