We are a continuum. Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead to our children and their children. And we do so with a sense of sacredness in that reaching.
As it has been a while since I have shared with you any thoughts on this topic, it may prove useful to remind you why today’s post bears the number ‘10’. It is not only the number of perfection from my childhood memories (best school grade, best gymnastics note), but it is also the 10th writing from the ‘Ways’ series. It is the last from a collection of personal views about potential ways out of the contemporary mess which the humankind has created for itself over the last decades. The thoughts sharing started actually with the ‘Roots’ series, consistent with my professional habit of diagnosing the causes and status-quo of any mess before recommending alternative ways out of it…
So … here I find myself today, striving to bring a nice final touch to a collection of uninvited advice to humanity, to be either appreciated or disregarded (time will tell!...). And the ‘inheritance’ topic carved its way, first into my head and then gradually into my heart this week, just like all the other topics did over the past four years.
Why would the inheritance aspect be so important for our future? I would love to take you beyond the beautiful message lying in the motto, as today’s choice of topic is somehow larger that the noble ‘legacy’ idea.
And, as you are reading this on my good friend Peter’s EGO-OUT blog, I will start today’s inheritance story, by describing to you the exact opposite, respectively what EGO-OUT means: the quantity of information, knowledge and wisdom lost by the death of an individual. It encompasses basically that spiritual part, which people either omit to (or purely cannot) pass on to other people before their death.
Inheritance has many components. The most tangible and obvious to the naked eye, and also the most exposed to fierce fights amongst surviving relatives are … the material things - such as real estate, jewelry, cars, books, trousseaux, kitchen ware and so on. The most resilient and (still!) difficult to manipulate are the genetic ones – such as physical appearance, intelligence, skills, health risks and similar. The most sensitive to the environment are the spiritual ones – such as education and moral standards, traditions and beliefs, scientific and cultural wealth etc.. Last but not least, another interesting category, both sensitive to the environment and volatile from a public perception point of view, is the social component of the inheritance – reputation, credibility, fame… This last component is usually formed within a specific niche of activity, within a specific social circle and it has very much to do with family bonds. This part of the inheritance can be wasted easily with hasty or reckless behavior…
Except the genetic component, inheritance is not necessarily connected to a certain blood line or official family bonds. There are relationships in our lives that bring us close to other people that may bestow on us material, spiritual or social welfare, some following certain interest, and some out of pure generosity or kindness of their hearts. On the spiritual side especially, some do it intentionally, others just by being themselves. Some inheritance we accept, some we reject, consciously or not… Inheritance is also not necessarily good – we may inherit expensive properties which we cannot afford to keep and cannot manage to sell … we can get stuck with weak genetics or pick up silly behavior and lousy habits …
There is also the other side of the story, the ‘taking back’ story. It cannot be applied to all the inheritance components, as some are not within the control of ‘the giver’ after being given… Materially or socially disinheriting the unfit or disobedient heir may bring some immediate effects in line with the deciding party’s interests, but genetic and spiritual inheritance is certainly not reversible. I would dare to speculate that when the genetic and spiritual inheritance is strong and of good nature, the material effects of the disinheritance may be reversed in no time, while the motivational effects of challenged pride make the ambitious heir more prone to succeed in the long run.
Why should inheritance be considered as one of the most important ways ahead?
The globalization has transformed most developing or under-developed countries into consumer markets, pushing the families beyond their real purchasing power, by encouraging excessive debt and waste, and by gradually turning this into a socially gratified behavior. Sometimes such vicious circle ends up with a negative inheritance situation, when the assumed debt stretches over to the next generation... by accepting the material inheritance, one must take on responsibility for the related debt also.
Therefore, it has become essential to understand the importance of sustainable wealth accumulation in such economies. The prosperity of a nation is largely dependent on the strength of its middle class. Such middle class grows stronger by accumulating material wealth across several generations, gradually passing it on as inheritance to the next line of legitimate heirs. A healthy mix of family expenditure with long-term savings is one of the most important engines for progress on a macro economical level. To increase awareness about the importance of building material inheritance for the children is an important way of influencing the savings and investment behavior of families.
Moving on to the next components of the inheritance, the spiritual and social parts of one’s inheritance are highly sensitive to both the material side (as education, culture and exposure to global environment are rather expensive treats), as well as social environment (starting with family, school, works, other social circles).
Without a constant focus on what we expose ourselves and our children to, we will gradually lose control over what we shall leave as inheritance to those who follow… And our world is being tested nowadays, on an unprecedented level, at least for this century. We are witnessing a material, cultural and social clash of civilizations, with one major stake: our INHERITANCE!
And, same as with all important things in life, it is hard to define the right balance. Pride is the most resilient genetic inheritance of all mankind and it rules a lot on the other inheritance matters. We have a fundamental need to be proud of our children and the legacy we leave behind. We cannot postpone the focus on individual, family and social inheritance, we must wisely listen to and harmonize an entire chorus of mostly contradicting voices (pride and prejudice, material interests and needs, survival and tolerance boundaries, generosity and humanitarian spirit), while not forgetting to re-visit the lessons of history!
If we believe to be our ancestors’ most honorable and ambitious dreams turned into reality, we have a duty to prevent our children to turn into our worst nightmares!