Episode #1288 Bernie Swain: A Portrait of Integrity

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Co-founder and Chairman of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Bernie Swain joins Moe Abdou to discuss why the turning points in your life often define your destiny.


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Bernie Swain

Co-founder & Chairman of Washington Speakers Bureau View Full Profile

A portrait of Integrity

If Integrity is the hallmark of an enduring leader, then Bernie Swain is the quintessential leadership treasure.  As the co-founder and Chairman of the largest and most respected lecture agency in the world - Washington Speakers Bureau - he and his wife, Paula earned the right to represent three US Presidents, four prime ministers of Great Britain, and countless other world leaders and business icons all on the strength of a handshake.  

Being from the Washington DC area, I’ve worked with and followed closely the rise of the Washington Speakers Bureau, still it wasn’t until I read Bernie’s book - What Made Me Who I Am, did I fully grasp the depth of his character.  Like all of us who choose the path less traveled, Bernie and his wife, Paula’s journey wasn’t without challenge, but as you’ll soon find out, it’s the manner by which they honor their deepest principles that will forever distinguish their legacy. 

This conversation with Bernie was a highlight for me, and my greatest hope for you is that walk away knowing why true nobility always starts with being true to yourself.  Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect:

  • On Turning Points - You can learn from the turning points in your life, the defining moments, and the forks in the road - embrace them.
  • Yoga Berra - When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.
  • On Integrity - The key to {our} business is integrity, and for {us} it all started with a quick handshake with former ABC anchorman, Steve Bell.  Thereafter, the handshake became our aura of trust.
    • The idea of exceeding expectations starts with the aura of trust
  • On Perseverance - It was the passion that I had for what I wanted to do that convinced me to find a way to solve the problem of just finding one speaker. 
  • On Experience - I learned backwards - everything I learned started with failure & it was my passion that willed me to never quit. 
  • On Humility - Humility is a product of the people I’ve been around. 
  • On Success - When you start to taste success, its easy to start cutting corners - be vigilant never to sacrifice your principles.
    • look at the life that you’re living and see the people in your life that mean something to you - That’s success.
  • On Leadership -In addition to having vision and goals - the smartest leaders are introspective.  Being a good leader starts with knowing your strengths and weakness, and committing to growing from them. 
  • On Honesty - The genuinely honest person is no different in private as she is in public.
  • On Growth - You can’t be successful in life unless you adopt values; they’re the bedrock that will inspire others to follow you.
  • On wisdom - You can be wiser and stronger if you learn from the turning points in your life and the lives of others. 
  • On Giving a Speech- A great speech comes from the heart & captures your experiences. 
  • On Speakers - A great speaker has an enormous amount confidence, and understands his life well enough to share it.  
  • What I’ve learned from ———
    • Ronald Regan - if you believe in something, never let the challenges and obstacles get in the way.  
    • Condoleezza Rice - Family & education are incredibly important - embrace & immerse yourself in books.
    • Bob Woodward - There’s always a story behind the story.
    • Mike Krzyzewski- His mom always taught him that ‘you have to get on the right bus.  And, when you get on with other people, make sure that you get on a bus that has the best people on it.  And when you’re driving that bus, make sure that you’re only inviting the best people.’
    • Colin Powell - Tremendous honesty and integrity.  Growing up in the Bronx taught him that all kinds of people can stay, work and live together.  Everyone can get along.
  • On Measuring his life - I never want to lose focus on who I’ve been - that I don’t change as a person.  That I remain true to what I’ve been taught.  Alex Haley once told me that -”when an old person dies, it’s like a library burning.”  Those experiences in our life are like pages in our book and those experiences are the defining moments and powerful influences that teach us the kind of person we become.  
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