Exploring The Role of Family

Despite a life spent on the road, I see an end of life benefit to having family established in one location. I’d like my family to maintain my dignity for as long as possible. I think this is a key role for family, and tough to subcontract.

What are other areas where family can help?

Supporting family members to take risks that enrich their lives. The investor in me always brings this back to helping somebody start a business. However, my family tree shows that backing family members can be a poor investment. There is a far greater return from the family offering emotional support for the courage to make a change designed for self-improvement.

Considering some bad decisions that have been made by myself, friends and family, I note that they tend to be made by cutting corners in an effort to make a little bit more money, get some more sex or gain additional status. Family plays a dual role here: (a) strengthening moral resolve through clarity in family ethics; and (b) teaching each other how to enjoy life without spending excessive money, overeating or getting loaded. Specifically, the family as a role in teaching attractive alternatives to the false gods we are taught in a consumer society.

I often socialize around food, alcohol or spending. However, when you ask my brother and I about our fondest memories of growing up, they center around exciting challenges, with good friends, while living in nature. For a decade of my early life, I spent 4-12 weeks a year at camp. A question that I’ve been asking myself is how I can create “Camp Dad” in Colorado. Learning to appreciate nature is one of the greatest gifts I can give my kids.

Last week I visited India. When you fall through the cracks in India, you fall a long, long way. The social safety net in Canada gives comfort that you’re never going to be totally screwed. Here in the US, health care costs can wipe out a family. Access to healthcare could be another role for family, particularly if you live where isn’t universally available.

Some members of my family feel that education is an appropriate area for the family to help. As you can read in earlier article, many families waste valuable capital by over-educating their kids. That said, I’ve been thinking about when educational spending makes sense and will write about that in the future. In our family, we have successful case studies that balance where we wasted money.

How does a family, or organization, get to the point where the membership is comfortable enough with each other to contribute?

Within my own family, we’re working towards the above by agreeing how we will interact with each other:

  • No taboo topics (facilitated by sharing our own life lessons)
  • Everyone talks
  • Build trust via respect, honesty and avoiding unnecessary pain
  • Have an open discussion of commitments
  • Have clear mission (we’re still working on this – for now, we have a general statement to strengthen human capital)

What’s your family seeking to achieve and what do your interactions say about your values?

Seventh Generation Thinking

This week’s theme is decisions that benefit our children’s children. Put another way, what are the most important choices I make as a parent, uncle, son, cousin, nephew and grandson.

The books of Hughes, mentioned in Readings To Strengthen Your Family discuss the concept of Seventh Generation Thinking. The idea being to make decisions that benefit citizens (or family members) 140 years down the road. Given that my life takes unexpected turns every decade, thinking 50/100/150 years in the future isn’t meaningful to me. I needed to reframe the question.

Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile, recommends thinking backwards to gain clarity. So, to learn what might really matter, I ask myself “What choices of my great-grandfather continue to echo in my life?”

The themes that I came up with:

  1. Location, citizenship & community
  2. Agreeing the role of family and renewing that covenant each generation
  3. Creating, and sustaining, traditions
  4. Teaching and facilitating good daily habits
  5. Teaching and facilitating financial wellness
  6. Teaching and facilitating effective interpersonal skills
  7. Initiating family strategic reviews and following up

While I left Canada in 1990, way way back, members of my family made a decision to emigrate and that was a key choice. Likewise, my wife’s parent’s decided to move to Colorado when she was a newborn.

Despite my respect for Canada, and occasional desires to move to Palo Alto, being American and living in Colorado provides my kids with the stability and opportunity for a successful life.

Are we in the right place for my children’s children to have a chance to live the life I wish for myself? Here in Colorado, the answer is yes.

Interestingly, up in Vancouver, my great-grandfather would have answered yes in the 1940s. However, Vancouver grew so fast that the city is a little crowded for me.

Over the last 20 years, the place that most felt like home to me was New Zealand. However, putting 12,000 kilometers between my wife and her family doesn’t make sense. Given that I searched the globe (!), to find the right woman, I should respect her roots.

So the first question to consider is, “Are we where we need to be?”

Living in Asia in my late-20s, I began to suspect that I wasn’t where I needed to be. Eventually, in my early-30s, I left Asia and moved to New Zealand. There I found a home, and people, that suited my values. As fate would have it, I met a wonderful American lady and ended up in Boulder. In my life, it’s been easier to see where I shouldn’t be, than where I should.