It seems counter intuitive that knowing your ancestors can help you move forward in whatever you want to have and achieve in your life. How can the past lead you to the life you want to live today?
Success, according to author Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Success Principals, always leaves clues. Everything you want to do has already been done by someone else, and they have left clues for you that help you to follow in their footsteps.
It is comforting and time saving to know that we don’t always have to start from scratch. If you want to learn how to make a Baked Alaska, you can read a cookbook or watch a video that shows you how it is done. The need for trial and error is removed.
Likewise, you can follow in others footsteps to lose weight, flip a house or build a business. Someone has already done it and left behind notes, books, videos, classes and workshops. You can find teachers, mentors and advisors, or hire consultants to help you do whatever you want to do.
Our ancestors are another source of guidance and inspiration. Perhaps they haven’t written a book and they most certainly did not have the technology to make a video. What they did leave behind was their stories. These stories are like little clues, leading us to our cultural truths, the challenges our people have overcome, and the character traits that they possessed. In addition to genetic traits, they past on a history of success and failure as a guide for future generations to follow.
Many people enjoy learning about their ancestors and genealogy is a thriving pastime. The popularity of mass market DNA tests also attests to the interest in knowing who we are and where we came from. What better use of that information than to use what we learn to help us to create our best life?
People love sharing the stories of their ancestors. A group of us were recently talking about DNA tests and a friend, who thought she was 100% Irish found out there was Scandinavian heritage as well. She joked that it was from the pillaging and raping of the Vikings, which might explain her feisty and trailblazing attitude.
She might not have been far off. While in no way can you condone pillaging and raping, what you can also take away is that perhaps she has the blood of explorers, of movers and shakers who risked all to get what they wanted.
Another friend shared that her grandparents included a Tennessee bootlegger and a circus aerialist. Both had chosen unconventional careers, and were looked down upon in their time. However, both had ultimately done well in their lives. Her grandparents have passed down both entrepreneurial spirit and artistic and creative passions.
My own ancestors include many farmers. At first glance, I have no connection to farming. I never wanted to live on or run a farm. I married someone raised on a farm, and now see that farming is not unlike the entrepreneurial life. You work hard, are your own boss, and have the freedom to make your own decisions about your work.
My other ancestors inspire me as well. One was a founding father of a Massachusetts town in the 1600’s. I love to dream up new projects and to create things that have not before existed. I feel a kinship with this man, and am grateful that my graveyard sleuthing and genealogy hunting led me to him. If I had lived in the early 1600’s, I would like to think that I would have started up a new town.
Many of us have ancestors who left all the comforts of their homes and traveled to the unknown territories in the west. Life was rough in the frontier, braving the harsh landscape, building your own log home and being unsure where your next meal was coming from. Still, they had the audacity to give up everything and move, unsure of how it would all turn out. They passed down their can-do attitude, the ability to work hard, and the optimism to go for your dreams.
The stories passed down in your family leave clues to the life and success of your people. What stories does your family tell? What do they say about your journey? I would love to hear your stories!