The Quest for Legitimacy

Let’s Talk Family Enterprise Podcast Episode #42

The Quest for Legitimacy

Host: Steve Legler

Guest: Jamie Weiner, Ph.D

Host Steve Legler speaks with Dr. Jamie Weiner, author of the recent book, The Quest for Legitimacy: How Children of Prominent Families Discover Their Unique Place in the World. They discuss the challenges faced by rising generation members of enterprising families and how we as FEAs can better support our family clients by shedding light on these challenges, which are often invisible to their parents.

Let’s talk family enterprise explores global ideas, concepts and models that help family enterprise advisors better serve their family clients brought to you by family enterprise Canada. All views Information and opinions expressed during this podcast are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of family enterprise Canada.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The let’s talk family enterprise podcast. My name is Steve Legler. And it’s great being your host once again. Today we’ll be talking about some of the challenges that next generation members of enterprising families often face and how advisors might better support them. Our guest is Dr. Jamie whiner, co founder of inheriting wisdom, a firm based in Chicago that works with prominent families on problems that exists below the surface. He’s also the author of the recent book, The quest for legitimacy, published earlier this year by Wiley to great acclaim. I’ve known Jamie for a number of years now. And our paths cross at conferences frequently and I’ve been following the evolution of his work with great interest. We’ve got lots to cover today. So let’s say hi to our guests and kick things off. Jamie Weiner. Thanks for joining us today. Welcome to the let’s talk family enterprise podcast.

Steve so excited to spend this kind of time with you.

Well, I mentioned that I’ve known you for a while and even the subject matter of this book, The quest for legitimacy. I want to just go back a couple of years. I remember when you first started presenting on this topic, and you called it you had a different title for it. It was something around growing up in the land of giants. Can we kind of take us back and set the context for this.

You know this it really takes me Steve right back to the beginning of the project, which is right now a little bit over five years ago, when my colleague Ross Hayworth from the United Kingdom and I began interviewing rising Gen family members from around the globe. And the question we asked them and discuss the intention by hand was What is it like growing up in the land of giants and for the advisors Listen, it was a very important question, because so much of what I heard was about entitled youth, what are they going to do about the wealth? What are they going to, you know, who’s going to give or take on a role in the business or not in the business? And it’s so so powerful, that it kind of loses sight of the fact that most three year old kids don’t have much of an idea about wealth about family businesses. They do. They’re growing up knowing that there’s giants in the family, which seemed to be bigger and receive recognition from all around them. And that was kind of the intention of the question.

Okay. And so, the subtitle of your book is intriguing, and it’s kinda long, but I want to read it now. So it’s the quest for legitimacy, how children of prominent families discover their unique place in the world. And I noticed the the use of the adjective prominent as opposed to wealthy families. Can you just give us a little background on unlike I thought this was about wealthy families, but it’s about prominent families. What’s the distinction? There?

So permanence is a bigger subset than wealthy. Okay, and in turn, prominence is implied. Power political politicians, kids, Martin Luther King’s kids. Rabbi his son, I grew up in a prominent family. And the distinction is a very powerful distinction because we really can get lost to the idea that the wealth is the central factor, when one of the interviewees said it said very clearly, she read the introduction to the interview that we had sent out and said, they really liked the fact that you focus on achievements. And she got that the the issue is about growing up with parents that are very successful. And that’s why we chose that word. Although most of the time when I get asked to talk about it, everybody moves right back into that conversation about talking about wealth.

That’s not surprising, but I suppose that you can have prominence without the wealth. I remember us we were speaking you and I recently, and you talked about someone who’s whose father was the principal of the local high school and so try to you know, grow up in that town and not have everyone know who you are. So, so the wealth is part of it that many of us are familiar with, with our clients, but but sometimes the provenance is a bigger issue. And I guess that was what tied these these stories together. So you mentioned the interview. So can you just share a little bit about how many people you interview and how you found them and what the variety was and what that whole thing was like?

But luckily, Steve, you know, as you know, by the time I got ready to do this project, I built somewhat of reputation in the space. And so most of the interviews came through introductions by people who are in the advisor community, and they were warm introductions, and we interviewed 25 Rising Gen family members could have been Indonesia could have been Chicago could have been Vancouver, certainly was Costa Rica and that way, we interviewed them twice. And that way, we got quite a perspective from around the globe, which held both me and Ross and the research team that we use, to really be able to dig deep and what we were getting from the other.

So you did a lot of interviews during the first phase of this. And then you just mentioned the research component. And I know the happenstance, the way that the research came about, I’ll ask you about that in a minute. But what some listeners might be interested to know is that the research one of the central figures to connecting you with the research is a Canadian, and so it’s this is a Canadian podcast. Hats off to Frank Barbera for being part of this already, which I just I guess I just blew his cover, but why don’t you tell us about how this started as a bunch of interviews. And then turned into a university research project.

So it’s very cute when I met Frank. Frank was a Canadian, but was working in the University of Adelaide in Australia is now back in Canada, closer to his roots, and I met Frank riding down in an elevator at the family firm Institute conference. They asked me what I did. I’ve never been a big believer in elevator, elevator speeches. But as we got off the elevator, he said, Well, I’m a researcher. Why don’t we write journal articles together? The next thing I knew I had a research team and first unbelievable experience because all of a sudden, the Steve I was part of a practitioner research team. And it allowed us to have this dialogue back and forth and it also allowed Joelle aigua worked with him was an economic sociologist read all the interviews, and help identify a four phase pattern that was universal across all of the different cultures that we interviewed.

So you got all these stories, and they’re fascinating in and of their own right. But then you hooked up with some What did you call him? Some kind of socio economic sociologist,

if you will, is an economic sociologist,

okay. And the researchers were able to take all the interviews and turn that into some content that they could actually then put together a four phase journey of what all these rising Gen members were going through

Uganda, and we call that journey, the quest. That’s how the title came out. What it really did was take it out of the realm of just being a collection of stories into being understanding patterns and nobody quite appreciates the benefits of qualitative research. And anybody who’s listening to this podcast, it’s really easy to get started doing qualitative research. And I’d be glad to talk to anybody about that. But when and let us figure out is that there are four phases. The first phase is awareness. That my favorite story is a woman who grew up in a diamond family and her dad would bring home the diamonds, and she learned how to count by cutting diamonds and guess what when she went to school, that’s that however you have that he else diamonds,

now not in my school either.

The next phase we call the tug of war, it’s when you still have one foot it’s inside the family and another foot out in the world. And you start bringing home new information and the first everybody thinks it’s cute. it a little bit later you bring home something and your parents go oh my God. Where did they get that kind of information? The third phase is exploration. I just had a conversation with somebody in Scotland this morning, actually, who talked about the four years that he pulled away from a family business and traveled the globe, and all the experiences that he gathered, and so the experience of his family lived inside. But he gleaned from the world and got information that could change his life, and that he could bring back and the last phase is taking ownership of your miles.

So that exploration phase, you mentioned the story of the guy who went for four years. Is that an extra long exploration or is that an average one or because I’m just trying to figure out these four phases and are they always in the same order or or is it linear? Is there some circling back sometimes?

So it’s definitely not linear? That’s probably the most important thing we should get clear. You know, I’m in my 70s and I still go back into Moments of Awareness. There’s still times I feel a tug. Of War between the world I was brought up in the world that I have experience. And the exploration phase is and I have a whole chapter in the book on the exploration phase. And I think it’s very important for advisors to understand, because the rising Gen family members since it needs to be more than just members of the family system. They need to be able to have the space to have a rite of passage and be able to go into some exploration and that phase can be short. It can be a long time, and often can be the result of what I talk about as braking moments. Times where there’s a disruption in what somebody expects their life is going to be this usually followed by a period of feeling betwixt in between. And I hope the advisors are thinking about the habit for themselves what has been their exploration phase, but as they begin to work with families, I hope they’re also kind of aware. Is there room for the rising gem to have an exploration phase?

Interesting. Okay, so I’m glad you’ve already started to point your comments to advisors because as you know, this podcast the main audience that we make these podcasts for is for the group of advisors who have taken the family enterprise advisor program here in Canada, and they’re our, our target audience. So we always bring things back to how can advisors use this information? We’re bringing them through these podcasts, but I’m really so how should we use what we’re learning from you when we’re interacting with a client family? And I think part of it is going to be because we typically deal with the senior or leading generation and sometimes have to go through huge efforts just to get to meet the rising Gen. But somehow, I’m guessing that we’re gonna have to work harder at that to be able to have access to these people who are going through this quest for legitimacy.

to stave you’re right at the crux of what I think is the challenge is the challenge for family members. Then it’s also a challenge for advisors. I mean, let’s face it, we get paid by the Now Generation who’s ever in control and has the control of the purse strings 95% of the time. Yeah. And they know quite understand two things. One, they don’t understand the shadow that they cast. Right, the impact of that shadow, and often, they’re somewhat demanding figures because they need to be that in order to be successful and accomplished. And they don’t understand that it’s for their kids, far more how powerful it is to grow up in a world where money may have been decided long, long before your you’re ever gonna get up in terms of inheritance where there’s a powerful family whether and they don’t understand that that if they want their rising Jen to have value for the family they need to create a space for that to happen. It’s only by creating that room and that’s really a discussion that needs to take place. And it needs advisors to have good old fashioned courage. You and I have talked about having to tell now generation family members that you may not like everything I have to tell you, right. And I’ve learned some of that even from your ability to do that. Because it is that powerful position that we need. To take not to take over in a family that to point out a direction that may be missing in what would move a family forward.

Well, we have an opportunity as advisors to some of these successful now Gen people to provide them with some perspective on things that we see, in part because we work with other families and because we’re doing the work to learn about this stuff. And so yes, it does sometimes take courage, but what a benefit we are giving to some of these people who quite frankly have a lot of yes people around them who just do whatever they say, and not necessarily enough people to say hey, I don’t know if you realize this, and especially if we think about their offspring, and I won’t use the word kids because I don’t like that. But their offspring because often they’re well past the age of being children, and they’re still in that shadow. And sometimes we as the advisors can play an important bridging role and point things out to the parents that they might not realize, and they might hear more easily from us than they would from the ones that they raised

to got sent the other day this wonderful two minute video about gentleman who is out exploring, and he sees our cocoon and out of the cocoon is a butterfly emerging and he decides to sit there and just watch. As the butterfly begins to emerge. The butterfly gets about halfway out and all of a sudden it appears stuck. So he goes I’d have to help this butterfly. So he cuts open the cocoon and lets the butterfly out, Ken puts it in his hand, waiting for it to fly. And all of a sudden realizes that the butterfly can’t move its wings doesn’t realize that the butterfly has a way of letting fluids come out, which let it build the strength to be able to help the wings fly and move. And as much as he thought he was being helpful. What he really did was crippled the butterfly and I just it was such a powerful image that I think it’s a great lesson for all of me for all of us.

Oh and for many of the clients that we deal with who have the means to do all sorts of things for their offspring. So that that you know the prototypical Oh, I don’t want them to have to go through all the hard stuff I did. But that going through that hard stuff was what made you who you are and finding that balance between you know, cleaning up all their messes for them or making them figure it out on their own. I guess that’s all part of that. That that legitimacy and the and the dance between the two generations, and how we might be able to help, you know, synchronize the music for that dance a little bit for our family clients.

You know, Steve, I think you know, as well as I do. The field was kind of and I think we’re breaking out of that it was kind of crippled by some old concepts. One of the old concepts was the concept of affluenza. Yep, Canada was considered a disease of the youth to actually a broader concept, and I do talk about it in the book. That it was it was the idea that the young could become addicted to warming, possessions and all this kind of and in none of the interviews that Russ and I did. Did anybody talk about how great it is to get chunks of money or think they’re going to or the maybe they could buy lots of stuff? What they talked about was, and I’ve heard it as dramatically is in a dinner that we did for a bunch of families. Were one of the rising Gen says My parents don’t understand how crippled I felt by the vote in this case, it was by the wealth of the family, and how it almost became a point of feeling pinned down by those who was around me and you know, I’m not taking out a little violin and you know how to growing up in one of these families. But to understand that it is a challenge is probably a great starting point.

Well, and it is a challenge. And just like you’re saying you hadn’t had let’s not get at the violins, but that Oh, poor little rich kid. People just don’t typically have pity for the people who are wealthy and any, you know, 99 out of 100 people would gladly trade places with these people at the drop of a hat. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some struggles and if we are being paid by their families to provide resources and guidance to them, we need to understand that that poor little rich kid might be going through some stuff and if we can help their family to overcome some of those challenges just by shining a light on them, and opening the door to conversations. I think we’re providing a service that maybe is well we can overdo.

Stay advanced. Really what I tried to fill the book with stories are one of the book to be readable when I went to rising Gen family members in their family and parents and of course advisors to read the book. And one of the main characters is a gentleman named Rishi who two times in his life took the route of trying to help his family in the family business and ended up at one point after he’d gotten his advanced degree he’d come back to work for the family for years, partially because of a crisis, business crisis went off to the World Cup and came back I got an email that firing them by email. And it was a breaking moment and he went through a couple years of what I call them an arrow, Melody and feeling betwixt in between ended up a university professor stopped speaking to his parents before he went to do his new life, took the risk of knocking on his Indian father’s door, not knowing what he would find. And his dad opened the door and said, Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re here. You need to know how glad I am because I never would have had the courage to do this. And that one has remained such a powerful lesson for me in terms of when it’s like growing up in the land of giants.

And that’s what I love about the book is that it is filled with proof stories. And it does, you know, bring home a lot of the lessons that I imagine a lot of readers see themselves in some of these stories. And that, you know, really brings it home and I just wanted to I almost forgot to point out that that you’ve got a forward here in the book, where where J Hughes of all people is talking about how this book, smoke em, because he also went through his own quest for legitimacy and and when we think of Jay who’s in his late 70s and has been a leader in this world for so long, it’s hard to figure back that, you know, he was one of these young people working in the shadow of his father. And so the fact that is that this book speaks to a lot of people who come from whatever sort of family and they didn’t have to be wealthy, but somewhere along the way, being in the shadow of parents is not always as easy as most people think.

Just a little secret. I think Jay just turned 80 But the moment that he sent me because you never know what you’re gonna get back when somebody wrote a foreword, and you acknowledge Yeah, it really hit home for him was extremely powerful for me. And I know that a lot of people in the space work in this space and also have grown up in prominent families. And so I’m hoping the lessons kind of exist on two sides, both in terms of the work that people are doing, and also in terms of thinking about your own experience, and I really appreciate it all the way through. The people have said to me if this book had been around and the research had been around, it would have made a difference in my life and we’re beginning to think about experiences that we can create. And I to vote we’ll talk more about that. That could help rising Gen. breakout of the isolation, figure out how to have an impact and strengthen the relationships with their families.

You know, you bring up the part about the fact that many people who do this work come from some of this kind of a background and I know I saw myself in some of these stories, and I actually recognize a lot of the names of the people too, because I know a lot of people in this space, which made it extra interesting. But the fact is, what we often talk about with people in this space is you really have to go through your own journey and understand that if you’re going to be working with other families, you have to have done some of this work. on yourself. And so there’s a lot of self reflection that comes out of reading this book. And it can be an eye opener I know that there were a number of times reading through this book that I was like oh wow, there’s there’s some echoing going on from my from my past as well.

Well, I know. Tonight, I’m hosting a book salon in Chicago, and I know that just creating opportunities to have conversations to talk about the content in this book. I’m hoping that opens eyes and begins to make a difference for people.

You know, Jamie, we both know Dennis Jaffe. And as I was preparing for this, I started to think about the role that advisors play or can play or should play. And Dennis talks about like the trinity of the leading generation, the rising generation, and the advisors and or outside family members that work in the business and the role that we play. And this is just it’s another perfect example of and what you just said, creating conversations or creating discussions or having opportunities for the different generations of the family to actually have some discussions which often left to their own devices. They just won’t have them. But if we can be in there as an instigator, a catalyst, a facilitator, a mediator to help some of these families have these discussions to open each generation’s eyes to the perspectives of the other. I mean, that is that a huge assert a huge service that we can provide to people.

He has stated I think part of the thing we struggle with is families want us to help them become more productive, you know, do all these tangible things. And we need to be able to find that balance between those two spaces.

Right, because that is often you know, we hear about a generation gap and there’s a gap and somehow, I think we can often help fill it in. And I think that’s how, you know my question that I often end, we’re part of our interview is like so how do we as advisors like how can what can we do better to play this role better? And you mentioned courage before I imagine that’s a big part of it.

Yeah, you know, it’s it’s funny because knowing everything else this question, on one hand, that one that’s to say, Well, the answer is simple. We just need to raise the subject. And we need to be forthright. The two we need to find a way in I’m in the middle of creating cohorts that first one is going to be an Oxford to have the rising Gen have an experience where they can get away and do some exploration. And we need to help families see that there’s value in allowing that to take place, whether it leads to somebody coming back into the business or doesn’t. We also have a generation coming up that knows more about finance than most generations. It’s college education global. And we just need to change your perspective.

Well, it’s interesting, you’re talking about, you know, a place for that generation to go discover, and I’m looking at the subtitle of your book again, and it’s discover their unique place. In the world. It’s not discovered their unique place in the business or the enterprise. So that’s, that’s the eye opening part for some people. Because often what we end up with is listening to patriarchs and matriarchs talk about bringing their offspring into what they’ve created and maybe that’s not the best thing, but that’s a subject for another day. That’s been great. And you know, we’re getting to the end of our time together. So I got to finish off with a couple of our final or standard requests. So could you give us a book recommendation, something that you’ve read that you’d like others to know about and and that has been important in what you’ve been reading?

So one of the books that is been around for a long time, but it’s kind of right there in the center, is a book by Viktor Frankl Viktor Frankl lives through the concentration camps, and develop something called logotherapy. And the idea of very simply is that the book is called Man’s Search for Meaning. And I think is as relevant today as it was when he wrote the book. And I think the rising Gen are searching for meaning. Don’t tell anybody but I think the next generation is to and I think helping that happen is a gift.

I think all generations are searching for meaning but but maybe not looking for the same kind of things that I think we’re seeing variety in what people are looking for it and so Man’s Search for Meaning from Viktor Frankl. And I might have thrown you off with the question before but so I’ve got to end with one piece of advice that you have as an advisor who advises families to others who also advise families.

Yeah, I think my answer to them is real simple. Whether you’re an advisor or whether advising families. Take the quest.

Take the quest, okay, no. So do the work. Yeah. Do the work for yourself. And think about your journey. And how that can. Awesome. Hey, this has been great time has flown by as it always does. Jamie, thanks again for joining us and sharing your expertise with our audience. Thank you, Steve. It’s always a pleasure. Okay, listeners. If you have not already subscribed, please do so. Make sure that you never miss any of these monthly episodes. Thank you again for joining us. I’m Steve Legler. Until next time,

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