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The 200-Year Plan: Keeping the long view

ADDENDUM as of 2/5/09: While I am still excited about the materials I discuss in this post, it is with great sadness that I feel compelled to note I have discovered there are reasons for caution with respect to the sources referenced herein. With respect to Vision Forum Ministries and Doug Phillips, I call your attention to the series of articles at Ministry Watchman and Jen’s Gems. And with respect to Geoff Botkin, see Who is Geoffrey Botkin? at the Under Much Grace blog.

I’ve been listening to a presentation called The 200 Year Plan: A Practicum on Multi-Generational Faithfulness–a CD set put out by Vision Forum Ministries.

It was about three weeks ago that someone suggested I look at the program. Considering my own emphasis on multi-generational, indeed, 200-year plans and more, how could I not take a look?

So I purchased the series . . . and am glad I did!


The presenters, Doug Phillips and Geoff Botkin, seem to be light years ahead of anyone else I have found in terms of thinking through how parents can pass on a heritage–their heart heritage, their spiritual and intellectual heritage–to their children and future generations.

The presentations within the program:

  • Strategic Considerations for a Multi-Generational Vision
  • Seven Secrets of Successful Multi-Generational Visionaries
  • 200 Year Plans That Succeeded
  • The Family Toledoth
  • The Family Enterprise
  • The Family Catechism
  • How to Draft a 200 Year Plan
  • The Family Investiture
  • Armchair Discussions

I haven’t quite finished listening to the entire series. (I still have to listen to The Family Investiture and the Armchair Discussions sections.) But, if nothing else, I have felt inspired to go far beyond where I have, so far, with my own family in this area of planning for the future and sharing a legacy with my children, grandchildren, and future generations after them.

In this, and future posts, I would like to highlight some of the key points that I’ve garnered so far. (I plan to re-listen to these to go quite a bit deeper.)

So today:

We must studiously maintain a long-term view. We cannot afford to become confused or alarmed by short-term events.

This reminds me of some of the things James Hughes emphasizes in his Family Wealth (pp. 8-10):

Families often fail to apply the appropriate time frames for successful wealth preservation. . . . Time should be measured by the generation. . . . Short-term for a family is twenty years, intermediate-term is fifty years, and long-term is one hundred years.

Hughes notes that in today’s society, as we try to squeeze every benefit out of every moment, our focus is rather foreshortened.

Almost every family I encounter is trying desperately to ensure that every year brings an increase to the bottom line of the financial balance sheet. I applaud this as an exercise in good financial stewardship. Unfortunately, though, if looked out over the twenty years of a short-term financial plan, these annual results simply become footnotes. In a fifty-year plan, they do not reach footnote status; they just appear on a bar graph. In a one-hundred-year plan, they are interesting only to the family historians. . . .

For families setting their long-term strategies for preserving financial wealth, time is a friend in a way it is not for most investors. Equally, failure to take advantage of time is a waste of a valuable family asset.

[And w]hen we move beyond the financial sphere [to] human and intellectual capital, [the impact of a family's] failure to understand the proper time frame for measuring success is even more profound. . . .

In much the same way, then, Phillips, in one of his Multi-Generational speeches, urges his audience to grab hold of a long-term vision. As he puts it,

  • “Multi-generational visionaries are not dissuaded by evil tidings, but are in fact emboldened by such.”
  • “Multi-generational visionaries are led by faith, not by sight. They are motivated by duty, not statistical evidence, focus groups or opinion polls.”

And, finally (though this was said first!):

  • “Great moments often arise on the heels of national judgment and persecution.” –In other words, while all around us may look like disaster, destruction and defeat, what may really be happening is God “wiping the slate clean” to create something far better than what we have experienced in the past.

Phillips uses the time of the American Revolutionary War to illustrate this last point. He says that, for the founders of this country, the time leading up to the war–and, of course, the period of the war itself–seemed foreboding and full of potential disaster. Yet our country’s forefathers were motivated by a grander vision than their own safety and security, a vision that looked out decades, and maybe even centuries, into the future.

In this time of turmoil and confusion in the United States–and, frankly, in the world at large–I think we need to keep this “lesson” in mind. Whatever happens today, or tomorrow, or in the next few months, or, even, in the next many years: it is, ultimately, a relative footnote to history.

And so we must plan for the long term.

Next Time: The Family “Toledoth”

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