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Many Families Include Someone Who Blocks the View

This week happens to involve a confluence of events that are pretty rare, and we’re going to see how I can turn this all into something useful and entertaining.

As I write this, I’m on vacation, which isn’t common, and I’ve managed to leave 98% of my work back home. Keeping my weekly blog streak intact is the 2% I decided keep going.

The vacation mental freedom may be part of the reason I’ve actually looked ahead and taken note of the date this post will go out to subscribers and be shared on LinkedIn.

If you read last week’s A Different Look at Process Versus Content you know that I work ahead by one week, so while I’m writing this in Costa Rica, it’ll go out when I’m back in the office.

That publication date also happens to coincide with an exceedingly rare event, the total solar eclipse of 2024.

Extra Clicks from an Eclipse?

Almost all of my posts are designed to be “evergreen”, i.e. you can read them at any time and they’re still relevant, whether a week, a month, or 5 years have passed.

This one is exceptional to a certain degree, because I’m tying in a specific event on the calendar.

If you’re wondering if I’m hoping for some extra clicks, you may be correct, but it’s more about challenging myself to find a way to work the idea of an eclipse into the subject of family wealth transitions.

Thankfully, the eclipse is all about our solar system, while much of my work involves family systems.

This may feel like a bit of a stretch, but I’m up for it, having written a book (Interdependent Wealth, 2019) whose subtitle is How Family Systems Theory Illuminates Intergenerational Wealth Transitions.

Some Systems Are More Predictable than Others

Systems theory is all about looking at how a number of interdependent parts work together in key ways.

When you look at one part in isolation, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what’s going on, but when you examine it in the context of the system to which it belongs, all of a sudden things begin to make more sense.

Our understanding of the solar system has certainly evolved in the past few centuries, and now there are only a few flat earthers left.

It’s pretty cool to think that there’s a solar eclipse today, and that we can already put the next one on our calendars, despite the fact that it’s decades away.

Our understanding of family systems has not been perfected to the same degree, and probably never will be.

Looking for Repeating Patterns

I’ve touched on family systems in some previous posts, such as A Systemic Business Family and Revealing a Family System to Itself.

As I work with families who are trying to successfully transition their wealth, I always like to ask about previous generations of the family and how things went during those transitions.

When you look at things from a systems lens, trying to find repeating patterns is part of the game.

A solar eclipse can be predicted with exactitude, while family patterns are comparatively blurry.

I’m always amazed when I speak with parents who insist their offspring all work together, despite the fact that they were unable to work with their own siblings.

Seeing More Clearly After the Eclipse

Many enterprising families are dominated by a single, strong leader, especially in the first generation(s), and they can unfortunately block out the proverbial sun for everyone else.

Here’s a definition Mr.Google unearthed for me:

Eclipse: to make another person or thing seem much less important, good, or famous.

Getting back to contrasting with the solar eclipse, the paths of the moon and the sun are entirely predictable, so you know when the eclipse will weaken and then end, to the minute.

In a family, well, not so much.


Begin your Transitions Before You Need to

Transitions of all sorts go better when done slowly and incrementally. See Start Cleaning Up your M.E.S.S.

Getting families to understand the importance of planning, discussing, and implementing gradual changes is a big part of what I do.

The message is not always well received by those who feel like they don’t want to give up any roles or power.

The tenure of the solar eclipse will end, as will the family leader’s.

It’s always unfortunate when outliving someone is the only way through.

Sometimes it’s the only true solution, but I’m always doing whatever I can to avoid such situations.