I want to start sharing my own personal story. Not because I want notoriety. (Actually, my story is a little embarrassing.)

I’m doing it because I happen to know it intimately, and because it illustrates the 8 Keys in action.

(The 8 Keys are what a family needs to be successful and prosper for multiple generations)

The 1st Key is all about passion, creativity, spirituality, and hope.

It’s what drives the entrepreneur to get out of bed every morning. It’s what great artists tap into.

When a person is living most powerfully, this is the North Star that guides a person’s decisions. Think about Thomas Edison who made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been a master of the 1st Key.

The truth is that as a child, my mom made me do things that she was passionate about (rather than asking me what I wanted). As a result, I grew up not being in touch with my own sense of uniqueness.

Listen to Episode Two of the Each Generation Stronger podcast and discover:

  • How when I was 35, I found out for the first time that I had a different biological father than the “Dad” who had raised me.
  • How having controlling parents (like mine were) can cause a child to lose his (or her) sense of uniqueness and passion. (This can ultimately lead to depression, poor self-esteem, addictions, and other problems.)
  • How my own lack of a sense of purpose and passion (when I inherited my father’s $28 million estate) caused me to look to others for ideas on how to use the money. (This was a recipe for disaster!!!)
  • How the area of the 1st Key is where everything starts. And if we have a problem in this area, we’ll have a problem in every other area (health, relationships, you name it).


When I was 35, I finally decided to stop settling in my life.

My wife at the time (Tina) and I moved across the country from Minnesota to Arizona. This was a big step for me.

My mom and I had an unhealthy co-dependent relationship, and it devastated her for me to move away.

But that was what finally led some relatives to spill the beans to me that my whole family had been lying to me my whole lifetime about who my father was.


At the time, I just remember being unhappy with my life and wanting to try something else.

That discontent was the key for me to find the courage to stop settling.

It pushed me out of my comfort zone and led me to take a step into the unknown.

My own discontent became apparent to me in my relationships with others.

I didn’t know how to set personal boundaries (part of the 6th Key, which you’ll learn about later).

I let people take advantage of me. I didn’t hold people accountable for the commitments or promises they made to me (also part of the 6th Key).

As a result, I let investment promoters and professional advisers take advantage of me and abused the trust I extended to them. I didn’t demand respect.


The death of my father whom I’d just met, my recent divorce and having no friends in whom I could confide combined to create a mixture of heartache, overwhelm and disconnect.

I wanted to earn back the 50% State and Federal estate taxes to recoup the losses. I ended up investing heavily in a company in Oregon, trusting that this company had my best interests at heart.

I was rudderless because I had no sense of purpose, uniqueness, or passion. These were all problems in the area of the 1st Key. I discuss my experiences in detail during the Episode Two.

My failure to set and communicate boundaries set me up for more frustration, disappointment, and heartache. I’d finally had enough. I was done falling out of the saddle. (Setting boundaries is a facet of the 6th Key.)


I was studying for the bar exam in Arizona in the summer of 2003 when my wife and I received a visit from my Aunt Barb and my Uncle Chris—my mother’s brother and his wife—who’d made a special trip to see us.

We’d never been close, and while I was glad to see them, I questioned why they’d fly out to Arizona for that sole reason. I think they felt that, as I was separating myself from my mother, they could more safely visit me and even build a relationship without stirring the jealousy my mother showed whenever anyone else tried to get close to me.

My mother, Grace, was a hardworking, difficult woman, torn between providing for herself and her offspring and a passion for professional accomplishment and society’s demands (in her eyes) that a woman be married.

My mother married five times throughout her life (and divorced four times). During the last ten years of her life she gave up on the institution of marriage and settled for merely dating.

She didn’t honor personal boundaries (to say the least) and fudged the past to the extent that truth blurred together with the stories she created, making fact nearly inextricable from fiction.

In retrospect, she likely suffered from undiagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Yet my mother had no respect for mental health professions (despite her having a Master’s degree in Community Mental Health and a PhD in Social Psychiatry).

She dismissed psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists as people with psychological problems themselves.

Yet she readily displayed many of the classic symptoms of borderline personality disorder—intense and erratic mood swings, difficulties in relationships, anxiety or depression, insecurity and fear of being alone.

But official diagnoses aside, my mother was moody; she struggled to build and maintain friendships— her feelings were so easily hurt and she took innocent comments or questions personally.

There was no in-between with my mother. Either you were in her favor or you were out. Yet she did her best, without realizing she was sabotaging herself and the well-being of others.

I know now that my mother taught me to pull myself away from her influence and find a way to do things differently. What I learned from her, I’ve applied in my own career as a probate and estate planning lawyer—lessons I’ll explore a bit later on.

If you have any specific questions, please share them below.
If you’d like to be a guest and share your experience, just contact me here.


What are you passionate about?
Do you find yourself fantasizing rather than actually taking action?
What creates hopelessness in you?
Where and how do you get burned out or stressed?

Let me know below.

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