EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is George Bailey's weekly report on he and his wife's efforts to teach their kids financial freedom.
If you haven't read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you really should. I'm hesitant to write that sentence because I don't heavily recommend almost anything. You like what you like, and I like what I like.
I'm going to break from character here and say that you will be a better person for having read 7 Habits. Lots of wisdom about how to take responsibility for your own life and how to play well with others.
The habit I've been thinking of lately is "Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind." In a nutshell, Covey recommends that we imagine our own funerals in detail. We should imagine who is there and what those people feel about us. We should imagine the speakers and what they will say about our lives ("Sure, he fed me mice, but he never sang to me." — Asclepius, the pet snake). This exercise helps us to uncover our dearest goals in life and then to work towards them.
What does this habit have to do with Choose the Nickel? I suppose you could say that the deeper principle that this chapter embodies is the same principle that motivated me to start Choose the Nickel to begin with. There are just a few things that I want my children to be able to say about me after I die. And they have to be able to say those things honestly.
"He was kind and affectionate."
"He went out of his way to serve others."
"I remember the way he would listen to my concerns without judging me."
These are the things that I want them to be able to say but not necessarily what they will be able to say. I'll have to ensure that realization of those statements by my own work and by striving to be a better person. The fact is, if I were to die tomorrow ("Promise?" — Asclepius, the pet snake), my children would sound more like this:
"He made me go to bed too early."
"He had hairy legs and was not overly tan."
"His tummy was getting bigger"
You see, I've got work to do. But one thing I have considered in great detail is the kind of parent I wish to become. There are two things that I would like to hear my children say at my funeral—as their ghost daddy, of course.
The first is "He prepared me to be an adult." I see this preparation for adulthood to be one of the true definitions of parenthood. The minute my wife and I started having children was the minute that we committed ourselves to preparing those children to enter society and to be generous and productive members of that same society. This concern goes to the heart of what I'm blogging and podcasting about.
Preparing children to "adult" is really hard work, and I can't say that I know the first thing about it. In fact, I would not have minded being given an extra 20 or 30 years to prepare for adulthood. How do I begin to raise my children when I feel so inadequate? But just because I'm not sure how to prepare my children doesn't mean that I don't bear the responsibility. Plenty of people have responsibilities they have no idea how to manage.
The second, and most important, thing I'd like to hear is "He expressed his love for me in both word and deed." This love will be far more valuable to my children than anything else I can give them, and I don't want to lose perspective on that. So, as I enter the virtual realm, I want my children to know with certainty that my love for them was far more than shallow narcissism. I want them to know that I reflect daily on not only how to help them know they're loved but also how to teach them to work and thrive. And I feel there's a societal need for this type of daily reflection that merits public discussion.
I'd like to put aside all the sober talk for a second and celebrate the fact at least Elon Musk has kind words to say about me. I had previously written Elon about how jealous I was that my friend Darren received an autographed photo portrait of one of the day's handsomest businesspeople. Why did Elon shine so brightly on Darren while ignoring all my hard work and brilliance?
Well, this last Sunday, when my family and I joined Darren and his family for dinner ("Good heavens, that was incredible homemade pomegranate ice cream, LaChelle!"—my growing gut), Darren surprised me with my own signed picture of Elon, which says, "DEAR GEORGE, I BELIEVE IN YOU." (Three independent handwriting experts confirmed that the two photos were penned by the same hand.) I almost fell over backwards with surprise when I saw it. Now Elon smiles on me from my office wall, and life couldn't be better. Thank you, Elon. I won't let you down. You'll have great things to say about me at the funeral.
And maybe with some love and work, my children will, too.