Do you have a special “gift” that makes others happy? Is it something that enriches the lives of others around you? Do you practice it just like your other sets of skills? Do you do something that you wish to master for the pure enjoyment of others?
A few months ago, I wrote about how healthy habits have the potential to not only enrich your life but help you live longer.
I have friends who play the piano as if they are performing at the Kennedy Center. I have several friends who can speak in front of a crowd – large and small – like Bill Clinton. I know a 9-year old who plays the violin like a concert violinist. I can go on…
I also have a friend who whistles. You may think I mean like you and me, walking down the street, whistling some movie tune. Nope, I mean my friend Chris whistles…to enrich the lives of others. In fact, he is the four-time International Whistling Champion.
I met Chris Ullman when I worked for now-Ohio Governor John Kasich. Chris was the Press Secretary and I was the Director of Coalitions for the House Budget Committee. We worked closely together, along with four others, in a large room in the historic Cannon House Office Building. Now, I see Chris and his family weekly at Sunday Mass. (I also worked with his wife Kristen on Capitol Hill.)
Chris is smart, kind, and a public relations pro now on his 16th year as the Global Director of Communications for the esteemed Carlyle Group, an investment firm. His day job has been dedicated to formulating messages for and responses to the media and others.
Chris learned to whistle at a young age and practiced throughout his childhood, while also becoming an avid student of music. Chris has used his whistling talent to bring joy to hundreds of thousands. Yes, hundreds of thousands. He has whistled with the National Symphony Orchestra on the National Mall, for the President of the United States, before a Duke basketball game and Washington Nationals games. And…Chris whistled at my wedding in 2000.
His whistling repertoire ranges from opera to classical to Broadway musicals. He has appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “The Today Show,” CNN, NPR, CNBC, and has been featured in The New York Times and People Magazine. His favorite tunes to whistle are “Take the A-Train” and Mozart’s Oboe Concerto. The first time he competed in the national whistling competition he performed Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.”
Upon reading his book “Find Your Whistle,” a metaphor for a talent, or hobby, that brings joy to others, I learned that Chris’ greatest joy is whistling for more than 400 people on their birthday. I can always count on a voicemail from Chris on my birthday. His whistle is like listening to a symphony: he has the tune down to a tee! I keep that voicemail for months because it just makes me smile.
I know his time is of value. I mean, he has a huge job for an investment firm, one of the biggest, with more than $162 billion in assets. He regularly works with billionaires and calls the CEO and the founders of his firm friends. He also calls Preston, a physically and developmentally challenged child, a friend, as well as the many people he recounts who have helped him refine his “whistle” through their own acts of kindness.
Yet Chris finds the time every day to call someone to whistle happy birthday.
In his book, he regularly profiles a person who has their own “whistle” like:
- John Adams, Founder of So Others Might Eat, whose whistle is love.
- Tony Warnock, CEO of Lost Valley Ranch, whose whistle is his hiring philosophy.
- His mom, Francis Ullman, whose whistle is empathy.
- Dan Akerson, former CEO of General Motors, whose whistle is his moral compass.
Every one of the individuals Chris chose to profile has a gift, or their own “whistle.” What is yours?