The Published Author Podcast


After an impressive military career, Craig Whelden decided he wanted to give back by sharing all he’d learned about leadership with the next generation of leaders. 

Craig had a long career in the United States military, serving in various positions. He was Commander Marine Forces Pacific for bass operations, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Pacific. And he served as the first Chief of Staff for a four-star Navy-led Joint Task Force, and much more.

Craig believed the best way to pass on his knowledge and experience would be through speaking engagements. But he soon discovered that to become a sought-after speaker, he’d need to write a book.


After pursuing the idea of a ghostwriter, Craig finally decided to write his book himself. After working hard on it for weeks, he sent his draft manuscript to a book coach. 

The coach gave Craig no-holds-barred feedback, telling him that he’d written a memoir, not a leadership book, and that he had some rewriting to do!

Craig took his medicine and went back to do some heavy editing. He then worked with the coach to edit and structure his book. Craig’s coach asked him which were the most important chapters in the book - and from there character became chapter one, trust chapter two, and onwards. 

Craig’s book, Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best, was released two years ago, and has allowed Craig to accomplish what he set out to do.

“I wrote this book to help me get on stage to tell my story to people to help the next generation in leadership and life lessons, that's the reason I wrote it,” he tells show host Josh Steimle. 

Leadership is now an award-winning international bestseller, with dozens of five-star reviews on Amazon. Not least, it’s opened up the speaking circuit to Craig, which in turn has boosted book sales. 


Craig began seeking out speaking engagements by finding a couple of companies that send out leads for speaking gigs. He signed up with one, and so every month he receives a list of conferences that are occurring in the next eight, nine months or so. 

He also sends out a solicitation email, which basically introduces him, tells recipients a little bit about him, and his web address. 

Craig advises: “Step one is you have to have a pretty darn good foundation with a website. And on that website, if you want to be a speaker, you better have a demo video. Because if you don't have a demo that's pretty good, people are just going to move on.”

Craig’s website has testimonials about his book, his speaking engagements, and about me section, a blog, and lots of information about leadership.


Craig delivered his very  first presentation on stage in Omaha, Nebraska, in late 2019 to an audience of 250, for a financial management firm. 

“The firm bought 250 copies of my book, I signed every one of them the night before I gave my presentation. And they gave the book out to every attendee. So that has sort of been the model that I've been approaching as I talked to people about speaking engagements,” explains Craig.

“I say ‘I can give you a discount on my book if you want to buy it in bulk for every attendee’. In probably 80 to 90% of my speaking engagements, they have purchased the book for every attendee.”

“I gave probably four, maybe five presentations before the lockdown let a year ago in March,” he recalls. 

“The last presentation I gave live was the Los Angeles Fire Department Leadership Academy. With 50 students, they bought 50 copies of my book, and they've incorporated it into the curriculum,” enthuses Craig.

 “They asked me to come back and be a regular speaker, which I had planned to do, until COVID shut everything down. So I haven't been back out to Los Angeles yet, until things settle down.”

From that point forward in March, 2020, Craig began seeking online opportunities. For example, last month, he presented to a graduate course in leadership at Emory University in Atlanta. They bought 42 copies of his book, one for each student. Part of the students’  assignment was to take notes on Craig’s Zoom and read the book as well. 

He delivered an online presentation to a medical group, and at the end of the presentation gave his contact information, so attendees could purchase his book online.

Next month, Craig plans to begin doing in-person events. “I’ve had both my COVID shots and I feel pretty comfortable that I won't get infected and I won't infect anybody else. And because an event in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a medical group, I'm pretty comfortable they will take the appropriate precautions as well.”



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The Published Author Podcast is hosted by Josh Steimle, founder of Published Author. Josh is a book author himself and his article writing has been featured in over two dozen publications including Time, Forbes, Fortune, Mashable, and TechCrunch. He's a TEDx speaker, the founder of the global marketing agency MWI, a skater, father, and husband, and lives on a horse farm in Boston. Learn more at


Josh Steimle

Welcome to the Published Author Podcast where we help entrepreneurs learn how to write a book and to leverage it to grow their business and make an impact. I'm your host, Josh Stiemle. Today, my guest is Craig Whelden. Craig is the author of Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People To Be Their Best, which contains 50 years of leadership and life lessons. That would be an amazing book to read, no matter who the author was. But Craig had a long career in the United States military, serving in various positions. He was Commander Marine Forces Pacific for bass operations, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Pacific. And he served as the first Chief of Staff for a four-star Navy- led Joint Task Force. And that's the very, very abbreviated version, but we're gonna let him talk about his story in his own words, Craig, welcome to the show.

Craig Whelden

Thanks, Josh. I appreciate the invite.

Josh Steimle

Excited to be here with you today and learn about your book. But I'm also really excited just to get your life story because there's so much packed into this. Why don't you take it away for us a little bit, tell us a little bit about how you got started, where you come from, maybe even where you grew up as far back as you want to go. But tell us a little bit about your life. And then we'll make our way towards the book.

Craig Whelden

Well, I came from . . . I was raised in an Air Force family, we traveled all over the world. I went to Purdue University on an ROTC scholarship, thinking that I would give back four years to the army. And then I go off and do something else. And pretty soon, four years, turned into 30 years. And so I retired from Hawaii, as the Deputy Commander of US Army Pacific, in 2003, moved to Florida was in the private sector, really, for the first time in my life. I was a consultant for about seven years. But about five years into that. My wife said she wanted to move back to Hawaii. And I said, you know, Hawaii is really expensive, I'd have to get a job. And she said, that's a really good idea. So I spent the next two years looking for opportunities in Hawaii and the Marine Corps created this senior executive position to move 9000 Marines and all their family members from Okinawa, Guam, and build a base in Guam. And I threw my name in the hat was selected and spent nine wonderful years with the Marine Corps in Hawaii. And about three years ago, my wife said, I'm ready to move on again back to the mainland. And I thought we were gonna stay in Hawaii forever. And I said, What prompted this? She said, We're too far from family. And I said, Okay, I get it. So here we are now in Bluffton, South Carolina. But when she said that, I started thinking, What am I going to do next? Because if I'm going to disconnect from the Marine Corps, and the military, what am I going to do? And somebody asked me that question, and they said, what, what do you want to do? And I said, I want to give back what I have learned over many, many decades to the next generation. That's what I want to do. And I'd like to do it by going on the public speaking circuit and becoming a speaker, a motivational speaker, an educational speaker, an inspirational speaker about leadership and life lessons. And they said, aha, you need a book. I said, a book. Are you kidding me? I can't write a book. I was 66 years old, I think at the time. And I had never written a book before. I'd written articles, certainly. And I thought I was a pretty fair writer. But a book was very, very intimidating. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe I can do this. So I called a friend of mine, who was a retired three-star general. And he was an author of several books, and was on the speaking circuit. So essentially, he was doing what I wanted to do. And I said, How did you get started? How did you write a book? And he said, I had a ghostwriter. I said, aha, okay. I could probably do that. How did that work? And and he explained it to me, it was over the course of a year and they did interviews and guy took notes, and he grabbed a couple of chapters and send it to them and then review them, and they tighten it up. And over the course of a year, he'd write a book. And of course, the ghostwriter would share in the profits of the book, or the publisher would pay ahead of time for the book, and he would pass that on to the ghostwriter, the number of different kinds of arrangements. So I said, Do you think your ghostwriter would be interested in helping me? And he said, I'm happy to refer. So he did. And I called him and he said, You know, I'm really busy for the next year. I just don't have an opening. So do you have any recommendations? He said, there's a organization in New York City called Gotham Ghost Writers. And he said, You know, they can find a ghostwriter that fits your needs. So I went to them. And I said, Can you find a ghost writer for me, and you fill out a profile of what you're trying to do and who you are and what the topic is of your book and so forth. And they find for a fee, it was $1,000 about five, six, maybe seven candidate authors who are accomplished, very skilled and in your genre. And so I looked at all of those. And I thought, wow, you know, after I paid them $1,000, and then I pay the ghostwriter, whatever they charge, and it was anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 to have a ghostwriter write a book for you. That's a significant investment. So I thought maybe I can do this myself. So I started off, and I started writing. And I started when did I first discovered leadership? It was as an Eagle Scout at age 14. So I just started writing from that point on, and I just kind of carried it through. And I did this over the course of several months. And over the course of about three months, I had a manuscript, and then I didn't know what to do with it. So I, I started looking on the internet for somebody could help me from that point forward. And I found this fellow in California, who I did a little bit of checking on and I thought, yeah, I think I can trust him. And I said, Can you read my manuscript and tell me what you think? And he said, Sure, for about $300, he could do that. So I paid him $300 he read the manuscript, and first thing he said to me was, nobody's gonna read this book. And I said, Really? Why is that? He said . . .

Josh Steimle

That's pretty straight talk there. He says, it's a memoir. It's a story of your life. You're not Michelle Obama, and you're not Amoroso you're not famous, you're not infamous. For people to buy your book as a memoir, you need to be a personality, you need to be a celebrity, you need to be famous, or, or infamous, and people will buy, you know, that . . . . just based on whose name is on the book, but nobody knows who Craig Welden is. So nobody's going to buy this book. And I said, Well, I wasn't intending to make it a memoir, what do you suggest. He said, I understand what you're trying to achieve. There are many, many great lessons learned, both for leadership and life, in this book. Go through there, find them, find the ones that warrent becoming chapters, pull them out, make them chapter titles, and take these wonderful stories that you have of your life, and fold them underneath. And then you will have the makings of a great leadership and life lessons book. And I said, Okay, so figuratively speaking, I took a yellow highlighter, and I went through the manuscript to design a word processor. And I found about 24 topics that I thought would be good chapter titles, and I pulled them out and made them chapter titles. I folded the stories that supported each of those underneath. And then I rearranged the order a little bit because it didn't need to be chronological starting when I was 14, and ending when I was 66. And when I got done with that, he said, now we've got something, tell me what's the most important chapter in this book? And I said, I think it's character, because character is the foundation of all great leaders. He said, That ought to be chapter one. What's the second one? I said, I think trust, he said, that should be at chapter two. And I said, Okay, so then we did some rearranging of the order of the chapters to make them flow in a way that made sense. He helped me with some editing, to make sure that made it when I made references to something in one chapter, it was appropriately addressed in the other chapter, so on and so forth, the thing that editors typically do. And then he helped me get it across the the publishing finish line, his company, his New Insights Press, he got the cover made, for me, the layout, the photographs incorporated, it's on Amazon. Now, in print, audio, and digital version. It's done very well, won three National Book Awards. It's a number one international bestseller on Amazon and five countries. So I'm pretty pleased with it. And I think it's a pretty darn good read. Because when I went into this site and started writing, I said to myself, I want this to be like John Grisham or James Patterson, a page turner, when people get the end of the chapter, they don't want to put the book down, they want to go to the next chapter, which is kind of the way those famous authors are. And I tried to write it in that mode. I'm a storyteller teller at heart. That's what I do when I'm on stage. And that's what I did in the book. Well, that's great. So this guy was a kind of a book coach for you. Yeah, he was everything. You know, he took me from a manuscript which needed some work. And he carried me across the finish line. And it worked. Now, the interesting thing here is he could have been nice to you quote unquote, nice and said, Oh, yeah, this is a great month memoir and everything and then you would have published that and then nobody would have read it. And then it wouldn't have gotten you where you want it to be, but because he was a straight talker and told you the truth, here you are, you've got your successful book. Yeah, for for anybody who's interested in following up with him because he's now a good friend of mine. His name is Rick Benzel, he lives in California, in the Los Angeles area. And his publishing company is called New Insights Press. I own 100% of the intellectual property for this book. And so he doesn't share anything I payed him a flat rate, I'll let you know him talk to different people about what that might be. Because obviously, it depends on where they are. But it was less than $40,000 for a ghostwriter.

Craig Whelden

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. And it was well worth my investment. I did not write this book to make money. I wrote this book to help me get on stage to tell my story to people to help the next generation in leadership and life lessons, that's the reason I wrote it.

Josh Steimle

And so how is it doing with that objective? Is it accomplishing the objective that you set for it when you wanted to create it? Yeah. So I've moved to South Carolina, from Hawaii in October 2019. And I had my first presentation on stage in Omaha, Nebraska, about three weeks later to an audience of 250, for a financial management firm. They bought 250 copies of my book, I signed every one of them the night before I gave my presentation. And they gave the book out to every attendee. So that has sort of been the model that I've been approached, approaching, as I talked to people about speaking engagements is Look, I can give you a discount on my book, if you want to buy it in bulk for every attendee. And I would say that in probably 80 to 90% of my speaking engagements on leadership and life lessons, they have purchased the book for every attendee. That's fantastic. And so you're charging a speaking fee? And then you're also selling them the book, right?

Craig Whelden

Yeah, yeah. So next month, I'm going to Tennessee, I'm doing a medical group State Conference in Tennessee, and they're probably 150 to 250 people in the audience. And they thought they may be able to get a sponsor to purchase my book at a discount. They weren't able to do that. So what I will do is, after my presentation, I'll set up a table, and I'll sell the book to individuals who were interested.

Josh Steimle

How did you adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic that we're currently going through as a public speaker? Because it's hard to be a public speaker when nobody's going out in public? Yeah, that's a great question. So I gave probably four, maybe five presentations before the lockdown let a year ago in March. The last presentation I gave live was the Los Angeles Fire Department Leadership Academy. At 50 students, they bought 50 copies of my book, they've incorporated it into the curriculum. And they asked me to come back and be a regular speaker, which I had planned to do, until COVID, shut everything down. So I haven't been back out to Los Angeles yet, until things settle down. But from that point forward in March, I started soliciting online opportunities. For example, last week, I'm sorry, last month, I did a presentation to a graduate course in leadership at Emory University in Atlanta. And they bought 42 copies of my book, one for each of the students. And I gave the pres . . . they got the book before the presentation. I'm not sure whether they read it before or after, but part of the assignment was to, you know, take notes on my presentation, which I did over Zoom, and then presumably, read the book as well. And then I don't know what they're going to do in class beyond that, but that that class is meeting via Zoom now, and has been for a number of months. So that's an example. I've done a presentation in Oregon to a medical group that after the end of the presentation, they said how can people learn more about you and purchase your book and I gave my contact information, So you know, they could purchase a book online, if they wanted to, but it hasn't been quite the same as in, you know, in person presence, which is what I will do starting next month. I've had both my COVID shots on past my two-week period. And I told a number of people who invited me to give in-person presentations that as soon as I have had my vaccination, I'll be happy to do that. But I'm not going to do that until then. So I'm doing an event in Savannah on the 12th. I'm going to Tennessee on the 18th and I feel pretty comfortable that I won't get infected and I won't infect anybody else. And because the one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a medical group, I'm pretty comfortable they will take The appropriate precautions as well. I would hope so. So the question a lot of people have when it comes to public speaking is great, I write a book, I set up a website, but then how do I actually get these speaking engagements? How do I get people to pay me to get on stage? How did you build your speaking business and get the leads so that you could go and get this business? You know, there's a couple of companies out there that actually send you leads, I signed up for one of those. And so every month, I get a list of conferences that are occurring in the coming eight, nine months or so. And I have a solicitation email, which basically introduces myself, tells them a little bit about me, tells them they can go to my website and see demo tapes, they can see testimonials about my book, testimonials about my speaking, testimonials about me watch podcasts, read my blog, there's a wealth of information on my website. So you know, step one, I think is you have to have a pretty darn good foundation with a website. And on that website, if you want to be a speaker, you better have a demo tape. Because if you don't have a demo tape, that's pretty good, people are just gonna go, you know, they're just gonna pass a move on. Right? They don't know what they're buying. That's exactly right. They want to, they want to kind of taste it before they dive in any deeper. So I spent six months or so when I started this before I retired from the Marine Corps, putting a website together, getting the demo tape put together, gathering testimonials from people. And of course, all of that takes time. Every time that I speak to a group that where I'm well-received, and I've been well received. And every single one, I always ask the organizer or the person at the top of the food chain. I said, Would you mind giving me a testimonial about how my presentation was received. And they've always been happy to do that, just a couple of sentences, I have not yet gotten to the point where I've done video testimonials, which is the next step, which I can then incorporate into my demo tape, which you can also find on my website. So there's sort of a stair step-process, you have to have some building blocks, and you're not going to get live, paid speaking engagements until you've done some free ones. And I've done a lot of free ones. Oftentimes, you can go give a presentation to like a Rotary Club, which I've done a number of times. And coming out of that will be an invitation to a speaking engagement that pays you because somebody was in the audience and they heard you speak and they said, Wow, I'd really like to have you come speak to my company. And okay, you compensate for your speakers? Yes, we do. What's your fee? And then you start the negotiation. Hmm. Fantastic. So take us back a little bit more to your career and how you incorporated this into your book. Were there parts of your career that were difficult to incorporate into the book, or How did you draw those life lessons from your experiences and decide, okay, this is something that has to be in the book, or this is something I should leave out? Yeah, great question. So I spent 40 years in the military, either in uniform for 30, or as a senior executive with the Marine Corps for another nine or 10. And so it's hard to avoid that 40-year period for the things that I learned during that period. But I wanted to go into this effort, the book writing effort, making sure that I didn't target the military as my audience. I'm drawing from my experiences in the military, but I'm really targeting the civilian community, the corporate America, the nonprofit's of the world, and just the average reader who just wants to do some self improvement. That was my target. And I have a chapter in my book about communications. And I say that, you know, one of the first things you do in effective communications, is kind of analyze your audience. Who is it that you're trying to communicate to? And how will they best receive what you are about to say, because it's not what you say that matters. It's what other people hear. That's what's important. So I always wrote every chapter With that in mind, that I'm targeting an audience that's non-military. So I got to keep all the acronyms and, and all that sort of stuff kind of off the table. And I got to write it in a way that's engaging, interesting and fun. And again, like I said earlier, is a page-turner. So I did that, but I didn't just write about my military experiences. your listeners can go to my website, Craig Welden com to the book tab, and they can find a sample chapter, chapter 18. is called The Light At The End of The tunnel. And while the events that I described in there, and how I address that challenge in my life had really little to do with the military. So that will give you a flavor for I was in the military at the time. But the lessons coming out of that really had nothing to do with the military. And they were something that anybody could experience. Mm hmm. How long did it take you from start to finish from the time you started working on the book in earnest to getting it published? What was the timeline more or less? So I started the first week of October in 2018. And I finished the draft before Christmas. So you know, people have drawn books out for months, and years. And I was determined not to do that. Because I set a goal for myself to have this thing published six months before I left the military, because I wanted to get some traction going like it hit the ground running. When I retired from the military. When I got done with a manuscript, it took about two months for me to get it tightened up with that rearranging of the chapters and pulling the, you know, the lessons out making them chapter and all that working with an editor. So probably December in January timeframe is when we did that, in February, I had to submit my book to the Department of Defense, because I was a senior official in the Department of Defense. And if you write a book, while you're in the Department of Defense, it has to be approved, that took another five to six weeks. So probably March timeframe, late March, they approved it. And it was on Amazon by April of 2019. So that's pretty quick. Yeah. And in six weeks of that was the Department of Defense, you know, reading through to make sure I wasn't giving away state secrets, and so forth. Was there any point in that process where it got tough where you felt like, maybe I just don't want to do this? Maybe I should give up or you struggled with writer's block or anything? I mean, it sounds like no, because you went pretty quick. But were there any struggles with the process? No, I understand people have that; I didn't. And I think it was because I was driven to get the thing done. And I was anxious to get it done. And once I got going, I had some momentum. And I thought I'm on a roll I you know, I can keep . . . and it was easy for me to do it the first time, because it was chronological. And I just kind of started when I was at age 14. And I started walking forward. And I had in my mind, what are the lessons I learned in leadership and life over the past 50 years? And let me tell stories, and tell about these lessons that I learned. So no, I didn't really have the writer's block problem or the any issue I was really, I was task-driven and time-driven. Well, now that you're building a name for yourself, do you have any desire to go back and publish that memoir at a future date? No, I think that, you know, one could argue that it is still memoir-like that mean that you're still reading about the story of Craig Weldon, that just rearranged the like a Rubik's Cube, it's just turned a little bit and it's a different color. But it's essentially the same book, all I did was take the pieces of the puzzle, and put them together in a way that it could be conveyed and understood as a leadership, self-improvement, and life- lessons book, rather than just the story of my life. I think that's one of the best lessons to come out of this interview for our audience is that . . . .because a lot of people do start out writing a memoir, because it's what they know, they know their life story. They can write that they can sit down, they can tell it, they can write it. But then they run into this block of, well, who cares who's going to read this? Why would anybody read this, but I love that it wasn't that you went back and wrote an entirely different book, you took that and you rearranged it, you made a pivot. And you're able to turn that content into something that people would care about and would read and now you're having this success. That's a great lesson. The other thing is people need to realize that there is a huge effort to market your book, which they don't really understand. When you get done with writing a book and you get it on Amazon. You can't just sit back and wait for it to be sold. It doesn't work that way. You've got to aggressively marketed and I hired a couple of companies to help me market it. And we have some Amazon one-week free download opportunities. And I had probably 5,000or 6,000 downloads worldwide, went during the one-week period that this company helped me market it. That's fantastic. We got the numbers up and got me to the bestseller status on Amazon in 16, I think it was, 16 different categories. Because each . . . your book is categorized on Amazon as either a leadership book, a management book, a self help-book, a memoir, whatever the categories are, and one of the things, one of the tricks of the trade is to find those categories that your book will fit into as many as possible. And that way you narrow the competition for rising to the top. What was the company that you worked for for that service? Or worked with for that service?

Craig Whelden

Bestseller Publishing.

Josh Steimle

Bestseller Publishing? Got it. So what other marketing did you engage in, were there other programs that you tried, were there things that you tried and didn't work, or what worked the best?

Craig Whelden

So you know, if you go to Amazon, there's a number of . . . Amazon's got a site called KDP, which is for authors. And that's where you go to see the back-end of the status of your book, and how many books you've sold, and so on, and so forth. There are a number of opportunities to market and sell your book through advertisements, and so on and so forth. You know, I didn't find a whole lot of benefit from that, certainly not enough to pay for the advertisement. Because Amazon is an 800-pound gorilla. You know, you love them, or you hate them. But they're not the only game in town. But they're the biggest game in town. So if you want to sell your book and get the widest distribution, you really need to work with Amazon, in my opinion. The trade off is that they take a pretty good chunk of your money. So if you have whatever you make, so if you sell your book for $14.95, and I don't even remember what the numbers are, they're going to take a good chunk of that you're not going to get a whole bunch of royalty from from that. But again, from my perspective, that didn't matter because I didn't write the book to make money. I wrote the book to get it in people's hands. I have one for example, somebody ordered my book, read it. he happened to be the CEO of an IT company in Charleston, South Carolina, he turned to this personnel director and said, Hey, this guy's in Bluffton, South Carolina, it's two hours from here, see if you can get him up here to speak to our team at a leadership conference. So she contacted me said our CEO, just read your book would like to one get a copy for everybody on the leadership team, that was 35 copies, and two, get you up here to give a presentation. And I did. And so you know, these things happen that way. I gave a presentation in Indianapolis, Indiana to a group called the Contemporary Club. They didn't pay me a speaking fee. But they did play for my airfare up and back in one night in a hotel. But there was a lady in the back of the audience that night, who was from the Daughters of the American Revolution. And she came to me a week later and said, Hey, I heard you speak in Indianapolis a week ago. And I'd love to have you come speak to our group next November. And so, you know, through the negotiations, they there, they have a speaker's fee. And so now I've got a paying speaking event in Indianapolis, Indiana, in November, that came out of a free speaking event. They also have a book club within the Daughters of the American Revolution. And she bought 25 copies of my book, and that was the January Book of the Month. So that is all the ladies read and then talked about. And when I go up there, I'll be able to set up a booth after my presentation and sell the book individually. When I was at that Contemporary Club, one that I mentioned that was free. They let me set up a table and sell my book. Somebody walked up, and I said how many would you like? And he said, 50. I said, Excuse me? He said, I'd like to have 50 copies. I'm a financial management person. And I think you've got a great story. And I'd like to give these out as my clients to it. Okay, good. So in one sale, I sold 50 books.

Josh Steimle

Great thing here is that so many of us, especially when we're starting out as authors, we think, Oh, it's all about Amazon. And it's all online. And it's all social media. It's all on the internet. And yet, what you're telling us is a lot of the success you've had, maybe most of the success you've had has actually been this one-to-one personal, in-person interaction. Yeah, you got to get some traction. And, again, if you want to be a speaker, you got to start off free, and just speak and by the way, that's great practice. If you want to, if you want to appear natural on stage, then you need to do it a lot. And when you give free speaking engagements and opportunities to people, you get a lot of practice. And those stories become second nature. They come out naturally and so I rarely turn down a speaking opportunity because it keeps me in practice. But there's really two audiences, there's the ones that will pay you. And they're the ones that don't have a budget to pay you. And quite frankly, some of the ones that don't have a budget, I don't mind speaking to, because of who they are. I gave a discount, a significant fee discount, these are paying organizations. to the two medical groups that I'm doing in the two next months, I gave a 50% discount on my speaking fee, because of what they've done over the past year with COVID. It's kind of a recognition for the service and they provide to America, you know, they are America's new heroes. Mm hmm. That's great. So you said that in your book, the first two chapters are character and trust, is that right?

Craig Whelden


Josh Steimle

How would you apply character to being an author? I mean, if it's important for a leader to have character, an author is a type of leader. So how would you apply the lessons in that first chapter on character to being an author or becoming an author? Well, everything you write needs to be true. You know, you can't you can't stretch the truth. Let me tell us a short story. And I think I'll make the point. When I became a general officer in the army, one of the techniques that I picked up from one of the people that I'd worked for before, was to occasionally, about quarterly, pull my team in that was closest to me, my aide de camp, my driver, my secretary, secretary of general staff, the chief of staff, the people that were near me every day closely. And I said, Look, I will never cross an ethical boundary by design, circumstances, may pull me across that boundary, and I'll find myself on the wrong side of it. And I don't want that. So what I'm telling all of you is, I want you to have your antenna up, figuratively speaking, and be aware that circumstances often take senior people beyond the boundaries they're supposed to go. And then say something, I'm telling you now, I want you to say some, Hey, boss, we probably ought not to accept that gift that this foreign dignitary is trying to give you. Or we, if we accept it, we need to dispose of it in the appropriate manner. There's a process where you can, you can accept gifts and then dispose of them properly. Anyway, then I would have the lawyer for my organization, give a presentation on where those boundaries were, so that everybody knew exactly where they were. So I made sure that the team around me understood where my ethical boundaries were, and that I was counting on them to make sure that circumstances don't pull us as a group on the wrong side of that boundary, except in a meal that's more than $10 in value is an ethical violation in the US government. It just is. That really restricts your options these days with inflation and everything. That's true, it does. And it was hard for some people to understand what you said, you know, they want to host a dinner and so forth. And so you know, I just can't do that. I mean, I'm happy to have dinner with you. And we can go Dutch, but I just can't accept a meal because the value exceeds what I'm authorized to accept. So the point of your question is about becoming an author, you know, be true to yourself. Look at the characters, the characteristics of a strong foundation in character, and I talked about that my chapter. I thought character was so important that I actually refer readers at the end of the chapter to two more books that focus exclusively on character, because it's really the foundation. And I think people start seeing cracks in character in senior people when pressure gets on them too much, or they forget who they are, you know that they're subject to the same laws and rules that the rest of us are, you know, there's a Latin phrase called memento mori. And it's what it means is remember, you are mortal. And as the story goes, a Roman generals coming back from a huge victory. He is going through a Rome on his chariot. And all the citizens of Rome are thrown down all the confetti on top of them, telling them how wonderful he is. And his slave who's right up there on the chariot discharged, the whisper in his ear, occasionally, memento mori, remember, you are mortal. And too often people forget that when they get power with them. So having humility as a senior leader is very, very important. I talked about that in chapter one. And remembering your roots, you are subject to the same rules as everybody else. Great lessons. What were those two books on character that you really liked. So one of them is called The Character Edge: Leading and Winning With Integrity. It was written by Lieutenant General retired Bob Caslen. He used to be the superintendent at West Point. And Michael Matthews, who's a professor at West Point, this book was just published in 2020. I wrote my book a year before that, but I thought this book was important enough to include in my book that I went back in and edited my book to add it at the end of chapter one, I had already had this other book, this one is called Building Your Leadership Legacy: It's All About Character, by Robert C. Carroll. And he, too, was a professor, the director of leadership department at the United States Military Academy at West Point. So I don't think West Point has cornered the market on character, but it's one of the foundational elements they teach to every single cadet, when they go there. Are there any other books that had a large influence on your book, or that you looked to as kind of mentoring you through the process of creating your book? You know, I've read a number of novels, fiction novels, that when I got, as I said, earlier, when I got to the end of the chapter. I like john Grisham, I like James Patterson, and there's a couple of others that I like. But when you get done with a chapter, you don't want to put the book down because it it, he kind of ends the chapter with a hook in to you, which makes you want to go to the next chapter, you know, some of these exceptionally well done series that you can watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime and all that they do the same thing. When they get to the end of an episode, they hook you in a way that says, Wow, I can't wait to get to the next chapter to see how this turned out. They dropped the bomb, if you will, right at the end. So using that philosophy, I tried to apply it in ways that I thought might work well here by you know, putting an exclamation point of some sort at the end of every chapter. Yeah, it's not just for fiction. This works in nonfiction too.

Craig Whelden

Absolutely does. Yeah.

Josh Steimle

Well, Craig, it's been so great to talk to you today. There's so many lessons that you've shared with us. Once again, where's the best place for people to connect with you and learn more about you?

Craig Whelden

Well, I'm on LinkedIn, Craig Weldon, is easy to find w h e l d e and not d o N. And Craig Weldon com is my website. I tell people you can get a window into my soul on my website, you can learn as not as much as my wife knows about me, but almost.

Josh Steimle

Great. Thank you so much for being with us here today. We really appreciate your time.

Craig Whelden

Max, Josh, appreciate the invitation.

Josh Steimle

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