ISSUE 9 | PARAGONROAD.COM
Joy & Dysfunction The Family Paradox
+ BELOW THE SURFACE OF EVERY SMILING, LOVING FAMILY IS DYSFUNCTION. THERE IS AN ART TO LOVING AND LEARNING FROM EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILYâ€”ESPECIALLY THE ONES WHO RUB YOU THE WRONG WAY.
RESILIENCY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT + HOW GAIL MCGOVERN, CEO OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS, CONTINUES HER LEGACY WHILE GIVING HOPE TO OTHERS IN TIMES OF NEED.
Combating the Negative IMPACT OF WEALTH + HOW ONE MAN TACKLES THE PROBLEM OF UNSUCCESSFUL WEALTH TRANSFER.
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Note from the Editor
Resiliency of the Human Spirit
Great Hope for the World
How Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, Continues Her Legacy While Giving Hope to Others in Times of Need
Legacy By Design (Not by Default) Q & A with Krishna Pendyala, Founder and CEO of ChoiceLadder Institute
Living the Thrivent Way
Thrivent Financial CEO, Bradford Hewitt, Argues that the Healthiest Relationships with Money are Founded Foremost on Generosity
The Family Paradox
A Dichotomy of Joy and Dysfunction
Myths About Love and Why We Get Stuck Q & A with Relationship Advisor, Alison Lessard
Combating the Negative Impact of Wealth
How One Man Tackles the Problem of Unsuccessful Wealth Transfer
Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends
How Steve Le, Founder of LeMobile Feast, Forms Lasting Relationships Through Food
WE ARE WOMAN, HEAR US TOUR
The Future of Healthcare According to Dr. Joanne Conroy, M.D., CEO of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center
Timeless Wisdom: The Interplay of Dharma and Karma Hinduism and the Flow of Life
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ISSUE 9 | 2017
Paragon Road PUBLISHER Laura Roser EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Brian C. Hailes ART DIRECTOR
Gail McGovern, CEO of American Red Cross Krishna Pendyala, Founder and CEO of ChoiceLadder Institute Bradford Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial
Marko Nedeljkovic DESIGN
Shawn Barberis, Founder of Aspida360
Matthew Roser CONTENT EDITOR
Dr. Joanne Conroy, M.D., CEO of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center and Founder of Women of Impact
Amanda Kelly Steve Le Alison Lessard J.B. Pravda Laura Roser
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What is Legacy Arts Magazine?
Legacy Arts is dedicated to the journey of developing a great legacy and passing on non-financial assets (such as beliefs, values & wisdom). It is produced by Paragon Road, the leader in meaning legacy planning. 6 LEGACY ARTS Issue 9 www.paragonroad.com
Note from the Editor
Great Hope for the World
everal weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend who said he believed our world was doomed—politically, environmentally, morally, and in almost every way possible. Although I can understand his point of view, I strongly disagree. Our world is full of kind, good, competent people who will propel us into a better future. I have the opportunity to speak with them every day. If you look at the trends, you will see some very encouraging developments from advancements in science to increases in philanthropic giving.
principles, vision) along with their money. Relationship advisor, Alison Lessard assists people in coming to terms with their destructive patterns and building authentic connections. And Krishna Pendyala, CEO of ChoiceLadder Institute, offers insight into how our small choices make up our minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years. His simple, yet effective, models for making decisions help his clients avoid regret and create a legacy they will be proud of.
My feature article, The Family Paradox, is about how to gain wisdom and cultivate a family legacy of In this issue of Legacy Arts, we feature some of these love, loyalty and joy despite dysfunctions and the legacy-making people. Gail McGovern, the CEO of the sometimes unbearable irritation of dealing with American Red Cross, for example, told me about how everyone’s character flaws. humbled and grateful she feels to witness the courage and resiliency of survivors of disasters. Brad Hewitt, It’s been an absolute pleasure to head this magazine. the CEO of Thrivent Financial (a nonprofit credit union We have such a wonderful team. Their creativity and with more than $100 billion in assets), spends his devotion to the mission is quite remarkable. I feel so time focusing on a mission of love and generosity. fortunate to be in the legacy design industry and have Dr. Joanne Conroy, CEO of Lahey Hospital & Medical the opportunity to speak with so many kind-hearted Center and Founder of Women of Impact, aims to individuals that are doing tremendous good in the transform the health care industry by empowering world. And whenever I find my mind veering off in patients. a negative direction—national debt, entitlement, declining morals, etc.—I remind myself of the words We also feature individuals who are following their of Margaret Meade, “Never believe that a few caring path, charting their own legacy, and helping people people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all as they go along. Steve Le wrote a brilliant article who ever have.” about his experience traveling around the country and holding dinner parties in people’s homes— All the best, many of them started out as strangers. The love and warmth he has felt has been overwhelming. Shawn Laura A. Roser Barberis has created a software to help HNWIs with Editor-in-Chief of Legacy Arts transferring their most-important assets (their values, and CEO of Paragon Road
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RESILIENCY OF the Human Spirit How Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, Continues Her Legacy While Giving Hope to Others in Times of Need
by Laura A. Roser
ven after eight years, I still haven’t quite gotten used to looking in the eyes of someone who has completely lost everything,” says Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross, “it breaks your heart every single time.” The American Red Cross delivers about 40% of the nation’s blood supply. They respond to nearly 66,000 disasters every year. In Washington DC alone, they respond to over 500 disasters per year– most of which are house fires. “We give people a blanket, comfort, hope, a hug, place to sleep, clothing, shelter. It’s really quite remarkable,” states McGovern.
Gail talks about meeting with victims of various disasters. “They always say, ‘I’m going to figure out how to build back up.’ The courage and resiliency mixed with the heartache of losing everything is really unusual. And, on some level, it restores your faith in our country.”
Giving back has been a part of Gail’s family for generations. She remembers how loving her grandparents were and how her mother and father created an environment of giving. When her father retired from his medical practice, he threw himself into charity work. He received his license in mediation and started placing children in the foster care system, earning him the New Jersey Volunteer of the Year Certainly the Red Cross is well known in the US and Award. It was that example that inspired her. around the world for its humanitarian efforts, but what I wanted to know more about is Gail McGovern, As a girl and young woman, Gail says she spent much a woman who left corporate America to become the of her time as a volunteer. Then her career took off head of this amazing organization. After just a few and her daughter was born and she just didn’t have minutes of speaking with McGovern, you can feel the time to contribute as she would have liked. She still her heart. She loves the people she serves and is kept up some involvement by serving on the board of often right in the middle of responding to disasters, nonprofits for causes she cared about and organizing comforting people and giving hope along with her fundraisers for the United Way and other nonprofits. staff and volunteers. Still, much of her effort was focused on being the
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Gail J. McGovern joined the American Red Cross as president and CEO in 2008, and has taken a strong leadership role at the nation’s leading emergency response and blood services organization. Under her direction, the Red Cross has become more effective in fulfilling its mission and is better prepared to face current and future challenges. Her transformational initiatives have led to improved financial stability and have expanded the reach of lifesaving Red Cross services. McGovern has initiated extensive modernization projects at the Red Cross. Among them are an overhaul of Red Cross IT systems and the growth of the organization’s leadership in social media and mobile technologies – including the introduction of a series of free apps that put lifesaving skills at people’s fingertips during emergencies. McGovern was recognized by Fortune magazine in 2000 and 2001 as one of the top 50 most powerful women in corporate America.
President of Fidelity Personal Investments and before thing she listed was her phenomenal team. “They that Vice President of AT&T Consumer Markets have no agenda,” she says, “they just want to do Division. right to the people we serve.” They are smart, kind and mission-driven – unlike anything she’s ever When the Red Cross contacted her about a position experienced (and she’s worked in extremely highas CEO, she was a faculty member at Harvard Business performing teams). School. “Everything clicked in my brain,” she says. “It was an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of She loves the service they perform, such as installing others in a way that I had not experienced up until that smoke detectors in vulnerable communities. They’ve point.” She accepted the position immediately. already had reports of 131 lives saved. “It’s not that many people who can wake up in the morning and say, ‘Wow, the work I’m doing is saving lives.’” A Legacy in the Making When I asked Gail what she enjoyed about her job, she told me, “the list is pretty long.” The first
She is always so grateful to the donors who give blood. “These are people who open up their veins for a stranger. When you think about that, it’s really profound.” She’ll speak with the donors and ask them why they donate and some have unbelievable stories of loved ones who were saved or a child who is going through a tough time medically, but “most people will tell you, it’s the right thing to do.” “Out of all the jobs I’ve ever had – after 28 years in business and 6 years in the classroom – this is, without a doubt the best job I’ve ever had in my entire life.”n
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Legacy By Design
(NOT BY DEFAULT)
Q & A with Krishna Pendyala, Founder and CEO of ChoiceLadder Institute
ver the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of Additionally, having watched the lives of over onespeaking with Krishna Pendyala a couple of times. hundred ultra high net-worth families for almost a What I noticed about Krishna almost immediately decade and realizing that only a handful of them was his passion and depth of knowledge. He spent were fulfilled and flourishing, made me want to dig more than two decades coaching and consulting with deeper and get to the root cause of the high net worth families and has worked with issue. True success, I soon realized teams at Boeing, Carnegie Mellon, can only be measured in terms of Pittsburgh Steelers, UNESCO and UBS. Through his company, ChoiceLadder Institute, Krishna is now on another mission: to teach people how to illuminate their blind spots and put the power to choose back in their own hands. His values-based choice framework enables people to make confident decisions from whom to marry to how to distribute their assets to their heirs and all the tiny choices in between that lead us down the path of success or failure. This interview is about how to design a legacy one choice at a time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. - Laura Roser
L: How did you get into the kind of work you do?
K: Having made a bunch of mistakes in my life, I was motivated to share them as widely as possible in the hope that people could avoid the suffering that came as a result of my choices. Getting a fifth lease on life is unusual, unless you are a cat. I have been blessed with this major gift, so I take this opportunity very seriously and feel that it is my moral obligation and duty to share from my personal experiences so that others could benefit from them. From this source comes a level of genuine empathy and compassion for others and their lives.
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Too many driven people realize too late in life that they traded their values for peak performance. —Krishna Pendyala
your quality of life, not merely in terms of your standard long it does not jeopardize your tomorrow.” At the end of of living. each day, please take the time to reflect and ask yourself the following two questions: Coming up with simple, friendly, memorable and easy to adopt approaches became the driving force behind 1) What did I learn from my work and even the title of my book ‘Beyond the PIG my experiences today? and the APE: Realizing Success and true Happiness’ will 2) What can I do tomorrow that would demonstrate that. help me and others tomorrow?
L: What do you believe is the best method to build one’s character and create a legacy of excellence?
Since life is a series of todays and tomorrows, this philosophy helps in generating insights that will help you and those around you flourish.
K: In cultures that believe winning is everything, it is imperative that we establish the discipline of making choices that enable us to perform at high levels without compromising our values. One’s character gets tested when the going gets tough, especially when anxiety and stress in our lives is on the rise. The best way to build one’s character is to work on establishing written values and making choices in accordance with those values. One easy exercise to undertake is to write your biography as though you are going to get introduced as the guest of honor at an event. Having done that, you can flip the paper over and write your own eulogy that would be read at your funeral. I find this exercise to be the quickest and most reliable way to uncover your values.
L: In our last issue, we addressed the concern of replicating undesirable family patterns. How does someone proactively change their family’s legacy or break away from harmful patterns that may be difficult to recognize or ingrained so deeply that they may not see how they are self-sabotaging?
K: As human beings, we tend to take short cuts to simplify our lives. The majority of the decisions that we make take only a few minutes or even a few seconds and are likely to be dominated by automatic, heuristic thinking. Such patterns of behavior are prone to unconscious biases. Overcoming these biases is the key to sound judgment and making healthy choices. Learning the basics of these biases starts with increasing your awareness about the ABCDs of judgment. These hidden influences can be organized into the categories In fact, the visual mark for my of Assumptions, Beliefs, Conditioning, and Drives. ChoiceLadder Institute was designed to communicate a values-based approach Taking the time to reflect on your usual pattern of to choice-making. The green check mark reactions to situations using the ABCDs of Judgment represents those choices that you make will illuminate the many blind spots and putting the that are aligned with your defined values power to choose back in your hands. and the orange inverted check mark creates an ‘X’ and represents those choices that are Learn the ABCDs of Judgment out of alignment with your values. Together, they also create an ‘alpha’ which is a state of mind where you can choose to be consciously effective or simply operate In the AlphaZone.
Once you have outlined your values, I suggest that you Live Two Days at a Time—a philosophy which states, “Do whatever you want today as
It is commonly accepted that our lives are a product of our choices. Consider the famous Will Rogers quote: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” In today’s world –where we are hyper-competitive, over-worked, and super busy– can we afford to rely solely on this old school of experience-based learning? If life is a product of your choices, shouldn’t you be investing time and effort to learn the basics of how to make those choices to the best of your ability? Most people incorrectly believe or simply accept that judgment skills are not teachable, and that INSIGHT only experience will improve your judgment.
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Exercising good judgment is the foundation for a successful and fulfilled life. Gaining insights about our unconscious biases, our social conditioning and our hidden drives can greatly enhance our Judgment Quotient™ and guide us to make better choices and improve our overall quality of life.
L: Why do you say that small choices are just as important as the big ones?
K: People seem to pay more attention when it comes to decision-making about the big, highly salient decisions. What they don’t realize is that it’s really their day-to-day small choices that cause the problem. Sure, pick the right person to marry. But marital happiness depends on daily choices. Sure, pick a good place to live. But again, it’s the daily tactical decisions that they make while living there that determine whether they are happy or not. Sure, pick a good career. But again, it’s the daily choices that they make that determine whether they are happy with their current job situation. Within all of these contexts, they can make the one big decision that gets them moving down a path. But the devil is in the daily choices once they start that journey.
the daily choices that play an integral part in our overall success in life. We need to focus more on the day-to-day small choices and be keenly observant to the unconscious patterns of actions and behavior that tend to hijack our lives.
L: How do we make changes once we are in the habit of making poor choices? Especially, if we’re trying to encourage change in our own families.
K: It’s always about keeping your focus on the bigger picture. So, for example, if you want to understand the impact of alcohol on the heart, you can take twenty people and put some monitors on their hearts and give them alcohol and see what happens. But it would be incomplete if you didn’t acknowledge the role of the liver in this process because those twenty people may have twenty different liver functions and the correlation between alcohol and the heart may be affected by what the liver does.
Many times when we make statements, we don’t consider the role of other players. When you want to change behavior, there are three elements you need to focus on: 1) the request for action, 2) their behavior, and small 3) the reward or consequence. What I’ve found is that in choices! most behavioral change situations, we don’t use all three elements. We only request the action and then when they While we pay more attention and often are consumed don’t do it, we repeat the request for action at a higher by major, consequential decisions, we should not overlook volume. How well do you think this works? Not very well.
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Here’s an example of what this should look like: Let’s say you work for a company and your boss requests that you do an extra report for the firm. When you jump on it and get it done in time, she says, “Since you hate doing the books, how about we get someone to do the books for you next month.” That’s also a reward. It’s a gift to take away something you don’t like. Rewards are critical to behavior change. Then comes punishment and penalty, which, unfortunately is what most people try to use. So, punishment is giving them what they don’t like and penalty is taking away something they like, which is the worst. That’s why fines don’t work very well. If fines were working well, we wouldn’t have speeding issues. Many parents employ these tactics. They say, “If you don’t do something, I’m taking the money away.” This is not effective at all. That usually builds resentment. On the other hand, if they say, “I really want you to enjoy this money forever. So, let’s get together and we can figure out what would make me feel comfortable to give this to you. I want to make sure that you can take care of it and even give it to your kids. Are you willing to sit with me and go through a couple ideas?” And as you do that, if you keep rewarding them with positive consequences, it becomes a virtuous cycle rather than a vicious cycle. A virtuous cycle is one that builds on the actions you take and a vicious cycle are the choices that dig your hole deeper. Everybody has a choice, at any moment, to either move the cycle upward or downward.
Krishna Pendyala is the founder and chief empowerment officer at the ChoiceLadder Institute, a social enterprise with a ‘pay it forward’ mission to enhance the skills of human judgment and choice-making. He is also the president of the Mindful Nation Foundation, a brainchild of Congressman Tim Ryan, whose vision is to help people overcome stress and lead more fulfilling lives. His has been featured on TEDx, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Huffington Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Inc. magazine among others. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed book Beyond the PIG and the APE: Realizing Success and true Happiness. www.choiceladder.com
awareness of the bigger picture, and taking into account all the variables they are dealing with. Too often human beings want to make a simple A to B relationship – you do more of A, you get more of B. But life is not just A’s and B’s. There are so many more letters in the alphabet, so Most people don’t realize the power they wield at any to speak. Understanding the relationships between the moment which comes from stepping back, increasing the various elements is key. n
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LIVING THE Thrivent Way:
Thrivent Financial CEO, Bradford Hewitt, argues that the healthiest relationships with money are founded foremost on generosity. by Amanda Kelly
rad Hewitt never intended to serve as CEO of Thrivent Financial, a Fortune 500 organization with more than $100 billion in assets. “I would describe how it all came together for me at Thrivent as much more serendipitous,” he says. “There’s this old line about how man makes plans and God laughs. Well, I made plans about my future and God laughed. Ending up where I did was never my plan but it has been a blast.”
More is Not Always Better As a membership organization, Thrivent’s members are also its cooperative owners. The common thread for the organization encompasses faith, serving communities and making wise financial choices. “People live under the assumption that if they have more they will be happier and oftentimes it doesn’t work this way,” says Hewitt.
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Bradford L. Hewitt serves as chief executive officer of Thrivent Financial, the country’s largest fraternal benefit society. A Fortune 500 organization, Thrivent is leading a nationwide movement of Christians and their communities to be wise with money and live generously. Hewitt and his wife, Sue, live in St. Paul, Minnesota, and have two adult children.
Live by Example Naturally, Hewitt and his wife hoped to instill the same spirit of generosity in their own children and frequently took their son and daughter on volunteer trips and encouraged them to be active “For us more is not always the best thing. in the community. “Our children ended up making Our mission is not simply to make a choices in life that are in line with giving back and bunch money but to help people.” demonstrating the values that we tried to instill in them,” he says. “You have to lead by example. You Its mission certainly positions the organization cannot lead by telling everybody else what to do.” as an outlier in an industry where amassing greater sums of money is often more advantageous. Following his own advice, Hewitt currently “One of the values we hope to pass on is the value serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity of doing things together, of generosity, of being International, for the International Cooperative content and of being joyful—which are none of the and Mutual Insurance Federation, and the characteristics that a traditional financial services Managers of the Ron Blue Institute. He also organization lifts up.” volunteers with a cross-sector group that seeks to improve the quality of life for residents of the Hewitt acquiesces that his organization might Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area. not be for everyone but then adds hopefully, “At least not yet.” He believes that doing greater good Hewitt says that he’s less concerned with for one’s community is something that is easy to personal legacy as with a sense that his talents pass on in terms of legacy and Thrivent has found and gifts will be “completely used-up and fulfilled” in its members that generosity actually cultivates a in the end. He also considers the sort of world better relationship to money overall. he’d like to leave behind in which everyone has a healthier relationship to money. “What we’ve found is that living generously, interestingly enough, is one of the best ways to “It may or may not happen, but it would be have a healthy relationship with money,” he says. great to witness. Our country would be a much “These are the positive values we want to leave better place if everyone learned how to live more behind and pass on to our children.” generously.” n
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EXPLORING GOALS LEAVING YOUR LEGACY Your legacy isn’t measured by wealth alone. We’ll help you create a strategy that reflect your values and supports what’s important to you.
The Family Paradox: A Dichotomy of Joy and Dysfunction by Laura A. Roser
f you spend any time with a two-year-old, you will see the physical manifestation of what most of us feel under the surface when spending time with family. Things are going great, we’re having a fun time, life is joyful and exciting, and then something happens and it triggers a tantrum. In a split second, we find ourselves screaming (either internally or externally), “I hate you!” Thomas Moore writes in his book, Care of the Soul: “In a family you live close to the people that otherwise you might not even want to talk to. Over time you get to know them intimately. You learn their most minuscule, most private habits and characteristics. Family life is full of major and minor crises—the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce—and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul.” Below the surface of every smiling, loving family is dysfunction. The truth is, even if you love your mother intensely, she can still annoy you. Your daughter, the straight-A student, can still end up in jail because of a mistake. Thanksgiving dinner can result in a near knife fight and an overdose of Zoloft. And you and your brother can refuse to speak with each other for years. There is an art to loving each member of your family—especially the ones who rub you the wrong way. Through speaking with various people in all kinds of situations ranging from ultra high net worth individuals to a 20-something woman living on the streets of Venice Beach because of a falling out with her father, I’ve
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come to the conclusion that this “family thing” is hard for nearly everyone. There’s unfulfilled expectations, learning curves, communication barriers, patterns of avoidance, and more. But, wow, is it worth the effort. The ability to cultivate a family of loyalty and love (despite its imperfections) is one of the greatest accomplishments we can achieve in this life. Learning to simultaneously love our family while accepting its imperfections is not only good for a harmonious Thanksgiving, but our own personal development. When we reject our families, it can affect our concept of ourselves. We came from them. We are connected to them. They make up a part of our being, our thought processes, and our foundation. To reject them is rejecting a part of ourselves and that is why family problems often go so deep. In order to develop a family legacy that isn’t wrought with pain, we must resist the temptation of “psychologizing” our family issues. Often people are not able to get over the pain of their stories. You hear it all the time. “My mother was cold and distant, so now I am prone to...” Whatever. There certainly is a time and place for that kind of analysis and I’m no psychologist. So, this isn’t meant to be a criticism of going to therapy. I definitely have my own bouts with analyzing my psyche and how my family affected me and there are incredibly serious issues of abuse, addiction and mental illness that require intense personal work. But, in our culture, this kind of analysis has become commonplace. It takes constraint to be able to tell stories based on facts without jumping into analysis mode.
A New Way of Seeing “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller
When thinking about family stories, especially ones filled with pain, mistakes or errors, it helps to have a stance of compassion. Certainly, I have hurt others, made mistakes, and done things I’m not proud of. So has my mother, my father, my siblings, my friends, and every other person on this planet. It’s a part of the human experience and if we can begin to see our family stories with this broader view, we can start to be more accepting and see ourselves as a part of something greater and bigger. If you study mythology, religion, tribal customs, or anthropology, what you will begin to notice is that stories take on a mythical or magical quality over time. If we can start to see grandparents or aunts or uncles as characters in a hero’s journey or an epic tale, we can begin to form stories about our heritage that can be told over and over and will become a part of our identity, while allowing us to capture the high-level wisdom of the experience. In other words, the next time you tell a family story, think of it less like a hard psychological analysis and more like a fable. You may still bring in some interpretations or your own meaning, but just as a fable has a more simplistic message, you’ll find that when you focus on the high level wisdom of the experience and look at it as a part
of a human archetypal journey, your perceptions often change and it’s easier to accept the light and dark sides of various family personalities. The truth is your feelings are not unique. It is a human experience to feel ashamed, alienated, betrayed, and regretful (as well as joyful, loving, and compassionate). This is why wisdom can often sound so cliché. You may roll your eyes when someone tells you to “stop and smell the roses” or to “forgive and forget”. Boiled-down advice doesn’t have much significance unless it’s paired with the right experience. It’s one thing to tell someone they just need to have a little faith. It’s a completely different thing to develop faith through experience. When you’re living through the pain, struggle, triumph and experience learning the lesson on your own, it changes you. The right story told in the right way can change you too. It’s the way we think and process things that make stories so valuable. Telling someone to have integrity is far different than telling her about a time her father exercised integrity. Stories get imprinted on the soul. The late mythology scholar, Joseph Campbell has his outline for the Hero’s Journey which has become popular among script writers and spiritual gurus alike. In a nutshell, a person has some sort of dilemma or situation that causes her to struggle, make a leap of faith, introspect and learn great things and she is forever changed because of it. That wisdom gained then becomes a way for the character to change the world for the better.
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You can be formal in the way you think about your family stories and actually follow an outline like the Hero’s Journey or you can be intuitive about it. And, there are different formulas for different experience types. The Hero’s Journey ends happily with the struggle overcome and wisdom obtained. That may not be the exact format of some of your family stories. Sometimes fables are meant to be warnings and sometimes they end tragically. When you think of family stories, what is the theme or the greater wisdom that comes to the surface? Let’s look at a couple of examples: Example 1: Let’s say your father was an alcoholic, left your mother when you were young and died alone and miserable of kidney failure. This is a tough one. Should you even canonize it? Do you want your kids to remember this man? That is up to you, but I think the answer is yes. When you suppress something or hide it because you’re ashamed or angry, it can often fester and get worse. If every time your kids ask about your father, you tell them that he was a selfish, irresponsible jerk, it could actually perpetuate some of his behavior or cause them to become worried or concerned about you repeating his patterns or they may lack compassion towards you when you mess up.
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Maybe the story goes something like this (from the perspective of what you’d tell your children): Your grandfather met your grandmother on a beautiful spring day almost sixty years ago! She loved his blue eyes and he gave her a blue teddy bear. They were married quickly and then I came along. Your grandmother said I used to scream like a banshee as a baby. Your grandfather was working hard and trying to cover the rent, but he had a big problem. He never felt good enough about himself, which was silly because your grandmother said he was as smart as a whip and had a million friends. Sometimes when you feel bad enough about yourself, you do some pretty crazy things. That’s why he started drinking. He was scared and didn’t know how to handle all these new responsibilities. He left us when I was five and your grandmother stepped up. She worked two jobs and got up every morning to make me lunch to take to school. I’m so proud of how she took care of me and my brother. Sometimes I’m angry at my father. I still feel bad about him leaving, but I know he wasn’t happy his entire life and died sad and alone because he never faced his fears. Sometimes in life, things happen that scare you, but when you face the pain and push through it, you end up with a happy life and people who love you – like your grandmother. When you don’t, you end up
with regrets like your grandfather. It’s easy for anyone Grandpa asked Grandma to to get scared and make mistakes, but you’re strong marry him. She said yes, even enough to get through anything. though he still refused to cut his hair. Example 2: Your grandfather was a gruff, controlling guy, but lived through some tough times Year after year he grew and managed to create an incredible company that that company and turned Laura A. Roser is the still employs hundreds of people to this day. it into one of the largest founder and CEO of landscaping businesses in Paragon Road, the #1 Your story could be something like this: California. And he never cut his hair. Even in her nineties, authority in meaning My grandfather started life on his own my grandma would still tease legacy planning. For with only two-hundred dollars in his pocket him about that long hair. He’d more information about and a dream to make it big. It’s true. His frown and say, “I like it just meaning legacy planning father kicked him out when he was only the way it is.” services, visit seventeen. That was the last time he spoke with his father. Both of these stories www.paragonroad.com. encapsulate struggle, pain, He told me he remembered being so afraid that love and triumph. They focus on the bigger picture he would scream in his pillow every morning, “I am and treat the main characters with compassion unstoppable!” to chase the fear away. Soon, he without blowing negative feelings out of proportion found a job mowing lawns. He worked from sunup or sugarcoating them. It’s stories like these that to sundown and barely scraped up enough money to help your family learn wisdom and resilience. buy his own lawn mower, but he didn’t have a car... It conveys that they come from a foundation So, he’d wheel around the mower to anyone who was of strength and that it’s also okay if they have close to his place and ask them if he could mow struggles, make mistakes, and so on. They will still their lawn. Pretty soon he had a handful of clients. be loved. They will He saved every penny and came up with enough make it through, just money to buy an old, rusty truck. This allowed like their parents, him to move faster, drive to more homes, and grandparents and mow more lawns. those who came before them. By that time, he met a beautiful girl with yellow hair. They began dating and she Although it may be insisted that he cut his long hair and hard to spin a good get a respectable white-collar job. But fable in the middle grandpa wasn’t about to let anyone tell of a heated political him what to do – even the love of his life. debate with your So, he told her he was keeping his long father, when you’ve had some time to step back hair (but he would put it in a ponytail) and see the bigger human experience filled with and that he was just fine mowing lawns. these quirky characters destiny paired you with, After another year of mowing lawns, life seems just a little more beautiful and your buying lawn mowers and hiring help, family legacy doesn’t seem nearly as bad. n
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22 LEGACY ARTS September Issue 8 www.paragonroad.com 2016 www.paragonroad.
ENDURING There are families of enduring greatness. They have achieved excellence in times past, yet continue to pursue what made them great. They have stories to tell. They embody high character, are celebrated throughout history and loved by all who know them.
Whatâ€™s your legacy?
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Myths About Love and Why We Get Stuck Q & A with Relationship Advisor, Alison Lessard
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first learned about Alison from reading an article she had written about relationships. In it, she wrote about overcoming shame, analyzing family behaviors and working on overcoming incorrect relationship models. Unlike so many other relationship experts, who focus on gut feelings, attracting the right partner through positive thinking, or analyzing the characteristics of your partner, Alison’s wisdom seemed to go deeper. It’s not about finding “the one,” so to speak. It’s about working through what is holding us in a state of pain and becoming unstuck from destructive patterns and habits. I thought her insights were so valuable, I invited her to be interviewed for the magazine.
LR: What got you started as a relationship advisor?
A: I spent about 10 years in luxury sales/hospitality
in New York City before I left the corporate world behind and started my career in the wellness industry as a holistic health coach. I noticed that although as a health coach my area of expertise was mainly nutrition and fitness, most of clients I attracted had issues in their relationships that were leading to uncomfortable physical manifestations in the body. I began to see a pattern emerging. The clients thought they were coming to me to lose weight, destress or learn to cook healthier foods, when, in fact, when we dug deeper we realized it was the unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship(s) in their lives that were the root cause of the physical symptoms. I had similar health/body issues of my own in my youth and young adulthood that led me to heal a few significant relationships in my life. Once I started to connect the dots for my clients and saw the dramatic shifts they experienced as a result of getting to the root cause, I decided to shift my focus and combine the relationship advising with my intuitive healing practice that emerged after I left health coaching to pursue other alternative/metaphysical healing modalities. Now instead of the one-on-one advising, I’m focused on developing educational resources (both digital and in-person workshops/seminars) for people to raise their awareness and shift the unhealthy relationship patterns that are no longer serving their highest good.
LR: What do you see as the biggest blocks in our ability to have healthy relationships – both romantic and with family and friends? A: The most common obstacles to healthy
relationships, in my experience, are fear – fear of abandonment/rejection, fear of failure – guilt, shame, conditions and unrealistic expectations. Most people were conditioned to believe that in order to give and
receive love, they either need to DO something or BE something different than who they already are. Almost nobody I’ve encountered thus far grew up with any relationship model even remotely close to unconditional love. The expectation that you must do something to be loved leads to obligatory or conditional love – connected based on expectations and transactions. And as you’ve probably realized from your own life experience, expectations most often lead to disappointment. People believe it’s up to someone else to make them happy or make them feel fulfilled, when really, unless we are already seeing ourselves as whole and complete and accepting that happiness is an inside job, no relationship will ever be truly satisfying. Also, when we learn to accept ourselves and others as they are (instead of who we want them to be to make us happy or comfortable), our relationships also have a much higher chance of being long-lasting and healthy.
LR: How do we get over old family patterns or past shame to create a life of fulfillment and purpose?
A: I created my e-course, Love Liberated: Break Free from Relationship Frustration, because I saw that most people experiencing obstacles in their relationships were actually caught in one of the 5 cycles of grief (typically stemming from old family wounds) and didn’t have the proper tools to move through that cycle and onto the next, finally making their way to the final “stage” – acceptance. The bulk of my course consists of written exercises that ask questions about your primary caregivers (their behaviors, personality traits, etc.), your childhood, your previous partners, etc. along with journaling prompts, tools to utilize and guided meditations to help bring up what’s been buried in the unconscious mind. We tend to attract what our Higher Self wants us to heal, however, without bringing awareness to these old patterns and actually writing them out or verbalizing them and making them real. They are often playing out subconsciously and we have no method to shift what we aren’t yet seeing clearly.
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From my experience after working with thousands of clients, a highly effective way to heal old family patterns and shame is to bring clear awareness to those behaviors (via some form or combination of talk therapy, counseling/advising, written exercises and meditation/hypnosis), release judgment about what occurred and come to a place of compassion and acceptance that everything we’ve experienced over time has led us to where we are now and has set the stage for our own personal destiny and legacy. We have choices. Life is not happening TO us; we are creating our lives as we go. There is a difference between fate and destiny in my opinion. For example, our gender, hair color, family of origin and place of birth are fated. Our destiny is what we create from that fate via free will choices. Once you are aware and no longer in an unconscious, reactive mode, you have a true opportunity to shift your destiny and to make lasting shifts, which lead to deeper purpose and fulfillment.
LR: What have you learned about yourself through helping others with your work?
Alison Lessard, Intuitive Relationship Advisor, Author and Teacher, offers digital education resources for enlightened personal development. Alison specializes in helping her clients and students to break free from relationship frustration, specifically from challenging soul mate connections. Alison has helped thousands of people shift out of painful relationship difficulties and into greater ease and awareness thru healing methods such as astrology, akashic records consulting, NLP, the tarot, reiki and various coaching methods, as well as via her YouTube channel with several free video series available to the general public. Alison is the author of, “Twin Flames: Journey to Self-Mastery Guidebook” E-Book, available for purchase on Amazon for Kindle and iBooks, as well as “Love Liberated: Break Free from Relationship Frustration E-Course”. A sought-out master communicator and advisor in the realm of the healing arts, Alison has been featured in Ocean Drive Magazine, Racked, Bustle, Total Beauty, MindBodyGreen, and on Own Your Power Radio as an expert in astrology, sexuality/ wellness and intuition. When she’s not busy writing, teaching or hashtagging about spiritual living on Instagram @alison. lessard, Alison can be found enjoying an espresso, on her yoga mat, painting or planning her next travel adventure.
A: Even though I might be a “teacher”, I am always going to be a student. Every client I work with reflects back to me one or more aspects of myself and I continue to grow every day. Through this work, I’ve learned to let go of so many control issues, much greater self-compassion, humility, how to have faith in the unknown, the value of practicing non-judgment, the ability to forgive, the beauty of surrendering and Website: www.alisonlessard.com how to truly love unconditionally, among many other Facebook Page: Alison Lessard/Lessard Luxury Wellness things. I feel I’m always peeling away another layer of illusion and I love that my clients are the mirror for me YouTube: Alison Lessard to see myself more clearly and to love myself exactly as I am right now. I think this is a valuable lesson for control all the outcomes, I focus on my ability to be all of us – to recognize our innate worthiness and present in the current moment and accept whatever deservedness to love and be loved as we are. is happening in that moment, recognizing that I have the ability to shift how I feel and that I have choices LR: Is there anything that surprised you about how I react as well. Am I able to find some as your work evolved? i.e. Did you used peace, regardless of what’s happening around me? to think one way, but changed your mind Am I able to cultivate acceptance, even if unexpected because of the results or some other or uncomfortable things are happening? Am I able to occurrence led you down a different path? remain flexible when things don’t go my way? To me, this is the essence of what I’m teaching people and A: Yes, most definitely. I used to think we needed what I’ve had to learn along the way. to be goal-oriented, as in, “Once I do x, y and z, THEN I’ll be fulfilled”, however over the last several years There’s a famous quote by the ancient Chinese working with clients, now my approach is much philosopher Lao Tzu that says, “If you are depressed, less about goals and much more about the power you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are of presence. Instead of worrying about what I’ll do living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living over the next 3-6 months or 5 years and trying to in the present.” That about sums it up for me. n
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Combating the Negative
IMPACT OF WEALTH How One Man Tackles the Problem of Unsuccessful Wealth Transfer by Laura A. Roser
he defining moment was when I was sitting with a client in our conference room,” says Shawn Barberis, Founder of Aspida360. Shawn recounts staring into his client’s eyes and seeing real sadness there, which didn’t make sense to him at all. This client had millions of dollars. He had a beautiful life, a wife who loved him, and great children. “What’s wrong?” Shawn asked and looked down at the estate planning documents his client just signed. Maybe there was an error. Had he done something wrong? The client shrugged and said, “I’m really concerned that this is just more money to mess up my kids.”
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Shawn couldn’t stop thinking about it. He had advised hundreds of clients throughout his career as an attorney and in the financial services industry. The focus had always been on preserving assets, passing along wealth, reducing taxes, and mitigating risk. But the emotional success of a family? The thought had never occurred to him. Were other clients concerned about messing up their kids with their wealth? Over the next week, Shawn called seven or eight of his top entrepreneur clients and asked them a simple
Shawn Barberis co-founded Premier
question: Are you concerned about the negative impact of your wealth on your family? They all said yes. That’s when Shawn got to work. His solution to reducing the negative impact of wealth is The A+ LIFE Family Pentagon (A+LIFE), a comprehensive planning software platform that allows clients and their advisors to track their intangible assets. “It fills what I call the hole in the middle of the professional planning doughnut,” says Shawn. “What I call More Than Money planning: core values, education, family traditions, life experiences, and philanthropy.”
Intangible Problems Lead to Tangible Failures In his book For Love and Money, Roy Williams writes, “91% of all wealth transfers fail by the time the assets reach the wealth creators’ grandchildren.” And if you look into the reasons for failure, only 2% is due to legal or technical errors. So, something else is certainly at play. Much of the problems have to do with communication issues among family members and inadequately prepared heirs.
Planning Group, an independent financial services firm with several offices up and down the East Coast. After several very good years, his entrepreneurial spirit got the best of him and he decided to move away from that partnership and start Aspida360. Shawn knew the key to acting in his clients’ best interests was delivering solutions that fit in the palm of one’s hand. He launched a mission of “Creating an army of like-minded advisors to improve our world one family at a time.” To learn more about Aspida360 and A+ LIFE, visit www.aspida360.com
best practices. He didn’t just jump into the software business based on a hunch and his own conversations with clients. He studied the experts, gathered research, conducted interviews and focus groups and came up with 22 tactics that are based on what is working with other high net worth families.
For years affluent clients and their advisors have been aware of the problem of wealth transfer. The odds are not in the family’s favor, but the question still remains what to do about it? I’ve spoken with various experts and they all have their processes from creating family mission statements to structuring asset transfer so that it holds heirs accountable to conducting regular family meetings. It’s a tough problem because there is not one solution and it’s often relative based on a family’s situation, background and a million other factors. There are, however, best practices that increase the success of a family’s wellbeing and odds of retaining wealth for generations. In my legacy consultation practice, I like to compare creating the proper environment for successful wealth transfer to planting a garden. You buy the right seeds, put them in the right soil at the right time of year, water them, weed around them and hope for success. Usually it turns out pretty well, but sometimes a freeze or ravenous insects can ruin your hard work. That’s the risk of life and the risk of wealth transfer. Still, it’s definitely worth the effort because when it does work out, the benefits are enormous. Healthy, nourished families produce children who are grateful, competent and resilient. They manage to retain and, often, grow their wealth generation after generation. They give to their communities and make the world better. I’ve spoken with Shawn a couple of times about A+ LIFE and one thing that truly impresses me is his attention to
When you login, the dashboard looks quite technical— with bar graphs and charts. It’s the kind of look you’d expect from a top-tier wealth management firm, but the content is certainly unique. The system walks you through inputting your family mission statement and stories about how you met your spouse and so on. In a world where what made the wealth—a certain mindset, talents, skills, values and wisdom—often is lost or fades away with each successive generation, the team at Aspida360 is doing its best to preserve what really counts and providing the mobile technology platform to other like-minded professional advisors. n
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Come as Strangers,
LEAVE AS FRIENDS by Steven Le, Founder of Le Mobile Feast
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I’m 25 states into a road trip across the country with the goal of cooking a dinner party in every state. I’ve reached the midpoint of the two-year journey I’m calling Le Mobile Feast. The 97 dinners have occurred in 93 cities and included more than 700 plates of food. As I sit and write in the bedroom belonging to my hosts’ son who’s away at college, in Watertown, Connecticut, I can see white flakes zigzagging to the ground, adding to the two inches that last night’s snowfall delivered. By count of states, I am halfway through, but I’m realistically looking at another 14 months or so of travel before the journey comes to an end. And from the start, this project has not been just about that simplistic goal.
by Manny Rodrigues
t’s no secret that food brings people together. The preparation and enjoyment of it forge friendships and strengthen family bonds, as each occasion like Thanksgiving reminds us. When we gather at the table and share stories, we participate in a uniquely human activity. Since the paintings on cave walls, humans have sought to pass on knowledge, wisdom, and humor through narrative. Storytelling is at the core of who we are. What we share and how we listen to each other form the foundation for not only our relationships but also our identity. In the past nine months I’ve confirmed these truths at 97 dinner parties in almost as many homes.
At the first official LMF dinner party, in Flagstaff, Arizona, one of the guests commented: “We came as strangers and left as friends.” Thus far, it’s been more than apt as a motto for Le Mobile Feast. (Although I launched from California, I will only count it as the destination state upon returning.) Whenever I share with people what goes on at any of them, it becomes clear that the dinners are about much more than the food. Of course, I always try to fill the table with as tasty a spread as I can, and I’ve spent upwards of 24 hours of cooking to do this. (That was for a sit-down dinner for 26 adults in Denver, Colorado.) Before we get into what it’s really about, however, I should explain briefly the food and cooking part.
Le Mobile Feast began on February 12, 2016, when I departed San Diego in a car packed with half of a kitchen. Namely, I brought along plate settings for 12 people and enough pots and pans to cook a dinner in a park or campground, so long as there’s a heat source. In addition to the hardware, I have several containers of spices, The Soul of a Menu oils and vinegars, various flours, and a small cooler that provides refrigeration for some of the staples that I can’t The menu for each dinner party depends largely on what rely on finding everywhere—like fish sauce, homemade the hosts want, taking into consideration any food allergies jams, and a jar of duck fat. and availability of ingredients. How much time we have to prep and the size of the kitchen and types of appliances I’ve never formally trained as a cook and had learned factor as well. I’ve baked three loaves of bread for one most of what I know by watching my mother while growing meal—one at a time—starting the dough a full day ahead. up and later chefs on TV. The first time I got to cook in On another occasion I met my host at the grocery store a professional kitchen was in Tulsa, in March, when the even before we set foot in her house. We didn’t have time patron chef of Millicent Brasserie gave me free reign of to meet beforehand and then shop, and so I was asking her his restaurant for a day. Chef Vincent became my sous about the layout of her kitchen and ingredients she already chef (at times deferring to me against his better sense), had while we were shopping for that evening’s dinner and together we prepared a six-course meal to honor 12 party for eight. I have a fairly large and diverse repertoire, people, most of them public servants in the community. and I have learned to make things for the first time on more than a handful of occasions. The keys are flexibility and Until I came knocking on the restaurant’s door the imagination, starting with what the hosts already have on evening before that dinner, Vincent and I had not met. hand and what exists in my back-seat pantry. We did speak on the phone, along with Vincent’s friend Amber, whom I also had not met but who had arranged As much as possible, I try to meet the needs and for my stay in Tulsa through the website Couchsurfing. preferences of my hosts and their guests. I also pitch the com. In fact, at this writing, some 65 percent of my menu to them as “a treat,” something that they wouldn’t hosts in the past nine months have been strangers until make for themselves. If nothing immediately comes to I arrived at their door. I have said many times that “I’m mind, I’d rattle off a few dishes that others have enjoyed. usually the only stranger at the table.” Only a small One popular meal thus far I call “South Vietnam meets number of hosts have come from the travelers’ website; South United States.” It’s country style pork ribs braised many more have been friends or family referred by with hard-boiled eggs in a rich broth for several hours. I previous hosts. would bring the Dutch oven to the table and let diners
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Most things I cook come with a story, and that main dish’s takes roots in how two groups of peasants have transformed a few simple ingredients into decadent flavors. More important than the stories that accompany the food are those that each person brings to the table. In fact, many people have reacted to my descriptions of an LMF dinner by reflecting, “It’s not about the food, is it?” “You’re right,” I’d respond. “It’s about the stories. The food just helps keep everyone sitting at the table for several hours to share those stories.”
When Stories and Food Combine Somewhere around Louisiana I adopted a practice that facilitates the story sharing that has since occurred at almost every dinner table. I credit two friends from San Diego, Jean and Joe, who first introduced the simple ice breaker at a New Year’s dinner that they hosted and I cooked for. They had asked each of us to share how we knew anyone else at the table in our self-introductions. For the purpose of the LMF dinner parties, I have rephrased the question and added two rules to the discussion. I ask everyone to respond to: “What brought you to the table—where you came from, what are you interested in, and what relationships do you have with those at the table?” The first rule is that we would go in a circle, and each person could take as long as she’d like. The second rule: we may interrupt the storyteller only to ask clarifying questions. It’s this second rule that has enabled the many of us to be delighted and deeply touched by other people’s stories. “It’s Story Corps with food and wine,” wrote one dinner guest from Alexandria, Virginia in a book that I invite people to write in; I call it the Host Book. She was referring to the program on NPR that places (usually) two people in a recording booth and prompts a conversation between them. In the conversation, one person asks questions, and the other shares uninterrupted. I found the comparison an apt one, and it’s the kind of listening I ask us to do at the LMF tables that makes it a powerful experience for us all. In most cases, I would ease everyone’s potential worries by explaining that my intention is to celebrate people and their stories, and not to expose anyone or criticize. My number one rule, I’d say, is “Don’t be a dick.” As such, I do not take notes at the table about who says what. I have written down a turn of phrase or specific regional sayings—such as when my host in Beebe, Arkansas promised that a local BBQ restaurant was so good that “You’ll want to trim your
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fingernails so that you wouldn’t chew on them.” But in general I treat the dinner conversation as a sacred space. Of course, some stories stay with you no matter if you write them down or not. In New York City, for example, we ate our meal at a large cherry wood table that belonged to the host’s grandparents in the apartment passed down from the same woman through the generations. In sharing the story about the place and table, my host revealed that both grandparents had separately escaped Nazi Germany to come here. Her grandfather had evaded capture through a kind of Underground Railroad whose contact was known as “the woman in the red dress,” and her grandmother was somewhat a New York City icon who had collected some 300 Ancient Chinese tomb sculptures. She eventually sold 47 of them to the Walt Disney Company, which has placed them on permanent display at the Epcot Center near Orlando, Florida. In New Hope, Pennsylvania the other guests and I listened to a gay man who grew up when it was illegal and taboo to have relationships natural to him. To cope, he wrote poetry. He was an electrician by profession, but he was also Jack who knew many other trades. Schooling never did much for him, but the existential hardships he endured when many of us were just discovering school crushes taught him how to pour himself into verse. It had been more than ten years since he had met his current partner, and he had not written a line of poetry since. But when I asked if he remembered any of them, the lines flowed out of him as if he had composed them that morning. They were full of angst and pulled their soul from dark places, and they sounded at great odds with the gregarious man now sitting at the table. by Roque Balina
spoon the tender meat and broth directly onto creamy grits—real grits, mind you, that takes at least an hour to cook. I also would suggest that people cut the egg lengthwise to see the coloration that occurred as it cooked in the dark caramel broth.
I’m usually the only true stranger at the table, so I know that the stories that guests share benefit the others, the people they know well. As the stranger, I embrace what I call the Transient’s Privilege. I get to ask deeply personal questions without making the other person feel judged. It can be a loaded moment. On the one hand, the person can feel safe knowing that I will not be around to judge her the following day. On the other, her responses typically have a greater impact on the others there who know her better—they, not I, are the intended audience. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina I watched as someone confessed to her friends that she had grown up in poverty. As an upwardly mobile 30-something and mother living in an upper-middle class housing development, she never imagined that anyone among her group of fairly new friends would have a similar background. Self-conscious about that past, she did not mention it during her story. Several people later, when someone made a point of revealing his childhood in poverty, she asked if she could amend her story. She began to cry and told her friends how reassuring it was to know that others at the table and in her social circle shared a childhood in abject poverty. Moments of epiphany, about oneself and others, can come among a group of new friends as well as between people who’ve known each other for decades. One of my personal favorite moments occurred in Alexandria, Virginia, when for the first time on this trip I sat with a handful of people I have known since college. Although half of the table had graduated from the United States Naval Academy the same year, due to the nature of our post-college employment we lost touch with one another until recently. I reunited with some classmates that night for the first time since we left the Academy 18 years earlier. We did attend the most recent reunion, we learned, but did not socialize there. Anyone who graduates from a service academy while in a serious relationship with a civilian must face the inevitable “What do we do now?” One of the guests at the dinner went on to marry his then-girlfriend, who had graduated from another university at the same time. When it was her turn, she talked about the decision to let go of her potential career and follow his.
Steven Le is a writer who cooks or a cook who writes, depending on who is asking. He is an adventurer who has enjoyed careers in the U.S. Navy, teaching, nonprofit administration, and manufacturing. At the moment, he is traveling the United States with Le Mobile Feast in search of stories to include in a forthcoming book.
pursue further. Other people had questions, and then we moved along the circle of sharing. After the dinner, my college classmate told me that he had never heard his wife say that. It was worth any price of admission, he said, to attend a dinner and hear that from her. Through the course of the almost 100 dinners and many hundreds of stories therein, I’ve learned that these kinds of epiphanies and magical moments can occur among new friends and old spouses. My theory is that they occur because the rules I set ask us to practice something called generous listening. I’m borrowing the term from the professional interviewer Krista Tippett, who hosts a show on NPR. The second rule of an LMF dinner party—interrupt only to ask questions—ensures that we all listen generously to one another. The difference between an interview and a discussion, of course, is that the latter is more fluid and can involve many interests, some of them conflicting. But the truth stays constant: generous listening requires patience and the ability of us to be surprised by what we hear. To be surprised, we must suspend our judgment and withhold our arguments, even when we think they must be made. (In this past election year, one could readily find arguments if that’s what one was after. I’ve written a story about the importance of generous listening particularly in these times of political division.) The surprise comes when we disagree in principle with what is said, but we stay open and continue to hear the reasoning, and eventually we get to learn the other person’s motivations and values that determine their stance.
From our parents and education, we have learned the valuable skills in conversation as these: form our own beliefs, listen patiently to others, and voice our opinions to persuade. They are useful skills, to be sure. In my experience with Le Mobile Feast, however, I’ve realized that generous listening—while it demands She didn’t pause long before answering. “The only greater patience and empathy—yields so much more thing I knew for sure about him,” she said, “was that compassion and understanding. And it also brings forth he was a decent man. And that he will always be that.” truly wonderful, honest, and revealing stories from I thought that it was a touching response but didn’t those we love. n I practiced my Transient’s Privilege and posed the question: “You were 23 when you got married, after having put aside your own ambitions to follow where his career would move you. What did you know about him that made you think it was the right decision?”
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WE ARE WOMAN, HEAR US TOUR
The Future of Healthcare According to Dr. Joanne Conroy, M.D., CEO of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center by JBPravda
araphrasing notwithstanding, one cannot help but recall that “I Am Woman” paean to gender selfawareness by the great Helen Reddy. Certainly that is likely the reaction of most women—and men—on witnessing the public speaking vitality of Dr. Joanne Conroy, M.D., CEO of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, MA. A veteran of both medical policy and practice from South Carolina, Washington, D.C. and almost all other significant points of the healthcare compass, she has found time to found and expand Women of Impact (www.WomenOfImpact.net), an advocacy consortium with one shared goal: to realign the health care system to meet the needs of all Americans, recognizing that the people who need care come from all walks of life. Bringing her deep and wide background together with outstanding women from all disciplines—including a three-star Admiral—she and they put forth with great clarity an agenda they have taken on tour nationwide and once a year at their own expense in the fulcrum of their continuing efforts, Washington. Women of Impact focuses on these basic guidelines: l Health care costs too much, and Americans aren’t getting what they pay for. l People must have the ability to take charge of their wellness and health care and to exercise the power of choice. l Health, not sickness, should be the focus of care. l Innovation is vital. Health care should be available to everyone when they need it.
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When we spoke with her recently, Dr. Conroy was preparing to give a talk via the prestigious and innovative TED Talks program, the international incubator for technology, engineering & design aimed at the impact of these realms of endeavor on all aspects of enhancing the quality of life on our planet. One dominant message from Women of Impact’s vision statement came across with eloquence: ‘people must have the ability to take charge of their wellness and health care and to exercise the power of choice.’ In relating just how Dr. Conroy had come to lead the formation of Women of Impact she made clear that it grew out of a longing to leverage her prior training and experience into a more purposeful direction. It’s the legacy she wanted to leave behind for her community
and her family. At a Chicago healthcare conference she experienced a kind of mountain-climbers clarity of vista—that when one comes to know that legacy and its guiding direction, complementary situations present themselves. The heroic climber William H. Murray’s inspirational words came to mind: ‘Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred....’ And just as the accomplished mountaineer must have help, she sought to integrate this legacy’s directional guidance into an already busy public speaking tour. Soon she’d garnered a sizable grant from the RW Johnson Foundation. She and her group of dedicated women meet regularly to review their personal legacies as well as the overall goal of achieving healthcare improvement nationwide. These meetings are so impactful that many report significant unintended breakthroughs from improved marriages to weight loss. After a year of such transformational work, Dr. Conroy returned to the provider arena as both anesthesiologist and policy advocate. But, in keeping with her legacy heritage the focus of Women of Impact had much to do with the cultivation of future female leadership in the healthcare space. In outlining the personal impact on her as a spouse and a woman, she put forward four tenets of great consequence she’d experienced: 1) Greater accountability for her actions; 2) Authentic interactions with her spouse, she being the bread winner; 3) Renewed ‘oiling’ of integrity—the almost literal hinge of her everyday life (a heavy stainless steel reminder sitting upon her table, engraved with that message); 4) Greater appreciation that her purpose must be larger than herself.
In June 2014, Dr. Conroy joined Lahey Hospital & Medical Center as chief executive officer. Her primary responsibilities include enhancing Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s operational infrastructure through clinical quality, service, financial and information systems, and facilities to support the overall objectives of Lahey Health. She will develop and drive an effective clinical integration strategy consistent with Lahey Health’s vision, expanding educational and research programs, and strengthening a culture of philanthropy.
Speaking of larger purpose, Dr. Conroy has a proud history of philanthropy, be it aimed at donation of significant salary percentages to a home for the elderly’s grant-finding sustainability in rural Maine or low interest lending to her many nieces and nephews in pursuit of graduate education. Finally, her advice to younger women in similar professional decision-making has much to do with work/ life balance and child-bearing’s impact upon it—it will likely change their legacy’s direction, and should always be humanely data-driven. Which brings us to the extant trend in any analytical realm today: big data, so-called. The humaninzing take Dr. Conroy brings to this otherwise rather sterile statistical tool in other realms of life is the benefit it may bring to making health and its care a truly more mutual proposition as to both cure and, most importantly, prevention of disease, literally. Her well-documented mantra is both clear and clarion call: timely information is everything in any sustainable affordable system of health (vs. disease) care. Patient empowerment—especially before becoming clinically-treated--is paramount in her ‘Cliff’s Notes’ shared with us for her TED Talk; shared knowledge, timely had, makes for practicable maximization of care decisions (given that those decisions are at least 1/3 driven by data). Dr. Conroy’s present and future legacy promises to make this more maternal aspect of shared informed decisions go a long way in providing the physical and intangible legacies of countless patients a brighter future—now that’s a legacy of legacies. n
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Timeless Wisdom: The Interplay of Dharma and Karma
Hinduism and the Flow of Life by Laura A. Roser
n his version of the Bhagavad Gita, Eknath Easwaran writes, “The word �harma means many things, but its underlying sense is ‘that which supports,’ from the root dhri, to support, hold up, or bear. Generally, dharma implies support from within: the essence of a thing, its virtue, that which makes it what it is.” There is an old story about a sage sitting beside the Ganges river. He looks into the river and notices a scorpion has fallen into the water. He reaches down and rescues the scorpion and the scorpion immediately stings him. Later on, he sees the scorpion stuck in the water again and reaches down and rescues the scorpion with the same results – another stinging. A stranger asks him, “Holy one, why do you keep doing that? Don’t you see that vicious insect will keep stinging you in return?” “Of course,” the sage replies. “It is the dharma of a scorpion to sting. But it is the dharma of a human to save.”
Dealing with Our Own Scorpions Once I spoke with a businessman who told me that he had been betrayed badly when he was younger. His partner had taken a great deal of money and left him with many debts. He said this caused him to become bitter and untrusting of everyone. He would watch his employees like a hawk and be suspicious of the plumber or sprinkler repair person – they could all take advantage of him. He’d constantly beat himself up for how naive and trusting he had been and how that weakness had allowed his partner to blindside him.
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Then one day, after watching an employee sneer at him when he berated her for not logging her time correctly, he decided that he was disgusted by what he had become. He was going against his better nature. Being a trusting person was who he was. He was happier when he was trusting. He was kinder and more loving. He had more friends. He was less paranoid. And that’s when he decided that he would begin to operate in a way that empowered others again and gave them the benefit of the doubt. He reasoned that if he was taken advantage of occasionally, that was okay. The risk was worth it. He went back to being the kind, caring man he’d been before the incident with his business partner (with more checks and balances when the stakes became high – there’s no reason not to learn from your mistakes) and he became happy again. Dharma has that quality to it. The idea that we should act according to the highest good despite the outcome. It is about maintaining a standard of kindness, love and virtue. It’s having the wisdom to understand that by not trusting those around us (for no apparent reason) or by not saving the metaphorical scorpions in our lives, we become an uglier version of ourselves, one that is contrary to our personal growth and development.
Introducing Karma Into the Equation Then there’s karma. Simply put, karma is action. Every event – even every thought – has consequences. The Upanishads made a strong connection between thought and physical action. If the seed of a thought is given enough time to germinate and grow, it will be made physical. Eknath writes: “The law of karma states unequivocally that though we cannot see the connections, we can be sure that everything that happens to us, good and bad, originated once in something we did or thought. We ourselves are responsible for what happens to us, whether or not we can understand how. It follows that we can change what happens to us by changing ourselves; we can take our destiny into our own hands.” He then goes on to write: “Karma is sometimes considered punitive, a matter of getting one’s just desserts. This is accurate enough, but it is much more illuminating to consider karma an educative force whose purpose is to teach the individual to act in harmony with dharma – not to pursue selfish interests at the expense of others, but to contribute to life and consider the welfare of the whole. In this sense life is like a school; one can lean, one can graduate, one can skip a grade or stay behind. As long as the debt of karma remains, however, a person has to keep coming back for further education.” n
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Published on Jan 2, 2017
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