Can You See It? The Family Mountain Moved

In your own family, it can be hard to be seen differently by your adult siblings than how they viewed you when you were young.

Sometimes, adding a new dimension to that view, is tantamount to moving a mountain. Because of this, it took a l-o-n-g time for me to create bridges of communication between remaining members of my family. But it was important for me to do so. Because of the work I do with individuals and families, guiding them to stay connected for generations, I wanted to bring the same tools to my own family.

We are very competitive, very stoic, very aloof, and somewhat questioning of each other’s motives. This makes for a very challenging environment to talking about family purpose, connection and legacy. The family is able to dismiss the subject in a short dismissive conversation, one that goes like this: “We don’t need to do that. We’re fine. Others can do that if they want. We know what we stand for and if one of us doesn’t, they’ll figure it out.”

I knew my family would be one of the toughest families to bring together for anything other than the customary family events but after a conscientious many year building of trust, safety and deeper connection, the remaining 3 branches to the trunk are beginning to communicate with each other. Wow, what an experience this is. From not being able to recognize a sibling in a lineup of three, to communicating by letter, phone, and social media, is a tremendous change. From not acknowledging each other to asking about each other’s well-being is a huge breakthrough. From not being in the same room together for years to hosting an easy pre dinner social, the family is beginning to talk. And now, we may even have a gathering to put the family story together for future generations.

The mountain is moving…at least in our family. It was worth the focused attention to bringing the family back together.

Is your family preserving or resurrecting its connection? Leave a comment on what’s going on in your family.

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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.

You Are not the only one who can Feel Unfairly Treated

You are out for dinner with friends and someone you know happens to enter the restaurant. She sits at another table. During your dinner, you casually glance over at the other table and hear her talk about tickets to the sold out Adele show she won on a radio show. You think to yourself. “That’s not fair. I must have hit refresh a 1,000 times. I should have been able to get tickets” Unfortunately, the only tickets you can get now are through the secondary market and they have already tripled in price in the area you want to sit.  As you try to reengage with your dinner friends, you feel the “it’s not fair, I never get what I want” feeling wash over you. You know you have to shake it off.

You are not alone. Your best friend has the same feelings. No, not that best friend, I am talking about the friend that is always there for you, your canine companion. Cognitive scientists working with dogs have found that dogs respond to their interpretive feeling of unfairness. These researchers have found that when dogs are put into a situation where they perform the same action, like shaking a paw, and do not receive the same reward, the one being treated “less well” withdraws.

Austrian dog cognitive researchers conducted a test where different levels of rewards were given to dogs for participating in an experiment: none, yummy smelling dark bread, and aromatic laden sausage. The researchers found an interesting outcome to this experiment that warranted 30 paw shakes. When one dog was rewarded in the early stages of the count, and other not, the unrewarded dog stopped “presenting their paw” after 12 times and was visibly agitated at the disparity of treatment. When neither dog was given a reward, they both needed verbal prompting to continue “presenting their paw” and completely stopped “presenting” after 20 times. The “game” had lost its appeal and was no longer worth playing for the dogs when their willingness to join in did not result in a “reward.”

Through their and other researchers’ studies, it has been concluded that dogs and other social carnivores understand the concept of being “treated less well” and respond accordingly. Responses can include revenge, aggression, withdrawing, sadness, pride, hierarchal order and more.

Do you need to settle for a feeling of being treated unfairly? I don’t think so. I think people have a secret sauce that can remove them from reacting like this. The secret sauce is in your values. When you use your values consciously, as a way of being, you can bypass many of the reactive emotions that demand and command immediate outcomes. When you live with your values at the forefront of your life, you think and act differently. You look to effect the world you live in with wisdom rather than with reaction, effect the world through a bigger lens rather than though a reactive filter.

Tell me what you discover as you ponder the insights in this blog.

Discovering Your Purpose leads to Discovering Your Principles

John Stuart Mill was a 19th century British philosopher and economist who championed the importance of creating and living a purposeful life. He came upon his meaningful life from astonishing circumstances.

When he was a small child he was merely an experiment for his father’s obsessive exploration. The young Mills was fed a steady and unbending diet of natural sciences, classical literature and classical music. All else was considered folly and not permitted around or in in John’s presence.  As Mills later accounted, “My emotions were starved while my mind was violently over-developed.”

By the age of twelve, Mills was as erudite as a thirty-year old. His father was pleased and the experiment continued. Finally, in early adulthood, John suffered a mental breakdown. Although he was an elite intellectually, he felt empty.  Like a muscle that breaks down and atrophies from disuse, this young man found his emotions were unhealthy from lack of use for his entire life.  He had no idea how to even access them. This breakdown led him to a story by the nearly forgotten French writer, Marmontel. The story, about the death of a father, moved Mills to tears, and beyond that, it planted seeds of emotions in him: emotions of sadness, guilt, shame, love and fear. This, as you can imagine, changed his life. Not only was this world of emotions overwhelming and accompanied by feelings of being out of control, he also felt drawn to exploring and understanding these emotions that were stronger than his mental ability to shut them down.

Once starved of a mighty element to life, the magnetism and effect of emotions, Mills now decided to dedicate his life to exploring the true meaning of life. From his explorations, Mills brought to the public a keen insight and understanding of two mighty principles, the principles of liberty and justice. If you would like to read further into his insights into these principles, his 1821 book: On Liberty and The Utilitarianism will provide you with more insight and information.

Whether you find it in the writings of John Stuart Mills, through my work in guiding people to live their purposeful life or if you find it through the neuro-scientific discoveries, it can’t be stated emphatically strongly enough: finding, developing and sharpening your purpose in life gives you more of a feeling of your own sense of happiness and value in life.

Does your life have purpose and as a result, meaningful direction? Let me know your thoughts, challenges or breakthroughs on living a life of meaning and significance.

Thank You for Being Part of My Fulfilling Year

Reflecting

 

Thank you for who you are to me—people of grace and profound commitment to bringing a richer weave to the fabric of life-your own and the world around you.

 

When I reflect on you,

You who have deliberately chosen to direct your lives

Purposefully and with great meaning

I see shimmering stars lighting my path

I see the beauty of persistence and determination in you.

 

As I think of you

I feel the essence of the freedom you feel

When enduring strength and power replace your initial fears and doubt.

I am touched by your commitment to being your best

With your Legacy, your Life and your Money

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

We welcome your comments

The Annual Family Letter, Try It You Might Like It

Most people travel to family celebrations for their annual holiday events. They bring with them new gifts, new stories, and familiar smiles. The celebration is fun yet temporary, a moment together. Eventually memories of the conversations and the rush of seeing each other are taken over by life’s daily demands and schedules. The events fade into an archived folder called “the past”, stored somewhere in the brain. And the intentions you had last year to have more meaningful and more together time with everyone as a group, fade into tomorrow’s pile of things to do…next time.

But some families do things a little differently and this is where I want to focus our attention this week. Some families produce and convey an annual family letter. This letter celebrates the accomplishments of the family as a group. It reminds the members what they accomplished together to further the mission of the family, the mission they all find their place in and support because they have carved their place in it and are recognized for doing so.

The family annual letter acknowledges plans that were undertaken and not accomplished not to blame but just to note in review the year. It is co-written by all family members who share their successes and initiatives that perpetuated and progressed the family mission. It often includes the family’s values, its mission statement and tells how the initiatives for the year sought to further the mission of the family. The family annual letter is a format to close the year in acknowledging successes and challenges.

The letter also carries a preview of goals for the year ahead. It frames the upcoming year so family members stay connected, enthusiastic and on point with their roles and responsibilities to the family as well as their individual goals. It is a terrific way to keep the family connected. It is a phenomenal tool to keep a record of the past while driving momentum into the future.

My family has created an annual letter for over twenty years. What about you-what have you done or what will you start this year to keep your family connected?

What is so Cool about Having a Mission Statement?

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily routines and activities. They only lead you so far. Eventually you get bored, move on to the next one or look for something else to fill your time. Meanwhile your core self is left out of expressing yourself and your mission can give you that extra reason for being. It begins to yearn to be known. A great way to express your core self is by declaring your mission. What exactly are you here to be and do? It is a reason for being.  Read what others have said about the value to having your own mission statement.

 

“Perhaps there are those who are able to go about their lives unfettered by such concerns. But for those like us, our fate is to face the world as orphans, chasing through long years the shadows of vanished parents. There is nothing for it but to try and see through our missions to the end, as best we can, for until we do so, we will be permitted no calm.” Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans

 

Mission and purpose, well understood and implemented, often provides the vest of internal audit” controls.” C. William Pollard, The Soul of the Firm

 

“With purpose and mission, with your behavioral goals in place, when you have your plan in place to solve the real problem, you don’t need to bring in the roller coaster of emotions.” Jim Camp, Starting with NO

 

“Has your soul a special mission? Yes. Your mission is in the inmost recesses of your heart, and you have to find and fulfil it there. There can be no external way for you to fulfil your mission. The deer grows musk in his own body. He smells it and becomes enchanted, and tries to locate its source. He runs and runs, but he cannot find the source. In his endless search, he loses all his energy and finally he dies. But the source he was so desperately searching for was within himself. How could he find it elsewhere? Such is the case with you. Your special mission- which is the fulfilment of your divinity- is not outside you, but within you.   Sri Chinmoy, Yoga And The Spiritual Life; The Journey Of India’s Soul

 

Starbucks mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” “It is our mission to make sure the world sees us through those lenses.” Their Mission Statement is found on their website. Their original mission statement was: “Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow. The following six guiding principles will help us measure the appropriateness of our decisions.”  Howard Schultz, Joanne Gordon, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for its Life without Losing its Soul

 

“What do we value? What is our family all about? What do we stand for? What is our essential mission, our reason for being?Stephen R. Covey, Principle Centered Leadership

“Vision is the what, purpose (mission) is the why and core values answers the question: ‘How do we want to act, consistent with our mission, along the path toward achieving our vision.” Peter M. Senge,

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization

 

Do you have a mission statement? If so, let us know what your mission statement has given you.

Changing Communication Styles Impacts Intergenerational Bonds

AARP and Microsoft conducted a joint research a few years ago. This research’s objective was to see how technology is impacting our modes of communication. I would like to share some of their findings with you as you consider your communication with different generations.

Asked how they wanted to stay connected with their families, 63% of those 13-25 said via text. 40% of 39-58 years of age and 19% of those 59-75 years of age also wanted texting to be their main mode of communication. Email, on the other hand was mainly preferred by older people: 60% of those 59-75 years of age and 56% of those 39-58 years of age used email as the main communication method. Between 18-25 years of age 46% preferred email as the main communication mean while only 36% preferred it out of those 13-17 years of age.

Regarding social media, there were both expected and unexpected results. A more expected finding about social media was that 30% of younger people find social networking sites exciting versus only 7% of older respondents. An unexpected result was that 18% of younger respondents versus 11% of older respondents said they are intimidated by social networking sites.

Although 98% of responders reported feeling at ease going online, a majority of responders (56%) were concerned about staying safe and secure online with 60% of young adults and 50% of teenagers being extremely or very concerned about safety and security online.

Perhaps surprisingly, younger respondents are more private about their online communication than older people. 47% of the young respondents say they place restrictions on how much they show their parents while 32% of parents place restrictions on what their teenage children can access. Teens are also more likely to restrict what their grandparents can see (47%) than their grandparents restricting what their grandchildren can see (38%). Younger responders are more concerned (30%) than older ones (4%) by what their family members might post on their sites. The biggest reason parent responders had for keeping a separation between family and social networking was their concern on the comments left on their “wall” by younger generations and the personal nature of their content.

A final interesting statistic was the gap in perception between a teen’s behavior in dealing with comfortable online content and their parents’ perception of how their teens deal with this type of content. 49% of parents said their teens know to come to when they see something only line that makes them uncomfortable while 29% of teens report know how to go to their parents when uncomfortable content is seen.

It is important to understand that communication is viewed uniquely by each generation. To keep the lines of communication open, finding ways to bridge gaps between different communication styles is key to staying connected.

What obstacles do you find in inter-generational communication? What bridges have you built to close the gap of inter-generational communication? I’d love to read your comment.

To read more in this report please access the following urls:

http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/Connecting-Generations.pdf

http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Connecting%20Generations_0.pdf

Grandparents and Grandchildren Share a Unique Bond

There is something unique and special about the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. There is that innate connection coupled with a generational skip that can bring a sense of freedom and trust not present between a parent and a child.

Let’s look at a few ways in which grandparents can add richness and long memories to the relationship with their grandchildren.

Grandparents can add a sense of fairytale to the family. Being so much older than the grandkids, from the children’s point of view it almost appears as they lived in a different world. Their view and experiences are a novelty to the grandkids. “You had two hours of homework to do every night? When did you get to play with your Xbox? You didn’t have one? What was it like to play outside all day?”

Grandparents have a great knowledge of the history of the family. They know who the elders are. They can even talk about people in photos that the grandchildren will never know. They add a sense of continuity and can add to the value of the family heritage and legacy.

Grandparents often can impart advice and wisdom to a grandchild more easily than a parent because they are a little more removed from the pressure of attention and parenting. They can help in mending emotional fences and adding perspective when teasing hurts a grandchild. They listen differently than parents do, often less judgmental and more understanding.

Grandparents have traits that grandchildren often inherit, ones that skip generations. I for one inherited from my Grandma a great love of music which neither of my parents had. Although she and I expressed our musical passion differently, we shared a love for singing and an appreciation for composition that no one else in our family embraced.

What has the relationship with you grandparents brought to your life? How do you promote the relationship between your own children and their grandparents? I would love to hear from your experience.

Shocking Headlines Take a Back Seat to One Uexpectingly Powerful Trait

In a time where headlines point unflinchingly to the shocking, there is a quiet voice emerging in research that confirms what has been known but rarely spoken of through the ages. It is the power of humility.

What is humility? Humility is a state of respect where you allow others to shine as well or better than you do. It is where you give praise where it is due, where you can trust others because there is nothing to hide or protect.

I recently came across a study that was published in the Organizational Dynamics Journal that found humility to be a critical strength for leaders. It gives a leader the ability to reflect with empathy. In other words, a humble leader can look at situations and see how their actions affect others and allow for the other’s perspective as well when determining outcomes. This is huge and this is not easy.

As an example of the power of humility I want to introduce you to Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, the largest Japanese consumer electronics company and known as the ’god of management.’

Panasonic opened its doors in 1918 and with hope, exuberance, fear and excitement. Matsushita asked his employees to adopt and apply the value of humility as they conducted their business with and on behalf of Panasonic. With the spirit of humility, he did what most companies don’t do. He shared the company’s “secrets” with all his employees. He wanted Panasonic, even as it grew to thousands of employees, to be focused on being an inclusive team and he knew that the best way to form this type of team was through humility rather than through coercion or elitist ideology. He traded the air of superiority he easily could have perpetuated through the company with humility because he wanted his employees to feel part of his success rather than laborers of it. As a result he was revered by his employees, by the Japanese government who awarded him with many great honors and by other business owners who hired him to help them become more humble business people.

Humility, as in the case of Mr. Matsushita, included having a moderate self- regard, with a strong vision and voice so that his struggling company could become a giant both in the tech world and in the world of business management.

How do you foster humility in yourself? Do you notice a difference in your communications and connections with others when you use humility? Write a comment, I’d like to hear your thoughts.