Not just a mentor, this is how you made my life more complete

To: My friend Doug

From: Ron Insana (As told to Lauren Brill)

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Dear Doug, 

When we first met, there was this expression you repeatedly used. 

You would say, “It’s all tabula rasa.”

Too embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t know what that meant, for a long time, I just nodded and smiled. 

But as I got to know you more, you inspired me to be unafraid of new information and ideas. 

We met at the Financial News Network (FNN). Just out of college, I was a production assistant and you were a senior producer. 

As a function of my job, if I left the office to get some food, I would ask if anyone wanted anything. One time you asked for a tuna sandwich with extra mayo, really gooey.

 You gave me the money and said, “You know, you are a really beautiful human.”

There was never a sense that you were above me even though you were technically a superior. Instead, you were gracious and kind. You were a different character, which made me want to get to know you better. 

There was never a sense that you were above me even though you were technically a superior.

In the beginning, you were my mentor. 

I first got on-air with a bit of luck. In 1984, FNN laid off nearly 90 percent of its staff. Every single day, Bill Griffeth and Sue Herera ad-libbed eight hours of live business television between them. In May of ‘85, they both called in sick on the same day. I was the producer in charge of the newsroom. After unsuccessfully trying to find people to fill in, I put myself on air for two updates. Three months later, our overnight anchor quit without notice. They asked me to take over for three weeks or so until they found somebody. 

During that time, a significant event occurred known as The Plaza Accord. A group of five industrialized nations made a coordinated decision to devalue the dollar because it was overvalued. News broke in the overnight shift. Unfortunately, I did not understand a word of what was coming over the wires. So I did my best to copy, paste and read. 

After three hours of being on the air, when you got to work, I took my scripts to you and asked, “Was any of this even close to being right?”

You said my third hour was pretty close. 

Then, you took the time to explain to me what was happening. 

After the network hired a more experienced anchor for that shift, they allowed me to keep an hour in the morning. 

But once I was on-air regularly, I got no feedback from management.

It was you who continued to help me and give me tips. 

And as I grew more passionate about the content, you also encouraged me to do extensive research on finance and its history. 

I would go to my old college library and read Wall Street Journals from the 1920s and the 1980s because there were some parallels relevant to the present day. You gave me books and reading lists on economics and markets. After I finished a book, we would talk about it.  

Doug Crichton

As I covered the financial markets, I realized there was always some event that made the day different than the day before. It was like playing a three-dimensional chess game, which became an interesting intellectual challenge for me. 

You were someone I could constantly come to as I tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I learned from you not to accept answers that are given to me without doing my own research. 

While you left FNN for a while and came back after it merged with CNBC, you were consistently there through the years to guide me and push me forward.  We didn’t just talk about business news or markets or economics. We also spoke about religion, politics and a variety of other subjects. 

As we became closer, my career kept growing. My first live reporting experience came when the stock market crashed in 1987. I covered 9-11 after I found myself hiding in a car as the buildings collapsed.  From 1997-2001 I had a phenomenal run in my career. Not only did I have great ratings as an anchor on CNBC, but I was also on the Today Show, Nightly News, Dateline and Imus in the Morning on the radio. 

I was everywhere.

Also, I am proud to say I was a part of a lot of “firsts” for CNBC, such as getting into the Fed for off-the-record meetings with Alan Greenspan and interviewing Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Julian Robertson, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. 

Like you, I enjoyed breaking new ground.

And through the years, you became much more than a mentor or friend to me. You became a brother. 

In my personal life, you told me I married the right person. You predicted we were pregnant two out of three times before we even knew ourselves. Then, before my children were born, you told me specific details about each one of their personalities. You’ll be happy to know that you were right. 

There were times I was stressed about my career. Without vocalizing my feelings, you would tell me what I wanted would eventually happen. 

Ron Insana

You had an unbelievable ability to read people and empathize with them. 

However, through the latter half of our friendship, you were also dealing with your own struggle. In 1997, when you were 49 years old, you were diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of excruciating cancer. You battled for 13 years and survived a decade longer than anyone expected. 

In 2012, I was in Dallas or somewhere in the south, giving a speech. Your wife called me while I was eating breakfast in a restaurant and told me you passed away. Right in the middle of the restaurant, I broke down crying.

At that moment, I was devastated. But as I think of you now, I simply feel incredibly grateful for your presence in my life. I don’t believe my life would be as complete without you.

See, interestingly enough, I did eventually look up the meaning of the expression, “It’s all tabula rasa.” 

Tabula rasa is the idea that we are born with a blank slate and throughout our lives, we fill our minds up with knowledge.

Because of you, I am not only a lifelong learner, but I pursue knowledge as you did – with a curious mind and a kind heart. 

Thank you. I miss you. 

Ron Insana
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One thought on “Not just a mentor, this is how you made my life more complete

  1. We should all go through life having as beautiful of a friend and mentor as Doug was for Ron. The recognition we give these much valued people that come into ours lives never feels like enough while they’re still with us. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. So their spirit lives on through us as we touch lives in a positive manner they way they did ours. When I read that Doug had the unbelievable ability to read people and empathize with them I’ve been told I that I share those same attributes by my friends, family and coworkers. Let me tell you that having those kinds of connections is truly rewarding beyond words. Thank you Ron for sharing your story of friendship and how you overcame and excepted your challenges in your career.

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