By Kip Kolson, Special for USADT
There have been five movies about Jason Bourne, a man who has had his past erased and re-programmed to be a lethal weapon, to kill on command without knowing the reasons for his deadly assignments. There is one problem; his inherent values and principles go against everything he has been programmed to do. The underlying theme is a man desperately trying to regain his past, to know where he came from and why he is doing what goes against his spirit and upbringing. He is a lost soul in a universe where his heritage and history no longer exist. As a result, he is haunted, distressed, despondent, and disconsolate and on a mission to regain his past at any cost, including using his programmed violent skills on the people who created the killing machine he has become, in order to find out who he is and regain the life he wants.
Today the streets of every major city in the United States are filled with malcontents and dissidents who are ignorant of our country’s heritage, a heritage based on the principle that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Further, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Ironically, the rioting and destruction of statues is targeted at some of the men who crafted the documents that enshrined the freedoms mentioned above, men who represent a generation who willingly fought and gave their lives to obtain and preserve those freedoms for future generations. For the last 250 years men and women of all races and nationalities have given their lives for one reason; to secure freedom and liberty for all men and women. Erasing our heritage, we do at the peril of forfeiting our freedoms.
Nothing good comes from ignoring history, or worse, purposely erasing it. As we work with families of wealth around the issues and conflicts wealth causes, the one constant is families who do not have a firm grasp and understanding of their history will almost always be doomed to loosing their wealth and destroying their relationships. “The commonly used expression, “Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat it” is actually a mis-quotation of the original text written by George Santayana (1863-1952), who, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”i This holds true for nations as well as families.
Families and nations are made up of people and people are imperfect. Some of that imperfection is unintentional, but often it is very intentional. The problem with trying to erase history of imperfections is they cannot be erased. We cannot change the past, so simply attempting to redact the imperfection from our history books and tearing down statues means they will certainly be repeated. The violence and rioting in our cities are perfect examples of this. The first amendment says the people have the right to peacefully assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The rioters and violent protesters have conveniently redacted the word “peacefully” from that guaranteed freedom, a freedom won through Revolutionary and Civil Wars, so we are now potentially doomed to repeat those wars.
When Jason Bourne volunteered for the Treadstone Project he was told it was for a righteous cause, that he would be saving many lives and serving his country honorably. It was a lie! His handlers knew they had to erase the values and principles he grew up embracing. He was a soldier who committed his life to protecting the freedoms his country gave him and all citizens. These values and principles would never allow him to engage in the sabotage, insurrection, and killing that was the Treadstone mission. Those historical moral values and principles had to be erased and replaced with new rules that benefited a few rather than the many.
A family’s heritage is the glue that keeps a family strong and enduring for multiple generations. Here are a few problems that occur when we do not know where we came from and why are we here.
Loss of direction: Family is where we learn where we should be going. In families that own a family business that has been around for more than one generation, some of the children will likely follow in the family footsteps. Others will learn the family business is not right for them and pursue other careers.
Loss of mission and purpose: Family is society’s most important institution. It is where we learn people are our most important assets. Our purpose in life is to serve other people. It is how we discover our value and self-worth. Serving family members is imbedded in family, and a family that serves other families teaches everyone what meaning, and purpose is about.
Loss of values and principles: Personal values and principles are learned within the family and religious institutions, not in our universities and government. I believe I am safe in assuming Jason Bourne’s original values were learned from his parents and family members, not society. In fact, it is our family values that allow us to assess and judge whether society’s values are good or evil.
Loss of identity: Again, Jason exemplifies what happens to a person who has no past. Children orphaned at an early age often struggle with who they are and what they are supposed to do and be.
Loss of relationships: Family is where we learn about relationships and how to love. Not only the immediate family, but with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousin and nephews and nieces. Every family reunion proves how diverse and important their family history is to their relationships.
Loss of confidence and self-worth: Family is where we get to experiment, take risks, and fail or succeed in a friendly, non-judgmental, loving environment. With each success we become more confident and self-reliant.
Loss of True Wealth: At Family Wealth Leadership we coach families and family members on how to effectively use their four “Ts” of True Wealth; their Time, Talent, Training, and Treasures. Only through learning how to correctly use and pass on their Time, Talent, and Training will they be able to preserve and grow their Treasures.
Loss of foundation: Family and the family history is the foundation of our society. It is where grandparents can pass on their values and principle, their successes and failures, trials and tribulations, traditions, and their adventures and joys. The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can learn from these stories. Our Native American citizens grew up in a culture where elders were respected and responsible for passing on the heritage of their tribe and nation. It was how their nation remained strong.
So why would anyone not want to know their heritage or attempt to erase it? It would be because they have an agenda that conflicts with their family’s or nation’s history. This is why Jason had to be re-programmed.
We encourage and work with our family clients to capture their family’s history in print and video so it can be passed to future generations. We also encourage them to capture the present in print, pictures, and video. There is a reason ancestory.com is successful, it is because we inherently do want to know our history and where we came from. The following is not a family we work with but is a good example of the kind of work we do with our families because it is critical a family embrace and perpetuate their family history. Highlights is a children’s magazine publisher in its fourth generation of family management and ownership.
Highlights for Children Inc. has an iron-clad mission for both business and family, with one supporting the other. The business mission is steadfast and has been in place since the launch of the magazine: “to help children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideals and worthy ways of living — for children are the world’s most important people.” The company even had the final phrase trademarked.
To complement the business mission, the third-generation leaders put together a mission statement of their own. It was one of the first tasks of the family council when it was formed in 1993. The family statement, the product of a process facilitated by a third party, outlined how they would stay together as a family and as good stewards of the company their grandparents founded.
All 13 members of that generation agreed to the statement in 1997, says Pat Mikelson, the family’s third-generation historian and archivist. “We have simply been willing to look at our philosophy as our foundation.”
In part, the statement says:
The bond which holds us together is our desire and willingness to continue the work of Garry and Caroline Myers. We agree to subject our immediate self-interest to our long-term common goal of maintaining the integrity and viability of Highlights for Children Inc.
Now in the fourth generation of leadership, the family council continues its work helping family connections and communication, including a “Fun With Purpose” committee for annual gatherings and what the G3 statement refers to as “unscheduled leisure time” together.
The rising generation decided to have a summit of their own, as the generation before them had. “One of the outcomes of [holding fourth-generation meetings] was a desire for us to re-express a mission statement,” says fourth-generation CEO Kent Johnson Jr. “How we wanted to support the company, mission — how we want to interact and continue perpetual ownership.”
The fourth generation’s version addresses how family relationships will feed the stewardship of the business and emphasizes that the family is at the root of its success.
Their mission statement, also ratified by every member of their generation, reads in part:
We acknowledge the need to nurture both the health of our own individual families as well as the greater multi-generation extended family in order to succeed in the continuous support of the business that unites us.
Across the generations is a “unified commitment” to staying private and family-owned, Johnson says.
“I think our leaders in the family and the business over the years have always felt that one of the things that happened to help grow and thrive was a focus on the mission,” he says. “The connection to family and connection in values would be difficult to maintain if we weren’t a family business. We consider the company an emotional asset to the family rather than a financial asset.” — April Hall”ii
Our history, our country’s history, our family’s history, good and bad, are an asset that should be constantly re-invested to preserve and grow our values and heritage for generations to come and build a legacy we can all take pride in. Learn from the past; repeat the things that were done right and do not repeat the mistakes. Build solid monuments to guide your family through all the trials and tribulations of life as each generation faces new challenges.
“Each of you is to carry out a stone on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes. 6 We will use them to build a monument so that in the future, when your children ask, ‘What is this monument for?’ 7 you can tell them, ‘It is to remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of God went across!’ The monument will be a permanent reminder to the people of Israel of this amazing miracle.”iii “Everyone, listen! In all your lifetime, yes, in all your history, have you ever heard of such a thing as I am going to tell you? 3 In years to come, tell your children about it; pass the awful story down from generation to generation.”iv
Kip Kolson is the president of Family Wealth Leadership, a multi-family office and family coaching firm, and author of You Can Have It All; Wealth, Wisdom, and Purpose—Strategies for Creating a Lasting Legacy and Strong Family. You can order your copy at Amazon, the FWL website below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org