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How can I invest in your dream, my child?

A colleague of mine, a consultant at UBS, asked me if I apply everything I recommend to my clients in my own family. While mulling this over, I began reading the new book written by my friend, James Hughes, “The Voice of the Rising Generation”, and in it, I found the answer to my colleague’s question.

“The Cycle of the Gift” was written for parents seeking to give gifts of property and funds to their children, in a way that will help them grow and enrich their lives. The sequel “The Voice of the Rising Generation” is directed to the young generation and examines the issue from the recipients’ perspective: how children born to successful, influential parents and into wealthy families can find their own voice and way, and discuss the subject with their parents.

Like “The Cycle of the Gift”, “The Voice of the Rising Generation” is highly readable, interesting, and touching. The authors talk about a session with a group of young people, members of the same extended family, entirely devoted to identifying each of the participants’ own personal dreams. Toward the end of the session, after the participants had defined their dreams and shared them with the group, the parents joined the meeting. Each parent interviewed his or her son or daughter, heard about their dreams, and then asked, “How can I invest in your dream, my child?”

I believe this is a wonderful question, perhaps the best out of all the questions a parent can ask his or her young son or daughter.

Why?

First, simply asking the question proves that the parent is truly interested in getting to know his/her child’s world, dreams and ambitions. Second, the parent comes to understand that to succeed a person must seek to realize his or her own dreams, and not the dreams of others. The question frees the young person from the obligation of realizing his/her parents’ dream and places the parents’ resources at the young person’s disposal. And third, the word “invest” is not, of course, limited to money – it can include advice, mentoring, connections, a blessing, emotional support, etc.

And so, while reading the book, I found the answer to the question posed by my colleague from UBS. We don’t have a family business, and each of my three children has chosen a different career path. But my partner and I certainly live by what I teach my clients: we invest in our children’s dreams.

When our son returned from abroad with his artist bride, it was clear to all that in the absence of a facility and equipment enabling her to engage in her plastic art, she would have to give up her dream. She might be able to teach art classes at the community center in the afternoon, but she definitely wouldn’t be able to create works of her own or to realize the abilities she acquired while studying abroad.

However, she had a crystal-clear, well thought-out dream – a center where young graduates of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design who lacked the facilities that would enable them to persevere in their art could work. We decided to pitch in and help out, and first of all provided the wherewithal to rent a location and build the equipment. I was involved in the negotiating the lease, screening the candidates who would work with her and planning the moves. I served as a mentor, a sympathetic ear and sounding board, and sometimes, a shoulder to cry on, while my significant other spent hours in shared thinking about marketing and financial planning.

Today, four years later, the dream has still not completely become a reality. But there is no one happier than I when I visit the studio, see the work that’s being done, and meet the young artists who work there and the people who come to learn their craft. Sometimes, seeing my daughter-in-law’s hard work and the difficulties she faces, the physical exhaustion, pressures and disappointments, I feel a tug at my heartstrings, but I also see how our investment in her dream is helping her to make it a reality.

I must point out that we don’t give our children extra cash: we don’t cover their overdraft at the bank or solve the budget problems of a young couple with kids. But we do invest in their dreams!

This time, I chose to share a personal story. It is very like the stories I sometimes hear from the families I work with: parents who have built a “platform” in their own business to realize their child’s dream, or who have pitched in and worked to make the dream come true, as partners and mentors. And still, in many of the family businesses that find their way to Dorot, the opposite holds true, with the parent preoccupied with the question how his/her son/daughter will fit in with making the parent’s dream come true.

There’s nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that it lacks the dimension of passion. The founding parent’s dream was the driver of his/her passion. But what about the successor son or daughter? He or she may be talented, educated and hardworking; the question is, will they have the passion that drove their father or mother to realize their own dream?

In closing, if you have other examples of parents who invested in their children’s dreams, I’d love to hear them. One way or another, talk to your children, young and older alike, and ask them that wondrous question, “How can I invest in your dream, my child?”

Good luck!