There are things we learn from the day-to-day duties of life. And if we’re observant, if we take notice, we can turn these experiences into lessons to pass along to our families. My father’s life was filled with these kinds of experiences. And thankfully, he passed those values on—teaching my siblings and me the essentials for living a valuable, productive life. But what about our children and grandchildren? How could we ensure that they would know our family patriarch, that they could gather his insights and benefit from his life? By capturing his life sketch, which is exactly what we did.
My wife, Sharee, and I sat down with my dad and asked questions, recorded the conversations, then had it all transcribed. Those wonderful moments together translated into a 130-page book, to which we added photos and published as, Glenn Andrew, A Man of Steel—because he was a superintendent at US Steel Geneva Works during his career. We gave copies of the book to every member of the family—and eventually to guests at his funeral. Today, my dad’s stories live on—stories that teach kindness and hard work, like this one:
Our home was about three blocks from the main railroad. The D&RG and Union Pacific Railway would come through the lower part of Provo there, and of course, during the Depression, there were a lot of tramps catching rides on the freight trains. They would come often door-to-door asking for food or handouts. A lot of times my mother would give them some food or bread. They would offer to work a little bit around or chop some wood.
We’d cook by wood or cook by coal in our kitchen. We’d heat our living room with the coal in a Heaterola type of stove. Of course, it was always my job to cut kindling to start the fires in the morning. We had a little woodshed out in the backyard, and my folks would order coal. It seemed like coal would cost about $4 or $6 a ton. It wasn’t very much.
But I always remember having to cut kindling wood and have it ready for my dad to go start the fire early in the wintertime so it would be warm in the kitchen to have breakfast, a cup of mush. We’d get the kindling from boxes, and sometimes you could go to the lumber yard and they’d have a scrap that they’d just give to you. We had a little ax where I could do that and split it down and make kindling wood.
Life sketches can be a powerful way to harness the power of loved ones’ lives and add their lessons to the family’s Foundational Dimension. It’s part of our overall strategies at Live Abundant to help families create abundance in all Three Dimensions of Authentic Wealth.
While everyone agrees gathering these kinds of stories is an important thing to do, many people aren’t sure how to get started. Here are a few tips: I’ve learned that you need to warm up your interviewee with some easy questions first, and then toward the end of the interview you can get to the real gems that will be treasured forever.
For example, I usually start out with questions about where they were born, their earliest memories of childhood, their favorite holidays, how they met their spouse, why they fell in love with their spouse, their first job, when they learned the value of hard work, the schools they attended, favorite subjects, teachers, hobbies, friends, embarrassing moments, etc.
After the warm-up, when they are relaxed, you can begin asking them questions like:
- What do you appreciate about each of your children?
- Will you share some of your personal victories and/or defeats and what you learned?
- Who had a significant impact in your life and why?
- What were your favorite traditions?
- What are you most passionate about right now?
- What do you love about life?
- What do you want to accomplish before you leave this world?
- What’s worth sacrificing for?
- What’s worth fighting for?
- What’s worth dying for?
- What are you most grateful for?
- What do you believe to be true?
- What would you like your posterity to remember?
These are just some of the questions from the Memory Jogger Questionnaire, which is included in Live Abundant’s Entitlement Abolition Kit (Visit www.EntitlementAbolition.com). Capturing life sketches has become a priceless treasure cherished by many families. Once they’re recorded (which is easier than ever on smart phones and tablets), you can transcribe the stories (or have a cost-effective service like one we’ve used at www.rev.com do the transcription for you.)
However you gather your life sketches, just know that it can lend enormous value to you and your family for generations to come.