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Choose to Be Happy

Long before I had children, I learned a valuable parenting lesson. My new husband and I were enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in a park when we overheard a conversation between a father and an unhappy toddler. On the verge of a tantrum because the swings were occupied, the toddler was told by her father, “You can choose to be happy or sad. What do you choose?” Immediately her faced brightened. “I choose to be happy,” she said, and ran off to the slide. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, we have to remember that when we are parents.” But as I grow older, I realize the lesson is as much for me as for my children.

I was reminded of this lesson recently while running a race on a course that was much hillier than I had expected. Internally groaning as another hill loomed over the horizon, I came upon a woman who exclaimed, “What a gorgeous day!” She was right—it was clear and cool, and we were running on a beautiful wooded path. At that moment, I chose to be happy. And I think my pace picked up as a result!

So, what does this have to do with family business? Well, most family businesses have issues. Dad won’t give up control to the next generation, even though they think they are ready. Brother got to be CEO because he is the oldest, not the most capable. Sister complains about low dividends but doesn’t contribute anything to the family or the business. Family members in the business pay themselves too much…and on and on.

What is my response to these complaints? You guessed it. Choose to be happy. You don’t always choose to be in a family business, and it definitely creates challenges. But you can choose to be happy about it or not. There are a lot of drawbacks, but let’s not forget the advantages:

  • An opportunity to play a meaningful role (manager, board member, active owner)
  • An opportunity to impact a company, a community, individual lives
  • An opportunity to set the values of an organization
  • An opportunity for wealth
  • An opportunity to build a legacy
  • An opportunity to create strong bonds among family members

Notice these are all opportunities, not foregone conclusions. You can act on these opportunities or not. But as long as you are in a family business and don’t have the opportunity or desire to exit, why not choose to take advantage of them?




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