Building a Boundless Legacy
Building a family legacy is about much, much more than simply leaving a financial inheritance to your loved ones. What’s even more important is building and passing on your family values and traditions.
You may even already know your core beliefs and values and have verbalized them at one point or another, but do you have a stabilizing structure to pass these ideals on to generations down the line? Do you have a family mantra? Doctrine? Logo? Rites of passage?
When it comes to creating and passing on family values, beliefs, and legacies to future generations, I believe that family traditions are the threads that bind a family together. Because of this, my family—myself, my wife Jessa, and my twin sons River and Terran—recently had a transformative experience working with my friend Rich on building our Greenfield family legacy framework.
Rich founded a company called Legado Family**, and he specializes in helping families not just to identify their core values but to create everything from memorabilia, traditions, rituals, and routines, based on those values. In a nutshell, as a former business branding expert, he helps families to “brand” themselves and create a family playbook and legacy in a similar way that a highly successful and organized corporation might.
As a result of working with Rich, we have a Greenfield family playbook that we can pass down to future generations—a playbook that contains everything from our family mission statement, traditions, important rites of passage at different ages for our kids, and our family values to our individual spirit animals, logos and colors! Not only that, but together we designed a beautiful family crest that’s hanging above our fireplace, we have a family mission statement prominently posted in our living room and in the dining room, and we have hats and shirts, mugs, and stickers with our family logo. We even have spirit animals and colors for each member of our family. It’s pretty darn cool.
Legacy Building Tools For Your Toolbox
Tool 1: Family Traditions
When it comes to passing on important family values and beliefs to future generations, I firmly believe that family traditions are one of the most powerful legacy-building tools in a parent’s toolbox. Traditions, habits, rituals, routines, and systematized or calendered “comings and goings” are the glue that sticks, the threads that bind, and the clasps that hold a family together through the best and worst of times. While the Love and Logic approach to parenting can often free a child to live a little more responsibly and even “dangerously,” as they learn to deal with the consequences of their own decisions, tradition provides the safety, dependability, and predictability that I think too many parents attempt to achieve for their children via helicopter parenting.
In our family, it looks something like this:
- Morning Meditation & Journaling: Every morning, around 7:30 am, I gather the family next to the fireplace in the living room or under the sunshine on the back patio for a daily family huddle. For this, we use the Spiritual Disciplines Journal to read Scripture, pray, meditate, complete a gratitude practice, and set an intention to serve or help one person that day. When we finish, we sing a song or recite the Lord’s Prayer together, then have a brief family chat about the planned activities for the day, all the way down to subtle details such as who is cooking what for dinner or who might have the family vehicles at which hours. We always finish with a giant group hug before we scatter our separate ways to conquer the day. Occasionally, about once every two weeks, especially if I sense the energy is low in our house or feel that we need an infusion of joy, I’ll “call an audible” and we skip journaling and meditation, instead playing an uplifting spiritual song while dancing, moving, swinging, swaying, and worshiping with our entire bodies!
- Evening Meditation & Journaling: Similar to our morning practice, we “bookend” each day by returning to our Spiritual Disciplines Journal, just before bedtime, for an evening practice of breathwork meditation, self-examination, and prayer. This is always the final ritual of the day, which typically occurs after I play a song on the guitar and read the family a bedtime story.
- Evening Songs & Stories: On as many weeknights as possible, we prioritize post-dinner songs and stories, often gathered in the bedroom, usually before meditation and journaling. In addition to reading from short story collections and anthologies such as The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett or Great Stories of Suspense & Adventure or even Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (an excellent choice!), I often choose bedtime stories that are seasonally thematic; for example, in December, I might read A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig or The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling. Typically, I play a song on the guitar while the family sings along, then we settle in for a story, and finish with our breathwork and/or our Spiritual Disciplines Journals.
- Family Dinners: Our family celebrates the day’s end by gathering in the kitchen to prepare a meal together, sing, pray, discuss what we read in our devotionals earlier that day, and, finally, sit down to feast. We also play fun family card games and board games together. Each month, I take my sons to Barnes & Noble to buy a new board game; that $20-30 provides hours upon hours of family fun for a fraction of the cost of taking the family to the movies just once! We reserve at least one of these evenings to forgo dinner games and, instead, engage in family “talk time” to catch up on discussions about current events, school, and more in-depth topics that we may not dig into on the average day. These discussions can involve everything from philosophy to careers, to politics to sex, as well as the big questions about life that take longer to address. Often, we will spend a full month going chapter-by-chapter through a book I’ve chosen. My sons’ assignment is to read the book chapter by the end of the day, and to be prepared by dinnertime for my questions and discussion with them about that book. We then have a five to ten minute talk before dinner about that book, often while we are tooling around the kitchen during dinner preparation. For example, to create fodder for discussions regarding current events or politics, I recently brought them through the book A Rebel’s Manifesto, which addresses topics that parents may sometimes forget to have targeted discussions about with their children, such as navigating bullying and social media; handling loneliness, sex, and pornography; approaching difficult conversations about controversial issues; or articulating your worldview or faith.
- Dinner Parties: Though every night at our house feels like a bit of an end-of-day celebration and dinner party, at least once a week, our family prioritizes stewardship, service, love, fellowship, joy, and community-building by inviting friends, both old and new, into our home for a celebratory gathering feast. Often, these dinners are “themed,” with concepts such as crazy socks, funny hats, ugly sweaters, karaoke contests, sauna and hot tub with cold pool, cornhole, ping pong or bocce ball competitions, etc. Typically each guest brings a dish to share, and Jessa, River, Terran and I contribute additional dishes such as grilled meat, fresh-made sourdough bread, homemade desserts and baked goodies, or cocktails. These dinners are always scheduled in advance, managed via a Google doc and spreadsheet that lists all of our local friends and acquaintances. At each occasion, we usually include between three to five families from all walks of life, along with any other lone stragglers that we decide to invite. When I arrange these parties, I think of it a bit like creating a recipe: Each family or individual I throw into the mix is a new ingredient that makes something new. It’s actually quite rewarding to witness the unique conversations and activities that take place, depending upon which adults and children comprise the “ingredient mix” for the night!
- Date Nights: At least twice each month, we skip our family home dinners and have date night. I intentionally schedule dates with my wife, Jessa, as well as solo dates with each of my sons. We also do a “family date,” which involves me taking one of our sons on a solo date, while Jessa takes our other son on a solo date. Sometimes, we go to the same restaurant but sit at tables far enough apart so that it’s not awkward. Our dinners are usually followed up by the whole family meeting for dessert. These dates provide time for more focused one-on-one husband-wife or parent-child conversations that seldom occur at the family dinner table, along with much-needed opportunities for my wife and I to have private discussions that we normally wouldn’t have with our sons in earshot.
- Family Tennis: It is important to have a recreational activity that the entire family can enjoy together. For the Greenfield family, especially in the spring and summer, that’s our weekly excursion to play an hour of tennis at the nearby park before dinner. Usually, Jessa will partner with one son while I partner with the other, and the winner gets dibs on anything from which family game we play to who gets the first bite of dessert. At home, we make sure to surround our sons with plenty of other recreational activities, dictating that our yard is littered with cornhole boards, bocce ball sets, a ping pong table, and even giant ropes and monkey bar playground-style obstacles. My goal is to make our home a fun and enjoyable place where the children want to hang out, spend time with their friends, and savor the outdoors on our property, especially as an alternative to indoor screen time or video gaming.
- Escape Rooms & Cooking Classes: Children absolutely thrive on the safety, dependency, and trust that they find in traditions and routines; this not only includes regularly-scheduled family dinners or evening bedtime routines at home, but also special, reliable activities that are woven into vacations. When we travel together for family vacations, we seek out local escape rooms that we can tackle and cooking classes we can take. At this point, we have enjoyed solving puzzles and learning to cook local cuisine in over a dozen different states and countries!
- Breathwork: To tap into the benefits of quiet time, meditation, oxygenation, a flow of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide through the body, and a drug-free shift into an elevated state of consciousness, my sons and I complete a 10-20 minute breathwork session at least three times each week, often before dinner and sometimes before bed. We use a breathwork program or app such as Soma or Othership, and sit in the sauna, in a quiet place in the house, or outside. We concentrate not only on our breath, but also on our emotions, and the movement of energy up and down each “chakra” of our bodies. In addition, at least once per month, on a weekend, we complete a longer 50-70 minute breathwork routine, very similar to “holotropic” breathwork. As a result of this practice, my sons are learning skills that will serve them well in life, including how to consciously control their physiology, immune system, and energy levels; how to move energy to different areas of their body with great precision; how to decrease stress or increase motivation and energy in a very short period of time, without the use of any substances; and how to simply sit with one’s body, very much like meditation, while focusing on one element (the breath) for a relatively long period of time.
Tool 2: Rites of Passage
In our family, our children also experience important rites of passage that mark their maturation to adolescence or adulthood. This is a practice that we learned from Rich Christiansen. Our defining events are as follows:
- Age 8: Dedicated time calendared for the theme of “open communication,” specifically in a quiet or private location such as during a camping trip or a backpacking trip. This time is set aside to answer any questions and address topics that may not have formally arisen prior to this age, including the “birds and the bees,” sex, masturbation, any question a child may have about the more delicate or touchy subjects of life. It’s not as though talking about these topics can’t or won’t occur prior to the age of eight, but it is important to formally identify an age at which these conversations will intentionally happen.
- Age 12: A trip focused on non-entitlement and serving others, such as going to help people who are underprivileged in the local community or even beyond, in another city, country, or state. This can even include a “staycation” at home, during which we cancel school and all other big activities and, instead, take a trip downtown each day to the soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or pregnancy counseling center.
- Ages 13-14: A courage-based rite of passage into adolescence, focused on spending solo time, preferably in nature, with the goal of developing self-sufficiency and being in a state of ego dissolution while facing one’s fears and experiencing loneliness and isolation. For our sons, this five-day rite of passage was overseen by the Twin Eagles Wilderness School.
- Ages 15-16: A rite of passage similar to that of ages 13-14 but focused on the transition from adolescence into adulthood, with a greater degree of difficulty and self-provision woven into the experience. Although our sons have not yet reached this age, their own journey into adulthood will likely involve a solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, a backpacking trip in Europe, or a second, longer wilderness rite of passage overseen by Twin Eagles Wilderness School.
- Age 18: A rite of passage centered around “independence.” This is the age at which the boys will be required to move out of the house and take full refinance responsibility for themselves, whether that be for their university education or business vocation. In other words, in a spirit of recognizing a child’s full independence and respecting their ability to “fly out of the nest,” they receive no more money from the parents and no longer benefit from the provision of home or shelter.
Tool 3: Establishing a Rhythm
Establishing a rhythm to daily life is absolutely essential to providing children with the stability they need. Although they do not know it, children crave and thrive on predictability, the kind that can come from regular routines and rhythm.
These rhythms can be found in daily, weekly, and monthly routines, etc. such as the traditions outlined above. However, these rhythms offer stability to a child that can later foster the deep legacy so near and dear to a family. Waking up at a regular time, brushing teeth, washing up, going downstairs for breakfast, heading outside, or staying in for chores are all examples are simple routines that give security. This security reminds children what comes next and that even if they are currently engaging in an activity that is not their favorite, it won’t be long until they move on to another.
Establishing a rhythm can be hard at first, but it is the job of the parent to establish what will be done and the child will follow. Consider making rhythm building into a game to get children engaged at the start. Cooperative games will help your children to view their role in tandem with you, the parent, and will encourage them to work along side you in their routines for one common goal. A happy and healthy family!
Tool 4: Determine a Mission, Vision, and Values
You can check out my post about my experience with Legado Family for more about how our family worked through the legacy building to determine a mission, vision, and values, but in many ways, it is similar to determining your own mission in life. This is such a meaningful practice and though it takes time, it is invaluable to the creation of a legacy for your family that will span generations.
- Establish Values: Without guiding values, it’s difficult to set the path for your family’s financial, economic, and social success. If you take a moment to think about it, well-known institutions all have values, morals, and ethics they aspire to abide by
- Indicate your family’s symbol: What this means is coming together as a family and choosing colors, icons, and visuals that represent who you are as a family. Every member has a say in the colors, animals, and shapes that represent your family.
- Solidify a family doctrine: “Doctrine” may sound intense, but it’s really just a compilation of your ideals in written form. This can include a family slogan, mantra, mission statement, or family framework. It’s the rules of engagement, or what it means to truly be a member of your family.
- Specify your family traditions: Everyone has traditions. Big or small, they’re the bonding practices that bring us closer to the people we do them with. Traditions are the moments that last a lifetime.
- Get clear on life-defining events: Life-defining events, which you may also know as rites of passage, coming-of-age ceremonies, or even initiations, are moments in childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood that influence and shape us into individuals.
- Establish your family’s financial structure: Now that you understand what your family values are, you can conquer the financial aspects of passing down your legacy. This includes concepts such as creating a family office, establishing a family bank, and writing a family constitution
Bringing it all together:
- Children especially love family traditions, and they are essential to building a strong family legacy.
- Each family should determine their own milestones, or rites of passage
- Establish a rhythm to help children find comfort in knowing what is coming next
- Take time to determine a mission, vision, and values as an established family legacy project
**The Legado Family Framework helps you to create this balance in your life. It exists in the form of the Build Family Legacies Program. There are six different sections you complete throughout the program in order to organize your family, values, and legacy. I’m going to talk about each of the six steps briefly here, and as you read through, you can think about how you might walk your family through this process either on your own or with the help of Legado’s program. Legado will also be part of the prize pack for the winning family in this challenge!
This week’s call info
Wednesday, February 15th at 6:30 pm PST
Speaker: Ben Greenfield
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/4636180446
This week’s call will be a family cook-along hosted by Ben! Please have on hand the following ingredients to prepare Ben’s Salmon Cakes:
2 (6-oz) cans of wild salmon, drained
1/2 cup gluten-free flour such as coconut, almond, or breadfruit flour
1 large egg
1.5 tbsp. of healthy mayo
3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. paprika and/or cayenne
2 tbsp. chopped green onion or celery
1 pinch of sea salt
Unsweetened coconut flakes (optional, for dredging)
1 tbsp. avocado oil, for cooking
- Place the drained canned salmon in a large mixing bowl and break it up with a fork. Add the coconut, almond, or breadfruit flour, which helps to thicken the mixture and will keep your patties from falling apart as you cook them.
- Whisk the egg in a small mixing bowl. Add the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, spice, green onion, and salt to the egg. Mix well to combine.
- For added texture (this is a recommended step to include), dredge the salmon cakes in coconut flakes so that they have an outer coating of coconut flakes prior to adding them to the skillet. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your salmon cakes to ensure the coconut flakes on the exterior surface don’t burn.
- Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil over medium-high heat in a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet.
- Place the salmon cakes into the hot skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Serve over a bed of greens or a rice cake with tartar sauce (Primal Kitchen has a great option for that, too.) or your favorite barbecue sauce, ketchup, or mayo. You can also break these up for lunch leftovers the next day and wrap them burrito-style in a nori wrap!