In 2002, I started a career in restaurants. I had earned a bachelor’s in culinary arts along with a master’s in hospitality administration. I enjoyed the work at first but that all changed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Restaurant work became unbearable for me because it became about “surviving,” versus doing meaningful work. We usually had more than enough customers in our restaurants but rarely ever had the optimal number of workers to excel in our daily work. I’m a high achiever and one whose payoff comes in part from the actual achieving. Being subject to the survival mode mentality for an extended period of time helped me realize I wanted (and needed) more from my work and that it was time for me to move on in search of “more.” Working for over a year in survival mode was my breaking point. By late 2006, uncertain of my next move, I walked away from the restaurant industry feeling burned out, craving a change of pace, and in pursuit of the elusive “more.”
Over a decade ago, Lee Brower had a personal and professional crisis. He learned that world-wide and throughout history – despite the best efforts of the finest estate planners, wealth managers, accountants, trust officers, family counselors, consultants and professionals from all fields AND despite the best intentions of wealth creators and family leaders – the vast majority of family wealth is dissipated by the fourth generation. Emotionally, it was professionally frustrating. And it was disturbing as a family leader. He also felt morally and ethically challenged to do something, to solve this dilemma both for his clients and for his own family.
As we now know, he happened to meet a woman from Jackson Hole, WY, on a flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. She turned out to be an unwitting source of wisdom and insight into the nature of wealth. She helped Lee define what "True Wealth" is for him and many others (see https://youtu.be/5DHBiPZP1CE). She inspired Lee to create a method of integrating planning, financial products, legal structure, and professional services into what has become the Empowered Family Treasury.
But what this woman from Jackson Hole didn't do was tell Lee how to prepare people and support them throughout the process of mastering the "Mindset" necessary to achieve and sustain True Wealth. We've had to learn this through struggles, trial and error, and many starts and stops. We're still learning but, I believe, we're on a good trajectory now.
Recently, a Seattle family consultant Matthew Wesley wrote an article describing the missing element in estate planning. Wesley described it as ongoing preparation, a never-ending process of preparing for the future in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. By analogy, like the Jamaican relay team, each member trains and prepares to be the best that they can be; they perform when called upon; and then pass the baton. But unlike the Jamaican relay team, in estate planning and in life, the race doesn't end when a star performer has completed his or her work. Reversing the analogy, even the greatest sprinter in history Usain Bolt would be challenged to empower those that he would hand off to; knowing that they just might drop the baton before they got around the track again.
“Most of us have signed on for a cultural approach that has to do with possessions and status and achievements as markers of happiness…But having bought into that vision and aspired to it on a fundamental level, we’re lonelier than ever” – Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley
The article below by Barbara Graham is an excellent overview of the current research and thinking on "Happiness". Graham highlights several points:
– The word "happiness" derives from the Old Norse and Old English root "hap", which means luck or chance. The idea of creating our own individual happiness is a relatively recent concept in human history, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries with Thomas Jefferson and John Locke. "Before then, suffering was considered the norm and happiness was thought to be a matter of luck" says Graham.
– "(P)sychologists have teased happiness into two components: eudaimonic happiness, the well-being that arises from a sense of purpose or service to others; and hedonic happiness, which comes from enjoying a good meal, making love, or other passing pleasures. And though both types of happiness are essential to a balanced, contented life, a recent study conducted by Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine found that blood samples of people with high levels of eudaimonic happiness demonstrated a better immune response profile than those with high levels of hedonic happiness."
– “Research suggests that when people consciously practice gratitude, they’re increasing the flow of beneficial neurochemicals in the brain,” Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of "Hardwiring Happiness". Numerous research studies indicate that Gratitude is a key factor in sustainable happiness, especially the "eudaimonic" type mentioned above.
– “Awe uniquely predicts happiness,” says Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley. I find this idea to be an extension of Gratitude, rather than a separate one, because of the Empowered Wealth concept of "Appreciative Gratitude". In other words, "awe" to me is one of several ways to express extreme appreciation (others might include humility or reverence).
– Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, says, “Many of us persist in searching for the one true path to happiness, like the one diet that will work when all others have failed…In truth there is no magic bullet. There are hundreds of things you can do." Echoing Lee Brower's Motion Theory, Lyubomirsky says, “Start with small steps to create an upward spiral…Sense which of these activities feels most natural and most easily fits with your lifestyle, then try something a little more challenging later on. Ideally, some of the practices, such as focusing on relationships and becoming a better listener, will in time become automatic."
What Is Happiness Anyway? – Mindful
The new science of happiness helps us find deeper meanings.
In this TEDx Talk, Mike Vaughan explains a correlation between asking "how" questions, the process of learning, and the ability of teams to adapt and solve problems. Vaughan's company, The Regis Company, applies neuroscience to create business simulations for teaching questioning and learning skills. As the video describes, their basic model juxtaposes "What" questions with "How" questions. Vaughan explains:
"When people have a lot of 'what to think' training and they're placed in these simulations and they're confronted with the problems that they face in the real world, most participants resorted to guessing…when we give them more data, tools, checklists, choices, their decision-making did not improve. If anything, it got worse."
Vaughan has discovered that top performers use language well in order to ask deeper questions. He has found that these top performers are able to suspend judgement in order to understand someone else's perspective, reducing conflict, developing a common language, and creating a shared vision. He also discovered that deeper questions can evoke powerful feelings such as uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and stress. Furthermore, he's discovered that those top performers who embrace and understand that these feelings are part of the natural learning process are the ones who can create an adaptive, collaborative learning environment.
I'm reminded of the Empowered Wealth concept "The Empowering Question", asking "Can I" or "How might I" instead of engaging in positive affirmations. Vaughan's talk adds additional insights into what might become a more empowering decision-making process.