Frank Thoughts: The American Dream
Frank Boland
November 10, 2014

“Ben, will you read this and tell me if anything jumps out at you … or at least surprises you,” I asked my seventeen-year-old grandson.  We were in my Jeep heading to the golf course when I had handed Ben a copy of Investors Business Dailey.  In the paper was an article about Rowland Macy, the founder of Macy’s Department Stores.  Before we got even close to the golf course Ben turned and said, “Whoa!  He failed FOUR times in retailing before starting Macy’s!” “Yes,” I replied.  “He did.  Do you think many people would be able to deal with that?” I asked. “No, absolutely not,” said Ben.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

“That was my point.  Most of us are afraid of failure.  We want security in our lives.  So we try to get “on” something in life; something like the post office, the fire department, or the police department ...  or any public union.  We can then do our time and retire.  But if we don’t have a passion for the choice of what we do … are we really living a valid life?  Rowland Macy clearly had a passion for retailing.  How else could he overcome four previous failures?” I asked.

I then reminded him of an earlier summer experience.  He had caddied for a friend, and client of mine,   who is a professional golfer.  My friend has played on the American, European and Asian golf tours.   Now in his 50s, he’s been hired by a billionaire ... to play golf with him.  Once a month he flies to wherever his client currently is in the world.  The weekend my grandson had caddied for him he had flown to Europe the previous Thursday.   As the plane landed in Paris he received a phone call and was told the client wouldn’t be able to play golf because of business issues.  My friend immediately boarded a return flight and upon landing in New York called me and asked if I wanted to play golf with him Sunday! “He still wanted to do what he did for a living … instead of having a day off!  How many people would want to do that?” I asked Ben.  He nodded his head understandingly.    

I truly believe that those of us who have a passion for a given field and do not fear failure --- at least when we’re young --- are living THE AMERICAN DREAM.  It is for each of us to define our “Dream.” But what has is universally understood is that the concept embraces equal opportunity for all.  For some, it might be financial success; for others it could be just doing what they love … as my friend the professional golfer does … or Rowland Macy before him.

But to accomplish this, one often has to give up security and deal with possible failure.  That can be difficult for many.  And yet, ironically, it is something we all wish for our children.  We want to see them succeed.  Why not want it for ourselves as well?  The American Dream is the very ethos on which our country was built.  It is the reason millions of immigrants have come to this country … and still do.  And if one can stand in a batter’s box and fail 70% of the time trying to hit a 95 mile-an-hour fastball, you can make twenty-million a year.  If not, you can always, like most people, buy a ticket and sit in the stands!

Francis Patrick Boland


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