When I was a kid I watched Sesame Street, and then during my teens, the Muppets moved into prime time. We hadn’t seen a lot of Kermit and his pals lately, until ABC brought them back this fall.
They have some new characters to complement many with whom we are already familiar, including my favourite, Chip the tech guy, but Kermit is still the star in my books. And for some reason I have had frogs on my mind lately.
This week, over coffee with a colleague, we were talking about the types of families who make up my “ideal client” base. I really don’t like the terms used in the wealth management space, like HNW and UHNW (high net worth, and “Ultra” HNW), but they are part of the lexicon.
The truth is, though, that if a family’s wealth isn’t into the eight-figures range, they aren’t likely to bring in someone like me to work with them for a few months to a couple of years to help them set up their family governance and get everyone on the same page.
It was then that I said to my colleague that I understood that I needed to “kiss a lot of frogs”. And then I felt like an elitist A-Hole for using that expression.
I have been working on and reflecting upon how best to take my unique life experiences, my newly discovered passion for helping families prepare for multi-generation success, and my ever-expanding network of like-minded professionals, and put them all together to “serve”.
And then I re-read that last paragraph and hope it doesn’t come across in a way that makes people gag, and think of me as a snob who laments having to “kiss frogs”.
I hope that by sharing my feelings about this, my real humility will come through.
Then today, while thinking about the frog kissing comment, I flashed back to something I heard about a year and a half ago. It was at the 2014 Rendez-Vous of the Purposeful Planning Institute.
The speaker was none other than James E. (Jay) Hughes, who is one of the most respected authors and speakers in the field of family wealth.
He was talking about the importance of each generation developing their own interests and passions, and not getting sucked into the “black hole” of the business of the previous generation’s dream. I very much agree with his premise.
But during the Q & A, he brought up the old story about the frog and the pot of boiling water. It goes like this: If you have a pot of boiling water on the stove and you drop a frog into it, the frog will instinctively jump out.
However, if you put a frog into a pot of cool water, and slowly raise the heat, the frog will end up getting cooked. And then Hughes added that it was impossible to get out of that black hole, or that pot of water.
I took exception, but only internally. I wish I would have gone and spoken to him afterward. I believe that if you turn off the stove in time, and allow the water to cool down, the frog can jump out and find his own passion and successfully leave Dad’s black hole.
I believe that I am “Exhibit A” for this. It took around 20 years for my water to cool down and for me to discover my passion for helping other families with these kinds of family business and family wealth issues.
And I will gladly help and kiss lots of frogs along the way, not just Kermit, or the ones who have enough wealth to afford me for my “full service” option. There are plenty of families who can use guidance to help them figure out how to make decisions together, communicate better, and solve problems together.
Or maybe just to encourage them to let their offspring find and live their own true passions.
In 2016, I resolve to better communicate how I can serve them all, and continue to preach about the important role of family harmony to support family legacy.