Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations?

Do you believe it?

offspring © ian beckett

The quotation is attributed to Andrew Carnegie in 1914 in relation to the wealth cycle as families struggle for success — which when achieved, enables the offspring enjoy the fruits of parental labour, rather to continue the struggle for wealth. The decline coming for said offspring’s offspring!

I do not believe it — although my father did, and took steps to have me “make my own way in life” and take over his successful diesel engineering business when I reached the age of 30.

At 25 I had a successful engineering career globalising US products, at 30 I liquated his failing business, so the liability of “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves” was moot.

Regardless the options for personal growth today are infinite and not limited to narrow exploitation of workers and capital as was the case prior to WW1.

Today we have many careers in many companies and my offspring saw the impact on their parents as companies closed and new business opportunities seized.

The new baseline is career motivation — enjoying what you do rather than be a corporate victim is key. In the past a comfortable retirement was an objective where one provided a material safety net for family and extended family. Now the example is one of lifelong learning, growth and adaptability, hence your offspring’s learned behaviour is adding value to a business (it could be their business) and exiting when their added value limit is reached.

It’s been 44 years since I graduated, I have added value to 10 businesses, and provided formal and informal consulting services to many more. I have never been unemployed, and noticed that rather than make my offspring lazy and indolent, they adopted to the competitive order of life and became accordingly successful in their chosen careers.

These days some of my peers ask when I intend to retire? They are confused when I say “I retired 20 year ago” since everything I do is fun, I live the dream.

Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves can be the legacy you leave behind, but it’s a choice.

Choose challenge rather than retirement, otherwise your offspring may be what you become.



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Ian Beckett MSc

Ian Beckett MSc

Ian is a digital transformation expert who has saved companies over $200m by integrating technologies and diverse global teams effectively— he is a CEO and poet