Andy Butler is a lifelong boater and Vice Flotilla Commander of Flotilla 65 in Fairhaven MA (the largest flotilla in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary). Andy is also District Staff Officer for vessel safety checks, and commodore’s aide in the first northern Division. He has his professional 50 ton captains license and has both sailed transatlantic and fished commercially for tuna in the Northeast canyons for 20 years.
I hope it’s not immodest to say that I’ve had a fair degree of success in my life.
In many ways, I’m reminded of a line from the movie “Broadcast News,” where William Hurt’s character asks the character played by Albert Brooks, “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Brooks responds, “Keep it to yourself!”
I’ve interviewed, and dined with, world leaders, titans of industry and legendary investors. I was once part of the “Davos Crowd” and traveled the world as a business journalist covering everything from meetings of world leaders to both financial and geo-political crises.
It has been rewarding both financially and personally. And yet, the success I’ve enjoyed is, oddly, not in the areas about which I was most passionate as a younger person.
For most of my early life, I had one of three dreams … to be a professional athlete, to be a rock drummer and songwriter in a famous band, and/or to be a writer and producer of movies and TV shows.
That I took a 33-year “detour” into financial news and succeeded in areas I vowed never to involve myself in .. business and news, is an irony that never escapes my notice.
This leads me to the topic of today’s non-political contribution: Despite the success I’ve enjoyed as an adult, am I living through my three kids, each of whom is far better at the areas I was most passionate about … sports and music and entertainment … than I ever was? And are my efforts to help them succeed for them … or for me? Or, hopefully, am I just being a good dad in helping fulfill their own individual dreams?
I, of course, believe the latter is what motivates me the most. There are times, however, when I’m in the recording studio with my oldest daughter (She sings and gets that from my wife!), that I actively wonder if there’s not a twinge of desire on my part that this will somehow fulfill a longing of my own.
She also plays piano and violin and can pick up any instrument and learn it on the fly. (She gets that part from my wife!)
When I’m watching (and formerly coaching) my now 15-year old son, who effortlessly slings a baseball over 80 miles-per-hour and bats over .500 on his varsity baseball team, I wonder whether I want him to continue on because it’s what he wants, or because it allows me to think I contributed to his success in sports, thereby giving me some ownership of that success.
He also writes and produces music and, like my oldest daughter, is much farther along in the process than I was at that age.
As an athlete, we don’t compare. He’s 5’10”, 195 pounds and squats over 400 lbs.
My own dad, a gentle and quiet man, told me when I was nine, in my first year of Little League ball, not to get my hopes up about going pro. It’s one-in-a-million, he casually pointed out. He was right, but I was crushed. I don’t know if that has influenced me in my efforts to assist my son, but it’s clearly always on my mind.
My youngest daughter, meanwhile, is a ranked, competitive swimmer, more disciplined, more gifted and more competitive than I ever was.
She, like the other two, doesn’t need pushing and prodding to chase her dreams, but I sometimes fear that I subtly pressure them to go for the gold.
I find myself asking my oldest, who moves at her own pace, with respect to her desire to perform publicly, if she still wants to be a singer … with some secret fear that she will say no and eventually tell me she wants to do something more to her liking than mine.
My son and youngest daughter are both angling to get athletic (and academic) scholarships in their chosen sports, but, in my son’s case, when I bring up the possibility of him catching for the New York Yankees someday, he says, “Dad, come on. That’s a lot of pressure. I just want to get into a good college.”
My youngest keeps her own counsel. And while wanting to swim in college, her future plans are more of a secret than those of the other two.
I admit that I am sometimes anxious about their futures and try to do everything I can to assist them in their efforts to succeed.
I’ve done what I wanted to do in life. I have a few unscratched itches that I’m exploring in the final chapter of my professional life. Whether I succeed, or fail, in realizing some measure of success in other areas remains to be seen.
And it remains to be seen if my own children chase the dreams that I had, or find other careers, other pathways and other definitions of success.
My biggest success in life has been having a wife and three children who I happen to like, as well as love.
And while I hope they find success in their professional lives, setting aside my secret desires about in what form that success comes, if they too can have marriages and families that bring them the joys that I’ve experienced then the other stuff simply doesn’t matter.
In the meantime, I have to run, my daughter’s agent is calling …
For nearly three decades, Ron Insana has been a highly respected business journalist and money manager. He began his career at the Financial News Network in 1984 and joined CNBC when FNN and CNBC merged in 1991.