What is a Legacy? Part Two

Ian King, Tuesday September 10, 2013

In my last post I started to explore the meaning of the word “legacy” and what ultimately this means to most people.

The initial focus, perhaps understandably, is upon the financial aspects of a legacy – both positive but also as a potential burden for the recipients.

Whilst I am sure I will revert to the financial aspect again in future posts I would like to take this opportunity to consider the wider elements of “legacy”.

Values

The direct financial element to a legacy can be easily quantified in numbers but how do you for instance quantify the legacy that, say a parent gives a child, in terms of the values handed down to the next generation?

The value set and attitudes passed between loved ones in many ways can be just as important, if not more significant, than the impact of any financial legacy. For instance a formative child’s outlook towards relationships, their environment, money, work and a whole host of other conditions is frequently tied very closely to the values passed down to them from their parents.  These values so often make such a large imprint upon us at a young age that they set behaviour patterns which are unlikely to change in the decades that follow.

Transfer of values

Every new parent, even royal ones, should be keen to pass on to their offspring what they consider to be a positive value set, but do we do not do enough, either on an individual family level or societal level, to acknowledge the impact that such a transfer of values can have? What needs to be done to re-enforce such positive values for future generations – in other words make them hardwired into the family DNA.

Such a transfer of values is not just limited to those passed down within a family, the impact of one’s friendship group and work colleagues can be just as significant.  That is why, for instance, many successful entrepreneurs seek to develop an ingrained culture within their business such that their values can continue to propagate across both the business as a whole but also for years to come.

Importance of values

I think the proverb “clogs to clogs in three generations” carefully encapsulates the importance of values within any legacy.  The creation of wealth from a successful business or enterprise within the first generation can be passed down to the next generations, but the values which provided the foundations for such success are often left behind.  As those core values begin to erode over the decades this ultimately comes back to erode the financial legacy until ultimately very little remains.

So my question is what values (both positive and negative) have you been left?  Furthermore, what processes have you put in place to make sure that those values which you now hold so dear are left to your family, friends and colleagues and remain in place long after you have departed?

Please leave your ideas/suggestions in the comments section below.

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