Legacies Enduring Questions – Part 6
Question #6 "What do we desire most for our children’s future?"
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
Legacy is about the future. For most of us, it is about passing on our values, traditions and wealth to our children. Being serious about our legacies means we think carefully and plan wisely for the future to be as bright as we hope it can be.
According to a 2018 survey of High Net Worth families, they are not doing very well. The horizon seems more than a little bleak. The survey reported that 71 % admitted they directly knew of family members who were struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues. 84% were very worried about potential damage to the family’s reputation.
When the landscape is littered with broken down and damaged lives, we must ask why. Many of those lives are our children. More than a few are beyond damaged and broken down, they are gone.
Preserving legacy is about the decisions you make today. Protection is not always about creating a defensive wall but can be positive actions to strengthen and fortify the lives of our children.
What is our greatest legacy? Passing on wealth or helping our children become healthy adults who are defined by their love for life and giving to others?
I sat across the dinner table from a 22 year old young man. He was tall, bright, good looking but he had sold his soul to the demands of his father's vision of his own legacy.
James was a dual national with both French and US citizenship. He was finishing up his engineering degree at a major French university.
James had graduated from a prestigious private school in Houston where he was a good student and an excellent musician. He played the violin. College music scholarships were being offered to him while in high school. Passion for his music saturated his every thought. It was the love of his life.
Prior to graduating his father told him his music was not a practical future. He must follow a career in science or engineering and forget his music. He loved and respected his father. He was an obedient son from a good family where you don’t go against the wishes of your father. He complied and put away his instrument. His future with what he loved was muted.
I asked James about his university experience in France. He talked how academically demanding it was. It left little time for anything but hard work. Playtime was minimal even though his university was on the coast and close to the beach.
I wanted to see if he still took time to enjoy the company of his first love and passion – his music. He did not. She was entombed in her velvet coffin and had not been opened since the decision to do his father’s will. He wouldn't open it. The pain was so raw. She traveled with him everywhere he travelled.
I asked James if he was excited about getting his degree and where he would love to work. The job demand for his expertise was high and starting salaries very good. The future had every possibility of providing him with a successful life. The pathway forward was very bright.
He responded with something that almost made me cry. He said he had no expectation for the future. He described his current existence was nothing but “dull”. James said, “If I get to experience small pieces of happiness to get me through life, that is what it will have to be.”
He deflected away from our discussion and asked our host what he would take from his house if there was a fire. It was a beautiful downtown condo Houston. My friend said obviously his family. James responded. His only treasure would be his musical instrument. Then there was a silence. “Can I have some more salad dressing…..” I broke the silence.
James reminded me of Leonardo DeCaprio (Frank) in the movie Revolutionary Road. It is a very depressing movie. The movie is a commentary about a man who made a choice to do what others told him to do. He refused to do what he loved and knew he was designed to do.
He represented the lives of millions stuck in careers and places they knew would never be anything but “dull” – soulless! It is a story of a man who refused to embrace his purpose, for all the seemingly appropriate and right reasons, and ended with tragic results.
April, Frank’s wife, accused him of not giving his full efforts to living life and following his dreams. He forcefully reacts by saying he does everything any good husband and father would do. He works hard and supports his family. He is so responsible that he supports them while hating every moment of his job. He equates working hard while hating his job as having moral fortitude simply for not running away from his responsibilities.
April ends the confrontation with a gut-wrenching response. She tells Frank he is a coward and has no backbone because he lacks the courage to follow his passion and live the life he so desperately wants. He was a miserable man.
I wonder if this will be the end story of the life of a young man called James?
You have a great responsibility towards your children. You need to help prepare them for life and to be responsible adults. Most of all you need to help them discover their own pathway. That pathway must be the primary determining factor is helping guide their career and future.
Making demands that your children comply with your personal need to look good, be in a respectable career and uphold the family name, could lead to tragedy. Tragedy of a life filled with “dull”. Tragedy of a life consumed with the need to use substances to get through the pain, anguish and colorless life. Money and a family name mean nothing when our lives are denied those things that feed our souls.
How do you as parents guide your children to a life that respects your legacy but also honors their talent?
1. Open your eyes to their innate talents. What does your child excel at and love?
2. Require that your children try hard and challenging experiences.
3. Use your wealth to help your child explore the world and discover where they make the biggest impact.
4. Let your children fail and pick themselves up. Believe they have the capacity to solve problems and pick themselves up. Their need to solve their own problems is bigger than what your need to protect your name.
5. Helicopter parents don’t just hover to protect their children but often do so to herd their children into a coral of their own design.
6. Check your own motives and don’t over-ride your child’s talent, future options and happiness for a legacy you envision.
7. Your greatest legacy will be children who find their own path.
8. Success is not defined by what you have in the bank but in the purpose and passion with which you and your children live.
What will your child’s future look like?
The Legacy Forum has coaching programs for both parents and children. We all need help to become better at the roles we play in life. Loving our children and helping them discover their unique talents and pathway forward, can always use expert professional help.
I would love for you to each out and connect with me today. It is as simple as an email or call me.
Mark R. Demos.
P.S. Please share this article with others who need it.