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Family Business Matters       02/05 11:50

   Leaving Your True Legacy

   Of the many things you intend to give the next generation, perhaps nothing 
has as much potential permanence as the principles and philosophies you leave 

Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   Of the many things you intend to give the next generation, perhaps nothing 
has as much potential permanence as the principles and philosophies you leave 
behind. Land will eventually be sold, money will be spent or divided, and 
physical items will get lost or broken.

   But the ideas and lessons you offer can be considered anew in each extension 
of your lineage, treasured by your kids and grandkids and their kids, and lived 
out for decades or even centuries.

   To help communicate your thoughts and ideas to future generations, consider 
writing a letter to them. Call it a "legacy letter," a document intended for a 
select group of people in which you share some of your life lessons and your 
personal story, your hopes and dreams for the future and, where appropriate, 
your expressions of love, forgiveness or desire to be forgiven. A letter gives 
you the chance to say what you would most want to communicate to future 
generations about your life and your values.

   Start by choosing a few questions from the following list, and grab a blank 
journal and a few pieces of paper, or use a voice-to-text app on your phone. 
Capture a few bullet points as answers, or write a sentence or two that will 
trigger more thoughts later. Soon, you will have the makings of a letter you 
can give to your family members.

   -- What are some of the experiences in your family's history (your parents, 
grandparents or prior) that shaped where or what you do today?

   -- What important lessons or principles were taught to you by your parents 
or grandparents that you want to pass on to your children and their children?

   -- What are a few of the personal experiences that shaped who you are today? 
Consider accomplishments as well as difficult experiences, failures or 
"wake-up" calls.

   -- How did you make it through difficult situations, conflict, 
disappointment or pain in your life? What role did your faith, friends or 
family play in helping you through those rough times?

   -- Who has been a good friend or mentor to you, and what did that person 
offer to you that made him or her special? What advice would you offer about 
being a friend or mentor?

   -- What jobs did you have as a young person? How did they lead you to your 
vocation? What did you learn about yourself and others from your early work?

   -- List a few of the values you have developed, or craft a short statement 
about your philosophy of life. If you had to put your philosophy on a 
billboard, what would it say?

   -- What roles did luck, hard work and skill play in the success of your 
business? What skills are most important when you think about success in life?

   -- What has been most important to you about your rural community and the 
local or industry organizations of which you've been a part? What advice or 
lessons about generosity and helping others can you offer to future generations 
of your family?

   -- What advice do you have about raising a family? What are some of the 
mistakes you felt you made? What did you get right? What are some of your 
fondest family memories?

   -- Is there anything in your past for which you would request forgiveness 
from your family members? Is there anyone to whom you would like to express 

   -- What are the dearest hopes you have for future generations of your family?

   A few minutes spent reflecting and writing on any of these questions will 
capture valuable nuggets of wisdom. I guarantee that future members of your 
family, some of whom are not even born yet, will appreciate your efforts.

   Lance Woodbury can be reached at

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