For this series about the crossover wisdom between work and life I talked to Andrew Connors about how wealth helps people pursue their higher purpose. Andrew is a partner with Fairport Asset Management (Cleveland).
The Value of a Family Mission Statement
For many of the people we work with wealth is a tool that helps them realize their purpose in life. Wealth itself doesn’t give them meaning. They already have purpose and meaning and their wealth helps them pursue that purpose.
For example, once a year we meet with every generations of one family for the sole purpose of discussing what is important to them and how are they doing in achieving it. Having a cohesive and tight-knit family that is not defined by their wealth is very important to the parents. Wealth can build walls in a family and these meetings make sure that does not occur and that they collectively thrive and support each other. We recently met with the whole family with the goal of creating a family mission statement.
Most middle-American families don’t think about needing a mission statement. We work with many family-owned businesses where there are a lot of personal, family and business dynamics. Creating a family mission statement gets everyone on the same page. A mission statement at is its core is meant to capture what your purpose is, where do you plant your flag!
Even if clients don’t have a family business they are in the business of having a great family. Having a mission statement defines their collective purpose. That doesn’t mean they won’t have individual purposes too.
The family I mentioned wants to stay close and they want their grandchildren to be close and grow up together. That doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t just go to sleep at night and pray for it to happen. You have to be deliberate about it.
That’s a big differentiator among people and families. There’s what people want and what people do. Many people want things but they’re not willing to do what needs to be done to make it happen. Often people don’t know how to make it happen or where to start. We have become quite good at helping people start moving in the right direction and getting them back on track when they veer off course.
What Do You Really Want?
To verbalize something makes it real, which can make people uncomfortable. Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become results.
Let me explain. Many people, especially men, gravitate toward wealth conversations that focus on their investment strategy. I recently asked a client, “Do you get tired of having the same conversations around traditional investment and financial planning issues. It’s obvious that we do a good job, and it’s important to check in on these issues. However, is there anything else you want to talk about? What do you want this wealth to do for you?”
That’s when he paused and shared what he really wants. He said in a couple years he wants to quit his highly lucrative job and pursue a certain passion. Now that was something we could work on together. That’s how we inspire families. We talked about how he could retire early and maintain a level of wealth that allows him to do a different job that makes less money but has a very different impact.
Find and Live Your Principles
I have this list of commandments. When I have a thought or idea I feel strongly about I add it to my list. I often refer back to these commandments to regain focus about what is life-defining.
For example: “One of the most special things you can do is make someone feel important. One of the cruelest things that you can do is make someone feel unimportant.” Making someone feel important can be as little as sending them a thoughtful text message, or calling to check in because you were just thinking about them. Everyone’s life is moving pretty fast. When you slow down and ask a question, or check in, that’s a gift.
Here’s another: “Find what’s important to others and make it important to yourself.” That’s about the difference between living a selfish or selfless life. I don’t think you can have a meaningful life and only do whatever pleases yourself. Having a meaningful life is about the impact you have on others.
Going back to what I do professionally. You can talk to a financial planner about how to pay less in taxes, how to retire, how to invest wisely and you obviously want to have those conversations. But to get at what really matters, to inspire them, I like to ask clients questions about what they want their wealth to do for them, how can it help them pursue a life of deeper meaning and purpose.
It comes down to what kind of advisor do you want to work with. What kind of conversations do you want to have? Do you want to just have investment, asset allocation conversations? Or do you want to work with someone who may end up knowing you better than anyone else and help you achieve something greater.
Time, Wealth and Health
Time, wealth and health. You won’t always have all of those things. The big question is: What do you want to do while you have all three?
We have another client who’s a retired executive of a large public company. He did extremely well financially yet lived a modest lifestyle. I was always telling him to go out and spend some money and do what he really wanted to do.
He called me this spring and said, “I’m walking out of my oncologist’s office… and all I’m hearing is your voice saying, ‘Time, health and wealth.’”
He will be ok, but he’s had this wake-up call that his time really is limited, and he won’t always have his health. If spending time with family is what gives life meaning, as it does for him, then you need to find ways to do that more often.
The greatest compliment we get having these deeper conversations is when people tell us we’re not really financial advisors. That means we’re having an impact on their lives that goes beyond the monetary.
For me, when it comes to getting up in the morning, if our goal is only to create more wealth, that feels pretty empty. But if I’m helping families create more wealth in order to be their best and go out into the world and do great things, that creates a ripple effect of positivity. That is how I live our mission of inspiring families.
REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READING
I am an independent leadership and management writer, editor, researcher and journalist. For the past ten-plus years (wow, has it been that long already?) I have helped business leaders and companies tell powerful stories.
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