Several years ago, while driving around Washington, D.C., with Sen. Mitt Romney, I shared the story of an offhand bet I had made with my three young children the previous weekend.   

I had promised each of them $100 for a feat I knew they would never be able to accomplish — a classic dad move. 

Due to great miscalculation on my part however, all three of them achieved it.  

I shared this with laughter with the senator who asked if I had paid up. I responded that I had cleverly assured them that the money would be added to their college fund. 

Before I had even finished my sentence, and with a look of forceful correction, he said, “You have to pay them today. It’s a lot of money, but there is nothing worth trading their belief that their dad will do as he says.” With a grin he added, “And they will love it!” 

Over the course of more than 15 years of work with Mitt Romney, I have learned countless such lessons from him. With the announcement that he will not seek another term representing Utah in the senate, I thought it appropriate to share a few.

I was recently asked what principles I had learned from Romney that might help my business be successful. Not having discussed my history with Romney once in the conversation to that point, it caught me off guard. 

Rather than answering along the lines they were expecting, I instead blurted out, “The No. 1 thing I learned from him, is how to treat my wife.” 

This is a fact. 

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Romney’s respect and devotion to Ann, coupled with a true teenage-like crush, is on full display each and every day one spends with the man. 

One time I was even an accidental interloper on a text thread between the two of them, in which I witnessed Mitt sweet-talking Ann, causing me to remind them I was on the thread with a single word: UNSUBSCRIBE! 

Over time I saw how his dedication to Ann, and those closest to him, provided him with a bedrock during turbulent times. Often he refrained, “The real currency in life is family and friends.” 

Another indelible principle I learned from Romney is the “plague of short termism.”  

He regularly pleads with the minds around him not to sacrifice the long-term good for short term solutions that might feel good in the moment.   

In business he worries that executive compensation has become too tied to quarterly performance. In politics, he cites Democrats flirting with the idea of removing the filibuster, and Republicans during the last administration pushing for a more authoritarian approach to governing; he wonders how on earth each side can’t see that the pendulum would swing violently back in the other direction down the road.  

When integrity was called for, I heard him say to other senators and his own staff alike, “Losing an election is nothing compared to lying awake at night because you have been indicted by your conscience.”  

To me, this is the essence of the man.   

In a world where political expediency rules, it has been refreshing to have someone representing Utah whose Catholic body man learned from him every word to the hymn “Do What is Right (let the consequence follow).”  

After the daunting vote to convict during the impeachment trial of early 2020, other advisers and I wanted to strategize his next move. My job to that point had often been to provide a strong counterpoint to anything he wanted to do, so he could grapple with all angles. In this case, I knew any other point of view was futile. 

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“I need to go to Utah tomorrow,” the senator insisted. He wanted to speak face-to-face with his toughest critics and the people back home he represented. It was sure to be unpleasant, but as he told me, ”It’s simply the right thing to do.”  

It is hard to think of his voice not being present in our national dialogue in the coming years. Utah will feel the void he will leave. So will the country.  

But as Mitt reminded me many times, “A leader’s most lasting accomplishment is shaping the character of those in their sphere of influence.” By that standard and any other, his accomplishments are huge. I am truly fortunate to have been shaped by a man who has represented his family, his faith, and his state so well.

Matt Waldrip is a managing partner at Dauntless Capital Partners, who served as Sen. Romney’s Senate campaign manager and chief of staff. 

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