To Ignore the Trunk is to Destroy the Tree

“I know where my roots are only because I receive a dividend check every quarter. My last name is not the same as the ‘founding father’ as I come from one of the branches, not the trunk of the tree.”
That was the beginning of a recent encounter with a Gen X member of a seven generation family.

He continued: “I’ve Googled the man we see pictures of at the family reunions because I needed to know more. I needed to know who he was, what we had in common. And it was weird to have to Google him to learn about him but I discovered something in my research.

“I discovered that I am a lot like him; an entrepreneur, really enjoy the challenges and payoffs of risk in business, enjoy building businesses. I had this confirmed by one of my uncles, an uncle who is part of the trunk. He has the same last name as my great, great, great, great grandfather. My uncle has been a great mentor to me. He told me that I hold the spirit of our ancestor and wanted to nourish that in me.”

What stunned this Gen X member was how removed from the trunk some branches can be. In his case he noticed how comfortable many branches of this tree were in receiving the dividends from the family fortune. Family members were no longer even talking about the meaning of the money or where it came from. They just wanted it to feed their lifestyles without contributing to its growth or its maintenance.

This Gen Xer asked and was given the opportunity to make a presentation at the next family reunion. He titled it: ‘Don’t Kill the Tree.’ He talked about the value of the trunk, his great, great, great, great grandfather to the continuation of his family. He introduced an idea to the family, a new tradition of mentoring. New family members would be coached by an established member in understanding the history of their family’s financial success and tie it to the principles the family was founded on.

This young man earns my applause. He understands that the dividends, while securing and maintaining lifestyles, will not keep the family together. Instead it has made his family quiet, complacent and uninvolved. He is restoring the essence keeping families connected: the values expressed by the ‘trunk’, his great, great, great, great, grandfather which, in turn, nourish the branches.

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