Chris Borland is considered “the most dangerous man in football” according to an ESPN article from last year. A San Francisco 49ers linebacker and former All-American at Wisconsin, Chris walked away from all of it at twenty-four years old. Why? He put his family and his health before money, fame and even the sport he loved and still loves. Fear of the cumulative effects of head trauma (his best guess is that he’s suffered thirty concussions) led him to assess what is most important to him and he came down firmly on the side of family and health.

His story is interesting and complex. It involves the current crisis in football related to repetitive head injuries and also the strong-arm tactics the NFL is accused of using against its critics. His story speaks to the excitement and adoration the sport enjoys in America and around the world. His personal ambivalence towards football is particularly striking. For all these reasons and more – take some time to read it for yourself.

The aspect of the story I find most appealing is the relationship between wealth and values. Borland worked so hard for so many years to get recruited by Wisconsin and then drafted by the NFL. By walking away he lost a signing bonus of more than $617,000 (which he must repay to the team) and will forego a salary of $2.35 million a year. To him, being able to have fun with his daughters (and speak to them intelligently well into his forties and beyond) was worth more than all the rest, and he acted in line with what he valued even in the face of significant and multifaceted loss.

A common thread in my work with successful families is the struggle to raise children of character amidst wealth. I’ve written about it in this blog and elsewhere. The bottom line is for parents to walk-the-walk, to live the values they tell kids are important. In my mind, Chris Borland is the poster child for this kind of parental modeling.

What is the lesson?

Enterprising Families: Clarify the most important values in life and be sure to live by them in obvious and courageous ways – in ways visible to your children. The importance of this in terms of raising selfless children of quality character cannot be overemphasized. This is the inoculation against unhealthy entitlement and lack of motivation.

Advisors to Enterprising Families: Your financially successful family clients inevitably include parents struggling with how to instill values in their children. There are many good books you can share and exercises you can learn to facilitate to help them and set yourself apart from the “technical” folks in your field.