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. 

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.

A Mighty Thank You

When I think of you who have been affected by my blogs

I see shimmering stars light my path

When I think of you who have focused on stewardship

I am touched by a commitment to best practices

You, in your dedication to a richer and more meaningful life

Make me smile from ear to ear with joy

I applaud your commitment to lives and legacies that matter

May your commitment to 2020 give you the capacity to see far!

Is Silence Always Golden?

Think back for a moment, back 2 generations and bring your grandparents to mind.  Can you name all 4 of them? If you can, I have another question for you: can you name their hobbies and interests …for all 4 of them? And if you can, I have one more question for you:  do you know what they stood for, or, said differently, what they believed in? Interesting? You are an exception if you know what even two of your grandparents believed in.

Now, join me as I take you one generation further back. How many of you can name your great grandparents…all 8 of them? In a room of 100 people, when I ask this question, I am amazed at how few can name all their great grandparents.

With the first set of questions, usually about 95% of the room can name their grandparents, about 65% can name their hobbies or interests, and less than 20% can name what all four pf their grandparents stood for.  Going back one generation further it is rare when more than 3% can name their great grandparents.  This is tragic because research has shown how beneficial it is for a child’s well-being to understand their family’s storied history.

In the 1990s, Dr. Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, along with a colleague, Dr. Robyn Fivush, tested a hypothesis. This initial thought was developed by a psychologist who found, while working with children that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”  Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush developed a measure to test this hypothesis.  From responses, they concluded that the more people knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, their higher their self-esteem and the successfully their believed their families functioned.”

Is silence always golden? No! How are you sharing your family story?

For more information, read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html

2 Critical Issues Facing Family Businesses

For families with businesses, there are two big problems that surface as the family grows and ensuing generations get involved or migrate away from the family business.

Conversations about the business that may have started in the living room at home, moved to the kitchen, then a conference room then to a board room, often become a struggle as families grow and as individual agendas develop. Working well together, across generations, can become tense when visions are not aligned, and responsible stewardship is not defined. Competing and contrasting priorities due to generational differences, ownership positions, and desires for the business as contrasted with desires for the family harmony, surface.

It is not natural to manage such complexity. Like a garden who needs proper care and maintenance to stay healthy, relevant, and vibrant, a family is best served by developing a disciplined and purposed component to their family and family business dealings and becoming responsible stewards of what they are growing and eventually, passing down.

Determining an initial purpose to both the family and family business initially separate the two entities so they can clearly define themselves independently. Agreeing on and articulating the value, vision and mission of each entity across generations is key to being responsible stewards. Adapting and becoming comfortable with change is the responsibility of each generation.

Questions to consider asking at home:

  • Who do we want our family to be, as a family?
  • What do we want our family to represent in the community?
  • What is important to us as a family: what do we believe in? What do we stand for?

Creating purpose, mission, vision and family teams to develop the family’s success goes a long way to sustaining intergenerational trust and sustainability.

Questions to consider asking about the business:

  • What is the purpose and mission of the business?
  • Is the business meant to develop as a business or build family wealth?
  • What do we need to do to support our working together?
  • How do we communicate business information so it does not take over or interfere with the family environment?

Knowing the purpose of the business, communicating that to the family, developing trust in leadership development are all critical to successfully passing a business legacy and leadership from one generation to the next.

The Family Story is Powerful to Children

Several years ago, Emory University commissioned a study. The study was hosted by two prominent Emory psychologists, Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, and a former graduate student, Jennifer Bohanek. They wanted to understand the impact of family stories to a family’s dynamics with their adolescent members.

“Family stories” the researchers wrote, “…help children understand who they are in the world.” These unique and important stories help children understand who they are and where they come from, in a different way, but akin to the DNA tests available for us to take today. Neither of these will tell us who we are going to become, but they do shed light into that which brought us here.

The power of the important story is its experiential transmission of connectivity. Before this study, researchers had an inkling that family stories contributed to a child’s well-being and identity but had not measured their ideas. Now there was evidence. The study found that the teenagers in the study expressed “…higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.” Wow!

Although this is the first study of its kind to use a Do You Know Scale of measurement, it certainly is, for some, an eye opener, while for others, confirmation, on the power of important family stories.

What is your family’s story; not the where when or how, but the story of who and the why of the family? Your family story is a thread, a  link to identity and connection. Tell it to your family.

Give Your Family Its Wings

Are you building your wealth only to see it gone by the time your great, great grandchildren are growing up and asking about their roots? Most families do not keep ancestral footprints. You can change that by creating a living and engaging family history, footprint, and legacy.

According to research done by The Williams Group, who researched families of great wealth,  70% of families with  assets and stories, values and meaning, will find their money gone by the end of the 2nd generation. Shocking? For those 70%, probably yes.

The research continued to find that 90% of families are unable to have their wealth pass on beyond the third generation, in other words, beyond their grandchildren.  Why is this?

Families survive and thrive not by money transfers alone, the above statistic evidences that.  Families stay together because of a “why.” This “why” is the glue that voluntarily keeps them unified. This “why” includes the history of who you are, where you came from, what shaped you. It is your family’s living legacy.

Consider this: the etymology of Legacy according to the Online Etymology Dictionary stems from the 14th Century French: “legate-body of persons sent on a mission”, and from the middle Latin “ambassador or envoy.” Give your family its wings by creating its legacy. This will keep them connected for generations well beyond your initial contributions.

The Family with a Mission Sets a Cornerstone of Longevity

When I ask people about experiences they have had with the transition of wealth in their families, often, I get a shake of the head followed by a story of at least one person or one family branch creating an issue with the terms of distribution. This is still astounding to me, twenty years plus of asking this question.

Why, today, in our “enlightened states”, where information and coaches are ever present, do we fall into patterns that have been around for centuries? Why do we have to say: “My family is different” or “They get along. They’ll figure it out” only to find our families are right in the mix of fallen, disrupted, and broken families? I really do not get it.

What are we so afraid of uncovering that we would rather avoid, deny or hide it than seek to overcome it?

Many people think that merely preparing the assets for their eventual distribution is the answer to passing on an estate successfully. But those of you who have experienced, or, know of a family where distrust or antipathy, cloaked in polite communication, know a great mistake left  irreparable consequences.  Families are torn apart when instead they could have learned how to stay connected.

Becoming a legacy family means preparing the beneficiaries, your family members, to receive the assets. It means understanding the purpose of the wealth and the purpose of the family so the two can co-exist with agreement, understanding, and with stewardship that passes on what it has received and cultivated to the next generation.  Becoming a legacy family means looking at each other, understanding what you want to accomplish together and finding that place of agreement through shared values and inclusivity. Legacy derives from the word legate or mission. When a family has a mission, it sets a cornerstone of longevity.

I will stop here to give you an opportunity to soak in the essence of what has been conveyed here.

concrete hallway between white pillars and building

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Hero’s Story is Significant

 

Over the holidays, I attended the annual Seattle Business Magazine’s Family Business Awards Dinner. It was a fantastic event, honoring family businesses who deserve recognition in categories such as: Best Practices, Community Involvement and Family Business of the Year.

During the dinner, Chris Schiller, Managing Director of Cascadia Capital, gave a compelling introduction to the Family Business of the Year award.

I would like to quote Chris, as I thought his words were applicable to those of us who ork in guiding and consulting with family businesses and/or their families.

Chris began his talk by saying: “In thinking about tonight’s wonderful celebration of family business, it struck me that the eminent mythologist, writer and lecturer, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, is much like the story of family business. All of the family businesses in this room have followed a similar path to Joseph Campbell’s hero, with you or one of your family taking the risk to start a company, then embarking on the journey of building your business, meeting tremendous challenges and personal struggles on the journey, finding various mentors (maybe including the family business advisors in this room) to help you overcome those challenges, and then crossing over into a period of transformation that leads to your ultimate success as a business and a family.

For all of you family businesses in this room, you likely have not arrived yet… rather your story continues to grow with your current generation and the next generation coming up. Often the journey is more important than the destination, as they say.

As investment bankers, my Cascadia colleagues and I live in a world of left brain… financial statements, revenue and EBITDA, numbers. Often the value of a business is ascribed largely to these numbers. However, what I have learned and what drives us, rather, is the stories of our family business clients. We are able to exercise our right brain to tell our client’s story to the market in a way that we find the optimal partner that embraces that story, and thereby sees value that others do not see in just the numbers. These stories are really what drives our passion for working with family business. “

These words were inspiring for me. Thank you, Chris, for speaking them and then letting me share them here. The story of the business is so important for families who continue their businesses across generations.