Consider The Next 7 Generations
“Before you take any decision, consider its effect on the next seven generations.”
- Native American Hopi proverb
I came across this meaningful and thought-provoking proverb about a year ago, and it arrested me. That Native American tribes have espoused this—keeping 150-years-ahead impact forefront in decision-making—matches beautifully with our call to Third Turn leaders to lead and plan with our grandchildren’s grandchildren in mind. (And though the math differs, we would absolutely concur with their even longer-term view.)
All this was lovely yet rather conceptual until my trip home to visit my Iowa family and farm last May. We were there to help prepare the farm for my nephew’s high school graduation party, which would be held in the machine shed. That was all meaningful enough, until I took a break to drive my 85-year-old mother and 90-year-old aunt to the township cemetery (it was Memorial Day weekend) to place flowers on family graves. Right then and there, I time-traveled through 4 generations in but a few minutes—my great-great grandparents who founded the farm, my great-grandparents who then passed it into the hands of my grandparents, and uncles and aunts who represented the 4th generation, as do my mom and dad, who in their tenure alone have stewarded that land for 60+ years. I’m the 5th generation, my graduating nephew the 6th, and it’s not hard to imagine generation 7 springing to life within the next ten years or so. From that cemetery, I have a 180-year sight line (1843 - 2023) of what it means to persevere and stay true to deeply-held values and challenging decisions through pain and untimely death--the loss of 6 children in 10-days time to diphtheria and the loss of an uncle to a terrible farm accident; through threats like the Great Depression and the 1980s farm crisis; and through too many droughts and crop drown-outs to begin to count.
Although I chose life in the city, that farmland is a cherished legacy and touchpoint for me. It’s served as a grounding reference point in my business “what should we do?” decision-making. And when I’ve needed to take risks that scared me, I could look back to this lineage and take courage that ancestors had done far more courageous things before me.
I feel humbled and blessed to stand in this 7-generation line and legacy. And I find myself wondering: What decisions that I make in my lifetime might serve as a reference point and potential blessing for those that follow me seven generations and 150+ years from now?
About The Third Turn Podcast & Maestro-level leaders:
With each episode of the Third Turn Podcast, we host a conversation among leaders who want the world to flourish for generations beyond their lifetimes.
Listening with others in some way and enjoying in-depth conversations of your own as you reflect and choose what you would do the same or differently is a plus!
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May 2, 2023