This year Canadian Thanksgiving and the Jewish High Holy Days are back-to-back;  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time for celebration on what lays ahead and reflection on the year that past.  This year, Thanksgiving falls right at the end of these holidays, adding another layer of self-reflection and connection with family and friends.

During this holiday season, as one half of a business partnership and advisor to families of a variety of faiths, I have been reflecting a lot on wealth, happiness and what success looks like; for me personally, and for my company, as well as for my clients.  Below are some thoughts in the context of my work as a philanthropy advisor and facilitator of legacy and succession plans within families.

The team at Karma & Cents works predominantly with family businesses and enterprising families.  In many instances, emotional money conversations end up spreading throughout the family enterprise system. One of the best resources on navigating the emotional connection between wealth and happiness are the books written by James Hughes.  One in particular, The Cycle of the Gift can be found on our bookshelf.

The Family Enterprise System

Where all three circles intersect is where values, personalities and emotions collide

Jay Hughes presents five types of individual and family wealth:

  1. Spiritual – a sense of purpose and higher self.  This leads to a common vision or a journey between and within the individual and the family.
  2. Intellectual – A person’s ability to learn and the system within which to learn.  Learning can take the shape of formal or informal education, having access to mentors/coaches, a governance structure within the family, business and ownership units, an expression and clear understanding of one’s rights and responsibilities.
  3. Human – The family enterprise system asks, “Are the right people sitting in the right seats on the bus?” The answer is found in the family relationships, personal values, individual dreams, personal and professional development.  This is where legacy and succession plans are rooted. It is my impression, that this type of capital is the glue for all the other types of capital. Without Human Capital you cannot grow financial, social or intellectual wealth and spiritual wealth would be shallow at best.
  4. Social – The capital that allows for shared consensus and network building.  It is here that stewardship of all five types of wealth occurs, and where we generate and measure social impact of the family enterprise and the individual.
  5. Financial – This is the quantitative wealth.  It is where technical people go first because you can easily use it to measure and benchmark against.  It is also, in my observation, the canary in the coal mine. For if there is an issue here it is likely because the foundational support of the other four types of capital are in distress.

So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving?

In the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it is customary to ask for forgiveness from friends and family for those one has wronged.  The stress is put on the “ACT OF THE ASK.” However, that is not the whole picture. The second piece that is required is to take responsibility for those actions. The combination of the two helps us re-fill these five accounts.

Spiritual – Regardless of whether you believe in a higher power or in the human venture, by reaching out to someone to whom you acknowledge your shortcomings is a feat and an expenditure of energy that has the power to raise the spirit and move you along a journey or path.

Intellectual – The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. Asking for forgiveness changes that pattern up which allows for new learning to take place.

Human – In today’s political climate when our leaders have a tendency to make qualified apologies “I am sorry but…” now more than ever we need to focus on taking responsibility for our actions. A true apology doesn’t focus on just saying sorry; a true apology takes responsibility for one’s actions.  By standing up and asking for forgiveness you are taking ownership for yourself. In taking responsibility for your actions bring human-ness back into the equation. The next piece of the apology is the act of “Paying Up.” This means just that, doing whatever you need to right the wrong. The follow-up action to taking responsibility is to change the behaviour that led you to make this error in the first place. Because it is human nature to fall back into old habits and default mode this is the hardest account to re-fill.

Social – We are all part of a larger system.  Pressure is applied to one part of the family enterprise system (i.e. on one of the circles), throws the system off-balance.  The act of seeking forgiveness, creates pathways for the social networks to rebuild, and to strengthen, thereby increasing your resiliency in the future.  It is this safety net that carries us all forward during times of crisis.

Financial – Sometimes forgiveness is facilitated through a financial transaction, however in my experience, this rarely satisfies the emotional niggling at the back of the mind.  There is a reason why there are two parts to the apology – taking responsibility and then taking action to change. One needs to change and then maintain that changed behaviour.  

For me, having Thanksgiving around the Jewish High Holy Days adds a special layer of gratitude for those who surround me and support.  It also adds an extra emotional layer when reaching out to those whom I have wronged, either knowingly or unknowingly to ask for forgiveness.

This Thanksgiving may each of you find a path upon which to journey that feeds all five of your capital accounts (Spiritual, Intellectual, Human, Social and Financial).  And should someone seek you out to ask for forgiveness, consider the role that you play in their five capital accounts and how this act can feed or deplete yours.