What is Wealth – A Thanksgiving Reflection

This year Canadian Thanksgiving and the Jewish High Holy Days are back-to-back;  Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a time for celebration and reflection on the year that past and what lays ahead.  There are 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when we are hopefully written in the Book of Life for another year.  This year, Thanksgiving falls smack in the middle adding another layer of self-reflection and connection with family and friends.

For me, this time of year is always a challenge.  I always find myself entering into a major metamorphosis starting early September and ending sometime around late November.  Perhaps it is the change of season, or perhaps it is culturally ingrained.  

This year is no exception.  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.

I work 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 I have found when it comes to navigating the emotional connection between wealth and happiness are the books written by James Hughes.  I have referenced Jay before, in another blog: Re-imagining Society – the “New” Noble Professions.

The Family Enterprise System

Family Enterprise System 

Jay presents five types of capital (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 – Within the family enterprise system, “Are the right people sitting on the right seats on the bus?”  This is where family relationships, family and personal values, individual dreams, and personal and professional development are fostered or stifled.  It 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 social impact of the family enterprise and the individual is generated and measured.
  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 the Jewish New Year, Thanksgiving and the Day of Atonement?

In the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur one is instructed to ask for forgiveness from friends and family for those one has wronged.  It is, however, not required by those that are approached to offer forgiveness.  It is the ACT OF ASKING that is stressed in Jewish tradition.  I think that it is the action that helps us re-fill our five capital accounts. 

Spiritual Account - whether you believe in a higher power or in the human venture is irrelevant.  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 – Rabbi Glickman of Temple B’nai Tikvah in Calgary, said in his sermon last night, that atonement has five steps – Stand Up, Fess Up, Pay Up, Change Up and Keep it Up.  By standing up and asking for forgiveness you are taking ownership for yourself.  By fessing up you are reaching out to those that you wronged to make a connection, or make a re-connection, and tying that human-ness back into the equation. Paying up, means just that, doing whatever you need to right the wrong. Change up is literally changing the behaviour that led you to make this error in the first place. Lastly, keep it up speaks specifically to our human nature to fall back into old habits and default mode.  This is probably the last piece that is the hardest of all when it comes to atonement and re-filling the human capital bank account.

Social – We are all part of a larger system.  Within the family enterprise when pressure is put on one circle, it throws the others off-balance.  Seeking forgiveness allows for the social networks to get rebuilt, be strengthened, and reinforced, so that you have 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, rarely does this satisfies the emotional niggling at the back of the mind.  There is a reason why there are two more steps of atonement after “Pay Up”.  One needs to change and then maintain that changed behaviour.  

For me, having Thanksgiving in-between these two major holidays 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.

In this year of 5777 of the Jewish calendar, may all of you be inscribed in the Book of Life. 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. 

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Rosh Hashana
Jay Hughes