Growing up with successful parents has its benefits — access to exclusive experiences and networks can open the doors to exciting opportunities. But watching your parents achieve success can also be intimidating and confusing — should you follow the tried-and-true path of your parents? Should you carry on the family legacy within a certain industry? Will you be able to “fill their shoes”? Will you be able to make a name for yourself and prove that you deserve a seat at the table? These are questions that next-generation family members often wrestle with.
I was meeting with a client in his mid-thirties who recently decided to make a big career change from real estate development to graphic design. When I asked what drove him into real estate in the first place, he admitted that he saw his parents working in the space his whole life and it only seemed natural that he follow in their footsteps. But he was never passionate about it and dreaded going to work every day.
Many children of wealth creators find themselves in the shadows of the big dreams and accomplishments of their parents; they struggle with balancing the admiration and respect for the family’s achievements with finding their own passions and unique paths. I advise them to look inward and let introspection guide their future. That introspection can lead to the realization that the family’s path is indeed the right one, or they may decide to chart their own course. All paths have challenges, but connecting your path to purpose can help you create a career that “fills your cup” rather than depletes it. The process of finding one’s path usually entails trial and error, but each iteration will offer learnings and offer a more refined vision of what is ideal for you.
Steps to create your path:
- Identify your values: What drives you? When making big decisions, what influences you? Is it family? Community? Adventure? Tranquility? Honesty? Integrity? Write your values down and keep them somewhere visible as a reminder of what is important to you.
- Reflect: Reflect on the times in your life when you have felt the happiest. What were you doing? Who were you with? What was the environment like?
- Assess your capital: Capital is more than financial; it includes human (i.e. personality traits, quirks, and values), intellectual (anything you are good at), and social capital (the connections you have with family, friends, and online networks). What do you have to offer in these areas?
- Synthesize: How can you use these reflections and insights to design a path that is uniquely you? Is there a path that is aligned with your values, leverages your capital, and could integrate the things in life that make you happy?
- Try: This is usually the hardest part. There is no shortage of dreams for what our lives could be. We can imagine perfect jobs, families, and lifestyles. But often we stop there, too afraid to make a real change. Don’t give into fear. Rather, “try on” your dream life. Always dreamed of being a teacher? Apply to become a substitute so you can get exposure to a day in the life of a teacher. Interested in coding? Take a course to see if you like it. You might consider taking on new projects at work that are more aligned with your values and interests, even if they don’t technically fall under your job title. The more exposure you get to different paths, the more confident you will be when you find the right one for you.
Finally, I strongly recommend the book by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans to guide brainstorming about what a purposeful path might look like.
Questions to spur action
What new activity can you commit to “trying on” this month? After you do it — reflect. Did you enjoy it? Why or why not? What did you learn that you can take into the next activity or path that you “try on”?
The Cresset Family Governance and Education team can help you think through these questions and more. Contact us below.