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The Mission

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”


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My parents have an awesome record collection. They graduated from college in 1969, so it gives you an idea of their vintage. They were way more Peter, Paul and Mary hippies than The Doors, so they have a bunch of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, The Mamas and the Papas, and of course, all of the Beatles’ albums.


As a young teenager, I remember sitting around on the floor of our living room, listening to those records over and over. If I Had a Hammer; It Ain’t Me, Babe; Let It Be; Blowin’ In The Wind; Fire and Rain; California Dreamin’; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.


It was the 1980’s, and cassettes were the great technology of the day. By the time I was sixteen and moving off to Costa Rica as an exchange student, I was prolifically producing mix tapes. I took a collection of about twenty of them to Costa Rica, and to be sure, there was a lot of punk rock, but there was also Otis Redding and Jimmy Hendrix live at Monterey, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, a bunch of Bob Dylan and even some James Taylor—I had a recording of his very first album, produced by the Beatles’ Apple Records, from 1968, before his voice had even changed. …Good luck finding one of those.


I think that my parents’ record collection might serve as a good guideline for a family’s Mission Statement. Everything I know about what matters to my mom and dad, I learned there on that floor of their living room.

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A family mission statement is just what it sounds like – a description of a family’s raison d’être – its reason for existing, and we should all have one, but especially if you’re wealthy. “Money ain’t everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch.”


A family’s mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about– what it is you really want to do and be– and the principles you choose to govern your family life. A family mission statement encapsulates your idea of the good life and lays out your family’s purpose, goals, and standards. All members of the family have a hand in articulating these values and all agree to live them.


Companies often use mission statements to direct their decisions and operating procedures, but I submit that their utility is even greater for families. After all, instead of manufacturing any given widget, you’re molding a generation, and in the process making memories and constructing the very best stuff out of which life is made.


“It’s easier to die when you have lived then it is to die when you haven’t. So I say to all young people, go make memories, beautiful memories. Because when the time comes to go, you won’t go alone.”

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There are several great resources to help structure the process for drafting your family’s mission statement, but it begins with identifying your family’s core values. Instead of relying as heavily as my family did on their record collection, use the structuring of your family mission statement to express your core principles. Meet with your family, and list as many things as you can all think of that could be considered a core principle. They can be general and may include things like honesty, compassion, integrity, discipline and service, to name just a few. Or they can be very specific such as protecting a certain stretch of land or providing opportunities for a specific community. Together, the family can then agree which of these values qualify as the timeless, navigational markers they wish to memorialize in their mission statement.


In my family, we have a few. You shoot it, you eat it; Give generously and anonymously; It is our duty to cherish and preserve the earth, for it is a gift from God to whom we’re faithful; Knowledge is power; I am my brother’s keeper. My kids are just coming of the age when they can provide valuable contributions to serious conversations about our principles; it is an exciting time to be a father.


Of course, RG has more than just my own personal musings on the subject to assist you. We have outlines and drafts for family mission statements and other family governance documents that help our clients think through these concepts and ensure that you don’t have to begin from scratch.

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Families that have been successful in preserving affluence for generations communicate openly about the wealth and their plans for it. It can be initially uncomfortable to discuss finances with young adult family members; there may exist a fear that they will be disincentivized to become successful themselves if there is transparency regarding the family’s wealth. That is why this conversation should occur in concert with a discussion regarding the expectation the family has for each of its individual members to live up to the core principles of the mission statement.


By defining the family’s values in this way, the senior generation is enabled to communicate how those values are expected to manifest in each family member’s actions. It’s a powerful tool-- an opportunity for meaningful dialogue about what level of personal development and productivity is expected in each phase of life.

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"Hope and peace and love and trust, all the world is all of us."


All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon








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