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.

5 Key Steps to Supporting your Mission Statement

When creating your personal mission statement there are 5 steps you want to follow to make it unique, lasting, significant, worth sharing and meaningful.

The first is to think about what you want to be known for. Perhaps you want to be known for your ability to build something, to lead something, to create something or to model something. Step one is to become clear on what it is you want to be known for.

Step Two is to define it more specifically so it takes on a life. Describe what it looks like, how it impacts your life and those lives you touch, who else is in the picture with you, how it makes you feel. Describe all you can about it so you can feel it in front of you as an actuality.

Step Three is to put a date to it. When do you want your mission to actualize and be something tangible and real. Once you put your date on it, ask yourself if this is a realistic timeframe or merely a random one?

Step Four will confirm your date on step Three. Check to see how it supports and forwards your values. Put action steps that need to be taken to make the mission happen in way that enhance your values.  Then determine if these action steps are doable in the time given or are they dependent on variables which could shift the time frame. Define mileposts so you can measure how you are doing. Create your action steps.

Step Five is to acknowledge your achievements. Once you have done your first action step, acknowledge yourself for moving towards living and expressing your mission. Then create the following step or two that need to be taken that will take you to your first milepost. As you near your first milepost, determine how you will celebrate reaching a milepost. This will help to enforce what you are doing and give you an opportunity to measure your progress to realizing your mission.

Leave a comment. I would love to hear how you use your mission statement if you have one, or when you will craft yours, if you haven’t already.

The 3 Indispensable Tools To Give You a Life that Matters

Living a life that matters is a choice that some people conscientiously make. Some come by this choice due to an event or situation that made them stop and evaluate what exactly they are here to do and be. Others come by this choice because they feel disconnected from something they can’t put their finger on but feel is waiting for them to “find.”

But once they have this revelation or go on their search, how do they build their purpose?

This is a good question with a simple but perhaps not so easy to implement, answer. They just need the right tools to help them bring into focus their which truly matters to them.

And what kind of tools are these? They are the tools which, rather than needing to be internalized because they come from an external source, are found internally and then manifested externally.

The first tool to use is the tool of inquiry. The place to start with this inquiry is to ask yourself: “What is really important to me?” Go beyond the stuff you want to accumulate and go to the principles and values you hold dear, values like: love, balance, freedom, responsibility, patience, humor…. Discover and then articulate what is truly important to you.

The second tool to use is commitment. With your values in front of you, determine the commitment you will make to have them take center stage in your life. How you will let these values guide you in your day to day life. Say, for instance that your number one value is Balance. Determine each day, before you let the day unfold, how you will use balance to lead your day. It may have to do with the way you interact with others. It may be in choices you make in your life with eating, exercise or work. However you want to have balance guide your life, commit each day to how you will use what really matters to you. In the evening, before you go to sleep, review that value was expressed.

The third tool to use is your personal mission statement. With your values as your starting point, write down your first draft of your mission in life, that which your values will lead you to be and do. Review what you have written, put it aside for a day or two, then revisit and tweak it until it feels pretty good to you. Now place it somewhere where you have to look at it daily. Although you might not “see” it every day, you will on occasion and it is those occasions that will realign you to your mission.

Let me know your experience with living a meaningful life with these 3 tools: articulate your values, commit to expressing them and having a personal mission. I would love to hear from you.

What Matters?

Values, a seemingly ephemeral element to our lives, have huge implications in and to our life.

Peter Block, in his book, The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters said this: “Values are a deeper statement of what really matters to us. They are also what most profoundly connect us to one another and to the world we have created.” They come from our deepest sense of uniqueness and our deepest sense of truly connecting with others.

When do we go beyond the how of our lives and think of the why to our lives?

As we constantly focus on getting things done, and racing through all that’s put in front of us, we risk losing, and often sacrifice, focusing on what truly matters to us and its impact to living rich lives.

When we lose the practice of focusing on what matters, we replace it with the ease of expediency.  When we lose the practice of focusing on what matters, we lose touch with what really matters. We trade what matters for what can be done now. We trade sensitivity for expediency. Life becomes a constant emergency rather than a nurtured and protected environment.

Often, we are not aware of the quiet voice inside us that takes into account what really matters to us. Instead we look for the quick answers, regardless of the consequences and impacts. Consider a time in your life when that voice talked to you and you shunned it. What were the consequences of doing so? What about when you listened to it, what was the benefit for you to listen to it?

To see the value of what matters, I suggest this simple exercise. You could do it at a Thanksgiving dinner. You can see the importance of what matters to someone’s life by asking them this series of questions:

  • What one obstacle or challenge have you faced in your life that you successfully overcame?
  • What did you learn about yourself that you have come to admire about yourself as a result of overcoming that challenge?
  • Where else have you applied that discovery in your life?

Asking these questions will give you an opportunity to hear others talk about what is important to them, rather than their most recent activities. You will feel more connected to them because you will know them better.

Before we leave today, I ask you:

  • What challenge have you faced in the last year or two?
  • What did you learn about yourself that you have come to admire as a result?
  • Where are you using that discovery to benefit another area of your life?

Share with me what matters to you by leaving me a comment. I would love to hear from you.

The Role of Leadership and Wealth Can Lead to Conflict in a Family Until…

There is a great potential for things to unravel when new generations take on roles of leadership as stewards of family wealth or as leaders in a family business. Because each generation has their own independent ideas on how to improve or grow what they have been given, conflicts can arise when the existing leadership has not been involved in a coordinated transfer of leadership. The current team of leaders often find that they lead best when they lead independently from others’ input, well intended or not.

For a family that wants to stay connected independence is not the key to success. It presupposes separation and often times, oligarchy, involving one generation or a certain subset but not others. With a legacy family, independence is an element, merely one of many elements, to a bigger purpose: the purpose the family has defined as their reason for being. This purpose is the one they want to build and foster as a group, together.  This purpose i involves the entire family. Its strength lies in its ability to envelop the family in fostering independent thinking while also cultivating mutual trust, respect, unity, and harmony in the bigger, common picture which defines their group.

When families have not developed an overarching purpose for themselves, they risk the probability that the varied and independent ideas of each individual will, over time, spark discord among them. This discord can result in overt or covert squabbles. These, over time, can tear at the threads of the unspoken family harmony.

This discord can result in squandering the assets. A business where the next generation is not mentored into leadership can bring business failure. An asset that is passed down without the understanding of how to steward it can result in the spending of the assets.

An associate told me of a gentleman he knew who suddenly died, leaving his commercial properties to his son. His son thought owning property must be easy. His Dad certainly made it look so. Within five years, this son over leveraged the properties. His life changed when he was caught, tried and convicted of running an investment scheme, asking for investment money to develop these now severely over leveraged properties and found this “son” was using their investments to keep the creditors at bay and fund his own lavish lifestyle. He found out what Dad made look easy was not so easy to do after all. He is now serving his jail time. His properties have all been sold to pay creditors, investors and attorneys. What his Dad built was squandered in less than one generation.

When one is not prepared to receive and mentored on how to use an asset that is given, it is too easy to spend it to fund one’s own sense of an entitled lifestyle. After all, “Dad did this for me, right.” comes the weak justification.

Preparing family members to become stewards of the assets they have been given is the best gift one generation can give to another.

Preparing generations for their roles of leadership gives a family a sense of alignment not entitlement. From this alignment comes harmony, direction, and a common and agreed upon purpose. This is family unity in family leadership where wealth is concerned.

Share with me your thoughts from reading this blog.

  • What have you noticed to be challenges families face as they pass wealth (in all its facets) from one generation to the next?
  • Is the focus on the things? Is the focus on the meaning of stewardship and how that can be fostered cohesively?
  • What else are you thinking as it relates to family connection? I’d love to know.

Focusing on the Value of Things Is Not Enough

I’d like to bring your attention to a recent article in Campden FB because it confirms what I think is a fundamental cornerstone to successful, long lasting legacy families. By successful families, I mean the ability of these long lasting legacy families to stay connected from generation to generation.


The law firm Withers Bergmann along with research partner Scorpio Partnership conducted interviews with families of net worth from thirty million to well into the billions of dollars. These two firms wanted to ascertain the meaning of wealth from these families’ points of view. Was creation of more wealth a focus? Was the preservation of the wealth their aim? What was the meaning of wealth for them?


Interestingly enough, their interviews found that for families within this range of wealth, money is the family’s business, the family’s reason to get together. “Its’ management, its stewardship and its division” is fundamental, the researchers found. But this only brings the family together for their own agendas and desires, which, naturally enough can create great tension. Some family members may want growth, others dividends, still others distributions; a messy picture when not properly framed and addressed.


The interviews also discovered an emerging trend for these families. Legacy families are seeing that focusing on the money, its preservations and growth are not enough. They were versed at the investments they had but not its overall purpose. These families are thinking about the purpose of their wealth.


This is so exciting to me as I have seen the difference in families when the focus is on the money itself, and omitting the family members in determining and moving forward the purpose of the money…together.


We focus on the value of things and often miss thinking about the things of value, the purpose of the family money. This needs to involve the people who are impacted by the wealth, the family.


What does your family focus on? How do they do that as a unified community? Share your thoughts I’d love to hear from you.

Wealth with a Mission is Power

In his book, Principle Centered Leadership, Stephen R. Covey noted: Too many families are managed on the basis of instant gratification, not on sound principles and rich emotional bank accounts. Then, when stress and pressure mount, people start yelling, overreacting or being cynical, critical, or silent. Children see it and think this is the way you solve problems-either fight or flight. And the cycles can be passed on for generations. This is why I recommend creating a family mission statement.”

By drafting a family mission statement, you are providing your family a compass to guide it through the various phases of childhood, adolescence and adulthood. This compass becomes the family’s tool to keep everyone on their own unique path of building the core, the values of the family.   

The core of any family is what is changeless, what is always going to be there. This core is represented in a family mission statement. You will add a deeper meaning and connection when your family creates its unique mission statement.

Most families don’t have mission statements. Those families, who craft one, feel the difference. It is like attempting to grow the buds of the plant before setting its root. It won’t work…for long. It’s similar in families. Sure, two generations who grow up in the same house usually still have some relationship as adults but within one or two generations later, there is already a gap in that connection. Think about it yourself: as you look back three generations to your great grandparents, can you even name them all? Just looking back 2 generations, to your grandparents, do you know what they stood for, what attributes they wanted to pass on to you? Did they have a mission and did it include you? Probably not.

It doesn’t take that much to create a mission statement. It can be done in baby steps from wherever you are.

Initial baby steps include:

  • As a family, identify and talk about you individual as well as your collective values. By doing this each family member will have a greater understanding of the driving forces and core meaning each individual has and the purpose the family values would have for them collectively.  This is an opportunity to ask yourself both as an individual and as a family what do you value, what is your family all about?
  • Determine together the purpose of your family. From your values you can determine how you want to develop them for generations to come. This is a time to ask yourselves: What do we stand for? What is our reason for being?”
  • Create your communal mission statement that together you want to move forward with your strong foundation of unified values and purpose.
  • Discuss how each individual can add meaning to your new purpose and mission through their strengths and values.

Doing this will set the roots for your family tree to develop for years and generations to come. You will provide a new and rich emotional bank account for your family to draw from. And that is power.