“If we’re starting with the wrong questions, then even the right answers will always steer us wrong.” Simon Sinek
SunBridge 3-GEN Planning: It Isn’t Complicated
I agree with Alexandra Potter when she wrote: “Life isn't complicated. It's very simple, really. It is we who make it complicated.”
That philosophy guides my work at SunBridge. Much of what I teach in SunBridge isn’t complicated. In fact, most of it is, as one of my students put it a few years ago, “stupidly simple and ‘duh’ obvious, but it works!”
But as with most of life’s most valuable secrets, SunBridge principles become simple and obvious only when we hear them. Once they’ve been “discovered,” we wonder why we hadn’t seen them all along.
Several years after his historic discoveries, Christopher Columbus was invited to a banquet where he was treated like royalty. By then, trips from Spain to the Americas had become somewhat commonplace. A shallow courtier, deeply jealous of the great Admiral, sought to embarrass him by asking loudly whether, had he not discovered the West Indies, there were not many other men in Spain who would have been capable of the same thing. After all, the whole concept of sailing west to reach east was so simple and obvious.
Columbus did not reply directly, but instead took a raw egg and invited those in the group to make it stand on end. They all attempted it, but in vain. He then picked up the egg and tapped it lightly on the large end so as to indent the shell only slightly. Without a word, he left the egg standing on the indentation. Once he had shown the way, it was easy.
I think of SunBridge 3-GEN Planning in much the same way. It’s obvious. When we first hear about it, our knee jerk reaction is “well, of course, I knew that already.” Kind of like Columbus’ egg — we knew it, but we didn’t really know it.
It’s also uncomplicated. That is, unless we choose to make it complicated. That usually happens when we start asking the wrong questions.
What is SunBridge 3-GEN Planning?
It might be helpful to remind ourselves what SunBridge 3-GEN Planning is:
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, planning isn’t something we do to our family, or even for our family. It’s something we do with our family.
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, three generations come together to create a blueprint for a happy and successful life for everyone, both today and tomorrow.
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, we bring everyone to the table and discover solutions to the family’s biggest questions. Then we implement them.
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, planning isn’t a lecture the patriarch delivers to his posterity through a bullhorn, it’s a thoughtful and respectful conversation among all of them.
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, we stop treating the clients’ children and grandchildren as mere objects or pawns. We treat them as real people who have a real stake in this process.
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, we stop infantilizing the clients’ children and grandchildren in a misguided quest to build a family dynasty by fiat.
· In SunBridge 3-GEN Planning, the advisory team assumes the role of educating and mentoring family members and guiding them into a new collaborative model of family dynamics.
Seems pretty simple and obvious, doesn’t it? And it is, now that I’ve said it.
Where Do We Start?
Successful 3-GEN Planning (and, I would argue, all successful planning) starts in what should be an obvious place: helping clients clarify WHY they are doing planning in the first place, figuring out the core purpose for this endeavor.
Getting clear about the WHY is critical. Unless and until we get the WHY right, the HOW and the WHAT are impossible to figure out correctly. It’s a lot like trying to put together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the front of the box.
Now, here’s the good news. The answer to WHY, from the clients’ perspective, “isn't complicated. It's very simple, really. It is we who make it complicated.” Alexandra Potter
Parents and grandparents who plan want something quite simple from the process. They want the same thing that every loving, caring parent or grandparent always wants for their children and grandchildren: they want their offspring to be happy. They want them to have a better life as a result of the planning than they would have without it.
The critical question for the planner is thus quite simple and obvious: “What does happiness and a better life look like, from both the parent’s or grandparent’s perspective and the child’s or grandchild’s perspective?”
We are headed for trouble any time we ask any other questions before we’re crystal clear about what being happy and having a better life mean to our clients and their children and grandchildren. “If we’re starting with the wrong questions, then even the right answers will always steer us wrong.” Simon Sinek
Starting with WHY means it’s not about investments, life insurance, trustees, powers of appointment, the size of the estate, or allocating the assets within it. It’s not about avoiding probate, reducing taxes, or placing charitable donations. It’s not about this tactic or that strategy. It’s about happiness and a better life for our clients and those they love.
So how do we figure out what happiness and what a better life look like, from both the parent’s or grandparent’s perspective and the child’s or grandchild’s perspective?
Once again, the answer is simple and obvious.
We have a conversation. We ask questions. We facilitate a discussion. We encourage them to tell their stories. We listen. We teach our clients and their families to listen, not just with their ears, but also with their hearts. We empower everyone to speak in kindness and love from their heart. We examine our assumptions, jettison untrue ones, and replace them with true, liberating assumptions.
How long does that take? The answer to that question is the same answer my Mississippi wife was given when she asked her family’s ancient and beloved cook, Ora, how long to cook “upper-ground potatoes:” “Til it’s done, honey. Til it’s done.”
When we find the answer, when “it’s done,” both we and the clients will know it. Trust me, we will know.
Once we know what happiness and a better life look like for our clients and those they love, figuring out the HOW and the WHAT may still involve a lot of work, but we’re clear what the finished product needs to look like. We still have to put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, but now we can work from the picture on the front of the box.