Does the Acorn Fall Far from the Tree?

Does the acorn fall far from the tree?Click the link to listen, if you like …

Does the Acorn Fall Far from the Tree?

The air was a little sultry when I lowered my window to give my name to the guard.  One phone call later and the huge 15-foot, scrolled-metal gates opened to let me into the condo property.  Lush landscaping dotted my route to the building where I had come to have dinner with some old friends, Phil and Elise.

They were here from Europe, enjoying the waterfront investment property they rent out by the week, mostly to other Europeans.  But fewer of their countrymen are traveling because they’re panicked over the future of Europe … and of the Euro.  So this year they had their choice of when to come enjoy the Florida sunshine.

And this year their son Jonathan wasn’t with them, so I asked how he was.

As expected, they said things were going really well.  Jon had taken his wife and child up into the mountains skiing, for a well-deserved vacation.  They were relaxing with other young couples in the family.

I remember him from his early teens.  His parents and I did business together 20 years ago; in fact, they repped one of my lines in Europe.  He came with them to Florida each year to visit his grandparents and I remember first meeting the pretty girl who would become his wife.

I also remember Jon talking about a concept he had for a business.  He was getting out of college, just about the time his parents were thinking of selling their business and taking early retirement.  They helped him get the concept off the ground.

Today his company offers mandatory and elective training to major corporations in his country, both public and private.  Phil explained proudly how he was now renting Jon the offices he and Elise had grown into years earlier, before selling the business.  He talked about how his son had started at home too, working with his wife.  How they needed to expand those offices now because the business was growing by leaps and bounds.

I said, “Jon’s such a natural.  He moved into business ownership as if he had been trained for it all his life.”  And he had been.

Jon watched his parents build their business from the house.  When he was three or four, if they had a meeting at the bank, he went with them, taking his coloring books along but half listening to the conversation.  Dinner table talk was peppered with shop talk.  He heard what to do.  And what not to do.  No wonder he’s such a natural.

Today, despite the uncertainty in much of Europe, Jon’s business is blossoming.  Profitably.  He learned from his parents not to have a business with inventory, hence he trains trainers and offers training nationwide.  (No inventory.)  He learned about cash flow, so instead of having to wait 30 or 60 days for payment, he factors his invoices at a 3-4-5% discount, but has his money before he even has to pay his trainers.  And so on.

And his 6-year-old son is watching his parents grow their business, from a home-based start-up to a healthy enterprise.

Now, we don’t all have such perfect situations to model.  But the lesson is that we do indeed model ourselves after our parents, either reflecting or rejecting what they did.

In my case, my father was extremely entrepreneurial.  He traveled incessantly, which made him an absentee father.  He dragged us through high peaks of wealth and low valleys of being broke.  Like a Pied Piper, he tried to convince us everything was okay.  My mother, on the other hand, was the rock.  She tried to hang on to her traditional role as wife and mother.  But, when needed, she was the one who went out and worked to keep a roof over our heads and to keep us clothed and fed the best she could.

Curious how the four of us kids turned out.

My older sister married someone who would ensure she’d never have to live with the instability my mother did.  My oldest brother reacted by working in global corporations where his rise to the top included long stints overseas, raising his kids much as we were raised, except with stability.  My other brother identified most closely with my mother, and carefully invested his solid income from solid engineering jobs he did all over the world.  All three made financial security their primary goal.

And I replicated my father to a tee.  By 19 I was starting businesses, and let my insatiable curiosity take me from one thing to another.  From one country to another.  (Life was an adventure, right?)  The biggest difference between my father and me was that I never had children, so any irresponsibility hurt no one but myself.  But I certainly drank the Kool-Aid.

I had to hit the wall financially at 53 before I looked deeply at my patterns and recognized that they would never take me to a peaceful retirement.  Instead, they’d keep me on the financial edge, as they did my father until he died at 63.  I was living a hidden vow of loyalty to my father that was stronger than my good sense.

I invested the time and energy to thoroughly understand money, the role it plays in our lives, the influence our families play in our finances … and how we can change our trajectories.

So here’s my suggestion:

Take a moment to look honestly at where you stand financially.  Then look at how you were raised.  Revisit the role played by each parent and define how much you reflect or reject each one.  Look at any hidden vows you may have made to be just like one parent … or never to be like another.

Be brave enough, if there is something you don’t like, to change it … regardless of whose feelings you think you might hurt.

You do not owe anyone a vow of loyalty to the point of putting your own financial peace of mind at risk.  Your only vow of loyalty should be to yourself and to your loved ones … to provide the greatest amount of well being you can.

And remember one more thing:  that does not necessarily mean tons of money.  It means whatever “well being” means to you.

Leave a comment below if any of this feels familiar …


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her Over Fifty and Financially Free coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Amazing article Sharon! As you know this goes right to the core of my passion…what we learned in childhood affects us in every way. We must discern what is working FOR us and let go of the rest!

    • SharonODay

      This concept of vows was a new one to me, Denny, and it’s opened some fascinating doors!

  • This is a place probably not many people want to go. Thanks for being so open with your story Sharon. It offers insight so that we can examine our own situations and proceed accordingly!

    • SharonODay

      I can understand people not wanting to go there, Michele.  It’s a pretty deep quest.  I loved both parents deeply (both died when I was in my early 20s), but I couldn’t let that keep me from understanding the messaging that affected me as an adult.  I have worked very hard at “peeling the onion” and this is one of the deeper layers I have to look at.  I’m so open about the topic because I think women have few models of how they might feel about money.  BTW, funny thing: all this digging allows me to love my parents even more fully now, because there are no more shadows.  😉

  • Such a great story and the way we see money, based on how we’ve been raised. Sharon, you are doing such an important job for women, I am amazed… Thank you so much for sharing these tips on how to look at our finances. I’ll be coming back for more.

    • SharonODay

      So glad to hear you’ll be coming back to visit, Solvita!  I take great joy in presenting things in different ways … because we all absorb information differently!

  • Sharon, you are singing the song that I hear around the house, these days. Without naming names, one person I know lives a comfortable life, plenty socked away for retirement, and a fortune that he may choose to hand down to his children (or not, it’s his call). But he also believes in laying claim to OPM, so does his wife… and needless to say, so does his children. No one sees the pattern that I see: Committed to standing on one’s own feet financially, means talking the talk and walking the walk. I would wish they would be reading the blog, not me

    • SharonODay

      Yes, Diane, knowledge can also be a frustrating thing … when it doesn’t cut across the board …

  • Wow Sharon just reading the title brought memories and serious thoughts to mind. Nothing has ever been so clear as the thoughts you’ve dredged to the top of my mind. Now I know why I work so hard, why I will not file bankruptcy, why I save as much as I can and why I am now living within my means…all because I will not end up financially like my parents. Thank you for clearing up the muddy waters. By the way, I think it’s time for a chat to catch up a bit, what do you say?

    • SharonODay

      We ARE due for a chat, Carla!  I can’t wait to hear all the things you’ve put into place since we last spoke.  Love being able to accompany you on your journey … 😉

  • What an amazing post Sharon. I too have had many insights about the way I was brought up and how it has shaped me. It isn’t until we can see the patterns that we can choose to change them! Thank you!

    • SharonODay

      Andrea, you got it!  The greatest key to change IS awareness!  It’s so powerful to be able to see the money patterns … and to be willing to change them just because you know they’re not healthy for you!

  • I really enjoyed reading about Jon.  Obviously he “got” his parents’ work ethics and smart way of doing business.  I also wonder what emotional connections with money and work he inherited… I’m guessing they were pretty good too 🙂

    • SharonODay

      I’ll have to ask when I next see him, Amity.   I know he and his wife are working long hours.  I doubt it’s because of unhealthy emotional connections, but rather the fact that the world (and European) economy is not doing so well, so there’s a little “make hay while the sun shines” going on …

  • Brilliant article Sharon. I agree with Andrea –  “It isn’t until we can see the patterns that we can choose to change them!” Thank you so much for sharing your tips with us. 

    • SharonODay

      Thanks for stopping by, Anastasiya.  I know you do so often … and you honor me with your trust!

  • Stacey

    Great article Sharon! I learned a lot from my dad and a lot what not to do too. Which is what inspires me to not only create my own lifestyle so I am there and involved with my kids but coach business owners to do the same. Love how you show tht we need to make a conscious choice!

    • SharonODay

      Stacey, what I try to point out is that many things that we think are “givens” are actually choices we can make.  But if no one tells us to look at the issues, we might just continue on a less-than-ideal path.  How great that you are consciously promoting those (inter-generational) choices through your coaching …

  • Duchessherri

    I grew up in a welfare family raised by my mother.  Met my father when I was 19.  I vowed to not be like my mother.  Am 70 and have never smoked or drank because of that decision.  But, like you, I ramble from interest to interest never settling down to one great idea and seeing it to fruition.  I don’t seem to be able to finish what I start.  Am always in the middle of several projects and each one is ‘the one’ that will assure me of financial security.  I get stumped along the way to success and have no money to solve whatever the problem is so I go on to something else.  Or I work too many hours to find the time to get my project up and running.  I am different from my mother is every way, but I still haven’t found MY success which is to have financial independence and the freedom to travel. 

    • SharonODay

       Sherri, I had to “hit the wall” financially and lose virtually everything before I was willing to recognize that what I was doing was never going to work, no matter how much I tweaked it.  Part of turning that around was not just defining what I DIDN’T want, but eventually defining what I DID want and what I was willing to do to get it.  And once the vision was clear, it was one foot in front of another, blinders on, lots of perseverance and battling the tempting side roads the best I could.

  • Sharon, thanks for the insight into your family and how you were raised.  I also appreciate the reminder that we are always modeling our children even if we don’t think we are.

    • SharonODay

      I only share those details, Robert, because I think that it helps people “get” what I’m trying to share if I give examples.  And since I’m sharing lessons I’ve learned myself, who better to use as an example than myself?

  • Sharon, what great lessons we can learn from this article. There are nuggets of gold and I’m going to send my children to read this post. 

    • SharonODay

      Claudia, I know how much your family is investing in giving your children all the tools to have productive and fulfilled lives, so I consider it an honor that you add this to their reading!

  • Mary Lou Floyd

    My parents lived a comfortable life, not extravagant, more on the frugal side with six children to raise.  They were not risk takers, never even owned any stock, but maintained and lived in their house until the end.  As a first time entrepreneur I want to be able to take risks but find myself more on the timid side.  I have already spent a bit of my money that I put into my venture to little avail.  I don’t want to put any more in until I find a partner who is willing to invest also.  I think entrepreneurship is a mindset that incorporates the ability to take risks.  You have it or you don’t and am not sure one can learn it at any stage of their life?  Maryl

  • My dad was a big entrepenurer and risk taker.
    He also had a awesome work ethic.
    Both of my parents have this strong creative work ethic. I feel blessed to have them as role models early on.

  • Gertraud Walters

    This is brilliant Sharon. I’ve been looking back of how I was raised and must admit that even though I left home when I was 18 I did inherit my Father’s entrepreneurial Spirit. He started his own Business straight after the war. I believe had my parents understood, how to let us go and do whatever we wanted to do, we would have conquered the world. Leaving home at 18 was not the easiest thing to do if you have no support at all. I was not the only one, there were 9 of us and the same applied to all at various times. But I knew what I wanted, I had Dreams and I have lived to see quite a few Dreams come to pass. Despite everything, the foundation had been laid. I may not be rich today financially (This is just a transitional period) but I am experiencing wealth and riches in different areas of my Life. “The Best is Yet to Come” .

    • Gertraud, having that spirit is such an advantage at a time when so many are being pushed by the economy to take entrepreneurial risks. It’s what I try to monitor very carefully with women I mentor, because it DOES come from seeing the risk-consequence cycle in action (with parents, for example) and knowing you can survive it. Without the entrepreneurial spirit (granted, with some exceptions), every day is a battle. Consider yourself blessed! I honor your vision, your spirit and your dedication. Brava!

  • Oh WoW Sharon – cutting so very close to home, but given the crazy state of our world, we must ask ourselves these tough questions so that we can create profitable futures. I am so not used to doing that because it was never modeled for me. I want to move forward from a poverty mentality to one of money-respect and an entrepreneurial spirit (easier said than done). I’ll take it one day and one moment at a time. Thank you for this post. It just reminds me that I need to create a plan of action and follow through fearlessly!

    • Marvia, I understand the drive to reshape your future and think it is wonderful. And brave. The fact that you are aware you never had entrepreneurial efforts modeled for you is important, but it just means you have to reach out for greater support and guidance. Can you find someone in your community (locally, not virtually) who has succeeded at business and ask that person to mentor you through the mindset issues of your task? (In decision-making, for example.) That would take pressure off one side as you focus on the “doing” side of building your business. And if I can help, you know where to find me. 😉

  • Susan Schiller

    Another piece to your incredible life story, Sharon, and I love reading your story! This is the 1st I’ve learned of your siblings… your whole family was so globally diverse, where do they all live? Different countries?

    Vows are certainly powerful, and I wonder if I’ve caught all of mine… I definitely need to spend some time meditating on this and seeing if anything new comes up! Excellent, Sharon… brilliant!

    • Sue, there was a time when we were on four different continents, and all moved around quite a bit. But we’re all back in the States, at least for the moment. I’m fascinated at how four siblings can react so differently to the same set of circumstances, although obviously each circumstance hit each of us at a different stage of development.

  • Yetunde Daramola

    Thank you once again for this “wake-up” call yet again. You are now constantly in my thoughts while I “rethink” my financial life.
    This is really needed at such a time like this. God bless

    • Yetunde, I’m happy if these messages are leading you to re-evaluate where you are today, how you got here … and, most important, where you want to be. I look forward to watching you grow on your journey!

  • Jessica Stone

    I grew up watching my parents run a limousine company out of our kitchen & basement, as well as a drapery business before that. I guess it’s no shock that I’m an entrepreneur myself. I love having my own business! It’s a challenge that I thrive on. Thanks for sharing your story and how you connected and followed in the footsteps of your parents.

    • Because you’ve seen what it takes, the risks and the rewards, being an entrepreneur isn’t a scary proposition to you, as it is to someone who has never seen it in action. It’s in our blood, Jessica! 😉

  • Robert Manea

    Great article! It seems like we follow in our parents footsteps..I did the same as my father..

    • Not surprising, Robert. We either emulate one parent or another, or do a complete 180!

  • This is a great post. I have heard this saying before and I think it is true for the most part. Most people of course don’t want to admit how they often think or act just like their parents. I know that I have made choices to do somethings differently and not to follow in their exact footsteps and use their mistakes as an opportunity to learn.

    • That’s exactly it, Christy. If you have a conscious awareness of their behaviors, you can choose either to follow because you resonate with it … or do just the opposite because it doesn’t serve you well. In either case, your money behaviors are a reaction to what you saw growing up.

  • Anne Allen

    Lovely read, Sharon. Identifying the patterns we can change them (like Anastasiya and Andrea both shared)–thank you!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Anne. Hope you’ll stop back by often; I take great joy in bringing awareness to different aspects of our behavior around money … aspects that most people never bring to consciousness … so women can respond from their now-adult perspective!

  • Excellent insight here. We are a product of our environments unless we choose to change them!

    • That’s right, Anita. I see most people either emulating or rejecting behaviors they saw before them and then picking and choosing so they become an amalgam of traits and characteristics of their fathers and mothers. While we may each be different, we can trace individual traits and characteristics back to one person, one event, one whatever …

  • Norma Doiron ´*•჻.

    “Be brave enough, if there is something you don’t like, to change it … regardless of whose feelings you think you might hurt.” Very wise words. In trying to please everybody, you really pleas no one. Important to have healthy boundaries!

    • Norma, hopefully we reach a stage where we’re no longer willing to live by others’ requests and demands. Hopefully it doesn’t take until too late in life to do so. To do otherwise would be pretty sad, don’t you agree?

  • Robin

    It’s so interesting, my mom and I were just talking about this last night… my dad raised me and modeled a VERY CONSERVATIVE stand on finances, business, employment… he’s very traditional, if he invests, it’s mutual funds all the way… he tells you to go to school, college and get a good reliable job with benefits… but somehow I turned into an entrepreneur risk-taker! haha 🙂 I don’t do traditional investments, I like options trading, and I love the adventure of entrepreneurship… but I DID actually get these qualities from my dad… strangely enough… he DID teach me that if I wanted things in life… I had to get creative and find a way to make it happen. They would tell me NO a lot about things I wanted to buy, or going places with my friends… and I would find ways to make the money, always, haha 🙂

    • Something in that upbringing gave you the confidence to take more risks than you dad might have, Robin … I guess you took his “get creative and find a way to make it happen” advice to heart! The biggest obstacle in becoming an entrepreneur is being clear about the risk, being willing to take it … and having a Plan B, C, etc. behind it if it doesn’t go exactly your way. Not every entrepreneur had an entrepreneur as a parent; it could be enough just to have the right amount of self esteem and clear personal responsibility!

  • daniele holmberg

    So very true Sharon! We definitely do emulate our parents..Just the other day at school (I teach independent studies high school) My student brought in her little brother with her and i was telling her how much I feel like I am turning into my dad by the way I act around kids..It is truly so bizarre..there are definitely certain characteristics i see in my parents that I do not want that I try to break tho:)

    • And, Dani, we do have the choice of breaking with those characteristics, if it’s important enough to us. Most of us end up seeing some of our parents’ traits in ourselves as we age … partly because by the time we get to the age they were then, we see things from a similar perspective. By then you’ll be looking back at the young’uns (as I call them) and saying, “How can they DO that???” 😉