ROI: Return on Investment

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2015-12-06 – It’s a sign of the times.

I was having a nice conversation with Cal’s music professor after his senior concert. He told me that it was unusual for students at Grinnell College to major in the arts and, if they do, they take a second major in a business discipline. Cal’s double major is in art and music.

The reason the other kids take the business major’s, of course, is that they (and their parents) want to get a return on their investment. This was not a concern in my day, but it’s a big concern these days. Even in fancy liberal arts colleges.

Cal was playing a program of Debussy piano music. His professor was very pleased. The small audience gave him a standing ovation. Kit and I were very proud.

Late that same day, Kit saw a post on Facebook. Our other son Nat was inviting people to come hear him play in the holiday concert at Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he goes to school. We knew he was preparing something, but didn’t know it would be the same weekend. The north route from Grinnell back to Chicago goes close to Beloit, so we decided to stop and surprise him.

The concert was for non-music majors (which Nat is) to show off what they’ve been learning. On the side. Not for credit. Nat played “Christmastime is Here” by Vince Guaraldi, a jazzy piece from the Charlie Brown Christmas. We weren’t expecting to be proud two times in one weekend. But the feeling struck again.

It was especially nice for me because both boys played songs that I played for them when they were little. (I take months to learn one song that they pick up in a day or two.)

No doubt a parent wants their kid to become an independent person when they finally get out of school. But education, like health care, like all of business has become a matter of dollars and cents.

The evening before our trip to Grinnell and Beloit, I heard a report on the radio about donut shops in Chicago. The report contained two interviews. One of the head of Dunkin’ Donuts, which has thousands of stores around the country. The other of the owner of Old Fashioned Donuts at 112th and Michigan. The interviewer said that Old Fashioned Donuts is reputed to have the best donuts in the city and asked the owner if he had ever thought of opening other stores.

“No,” the guy said. He was making a good living and was happy to be making the best donuts he knew how. Making the best donuts, not making the most money. That was his dream.

Now, I don’t have a problem with making money. Cal is going to have to deal with that pretty soon. I have no doubt he will do fine. Nat was out in the world already. He was a chef. He even worked in a donut shop (The Donut Vault). He decided to return to college because he had always wanted to be a doctor and felt he had shortchanged himself when he deferred college and took up cooking.

It took him a while to figure out what he loves doing. Apparently, it’s organic chemistry. Go figure! But that’s part of growing up. Figuring out what you love and what you can do. Not everyone loves business. But that’s what they sign up for.

For the return on investment.

My boys play my music. They tell my jokes. That’s my return on investment. For the Froikin boys, ROI is the middle of our name. (Literally!)

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