Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Legacy Journey begins

It was in the spring of 2004 when I embarked on a personal journey to explore how individuals leave a lasting legacy for their families and communities. It started with a worry that I might not achieve everything I could achieve with my education and talents if I were just to follow the same path I was on pursuing a technology business career. I wanted to know how people leave something of value for their children, and preserve family values. I wanted to know how individuals make a philanthropic impact whether through the gift of money or through volunteering their time or leveraging their businesses and employees. I wanted to know how people make their life count while they are here, and leave the world something of lasting value after they are gone.

I started to read everything I could find from the great thinkers on the subject of legacy. I approached Howard Stevenson and Christine Letts of Harvard to enlist their support to conduct a study, and to learn from advisers to generational families and to great philanthropists. From that beginning I went on to interview some of the great philanthropists of our time from Bill Gates, Sr. to Sandy Weill, John Whitehead, Anita Roddick, Les Wexner, Bob Buford, and many others. It was exhilarating to hear their stories. The stories were so interesting that what started out as a study became a book, and over 3 years the book has now come to market.

Through this research, and the writing of my book, I found my calling. I am living proof that people can move from success to significance. I am motivated to write and speak about what I learned. My hope is that in some way I can help others to feel the same as I feel and to find their calling. This first blog is intended to highlight some of the things that have stood out for me along this journey; some of my self-discoveries and my worries; lessons learned about investing, philanthropy and families, as well as opportunities that are there for you the reader. Here are some of the big insights. Let me know which ones are of most interest to you:

  1. Legacy is about leadership. By applying the same rigger and purposeful approach to your family & philanthropy as you do to your avocation it can yield great results and personal satisfaction.
  2. Your time and how you spend it is your most valuable asset. To clarify the highest and best use of your time it is often helpful to metaphorically pull off of the road.
  3. The baby boomer wealth creation is an unprecedented megatrend that could have far reaching implications for society, however individuals, advisors and the systems to support them must develop new tools and business models to succeed with this impending wealth transfer.
  4. An almost universal fear for individuals with wealth is the worry that money might ruin the motivation of their children. Raising motivated and successful children with money involves effective communications, modeling and mentoring values and financial competency.
  5. Everyone leaves a legacy. At the end of the day your legacy is as much about investing in relationships in all aspects of your life as it is about investing your money.
  6. Everyone must answer three important questions that come up at different times for different people based on their values. They are: 1) How much is enough?; 2) What is my purpose and how will I achieve it?; and 3) What do I want to make last for my family and community? Everyone answers these questions in different ways, however you can achieve great value by building a specific route map for yourself based on your answers.
  7. Climbing the legacy mountains requires new skills and expertise, and often involves fighting your natural instincts to invest like an angel investor, to spray and pray with your giving which results in fragmentation of your time and money, and to avoid discussions of money in your family.
  8. Personal philanthropy which involves volunteering your time and donating money falls into three categories: 1) Community philanthropy out of your checkbook; 2) Formational philanthropy to religious and education institutions that supported you during your formative years; and 3) Cause philanthropy which is an area of passion that connects with you personally. All are important, however, the more focused you are on your cause philanthropy, the greater impact you will make, and the more satisfaction you will receive.
  9. Making a impact in society with your philanthropy often involves packing more than your wallet and keys, and leveraging not only your money but your broad set of assets and social networks
  10. For society to achieve the greatest social good requires a transformation in the way philanthropic dollars are invested. New blended models of doing well and doing good hold one of the keys to this transformation, and the potential to attract a brain trust of bright minds to solve social issues.

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