Even a Family Tree Needs Nourished Roots to Flourish.

I know where my roots are because I read the last name of my great, great, great, great grandfather on a dividend check I receive from the family 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 family tree.” That was the beginning of a recent encounter with a Gen Y member of a family that continues to build and develop its legacy now into its sixth generation.

He continued: “I’ve Googled the man we see pictures of at the family reunions because I needed to know more about our origins. I felt isolated from the roots.  I needed to know who he was and find out what we had in common. Although it was weird to have to research him online, I discovered something in my research.”   And this is where his matter of fact tone became excited like he had just found out where the hidden treasure he had been seeking was buried.

“I discovered that, although I have a different last name than he, I am a lot like him; an entrepreneur who really enjoys the challenges and payoffs of risk in business, someone who enjoys building businesses. In fact, one of my uncles recognized the commonality between me and 5 times great grandfather. This uncle has the same last name as our ancestor. He told me that I hold the spirit of our ancestor and wanted to nourish that in me.”

What stunned this Millennial family member was, even with their annual meetings and reunion, how removed from the family tree some family members felt.  This Millennial noticed how comfortable his generation was in receiving dividends from the family fortune and not asking any questions about its origin, its continuation, its purpose, or how they could impact its amount. The family no longer even talked 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 Yer asked and was given the opportunity to make a presentation at a recent family reunion. He titled it: ‘Don’t Kill the Tree.’ He talked about the value of the roots, his great, great, great, great grandfather had set to sustain their family for generations. He said he felt uncomfortable with receiving a check every quarter for doing nothing.  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.  He wanted and wanted others to know the value of the money they were receiving.

This young man earns my applause.  He understands that the dividends, while providing income, will not, in itself, keep the family together. As this young man noted about his family, the continuing dividend made his family quiet, complacent and uninvolved. He wanted to bring the heart and heartbeat back to the family tree, restore the essence of his family and the values expressed by the ‘roots’, his great, great, great, great, grandfather set. All it takes is nourishing the root of the tree.

What is your family doing to nourish its roots for generations to come? What do you see other families doing to sustain their roots?  Leave a comment.

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