Chapter Three: The Influence Of Generations

“If you want happiness for a lifetime, help the next generation.”
– Chinese Proverb

“No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such a fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of the generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.”
– Will Durant

“Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations. All this is put in your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children.”
– Albert Einstein

Who you are today has been influenced by several generations before you.  Skeptical?  Consider the following true story about a newlywed couple.

One evening before they married, the couple decided to cook steak for dinner.  The bride cut the steak into three pieces and cooked the meat in three parts.  When the groom asked her why she did that, she said that she did not really know; she had simply seen her mother cook steak that way.

So the groom asked his mother-in-law about it, and she did not know either; she had simply seen her mother cook steak that way.  When the groom finally asked the grandmother-in-law, she told him that when she was young her family was poor and only had one small kettle for cooking.  It was too small to cook the meat in one piece, so she had to slice it up and cook it in three pieces.

This is a cute story, but it has a lot of knowledge hidden in it.  How many ideas do you carry in your mind that are passed down in the same manner?  How many habits do you have from your parents? How many of your traits have been passed down from previous generations, perhaps from circumstances that are no longer relevant?

Habits and influences travel many generations before they are washed away.  How many past generations influence us today?  It is impossible to say exactly but historic texts suggest that it might travel as much as seven generations.  Let’s assume that influences, sins and vices can travel seven generations.

A generation is usually about thirty years, so seven generations makes 210 years.  This means we carry influences from our forefathers perhaps as long as 210 years back.

These influences can include:

•  The way we slice and cook our steak.
•  The words/expressions we use.
•  The thoughts we hold/have.
•  Our sense of life.
•  What we perceive as beautiful, ugly, peaceful, or threatening.
•  What we consciously seek or avoid.
•  Traditions such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.
•  Where and what ”home” is.
•  How we look at family.

The list goes on and on.  We are, to a very large degree, a product of the past.


Exercise: Trace Your Roots

What influences have your ancestors passed on through the generations, both good and bad?


It is well worth the time to visit your older relatives and ask them to talk about the lives and times of your ancestors.  So much of you is passed on from them.  Getting to know them is getting to know yourself.  How did you father’s parents influence him?


How did your mother’s parents influence her?


How far back are you influenced?


What influences did your great-grandparents pass down to their children?

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Table of Contents

I. Chapter One: Introduction to Life Planning

II. Chapter Two: Your Past

III. Chapter Three: The Influence Of Generations

IV. Chapter Four: Your Present

V. Chapter Five: Your Future

VI. Chapter Six: Your Alternatives

VII. Chapter Seven: Making The Decision

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