cowboy.jpgThere’s this country song I’ve always hated called “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” I hate it because it’s about discouraging kids to do what they want.

Here’s a sampling:

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love

I started thinking about how much I hate this song this morning when I read a story in the Wall Street Journal about the owner of the peanut factory that allegedly sent out tainted peanuts and ended up killing nine people and sickening hundreds of others.

Turns out the peanut guy, Stewart Parnell, wanted to be an oceanographer when he was growing up and actually studied oceans at the Florida Institute of Technology.

I’ve written in this blog about what a greedy jerk Parnell, owner of Peanut Corp. of America, must be if he would risk getting people sick with his products for profit. But when I saw the photo of him in the Wall Street Journal today of him testifying before Congress, after reading that he had dreams of studying oceans, I felt a tinge of sympathy for the guy.

So many kids have dreams, but jaded adults often try to derail those dreams. The harsh reality of life, many of us think, will set these dumb kids straight and they’ll end up following the money.

Indeed, our society has become all about the money at every end of the economic landscape.

In the past few years, Ivy League educated individuals have opted more and more to head to Wall Street instead of using their incredible educations to help make the world a better place. Some people even think this influx of Ivy Leaguers to financial markets is what caused the market crash.

Bloomberg’s Kevin Hassett writes: When Wall Street was run by people randomly selected from the population, it was able to survive everything. After the best and brightest took over, it died the first time real-estate prices dropped 20 percent.

There is something to be said about people following their passions and not just the almighty dollar.

There are a lot of folks I know on Wall Street that actually love the excitement of trading, thrived on it. That may have been their childhood dream and that’s OK.

But for many of us, that’s probably not the best path for long-term life fulfillment.

Many of the executives I’ve interviewed over the years, who were successful and happy (the happy part is key), all told me that their parents encouraged their silly dreams early on and were always their advocates no matter how silly people thought their dreams were.

One interview I did for my book, “From the Sandbox to the Corner Office,” was with Linda Dillman, executive vice president at Wal-Mart. She talked a lot about how her father helped encourage her every dream.

Here’s an excerpt from my book:

What has stayed with Dillman most about her dad was his undying support of what ever she and her two sisters and one brother wanted to do. “There’s a certain freedom you get or courage when you know you are going to be supported by your parents no matter what direction you take. There were very few things dad would have said, ‘you should do that.’”

Sometimes it’s not just that parents didn’t support us. Sometimes we forget what we really loved and the dreams we once reveled in.

Right now there are a lot of people who are out of work, or worried about losing their jobs. Many of you are wondering what your next step should be, especially if your in a dying industry. My question: Did you spend years in a profession, an industry, you never really enjoyed? This is your chance to go for what you want. It may not be as secure or lucrative. But it will fulfill you in so many other ways.

I’m not sure what Parnell’s parents did. Whether they encouraged their son and he just gave up on his dreams. But it’s something we should all think about for ourselves and our children.

His mother Zelda was quoted in the WSJ article saying: “I think he dreamed he’d be on Jacques Cousteau’s boat.”

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