The 3 Key Elements to Fostering Purpose in Unsettling Times

When a business is part of the family and as a family grows, the style of communication and agreements often need to change. Families that begin in first generations directing process, setting direction, and even making decisions for next generations, find that this mode of engagement meets with resistance (overt or covert) as the next generation takes on roles and responsibilities.

As a family grows, in breadth as well as in depth, these forms of communication that worked when the family was small start to break down. To counteract them, it is essential to step back from the day to day to day operations of the business and begin to ask about the “why” of the family business.  The value to purpose materializes and begins to take center stage. If not addressed, member may prescribe their own “why” making it more difficult to reach consensus or set meaningful and sustainable direction.

What is essential about purpose?   Purpose becomes an anchor. It becomes a compass and becomes the reverence point when contention and disagreements arise. Purpose reminds people of the overarching reason they are doing “the thing” and what its intended reach and focus is. Having a purpose to refer to can reduce the tension that can surface when people are championing their own thing.  Instead of one voice giving the family support, without purpose thee are now individual voices looking to further their own agenda.  

Three key elements to bolster purpose include the family story, both original one and the ongoing one that is updated as warranted. The second key element is the written mission statement which the family has agreed to foster and develop. The third key element is governance, not based on rigid directives, but instead, built on the furthering of the family values and its mission, a springboard to action. Governance is a set of guideline or standards for the family to uphold at home and in their community.

I have seen, in today’s COVID environment, how some families are being torn apart. They don’t have their purpose; they don’t know why they are together. Instead they find themselves at odds as individual voices are looking to further their own agendas. And why not? They don’t have an agreed to collective purpose. It’s heartbreaking. They are contacting me because they can’t talk to each other without breaking into heated arguments about the future of the family business. They are seeking resolution.

I have also seen families who have formed their purpose and found how valuable this has been to their communications, their trust, and their ability to steer their ship through the choppy waters they are in.

Purpose is a centerpiece for a family business’s longevity. It is the glue to keep family members connected as new generations develop. It is the focus that keeps the family viable as a unit through the generations. Purpose is the soul of the family.  

Email me for more information about my programs, resources, books, and workshops on building strong families.

How a Teaspoon can Transform Worry and Fear

We are not living in an easy environment, right now. There are few places to hide, less distractions and more ability to stay tuned to the absurdities, atrocities, and problems around us. So much so, that our emotions have taken us into the realm of fear and unabated worry.

A question, framed in frustration and a yearning for true connection, keeps echoing in my mind: When will we ever learn?  Pete Seeger, a folksinger and leader in the peace and civil right movement of the 1950s until his death in 2014, asked this question in a song he penned in 1955, Where Have All the Flowers Gone with lines that are as relevant today as they were then.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago

Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

He may have written in a different environment, but the relevance of his question resonates today. When will we ever learn? Pete Seeger responded to the essence of that question in this way:

I tell everybody a little parable about the ‘teaspoon brigades.’ Imagine a big seesaw. One end of the seesaw is on the ground because it has a big basket half full of rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air because it’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. Some of us have teaspoons, and we are trying to fill it up. Most people are scoffing at us. They say, ‘People like you have been trying for thousands of years, but it is leaking out of that basket as fast as you are putting it in.’ Our answer is that we are getting more people with teaspoons every day. And we believe that one of these days or years — who knows — that basket of sand is going to be so full that you are going to see that whole seesaw going zoop! in the other direction. Then people are going to say, ‘How did it happen so suddenly?’ And we answer, ‘Us and our little teaspoons over thousands of years.’

Our duty is to grab the teaspoon located in our hearts, fill it with wisdom and then bring the actions that express the illuminating facets of wisdom to the world. 

While in the Same Storm,

We Are in Different Boats

I was going to blog about the illusion of control, but that will have to wait. You see, an email came to me from an associate that contained a message from an unattributed source. I found the message riveting, as we move through this COVID environment. I share the message with you.

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest and time with their mother, father, sons and daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3,400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.

–Unknown author

As we navigate our own ships through the storm, may we do so with integrity, understanding, love, tolerance, discernment, and might. 

Mind, Stop Talking to Me, I Can’t Hear the Person I’m Talking To

The mind is a wonderful place…sometimes.  Our behaviors can be triggered by such subtle things that in turn, affect our emotions, judgments and even our reactions. 

I find, that often, as adults, we comply or resist, depending on what is in it for us personally. This assessment is done on such a subtle level and at such warp speed, that it rarely gets questioned or challenged. Yet when definitive statements are made or directives are given, we might suddenly react, rather than respond. We take the statement or directive as a personal affront instead of as a statement to consider.

Our mind is there to protect us. It is built to do so, just ask the paleomammalian or neomammalian brain within. It will tell us when we are being undermined (we don’t want our authority questioned).  It will inform us when we don’t want to engage (this statement I just heard sounds like a challenge). It will tell us when we feel threatened (we don’t want to appear indecisive) etc., etc., etc.

In this COVID-19 abrupt, immediate and for some, extreme changes in day to day life, the need to shelter has led to frustration and aggressive based communication (both verbal and physical, both overt and covert). As you listen to local, state, and federal officials regarding COVID-19 directives, or as you interact with those you are living very closely with right now, use these techniques to become more aware of your response and begin to change how you respond.

Ask yourself if you are reacting to a comment or statement being made. You’ll most likely experience this behavior by having an immediate “reaction” to the comment or statement.  

Next, inquire within, as to what the trigger was that made you react. Then ask yourself, what did this trigger threaten in you in ways that threatened your beliefs, Know your beliefs and values so you can identify what in you can be threatened.  

Of course, it is important to be our best selves. But defending our positions is not what relationship is about. Relationship needs compassion, listening, understanding, and appropriate allowance.

Don’t let your mind overtake your intentions with those you are close to, in this COVID-19 environment. The mind may want you to do what you want, while in society and relationship, the mind has to acquiesce to another presence. This is the environment to understand how to do so (be in relationship) in ways that enhance ourselves and each other. Doing so may be more complex than the effort we had previously been giving it.

So, excuse me mind but I need to say this to you:  Mind, Stop Talking to Me, I Can’t Hear the Person I’m Talking To.

Who is Willing to Step up and Play Big?

I am calling out for a GoFundMe project. But first, let me tell you why I am suggesting this. It seems the government has been doling out a lot of money lately, with more to come. Putting aside politics, it is a phenomenal gesture with, to be expected, guarded questions about the “payback.”  One question I have heard concerns the payback from the businesses agreeing to receive this money. Another question asks how this “bailout” will affect future taxes and inflation. These are relevant questions, for which responses are guarded, whispered, or left for later. That worries me.

I have donated to a few GoFundMe campaigns during this COVID-19 shelter in place and have observed the results and outcomes of these and additional contributions. One was for an alma mater housing its students who couldn’t return home, one was for a restaurant to buy, prepare and deliver food to the stressed and overworked hospital workers, still another for an organization on the frontline of providing shelter to women in transition from homeless to housing. I am delighted to participate but it is not enough. “Who can do enough?” I asked myself.  

There is a giving pledge where billionaires have committed to give away at least 50% of their wealth to philanthropic projects. Now, here is where impactful money resides. Should any of their influencers or they themselves be reading this, I have an idea. Put together a bank for business. Seed it with a portion of your pledge and help those small businesses who need a lifeline. Googling, I discovered that 99 percent of the businesses are considered small businesses-over 30 million; 88 percent of them have 20 employees or less. This “bank” could offer a programs where they become the source that pays back these debts to the government. Have you heard of John Beresford Tipton? He was the fictional gentleman on a TV show, The Millionaire, which you can view on YouTube, who gave away $1,00,000, with no strings attached. We could watch this epic show on our favorite streaming channel. It would eclipse Tiger King.

Business in general, and small business in particular, need to know “someone has their back.” Understandably, they do not trust the government. But they might trust the philanthropist. Who is ready to step up, not by liquidating holdings, but by raising big cash among their peers?

Generosity Can Pay Long Lasting Dividends

Wow, money is going out to individuals, businesses, institutions, and non-profits. This not to say it’s enough, that’s another conversation. It is to say that is a gesture of help in crisis. This is a tremendous gesture, certainly the first time in my life to see the government allocating money so broadly. I think this could be a game changer. Time will tell. What do I mean by being a game changer?

We thrive on our independence, our sense of self-reliance, making something of ourselves. We applaud these traits. But sometimes, things can happen out of one’s direct or immediate control and assistance is greatly needed. We are there. This is when generosity is welcomed. 

I think this can become a defining moment when we understand the importance to assisting, quickly, to ease some tension. This is distinct from enabling or casual hand-outs. This is about casting out a net for those for whom a net keeps them afloat rather than falling into the mode of surviving.

For further thought, I pose this question: How can we be generous, supporting growth and self-reliance without sacrificing security, without enabling unhealthy behaviors?

The Key to Help you in this Financial Quagmire

The stock market feels like it is uncontrollably gyrating. One day it’s careening downward. Then it tries to recover only to slide down again, then inch back up, then…

It’s situations and times like these, uncertain and alarming, that can bring out deep emotions towards money. Some of you may feel like your plans for retirement have just been shattered, and not because of anything you’ve done. You might feel at a loss about how to make your finances better; you might feel that someone “did something to you” because this is not anything you would have done to yourself! Others may feel that plans you were making with your money just got ripped apart and again, not by your own doing. You feel resentful or victimized as you can’t “normalize” your financial position. These feelings of victimization, of resentment, of anger towards a condition you did not create can leave you vulnerable and reactive when talking about daily money responsibilities and needs with a partner, spouse, or family member.

Although these reactions are common, they are often not productive and can result in actions or conclusions that can be destructive. Yes, the market is down. Yes, you are angry about it. No, this does not have to trickle into other areas of your life. When it does, I recommend asking yourself this question: “What is actually making me feel __________ (angry, frustrated, out of control…?) And listen to your response. Get clear on what it is that is bothering you. Then, address that specifically. 

For example, if you feel like you have lost opportunities with your money, acknowledge that feeling. You may have. I lost opportunities both in the crash of 2000 and the one in 2008. But, as much as I wanted to wallow, I realized it would not benefit me to do so. I regrouped. I had to.  Let this tremendous disappointment become a catalyst to build stronger resilience and resolve.

If you are frustrated and feel hopeless because you cannot change your financial portfolio, or your monthly income, this is the time to hunker down and reframe your financial picture. Reduce the extras, get creative, and find support by talking to people in your communities about  how they are reallocating their financial resources. Watch movies to see how people have persevered through unlikely odds (Touching The Void or The Dawn Wall come to mind). Rebuild your “center” so that you feel more in control of your life, more than you were before this financial whammy hit.  

You can come out of this stronger than you came in, more in control of your life. It will take asking yourself some important questions, listening to the answers that can guide you to rebuild your strength and your center. It will take focus and resolve. You can do it! Contact me if you need further conversation to assist you.

mother handing key to daughter [PNG Merlin Archive]

A Project to Consider During this Unsettling Time

During this time in the “unknown” when we don’t know when things will settle, when we will return to normal or if we will, whether the COVID-19 will infect us and if so, to what degree, here is an idea to activate.  

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

Storytelling is important. If you want to learn more about capturing your family’s story, contact me at bhaj@focusandsustain.com, as I am now offering, although it is not yet on my website, a storyteller’s kit to capture that family story to share with your family for generations.

During this time in the “unknown” when we don’t know when things will settle, when we will return to normal or if we will, whether the COVID-19 will infect us and if so, to what degree, her is an idea to activate.  

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

May you and your family’s health stay well.

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

Storytelling is important. If you want to learn more about capturing your family’s story, contact me at bhaj@focusandsustain.com, as I am now offering, although it is not yet on my website, a storyteller’s kit to capture that family story to share with your family for generations.

May you and your family’s health stay well.

The Family Story Can Develop Strength, Confidence, and Empathy

We love good stories. We love to hear good ones from friends, enjoy watching riveting ones on the screen, we like to read them in books. Stories bring us into a world bigger than ourselves, rich with possibility and full of emotions that tug at our heart strings.

Then why don’t we have our own family stories? Oh, I know, those ones are boring, right?! Not right!

Family stories can be amazing guides for our lives when told with the power of intriguing events, heart wrenching emotions, and difficult challenges that were overcome. We think our own family stories are pedantic and bland and they are when looked at as endless details of this and that. But that’s not the family story to capture. Family stories that captivate and that serve as compasses are the ones that capture the strong family narrative of compelling “whys” and useful “hows.”

Sara Duke, a practicing psychologist who worked with learning disabilities, found that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” Now there’s an insight! Her husband, Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University who was involved in a 1990s study exploring myths and rituals in families, examined this conclusion with his colleague, Robyn Fivush. They tested the hypothesis in their “Do You Know” test which measured Sara’s results against psychological tests Marshall and Robyn had their children take. They found that “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.” Wow!

A key word for me, in the quote, is “more”. I find the “more” to include, in family stories, that which compelled the past family members to make decisions they made, their motivations, their beliefs, and what it took to meet challenges they faced. I want their story to be rich with their values and motivating principles, rather than lifeless with the details of what they did, where they lived and who they were surrounded by. Adding the “more” creates a rich platform for present and future generations to develop their strength, confidence and empathy, all strong traits of worthy individuals.

To Keep Trust Thriving, Talk about Trust

Trust, what a loaded word. It carries such weight yet can be broken or withdrawn so quickly. And sometimes, when broken, it cannot be restored.

Trust is a word that I have written about before. Because it is such an important principle, I am looking at it again.

Today, googling trust’s etymology, I see the word strength is added to the word’s origination. Wow, that’s a clue. Strength. For me strength carries an element of integrity to it. When I think of integrity, I am reminded of a taut rope. It has a lot of integrity as it cannot be broken…not easily.

Trust is something felt and perceived so qualities and behaviors that enrich feelings of connection, accountability, reliability, strength, and safety are included in a feeling of trust.

But a disagreement on trust can arise when my definitions of the aforementioned words are different than yours. My sense of reliability may be different than yours and that difference can break trust when I do not meet your definition of what trust means to you. Perhaps, for you, reliability is measured in time: you trust someone who shows up on time, whereas for me, reliability may be built on an attitude of making things comfortable whereas time is not on my radar of what constitutes trust. But your trust of me can fade when I am “late” because, for you, a sense of time is embedded in your framework of trust.

While trust can be so personal while, at the same time, be universal in its application, it is important to ask those with whom you have relationships where trust is an important element, what trust means to them. Doing this can give you the framework of what trust means to them, how it is expressed, and how they see it in others. When you talk about trust, you can build the qualities and behaviors that are necessary to keep trust a pillar in your relationship and you can support each other in keeping trust active and believable.

Trust is important to talk about to keep it thriving.