When Life Changes, How Does it Change You?

Have you ever been blindsided by a life event or by your feelings about it? When a spouse or parent or child died, or when you retired or got divorced, or when you sold your business, were you confused and exhausted—on your best days? Did you have a tough time making decisions or even getting up in the morning and carrying on with the ordinary activities of your day? And did you have times like that even years after the event actually occurred?

Major life events—even when we know they’re coming—are pivotal times in our lives. We might not have any control over their occurrence or the timing of their occurrence, but we do have control over much of what happens next. We can choose the way we respond to the event, the type of guidance and support we seek out, and way we integrate the event into our lives. Do we let getting divorced or retirement define us, or do we use getting divorced or retiring as an opportunity to redefine ourselves?

There’s so much going in inside us and around us when we move through transitions, and there are many things that can go wrong and just as many that can go right. As with other parts of our lives, the more we know about what we’re up against, the greater the opportunity we have to make the most of it and thrive.

I have been studying Financial Transitions Planning with the Financial Transitionist Institute, a division of the Sudden Money Institute, and I’m always learning something new.

Here are my top 4 facts about transitions:

1.      There is a structure to transitions. They are composed of four stages, which have unique difficulties and decisions associated with them.

2.       Sometimes the best decision is no decision, and sometimes a decision must be made. There is no substitute for skillful guidance at those times.

3.      Each individual moves through the stages of transition in their own time and in their own way. Change takes years to adapt to, largely because it involves grieving. Whether we are talking about the loss of a person, a relationship, or a part of our identity, there is grief. And that grief needs to be honored.

4.      Most people want to move as quickly as possible through their transitions, but my advice is always to resist the urge to rush. When you hurry through whatever thoughts and feelings you have about an event and you don’t take the time to sit with them and process them, they don’t go away. At least not forever.

Life changes. How you let it change you is up to you.

Causes and Effects

Causes and Effects

“In any free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty - all are responsible.”
                                                                                                        Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

I have spent the last two weeks trying to process what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia and what lessons, if any, can be drawn from it.

Putting the Success in Business Succession

Most business succession plans that I see for small and mid-sized businesses are focused on creating the most efficient tax and legal structure to buy out a retiring or deceased owner and to transfer the equity interests to succeeding owners.  Much has been written on this type of planning and there are a number of talented lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and life insurance professionals who specialize in this area.   At one time, I considered myself one of them.

Do not get me wrong, this work is vitally important and should be considered by all businesses. I have learned, however, that there are two components to an effective succession plan. One, is reflected in the legal documentation and life insurance policies; and the second, which is often ignored, is an actual strategic plan for the business to succeed without the owner there on a daily basis.  Most business owners approaching retirement are concerned about their ability to access the value they created in the business, while keeping their legacy business functioning at a high level.  This planning satisfies the practical need of maximizing the value of the owner's interest in the business and the emotional need of the owner to preserve his or her legacy.

A strategic plan for business succession requires an evaluation of how the existing employees and key customers of the business relate to the business.  What are the employees' goals and expectations for the future?  Are customers loyal to the product, the brand name, or the owner?  It is not unusual in certain businesses to find that a significant group of employees have tied their own retirement plans to those of the owner.    Is there an obvious successor?   How will they change the strategy and operations of the organization?   Are there skills or training that the successor lacks and are there plans to provide these?  The goal of planning is to create clarity around what is currently happening, identify the values that sustain the business, and develop a vision for the future.

If an effective plan for future success can be developed for the business, the owner starts to build the confidence to enter into the legal and financial planning necessary.  I would suggest that the primary reason that so many businesses do not have succession plans is an unstated fear that there is no plan for how the business can succeed without the owner.   By involving the owner in the strategic planning process while he or she is still there, these fears can be overcome or confirmed.  Some businesses (particularly professional businesses) are so identified with their owner that there is no real future beyond the present organization.  Either way, this clarity is essential.

A successful succession plan only works if there is plan for the business to succeed.

Take care.

Look Who Is Talking

While I would like to believe that there are people who grow up totally free of emotional scarring, it is very hard for me to accept that individuals like this exist.  Everyone I have met seems to carry some baggage from their experiences of life.  Some wear it like a war wound for all to see, and others go to great lengths to hide the pain; revealing themselves only in their weariness in trying to keep it all inside (e.g., the life of the party who has a drinking problem).  I am not qualified to advise anyone on overcoming their inner demons.  If anything, life has taught me that negative impulses never go away.   The best most of us can hope for is to be aware of them and consciously decide to ignore their advice when it is not in our best interest.

There are two key points to be made about negative impulses and how they affect us.   First, “negative impulses” are not all bad.   For example, emotional scarring from a perceived failure often creates a competitive drive that can lead to athletic and business success.  It can also lead to recklessness, aggressiveness, and an us versus them mentality.  Second, we all talk to ourselves all the time.  Anyone who has meditated has experienced the brain’s ability to have a conversation with itself.   Our thoughts spill out of us in an endless stream of questions and answers.   Have you ever had the uncomfortable experience of meeting a mentally ill person on the street who is talking to himself or herself?   What make us uneasy is that the person is vocalizing their inner dialogue and that at some level we know that if we vocalized our inner dialogue we might not sound so sane. Think of comedians like Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, and Sam Kinison whose stream of consciousness ramblings made you laugh and feel uncomfortable at the same time.

So, as we sit in meetings, have conversations with our advisors, or talk to friends and loved ones, our minds are jumping around through our personal data banks triggering ideas, thoughts, and memories.  Some of these are “good” and some are “bad;” some represent current information and others are memories of experiences earlier in life.  This leads us to the fundamental question that we must answer when dealing with difficult situations, questions, and conversation:   whose voice is talking in your brain at that moment?  Is it a mature, successful business person or your 6-year old self who was told repeatedly that you “are just not that smart?”  A friend of mine has a wonderful expression for this: “life can be pretty scary when your inner child is driving the car and the adult you is sitting in the back seat.”  If you want to see a daily example of what it looks like when an inner child is in charge, watch President Trump respond to any criticism. 

When we are stressed for whatever reason the dialogue speeds up.   This is true whether we are dealing with a difficult business negotiation, a new job, a life transition, an argument, or being stuck in traffic.   We are told to take a deep breath and try to calm our mind.   I am increasingly convinced the first step is to find out who you are talking to internally.   Calming a mature adult involves one set of tactics, but if the emotional wound that was triggered is from 20 or 40 years ago, we are dealing with a different situation.    A client of mine was involved in a potential sale of his business and the negotiations with the buyers were protracted and difficult.  The potential buyers were polite and wanted an ongoing relationship with the client, but were also constantly telling him that he did not understand his business.  The client called me up and told me he had reached a point of inner peace in that it no longer mattered to him whether the deal happened or not.    On its face, this sounded nice but with a little probing it became clear that every time the buyers challenged his understanding of his own business it was triggering a childhood “fight or flight” response.  This seemingly mature response was really his inner child pleading that this be over one way or another.   Once he realized that his reaction was being informed by a wound from his youth, he shifted his focus to what he needed from the transaction as an experienced businessman.  This allowed him to access his fundamental belief in his business model and to turn down the deal.

Being human is essentially the ability to exercise free will.   We cannot control what befalls us in the physical world or in our relationships with other people.   In fact, we may not be able to completely control what we think in our minds or say to ourselves in our inner dialogue.   We can, however, decide what we are going to emphasize and to what and whom we are going to listen.   So, when your mind starts racing and the inner voices are bouncing around, stop and ask, “who is speaking to me?”  If the answer is your mother or father, the bully from the 3rd grade playground, the person who thought you were ugly in 7th grade, any gym teacher, the hot shot venture capitalist who is on his fourth marriage, or, worst of all, some infantile, childlike, or adolescent version of yourself, calmly thank them for their advice, and inform them that you have chosen to listen to the you that exists in this moment.  If you cannot stop the voices, you can always decide that the time is not right to address an important related issue.   For example, if the voice of your long-dead, Depression-era great aunt is echoing in your head saying, “horde the money, we are all going to starve!”, it may not be the best time to discuss charitable giving with your advisors.

From my perspective, the most important aspect of this is to realize that we are not alone in dealing with our inner demons.   It is the nature of the human condition.   All we can do is try and be a little more conscious of who we are and what we do tomorrow than we were today.

Take care.

Live and Let Die

    Suppose through the application of money and perseverance you could cheat death for a significant amount of time.  You would continue to age with all that entails, good and bad.  You would live to 150 years old and your body and mind would be whatever they would be at that age.   Would you do it?  I think many of us as we watch ourselves age and our parents get old start to think that maybe going out when it is our time will be fine.  Living “too long” would mean outliving family and friends and might leave us feeling alone and without purpose.

    It is the nature of our world that everything dies; some by expiring, others by erosion.  The sun has a lifespan and so does the earth.   No one needs a 56-year-old consultant in a morose mood to tell them that.   The issue is not whether we die, but how we live and how do we move on from what has died along the way.   There are true physical deaths of loved ones with which we must cope, but there are thousands of “little deaths” that we experience on a regular basis. These are the relationships, ideas, expectations, enterprises, jobs, businesses, and personal mythos that are not valid anymore or no longer serve us. Many times, however, we refuse to admit the obvious and cling too long no matter how much we suffer.

    An old client of mine who was a very successful restaurateur once told me that the key to being successful in the restaurant business was not in opening great places, but in knowing when a restaurant started to decline and closing it.   He told me that every restaurant will peak and fade, the key was not taking all the money you made during the good times and farming it back in to try and save a dying business.   In our affluent society, we have the ability to keep people, organizations, and ideas on life support well after they have expired.   Think of how many charitable organizations survive based on the support of a few wealthy donors, even though needs have changed and other newer charities may be doing a better job of delivering services.  You could also walk through any shopping mall and consider how many of these businesses are the walking dead of the internet age.

    Success in any endeavor requires the timing to know when to get in, and, just as importantly, when to let go.   Whether you are up or down in the stock market is not actually important until the moment you decide to sell.    Knowing when to let go involves regularly taking some time away from your daily activities and taking an inventory of what is working for you and what is not.  This is particularly important with regard to preconceived notions of the way we think life should be.  The best evidence that exists of the potential death of a concept is the realization that you are suffering.   Things may seem unfair or unusually frustrating.  It may be hard to get up in the morning or you may spend inordinate amounts of time contemplating your next vacation.  The biggest clues, however, are how much time you spend clinging to the past and complaining about the present reality compared to how it used to be.   The pace of change in society has accelerated to the point where you can hear people in the forties using the phrase “back in the day."

    Although it sounds a bit harsh, living in the past in a world of memories of triumphs and regrets is living among the dead.   The people we were and the situations we faced in the past no longer exist.  They are part of who we are in the present and hopefully add to our wisdom, but life exists only in the present moment.  Success in business and relationships is only possible by addressing reality as it exists right now.  You cannot resurrect last year’s crops in the following spring, no matter how much water and fertilizer you throw at them.  As the winter of our discontent of 2016-17 slowly trudges to its end, it is a great time to take a personal and professional inventory of what conceptions we have that no longer survive.  Take a moment to thank them for all they have done for you and let them go.   Live and let die.

The Freedom of I Don't Know

            Every morning I scan through the Wall Street Journal and there is always a simple explanation for why the stock market did what it did the prior day.   Over several years of looking at these explanations I have come to a simple conclusion: they just make this stuff up.   On Wednesday of last week, we learned that the market went down on Tuesday due to “instability in Mr. Trump’s plans for the economy.”  At first blush this seems plausible, but if you think about it, did it really take the collective wisdom of the world’s investment community until the middle of January to come to the shocking conclusion that Mr. Trump and stability are two words that do not go together.  Last year, in one week China’s currency policy was blamed for a market loss and the same policy was credited for a market gain two days later.   You could scour the paper and not find anything that indicated that the policy changed.

            This is not unique to the financial press or the finance world; look at the talking heads on cable during the election.  This is a symptom of a larger social issue that I admit I am far from immune.  We do not want to say or hear those most frightening three words:  "I don’t know."  As a lawyer, I rarely said “I don’t know.”  Rather I would say “this requires more research;” hiding my ignorance behind a billing opportunity.  People do not want to hear “I don’t know” from their doctors, financial advisors, accountants, consultants, CFOs, weathermen, political leaders, scientists, etc.   Saying “I don’t know” is sometimes an admission of pure ignorance, but it also often an acknowledgement of the complexity of the situation we find ourselves in.  There are so many factors that could affect the result that it is impossible to truly isolate a single cause or mechanism.

            No doubt that Mr. Trump’s tweets had some effect on the stock market, but so did a mind boggling number of factors from economic conditions, individual moods, rumors, the weather, or anything else that moves someone or something to engage in a stock trade on that day.  “I don’t know” takes off the veneer that we somehow can reduce a complex situation down to a simple cause and effect equation.  Look at all the unintended consequences that result from decisions that we make, big or small.   In hindsight, it all looks clear and we cannot believe that decision maker could be so foolish.   In my experience, however, decisions are made in complete ignorance of the adverse consequences or with a gross underestimation of the nature of magnitude of these consequences.  We do not see the complexity and uncertainty because we do not want to.   We do not want to say “I don’t know.”

            In reality, the world, our businesses, our families, and our psyches are all complex entities that change, evolve and react to an almost infinite number of factors.  The challenge we face is to accept this reality.   We must start by looking at every situation from the perspective of “I don’t know” (the Buddha called this “beginners mind”).  Burdened by our desire to achieve a specific result and the accompanying assumptions required to make that possible, we see only what we want to see.  Every situation, however, can be viewed as multifaceted diamond which changes shape and color as we shift perspective from side to side.  From the perspective of “I don’t know”, there is no real choice but to look at the situation from as many perspectives as you have the time to, welcoming the complexity and ambiguity as both challenging and beautiful.

            Complexity, in the form of the way one thing effects another and so on, is awe inspiring and humbling.   In the end, we are inevitably left with the conclusion that we must choose what we believe to be the best choice that we can conceive of in the time we have, with the consciousness that there is a significant possibility that we may be have selected another option if we knew more.  Realizing that ultimately we do not know can make us more forgiving of our ourselves and others and, hopefully, more open to changing course if it turns out we realize that there may be another way.   From this perspective searching for understanding of what was missed is more important than assigning blame.

            This leaves a question.  If most decisions are complex and ambiguous and outcomes are unknown, what is the point of planning?  After all, there are sure a lot of people, like me, helping companies and families with planning.   In my opinion, there are two aspects to planning.  The first is to find what is immutable: those core values that define who we or our organizations really are.   Put simply, these are the principles that we would not compromise to achieve a particular result.  These core values vary from individual to individual and organization to organization.  Second, there is our mission and vision, these are our best guess of what we can accomplish based on what we currently know and project for the future.   This is the land of “I don’t know.”  This is a picture of the future that gives us our current bearings, realizing that we will encounter unexpected circumstances that will require improvisation and modification.  In the end, planning must be an ongoing process of acquiring information and experience and recalculating.  The danger of planning is if we become too attached to our vision.  This can cause us to miss new information or to make plans that are too inflexible to accommodate new circumstances. 

            In all we do if we know who we are (i.e., what are our core values), we can approach the future with freedom to not know the how, when, what, or why of everything that comes our way.  We then can move forward with appropriate confidence and humility, knowing that it is much easier to surf on top of the waves than to try and swim against them.

In Praise of Millennials

            One common theme that comes up in almost all strategic planning engagements is “what do we do about Millennials?”   For most organizations that are run by older people, Millennials are often described in words that make them sound like an alien species from a digital planet dropped into our formerly analog world.   The data does support the idea that the Millennial generation (age 18-35) is different: (1) they support causes more than organizations (not good for organized religions with big buildings and budgets); (2) they buy what they want and only what they want rather than package deals; (3) they have a much broader view of what constitutes success; (4) they understand the complexity of the world we live in and as such are both cautious and idealistic.    Notice I did not use the word “entitled” for two reasons.  One, idealism can often look like entitlement when you know what you want but have no idea on how to get it, and, two, as the wealth of society increases every generation will appear more entitled than the one before them.  My grandparents were farmers and merchants in the mountains of Romania with no electricity or indoor plumbing.  To them, I was the most entitled thing they had ever met.

            I submit that the real issue with Millennials is not them but us.  The world has fundamentally changed at all levels and the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who currently hold much of the power and wealth in our country have been slow to see the effects.   After the fall of the Berlin War and the “end” of the Cold War, the world shifted dramatically.  This was first acknowledged by the U.S. War College, of all places.   They concluded that we were entering a VUCA phase.   VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.   The term VUCA became very trendy in management and leadership circles at places like Wharton and Harvard.  Notwithstanding its “term of the moment” status, VUCA is real and it describes the world we live in.   Look at the developments of the last several years: Climate Change, ISIS, Market Crashes, Race Relations, Brexit, Syria, Putin, Trump’s election, ObamaCare and the list can go on and on.   These things appeared quickly, are hard to define, are incredibly complex, and seem to evade solution.

            If you are over 40-45 years old, it is as if you grew up in a Newtonian world of cause and effect.  If you went to college you could get a good job and make a decent living.  If you went to medical, law, or business school, you would become a professional and make even more.  You would buy a car and a home, get married, have 2.1 children, vacation in Florida, get divorced, remarry, and get social security at your retirement.  Then the pace of technological change quickened along with the flow and democratization of information, while the political and economic structure that existed since the end of World War II imploded often in spasms of violence that erupted all over an interconnected world.  For us Baby Boomers, we started in Newtonian world and found ourselves in a Quantum world where the rules of cause and effect are replaced by randomness, probability, complexity, and uncertainty:  a VUCA world.  If you want to know why Trump was elected, it was because he offered to the disenfranchised the unrealistic hope that he could eliminate VUCA and put us back in the 1980s.  He even stole the hair style from the band, Flock of Seagulls (Google it).

            Millennials, on the other hand, grew up in this VUCA world.   They do not expect certainty or long predictable periods for planning.  They have watched technology change rapidly and businesses and concept rise rapidly and fall just as fast.  They have watched years of war with ambiguous goals and complex situations that defy solutions that are better than the choice of evils.  They have seen change run ramshackle through the economy making billionaires out of some and devastating the once secure jobs and professions of their parents’ generations.   We are told that the leaders of a VUCA world must be flexible, grounded, open-minded, collaborative, and opportunistic.  From this perspective, it is hard to look at Millennials as behaving in an odd or irrational way.  The move forward with all guns blazing approach that characterized prior generations does not necessarily make sense in VUCA world, whether militarily or in business.   Finding your focus among VUCA is far from easy or intuitive.  Looking at how the Baby Boomers have handled an uncertain, interconnected, complex world over the last 15 years does not leave one with confidence that we have figured this out.   We are still trying to climb out of the shambles of 2008.   It is fair to expect someone in their 20’s to have it all figured out now that the illusions of stability of our generations have been stripped bare?

            So maybe next time a client asks me about what is wrong with the Millennials, I will answer with a question.  Is it possible that we are still living and working in an old paradigm and it is us that need to wake up to reality?   I often hear people of my parent’s generation say that they do not understand the world anymore.  I used to try and explain it as best as I could, but now I have stopped trying.   The universe is an infinitely complex and beautiful and scary place that can never be comprehended by the human brain.  Any belief that we have figured it out or are close to figuring it out is a conceit that we use to feel better about ourselves.  Accepting, and ultimately embracing, uncertainty is critical to living in a VUCA world.   In this respect, I have a lot to learn from my Millennial children and their colleagues.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow?

         I have not posted anything in a while, despite a personal goal to write more during 2016.   As the election neared and the debate on social media moved toward a fever pitch, it did not seem like the time to write about “soul.”  After the election, I told myself, things will calm down.   Well nothing went the expected way: Trump won, the stock market went crazy, the blogosphere got even more strident bemoaning the end of days on one side or declaring an uncouth, foul mouthed rich guy from New York City to be the messiah on the other.  Looking back on my “break” from writing, I realize I made a classic mistake: I expected something to happen and was ill prepared when it did not.   There is nothing more damaging to the soul of your organization, your family, or your own wellbeing than excessive expectation.

            We all dream and fantasize and we all have expectations of the future.  The reality is that most expectations are really fantasies:  good or bad subconscious projections of how we would like a period of time to unfold.  It is all too easy for us to become attached to our expectations, and treat their failure to materialize as little deaths.  How else can you explain the post-election reactions on college campuses as anything other than a form of mourning.

            I was once told a story about a class Rabbi Noah Weinberg was giving in Jerusalem.   The rabbi asked a group of students if they had ever had their prayers answered.   A young woman spoke up and told the room that several years ago her father had a fatal heart attack.   As she, her sister and her mother stood over their father and husband who had just been pronounced dead, they all started to pray for a miracle to bring him back.  A minute or two later the machines started to beep again and a faint heartbeat was detected.  Their prayers had been answered, the man lived.   The rabbi then asked what became of the father.   She said about 18 months later he died of a heart attack notwithstanding his family’s fervent prayers.   The rabbi then asked what was different the second time.  The woman replied: “The first time we prayed with broken hearts for a miracle, the second time we expected it.” 

            This story gets to the heart of how expectations can influence our planning (personal, organizational, financial).  Expectations can lead to taking things for granted and this changes the nature and depth of our effort, often in subtle or imperceptible ways.   When the “expected” does not happen the results can be catastrophic, emotionally and/or financially.  The bottom line is that there is nothing that can really be taken for granted or assumed.   Even natural laws are under assault as Quantum Physics injects an ever-growing uncertainty into the structure of our physical world.   

            Where does this leave planning?   Is it necessary or just an act of hubris?   The truth is that it can be either.  In my opinion, the central purpose of planning is not setting goals for the future.   Rather, the essence of planning is establishing the core values that are driving you forward.   Real values are not a marketing tool to show the world how unique and trustworthy you are.  They are the core immutable beliefs that motivate you to get up and do what you do.   They are the foundation of how you analyze and respond to things.  True values are the things about you that do not change when circumstances do.   They provide the framework for how you deal with the unexpected and the essence of real planning. 

            From a bedrock of values, you can look into the future and try and set goals, understanding that this is in exercise in statistical probability: a best guess based on your current knowledge of what the future might look like.  We must try and remember that our plans are projections, a snapshot in time, and not something to which we should become attached.   When the unexpected happens, or seems likely to occur, we need to go back to our core values and remember who we are and why are here.  

              From my perspective, this is the essence of building a business, a charity, a family, or a life from your soul.

The Lesser of Two Evils

            Every day my Facebook feed is filled with pleas that I need to vote for one or the other major party presidential candidate because he or she “is the lesser of two evils.”  Further, if I vote my conscience and vote for a third party candidate, “you are wasting your vote.”  What an interesting idea: a person is accomplishing nothing if they fail to choose between two evils.   Are there really situations where the only option is to choose the least evil option?  Starving or drowning? Bankruptcy or liquidation? Mao or Stalin?  ISIS or Al Qaeda? Any of the Kardashian sisters?

            Thinking about this in a broader context than the 2016 Election, it seems to me that once something is framed as the lesser of two evils, failure is inevitable.   We have created a lose-lose scenario that must end badly.   Should we accept no win situations in our lives or our businesses?    In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, we learn about the Kobayashi Maru; a simulation created by Star Fleet to test the character of ship commanders by presenting them with a lesser of two evils scenario.   Not surprisingly, we also learn that Capitan James Kirk is the only commander to ever have beaten the Kobayashi Maru.   He accomplishes this impossible feat by reprograming the simulation to create another option: a winning scenario.

            Kirk cheated, which would appear to be the ultimate failure of a test of character.  In reality, however, he did what all successful people must do when faced with the two evils, he reframed the problem to create additional options.   It is human nature when faced with problems and the development of a crisis mentality to react in a binary manner.    Things appear to be all or nothing and too often each of the binary options is unattractive.   It is precisely in these situations that we need to take a step back from our emotions and fears and find a broader perspective.   This starts by looking at how we have “framed” the issue.    A frame, by definition, limits options by narrowing our perspective to what can exist within the constraints imposed by the frame.   Within the rules of the simulation of the Kobayashi Maru there was no way to win, but the rules were an artificial constraint created by the programmer.   This is also true of most problems we face in life, finance, health, business and charities.

            When faced with the lesser of two evils, we do not have to play by the rules.  Among our alternatives are creating a third option by reflecting on the ultimate goal and other ways to achieve that goal.   We theoretically elect a President to lead the country and improve our society.   We could view the 2016 election as a wake-up call that we all need to get more involved in creating the society we want to live in and not delegate so much power to elected officials.  If we are faced with losing our great job or relocating to an undesirable location, we might be able to find satisfaction in starting our own business in our home town.  

            A deeper perspective might also allow us to realize that a seemingly losing scenario offers potential benefits.   A prolonged illness can be an opportunity to reflect and reassess what is truly important.

            Finally, we can look at the bad options and realize that this is a game we do not want to play anymore.    Sometimes the personal, emotional and physical costs of a career, business, or relationship are simply not worth it any more.   This is not something to be taken lightly, but if things are so bad that from any perspective we would describe the options as “evil,” maybe it is time to consider walking away or voting for that third party candidate. 

            So here we are in America facing our electoral Kobayashi Maru and we all have to figure out how we want to handle our decision.   For me, I am just trying to remember the immortal words of the great sage, Prince, who we lost in 2016:

“If the elevator starts to bring you down,

Go Crazy! Punch a higher floor.”

Strategic Planning for Families?

            People often ask me what I mean by "strategic planning" for families.   When we think of families and individuals we talk about financial planning, estate planning, coaching, and wealth planning, but not strategic planning.   Strategic planning is normally associated with businesses and organizations.  Organizational planning is seen as the purview of consultants and focused on planning techniques and methodologies that are unique to organizational dynamics.  Family wealth/estate planning is viewed as more subjective and driven by tax considerations.  When it comes to closely held businesses and the families that own them, I believe that (1) from a strategic planning perspective where wealth is defined beyond financial assets, it is not possible to segment the business from the family and its wealth, and (2) accordingly, the planning methodologies for the family and the business must be, at their core, unified.

             A closely held business is often the single most important aspect of a family's financial wealth or the generator of that wealth.  Beyond financial wealth, a business or portfolio of businesses are often the crucible in which the family's character and values are defined.  This is particularly true for the families that have been successful at building a business and a functioning family.   The interplay between business and family life in successful families is natural where the mission, values, and vision of the business and the family are cohesive and mutually reinforcing.   If one defines success in life as more than financial success, the strategic vision of the business must contemplate and accommodate the needs of the family (and/or the community, the workers, charities or any other areas that are important to the individuals involved).   If we stay in the traditional model where financial wealth is the only factor in defining a wealthy life, the planning work is fairly straight forward: maximize the balance sheet and the income statement and minimize taxes.   In this model it is easy to segment business from family.  

            If, on the other hand, we view wealth as including a broad range "hard" and "soft" assets, such as relationships, health, community, faith, family, etc., planning for the business without considering the family, or vice a versa, makes no sense.    A full life is a series of trade-offs in order to achieve a personal level of balance.  When we talk about "having it all," that only makes sense with regard to achieving a balance that the individual views as optimal and possible.   If we devote all our energy and resources to one aspect of life we might (or might not) achieve amazing things in that area, but most often at the expense of other aspects of a more complete life.  We see this throughout our society with regard to athletes and entertainers, who are praised in their youth for their singular devotion to their craft and find life to be rather empty when the applause stops and the money starts to dwindle. 

            For a closely held business, strategic planning that is segmented (i.e., planning that considers the business alone without the underlying financial, personal and familial issues of the owner(s)) will tend to produce plans that maximize the commitment of time and resources to the business over other potential considerations.   When the business owner starts to implement the plan, he or she finds themselves in a position of having to make an uncomfortable choice between the success of the business plan and the other parts of their lives that provide value and meaning.  Our view of how to address this dichotomy is by applying the same techniques of strategic planning to the business and the family.    By identifying the values and vision that motivate personal and business lives, we can help the business owner determine where potential conflicts exist and discuss how to address these issues.  Nowhere is this more critical than with regard to business succession planning.  Without an open and honest multigenerational discussion of values, goals and visions, a business succession plan has limited long term prospects for success.  

            From the perspective of a family, the business, the personal, the communal, and the private should form a cohesive whole.  If they do not, there are generally signs of imbalance; evidenced by strained or fractured relationships.   Strategic planning should attempt to address all aspects of the family and business in a holistic fashion.   Only then can we help people achieve the true success associated with a balanced life.

Navigating Life's Transitions

            Life transitions, those moments and events that seem to alter the path of our lives sending us down new roads toward an unclear future, are often accompanied by paralyzing fear that obscures the opportunities for growth.  While it is true that in every moment life is evolving and where it is all taking us is never certain, there are moments that strike us as particularly transformative for better or worse.   These are the moments when profound change is inevitable despite whatever resistance to what is happening we may feel.   These events can include divorce, loss of a job, change of career, a significant illness, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one or a good friend, or even a simple moment of self-clarity where we see ourselves as we are.  All of these events have the effect of causing us to look in the mirror and confront our fears, self-doubts, and resistance.  We feel vulnerable and often look to others for advice and guidance.

             In financial counseling and planning, there seems to be an endless supply of advisors who will assist you in a transition if that transition involves access to wealth.   This can feel comforting because it takes our minds off the internal turmoil we are experiencing and shifts our focus to external tasks that give us a sensation of moving forward and taking control of our lives.   The reality, however, is that many of the steps taken when we are in a transition phase end up becoming things we wish we had not done.   Anyone who has accepted a new job in desperation after losing a job they loved understands this phenomenon.   It is very common after the death of a spouse that the survivor starts to sell things, such as the family home, based on a need to take action and feel like they are moving forward.   In my experience as an estate planner, these decisions are often ones that the survivor comes to regret.

             What should we do when we find ourselves in transition?   Stop . . . Breathe . . . Be Still. 

 The internal turmoil is the "gift" of difficult life transitions.  It needs to be explored, considered, and accepted before we move on.   If “everything has changed,” we need to (a) understand what has really changed within us and what remains the same; and (b) how these developments affect our values and our vision of ourselves and our goals.  All the “decisions” that have to be made in a transition must be made from a place of clear understanding about where we are and where we ultimately want to be.  Taking the time to reflect on these questions is essential.  Every individual and every situation is unique and the amount of time to reflect will vary greatly depending on a host of factors.   Nevertheless, a few basic steps can be identified: 

  • Step One:  Figure out what needs to be dealt with immediately because it is required.   Make a list of the things that have to be done.  Be careful to separate things that we have to do from things we think we want to do.
  • Step Two:  Make a decision to ignore the list of “want to do’s” and take some time to focus on self-assessment and a vision of the future.  Prepare a list of the key values that you want to animate your post-transition life.  Take as much time as you need.  This is not easy stuff and no one knows how much time you require better than you.
  • Step Three:  If you need/want it find an advisor you trust.   If you are not sure where you want to go with things, select an advisor whose compensation is not dependent on ultimately selling you a product.  Depending on your situation, you may want a counselor, a coach, a consultant, a psychologist, a spiritual or religious guide, or even a close and trusted friend.  The key point is that any advisor provides the space and time for you to develop your unique approach going forward, not theirs.
  • Step Four:  Once you are comfortable with your vision and values, you can then proceed to implement the decisions you are prepared to make.

In going through transitions it is imperative that we be kind to ourselves and keep things as simple as possible.  Brooke Miller of The Honey Studio, a holistic perinatal wellness center in suburban Detroit, told me that she advises new mothers that their goals for the first year of their new child’s life is to love their child and survive.  Everything else can wait.  I thought this was a beautiful example of trying to keep things simple during one of the most exciting and challenging life transitions any one goes through.  Brooke’s advice could also apply to divorce, new jobs, starting a new business, or coping with the death of a loved one.

I created Soul of Wealth to share what I have learned about dealing with transitions and to help others through these times.  Transitions can propel us forward in ways we only dreamed about if we are open to it.   The key is not to get trapped.  As Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

The Power of Three

            Our business and personal problems are complex and need to be attacked on multiple fronts simultaneously, like the invasion plan for D-Day.   This is what I thought for most of my adult life.  Being an attorney was the ideal profession: seeing the complicated web of issues that needed to be addressed in every situation was what people paid us for.   This approach worked well when the goal was to protect a client from the parade of horribles that could result from a certain plan of action (and for billing hours).   The same thought process does not necessarily work well in business or the rest of our lives.   Complexity is real but can human beings truly function within that reality?

             There has been a lot of talk about multi-tasking over the last couple of decades.  All of us need to be able to work on our computer while talking on the cell phone while ordering a latte while planning the rest of our day.   There is so much to do in a day and we are blessed with multiple technologies to do it.   Unfortunately, we have the same human brain.   Studies show that multi-tasking is a myth; what we call multitasking is just doing one thing at a time really fast, and generally fairly poorly. Complexity and multi-tasking are related.  The need to "multitask" arises because we view our to-do list as a series of unrelated events that form a complex system that we may or may not completely comprehend at any moment in time.  My son the chef refers to those moments where we lose sight of the big picture as "being in the weeds."  Our brains really do not allow us to do multiple intellectual processes at once and we are incapable of completely understanding the vast implications of complex systems.

             By way of example, I do not believe that drug companies start with the intention of creating medicines that will actually harm people nor do I believe that chemical and food companies try and create things that will poison us.  It is simply not good business.   They simply get lost in the weeds and solve one problem while creating several new ones that were not self-evident at the time.  We all do this on a daily basis to some extent.   We start a process to address a legitimate need and only later find out what the implications of our actions were.  How many times have we done something that we thought was generous or cruel only to find out that the results were the far different than we expected?  This is the human condition; we cannot understand all the implications of a single action as it runs through the complex web of interactions.  A simple hello to a stranger on the street could have a profound effect on the world and we would never know.

             To me this is a fascinating subject that is perfect for late night conversations over bourbon when no one is making any sense anyway.  What is important is that we recognize that we cannot fully comprehend all the implications of what we are trying to do.   This recognition can provide us with the freedom to step back from complexity and to stay out of the weeds.  This, in my opinion, is what effective strategic planning is all about.  Planning requires simplicity and clarity in terms of setting goals and flexibility and humility to modify goals when things inevitably do not work out as planned.  It is this latter issue that plaques the corporate world.   The issue is not that the chemical company set out to poison people, the issue is what they do when they realize that there is a problem.   The Flint Michigan water crisis is a tragic example of the phenomenon.

             Professor Donald Haider, a professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, once told me that an organization should have no more than three major goals in any year.   As a young COO, this seemed impossible to me.   There was so much to do in so many areas of the business.  Over time I saw the deep wisdom in his approach and the power of just three goals.  For a goal to be “major” it should have a profound and lasting impact on the organization in terms of culture, process, reputation, or financial stability.  It should also engage a significant percentage of the resources of the organization.  A major goal will have a large number of steps but one overarching purpose.

               Limiting yourself to a small number of goals is powerful for a number of reasons:

  •  Deciding on three goals requires serious reflection and prioritization.

  • Three goals focus the entire organization and are easy for everyone to remember.

  • With a limited number of goals, the chances of succeeding increases, which creates an atmosphere of confidence and optimism.   An annual strategic planning meeting that starts with a discussion of how we sort of accomplished parts of seven goals is not energizing and does not reinforce a culture that stresses completion.

  • While accomplishing the goals may be complex, the limited number of goals is simplifying and provides people with a “sense of control.”  Actual control is not possible, but a sense of taking charge of your destiny is motivating.

  • Simplification and clear direction reduce stress in the organization and discourage multi-tasking.

 What if things change?   What if a better goal emerges?   Chances are that unexpected things will happen and that people will and should constantly come up with new additional ideas.   We do not want to be so rigid that we cannot admit that we may have made a mistake and are unable to change direction.   I was taught that there were two principles that one had to follow as a leader; (a) do not fall in love with your ideas or the strategic plan; you need to be able to change course if required, and (b) be disciplined and thoughtful about abandoning your stated goals.   When that new idea presents itself, you must first ask does it help us achieve the existing goals in a better way?  If yes, go for it.   If not, then ask is it more important than our existing goals?  If yes, you must decide if it is achievable this year.  If it is, make the change.  If it is not more important or it is not currently achievable, write the idea up and stick it in a file for next year’s planning meeting.  Do not simply ignore it.  Over time you will build a file of ideas that you should look at annually to see what resonates or inspires.

 Over time, you will find that the focus of limiting your annual goals will result in more rapid success and growth.   I have learned that this concept works in our personal lives as well.   Simplify and clarify and you can harness the Power of Three.

Can Our Anger Kill Our Businesses?

            Have you noticed how much of the 2016 Presidential campaign is based on attempting to feed and then harness the anger of the public.   The candidates of both parties seem to have an endless list of villains who are to blame for all of our troubles: banks, immigrants, men, Planned Parenthood, cops, young black men, China, ISIS, Israel, employers, unions, religious people, LGBTs.   Focusing on people’s frustration and anger and creating a sense of victimhood is a very effective way to get support.   It has been the calling card of dictators throughout the world for years.   Coaches in sports love the anger card.   Athletes are always talking about being “disrespected” and playing with “a chip on their shoulder.”

            There is really no “quicker” way to move people to action then to appeal to their anger and point out someone or something that is responsible for their feelings of being victimized.   Understanding, respect, and love take time to build; anger takes just a moment.   You can burn down a dry forest by simply lighting a match.   This is the danger of anger, once it starts to burn it goes wherever it wants and the person who lit the fire is often powerless to control it, let alone stop it.  Anger when released can overthrow governments and cost us the big game (see Cincinnati Bengals v. Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Playoffs).   On a smaller (but more painful level) if can cost us relationships, marriages, jobs and, even our, businesses.

            Anger and victimization can be fatal to our businesses.   Although things are getting better in American culture, we still love applying sports metaphors to our businesses.   We want to “crush the competition” and “win” market share.  Over my career, I have participated in developing a deep antipathy for competitors.   I have also had plenty of opportunities to play the victim due to government regulation, currency fluctuations, lower priced off-shore suppliers, unions, compliance departments, and, of course, banks and other financing sources.   They made me angry and I spread that anger.  The result of this anger and victimhood was either that (a) people felt despondent and dejected with no hope of defeating the collection of evil spirits I had presented; or (b) they shared my righteous anger and indignation and stopped focusing on what needed to be done in the moment.

            It does not really matter how people reacted, both results are equally distracting and damaging.    Anger prevents clear thinking and victimhood causes us to deny our own responsibility for our situation and our ability to change and grow.   There was nothing that I could do about the government, competitors, banks etc.  The reality was that all my alleged villains were doing what they do for reasons that had nothing to do with me and the business I was involved with.   As the famous basketball coach, John Wooden once said “Do not permit what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”   We all have to learn this to achieve real success in business (and in life).

            To stick with the sports analogies, we all have to “play our own game.”  We will modify what we do over time to reflect greater knowledge and experience.  These modifications, however, need to go beyond being purely reactive; they must stay true to our overarching vision and values.   This requires a peaceful state of mind grounded in the present reality in order to contemplate deeply enough to see the options.  Nothing is more inconsistent with this state then anger and victimhood.   Playing the victim to the factors that affect our businesses deprives us of our free will to truly run our own business.   We essentially become slaves to these outside forces. 

            I am not saying that these forces are not real and do not have actual effects.   The question is who is dealing with them.   Am I going to take responsibility and navigate the situation in my own way or am I going to let my anger and frustration cause me to become reactive.    I have seen situations where this latter path has worked well for short periods of time, but almost inevitably the path of anger leads to some form of crash landing.

          Going back to the election, do we really believe that we can reverse globalization, change the nature of China’s economy, stop immigrants from wanting to cross our borders, dismantle or completely regulate a global financial system?   Individually and collectively, we are buffeted by things that are out of our control from the weather to the economy to our personal relationships to our own mortality.   Anger leads us to focus on those things we cannot do anything about.  From there the cycle builds as those “great solutions” proposed solve problems we do not control never materialize.  The result . . . even greater anger.   Those are so many things that we can do in our businesses, communities and lives in a thoughtful and reflective way that would transform the world.  We have no time to be victims.








Living in the Past

Let us close our eyes, outside their lives go on much faster.  Oh, we won't give in, we'll keep living in the past.

                                    Jethro Tull


Once while praying (or at least attempting to pray) in a little synagogue in Israel, I was doing my best to use the Hebrew pronunciation of my Romanian forefathers, as opposed to the modern Hebrew that I learned in school.    The kindly old rabbi of this little village, came up behind me and tapped the back of my head.   As I turned around, he said to me “Are you from Poland?” (I must have had a bad Romanian accent.)  I said no.  
“Hmm” he replied “Are your parents from Poland?”  Again I answered negatively.   He shook his head and said “Why are you trying to sound like you were from Poland 200 years ago?   Things there were not so good back there.   You are needed in the present where there is plenty for you to do.  Living in your own past is bad enough, but living in someone else’s pass is just crazy.”   I wanted to ask him if he was into early 1970’s Jethro Tull and did he know the song quoted above.  But before I could prove my banality, I realized that if I brought up a 40-year-old song, I would be further proving his point.

We find our pasts fascinating.   According to many psychotherapists, we can find in our past, particularly our childhoods, the answers for all the reasons that we are so messed up.    We can dig up things that make us smile and things that make us cry.   Sometimes our minds naturally flow back into a sea of memories, which contain much of the wisdom we rely on to live our lives, run our businesses, handle our finances, and build our relationships.  There is nothing wrong with this: it is how we develop and grow.  The past is also, however, a place that is easy to get stuck in: a seemingly comfortable place to live.   In that event, the past can become dangerous.

Nowhere do I see the dangers more than in family businesses.   It is not uncommon for each generation to compare itself to its predecessors and to react to change by looking first for what would my father and uncle do? – like a lawyer looking for a legal precedent that can define how to look at a new situation.   Owners get caught in a time warp where they find it difficult to follow their own instincts because they are living in someone else’s past.   I have also seen this phenomenon in charities, families, and individuals.   The entire concept of an inner child reflects the natural tendency to “go living in the past.”

What the rabbi was telling me was that there is only one place you can live at a time and the only place that is truly real is the present moment.   It is the only time we can make decisions in and, more importantly, it is the only time in which we can experience true happiness.   The past contains experience, wisdom, knowledge, triumphs and failures.  All these made us who we are.  If the past was really so much better than the here and now, we would know how to be content with the present moment.   That is what all my therapists have told me over the years and they must know because they have lots of initials after their names.  If we are unhappy now, then, as the rabbi said, things back there were not so good.  The future, on the other hand, is truly unknowable notwithstanding the claims of politicians, financial advisors, high school guidance counselors, and the perfectly coifed talking heads on 24-hour cable news networks.   It is wonderful to have goals and dreams for the future as long as you understand that they are not real until they are actualized in a present moment. 

This is our great challenge: to live as much as possible in the present.  I read the Wall Street Journal this morning to try and convince myself that I am a serious financial person.  It is amazing how many issues there are that we need to deal with and even more incredible how many opinions there are about what to do about it all from people whose jobs are to comment on such things but not actually do anything about them.  Kind of like what I am doing now.    Seriously, we were all put on this earth at this time in history for a reason.  As the little rabbi said there is plenty for us to do in the present.   So with all respect to great progressive rock bands of the 1970s, lets open our eyes and give in to the moment, let’s go living in the present.


The Spiritual Executive

Spirituality is the essence of leadership and without it a leader, executive, or manager will never lead an organization to reach its potential.  We generally do not associate spirituality with the business world, or often the charitable world.   When we do talk about spirituality and business it is usually in the context of organizations run by religious people.   While religious people can be spiritual, being religious does not make you spiritual.  Similarly, not being religious does not preclude being spiritual.

A great rabbi, Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory, once asked what is the opposite of “spiritual.”    He received a number of expected answers focused on lack of belief and faith.   The rabbi dismissed all of these.   He said the opposite of spirituality is pessimism and cynicism and the core of a spiritual life is optimism.   If you are not optimistic about what you are trying to accomplish and its ultimate success, you lack faith.

More importantly, this optimism has to be based in something more than your belief in yourself. It must be “bigger than you.”  Leadership must ultimately tie to something beyond the egoic success of the leader.  When it does not it, the result is often disillusionment and tragedy.   This does not mean that every great leader must have faith in an infinite deity (although I personally recommend it).   The belief in something beyond you (whether it is your employees, your community, your collective mission, the ability of your product or service to improve the world, or God) when combined with a genuinely optimistic perspective allows the leader to connect with others.   Optimism coupled with the realization that is not all about you results in true humility:  the capacity to recognize your abilities and the potential of the future, while remaining in awe of how you got where you are and all the help you will need to take the next step.

Whether we are running a high tech company in Silicon Valley, leading a yoga class, starting a small business, teaching a kindergarten class, or engaging in religious outreach, our effectiveness is ultimately tied to our optimism (our faith in the future) and our humility.    Optimism here is defined as faith in the future.   In our society, we often associate faith as a belief without basis.  The phrase “leap of faith” assumes that we are taking a step with no rational reason.   “Faith” traditionally has a deeper meaning.   Faith is based on years of deep analysis and learning.  It is taking the step into the unknown with a high probability of a positive outcome because you have thought through the situation and have accepted that you have the ability to deal with whatever actually comes at you in the future.   This is not an optimism based on hope.   The optimism that moves mountains and defines an organization’s future is the optimism of the athlete who has trained and prepared completely for the contest.

In a country filled with cynicism, where tearing people and institutions down has replaced baseball as the national pastime and where many worry that their children have a bleaker future than their parents, we need a realistic optimism and humility from every person in a position to define the future for themselves and for others.  As Rabbi Weinberg said cynicism and pessimism are just fear clothing themselves as realism.   Your business, your organization, and your family and friends need you to be a “Spiritual Executive.”



Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

How do we define wealth?  Is it as simple as a measurement of net worth at the bottom of a personal or corporate balance sheet?   When I think of wealth, I think of abundance. An abundance of money, however nice that might be, would not be terribly meaningful without health, family, friends, wisdom, faith, etc.   Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, once asked me if I would sell my two children for $5 million each.   Given that they were middle school aged boys at the time, I had to give this a moment of thought.  In the end I had to say no, of course.   He then looked at me with a smile and said we “have now established that you are worth more than $10 million and we have just started.”

As a lawyer and financial advisor, I have spent most of my adult life involved with money and participated in an accelerating social evolution in the United States in which money and monetary wealth has become the ultimate definer of an abundant life.  Look at any form of media and you will see endless advertisements selling services and products related to the business of wealth.   We have entire cable networks dedicated to showing tours of homes, automobiles, food, and travel that only an incredibly small fraction of the population could even dream of affording.   There are reality TV shows on the lives of people who are supposedly interesting because they are rich (and use their wealth to fund a seemingly endless amount of plastic surgery).  We now have candidates for President of the United States asserting that their wealth is, in and of itself, evidence of competence and a qualification to lead.   

Not surprising this has led to a legitimate focus on wealth inequality nationally and in the world as a whole.    This is an important issue and a cause for concern, but would wealth distribution really make society better?   Do not get me wrong, the current level of wealth and income inequality is not healthy, but implicit in the argument over this issue is a very materialistic assumption:  Money is the ultimate measure of social value and abundant life.  Materialism is winning.   We have more stuff than ever before, but we feel more want, deprivation, and exploitation as a society.    

Maybe the start of a solution is definitional.  What do we mean by wealth?   I would submit that wealth is far more than money and that down deep most of us (not all) know that.   We have just bought into the illusion that wealth is purely monetary and we all, to some extent, suffer as a result.   Wealth does, of course, involve money, but it also involves:

  • Family, friends and relationships.   What scares us more poverty or loneliness?  When I speak to people about their fears of poverty, it is amazing how many people equate poverty with loneliness.
  • Knowledge, wisdom, and experience.   Over the course of our lives we learn and grow from what we experience.  Ask any elderly person what they cherish most and it will almost always be their life experience as reflected in their memories.  What they yearn for most is the ability to experience more than their bodies will currently allow.
  • Health.   Our bodies may be the physical containers of our souls, but when the body suffers it is very difficult to maintain a feeling of wealth and abundance.
  • Talents and Skills.  All of us have talents and skills.  Some talents lead to making money, others give us pleasure and meaning.   If we are fortunate enough to find a way to mesh what gives us meaning with making a living, we attain a true sense of wealth and abundance.
  • Faith.   Faith is simply a commitment to something beyond you.   Some may have faith in God, others faith in the universe or science, or the inherent goodness of man or society.  The notion that you are connected to something bigger and that is not all about us as individuals may be one of the greatest sources of a sense of abundance.

This list is not meant to be exclusive, it just happens to be mine at this moment.  I would love to hear how you define wealth.

In the spring of 2013, I experienced a health scare that cost me my career as a partner in a prominent law firm.   During the several month period when I was not sure if I would ever recover enough to be “useful” again, I came face to face with the fact that I measured my wealth and value based on how many dollars I could make and what a very fragile ledge of self-worth I was standing on.   It took some time to realize that I had been blessed with so much that could not be measured in dollars and cents.  That is why I founded Soul of Wealth, www.soulofwealth.com.  By making decisions about our businesses, charities, and families from a place of true abundance that goes beyond money, maybe we can live more abundant lives and improve our families, communities, and the world.