Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - SMART VS. WISE


"The wise man doesn't give the right answers; he poses the right questions." Claude Levi-Strauss


Some time back I was retained by a family of substantial means to advise and mentor their young adult son who was about to come into a sizable inheritance. During our first meeting, he gave me a puzzled look when I told him that his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were both smart and wise.
"What does that mean?" he queried. "I thought those two words were synonyms."
"Not so," I replied. "Let me share with you several differences."
"A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it." Albert Einstein
"A smart man only believes half of what he hears; a wise man knows which half." Jeff Cooper
"Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens." Jimi Hendrix
"A smart man knows what to say; a wise man knows whether to say it." Garafola
"Smart people choose what to achieve. Wise people choose what to become." Arun Parang
"So, given the context in which you and I are meeting," I asked, "why do you think I said your great-grandfather, your grandfather, and your father were both smart and wise?"
"Well, my great-grandfather and my grandfather must have been pretty smart to make all the money our family has," he answered. "But a lot of people make money only to lose it themselves or have it squandered by their children. They must have been wise to make long-range plans and to prepare our family to hold onto the wealth, now into the fourth generation."
"I think you're catching on," I said. "If a person your age were wise, what would he do if he were about to come into a large sum of money?"
"A wise person my age would learn all he could about finances. He would pay attention to the many dangers that could separate him from his money. He would listen to those who have the training and experience to keep him out of trouble. He would try to take a long-range view of his life and not just blow his money on fancy cars and such."
"You are on the path to wisdom, young man."
"Thank you, Mr. Farnsworth. I have another question for you. I can see that my great-grandfather and my grandfather were wise, but why do you say that about my dad? He just manages our family investments, files the tax returns, and stuff like that. He didn't set up any of this planning."
I answered his question with a question: "Who do you think hired me to work with you and teach you the difference between being smart and being wise?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - The Way We See the World



 "Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world...."
Wayne Dyer

At the beginning of my first book, Closing the Gap-A Revolutionary Approach to Client and Donor Services, I shared this quote from Anais Nim: "We see the world not as it is, but as we are." I have found this to be almost universally true. An example is found in this old narrative.

The story is told of an 1850s trading post in a small settlement in a pleasant valley along the Oregon Trail. Wagon trains passing through would spend the night and stock up on supplies before heading farther west. On occasion, some travelers weary of the long journey would pause to consider whether they should stop and homestead in the valley.

One such traveler approached the shopkeeper and asked, "What kinds of folks live here?"
The merchant replied, "Before I answer that, tell me what kind of people lived in the place you just left."
"Oh, they weren't very neighborly. They seemed to only care for themselves, and there was a lot of fussing. We couldn't wait to leave," answered the traveler.
"I think you'll find the people here are a lot like that," said the shopkeeper.
The traveler decided to keep on moving.
The next day, another traveler, also weary of the long trail, asked the merchant about the people living in the valley.
Once again, the merchant gave the same reply: "Before I answer that, tell me what kind of people lived in the place you came from."
"Oh," said the traveler, "they were kind and generous. They worked hard and took care of each other. We loved our little community and really hated to leave, but there was just no more land available."
"I think you'll find the people here are a lot like that," said the shopkeeper.
The traveler and his family decided to stay and homestead in the pleasant valley. They soon discovered the people there to be kind, generous, hard-working, caring and loving, just as the merchant had described them.

What we encounter in life is often but an extended reflection of ourselves. Are we happy with what we see?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Falling in Love 14,975 Times


 "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person."

Mignon McLaughlin


On Friday, Marcie and I will be married - happily, peacefully, blissfully - for 41 years. So how did it happen that two very different and imperfect people could live in love and harmony for 14,975 days?

"Happen" is probably the wrong word, because it was not happenstance. As Paul H. Dunn once said, "When you see someone standing on a mountain top, it's quite likely they didn't fall there." Besides choosing wisely and prayerfully in the first place, we consciously applied a few bedrock principles in our marriage that have fostered a sweet and tender atmosphere all these years. I'm not sure if these would work as well in other people's marriages, but they have worked for us.

First, we were "all in" from day one. We chose, at no small sacrifice, to be married not just "as long as you both shall live," but for this life and for all eternity. We saw our marriage as sacred and forever. That meant no going back, no bailing out, no hanging it up if things were harder than expected. In our hearts and minds, there was no running home to mama, no "try it and see if you like it," no swapping partners if this doesn't work out. We determined up front that we were eternally committed to each other and our marriage, and we would treat it and each other accordingly.

Next, I recognized early in our marriage that my own happiness is inextricably bound to Marcie's happiness. In a paradoxical blend of selflessness and selfishness, the more I seek to assure Marcie's happiness, the more happiness I find for myself. But it must be done in that order. Deep and abiding happiness does not result from pursuing your own happiness directly. Instead, it is a natural byproduct of seeking the well-being of those you love. Happiness is like a butterfly. The harder you chase it, the more it eludes you; but when you decide to promote your spouse's happiness first, it comes to you of its own accord. Once I understood this principle, it was not hard to live "happily ever after."

Finally, we have disagreed agreeably. When differences of opinion arise - and they will - there is a right way and a wrong way to handle them. There is no place in marriage for disrespect, sarcasm, anger, arrogance, bullying, belittlement, pettiness, rancor, rolled eyes, cold shoulders, or the silent treatment. Hello?!?! This is your lover and your best friend! Disagreements call for patient listening, genuine and generous attention, an earnest desire to understand the other's point of view, and a healthy dose of flexibility. With these and a commitment to seek win/win outcomes, we have successfully navigated our differences.

So here's to you, Marcie, for 14,975 wonderful, amazing days and nights, and a million, zillion more!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - It's All About Learning


"Sometimes you succeed . . . and other times you learn." 
Robert Kiyosaki

I suppose you could call me a successful innovator.
In 2007, Financial Advisor Magazine named me a national "Innovator of the Year" for my cutting-edge work with "Priceless Conversations" and other story-based SunBridge tools for professional advisors. Before that, a good friend and I created a process called the "Interactive Family Heritage History" to help families capture their "narrative assets." A few years ago, I helped to develop "The Family Philanthropic Adventure" and "Main Street Philanthropy," activities and programs that teach life-skills to children, teens, and young adults through charitable giving. More recently my focus has been on building a system to help smart, safety-minded clients enjoy a Tax-Free Retirement.
I'm often asked the secret to my track record of creating this string of initiatives. Honestly, I'm still not sure I've got things completely sorted out, but I have learned to follow these three steps.
First, I'm willing to try new things. It all starts with seeing beyond the status quo and then going to work. You've got to dream and then you've got to do. Successful innovation and successful living are achieved by those down in the dusty arena scraping their knees and landing on their faces, not by those up in the seats watching.
Second, I'm not afraid to fail. To win, you've got to jump in and dare to be ugly. Successful people aren't paralyzed by the fear of failure. Winners are not afraid of losing, but losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. Don't wallow in your setbacks.
Third - and this may be key - I harvest and apply the lessons from my "failures." My path to success is littered with the debris of hundreds of disasters, but I learned something from each one. It's not just falling down; it's learning why you fell down and figuring out how to avoid stumbling the next time. Each step back must lead to a step up. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and move on, bruised and battered perhaps, but wiser and tougher and even more determined to get it right.

A little bonus poetry:
After I wrote this post, it occurred to me that some of these thoughts are similar to those in one of my favorite poems, "Good Timber" by Douglas Malloch. I hope you enjoy it:
The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.