the ultimate gift

There are certain character traits that are extremely important in life.  Traits like a strong work ethic, understanding the value of a dollar, and the importance of generosity and hospitality, for instance.  These qualities are far more important than skills like the ability to understand math or the ability to start a new business.  People who are nearing the end of their lives don’t want to pass on the knowledge of starting businesses, they want to pass on the knowledge of being a better human.  Skills are important, of course.  They are the tools that can help us reach our goals.  It’s just that our goals should be more others-oriented than self-oriented.  The goal should be to make the world a better place, not to start a business, but starting a business may be a valid method of achieving the goal.

I just read The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall.  In it, a wealthy cattle-baron has just passed away and in his will he lays out a plan of action for developing strong character qualities in his grand-nephew.  The nephew isn’t excited about the plan, but as the book progresses he becomes a better person as he submits himself to his uncle’s plan.  The uncle has the nephew perform twelve month-long tasks, each task teaching him a new, and highly valuable, quality.  The nephew learns lessons about work, money, friends, and the thirst for knowledge, to name a few.  By the end of the year, the nephew has become a new person, having been transformed by the hard lessons he has learned.  Because he has learned all these lessons, he earns the ultimate gift, control of a $1 billion charitable trust.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have a $1 billion trust to leave my progeny.  And even if I did, I’m a long way from leaving it to them in a will.  But I desperately desire my offspring to understand and internalize all these lessons just like the nephew in the book.  How do I instill a strong work ethic in my children?  How do I get them to crave spending time with people and giving themselves away?  How do I instill any of these desirable character traits?

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