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ALL IN THE FAMILY

After the glory days

/ 04:01 AM December 30, 2021

I am worried about my brother Joe,” says my friend D who, with her siblings, run the manufacturing business started by their late parents. “Joe was the heir apparent, and was supposed to set the vision for growing our original product. But when it became obsolete and we had to switch to another, he complained a lot and said it was the wrong move.

“My sisters and I don’t understand it,” D continues. “Joe was always the star in the family. We respect him, but he is asking so weird now.”

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“Wasn’t Joe in varsity football in high school?” I ask.

“They won the championship in his senior year,” says D. “He says those were his glory days, never to come again.”

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“Joe’s beliefs are not unique,” I say. “Research shows that many former athletes struggle to adapt to other careers after their heyday. They despair about replicating the glory and success they once had.”

“You have a point,” D says. “As the eldest, Joe was the favorite and he thought our first product would last forever. My sisters and I pivoted to another product, which in this pandemic was the right thing to do. We adapted pretty quickly, all except Joe.”

“Why do you think the rest of you are adapting better?” I ask.

“Growing up, my sisters and I were overshadowed by Joe, who was always in the limelight,” says D. “We learned from his ups and downs. We didn’t have to repeat his mistakes, and we told ourselves not to envy him, because he is our beloved brother.”

“Joe cares for you, I know,” I say. “But you are right. Values are caught rather than taught.”

In “The Little Book of Talent,” psychologist Daniel Coyle says, “As they grow up, the younger kids have more access to good information. They have far more opportunity to watch their siblings perform, to mimic, to see what works and what doesn’t.”

“Studies show that many who eventually become legends are overlooked early on,” I say, “but with a lot of determination and grit, they reach the top later. Michael Jordan was booted out of high school varsity but shone in college and beyond. Albert Einstein was told by his grade school teacher that he would never succeed. Walt Disney was laid off from his first job because of a lack of imagination.”

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Coyle quotes Anson Dorrance, head coach of the award-winning University of North Carolina women’s soccer team: “One of the most unfortunate things I see when identifying youth players is the girl who is told over the years how great she is. By the time she’s a high school freshman, she starts to believe it. By her senior year, she’s fizzled out. Then there’s her counterpart: a girl waiting in the wings, who quietly and with determination decides she’s going to make something of herself. Invariably, this humble, hardworking girl is the one who becomes the real player.”

“My sisters and I are in charge of the business now,” says D. “Joe easily gives up and says how hard things are. He waits for inspiration to strike. Can he change?”

“The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that the only constant in life is change,” I reply. “When sufficiently motivated, Joe can change, though it won’t be easy. He needs your support.”

“We want Joe to become a top performer again,” says D.

“Consult Wharton professor Kathy Milkman’s book ‘How to Change’ for doable strategies. With small steady steps, with mental toughness and good habits, your brother can regain his mojo.”

Top performers are not born; they are honed by trials big and small. Coyle says:

“From a distance, top performers seem to live charmed, cushy lives. When you look closer, however, you’ll see that they spend vast portions of their life intensively practicing their craft. Their mindset is not entitled or arrogant; it’s 100-percent blue collar: They get up in the morning and go to work every day, whether they feel like it or not. As the artist Chuck Close says, ‘Inspiration is for amateurs.’”

May the year ahead bring us strength, hope, wisdom and peace. INQ

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada, or the ebook via Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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