Timeless Business Lessons from Your Ancestors: Secure Future Generation by Being a Good Ancestor.


It’s hard to see history being made when you’re right in the middle of it– especially when life has your attention spans locked into– minutes, days, weeks. But in the midst of a pandemic that understandably focuses attention on the here and now. And global movements are rising in the name of long-term thinking and fair and equal justice. And, where politicians see only as far as the next election. And where businesses are only fixated on their quarterly report. And while nations are bickering away in international negotiations– the planet suffers and species disappear.

According to Roman Krznaric; these movement recognizes a disturbing truth: we have colonized the future– the future might be full of uncertainties, but we can rest assured that there is one thing that your forebears will want to inherit from you (their ancestors): a living world in which they can survive and thrive. In wealthy countries especially, humans are treating the earth like a distant outpost where they can freely dump ecological damage and technological risk – as if there was nobody there.

The tragedy is that the billions upon billions of people who will inhabit the future can do nothing about it. They have no power at the ballot box or in the marketplace. Their voices are silenced and deserve to be heard. Not just because they outweigh everyone alive today, in sheer numbers; but because they never had the option of taking actions for metagating the potential dangerous consequences for the coming generations– from the carbon pumped into the sky to risks of artificial intelligence. The good news is that this is all beginning to change. There is compelling evidence that citizens’ assemblies are better at taking the long view, than are politicians driven by the 24/7 news cycle.

It’s not only politics, but arts, business and science that are tackling the tyranny of the now. According to Gus Levy; humans are greedy, but long-term greedy not short-term greedy. Whether it’s investors expecting double-digit returns year-on-year, or a nation intent on grabbing a region’s water resources for itself. Of course long-term thinking can be misdirected towards self-serving goals that only benefit a select minority of future people. But the real advocates who care about fair and equal justice are easy to spot. Their actions are their answer to the timeless question posed by immunologist Jonas Salk: Are we being good ancestors?

In the article What Can We Learn From Our Ancestors? by Roman Krznaric writes: Can you roll your tongue? Which hand do you use to write? Do you have deep dimples when you smile? Have you ever ‘wondered’ where these traits come from? Believe it or not, these are all things passed down in genes. That means they came from biological parents. They got them from your grandparents, great-grandparents, or even your great-great-great-grandparents. People get many things from their ancestors. And traits aren’t the only things that are passed down. Often, trades and talents also run in families. Does your family grow food? Do they build furniture? How about houses? These are just a few examples of skills people can learn from their ancestors.

In many ancient societies, children took on parents’ occupations: If your parents were blacksmiths, carpenters, or fishermen, that’s what you became. In fact, many families still pass down occupations today. It’s common in families that own farms or businesses. At an early age, children start learning the skills developed by their ancestors over many years. When they reach adulthood, they take on the job that’s been passed down to them.

People can learn important lessons from their ancestors. Does your family have a special set of principles? What do your family members value? You might be generous, patient, or hard-working. That’s likely because family members taught you those were important values. Of course, many people don’t know much about their ancestors.

What do you know about your ancestors? Do you think they looked like you or enjoyed the same things you do? If you go back far enough, you might learn where your family started. You might even find what jobs your earliest ancestors had. There’s much to learn by studying family backgrounds.

In the article Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and Art of Living by Maria Popova writes: The surest way to lull yourself into a trance of passivity and busyness the greatest distraction from living– as we coast through our lives day-after-day– showing up for your obligations but being absent from yourself, mistaking the doing for the being. Despite a steadily swelling human life expectancy, these concerns seem more urgent than ever– and yet they are hardly unique to the age. In fact, they go as far back as the record of human experience and endeavor.

It is unsurprising, then, that the best treatment of the subject is also among the oldest: Roman philosopher Seneca’s spectacular 2,000-year-old treatise– On the Shortness of Life. According to Seneca; it’s not that you have a short time to live, but that you waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to you for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.

But when it’s wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, you are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before you knew it was passing. So it is: you are not given a short life but you make it short, and you are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. Life is long if you know how to use it. When you fail to treat time as a valuable resource, even though it’s arguably your most precious and least renewable one:

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply. Though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire. How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget your mortality, and put off sensible plans to your later years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

But even more idiotic, putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

In the article Remembering the Dreams of Your Ancestors by Jonathan Foley writes: A meaningful life is not one lived for yourself; but one lived for others. They all lived according to something we used to call the ‘American Dream’. This dream isn’t uniquely American, of course. Many people around the world share it. Unlike the current so-called American Dream– which seems to be about getting rich without working very hard, having a fancy house and car, and living like there’s no tomorrow– the old American Dream is about building a better future.

It’s a dream that says we should work hard, play by the rules, give something to our community and make sure our children have a better life than we did. It says creating a better future is more important than living comfortably in the present. I think the lesson our ancestors taught us is that a meaningful life is not one lived for ones self; it’s one lived for others. They taught that the key to a great life is to live for people you may never live to see.

Now consider the lessons that could guide you along the way. Be guided by hope, fairness, justice… Develop a sense of history. You are at your best when you are connected to those who came before you, those you share the world with today, and those who will come after you are gone. The challenges of the future might be met by remembering the lessons– and dreams– of your ancestors. They accepted the challenges of their time and rose to meet them– for beter or for worse. Will you accept the chanllnge– for a better world– for your forebears, as their ancestors? 


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Timeless Business Lessons from Your Ancestors: Secure Future Generation by Being a Good Ancestor.