Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the man who straightened his spine and defied the Nazis with a rousing speech--before Britain's war machine was ready to take them on--was one of the great war-time leaders of the 20th Century.
His career had ups and downs, and one of the downs was his defeat in 1945, the first post-war campaign for reelection for Prime Minister. Rather than feel he had been treated with ingratitude, he said that the British people had had a very rough time of it, and he understood their need for change. The nation needed to heal. He was reelected in 1951 and continued to have a distinguished career. How did Churchill maintain his perspective? In his own words:
To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.
Churchill's hobbies included bricklaying, painting, writing, reading, trading bon mots, and sketching. Unfortunately, for too many people in the financial industry, their hobbies aren't so wholesome. One hedge fund manager noticed that I've started updating and publishing some of the books I've written over the past thirty years. He sniffed and asked where I had found the time to write so many books. I pointed out I don't smoke pot, do blow, pay people for sex or gamble all night, one or more (or all) habits several hedge fund managers adopted. Just ask Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York and former New York Attorney General, how time consuming doing damage control for the wrong sort of hobby can be.
It's astonishing that many "successful' people actually live squalid lives. Churchill observed:
As for the unfortunate people who can command everything they want, who can gratify every caprice and lay their hands on almost every object of desire -- for them a new pleasure, a new excitement is only an additional satiation. In vain they rush frantically round from place to place, trying to escape from the avenging boredom by mere clatter and motion. For them discipline in one form or another is the most hopeful path.
One of my hobbies is writing fiction. (I'm traditionally published in non-fiction.) My recent fiction debut was inspired by real events, specifically the Vatican Bank scandals and other scandals in the Catholic Church.
My father was a physician and surgeon. He was Jesuit educated at Loyola University and introduced me to the memory arts as soon as I could talk. During WWII, he was a Chief of Surgical Service for the American Army in the European Theater of Operations during the campaigns in the Rhineland and Central Europe. I mention that, because he was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis and didn't believe in violence, yet he was also a brave man of principle.
A couple of members of the Chicago mob tried to blackmail him into providing out-of-hospital surgical treatment for gunshot wounds. A friend of my father's was already known in Chicago as the go-to surgeon for that, but my father had a treatment office in our home (in addition to hospital facilities) and was known to be a good surgeon, especially after his war experience. The mobsters hinted that something could easily happen to one of his children (seven at the time before the family grew to nine children) or his wife. They also offered him a lot of money.
It is (or at least at the time was) illegal to fail to report gunshot wound treatments done in a doctor's office, and my father refused to cooperate. He said that once one cooperates with the mob, even with something that seems innocuous, it never ends. He discussed it with my mother, then pregnant with my younger brother. Shortly thereafter, he told the mob that it could do what it liked, but if anything happened to a member of his family, would they ever have confidence again that his friends in the Chicago physicians' community were giving them appropriate medical care? My father heard nothing more from them.
My father died in 1965. When the Vatican Bank scandal of the 1980's blew up and the Vatican didn't come forward after the murder of Roberto Calvi, I was struck by the contrast between how my father behaved--with much more personally at stake--versus how the Pope and Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, a Chicago native, conducted themselves. In the decades since the 1980's, it seems the Vatican can be relied upon to provide material for writers.
Endnote: My debut fiction book, Archangels: Rise of the Jesuits, has just been released in print form. The e-Book is FREE on January 23 and 24. Here's a blurb: Italian intelligence specialist and former Jesuit student Michael Visconte is shocked by the brutal murder of a Jesuit priest, who turns out to be a hedge fund manager for the Vatican. The victim, Father Matteo Pintozzi, achieved an unblemished record of extraordinary returns. The next day, Michael is visited by two Jesuits who ask him to investigate the murder, and Michael soon finds himself in the middle of a struggle for power and control over the finances of the Vatican. Unfortunately, his lucky break--one that should provide critical evidence--blurs the line between good and evil and not only endangers the lives of Michael and the Jesuits, but also imperils the lives of his wife and children.