If you’ve been reading my blog over time, you’ll know that I like to relate my posts to famous musicians. Keep reading to see how Patti Smith and Adele fit into this month’s post.
I work with families that want their wealth to serve current and future generations in healthy and productive ways. Some family clients have active operating businesses and others have legacy wealth and in both cases the assets are often complex. Regardless of the form the wealth takes, these families want to be deliberate about the use of family wealth so that it follows the path of deeply held family values. They want to avoid “the tail wagging the dog” – situations in which the money comes first and then come values and proud legacy, if one is lucky.
Historically, it was common for inheritors to find out about the wealth coming their way after someone died and with little education or discussion beforehand – and sometimes none at all. The current trend is toward families learning from one another in various forums, reading the numerous books on the subject and working with a variety of experts all with an eye to opening communication earlier and in productive ways. Secrecy rarely leads to success in these situations.
There is more interest than ever before about best practices for raising healthy and productive children in the context of family wealth. While so much can be said on this topic, I’d like to focus on the power of failure. Regardless of socioeconomic status the value for children of taking risks and failing on the path to success is invaluable. Independent, healthy growth occurs through failing, struggling and eventually succeeding with many/most attempts (can’t succeed all the time if you are truly taking on challenges).
In the context of family wealth, trying to avoid this process of failing and learning can be exceptionally harmful, as there will be a day when money can potentially take the place of self-motivation and productive work. Helicopter parenting and protecting children from failing only undercut the process by which children develop self-esteem and “grit” (I highly recommend Angela Duckworth’s book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” for more on this topic.)
It is important to rethink failure as being a necessary and healthy, humbling process of learning, growth and development. Two famous singer-songwriters, Patti Smith and Adele, are current popular-culture examples of people whose experiences could have been seen as failures but strongly demonstrate growing from adversity, building character and gaining respect of peers at any age.
Patti Smith was asked to sing at the recent Nobel Prize ceremony honoring the laureate for literature (the recipient was unknown to her when she accepted but would turn out to be Bob Dylan). Adele was singing at the 2017 Grammys to honor the late George Michael. Both were overcome with nerves even at their high levels of success and both stopped their performances and requested to start over in front of illustrious audiences of peers and dignitaries. And Adele had the added challenge of a “mishap” during the 2016 Grammys making her struggles this year even more potentially humiliating. Relevant and interesting links to these events below.
Redefine failure and parenting. It is essential for all families to let kids take risks and find their way through failure and success; it is particularly necessary in a family wealth context. Being a loving parent does not mean protecting your kids from all frustrating experiences – only the most dangerous and with as little guidance as necessary.