In a recent blog post, Seth Godin observes:
“Like a dream come true”
Choose your dreams carefully.
Everyone is entitled to a dream. It gives us hope, focuses our energy, makes us human.
Sometimes, though, we get sold a dream instead of creating our own.
Is it really every girl’s dream to become a princess, to be chosen by someone of royal birth and to have a $34 million wedding? Or is that the Disney-industrial complex betraying you, selling you short?
I just read that the folks who brought us the Mall of America are going to redo the troubled Xanadu shopping complex in New Jersey and rename it The American Dream. Is this the best we can do? Shop?
Dreams are too important to sell cheap, to give over to some organization trying to make a buck.
* * *
To me, dreams are visions of what could be. We realize that they haven’t happened yet but some dreams are so powerful that they inspire us to make them come true. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offers the best example of such a compelling vision when he concluded his speech on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial.
As for fantasies, they resemble dreams but can cause all manner of serious problems if we delude ourselves to think that what we envision has already happened.
In anticipation of winning a state lottery, many people spend money they don’t have, to buy what they don’t need, using credit cards because they have no cash. Their fantasy is delusional.
All great human achievements began with a bold, compelling dream.
Fantasies are essentially harmless unless perceived to be realities.
The damage they can then do is incalculable. Beware.
Richard S. Tedlow
Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2006)
While reading and then reviewing Richard Tedlow’s previous books, I was soon convinced that he is a cultural anthropologist as well as a business historian. With consummate skill, he creates a richly textured context within which he analyzes various corporate executives. Moreover, his talents as an historian are comparable with those of Joseph J. Ellis and David McCullough. As he explains in the introduction to this book, he interviewed dozens of people about the life and times of Andy Grove, asking each “What would make this book a page-turner for you?” Here are three responses:
“I want to know how he thinks.”
“I want to know how all these decisions really did get made.”
“I want to know all the stuff that he won’t tell you about.”
Tedlow provides answers to these and other questions as he rigorously examines “the life and times of an American” who was born András István Gróf in Hungary (in 1936), to a middle-class Jewish family. In 1956, during the Hungarian Revolution, he left his home and family under the cover of night, immigrating to the United States, and arriving in New York in 1957. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the City College of New York and then, after settling in California, he received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. After working at Fairchild Semiconductor, Grove accepted Gordon Moore’s invitation to become the third employee at a start-up, Intel Corporation (Integrated Electronics), of which he eventually became president in 1979, its CEO in 1987, and its chairman and CEO in 1997. He relinquished his CEO title in May 1998 and remained chairman of the board until November 2004. Of special interest to me is Tedlow’s explanation of why, given Grove’s background, he considers him to be an exemplary American. His reasons are convincing and best revealed within the book’s lively narrative.
Years ago, I read Grove’s Swimming Across and then Only the Paranoid Survive. While reading each book, I wished that I could learn more about the background to his countless adventures in Europe and then in the United States. I was especially interested in knowing much more about those with whom Gróf and then Grove had the closest associations over the years. Tedlow provides all of this information with the skills of a master raconteur. Although I certainly never faced the dangers Grove did, nor will ever achieve what he has, I did (and do) see certain similarities between us other than being born in the same year. For example, his joie de vivre. As Tedlow explains, “He has an insatiable appetite for life’s challenges. The old saying – he lives the life he loves and loves the life he lives – applies to Andy Grove more than to most of us.” Tedlow brings Grove to life as a man who, in Whitman’s words, “is large…contains multitudes.” Tedlow offers a substantial value-added bonus to his discussion of Grove: a rigorous and sometimes riveting examination of the dynamic, sometimes volatile business world during each “inflection point” in Grove’s association with Intel.
Grove’s “life and times” are indeed emblematic of almost 40 years of American business history but, in my opinion, they have even greater significance when we take into full account what this nation has meant to millions of others who — like young Gróf — also had a dream of a much better life, pursued it with courage and determination while overcoming all manner of obstacles, and eventually prospered. He and they remind all of us who were born in the United States that the “American Dream” can become a reality.